Saturday, June 27, 2015

Cherry Chicken Salad & A Very Hungry Caterpillar Shower

A couple of weeks ago I had the joy of co-hosting a baby shower for the daughter of a dear friend. When Amanda (the mom to be), Mary, (whose beautiful home the shower was at), and I met to plan, I asked Amanda if she wanted a particular theme. She wasn't sure at first, but did know that in lieu of a card, she wanted picture books. So, I asked her if there was any particular book that was her favorite. She said she loved Eric Carle's A Very Hungry Caterpillar because the little main character was so cute. Amanda is just so cute herself and immediately set up a joint Pinterest board full of ideas for a Hungry Caterpillar shower.  Thank God for Pinterest! We got all our food ideas from our board, but the cherry chicken salad recipe is mine.  So many people have asked me for the recipe that I decided to post it here. I cut different types of bread (white, rye, whole wheat) in circles to make the caterpillar sandwiches, but it is also good served solo atop a bed of mixed greens.

2 to 3 cups cooked chicken, cut up into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
about 1/2 cup mayonnaise

In a large bowl, gently combine the chicken, cherries, pecans, celery, green onion, salt, and pepper. Add the mayonnaise until it is well coated - don't feel like the full 1/2 cup has to be used - it should have enough mayonnaise to hold it together, but not seem like it's "swimming" in it.

Golden friends who have known Amanda since she was a baby!

One Grandma to be with another golden friend.

Me, Marilyn (Amanda's mom), Amanda, and Mary

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Fun (But) Faux Pho

In past posts, I've written about my fun, fun friend Kim and my efforts to come close to duplicating her wonderful Vietnamese food HERE and HERE. Although she now lives in another part of the country we keep in touch through an occasional text or email. I had the chance to contact her a few days ago with a question about some photos she had taken for the organization we both had volunteered for. While I was looking over old files, I found this picture of Kim and the honorable mayor of our city, taken at a charity golf outing. Before that day, I didn't know her very well, but by the end of it I realized that she was a ball of fire with energy that never ran out. When I got to the event, I noticed Kim had added her own sense of style to the frumpy t-shirts all the other volunteers were wearing. She had turned hers into a v-neck, added a wide belt, and brought the ensemble to a whole new level with the addition of boots. She had commandeered a golf cart and said, "Are you here to help take photos? Well, hop in!" Then she took me all over the golf course. At one point we almost flipped the cart when we drove into a sand trap. She got us out safely however -  while she was roaring with laughter!  Kim introduced me to the deliciousness of Pho, the soup that is traditionally served as breakfast in Vietnam. Done right, the secret is the fabulous broth that is cooked for hours. I can't even begin to know how to truly make authentic broth for pho, but the recipe for my fake version posted here satisfies my craving. It's quick, easy, and light. Everyone can garnish it individually to fit their own tastes, so it's a fun and different kind of family meal. I've also included a sauce recipe from Saveur magazine that is great to dip the chicken in as you are enjoying the soup.

Ingredients and Directions for Four Large Bowls of Pho

For Soup:
2 to 4 pieces of chicken (boneless breasts are easiest)
8 cups unsalted or homemade chicken broth
1 tablespoon fish sauce (I used Thai Kitchen brand)
2 thumb sized pieces of ginger, peeled
1 package of thin rice noodles
8 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

For Garnish:
2 cups bean sprouts
1 bunch fresh basil, washed
1 tablespoon sriracha hot sauce
1 lime, sliced 

For Dipping Sauce:
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
pinch black pepper

Put the chicken pieces in a soup pot along with  the chicken broth, 1 tablespoon fish sauce and 2 thumb sized pieces of fresh peeled ginger. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to medium low and allow the soup to simmer for 20 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare dipping sauce, rice noodles, and garnish platter. To make the sauce whisk the 1/4 cup fish sauce, lime juice, and pinch pepper together in a small bowl. Float the jalapeno pepper slices on top of the sauce mixture. For the noodles, rinse them under running water and then drop them into a pot of boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes. When done the noodles should be tender but still have a bite to them. Drain the noodles and set aside.

On a platter arrange the basil, bean sprouts, slices of lime, and the tablespoon of  sriracha hot sauce.

