Chicken Peanut Soup (Ghanian Nkate Nkwan, Nkatenkwan, Nkate Nkwanin)

>> Sunday, August 13, 2017


Chicken Peanut Soup (Ghanian Nkate Nkwan, Nkatenkwan, Nkate Nkwanin)


This chicken stew in peanut sauce sounds like something you might find in a Thai restaurant, where they tend to use peanuts in main dishes. In fact, this stew was taught to my family by our adopted sisters from Ghana. It's a traditional dish there and is super-easy to make, and contains no unusual ingredients.

My parents are amazing humanitarians who have worked for social justice and world peace for decades. Early on, they realized they didn't know much about the often troubled African continent, so they set themselves on a self-study program to learn all they could about the countries of Africa. They believe that helping others starts with education and respect. Today, they know more about the social and political facts in Africa than some citizens of those countries.


About five years ago, Mom and Dad decided they wanted to be a support system for African students studying at the university at Bowling Green, Ohio. They realized how difficult it is for young adults to live nearly halfway across the world from their families and they wanted to be a second family.

That is how Elizabeth and Josephine Effah came into our lives. They are students from Ghana who were studying public health and policy. They are smart, kind, gorgeous, funny, and hard-working young ladies who have become part of our family. They've celebrated holidays and family reunions with us, and Mom and Dad have attended their graduations and other special events. We are truly blessed to have widened our family with new sisters. You can't have too many sisters, am I right?


Elizabeth, Josephine, and her son Myron

Elizabeth sent me this recipe recently. It is a traditional Ghanaian recipe that can vary widely, though the core ingredients of peanuts, chicken, tomatoes, peppers, and onions remains the same. It is spicy-hot and creamy all at the same time.

While researching the recipe, Joe and I learned that the name varies (Nkate Nkwan, Nkatenkwan, Nkate Nkwanin, and other variations). Peanuts are sometimes called "groundnuts" in Ghana. A different tuber called bambara was used centuries ago, but peanuts imported from South America by the Portuguese began to replace those groundnuts.

If you were in Africa, this stew might be served to you with the chicken bones, which you might like to gnaw for those tasty little bits that cling to the bones. You might also get some dumplings or a mound of a mashed potato-like substance; these are called fufu, made of pounded yams, cassava roots, or green plantains. Fufu is common in many central and west African countries. Through colonial slave trade and emigration, it has migrated over to the Caribbean and Central American countries as mofongo and other specialties. In west Africa, this peanut stew might also be served over rice, or with floating balls of sticky rice.


Effah Chicken Peanut Soup

Ingredients

1 large onion, chopped finely
1 green pepper (or orange or red) chopped finely
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
6 cups of water
16 oz. of natural chunky peanut butter (no sugar)
1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce

Directions

Mix peanut butter with 4 cups of water and blend with whisk. Begin cooking on low heat, stirring often.  Meanwhile, in a fry pan, mix chicken, onions, and peppers. Cook until chicken is cooked through.  Add to peanut mixture with seasonings and some salt. Add tomato sauce and two more cups of water. Cook with frequent stirring for an hour on low heat. Do not cover. Some like it over rice. It is good without chicken, too.

Serves 4-6.

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Sake-Marinated Salmon

>> Friday, August 4, 2017


Sake-Marinated Salmon


Our local grocery store just had a $1.99 a pound sale on salmon fillets, which is about as cheap as I'd ever seen. These fillets were a little thin, but still tender, and they were begging for a delicate marinade instead of the big bold flavors that usually go well with salmon.

I remembered the bottle of sake stored in our bar since - oh, I don't know when - and made a nutty marinade with it. Wasabi or white horseradish gives the fish a little kick, too. The final ingredient is lovage, from a friend's garden. This herb is popular in French and German cooking and boasts a flowery celery flavor. If a friend doesn't have any, snip off the leaves from a stalk of celery and use those instead.

This marinade will work with any fish, but thin fillets are probably best.

Ingredients

4 4-6 oz salmon fillets
1 cup dry sake
1 tsp wasabi paste or horseradish
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp lovage, or celery leaves
1/4 cup chives, snipped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)

Directions

Wash the salmon fillets and pat them dry. In a bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Place the fish in a platter and pour the marinade over them. Turn them over until the marinade is on all sides. Allow to absorb the flavors for at least 1 hour before grilling or roasting.

