Thursday, April 29, 2010

Aunt Lucille's Hot and Spicy Chicken Pie

What I love about blogging for this site is that it's gotten me to dig into my family-recipe stash, the one I've ignored and felt overwhelmed by. And what I love about family recipes is that I don't feel obligated to follow them to a T, even when it's my first time trying them out.

In other words, this week it's time to play. And play I did, as you'll see from the heavily annotated ingredient list below.

Turned out awesome. Take it as it is, or play around with it a bit more. This is gooooood food, and there's not much you can do to make good food bad, especially when you're a food lover, as I'm sure all of us here are.


Aunt Lucille's Hot and Spicy Chicken Pie [with my italicized tweaks in brackets]

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces [I had 4, so I used 4]
1/2 package of frozen corn [I used about 3/4 of a largish package]
1/2 cup chicken broth [My chicken broth is frozen in 6-ounce jars, so that's what I used]
1/2 cup sliced celery
1 medium onion, sliced thin [I just chopped it somewhat coarsely]
1/2 cup salsa [I used a bit more]
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 8.5-ounce package of cornbread mix [Two things here: I used a 12-ounce package, and found it was just barely enough. Also, if I'd had the time, I'd have made my own cornbread batter rather than rely on a mix. Next time.]
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese [I'm the only one who likes cheese, so I left it out of the recipe below, and instead sprinked shredded cheese over my portion of the pie]
6-8 ounces canned, diced chili peppers, drained

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Combine chicken, corn, broth, celery and onion in a medium pan. Bring to boil, reduce heat. [I actually started with a glug of olive oil in my dutch oven, then sauteed the chicken, celery, and onion before adding the broth and frozen corn.]

3. Simmer, uncovered, 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Add salsa.

5. In a small bowl, stir two tablespoons of water into the cornstarch. Add to pan [or dutch oven] and cook, stirring, until bubbly. Cook for two more minutes.

6. In a separate bowl, prepare cornbread mix as directed on package.

7. Pour chicken mixture into a 10x6x2 casserole dish. [I needed my 11x7 dish, and it was full. But like I said, I used more chicken than the recipe called for.] Sprinkle with cheese [if using] and chilis, then spoon cornbread over the top.

8. Bake for 20 minutes, until cornbread topping is brown.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Black bean soup

This is an easy one, adapted from the Eat Clean Diet Cookbook. I modified the measurements, because I like it thicker than the recipe dictates.

2 TBSP olive oil
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 TBSP minced garlic
1 TBSP oregano
1 TBSP basil
1 TBSP cumin
1 TBSP chili powder
2 cans black beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
3 cups vegetable (or chicken or beef) broth
1 can corn, drained

Add 2 TBSP of olive oil to a pot over medium heat. Add peppers, onions, carrots and celery and saute for a few minutes, until tender. Add garlic and saute for a minute more. Add oregano, basil, cumin and chili powder and saute together for five more minutes. Add black beans, diced tomatoes and broth. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and emulsify with stick blender. Add corn and stir.

This is a very low fat meal, packed full of flavor and vegetable protein, and a great way to get your veggies in. I like to serve it with a dollop of fat free sour cream.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Flowers of fruit

This one comes to us by way of our housekeeper, who gave me a similar bouquet for my birthday. I thought it would be a nice thing to include here, just in time for spring fruits and spring celebrations.

The "it" here is a bouquet of flowers made from fruit.

You'll need a variety of fruits. Small non-green fruits can serve as flowers, while small green fruits, like grapes, can be stems. A pineapple, jicama, melons...these can all serve to cut out or carve larger flowers. Finally, you'll need some wooden skewers, of the kind used for kabobs, some leaf lettuce, and a small head of cabbage. Yes, cabbage.

Cut the cabbage in half and place one half, dome side up, in an accommodating vase or bowl. Cover this with a nice dark green leaf of lettuce (or kale). Set aside.

From the larger fruits, cut flower shapes (pineapple makes great flowers), even using cookie cutters if you've got 'em. From the melon, cut crescent moon shapes or smaller flowers. If you have a honeydew melon, you can cut slices to make crescent-shaped "leaves." Any grapes, strawberries, etc., can simply serve as "buds" or small flowers on their own. I wouldn't use any fruits that brown easily, of course, like apples.