When the broth mixture is done cooking, remove the chicken. Slice  the chicken into bite sized pieces, and set aside.  Remove the garlic pieces from the broth and discard.

Now follow this order to build a yummy bowl of quick faux pho:

First, put 1/2 cup of cooked rice noodle in each bowl.

Divide the chicken pieces up evenly between the four bowls and lay it on top of the noodles.

Sprinkle two of the sliced green onions and 1 tablespoon of the chopped cilantro in each bowl.

Evenly pour the broth over the contents of each bowl.

Add the garnishes (add more garnishes to the bowl as needed - a bit at a time to keep them crunchy) and dip chicken in the fish/lime sauce as the soup is eaten.

Monday, May 25, 2015

California Carnitas Style Tacos

Light and Fresh  - Inspired by the Street Tacos in SoCal

View from Our Neighbor's Beach House

Chilling in the Courtyard

A couple weeks ago we visited Jenn in Southern California and were thrilled that Caroline could join us as well. Of course we had a wonderful time - What's not to love! There are tons of farmers' markets', beautiful beaches, hiking beaches, bike paths, and great weather! Our neighbor back home owns a vacation home and she graciously offered to let us stay there for a few days. It was just yards from the beach, and there were tons of taco joints within walking distance. I've posted about tacos inspired by California before: CLICK HERE and HERE , but this time I was taken by pulled pork variety. I've got to admit I was also influenced by the May issue of Saveur Magazine. The recipe I posted here is my quick, fast version - but it does take some time to either cook it low and slow in an over or several hours in a crock pot. Check out SoCal Street Tacos on my sister blog, Oranges and Almonds, for even more street taco options! 

This makes eight or more tacos:

Ingredients and Directions for the Pork:

2 pound pork shoulder roast
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon ground ancho chili pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
2 cloves garlic, put through press

Trim the excess fat off of the roast. Place in oven safe dish with high sides. In a bowl put the diced onion, lime juice, orange juice, vinegar, pressed garlic, ancho chili powder, and oregano.and whisk it all together. Pour over the pork. Cover with foil and bake in a 325 degree oven for 4 hours or cook in a crock pot for 4-5 hours on high or all day on low.  At the end of the cooking time, remove from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon, and place on a platter. Shred the meat using two forks.

Ingredients and Directions for Salad in Taco

1/2 head of lettuce, shredded
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 radishes, sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup cotija cheese

In a large bowl place the lettuce, onion, avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, and radishes. Whisk together the vinegar and olive oil, pour the mixture over the ingredients in the bowl, and gently top. Sprinkle the cotija cheese on top.
*Note - if you have a few extra minutes before assembling the salad, place the red onion slices in a shallow bowl and pour white vinegar over them. Allow them to sit for 10 minutes, then drain them and add them to the salad mixture. 

To Assemble:

Warm 16 corn tortillas between paper towels in microwave on high for 30 seconds.
Place two tortillas together and spoon 1/4 cup of salad mixture on each one.
Place 1/4 cup of shredded pork on top of the salad.
Garnish with radish slices, red onion slices, and crumbled cheese from the salad

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Terminate Leftover Meat with Arroz de matanzas (Rice Killings) from Spain

Beautiful Ibiza, Spain

A few days ago Roy, Jennifer, and I returned from visiting Allison in Spain.  We traveled all over, but ended out trip on the Island of Ibiza, where Allison teaches English. She also has a job as an au pair for an eight year old girl and lives with the family, Apparently, Ibiza is a wild party place, but since Allison has only been there during the off season, she hasn't seen the hedonistic side to it yet. What I saw was its gorgeous raw beauty. It's very rocky and cactus and palms grow right beside pine trees.  We took a few hikes on paths that led to breathtaking views of the ocean. The color of the water was amazing!  On one of our hiking days, the weather was cold and overcast. When we returned to the house, the mother was making a traditional Spanish dish called Arroz de matanzas. It translates as "rice killings" and was served after a pig was slaughtered to those who had helped throughout the process. Originally it was made with fresh pork, but the recipes I found on the internet included sausage and chicken. Basically, it's rice, mushrooms, and meat surrounded by a savory broth seasoned with saffron and a hint of Jamaican like spices such as allspice and nutmeg. As I watched it being made, it struck me that it would be a great way to use up meat such as a left over pork chop, a lonely chicken leg, or a bit of sausage. I translated a couple recipes and even found one in English. What I have posted here, is a combination of the three of them. In this "Americanized" version, dinner could be made fairly quickly and either leftovers or fresh meat could be used. Crusty bread and a green salad is great with this.