Top with toasted sesame seeds before serving, if desired.

Serves 4-6.

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Pesto Potato Salad Nicoise

>> Friday, July 21, 2017


Pesto Potato Salad Nicoise


This main-dish potato salad is a delightfully different take on the ordinary summer staple. It combines the classic French nicoise salad with a creamy pesto-based dressing. Perfect for our memories of Nice, which also remind Joe of Italy.





The first time Joe was in Nice, he was there on business for a French pharmaceutical company. He didn't get to enjoy much of the seaside life until his day off. Then he went on a countryside run that skirted the Mediterranean nearly to San Remo over the Italian border, before heading back for lunch. He ordered a classic salade Niçoise, which is usually a cold composed salad of potatoes, olives, tomatoes, sardines, tuna, and green beans.

Our version is a a cool summer salad that looks pretty fancy on a platter and gives you something new to do with potato salad. I've already made it a couple of times this summer - and ate the leftovers yesterday at lunch.

Pesto Potato Salad Nicoise


Ingredients

For the pesto

3 tbsp basil leaves
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp pine nuts
1/2 tsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil

For the salad

2 eggs
6 medium potatoes, scrubbed
2 cups green beans, rinsed and cut in half
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 cup white onion, finely sliced
1 6-oz can tuna packed in water, drained
1/4 cup black olives, sliced
1 tbsp anchovy paste
2 tsp salt
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp lemon juice
2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 head of romaine lettuce, separated into leaves

Directions

Blend together all pesto ingredients until smooth. Stir together with the mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, and anchovy paste, and chill the sauce.

Boil the eggs and potatoes until the potatoes are just tender; drain and rinse with cold water. Chill, then cut the potatoes into bite-sized chunks and the eggs into wedges. Place the green beans in boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes, then immerse them in cold water to stop the cooking. 

In a large bowl, stir together the potatoes, green beans, celery, onion, tuna, olives, and sauce. Place the lettuce leaves on individual plates or a large platter. Mound the salad on the lettuce, then arrange the egg and tomato wedges around the salad. 

Serves 4-6.

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The Dining Room at Kendall College

>> Friday, June 30, 2017


Chicken Piccata at Kendall College

We dined here for the first time for Restaurant Week and were so glad we did! Interestingly, we had dined at Naha the night before and Kendal blew them away in terms of flavor pairings and portion size.

We started with Mushroom Risotto / Parmesan Tuile / Huile d'Persil and the Wok Seared Scallop / Pumpkin Ravioli / Dashi Broth / Bonito / Togarashi Sichimi. They were both wonderful, but my scallop in dashi broth was the real standout - perfectly cooked, lovely broth, and the pumpkin ravioli was the best counterpoint. It was served with a tangy olive bread and sage-infused butter. An amuse-bouche of two veggie sushi bite kept us eager for more.

My Roast Chicken Piccata / Chives / Chives / Whipped Ricotta Sesame Grits / Capers / Yellow Squash Provençal / Chicken Jus entree was amazing. Chicken Piccata sounds a little boring but this portion of breast and wing was tender, juicy, and alive with flavor. The grits were nice and creamy, but the yellow squash was a real surprise. It was in a sort of tomatoey agro-dolce sauce that I can't wait to recreate.

My husband has the Grilled Strip Loin / Chimmichurri / Curried Jasmine Rice / Pickled Ginger Salad / Romesco Sauce which was like a rave party of flavor! So much going on in the dish, but the tastes cooperated in making the dish exceptional.

Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Mousse at Kendall College




For dessert, I was going to have Bingsu but the Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Mousse / Dark Chocolate Mousse / Hazelnut Crunch / Orange Anglaise / Hazelnut Whipped Cream / Chocolate Cake won out. It was lovely as well as delicious. Joe had a peanut butter/bacon cheesecake with bananas and it was amazing.

I can't believe we waited so long to visit this place. The dining room is comfortable and tranquil, with enormous windows showcasing the skyline to the south, and the windows into the kitchen let us enjoy watching the students hard at work. Service was impeccable and prompt. Around the dining room and some adjoining halls are displays of antique kitchen equipment which you really shouldn't miss seeing. On top of all that - free plentiful parking! We're big fans.

Kendall College is at 900 N North Branch St., Chicago, IL 60642.