Load the skewers in various permutations of the following: short skewers are good for the honeydew leaves or melon slices. You can line an entire skewer with green grapes to make a "stem." Pineapple, strawberry, jicama, or small cuts of other fruits or berries go on the tips to make the flowers. Assemble it by poking the skewers through the lettuce and into the cabbage. See? There was a reason for that cabbage.

The final outcome is a colorful, edible, perfect spring bouquet that is fun to receive and fun to eat. It might be a way to introduce new fruits to your little ones, gift someone who doesn't like cake or can't eat it, or simply a way to add a little fun to dessert. Whatever you decide to do with it...enjoy it quickly. It likely won't be fresh longer than a day at most.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Curried minced pork with vegetables, Thai-style

Once upon a time I was misguided enough to think I could learn to speak Thai. Luckily, my very perceptive friend and teacher guessed that the way to access my language center was through my stomach.  Our lessons therefore always started at the market and ended in a communal meal in the shared kitchen of the women's dormitory where I was living. This is very appropriate because in Thailand it really is all about the food. Eating is a very social activity. I left with an extra ten pounds and a notebook full of recipes, including this one.

This meal has become standard fall-back fare at my house. If I haven't planned ahead and need to come up with a quick, satisfying meal that everyone will eat, this dish tops the list. It is also simple enough and tasty enough that I will prepare it for guests when I don't want to be preoccupied by a complicated menu.

An essential ingredient to this one-dish meal is Prik Khing curry paste. I'm lucky enough to have a great local Asian food store that carries a wide assortment of Thai curry pastes, but I have noticed that the ethnic food section of our grocery store also carries a small selection (but with a heftier price tag). For this dish you will only use about a tablespoon of curry paste but the rest will keep well in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. I have also frozen it, spooning it directly from the freezer to the wok.

In addition to the curry paste, you will need:
1.5 lbs ground pork (or beef) (or so)
vegetable oil
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 quarter size slices ginger, minced
1/4 cup soy sauce
2-3 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Large bell pepper (red adds a nice color), sliced
green beans (a couple handfuls), sliced lengthwise
** Optional: Thai basil, 2 cups (or so) cubed pineapple

To prepare:
Cook ground meat, mincing as you go. Set aside when fully cooked.
Add a tablespoon or so of the vegetable oil to your wok. When it is very hot, add the onion and cook until tender. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until the ginger is golden brown. Add about a tablespoon of the curry paste and mix well, frying it with the onion for about a minute. Add the sugar, soy sauce and vinegar. Return the ground meat to the wok and mix well. Add the pepper and green beans, cook until they are tender but still retain some of their crunch. Remove from heat.

If you have Thai basil and some cubed pineapple, toss this with the ground meat and vegetables.

Don't be afraid to add more sugar, soy sauce and vinegar to your taste. The final dish should be a nice balance of sweet, salty, spicy and sour.

Serve over steamed jasmine rice.

A note about spicy foods: sugar counteracts the heat of spicy ingredients in Thai food. If you find that you've added too much curry paste, go ahead and slowly add in small measurements of sugar until the heat is more easily tolerated.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


If you have ever tried to make hummus on your own, you have discovered that getting a smooth product is just not easy. Why make lumpy hummus at home, when you can simply purchase a container of it... for $5.00 a pop? Yeah. The price of hummus is just silly. All you need are a few simple hints.

First, the basic ingredients of hummus: canned chick peas (also known as garbanzo beans), lemon juice, garlic, salt and tahini. Wait. What in the world is tahini?? And, where do I get it? Tahini is basically the sesame seed's equivalent of natural peanut butter. You can buy it at almost any supermarket, in their ethnic food section, or at a natural foods store. It does require some stirring, just like natural peanut butter, but it is worth it. Do NOT, and I repeat, do NOT think that hummus recipes using olive oil will give you the same taste. They won't. Blehhhh. Olive oil is for optionally drizzling on the top!

SO, what are these little tips?

First, start off with an equal amount of tahini to lemon juice: 1/4 cup each. Put them both into the food processor. The trick is to emulsify these two together first, creating a wonderful cream. Once it looks nice and creamy, it is time to add the minced garlic.

How much garlic? Oh, who knows. If you like a lot (and I like a lot!), add 4-5 teaspoons. If you aren't a huge fan of strong garlicky things, just add a little. Blend that all together. Now, you need to decide what type of hummus you are making. A basic recipe, for me, includes cumin and dried dill. Again, not measuring but probably close to a teaspoon each. At this point, you could also add olives or roasted red peppers or artichokes. Your choice. Blend, blend, blend.

Now, open up your can of chickpeas and drain them. Rinse them too, because that gets rid of the can taste. Add your chickpeas a handful at a time. Don't get impatient, or you'll end up with lumpy hummus. Blend until each handful is smooth. Do this until you have added the entire can. If your hummus starts to seem dry, add a teaspoon of water at a time.

Eventually, you will end up with a beautiful hummus. Gobble it down with pita chips, or some fresh veggies.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

No-cream pasta primavera

Back in the day when people had such a thing known as "discretionary income," several coworkers and I would regularly go out to lunch. By regularly, I mean this was a near-daily occurance, and among my most favorite lunches was the Chicken Giardino at the Olive Garden. (Which I always ordered sans-chicken, as I was a definite vegetarian in that era.)

Fast forward a recession (or two), a baby (or two), and those days are long gone.

Now it's a decade later and I'm wondering what to make for dinner. I have some straight from-the-farm-fresh veggies. It's springtime; I want pasta primavera but I don't want the heavy creaminess associated with such a dish. I log onto

And find this: No-Cream Pasta Primavera, as submitted by amanda1432. As I substitute farfalle pasta for penne, I realize that this looks pretty similar to my beloved Chicken Giardino.

I think this is the type of recipe where the list of veggies lends itself well to substituting whatever you have on hand. Yellow squash, zucchini, red bell pepper, and fresh green beans were not in my fridge, but baby carrots, asparagus, and tomatoes (vine-ripened) were. (Don't let the long list of ingredients scare you. This is much easier than it looks.)

1 (12 ounce) package penne pasta
1 yellow squash, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 pint grape tomatoes
1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
5 spears asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add penne pasta and cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until al dente; drain.

3. In a bowl, toss squash, zucchini, carrot, red bell pepper, tomatoes, green beans, and asparagus with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and Italian seasoning. Arrange vegetables on the baking sheet, and roast 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until tender.

4. Heat remaining olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Stir in the onion and garlic, and cook until tender. Mix in cooked pasta, lemon zest, basil, parsley, and balsamic vinegar. Gently toss and cook until heated through. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with roasted vegetables and sprinkle with Romano cheese to serve.

Knowing that my kids wouldn't look at this if the vegetables were included, I dished out some plain pasta before adding the vegetables. (I also forgot the last few herbs and the balsamic vinegar.)

I loved this, and so did The Husband. Boo ate a decent amount of it, and Betty was only interested in the carrots and peas (which I'd added at the very last minute). It could lend itself well to the addition of chicken or shrimp. I'll definitely be making this again - in some variety - as the bounty from the farm continues to arrive with the nice weather.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Corn fritters

These are so easy to make and extremely delicious! Corn fritters have been an Easter staple around my husband's family's table for as long as anyone can remember, but they are so good, they deserve to be eaten more often. Yes, they are a perfect accompaniment to ham, but they're also just right to dress up a roast chicken or pork chops. We like to dip ours in applesauce, but you can also serve them plain.

Here's what you need:
2 eggs
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1/2 cup of milk
2 cups of flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups of corn

Whisk eggs, milk and oil together in a medium sized bowl. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in the corn. The batter can be mixed ahead of time, if necessary, just cover and refrigerate until you're ready to use it.

In a large frying pan, heat a generous amount of oil (we use canola or vegetable oil; olive oil is too heavy for this). Visually, it should look like you have about 1/4 of an inch of oil in the pan.

Using a tablespoon, drop the batter into the oil. It will spread and flatten much in the same way as a pancake. When the top bubbles (just like a pancake) and the bottom is a nice golden brown, flip it over.

Try to wait until the fritter is really golden on one side before flipping. If you go back and forth too much on these, they will absorb quite a bit of oil, so it's best to be patient and flip once.

These are super delicious hot out of the pan, but also quite good at room temperature.

The batter yields about 2 dozen fritters, depending on size. They also make a nice appetizer, served with a dollop of applesauce or sour cream on top.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nanny's Potato-Frankfurter Soup

(Minor brag: The cloth the recipe's sitting on? Is a blackwork Star of David challah cover that I made some years ago. It's one of my favorite stitchery pieces ever.)

This is a recipe my mother sent me for our family cookbook (you know, the one I've written about before, but never actually put together? yeah, that one...). I'd never made it before. I'm not sure I'd ever looked at it before. Because if I had, I'd have noticed that little "Jack's mom's recipe" up there in the left-hand corner. Jack's mom having been my father's mother, my Nanny, who died about a decade ago, maybe a little more. My mother and my father having been divorced when I was 11, after being separated from the time I was 8. So, yeah. I'd have raised an eyebrow at that one.

In any case, it was absolutely perfect for the night I made it, an unseasonably cool--oh, who am I kidding? it was FREEZING by LA standards--April night. And it was also a breath of fresh air. Most of what I cook these days, the new stuff at least, is ethnic and spicy, sprinkled liberally with cayenne or garam masala and almost never EVER without garlic or ginger. This was potatoes and hot dogs (does anyone call them frankfurters any more?), and very little else.

We all loved it.

Nanny's Potato-Frankfurter Soup [with my changes in bracketed italics]

5 to 6 cups of water [I used chicken broth, which I think is sort of an essential change if you want the soup to have any real taste; I also upped it to about 8 cups, because that was how much broth I had frozen in the two plastic bags in my freezer]

3 to 4 potatoes [I used white potatoes, rather than the russets I'm sure Nanny used, and I upped the number to (I think) 6]

2 to 3 tablespoons flour [Apparently, Nanny wasn't big on certainty!]

Salt to taste [I used kosher salt.]

2 to 3 tablespoons chicken fat [I actually had chicken fat; I skimmed it off the frozen broth, which was from the last time I made chicken soup with matzo balls. But if I didn't have chicken fat, I'd have probably used whichever neutral oil I had around.]

1/2 small onion, diced [I used one medium onion]

4 frankfurters [Since I'd bought the jumbo franks, I did only use four, but there was plenty.]

Bread [Not in Nanny's recipe, but this soup almost literally called out for warm, crusty french bread to go with it.]

As for the instructions...Well, Nanny was no more precise about these than she was about her measurements. So, again, I'll give you her instructions, with my modifications/additions in italicized brackets.

1. Place potatoes in water. [First of all, I placed them in the defrosted chicken broth. Secondly, I chopped them into nice big chunks. Because they were thin-skinned white potatoes, I didn't peel them first, but you might want to peel yours, depending on what kind you use.]

2. Let water boil. [I salted the chicken broth a little here.]

3. Combine chicken fat and flour; let heat over low flame and get brown. [I did this in a separate, small iron skillet. The flour never did get especially brown, but it did combine nicely with the fat to form a paste. In retrospect, I'd have upped the amount of fat and flour, since I'd upped the amounts of everything else. I assume the point is for it to slightly thicken the broth/water, but it didn't do much of anything. At least, I didn't notice it doing anything.]

4. Brown onions. [I did this in the same skillet after removing the fat/flour combo; I added a tiny bit of canola oil, since the chicken fat had been all soaked up by the flour in the previous step.]

5. Put paste and onions into water with salt. [I actually put the paste in when I removed it from the skillet so I could brown the onions, then put the onions in the chicken broth when they were done.]

6. Let cook for one hour.

7. Cut frankfurters in half and put into soup. [I cut them in half and then sliced them so that there were half-moons of hot dog throughout the soup.]

8. On small flame, let cook another 20 minutes. Taste.

That last bit I did without a single change from the original instructions. It was really, truly, comfort foodingly good. Baroy's already requested it make a return when and if the temps dip again. I second that emotion.

(That's just a wooden spoon over there to the right, by the way. Not some mutant, mottled hot dog.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Meatless (TVP) mexican

I have had a bag of TVP (textured vegetable protein) in my pantry for probably a year now. I don't even remember why I bought it. I think I was going to try a meatless meatloaf recipe, and then the thing was so convoluted that I abandoned the idea. So, now... what to do with my bag of TVP?

The good thing about TVP is that it just doesn't go bad. It's like rice. You could take it out of a time capsule and eat the stuff. The bad thing about TVP is that it has absolutely no flavor, and you better be making something with some "oomph" to it, if you're using it.

Hmm. Oomph. To me, a food that always has a flavorful kick is anything mexican. So, I plugged some search words into Google and found this recipe. Of course, as usual, I modified it.

1 cup TVP (textured vegetable protein)
1 can of diced tomatoes with chiles
1 can of black beans
1 can of vegetarian refried beans
1 cup water plus 1 TBSP Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base (or 1 cup beef broth if you eat meat)
1/2 packet of taco seasoning

Take your stick blender and blend up those tomatoes and chiles. Then, throw everything into your crockpot together and stir it until the TVP is wet and distributed throughout the mixture.

Let it cook for 3-4 hours. If you have a crockpot like mine (metal), you can speed up the cooking time and the TVP cooks just fine.

The best part of this recipe is its versatility. I decided that I wanted to eat it on a salad. My husband, a meat-loving carnivore, put his into a tortilla and made a burrito. After he inhaled it, he said that he couldn't even tell that there wasn't a meat in it.

Make it a taco filling. Use it in a burrito. Throw it with some rice. Or, make a mexican salad and crunch some tortilla chips on it for good measure.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Penne with vodka sauce and capicola

This one's an oldie from Eating Well, and the inspiration for making it was the usual: leftover something that I could put in it. This leftover was rotini. I know the title says "penne," but we'd cooked rotini, and that's what we had left over, so that's what we used.

The pluses for this recipe are that it's really lightning fast and comes out pretty tasty. The minus could be that with the red pepper and vodka zing, it may not be something the kiddies go for.

Ingredients were cooked pasta, 2 oz. capicola (pancetta would do as a sub, as would a good bacon, I think), a small onion, three garlic cloves, 0.5 c. vodka, a 28-oz. can of crushed tom-ah-toes, 0.25 c. of half'n'half, 2 tsp Worcestershire, crushed red pepper to your taste (the recipe recommends between 0.25 and 0.5 tsp), chopped basil (if fresh, recipe recommends 0.25 c; I used dried, at about a teaspoon). Pepper and salt to taste. I found that this one didn't require much extra salting.

Put the water for the pasta on to boil if you're not like me and already have some cooked pasta around.

Chop the capicola (or pancetta), the onion, and the garlic. Cook the meat to crisp, then set aside to drain. The recipe doesn't call for oil for the onion and garlic, but I found that they required it, so I added in a lug of olive oil and cooked these on just above medium heat until the onions were transparent and soft.

The fun part, as usual, is adding the alcohol. Jack the heat up to high and pour in the vodka. Enjoy the show, then let it boil until the volume drops by about half. Then add in everything else: cream, tomatoes, half'n'half, red pepper, basil (but see below), reduce the heat, stir, cook for about 10 minutes.

In the original recipe, the recommendation is to serve the sauce over the pasta with the cooked capicola added on top and the basil sprinkled on. I add the basil into the sauce itself, and I also added in the meat. We're not really a "set the table with garnishes" kinda group around here, so I wanted the sauce ready and waiting for when dinner time rolled around.

What we did garnish with was a really nutty, good Parmesan. Add in some rosemary baguette and a good leafy salad, and we had an enjoyable, fancy-seeming dinner involving big words like "capicola" and grownup things like vodka and that bit us back a bit as we ate it, and it only took about 15 minutes to throw together.

Bon appetit.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Stir fried Thai noodles

There are many, many ways to cook Pad Thai. As with most Thai foods, you can add any number of ingredients that balance out the four main tastes: sweet, sour, salty, spicy. I prefer an adaptation of the very basic recipe that I found in Real Thai, by Nancie McDermott, which relies on simple ingredients that I usually have in my kitchen. It takes very little time to prepare and everyone at our table loves it.

You will need:
1/2 - 3/4 lb rice stick noodles
vegetable oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
12 (or so) shrimp
2 eggs
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
dry-roasted peanuts
bean sprouts
one bunch green onions, chopped
2 limes

First, soak the noodles in a large bowl of hot water for about twenty minutes. While the noodles are softening, start preparing the rest of your ingredients. Mince the garlic, clean, peel and devein the shrimp.

Next, heat about a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil in your wok. Once it is hot, add the garlic and fry until it is a very light brown. Then, add the shrimp and cook until it all pieces are pink. Turn the heat off and carefully remove the garlic and shrimp with a slotted metal spoon and set aside.

Next cook your egg. Heat the remaining oil in the wok and add the two eggs. You can either gently beat them before adding to the pan or, just crack the eggs right in the wok as I do. Let them fry for a few seconds then, using your metal spoon, lightly scramble the egg until it is a golden yellow. Remove the egg from the pan and set aside with the garlic and shrimp.

By this time your noodles should be nice and soft. Drain them in a colander and let sit to remove excess water while you heat another tablespoon or so of oil in the wok. Once the oil is hot add the noodles. Fry them evenly by using two utensils to spread the noodles in a layer over the entire cooking surface of the wok, then lump them together in the center and repeat until they are curled and very soft.

Now, add a handful or two (or three) of the bean sprouts and the green onion and cook for a minute until soft.

Then, add the fish sauce and sugar. (Taste the noodles at this point and decide if you should adjust the flavors more to your taste. More of any combination of ingredients can be added now.) Add the garlic, shrimp and egg and mix thoroughly. At this point you want to be careful of hungry boys or you will find them eating directly from the pan.
Before serving, add a few more, uncooked bean sprouts for texture and a half-cup or so coarsely ground peanuts. Garnish with lime wedges. Serve.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

POM Wonderful recipes

The good folks over at POM Wonderful contacted me via my blog and asked if I would be interested in sampling a free case of their 100% authentic pomegranate juice. Well, who is going to turn down a free case of pomegranate juice?

Once it arrived, I was so excited to have 8 little 8-oz bottles of my very own! Now, the question was... what do I do with it? Oh sure, everyone has had pomegranate martinis. But, I knew that this potent juice had more punch to it than a measly martini. We have all heard about the wonderful cardiovascular and antioxidant benefits to pomegranate juice, so I wanted to give this juice some substance. So, off to work I went in the kitchen and, lucky you, you get four recipes for the price of one post!

My first choice was not very inventive, but I wanted to actually drink the juice. I added some chocolate protein powder and ice in a blender with one 8-oz bottle of POM Wonderful and was happily surprised to find that I had created a valentine day heart chocolate-tasting shake in a glass! Something about this reminded me of the creme-filled "pink" chocolates.

My next recipe was a bit more inventive. I searched online for some ideas and came up with this one. I modified it, as I always do to recipes. Instead of fire-roasted tomatoes, I used regular diced tomatoes and some Liquid Smoke. I used sugar free maple syrup instead of the real thing, omitted the marjoram (because I was out!) and I also replaced the beef with a veggie version, since I don't eat meat. (side note: Gardein Beefless Tips were perfect for this recipe!) So, my recipe went like this:


(this recipe has a lot of ingredients, but it is worth it!)

2 packages of Gardein Beefless tips (original recipe calls for 2 lbs of stew beef)
1 8-oz bottle of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
1 large onion, chopped
a bunch of minced garlic (I'm telling you, I don't follow recipes)
2 tbsp sugar free maple syrup
1 can diced tomatoes
a few shakes of Liquid Smoke
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
1/4 c raisins (note: If you have them, I would use golden raisins for presentation purposes)
2 tsp rosemary, dried
1 tbsp basil, dried
2 bay leaves
2 tsp thyme, ground
2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat crock pot, add olive oil. Saute onions and garlic. Add meat (or substitute). Saute for a few minutes (or brown, if using beef). In a medium bowl, combine all other ingredients. Pour into crockpot and simmer for 6-8 hours. (since I wasn't cooking meat, I simmered for 3.)

I will tell you that I thickened this up slightly at the end with some cornstarch dissolved in water.

