1

Chicken Soup and Chicken Salad, Hold the Tarragon

I’ve never really been a soup person. I realize that is an extremely general statement given the fact that soup comes in so many varieties and one soup may not even slightly resemble another except for the- at least somewhat- liquid base. But over the years I’ve heard so many people utter “I love soup”! If they can declare their love for the stuff, my declaration is just as valid. The only disclaimer is that this has not, does not and will never apply to French onion soup. Truthfully, when cheese and bread are involved, who can play by the rules?

I think my general disinterest in soup comes from how strongly I feel that one should chew food. Human beings were given teeth for a reason, right?! Just like soup, I’ve always shied away from yogurt, hot cereals, and jello, not to mention pasta cooked beyond recognition (sacrilegious where I come from), or the dreaded mealy apple -incidentally, when is some genius going to invent something so that you can tell a mealy apple BEFORE making the investment and biting into it? I mean one minute you have a perfectly good snack waiting for you and the next, you’ve got a piece of garbage and a growling tummy.

So I was as shocked as anyone when I found myself with a hankering for soup once the temperature started dipping below 60 degrees F here in NY. I can remember a time a few years ago when I made some pretty decent chicken soup, but I took all the short cuts including but not limited to a pre-made rotisserie chicken, and of course store-bought stock. This time I thought I might go all out. I started the process in the same way I do with most of my hankerings- a simple google search: “World’s best chicken soup recipe”. As I was sifting through my findings, it seemed clear that a recipe by Tyler Florence was a great place to start. I don’t know much about Tyler but the recipes of his that I have tried have been decent and there is an astounding resemblance to Bobby Flay, and Bobby Flay is one of my favs, so how could I go wrong?

bobby flay   Tyler Florence

See, weird right? And they’re even wearing the same outfit! Just kidding.

Anyway, soup. I set out to follow Tyler’s recipe include the stock from scratch which I had not done before. I went to the store and got everything I needed, got it in the pot and started adding water. I quickly realized that I had a big problem. The recipe was telling me to add 3 quarts of water, and I could only fit about 1 quart. UH OH. And this was the biggest pot I owned. Since this incident I have acquired a nice big stock pot (thanks mom!), but at the time I had to figure something out. I ended up splitting the ingredients up between 2 pots and despite the hassle, it ended up coming out great! One thing to note, when you’re making stock: you must do something that goes against common sense. You must leave the peels on the veggies. Onion skins, garlic skins, unpeeled carrots- alley oop.

Here is the recipe I followed almost exactly:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/chicken-noodle-soup-recipe0.html

chickysoup

(apologies for the dark picture)

Like many of the reviewer’s mention, before you call this soup bland, make sure you have properly salted and peppered! The recipe begs a bit more salt then I had expected. Properly seasoned, this recipe is really excellent. Ironically, now that I have eaten all this delicious homemade soup chock full of vitamins and minerals your body needs- I am catching a cold. Isn’t that just always the way.

One issue I did have with the stock recipe is that it called for a whole 3 ½ pound chicken. After the stock was done, I had as you might guess, quite a bit of cooked chicken. The soup recipe only calls for 1 ½ cups. What was I to do with the other 5 cups of chicken? In the future I plan to freeze what’s left from any chicken I cook on the bone. Then I’ll have it to use when the time comes. This time I decided to make chicken salad and share it at the office. I have made a lot of chicken salad in my time and have found a balance of ingredients that I think really works. BUT sometimes I forget something very important that was once put so eloquently, “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke”. My chicken salad was not broke, or broken even. But I acted as if it was and added fresh tarragon (An interesting decision in hindsight since I had no idea what tarragon tasted like… which is black liquorish-esque). That perfect balance was ruined. I still brought it to the office to share with these innocent civilians but I knew it was not my best work. I’ll need to redeem myself soon and when I do, I’ll be using the unbroken recipe, as follows:

 1 C. mayonnaise (I use reduced fat or light)
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 celery stalks, diced
1 large shallot, diced
3/4 C. red grapes, quartered
4 C. chopped or shredded cooked chicken
 In a medium bowl, combine first 7 ingredients. Then add chicken & grapes and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill ½ hour before serving. Do not add tarragon. Voila!

chickensalad2

Until further notice, I suggest you tread lightly where tarragon is concerned. It is not a force to be reckoned with and it will ruin your chicken salad and subsequently your life. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. It even had Genny running scared!

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In between fending off the wrath of tarragon, I’ll be taking advantage of my new found love for soup. Just wait till you check out my homemade-not-college-dorm-room-style Ramen.

1

PASTA PRIMAVERA and some other stuff

primavera

To piggyback my recent declaration of this healthier style of cooking & eating, I decided not to talk about our mothers days feasts (yes, feasts plural).