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Edamame and Grilled Corn Salad

>> Sunday, June 18, 2017


Edamame and Grilled Corn Salad


This quick salad is fresh and full of healthy ingredients. It's perfect with Veracruz-style Tilapia grilled in foil packets - one of our favorite ways to cook fish.

We like to use the edamame without pods in the frozen vegetable section of the grocery store. I made the vinaigrette with a Mexican lime-infused olive oil that my sister gave me for Christmas. Beth and my mom visited the Queen Creek Olive Mill in Phoenix, AZ in December, and also brought me feta-stuffed green olives. I think I'm going to raid the olive jar when I'm done with this post!

If you don't have any Mexican lime-infused olive oil handy, try 1 tbsp of lime juice and plain olive oil - or mix in whatever flavor you do have. This salad recipe is very flexible.


Ingredients

3 ears corn
12 oz. frozen edamame
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup red bell pepper

For the Vinaigrette

1/4 cup lime olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp salt


Directions

Heat the grill to medium. Shuck the corn and brush with a little oil. Grill on all sides, turning frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the corn is barely cooked and lightly browned. Allow to cool, then cut the kernels from the cob.

Steam the edamame in the microwave or on the stove until tender, about 15 minutes. Rinse with cold water to chill, then let it drain thoroughly. Stir in the corn, pepper, and onion. Shake together the vinagrette ingredients and pour over the salad. Let it chill for at least an hour before serving so that the flavors blend together well.

Serves 4-6.

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Braised Fava Beans with Pancetta (Stufato di Fave, Stufato di Baccelli)

>> Sunday, June 4, 2017


Braised Fava Beans with Pancetta (Stufato di Fave, Stufato di Baccelli)


If we were in Italy right now, chances are we'd find a dish of fresh young fava beans braised with pancetta, broth, and tomato on our dinner table. This is a classic early summer dish that's just popping with flavor. It also works well with butter beans or limas.

For a few weeks now, I have been seeing fresh fava beans in the pod at our local grocery store but didn't have a craving or a specific recipe in mind. Then the other day, I saw a large heel of cured pancetta (half a pound!) in the reduced section of our deli. The price was irresistible, and I began thinking of braised fava beans.

But when I went back to the store with the beans, not a single fresh fava was found. I bought a frozen package, finally, since I wasn't going to give up my stewed bean craving that easily. The shelled frozen beans tend to be more mature, so I blanched them and slipped them out of their skins so they'd be tender. Fantastic.




Ingredients

1 pound fresh shelled fava beans, or 20 oz. frozen favas
1 tbsp olive oil
4 oz pancetta, finely chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 tsp salt
ground pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup water

Directions

If using frozen fava beans, boil a small pot of water. When it reaches a boil, put in the beans and cook for 1 minute. Soak the beans in ice water for one minute, then peel off the outer skins. I found it easiest to pull off the dark stripe at the top; the rest of the skin comes right off with that strip.



Heat the oil in a medium frying pan, then cook the pancetta and onion until soft and slightly browned. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the beans are tender and the sauce has thickened.

Serves 4 as a side dish, or 2 as a main meal.

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Blanquette de Veau (French veal stew with white sauce)

>> Sunday, May 28, 2017




We first had this classic French veal stew at Froggy’s Café – you know, that French place we rhapsodize about. We consulted with Julia Child on the recipe and experimented a little on our own to come up with the recipe here.

While this is technically a basic stew, it's upscale enough for a fancy dinner party. The lovely creamy sauce and tender, buttery veal are a treat for special friends. 

We’ve noticed that some classic French recipes can be rather one-note. For example, the original recipe called for cooking the veal with a carrot, celery stalk and onion, but then discarding everything. The result is the stew contains just meat, mushrooms, and the very flavorful gravy. We switched it up a bit so that we keep all the vegetables in the stew. You might want to play around with this too – but perhaps experiment on something cheaper than veal!



Ingredients

For the Bouquet Garni (Herb bundle)
3” cheesecloth square
Kitchen Twine
1 tbsp parsley leaves
2 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh thyme
6 black peppercorns

For the Stew
2 lbs. boneless veal shoulder, cut into 1″ chunks
2 stalks of celery cut into 1″ pieces
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup pearl onions
1.5 cups baby carrots cut in half
10 oz. of mixed mushrooms, such as shiitake, white, crimini, and oyster, sliced
¼ cup sherry
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 12 tbsp. flour
½ cup heavy cream
Salt and white pepper to taste
Cooked white rice, for serving
Parsley leaves, to garnish

Instructions

Wrap the herbs in the cheese cloth and tie with the twine. In a large pot, place the veal, onions, carrot, celery, broth and enough water to partially cover the food. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat, and simmer one hour. Skim off the scum as it forms. Be careful not to overcook the veal as it will turn to mush!

Add the mushrooms and sherry and cook until the vegetables are tender. Remove the meat and vegetables to a platter and keep warm; return the broth to the pot.

 In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and stir in one cup of the veal broth, stirring until smooth. Slowly stir the white sauce into the large pot, add salt and pepper to taste, and simmer gently until it is thickened. Stir in the cream. Return the meat and vegetables to the pot and heat through. Sprinkle with parsley after plating.

Serve over white rice, noodles, or alone with crusty bread.

Serves 4.

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Bulerias Tapas Restaurant, Chicago

>> Monday, May 15, 2017




We've been to Bulerias twice, once for a birthday celebration and once for Mother's Day lunch. I really want to love this place - it has so much going for it - but I'm not in love.

First, it's hard to tell online whether the dancing shows are ticketed/paid or free. Luckily for us, the first time we reserved the downstairs area and got to see the show, which is really spectacular. Unluckily, we were so close to the stage that the dancer's fringed costume swept through my food a couple of times. Blech.

On our recent visit, our group of seven made reservations ahead of time and then confirmed it in a later phone call, but they didn't have our reservation. They sat us anyway, though, so it's all good.I would note though that the tables are small and close together; if our server hadn't been on top of our used plates, we would have had trouble!

The food is wonderful. My favorites are the bacon-wrapped dates, mild grilled octopus, and flank steak on crostini with blue cheese. Oh, and the potatoes alli olio! Good sized portions, well-prepared, and all the tapas came quickly after we ordered. They have a nice wine list and good sangria. One of our guests is on a restrictive no-cholesterol diet, and while he wasn't able to share some of the tapas us fat-lovin' people ate, he found some satisfying items to order.

We spent a long time at lunch and it would have been much more enjoyable if we could hear each other talk. We really wanted to catch up with each other but it was difficult. We were in an alcove and the music was extremely loud; even the waiter had trouble hearing us and made some ordering mistakes because of it. We asked him to turn down the noise but he said he couldn't do anything about it. That seemed strange, since he said he could turn the TV to any game we wanted...but couldn't adjust the volume of the music.

There are many tapas places in Chicago so once they have the food nailed down, it's the extra touches of service and atmosphere that determine where people will dine. Bulerias has some problems that could easily be fixed.  I hope they get on it!


Bulerias Tapas Bar is at 3656 N Ashland Ave. Chicago, IL 60613 
buleriastapas.com 

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Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Rollups

>> Sunday, April 30, 2017


Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Rollups


My bio-dad, Rick, was an avid fisherman in Southwestern Michigan. His first fishing boat, the Cricket, was a little four-seater that he took out on the small sleepy lakes that speckled our county. On foggy early mornings, a thermos of coffee for him, hot chocolate for me, our gear and a good book, we were off into the lilypads and quiet inlets of Little Paw Paw Lake.


I don't remember whether I actually caught any fish, and I have a hunch than my dad might have allowed me to claim that the fish I'm holding in the picture were ones that I bagged. I didn't like the whole fishing process - I felt sorry for the worm, sorry for the fish, and grossed out by touching the bait. But I did love to drowse in the sun with a good book and hang out with him. He was not very talkative on the boat but could tell a good story.

Later on, he traded up into a bigger boat, the SherAn (a combo name of his daughters Sheryl and Angela). I can't tell you anything about boats or sizes but the engine was bigger, there was storage under the seats instead of lake water, and there was a glass windshield. There was also a Fish Lo-K-Tor and downriggers that Rick hand-machined and lovingly attached. He was taking this one out on the big lake.

Rick caught steelhead trout, coho salomn and sturgeon on Lake Michigan, and went smelting in the spring off the St. Joseph piers. One of the most scary and exhilarating sights was to head off from a storm barrelling across the lake, when there was only the boat, the gray water, the rain, and the sky. The horizon was a seamless blend of lake and air. Seems like we always came home ravenous.


One year he bought a four-shelf smoker about three feet tall, and began smoking the fish for a change of taste. His smoked coho salmon was brown-fleshed, rather than the bright color of ocean salmon, but densely flavored and tender.

Recently, a friend gave me a gift of home-smoked salmon, and it brought back all kinds of memories of boats and reading Zilpha Keatley Snyder and Native American legends and steaming rich plastic cups of cocoa, and my dad telling me pay attention, I had a bite.

Fishing season has begun on Lake Michigan, though I no longer have a boat. If you have avid fishing friends with access to a fish smoker, they might offer you a few pieces of fresh-smoked coho or steelhead. I made these smoked salmon rollups with my friend's fish, and each morsel was a taste of the past.

Ingredients

1/2 cup chives, chopped
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tsp lemon zest
8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
4 oz smoked salmon
1 small cucumber
12 spikes of green onions
8-10 flour tortillas

Directions


Mix well the chives, dill, lemon zest, and cream cheese. Slice the salmon as thinly as possible. If you have a kitchen mandolin, this might help. My salmon had been frozen and was rather crumbly when I defrosted it, so I shredded it instead.

Thinly slice the cucumber lengthwise. I bet a kitchen mandolin would work well for this too, but I don't have one so I used a vegetable peeler.


Bend the package of tortillas back and forth a couple of times to prevent them from sticking together. Microwave the package for about 30 seconds until they are pilable. Usually I would heat tortillas on a dry griddle, but this recipe needs soft, moist flour tortillas.

Spread about 1 1/2 tbsp of the cream cheese mixture on each tortilla, making sure you spread it clear to the ends of each one. Place the salmon, cucumber, and green onions lengthwise in the center half of the tortilla. I added a little more dill because I love it fresh. Starting at the left side, tightly roll up the tortilla to the other side, stuffing in the ingredients if they start to roll out. Seal the seam with the cream cheese on the other side of the wrap. Chill for 30 minutes.

Slice each roll into 1-inch pieces. I cut off the misshapen ends where there were few ingredients and Joe and I quality-checked those. It was good. We served them on their sides so you could see the spiral design of the salmon rollups. Yum!

Makes approximately 60 little rolls.

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Pork Chop Valdostano (stuffed pork chop)

>> Sunday, April 2, 2017


Pork Chop Valdostano (stuffed pork chop)


Joe and I were looking through cookbooks for some new recipe ideas, and I pulled down a cookbook from Rao's, a famous Italian restaurant in New York City. The original recipe was made with veal chops, prosciutto, and golden raisins, but we made it a little more budget-friendly with Virginia ham, black raisins, and boneless pork chops. Joe gave the recipe a few more tweaks for our taste, and he says that next time he makes this, he'll try a bone-in chop for ease of stuffing, and golden raisins for a prettier presentation.

Ingredients
6 6 oz, 1 1/2 inch thick pork chops, trimmed of all fat
12 pieces of ham or prosciutto, thinly sliced
1/2 cup black or golden raisins
6 thin slices of mozzarella cheese
2 cups flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sliced white mushrooms
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. butter
2 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup Marsala wine
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
3 tbsp. chopped Italian parsley

For the egg batter:
2 large eggs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 tbsp. minced Italian parsley
dash of salt and pepper

Directions
Cut each chop open horizontally to the bone, splitting it open like a hamburger bun. Pound the meat very thin. Layer the inside of each chop with a slice of ham,  a spoonful of raisins, a slice of mozzarella, and another slice of ham. Fold the top of the chop down and pound the edges together until sealed.

Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Dredge each chop in flour and then dip the chops into the egg batter. Cook the chops five minutes on each side, then place on a platter and keep warm in the oven.

Sprinkle the onions with flour and then saute in the saucepan until soft. Add the mushrooms and saute until tender, about five minutes. Stir in butter, and when it is melted, return the chops to the pan.

Pour in the broth and wine and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Place a chop on each plate and pour several spoonfuls of sauce over the top. Sprinkle with parsley and Parmesan before serving.

Serves 6.

Find more of Rao's recipes here.

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Mushroom Barley Soup (Zupa Grzybowa)

>> Saturday, March 11, 2017




Now that we live in a heavily Polish neighborhood of Chicago (Jefferson Park/Portage Park), we're trying to learn about traditional dishes. One of the most exciting Polish traditions is the paczki (PUNCH-key), a heavenly jam-filled donut you see everywhere at the beginning of Lent. This soup is another popular one - and we'll be learning how to make Dill Pickle Soup soon. 

Mushroom Barley soup is a classic Polish dish using barley grain, dried or fresh mushrooms, and sometimes a dollop of sour cream. In Polish, it is called Zupa Grzybowa, and its filling, healthy, and satisfying. The soup can be made quickly, or it can slowly simmer all day in a crock pot. Either method is flavorful, hearty, and easy. Add some cornbread, hot crusty bread, or a salad for a solid filling meal.

We recommend using a several kinds of fresh mushrooms for maximum flavor. The soup can be made with vegetable broth for a Meatless Monday or a fasting holiday, or it can be made with beef stock for extra flavor.

Ingredients

2 tbsp oil 
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup sliced white button mushrooms
1 cup chopped portabella mushrooms
1/2 cup sliced shiitake or porcini mushrooms
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
5 cups vegetable or beef stock
1 cup pearl barley or quick-cooking barley (use quick-cooking barley if you're going to make this in a crock pot)
1 1/2 cups sour cream (optional)

Instructions

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan. Add onions and mushrooms and fry until slightly browned, about 10 or 15 minutes. 

If using a crock pot, transfer to the crock pot, add the rest of the vegetables and the beef stock and cook at low heat for 6-8 hours or high heat at 4-6 hours. Fifteen minutes before serving, cook the quick-cooking barley separately according to package directions, then stir into the soup. 

If cooking in a soup pot, add the rest of the vegetables and the beef stock and heat to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the pearl barley and simmer for 30 more minutes, or until the barley is tender.

Remove the bay leaf. Serve in bowls with a dollop of room-temperature sour cream, if desired.

Serves 4-6.

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Skinny Chicken Piccata

>> Saturday, February 25, 2017


Skinny Chicken Piccata


The original recipe for this light chicken piccata came from LaaLoosh, a delicious and healthy food blog for people on Weight Watchers. She says one serving is 4 points + in the Weight Watchers system.

I made a few changes, like omitting the wine, since I was making this for our dinner but also taking dinner to a friend who is just recovering from serious surgery.

We don't mind eating lighter as long as it's this easy and tasty!

Ingredients

1 tbsp light butter
1 10oz package white mushrooms, sliced
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp paprika
Dash salt and pepper
1 tsp oil
2 cups fat free chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
2 tbsp capers, rinsed
2 tsp cornstarch stirred into 1 tbsp cold water

Directions

Heat the butter in a large frying pan. Saute the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender and slightly browned. Set them aside in a separate plate.

Stir together the flour, salt, pepper, and paprika, and place in a shallow plate. Cut the chicken breasts in half, then cut them through the middle to produce 4 thin cutlets. Press them into the flour until they're covered on all sides.

Heat the oil in the pan, then add the chicken and brown on all sides. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thickened.

Serve over rice pilaf or with a side of vegetables.

Serves 4.

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Osso Buco

>> Sunday, February 12, 2017


Osso Buco



Our love story begins with the post "He Cooks for Me", on Angela's life blog, angelawd.wordpress.com.

“I’d like to cook for you,” He said, a few months after we started dating. “Why don’t you come over for Easter dinner?”

I was excited. News of his prowess in the kitchen had spread throughout our circle of friends at both churches. My girls, according to the alternating visitation schedule, would be with their dad, and my family was too far away to visit. I was glad I wouldn’t spend another holiday alone.

When I got to his condo, I could smell dinner all the way down the hallway – a rich, garlicky aroma. “It smells delicious,” I said. “What are we having?”

“Osso Buco”, He said, wiping his hands on his personalized apron.

He owns his own apron! I shouted to myself. “Osso Buco, that’s great!”

“Have you heard of it before?”

“Uh, no, actually not.”

“It’s braised veal shanks. A classic Italian recipe.”

I was utterly impressed. Guys took me out to steakhouses or seafood places; when they cooked a fancy dinner for me, it was inevitably a steak, a baked potato, and some wine. No one had ever cooked me a meal I’d never even heard of before.

I watched him sprinkle chopped fresh parsley in a delicate pattern over our dishes, and then serve steaming veal with a thick red sauce onto each plate. There were candlesticks and placemats, and a wine that he had to explain before I even had a taste. Something Italian and as dark red and rich as the meal; he had chosen it to complement the veal. I appreciated the explanation. I was used to $3 bottles of White Zinfandel.

When I could eat no more, I sat back and rubbed my stomach.

“What do you think?” He asked.

“I think I love it,” I said, meaning the meal, the wine, the idea of a man who cooks especially for me. Two years later I married him, and in September we celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary.



Wiping away Joe's tear after he said his wedding vows.


Joe actually calls this version of his recipe "Fauxo Buco", because it uses beef shanks rather than the astronomically expensive veal shanks. I call it delicious.


Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 cups onion, chopped
2 cups carrots, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 to 7 pounds beef or veal shank sawed into 2 1/2 inch sections
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp flour
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup beef stock
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp fresh basil
1 tsp fresh thyme
3 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 bay leaves

For the Gremolata (herb topping)

1 tbsp grated lemon peel
3 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, minced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced

Directions

In a large casserole or Dutch oven, melt half the butter and oil over medium heat. Saute the onions, carrots, celery and garlic until tender. Remove to a separate plate.

Stir together the salt, pepper, and flour, and roll the meat in the mixture. Melt the rest of the butter and oil in the Dutch oven, then brown the meat on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Add the vegetables to the meat.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Pour the wine and broth into the casserole pan, and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add the basil, thyme, tomatoes, parsley sprigs and bay leaves; the liquid and vegetable should halfway cover the meat. If it doesn't, add more broth or water. Bring the pan to a boil, then cover and place in the center of the oven.

Braise the meat for about 1 1/2 hours, basting it with the juices occasionally, until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thickened and stew-like. Serve the meat arranged on a serving platter with the vegetables and sauce. 

Alternatively, you can pour some creamy polenta onto individual plates, then arrange a shank and the vegetables over the top. Sprinkle the servings with the gremolata—the piquant garnish of lemon zest, parsley, and garlic.

Serves 6-8.

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Aloo Mattar (Indian Pea and Potato Stew)

>> Saturday, February 4, 2017


Aloo Mattar (Indian Pea and Potato Stew)


Aloo mattar (AH-loo mah-tar) stew is a super-easy and filling vegetarian dish full of a lot of complex curry-like flavors. You can make it as spicy or as mild as you like. It was very much a comfort food on a cold day, and our home smelled fabulous while we were cooking it. As simple as the recipe is, we were surprised that it tasted just like the one made in the restaurant by Indians.

My friend Sheilja recommends buying spices like cumin, coriander, and cardamom as whole seeds and then grinding them as you need them, so that they retain more flavor. They really smell amazing when you grind them fresh! She uses a Magic Bullet, but our electric coffee grinder works just as well. Again, try a Hispanic or Asian grocery store for the spices if you have trouble finding them at your supermarket.

Ingredients

4 medium russet potatoes
1 tbsp oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small green chili pepper, minced (bell, jalapeno, serrano, or other, depending on how much heat you want)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander seed
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp garam masala powder (you can substitute good curry powder, but the taste will be different)
1 plum tomato, chopped
1 cup water
2 tsp salt
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Directions

Scrub the potatoes, then cut them into 1" cubes. Boil them until slightly tender, then drain.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil, then add the onion, garlic, and pepper and saute until tender. Stir in the cooked potatoes and the rest of the ingredients except the cilantro  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes and peas are tender and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the cilantro.

Serve over rice with naan or puri flat bread on the side.

Serves 4-6

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Big Game Sunday Party Food

>> Sunday, January 29, 2017

Super Bowl Sunday appetizers


I love me some good fattening appetizers, full of cheese and bacon and other gooey, unhealthy things, especially when a football game is involved. Big Game Sunday calls for lots of finger foods, right? Here's a roundup of some of the most drool-inducing appetizers recipes I found around the web for a football party, or any appetizer-worthy occasion.

If you try any of these for a party, leave me a note and tell me how you liked them!


Pizza-on-a-Stick


Vegan Creamy Cucumber Rollups


Bacon Double Cheeseburger Dip


Buffalo Chicken Mini-Meatballs





Won Ton Chicken Tacos






Jalapeno Poppers with Chorizo and Chihuahua Cheese



Snickers Dip


Apple Pie Fries

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