Saturday, March 25, 2017

Soup in a Snap: Kale, Butter Bean, and Ham

This winter when we were living the Florida RV life, the campground we stayed at in Fort Myers had an added amenity. It was right across the street from ECHO Global Farm and Research Center, a nonprofit faith-based organization that is dedicated to finding agricultural solutions to fighting hunger in Africa and urban food deserts in the United States. They used discarded tires, cement blocks and even old carpet to grow all manner of veggies - especially leafy greens. Every Friday, they sold the produce to the public and I found myself buying lots of kale. We ate it in salads and crispy fried it to sprinkle over eggs, but we also enjoyed it in soup. This one is healthy but still robust enough to be hearty on a chilly spring day. A bonus: it can be make in a snap!

Ingredients for Four Servings:

4 good sized cloves garlic, put through a press or finally minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (8 oz.) package of diced ham or 1 cup of left-over ham
2 (14.5 oz.) cans beef broth
2 (16 oz.) cans butter beans, rinsed and drained
1 large bunch kale, ribs removed and chopped (Lacinato is nice, but any variety works.)
1/4 teaspoon pepper


Place olive oil in large saucepan over medium low heat. When the oil shimmers, add the garlic. Cook for a minute or until the garlic browns. Add the ham and cook, stirring occasionally, until it browns - about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the broth and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen up any bits that might be clinging to the bottom. Then gently stir in the beans, chopped kale, and pepper. Bring the mixture up to a boil, then turn it back down to medium low heat and allow to simmer for five minutes. Ladle into soup bowls and serve.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Asian Burritos

Last weekend I found myself in a little predicament. We had come back home after being in Florida just in time to host an extended family get together. Because of the circumstances, I fell back on my usual easy go-to meal for a crowd: Classic Coleslaw and Barbecue Baked Beans. But since it was way too cold to grill, I took the easy way out and oven roasted pork loin with a neutral rub. I served it sliced thin with BBQ sauce and little slider buns. That turned out great; my problem was that the next day, I still had a houseful of people to feed and nothing in the refrigerator but left overs! I had a package of flour tortillas, extra cooked pork, the remains of a vegetable tray, an unopened bag of coleslaw mix, and some Asian condiments. The perfect thing to do was make Asian burritos. It turned out to be a big hit - maybe even more fun than the dinner the night before. Everyone could make their own just the way they wanted and we all had a good laugh at my ineptness at rolling a burrito!


Ingredients for Six Burritos:

1 pound cooked pork tenderloin cut into 18 slices (suggestions for cooking below)
6 large flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups carrots, cut into matchstick sized pieces
1 1/2 cups cucumber, cut into matchstick sized pieces
1 1/2 cups red onion, cut into thin slices
3 cups white vinegar
1 (14 oz.) package of coleslaw mix
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar or white vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon garlic chili sauce, divided (I used Huy Fong brand)
1 cup mayonnaise
Bunch of fresh cilantro 

Suggestions for Cooking the Pork Tenderloin

As I mentioned above, I just used a very neutral, but still delicious rub and baked it in the oven at 425 degrees. For a one pound tenderloin, a cooking time of 20 minutes will yield an internal temperature of 145. For those who like their pork on the well done side, 30 minutes of cooking time will bring it up to 155 degrees and 40 minutes brings it a bit past 160.

It could also be grilled over medium heat for the same amount of times.

Neutral Rub:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic gloves, minced or put through a press
1 tablespoon lemon pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt

But - If planning ahead is an option, here is a recipe for an incredibly delicious marinade. It is the family recipe from my Vietnamese friend Kim. Whisk all the ingredients together and let the pork marinate for several hours. Kim says grilling is best, but baking works fine.

Thit Nuong:
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon Maggi soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

To Assemble the Asian Burritos:

Place the carrots, cucumbers, and onions is separate containers. Pour 1 cup of vinegar over each one and set aside for five to 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil  and 1 teaspoon garlic chili sauce.

In a second small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon garlic chili sauce. 

Heat the tortillas up by wrapping them in a couple paper towels and cook on full power in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Place the tortillas on serving plates.

Spread a heaping 1/2 cup of the coleslaw mix on each tortilla.

Sprinkle a tablespoon of the oil and vinegar mixture over each coleslaw covered tortilla.

Top each tortilla with three slices of tenderloin.

Drain the pickled vegetables and evenly divide them over each tortilla.

Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of cilantro leaves over the top.

Spoon 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise mixture over each tortilla.

Roll each one up by folding it in half, then pulling the top side halfway back. Next fold the perpendicular sides in and finally roll to close it up. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Zucchini Fritters

Two weeks ago today our two youngest little birdies landed in our empty nester motor home. Jet lagged from flying in from the Philippines, they were finally back from an 18 month tour of the world. We were headed north after being in the Florida Keys and rendezvoused with them at the Fort Myers airport. The next 10 days were a flurry of activity as the girls rewrote resumes, had skype interviews, and reentered the U.S. culture. Sadly, Jenn has already left to seek her fortunes in California, but while she was here we followed her practice of no dairy, no wheat, no sugar. Some might say that sounds like no fun as well, but I had a ball rising to the challenge of cooking meals. Most of all, I loved having the girls there to cook for; they are always so appreciative! This post is one of the dishes I made for breakfast. It's simple, incredibly easy and very yummy!