If you're trying to eliminate meat from some of your meals, you won't miss it in this dish. My meat-loving husband said, "I could sell this." I served it over brown rice, but it would have been just as amazing over egg noodles. It reminded me of a cross between a sauerbraten and a hearty pot roast. I have been craving this since I made it.

The next recipe that I tried was loosely based on this, but I made it much more basic and a lot more healthy.


In a saucepan, heat:
Two 8-oz bottles of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
1/4 c of lemon juice
6-8 packages of stevia

Thickening it with cornstarch, I heated it up and created a sauce.

Then, toss 1 lb of shrimp with:
3/4 tsp ground cuim
3/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 and 1/2 tbsp olive oil

and then stick them on skewers on the grill. Served over brown rice (and I sauteed some spinach with garlic for the side), it was easy and delicious.

My last recipe was really winging it off of this idea. Here's what I did:


Chop 1 onion and saute. Add one peeled and chopped apple and saute together until soft. Add 2 cups of vegetable broth and approximately 1/4 tsp of ginger and simmer for 20 minutes. Add one can of canned pumpkin, 1 8-oz bottle of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice and 1 tsp of coriander and simmer for five minutes. Pull off heat, use a stick blender (told you that I love my stick blender!) to blend until smooth. Add one can of lite coconut milk. Stir until heated through. This was just amazing and filled me up, too. I might need to add this to all holiday menus.

I have three bottles left. I have a feeling that some of these recipes will be making a repeat performance! Hope that you enjoy them as much as I did.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Manhattan clam chowder

Every so often, I stay overnight at my mother and stepfather's house after work.  These are usually evenings when I have a late meeting or, as the case was recently, an early morning presentation.  I have a really long commute to work - on average it is 2 hours each way - and my mom's house is within 30 minutes of my office. 

I love these evenings for so many reasons (they'll be ending soon, because next month I'm starting a new job much closer to my house).  Call me selfish, but one of the reasons I love staying overnight at my mom's is that I don't have to make dinner.  Or jump up every two minutes to refill someone's juice, or hear complaints about how disgusting the menu is.  Instead, these dinners are usually me and my mom in the kitchen, catching up on family and friends, me elaborating on something the kids did or the funny things they said. 

That was the case two weeks ago when I arrived into the kitchen, tired from a long meeting and damp from a rainy night. My mom had a simmering pot of Manhattan clam chowder on the stove, with fluffy biscuits on the counter.  I couldn't recall her ever making clam chowder in my life.

"It's the best soup," she enthused.  "Aunt Etta gave me the recipe years ago." 

My mom produced the recipe - "so you can write about it on your blog" - and she wasn't kidding when she said she had the recipe for years. The date on the magazine clipping: February 1976.  I was in the first grade then.

I took a spoonful of the chowder, and it was indeed every bit as good as she promised it was.  Comfort food in every sense of the word ... at its very best.

Bill Johnson's Manhattan Clam Chowder
from Family Circle, Feb. 1976

36 large chowder clams (quahogs) OR:
2 cans (7-8 oz. ea.) minced clams  (my mom used the canned clams)

1/2 stick sweet butter (I know, I know ....)
1 cup diced onion
1-1/2 cups diced potatoes
1 cup diced celery
3/4 cup diced carrots
3/4 cup diced green pepper (my mom may have left this out)
1 can (2 lb. 3 oz) Italian-style plum tomatoes, drained
1-1/2 tsp. leaf thyme (crumbled)
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp. curry powder
(I know my mom's version omitted the white pepper and curry powder.)


Shuck fresh clams; reserve broth; chop clams coarsely. If using canned clams, drain and reserve broth. Broth from clams should measure 2 cups. If not, add water or bottled clam broth.

Melt sweet butter in a large saucepan. Saute onions until lightly browned.

Add remaining ingredients and extra water, if needed, to cover vegetables. Bring to boil; lower heat; cover and simmer 30 minutes or just until vegetables are tender.

Add fresh (or canned) clams; turn off heat; cover and let stand 2 minutes or just until clams are thoroughly hot. Serve with warm buttered pilot crackers if you wish.