Above is how my version looks...

This is the "real deal" which the lady of the house, Angela, was kind enough to share with us after a morning of hiking on a chilly spring day in Ibiza.

Ingredients for Four to Six Servings:

*Chicken, pork, and/or sausage to yield 3 cups of meat
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large tomato, diced
1 medium bell pepper, red or green, chopped
1 small package of mushrooms, wild is nice, sliced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 garlic cloves, put through a press or minced
1 clove garlic,  put through a press or minced
8 cups of chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon saffron
**pinch nutmeg
**pinch cinnamon
**pinch clove
**pinch allspice
2 cups uncooked rice - I used arborio

*The meat could be left overs such as a pork chop/chicken/sausage or fresh and still on the bone. 

** Roy calls these "dark spices" and he doesn't really care for them. Leave them out for a more Americanized palate.  I think if  the "dark spices" were left out and 3/4 cup of white wine was put in with the broth, this would be scrumptious!


1.  (Skip this step if using left over meat that is already cooked.) If fresh meat is being used, put the olive oil in a skillet and turn the heat to medium/low. Brown both sides of the meat. Take the meat out of the skillet and set it aside for a moment.

2. (This is first step if using left over meat that has already been cooked.) In the same pan that the meat was browned, add the tomato, pepper,and mushrooms (and olive oil if this is step one). Saute for about 5 to 7 minutes until tender. Then add 2 cloves of minced garlic and saute another 30 seconds. Add the meat, broth, and pepper, thyme, saffron (and dark spices if using) to the pan and bring to a boil. Allow it to boil for 15 minutes.

3.  Add the rice to the pot and boil for 15 minutes. It doesn't look like a lot of rice in the beginning, but it will absorb quite a large amount of the liquid as it cooks. During the last 5 minutes, add parsley and the extra clove of minced garlic. (The traditional recipe calls for a cooked chicken liver to be made into a paste and added at this point - perhaps to thicken it up? I skipped this step since I felt the soup was thick enough and I'm not a chicken liver fan!)

4.  Ladle into bowls and dig in!

By the way, this Ibizan house was amazing! I'll have more photos to share in later posts!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pat's "Irish" Stew

On St. Patrick's Day everyone wants to be Irish. My Dad was named Edward Patrick, and everyone called him "Pat". His father's name was Clarence Edward but everyone called him "Patrick". Both of them had twinkling eyes that were full of fun, and all my growing up years, I figured it was because they were Irish. At weddings and such, my grandpa would go around saying things like, "Oh the luck of the Irish!".  I assumed that his parents had recently arrived to this country. His wife, my grandmother Ivy, really had just "gotten off the boat" not too much before she married Clarence. However, it was England that she hailed from and her family actually immigrated here twice. I guess the first time they were so homesick they went back, but there were no opportunities for them in Britain, so they returned a few years later. Recently, I got on to see where in Ireland my great grandparents were from. After poking around a bit, I realized that my grandpa was not quite as pure Irish as I was led to believe.  I went back six generations, and the direct line all resided in the United States. I did find out that my great great great grandmother Mariah married at 13 and had five kids in nine years of marriage. After my multi-great grandfather died, she then married his brother and had six more children! She lived be 80 years old - what a woman! She probably knew how to make a stew or two as well as feed a lot of hungry mouths. Here is my dad's version of Irish stew. He always loved the good things in life and I think it's funny that instead of ale, his version calls for a wee bit of red wine. He served this with some crusty bread and a nice little green salad.


2 pounds beef stew meat
2 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
3 carrots, peeled and cut into hunks
1 onion, chopped
1 cup sliced celery
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 potatoes, enough to make 2 cups peeled and cut up
1 cup frozen peas


Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Put everything except for the potatoes and peas in a dutch oven or oven-safe dish. Cover the pot with foil or an oven safe lid. Bake for 4 hours. Add the potatoes and turn the oven up to 350 degrees. Bake for 45 more minutes and then add the peas. Bake 15 minutes more. Ladle into soup bowls and serve with some good crusty bread.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Roasted Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Crouton

There are hints of spring in the air; lots of the snow is melting off and it's getting just a little bit warmer. But it's still pretty cold in the morning and evening and I'm still in the mood for comfort food. I was talking to Caroline on the phone the other day and we were laughing over the fact that I am on a major tomato soup and grilled cheese kick. Lately, whenever I eat out, I order tomato soup. If I'm home, nothing beats having a grilled cheese sandwich with it. The recipe posted here is super easy and great on a weekend day when the tomatoes can be popped in the oven for an hour while other things are going on. 

Ingredients for four cups:

3 or 4 good sized tomatoes
2 shallots
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 fresh cracked pepper
1/4 dried oregano

1 (15oz.) can broth: beef, chicken, or vegetable

8 baguette slices
4 small pieces cheese such as cheddar or colby jack
1 tablespoons butter

Take a bit of the butter and rub it on the bottom and sides of a baking dish. Core and slice the tomatoes and arrange them in the baking dish. Peel and slice the shallots and garlic and tuck them among the tomatoes. Drizzle the olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the salt, pepper and oregano.

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Pour broth into pan and add the baked tomato mixture. 

Puree the mixture with an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor. Place the pan over medium high heat and warm to preferred serving temperature.  

Spread the remaining butter on one side of each baguette slice. Put a piece of cheese between two pieces with the buttered sides facing out. Gently brown each side of the mini grilled cheeses over medium low heat.

Gently brown each side of the mini grilled cheeses over medium low heat

Ladle the soup into bowls and drop a mini grilled cheese into each serving.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cooper Cooks Cowboy

A couple of Sundays ago, Roy's second cousin Cooper came over to cook with me. As number five in a household of seven kids, Cooper is no stranger to pitching in and helping out. His dad is a great cook and it turns out that Cooper has an affinity for it as well.  He and I have cooked together before, and we make a pretty good team. Once he saved the day when I had a mess of salmon to cook for a bunch of people, but forgot to buy a spice rub to put on the fish.  He suggested a combination of various ingredients and instinctively knew what would work well together. I was impressed! The jury is still out on what Cooper 'wants to be when he grows up". Sometimes he says he wants to be a plastic surgeon, but I think he'd be a great chef.  Below are the recipes from our cooking session.  Honestly, we used barbecue sauce from a bottle, but I included two different recipes for a homemade option.  I did notice that the store bought sauce had high fructose corn syrup as one of the first ingredients, so homemade would be a healthier way to go.

Cowboy Burgers - makes four burgers

1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup BBQ sauce, bottled or one of recipes below
4 green onions, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
4 slices of American cheese
8 slices of cooked bacon
4 really good buns, such as onion

Gently mix all ingredients except the cheese and the bacon together and form into four patties. Grill over medium low heat or fry on the stove. Try to turn only once, cooking about five minutes per side. Top each burger with a slice of cheese. Place on a bun and put two slices of cooked bacon on each patty. Serve with extra BBQ sauce or ketchup.

The Neely's BBQ Sauce Recipe from The Food Network 

2 cups ketchup
1 cup water
1/2 apple cider vinegar
5 tablespoons brown sugar
5 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
2 1/2 teaspoons ground mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Place all the ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer until slightly reduced, about 15 minutes.

South Beach BBQ Sauce from the South Beach Diet Cookbook

2 cup tomato sauce
4 tablespoons white vinegar
4 teaspoons parsley
2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Whisk ingredients together 

Cowboy Beans1 (28 oz.) can pork and beans
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz.) can white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Heaping 1/2 cup BBQ sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the ingredients together. Place in a baking dish and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until warm and bubbly. Or, microwave five minutes.


Cowboy "Caviar" Salsa

3 to 4 good sized tomatoes, diced
1 (15 oz.) can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons diced red onion
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Place the tomatoes, beans, celery, red pepper, green pepper, cilantro, red onion, and jalapeno in a serving bowl .  Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Pour the dressing over the vegetables and gently combine.  Serve with tortilla chips.