Zucchini Fritters

Ingredients for four fritters:

2 medium zucchinis (about two cups shredded)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil for frying

Poached eggs
Fresh chopped tomato and sliced green onions for garnish

Cut the ends off the zucchinis and grate into a bowl. Add the salt, stir, and let sit 10 minutes.
Line another bowl with a clean dish cloth and pour the grated zucchini mixture in the middle of the cloth. Gather the towel together and squeeze as much water as possible from the zucchini. Discard the resulting water.

Remove shredded zucchini from the towel and place back in bowl. Add slightly beaten egg and crushed red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.

Heat oil in skillet to medium hot. Scoop up 1/4 cup of zucchini mixture and gently overturn into skillet to make a patty. There should be enough mixture to form four patties. Brown each side for five minutes. Remove from pan and serve.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Black and a Little Bit Blue Shrimp & Grits

Last year, when we spent a week in the Florida Keys, it rained every single day.  What a disappointment! When we were deciding whether or not to take another chance on going for a week this January - I really had doubts. We decided to go for it and I am so glad because it has turned out to be absolutely gorgeous. The turquoise water is breathtaking and who doesn't love palm trees? One of the best things in southern Florida is the fresh seafood. We found a market the "locals" go to and I've enjoyed cooking up the fruits of the sea. The recipe posted here is a spin off traditional Shrimp & Grits. Whether the shrimp is grilled or baked in the oven, it's a yummy comfort food whatever the weather.

Ingredients for Four Servings

1 pound of 21-25 count raw shrimp
3/4 cup grits (not instant)
3 1/4 cups chicken broth
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup sliced green onion (for garnish)
4 slices bacon (for garnish)
3 tablespoons blackening spice  - store bought or recipe below

The Hot Stuff - Blackening Spice Recipe

Ingredients for Blackening Seasoning - yields 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons

2 Tablespoons smoked paprika
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon roasted garlic (I used Penzeys brand)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (according to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon oregano

Stir together until well combined. Store in a covered container.

Directions for Black and a Little Bit Blue Shrimp & Grits

Turn on and prepare grill or preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse the shrimp and drain. Pull off their little legs, take off the shells, and run the point of a sharp knife down their backs to de-vein them if desired. Put three tablespoons of blackening seasoning in a saucer and dredge the shrimp through it to coat both sides. Place shrimp on heavy duty aluminum foil with sides crimped up (to keep juices from going all over) and drizzle with olive oil. Either grill shrimp on foil over high heat 5 minutes per side, or bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 10 minutes. Shrimp should be pink on the outside and opaque white on the inside when done. 

While the shrimp is cooking make the grits and cook the bacon.

To crisp the bacon, I place several layers above and below the bacon and microwave it on high power for about 5 minutes. Every microwave is different however, so if this method vs. frying is used, please check on it during the cooking process. After the bacon is crispy, cut it into crumbles.

To cook the grits, place the broth in a pan and bring it to a boil. Stir in the grits and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 10 minutes stirring often. Grits should be thick. Add the butter, pepper, garlic powder, cheddar, Parmesan, and 2 tablespoons blue cheese. Stir well until the cheeses melt and all the ingredients are well combined. At this point, the grits will be less thick and more fluid.

Place the grits on one big serving platter or four individual plates. Arrange shrimp on top of the grits and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons blue cheese, bacon crumbles, and sliced green onions.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Curry in a Hurry!

I have to be honest, this is another recipe where the idea came from Bon Appetit Magazine. The idea behind it was an easy way to make curry on a week night. Instead of amassing a ton of different spices and ingredients, their recipe called for ginger, curry powder, and a lot of coconut milk along with beef and potatoes. I thought it was genus to use curry powder and coconut milk to produce an Indian like dish when the craving struck.  Since we have a freezer full of grass fed beef (Roy's brother's wife's sister's husband raises cows!), I'm always looking for a different way to use it. But I had to ditch the potatoes in favor of vegetables. I imagine any vegetables could be subbed in or out of this mild curry, but the three times I've made it, I have enjoyed using fresh green beans, asparagus, and red bell pepper. 

Ingredients for Four Servings:

1 pound beef chuck roast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 medium onion
1 pound green beans (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 bunch asparagus
1 medium red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 (16 oz.) can coconut milk
2 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
cilantro leaves for garnish
lime for squeezing
extras: Thai chili pepper, lime slices


Trim and cut beef into 1 1/2 inch pieces.  Peel and cut onions into slices. Wash and snap the ends off the green beans. Core the pepper and cut into slices. Wash the asparagus, trim off the woody ends, and cut remaining asparagus spears in half.

Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper. Heat oil over medium heat in large skillet. Add beef and brown on both sides, about five minutes per side. Remove beef with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Using the same skillet, saute the onion, green beans, asparagus, and peppers until tender, about 10 minutes. Peel the garlic cloves, put through a press, and saute with the other vegetables for 30 seconds.

Return to meat to the skillet. Add the coconut milk and curry powder. Gently stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.

Place on serving platter and squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lime on top.
Serve alone or over rice, spaghetti squash, or spiralized zucchini.
Garnish with chopped cilantro, thinly sliced Thai pepper, or lime slices.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Spicy Oven Roasted Harissa Eggplant & Chicken

It was absolutely wonderful to have the whole family together to celebrate Thanksgiving! Jennifer and Allison have been traveling and working in Australia since January, so we were especially thrilled.  All the festivities got kicked off in Chicago where Caroline and her fiance Adam live.  Although at different times, both our little Aussies flew into O'Hare.  It continued back home through Thanksgiving when we all enjoyed traditional, but very rich seasonal dishes.  After a few days, we were ready to get back to eating easy to make and a little more healthy food.  I got the inspiration for this dish from Bon Appetit Magazine only their version featured chickpeas.  Jennifer loves eggplant and Harissa packs a huge flavor punch.  However, this dish is very spicy!  For a less fiery option, substitute tomato paste for the Harissa and add 1/2 teaspoon each of oregano and rosemary.  It's equally as yummy! 

Ingredients for Four Servings:

1 pound chicken pieces such as breast, thighs or legs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced or put through press
1 cup chicken broth, divided into 1/2 cup portions
1 medium egg plant
Heaping 1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup harissa sauce 
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, washed and roughly chopped
1 lemon, quartered
1 cup plain Greek yogurt


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix salt and pepper together and rub into the chicken pieces. If desired, cut large pieces such as chicken breasts up. Heat oil in oven proof skillet over medium heat. Brown both sides of the meat, about 5 to 7 minutes per side. Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat and set it aside.

Using the same skillet, saute the onion until it is tender and soft. This will take about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for 30 more seconds. Add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth. Stir and scrape the bottom to loosen the fond, or residue that might have collected at the bottom of the pan. Remove pan from heat.

Wash off the egg plant and cut off the ends. Cut into cubes. 

Put the egg plant into the pan with the onion and garlic. Add tomato paste, harissa sauce, and remaining 1/2 cup chicken broth.  Gently stir to combine the vegetables are coated.

Nestle the chicken pieces among the egg plant and onion mixture.

Place skillet into preheated oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until eggplant is nicely browned and easily pierced with a fork.

Remove skillet from oven. Divide mixture between four serving plants. Sprinkle each portion with 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro. Place a lemon quarter on each one along with 1/4 cup dollop of Greek yogurt. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Colorado Creamed Corn

One of the states we visited this fall in our travels west was Colorado. We spent time in Denver, then explored Pueblo and the area around Durango. Besides being absolutely beautiful, it has a rich history, and a lot of yummy food!

The Chile & Frijoles Festival was going on the weekend we were in Pueblo. 

Huge bags of green chilies were carried over by forklifts to giant roasters. Workers turned a device that looked like a giant raffle wheel while flames roasted the chilies. What an aroma! People stood in line to buy large bags of the charred chilies which they would take home to divide up and freeze for use throughout the year.  

Of course there were vendors selling food as well! I was intrigued by the "Corn in a Cup". It reminded me of the humita, a filling for Argentine empanadas, that Allison's dear friend had taught me how to make.  

Later, when we were in Mesa Verde National Park, I saw how important corn was to the history of the area. We took a guided tour of one of the cliff dwellings and the park ranger pointed out how floor was decorated with imprints of corn cobs.

Roy has always loved creamed corn, so I got the idea of combining corn and green chilies together to create a Tex Mex side dish which is slightly spicy, salty, and sweet. I have to tell you that it tastes amazing served with shrimp or chicken that has been rubbed with my favorite seasoning mix, and then grilled. It could also become a south-of-the-border chowder with a bit more broth and the addition of some cooked & cubed red skinned potatoes. 

Ingredients for Four Servings:

2 ears of fresh corn or 2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 medium tomato
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
1/4 cup diced poblano pepper, seeds and membranes discarded
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup table cream
1/2 cup Monterey pepper jack cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt


Husk the corn and remove the silk strands. Hold the cobs straight up and down, and use a sharp knife to remove the kernels. Set aside.

Place the cooking oil and diced tomato, pepper, and onion in a skillet. Over medium heat, saute until vegetables are tender soft but not brown. This will take about five minutes. Then add the broth and corn. Let the mixture simmer for about seven minutes.

Take the skillet off the heat and add the cream along with the Parmesan and Monterey Jack cheeses. Gently stir to combine. If necessary, return to low heat to allow it to come to a warmer temperature, but don't let the dish come to a boil - or it will curdle.

Serve as a side to accompany Tex Mex food and enjoy!

Want to see more things we ate and did when we went west? Visit: