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. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Asian Tostadas

This recipe was born out of a happy problem. Roy's brother's wife's sister's husband (isn't that a hoot to follow?) raises grass fed cattle and we had a freezer full of delicious organic hamburger that we needed to use up, After several rounds of tacos, spaghetti, chili, etc., I needed to think of something else to do with all that delicious beef. So, I crossed over to an Asian verve for something different. I have to confess, I've also made this with ground chicken which Roy says he prefers. However, this is a fast and easy recipe when all that's at hand is a pound of hamburger.

The hardest part to the meat mixture is dicing the carrots and celery. If someone is in the mood to go the extra culinary mile, one thumb sized piece of ginger which has been peeled and diced along with two cloves of minced garlic could be substituted for the garlic and ginger powders. Frying the egg roll wrappers could be ditched for an actual tortilla - or for nothing at all - just enjoy this concoction as a salad!

If anyone tries this out on their family, I would love to hear about it! Please leave me a comment!

Ingredients for Meat to Top Tostadas:

1 pound lean ground beef or chicken
1 medium sized carrot, diced
1 medium sized celery stalk, diced
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons oyster sauce (optional)
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Ingredients for Salad Underneath Meat Mixture:

4 cups sliced cabbage
1 cup chopped cucumber
1/2 loosely packed chopped cilantro
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Ingredients for Garnishes Above and Below:

4 egg roll wrappers
1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying
1 avocado, diced
Extra cilantro sprigs


Place the meat, carrot, celery, and onions in a skillet and brown over medium low heat. Drain off any grease. Add soy sauce, rice vinegar, oyster sauce, orange juice, and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook over medium low heat for five more minutes.

While the meat is cooking, prepare the cabbage mixture by combining cabbage, cilantro, cucumber, and red onion together in a bowl. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, soy sauce, pepper, and garlic powder. Pour over the cabbage salad and gently toss.

Heat oil in pan over medium high heat. When a tiny piece of the egg roll wrapper sizzles when it is dropped into the pan, the oil is ready. Fry one egg roll wrapper at a time, about two to three minutes a side, or until it becomes light golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

To Assemble:

Place an browned egg roll wrapper on each plate.

Top each egg roll wrapper with a cup of the cabbage salad.

Distribute the meat mixture by evenly dividing the meat mixture between the four plates.

Top with each Asian tostada with 1/4 of the diced avocado and a spring of cilantro.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Chicken & Waffles Appetizer

A couple of months ago as we were traveling home from Florida, we stopped in Charleston, South Carolina for a few days.Of course, I loved the regional food! When I got back home, I needed to bring an appetizer to a gathering but I didn't have much time to put it together. I got a flash of inspiration from my southern food sampling and with the help of convenience food, was able to put together these yummy morsels very, very quickly. All of the ingredients could be made from scratch and if there were, I imagine the results would be spectacular. But I didn't have time to make 10 waffles from scratch of fry up a batch of homemade chicken! Instead I used frozen waffles, boneless chicken wings from the grocery deli, and store bought pimento cheese spread. I have included a recipe for pimento cheese in this post just in case someone was curious, but if pre-made is used, this appetizer is a snap to put together! In fact, it was part of the spread we served at Caroline and Adam's engagement party.

Ingredients for 40 Appetizers

10 pre-made frozen waffles such as Eggo brand
Enough popcorn chicken to cut into 40 (1/4 of waffle size) pieces, Tyson brand or from deli
1 1//2 cups pimento cheese spread, recipe below or from local grocery store deli
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon maple syrup

Pimento Cheese Spread

Pimento Cheese Recipe from Cook's Illustrated Magazine - yields three cups

2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 (4 oz.) jar pimentos
1 (8 oz.) package finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 (8 oz.) Package regular shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 (or less) teaspoon cayenne pepper

With an electric mixer, gently combine all ingredients together just until spreadable.
Use as a sandwich filling or cracker spread.

Procedure for Assembling Chicken & Waffles Appetizer:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. If using pre-made frozen popcorn chicken such as Tyson's, follow the package directions for cooking except cut off five minutes of the baking time. Set aside. If using pre-made chicken from the grocery store deli, just set aside. Line baking sheet with foil. Cut each waffle into fourths and place on baking sheet. Spread each waffle piece with two teaspoons of pimento cheese. Top with a chicken piece and bake for 5 minutes. The cheese spread on the waffles should be melted, bubbly, and beginning to brown. Remove from oven and place on serving platter. Drizzle each appetizer with 1/4 teaspoon of maple syrup and serve.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Chickpea Curry with Black Rice

My love of Indian food began when Allison's good friend Ashik presented me with a cook book as a Christmas present. He knew I loved to cook and since he was often around at dinner time, I think he was hoping I might try some of the recipes. Roy claims he doesn't like Indian food, but this is one dish he says is yummy. I didn't find it in Ashik's cook book though. The inspiration came from Jamie Oliver's book Food Revolution. He recommends using Patak brand curry pastes as a quick and easy way to make curries. They definitely speed up the process and the results are delicious. Using black rice is a nice change of pace. Besides adding a ton of nutrients, it's nutty flavor pairs really well with the chick peas. Of course, white rice could be substituted and cooked chicken could be added if an additional source of protein is desired.

Ingredients for Four Servings:

1 (15 oz.) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 medium onions
bunch of fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
1 small pepper such as a Serrano or jalapeno
1 thumb sized piece of ginger
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1/2 cup of store bought curry paste such as Patak brand
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup uncooked black rice
Plain yogurt and wedges of lime or lemon for serving

While assembling the curry, cook the black rice according to the directions on the package. Peel the onions and thinly slice them. Wash and chop the cilantro up, stems and all. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from the ginger and dice it up. Decide how much of the pepper to use and remove the membrane and seeds, then mince it.

Over medium low heat, saute the onions, cilantro, ginger, and pepper in the oil until they are tender. Add the chickpeas and curry paste. Mix well and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk and turn the heat down to low. Continue to simmer for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve with the black rice, wedges of lime or lemon, and a dollop of plain yogurt.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

So Easy Summer Rolls/Fresh Spring Rolls

Jennifer & Allison in Hoi An - Viet Nam

My attempts fall short in the looks department - but the rolls still tasted yummy!

This fall, Allison and Jennifer traveled around Asia and had the time of their lives. They did it on the cheap by staying in hostels and avoiding fancy restaurants. Taking advantage of all the local culture had to offer, they visited lots of museums and explored each area they visited. One fun thing they did was partake in some cooking classes in Thailand and Vietnam. When they got home, we had a great time going to an Asian market and then cooking up some of dishes they had learned to make. One of them was what restaurants here call Summer Rolls - but their cooking school in Vietnam called them Fresh Spring Rolls. I was surprised that they were so easy to put together. I have had summer rolls in the States made of lettuce and rice noodles, and my Vietnamese friend Kim makes the absolutely best ones I have ever had with pork and pickled vegetables. I imagine this recipe could be used as a starting point and anything that sounds could good be put in a spring roll such as avocado or even cooked asparagus. It would be fun to let guests or kids assemble their own. Likewise, the dipping sauce here is great, but any number of different sauces could be used. Kim serves her's with a divine peanut sauce.

Ingredients and Procedure for Fresh Spring Rolls

Recipe from Gioan Restaurant & Family Cookery School in Hoi An - Viet Nam

5 pieces of hard rice paper (the first one might be unusable as part of learning curve)
1 cucumber grated into long strips (we ended up using a spiralizer)
1/2 carrot grated into long strips
5 tablespoons fresh mint
1 tablespoon white rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
5 teaspoons of onion flakes (optional but nice)
5 pinches of pepper
10 shrimp, cooked and peeled

Dipping Sauce

1 fresh chili, crushed
2 choves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoonlemon juice or lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce or soya sauce

Combine and mix well

*Side note - the recipe the girls were given says "serves four" but note all the "5s" 

Love the name!

Mix cucumber, carrot, salt, sugar, and vinegar in a bowl. Then put in a cloth and squeeze the liquid out.

Soften a piece of rice paper in cold water and put on a plate. (We turned it around so it got nice and wet every where. After it is on the plate it continues to soften.)

Place a heaping tablespoon vegetable mixture onto the edge of the rice paper.
Place pinch pepper, 1 tablespoon mint, l teaspoon onion flakes on top of vegetable mixture.
Fold both sides into the middle.
Roll twice.
Add 2 shrimps on top.
Roll up the rest of the way.

*Side note - as seen above, we didn't follow the directions exactly. It's forgiving!