Okay fine, I’ll just talk about it really quick but it doesn’t count because it’s SO not even the point of this post.
We started the day with brunch. It was really just breakfast but it sounds more impressive if I call it brunch. “Brunch” consisted of this fabulous crustless quiche:
quiche
It really was to die for, how could it have not been with a combo of bacon,butter, and tons of cheese? I made one major mistake in not letting the quiche cool despite the explicit instructions to do so. What? We were hungry. Patience is a virtue…   the quiche ended up COMPLETELY falling apart while attempting to serve it, but it tasted great all the same. Moral of the story, cool your quiche.
berry salad
 
We paired this with a fresh berry fruit salad by Ellie Krieger to make us feel better about consuming the aforementioned ingredients ( Very Berry Salad ), some breakfast potatoes and a hearty 9-grain toast. PLUS we ate outside for the first time of the season. OH! and lets not forget the poinsettias (champagne & cranberry juice), which we A) had to have because we ran out of orange juice but B) weren’t allowed to call poinsettias according to my mom, because it’s not Christmas time and I’m not one to argue with mom on mothers day.
Alright, alright I’ll hurry up, I know we said quickly. Then we were on to feast number two of the day: surf and turf (oh you fancy, huh?). I made my first ever lobster. Yes, I actually picked up 2 live lobsters and put them in a pot of boiling water. I did use tongs instead of my hands, and the claws were rubber-banded, but STILL, it was ALIVE. While the animal-lover in me felt kinda bad, and the squeamish school girl in me wanted to run and hide under the table, the seafood-loving fancy-shmancy chef in me said to shut up and do it. FYI, they didn’t scream. In fact, I heard no noise at all which made it pretty funny to see that my father was standing at the other end of the kitchen holding his ears closed. This all made me curious and upon further investigation I found articles (such as this: Lobsters Dont Scream ) which prove that lobsters screaming are a myth!  I also found out that lobsters don’t have brains and so few neurons that they don’t experience pain which means lobster cooking can be guilt free! I’m not sure if chow.com is the most reputable source on the world wide web, but I’m choosing to go with them on this one.
 Ahhh lobsters  It's ALIVE
lobster
While I made my lobster, mom grilled up some steaks, potatoes (yes grilled potatoes, A++), corn & other veggies and bread (yes grilled bread, A++++…).  Overall, a great Mothers day (and did I mention Dad’s birthday) celebration.
Now forget everything I just mentioned because it wasn’t of importance and doesn’t really count anyway (except for that quiche, you should maybe try to remember that).
 
Spring! Nice to see you!
Here in the Big Apple, it looks like we’ll have approximately 5 1/2 full days of spring before catapulting ourselves straight into summer. SO while we’re amid this unfortunately fleeting season, it’s only fitting to make something named after it.
 
Pasta Primavera. While there are as many variations of this dish, as there are blades of crab grass on my neighbors front lawn, they all should have something in common. Since Primavera means spring, the vegetable choices should be the crisp new vegetables of the season such as broccolicarrotspeasonionsbell peppers and tomatoes. These are often mixed with good olive oil, herbs, garlic and topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Trying to figure out and recreate the very first Pasta Primavera is similar to trying to have a conversation with me in the morning, before my first cup of coffee- unpleasant and ultimately pointless (a few people could stand to take note on this, my boss for example). I decided on an adaption of a Giada recipe I found.
Giada who’s a known believer in the saying “Everything in Moderation”, also once said “Pasta doesn’t make you fat. How much pasta you eat makes you fat”. Amen sister! If she said it, it must be true, have you seen the bod on that broad?
Just like in Giada’s recipe, I wanted the vegetables sliced thinly. What I didn’t really think about is how time consuming that would be. After making this recipe, I vowed to purchase a mandolin.
mandolin
No, not this! As much as I’d love to learn how to play the mandolin, run away to the south to join a band and make some real great knee-slappin, toe tappin bluegrass music, Such as this: Beverly Hillbillies Theme Song , that wouldn’t very well help me get these damn veggies sliced any faster!
 
THIS
 
 mandolin slicer
 
My advice to you: if you have no intention of getting one of these babies, and you plan on serving dinner before next Tuesday, just give up and chop the vegetables normally because as my Late Great Grandma would have said, “Just chew and swallow, it all goes to the same place anyway”.

Ingredients

  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into thin strips
  • 2 yellow squash, cut into thin strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 pound whole wheat pasta (bowtie or rotini work well)
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Directions
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Thinly slice all vegetables (hopefully using our brand new mandolin!). Leave Zucchini and yellow squash slightly thicker so they stay firm. On a large heavy baking sheet, toss all of the vegetables besides the cherry tomatoes with oil, garlic, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. You will probably need to split onto two baking sheets so that the vegetables aren’t crowded. Bake until the carrots are tender and the vegetables begin to brown, stir after the first 10 minutes and add cherry tomatoes. Bake for 20-25 minutes total.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. *
Toss the pasta with the vegetable mixtures in a large bowl to combine. Then enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve immediately.

*If you forget to reserve cooking liquid from the pasta like I did, you can substitute with any broth you have in the house. I used vegetable to keep it vegetarian.

 

1

Back in Action: Getting Summer-Ready

I could lie and tell you that I was testing out the theory that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I’d rather be honest about my recent hiatus.

I had an Oh Shit moment- pardon my French. And while we’re on that topic, why are 4 letter words referred to as French? I’m darn certain that the term I just used, is not French in origin and I happen to think there are many more positives that came out of this European country! French fries, French dressing, French bulldogs (how cute?!), French kisses (kids hide your eyes), but where was I? Oh! That moment when you realize that spring/summer/scantily clad times are right around the corner and you are everything but proud of your current physical state.

muffin-top-cupcake-mold

Exhibit A: Muffin Top

The solution was not to continue cooking and eating delicious things on a constant basis, but to cut WAY back and spend my extra time at the gym. This brings me to the task now at hand: how to merge the world of apple pie and pizza, with the world where I look somewhat similar to Kate Upton in a bikini (HA!). Since health and fitness are about the journey, not the destination, I might as well figure out how to combine the two now. Of course, life can’t come without splurges every now and again.

fourth-of-july-hot-dog-eating-contest

 

Have I ever mentioned how much I love hotdogs?

A glass (bottle) of wine? Sure

A large popcorn with extra you-bet-it’s-not-butter at the theater, because how often do you really go to the movies? Of course!

A piece of ice cream cake to be a good coworker and support someone at the office on their birthday? It would be rude to say no.

A piece of ice cream cake the next day because it’s another birthday and playing fair office politics is the only way to go? Obviously.

All jokes aside, life is always about finding the balance (I think someone wise once said). And while this may not have been a focus of mine when I started SPK, it’s going to be one moving forward. So who’s with me?

They say it’s 80% what you eat, and 20% what you work off in the gym. If that’s true, we’d be pretty silly to think we could continue to consume to our hearts content, and still look like Jessica Biel in that scene from Chuck & Larry where she gets down to her unmentionables.

Incase you haven’t seen it:

So, less bread, less whole fat dairy, less sugar, less oil and butter, less red meat.

More fresh fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, more lean proteins.  And that means my recipes will need to reflect this change, but I do promise to never post anything I consider to be less than delicious.

corbis_rf_photo_of_boy_frowning_at_brocolli

Like, not this. Though I do enjoy broccoli, if not only because I know it’s good for me.

Believe it or not, I don’t have a recipe of my own to share at this time, but I do have one to share. I have mentioned my love for Allrecipes.com come in the past. For those of you who haven’t used it before, I highly advise it. However, be sure to make use of the recipe reviews. Just because a recipe is posted, doesn’t mean it’s good. The users do a great job of giving helpful hints and calling a crummy recipe, just that so you don’t waste your time.

I recently vowed to incorporate seafood into my diet at least once a week, as many different types of fish are a great source of protein without the added fat. Along these lines, I found a recipe for Grilled shrimp that was very easy and simply delicious:

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Marinated-Grilled-Shrimp/Detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Title&e11=shrimp&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Home%20Page&soid=sr_results_p1i4

If you’re like me, living the city life means a few different things. It means anything your heart desires is just a stones throw away, even at 2am on a Tuesday.. not that I’m EVER gallivanting around at that time. But unless you recently hit the mega-million jackpot, it likely means little to no storage space, difficult parking, that doing laundry is a very serious task that is postponed at all costs, and there is definitely, no yard. No yard means no Grill. It wasn’t long ago that we came up with the bright idea of putting a grill out on our fire escape until we realized how counter-intuitive that actually was. Though there is nothing in our lease that specifically addresses this so I’m still toying with the idea.

Anyway, luckily my good friend George Foreman came to the rescue (actually called the lean mean fat grilling machine.. who comes up with these names?). While I’ll say that it’s not quite as good as the real deal, it does the job even from my shoe box sized kitchen.

In conclusion, (my 8th grade English teacher told me never to use that phrase but I’m in a rebellious mood today) I leave you with two things. First, a little QOD (quote of the day), by someone I’ve never heard of but whom must have been wise, Jim Watkins said “A river cuts through a rock not because of it’s power, but it’s persistence”. Second, a picture of my kitten attempting to drink out of my water glass.

get-attachment

 

 

 

 

2

Veal Milanese

photo-8

When it comes to food, “fried” is usually one of my no-no words. “Fried” accompanies “smothered”, “cheesy”, “frosted, and most other adjectives used by Paula Deen. But not unlike many other things, food is all about the presentation. For instance, we get to enjoy reduced fat smart food minus the guilt simply because of the name. I mean look at this:

nutrition-classic-white-cheddar

10 grams of fat in just an ounce! Sure, this is exponentially better than your average, butter substitute covered, extra large popcorn you get at your local cinema (which incidentally costs like $32 in NYC these days). Truth be told, it shouldn’t be guilt free.