(Sorry about the terrible photo.  It was taken with my BlackBerry, and I was nearly finished with my second bowl of chowder when I remembered to take a picture.)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Chicken with grapefruit and avocado salsa

I did say we eat a lot of chicken, right? So, imagine my joy at finding this helpful issue of Cuisine Lite—

See down there in the right hand corner, Quick Chicken Recipes: 6 Fast Fixes, 15 Minutes? I love stuff like this. Take a dinnertime staple and jazz it up a variety of ways. All of it quick, easy and utilizing ingredients that most of us have on hand. Perfect.

The hardest part was deciding which recipe to try first. I went with the grapefruit and avocado salsa simply because the avocados in the grocery store right now (which I've been tossing into my shopping cart for the last two weeks) have been nearly perfect in their taste and consistency, and trust me, this is not always the way of avocados on the east coast.

Here's all you need to make the salsa:

Seriously. That's it. 
1 grapefruit, peeled and sectioned and cut into bite size pieces 
1 peeled and diced avocado 
1 tablespoon of finely chopped red onion
2 teaspoons of honey
1/4 teaspoon of coarse (or kosher) salt

Mix the ingredients in a bowl, being careful not to mash the avocado, and set aside. 

Here's a helpful hint: If you need an avocado to ripen quickly, put it in a brown paper bag and tuck it into a drawer. Don't ask me why, but it works.

To make the chicken (I used thin sliced chicken cutlets) drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. I added some dried thyme.

Grill 4 to 5 minutes per side, or until chicken is no longer pink.

I served this with my favorite rice and a green salad. Honestly, it was delicious. The flavors in the grapefruit and avocado salsa gave a really nice lift to the grilled chicken. I would definitely make this again. I would, however, increase the amounts for more than two adults. My husband and I had no problem finishing this up, while our son ate his chicken dipped in ketchup (surprise!). If you try it, come back and let me know what you think!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Homemade horseradish for Passover

Yes, it's blurry. No, it's not your eyes. My apologies. The good camera was, well, lost in the mess on my desk. Sigh.

For Thanksgiving, it's the cranberries. For Hanukkah, it's the applesauce. For Passover? The horseradish.

As always, yes, it's easier to buy it in a jar. But it doesn't even come close. And while most of mine found its way onto gefilte fish or spread over matzo, you can use it for pretty much anything.

A warning, though: It's strong. Strong, I tell you. And pungent. Hard to mistake for anything else, that's for sure.

Homemade Horseradish for Passover (a recipe written in my own hand several years ago on a piece of notepaper, which means I have no idea where it came from; my apologies to whomever I'm not giving appropriate credit)

4 ounces fresh horseradish, peeled*
1 8.25 ounce can of sliced beets
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar

*A note about fresh horseradish: For one thing, it can be hard to find at all. Some supermarkets carry it; others don't. You may have to ask around. For another, make sure it's good and fresh. Sniff it; it should not quite knock you over. The stuff I made this year? Well, frankly, it sucked. And that was because the horesradish root I bought was woody through the middle, and the stuff simply had gone well past its prime. It was, however, the only bit of horseradish in the store, and so I'd caved and bought it, rather than drag my tuchus over to another store. Next time? The tuchus will be dragged.

1. Grate horseradish; I do it in my food processor.

2. Drain liquid from beets, reserving 3 tablespoons. Coarsely chop beets. (Not necessary if you end up using a food processor, as I do, on the whole mess in the end. See #4.

3. Put beets, beet juice, lemon juice, salt, and sugar into bowl and mix.

4. Stir into horseradish. If you like relatively large chunks of horseradish, you're done here. I don't. I like mine to be not quite as pureed as the stuff in the jars, but a lot more finely ground than a quick pulse through the grater provides. So once I've stirred everything together, I throw it into the food processor and pulse away until it's just the right consistency.

5. Cover and let stand at least an hour, so that the flavors get a chance to meld and deepen. Trust me; it needs that hour.

Serve with...whatever you normally serve horseradish with.

It is like nothing else.

(Yes, I'm done with Passover recipes now. I promise. Mostly because by the time I do my next recipe, I'll be done with Passover itself! Hope you and yours enjoy your holiday, whichever one you celebrate, with smiles and laughter and--of course--excellent food.)