Serve with dipping sauce and enjoy!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Messy, Yummy Cuban Sandwich with Rice and Black Beans

The weather in January never seems to be very good - no matter where someone is. At the beginning of the month, Jenn and Allison left the Northern Hemisphere for another round of adventure, so Roy and I traveled down to the Florida Keys. I know I shouldn't complain, but I would say we saw a lot more rain that sunshine. The great thing was, since we couldn't hike or bike ride, we went out to lunch a lot. As a result, I got hooked on Cuban Sandwiches as well as Cuban Rice and Beans. Of course I had to try and make them myself and the recipes posted here are the culminations of my experiments. Some restaurants served the beans and rice separately in "Moros y Cristianos" (Moors and Christian) style, but my favorite was when the ingredients were combined together and perfectly spiced. I had a hard time getting the seasoning right until I finally added a teaspoon of Old Bay powder. It dawned on me that since I was eating the dish in places that served seafood, maybe the restaurant kitchens were adding it to the rice as well as their main dishes. Well, it seemed to do the trick and I finally got a nod of approval from Roy. Another couple things turned out to be key; I substituted beef broth for water and did not drain the liquid from the beans. That seemed to add flavor and gave the rice the color I was looking for. As for the sandwich - what a meal! It's a really delicious combination and a great use for leftover shredded pork and ham slices. 

Cuban Marinade Ingredients for a Two Pound Pork Shoulder:

1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves and tender stems
4 gloves garlic, minced or put through a press
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions for Cooking the Pork

Whirl all the marinade ingredients together in a food processor or blender until smooth. Set aside and refrigerate 1/3 cup of the marinade to use when serving. (It is especially good on a Cuban Sandwich!)  Pour the rest of the marinade over the pork. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Then, place the meat in an oven safe pan. Pour the liquid it was marinating around it. Bake covered in a preheated 324 degree oven for 4 hours. At the end of the cooking time, remove the meat from the pan and place on a serving platter. Shred the meat using two forks.   Enjoy the meat with a drizzle of the set aside 1/3 cup marinade. Use the left overs in a Cuban sandwich - see below.

Ingredients and Directions for Cuban Rice and Black Beans

1 cup uncooked white rice (I used Uncle Ben's)
1 (15 oz.) can of black beans, including the liquid
2 cups beef broth
1 large onion, skinned and diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced or put through a press
2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon oregano

Saute the diced onion in the olive oil until tender. Add all the rest of the ingredients and cook according to the rice package instructions. When done, all the liquid will be absorbed and the rice will be tender. I have also cooked this in a crock pot for 2 1/2 hours on low and the result was perfect.

To Assemble a Cuban Sandwich:

For each sandwich slice open some kind of crusty bread that is soft inside such as Cuban bread, French bread, or a Mexican bolillo shown above. Slather on side with yellow mustard. On the other side, put a healthy amount of mayonnaise. Lay some sliced ham on the mustard side. The shredded pork goes on top of the ham. Drizzle some of reserved marinade over the pork.  The cheese goes right next to the mayonnaise. Put the sandwich together and brush both sides of the bread with olive oil. Grill each side so that a nice crust appears and the cheese melts. Serve with lettuce, tomato, and dill pickles.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Lucky Little Black-eyed Pea Salsa

Here's a quick little appetizer to put out for friends or bring to a New Year's gathering. Actually there is a lot of room for variations in this recipe; any veggie diced small enough could be thrown in - let's face it- red wine vinegar and olive oil make anything taste good! Likewise, various spices could be added to punch it up such as chili powder, cumin, or even curry. It is said that eating black-eyed peas on New Year's will bring good luck. I'm not sure about that, but this recipe does add a bit of fun to any festivities - and it's yummy! This recipe certainly saved my sorry little behind once. I made a New Year's Day corned beef dinner and told Allison she could invite a friend or two. I think at least five of her buddies showed up. I threw this together and served it with very thin strips of the corn beef on top. It certainly stretched what we had and I think everyone got enough to eat!


2 cups cooked black-eyed peas (I use a 15 oz. can, rinsed and drained)
1/4 cup combination of colorful peppers, diced
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1 tablespoon jalapeno pepper, finely diced
1 small clove garlic, put through press or finely diced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Crackers or pita chips to serve with the salsa


In a serving bowl gently combine the black-eyed peas, peppers, onion, tomatoes, and jalapeno pepper. In a small bowl whisk together the garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the black-eyed pea mixture and carefully toss. Serve with crackers or pita chips.