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Chicken and Butternut Squash Tortilla Soup Under Pressure

1 Dec

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I love soup! The warmth and comfort you can get from a bowl of soup is unsurpassed. Making soup for a crowd is a great way of showing the love too! This is a super easy brothy flavor packed meal. If you have a pressure cooker then you know the ease and speed at which you can pump out meals. If you are making this on the stove top is will be just as easy but takes a bit longer. Either way, enjoy.

Chicken and Butternut Squash Tortilla Soup Under Pressure

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 6-inch corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch squares
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 very large ripe tomato, diced
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained
1 cup frozen corn
6 cups chicken broth (homemade is best)
2 tsp. chili powder more to taste
2 tsp. ground cumin more to taste
2 tbs oregano
1 bay leaf
2 whole boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tbs tomato paste
2 cups diced peeled butternut squash
Limes

To serve:
Crushed tortilla chips
fresh cilantro
Green onion
Fresh avocado
fresh lime juice
Lactose free sour cream

Instructions:
Add broth and all ingredients to pressure cooker except the beans. Cover Pressure cooker and set to sealing position. Select Soup Mode and manually adjust the time to 15 minutes.
Do natural release when soup is finished.

Remove the chicken breasts to a plate cut in half and and use two forks to shred the meat apart. Return the shredded chicken to the pot and stir to combine. Add the drained beans. Check for seasoning, add more chili powder or salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, and the crisp tortilla and avocado.
(To cook on the stove top, follow directions, cover and simmer on medium low for 45 minutes.)

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Puffy Pumpkin Pinwheels

23 Nov

Do you need an appetizer in a pinch? These will get gobbled up at any Thanksgiving gathering! Slice them frozen and bake them off at the party or make just as you are heading out so they stay warm, best eaten warm.

Also for a cute and speedy floral arrangement, hollow out a mini pumpkin, line with foil. Add a few florets and there you have it!

1 can pumpkin purée
1 8oz package cream cheese, softened (fat-free or light is okay)
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed but still cold (see note)
2 Tbsp. all-purpose seasoning blend see below*
Salt and pepper, optional
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 Tbsp. water

Directions

Preheat oven to 400° F Line a cookie sheet with parchment or non stick foil.

In a medium bowl, stir together the pumpkin purée and cream cheese, set aside.

Unwrap puff pastry , if it comes rolled in parchment just un roll it on the parchment or place on a clean, lightly floured counter or work surface.

Spread pumpkin and cream cheese mixture over the puff pastry, leaving a half-inch margin on all sides.

Sprinkle seasoning blend evenly over the top.

Sprinkle with a small amount of salt.

Evenly sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top.

Roll up the puff pastry in an as-tightly-wound cylinder (log) as possible.
Wrap log with plastic wrap and freeze until almost frozen.

Unwrap log with a very sharp knife slice the log into 12 equal-size pieces. Let thaw on cookies sheet until very cold but not totally frozen.

In a small bowl, lightly beat together the egg and water to create an egg-wash. Brush egg-wash over pastry slices, distribute evenly until it’s gone.

Bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until puffs are golden, puffed, set and done.

Allow puffs to cool in pan for about 5 to 10 minutes before removing. Serve immediately.

*All purpose seasoning
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon black pepper

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A Cheese Wiz

2 Nov
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Humboldt Fog with Grilled Peaches and Orzo

melt-cover500-241x300I can’t totally recall but I think I met Stepahanie Stiavetti at an IACP conference (not the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference) it’s the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Stephanie is a food writer and recipe developer and I am excited to announce that she has just written her first cookbook.

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Humboldt Fog Cheese

I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of her book, Melt the Art of Macaroni and Cheese.  I get a lot of books to review and most of the time I don’t love every book I get and rarely review them. I wanted to review Stephanie’s because it’s her first and because we both like to dye various strands of our hair bright red. (Not really, but that is true about the hair, her hair always looks great!)

I’ll start by telling you that unfortunately cheese is not my friend, I love cheese but it really hates me. UNLESS of course…..it’s very expensive, made and by hand from Pygmy goats in an obscure smallish town somewhere. Are you still with me? When I looked through Melt I instantly knew what recipe I would make, one that was kid friendly and made with a cheese I was very familiar with.

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Humboldt Fog Cheese

About 8 years ago my husband and I did all the photography for Cypress Grove Cheve Cheese Company. No joke, we had about 100 pounds of cheese to shoot! In that in that excessive amount of cheese were three wheels of Humboldt Fog deliciousness. We ended up having a party and inviting strangers in to take cheese home! That’s when the love affair started with a beautiful creamy wheel of snowy white goat cheese. Humboldt Fog could be mistaken at first glance for Blue cheese, but it’s so not a blue cheese. Cheese maker Mary Keehn of Humboldt County, California invented this cheese named for our famous coastal fog. We have toured Mary’s cheese making facility in Arcadia and it is fascinating, they make some of our favorite cheese. The story goes that in the morning the cream would be set into the molds and then a layer of charred vegetable ash laid atop the cream to separate the cream from the afternoon milking, creating a distinct dark green blue line of ash in the center of each wedge.

Now that you know the back story about my slight obsession with this cheese, I can tell you about the yummy recipe I made from Stephanie’s book.

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She even spelled her name in Orzo and alphabet pasta!

Yes, Yes I know it’s not peach season but the weather is warm and the grill is right out front and begging to be used. I was lucky enough to find peaches, really beautiful ones locally and I was also trying to pick a kid friendly recipe to share from Melt. I knew my family liked grilled peaches, we usually make them for a sweet dessert with whipped cream, we haven’t eaten them in a savory dish.  Another way I thought I could to add a kid zip to this dish was to use alphabet pasta mixed with the orzo, this was a hit!

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Juicy Grilled Peaches

We left out the mint but could have added it just as easily, ours was sad and brown and better left alone in the garden to wither. We all loved the dish, with sweet hints of peach, tart vinegar and creamy sharp cheese flavors mingling together. I loved the addition of pistachios, the kid could have done with out them but I think the added saltiness and crunch was needed. I highly recommend this dish for a summer party, I repeat summer, don’t be a seasonal rule breaker like I am! I like Melt it’s good for a twist on Mac and Cheese and is full of other great ideas.

There is a great MELT giveaway here be sure to go over to The Culinary Life and enter win a set of Le Crueset cookware

Humboldt Fog with Grilled Peaches and Orzo

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What could be nicer than a blushing peach? The sun-kissed color, the ticklish feel of the fuzz, the sweet-as-sugar-cane flavor. This simple orzo salad lets these traits shine—and without the nuisance of peach juice dribbling down your arm. Summer in a bowl, this is.

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Peaches awaiting the grill

Serves 4

3 freestone yellow peaches

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

S ea salt

10 ounces orzo (or 5 oz orzo and 5 oz alphabet pasta can be cooked together)

¼ cup chopped parsley, plus more for garnish

¼ cup chopped spearmint

1/2 cup chopped pistachios

Freshly ground black pepper

6 ounces Humboldt Fog, rind removed and crumbled into large chunks

1. Using a barely damp paper towel, lightly scrub the peaches of any extraneous fuzz. Don’t wash the peaches, as they will soak up excess water. Using a sharp knife, cut each peach in half lengthwise around the pit, using the peach’s crevices as a guide. Discard the pits.

2. Set the peach halves in a zip-top bag and toss with honey, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt. Allow the peaches to marinate for 10 minutes.

3. While the peaches marinate, cook the orzo in some salted boiling water until al dente. Drain through a colander and set aside.

4. Once the peaches are done marinating, reserve the marinade and place the peach halves on a hot, oiled grill, cut-side down. Cover and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the peaches are soft and have developed some charming dark grill marks. Roughly chop into bite-size pieces and set aside.

5. Combine the peaches, marinade, orzo, parsley, spearmint, and pistachios in a bowl and toss. Add a bit more sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper to taste. Plonk in the Humboldt Fog and toss once or twice, just enough to bring everything together.

Overmixing will melt the cheese, and our goal here is to maintain its chunky texture.

Alternative cheeses: Though Humboldt Fog is widely available, a good stand-in would be Goat’s Leap Eclipse, Bermuda Triangle, or any stellar chèvre.

Wine pairings: rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Gewürztraminer

Additional pairings for the cheese: plums, cherries, balsamic vinegar reduction

Raw Kale Salad

14 Jul

Raw Kale Salad with Creamy Balsamic Dressing
This is my favorite most filling meal, kids think it’s yummy too because it has apples and a bit of honey for sweetness. You can save it for leftovers because kale is hearty and won’t get limp like lettuce after it has been dressed.

You can adjust the sweetness in this recipe to your liking. I like my dressing a bit sweeter when it is on raw kale, it cuts the harshness of the kale.

Dressing
Makes 1 1/2 cups dressing enough for a few salads

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup XVOO
2 Tbs rice vinegar
Salt/pepper
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs honey

Add to a blender and blend to emulsify.
A hand or stick blender works well too!

Raw Kale Salad
Makes two large servings

To break up nuts, put in a baggie and smash with a pan or meat tenderizer
Curly or Red Russian Kale is best for this salad

1 head raw kale, washed, de-stemmed, dried and torn in small pieces or cut with scissors
1/2 cup of raw almonds chopped or broken
1 hard apple, Fuji or Granny Smith, diced
Sliced red onion, to taste

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and dress to your liking.
Let sit for about 1/2 hour to meld the flavors. Serve.

Strawberry Vacation

25 Jun

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“So what are all these photos from?” you ask? They are from the land of strawberries, yes there is such a place, it runs from Orange County, all the way to the Monterey Bay, growing about 88 percent of the nation’s strawberries. (actually these were taken by Matthew Carden  the photos of real people are by me!)

There are 400 farmer families that grow all of those and countless workers that carefully harvest them. I had no idea how a strawberry got from field to market but I do now! The Strawberrry commission of California arranged fantastic tours, meals from famous chefs who made the yummiest and unsuspected delicious from the red fruit. I was so lucky to go stay at the beautiful Carmel Valley Ranch with a bunch of uber talented bloggers for two days. I feel like I learned so much about strawberries but even more than that I learned how the commission supports their farmers and helps educate the public about sweet sweet strawberries!  It was great to be on the coast, smell the salt air and stand in the fields, it’s rare that we get to be where our food grows.  I had the feeling of a larger world around us, something we don’t think about on a day to day basis. The farmers do, they work hard and care about the product they grow.   Check your strawberries the next time you buy them, I bet they will be from the Monterey area, if they aren’t then keep searching.

Yes there was a cooking competition, and Team Buffalo Strawberry took the gold (the Visa gift cards) With our LOW Sodium version of Buffalo Wings ala Strawberry BBQ sauce. You can check out that recipe below.  My contribution was a grilled corn and strawberry salad with grilled peach vinaigrette, I will share that recipe with you in a week or so.

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I know, I know…lots of photos but my new friends peer pressured me into joining Instagram, and I kind of went nuts! It was worth it because I ended up winning the Instagram Strawberry scavenger hunt!

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So are you intrigued by Strawbuffalo sauce?  My friend over at Sodium Girl  said I could share our secret recipe with you….make sure to go read her amazing blog, she’s funny!

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LOW-SODIUM STRAWBUFFALO CHICKEN20130609-210651.jpg20130614-215146.jpg

recipe courtesy of Sodium Girl

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 shallot or half a red onion, chopped
  • 3 cups strawberries, stemmed and washed
  • 1 jalapeño, chopped
  • 1 to 2 tsp salt-free chili powder
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp salt-free garlic powder
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 4 chicken legs and thighs (bone-in and skin-on) or a bunch of wings
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Directions:

In a medium-size sauce pot, heat up a tablespoon of oil and when ready, add the garlic and the onions. Cook until softened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Then add your strawberries, jalapeños, about 1/4 cup of water and lower heat to soft boil. Allow the strawberries to soften and break down into a slushy sauce, about 15 minutes. Add the chili and molasses and let it cook another 10 minutes.  Then, using a handheld or standing blender, give the sauce a whirl until it is pureed and smooth. Transfer the sauce back to the pot, add the vinegar, and continue cooking on medium-low heat for another ten minutes.

While the sauce is going, place your chicken on a roasting pan and drizzle some oil on all the pieces, rubbing it so they are all slick. Then in a small bowl, mix together the cumin, paprika, garlic powder, and black pepper and give all the chicken pieces a good rub down with the mix until they are covered. If you are using a bbq and it is ready to go, then place the chicken on the grill on a cooler part of the grill, skin side up. If you are using an oven, heat it to 375 F and throw that pan of chicken pieces (laid out in a single layer or even on top of a roasting rack on the pan) into the oven.

If you are using breast/leg pieces, let them cook 25 minutes. If you are using wings, let them cook 15 minutes.  Then, slather your chicken pieces with sauce and then continue cooking another 10 minutes, putting the sauce back on the stove on low to keep warm. If you are BBQ’ing, then you can move your chicken to a hotter spot on the grill.

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Ten things I learned about Strawberries

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1. They are delicious grilled (and wrapped with pancetta)
2. They are hand picked, boxed and shipped within a day, (that’s crazy because they are picked one at a time by workers who bend down all day and painstakingly pick, pick, pick!) Strawberries are picked and brought to a giant cooling facility where they are labeled and shipped that day.

3. They are also delicious in savory dishes such as in our winning dish Strawbuffalo wings, yes you heard right! For the yummy low sodium version visit my incredible team-mate over at Sodium Girl
4. California is the nation’s leading producer of strawberries.

5. Four hundred family farmers grow strawberries growing about 88 percent of the nation’s strawberries.

6. 8 strawberries contain as much vitamin C as one orange!

7. According to a recent study, eating strawberries more than twice a week appears to delay cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years!

8. Dynamite for diabetics: The American Diabetes Association (ADA) identified berries, including strawberries, as one of the top 10 superfoods for a diabetes meal plan.

9. After being picked every extra hour the berries sit in the field (on the truck) the berries lose one day of shelf life.

10. Bloggers can party anywhere, even in a strawberry field!!

There is so much more to know from these beautiful and informative posts from these bloggers:

Superglue Mom Garlic Girl BlogPlayful Cooking,  Muy Bueno CookbookPinch My SaltSavory SimpleUknown MamiMy San Francisco Kitchen, Cooking with Amy, The Veggie Queen, Mitzi the Nutrition Expert

Join my friends at CA Strawberries

Twitter: @CAStrawberries

Facebook: CAStrawberries

Pinterest: CAStrawberries

Instagram: CAStrawberries

Happy St Patty’s Day

17 Mar

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My family loves to celebrate anything! This year we celebrated St Patrick’s Day on Saturday night so we could have the yummy hash on Sunday morning! Matthew and Claire added e green mugs and we all got decorative socks to wear. My Saturday was spent out of  the house at our gallery so I decided to try the convenience of the crockpot this year. It worked out great, I tossed the meat in at 8 am and by dinner it was perfect.
I learned a long time ago from our Irish housekeeper ( that’s what we called the cleaning lady way back when) to add a pinch of baking soda to the cabbage boiling water to prevent the smell and add tenderness, works every time.
About two hours before dinner I added the carrots and potatoes to the crockpot with the meat.
Then about 1/2 hour before dinner I took a few large ladlefulls of the broth from the crockpot and added it to a pot on the stove with water and cooked my cabbage.
Let the corned beef rest covered out of the cooking liquid for 20 minutes and then dinner was served.

Crock Pot Corned Beef

If you tie the pickling spice in a cheesecloth bundle your guests won’t have to pick out peppercorns and crushed bay leaves!

5 lb brined and washed brisket
One yellow onion quartered
1 Bay leaf
2 tbs bacon grease (if you have it)
Water
3 tbs pickling spice wrapped in cheesecloth x 2

1 lb carrots, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
3 red potatoes, skin on cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 small heads Irish cabbage, quartered
Pinch baking soda

Add onion and bay leaf to pot. Add beef, fat side up. Fill almost all the way to the top with cool water.
Cook on low covered for 8 hours. After 8 hours or so add one bundle of spices, carrots and potatoes.
1/2 hr before dinner remove about 2 cups of cooking water and add to a pot with a pinch of baking soda. Add water half way up pot, bring to a boil and add second spice bundle and cabbage. Cook covered on medium until cabbage is tender but not limp. Remove the beef from the crockpot, cover with foil and rest 15-20 min.
Drain all veggies, slice meat and serve.

Breakfast

Sunday morning I made green waffles and corned beef hash with poached eggs!

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Husband wore a silly tie to breakfast (he never wears a tie)  and Kidlet wore a funny headband with Irish top hats. I unfortunately got so involved in making breakfast that I got pinched for not wearing green!20130317-085214.jpg

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Big Salad

6 Mar

20130306-164515.jpgMost of the time I work from home, with the exception of occasional travel or being at our Art Gallery. My husband also works at home and we try not to eat lunch out too much.   I am always in need fast easy and lunches, and it’s usually some form of leftovers magically disguised as a new dish. We love big salads at our house especially as the weather gets warmer.  If you keep clean chopped veggies on hand you will be more likely to choose a healthier alternative like a salad to take out.

Do you remember the Seinfeld episode in the with the “big salad?” This reminded me of that, it’s never ending, full of crunchy veggies, sweet and soft potatoes and creamy dressing. Just make sure if you make it, your lunch date knows YOU made it! (make sure you watch the Seinfeld link)  I suggest sharing because it isn’t exactly a low cal salad and you wouldn’t want to hog the whole thing, would you?

I used gluten free soy sauce and organic peanut butter but you use what ever you have on hand.
Kids may also like this salad, it’s not to tangy and they tend to love peanut butter. You can substitute almond or sunflower butter easily, adjusting the water may be necessary. You could serve some toasty flat bread with this salad but the crunchy veggies were enough for me.
The sauce can work over rice as a hot dish too, just heat it up, add a few more dashes of soy sauce and off you go….

 

Here is a tip for grating ginger. Peel fresh ginger and keep it in the freezer. When needed for soups, sauces or tea just use a micro grater and grate directly into your recipe. I reach for my ginger all the time!

Big Salad

Serves 2 large  or 4 smaller servings

Creamy Peanut Butter Dressing

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

3 tablespoons soy sauce (or more to taste)

2 teaspoons honey or agave

2 Tbs rice wine vinegar

Grated fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger

pinch of ground pepper

1/4 cup hot water

Pinch of red pepper flakes

In a heat proof glass measuring cup or mug add all ingredients except water. Put in microwave for 30 seconds or less.   Mix all ingredients with a fork until well blended. Add hot water slowly until, your desired consistency, add red pepper flakes.

Salad

Use any veggies you have on hand, this is what I used.

2 small sweet potatoes, cooked and chopped (see recipe)
Baby spinach
Kale, raw, shredded
cauliflower, chopped into bite size pieces
broccoli, chopped into bite size pieces
red onions, sliced in to half moons
scallions, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
cherry tomatoes, halved
carrots diced
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wash and pierce potatoes, toss in microwave and cook about 5-6 minutes on high or until very soft. Remove from microwave and let cool for 10 minutes. Strip the peel off with your fingers, it should be easy to remove. If it gives you trouble, scoop out flesh with a spoon. Chop in to small bite size chunks, set aside.

Assemble a crisp salad: Add everything except the sweet potato to a large bowl, toss with dressing (start with a small amount, you can always add but can’t remove too much dressing)
Add sweet potato on top and drizzle a bit of dressing on it. Serve! You can top with chopped peanuts if desired.

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