But whatever happened to the saying ignorance is bliss? If I think I can go on a shopping spree at Bergdorf’s, who are you to stop me? So what if I have to live off of ramen noodles and food found on the “Not the best, but still good” shelf? At least I have the trendiest Kate Spade Umbrella and this awesome $200 bottle of nail polish (it was reduced from $300, what a steal!).

A few more examples of why ignorance is bliss:

You’re alarm goes off in the early morning. You realize it’s Sunday and you can turn it off, so you do. You fall happily back into sugar plum fairly land with a smile on your face. Suddenly you’re awoken by a call from your angry manager. It’s Monday, you should be at work. Now you’re in trouble and have to kiss up for the next few weeks to earn your keep…. But that extra 2 hours of sleep were wonderful while they lasted!

You have always loved to sing, and been damn good at it too, according to mama. Now it’s time to strut yourself by auditioning for American Idol (quality reality tv… said no one ever). You make it through the initial rounds and now are ready to meet the celebrities and be sent to Vegas. There must be some confusion because you don’t earn a golden ticket.. and Jennifer Lopez laughed so hard at your attempt, it brought tears to her eyes, and subsequently your own eyes. FAIL. You should have stayed ignorant.

You think world peace has been achieved.

You think beauty comes from within. (Kidding.. mostly)

You think everyone is really laughing with you, not at you.

See what I mean? Ignorance seems pretty bliss to me. If only everyone would just stop bursting your rose colored bubble.

And so, Veal Milanese. A fancy way to say fried Veal (shhh don’t tell). Though this recipe shouldn’t be guilt free, you’d never know it from the title. So when I decided to make it, I didn’t feel bad at all. Once I realized what I was doing, I decided that serving it with a fresh arugula salad would make up for the damage… although maybe that’s just me hopping back into my bubble. Just let me be.

And for all you Lent observers out there, don’t forget to not make this on a no-meat-Friday because as fabulous as ignorance can be, I can’t be held responsible for sending you to the dark depths of H-E-double-hockey-sticks simply because I posted a bangin’ veal recipe during lent.

Veal Milanese (adapted from the lovely Giada De Laurentiis)

2 large eggs
3/4 C. all-purpose flour
1 C. Italian bread crumbs
1 LB thinly sliced veal (scallopine)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups vegetable or other frying oil
lemon wedges for garnish

In a shallow dish, beat eggs and season with salt and pepper. Pour flour and breadcrumbs into two more separate dishes.

Season the veal with salt and pepper on both sides. Working with 1 piece of veal at a time, dip it first in the flour, shaking off excess, then into the beaten eggs, followed by the bread crumbs. Set aside on a large plate and continue with remaining veal slices.

In a large skillet, heat the oil on high. Place breaded veal in the hot oil in batches. Fry until golden brown on both sides, about 4 to 6 minutes total.

2

Hawaiian Short Ribs

shortribs5

They say the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself, although I’m not so sure about that. I know there are a few other things that I’m fearful of. Spiders, bugs in general, creatures in the night. Things with teeth, things with nails, things that jump, or slither. Things that are strangely large, or strangely small. How about the fear of running out of clean socks (can I get an Amen?).  Another big one: Things that make loud noises! This brings me to something I used in my latest kitchen endeavor that makes a loud noise. Something that I was once afraid of, and that many people still are afraid of: The pressure cooker.

 

shortribs4

This man-made volcano waiting to happen, is the stuff nightmares are made of. The noise and rocking motion suggests that at any given moment your “dinner” could erupt all over you and yours.

hideyo

I was lucky enough to have seen my mom use this disturbing piece of equipment from an early age. Why should you put yourself in harms way, you ask? Because the pressure cooker allows us to develop flavors, and makes juicy, tender meat and poultry in up to 70% less time than conventional cooking methods! And we all know I’m always into saving time, even if it means sacrificing a limb or two. Human beings have way too many appendages in my opinion anyway. I’ve been dying to get rid of a couple. Pressure cooker, here I come.

I can’t take credit for this recipe. It is one of a few that were suggested in the pressure cooker manual. There was however, some damage control involved this time around. I should have followed the cardinal cooking rule: Never trust your sister Shannon, when it comes to ingredient amounts. When she told me to add 1 Tablespoon of salt, I should have instinctively divided that by three, equaling 1 teaspoon of salt. Of course, the entire TBSP of salt I added mixed in with some of the other dry ingredients, and soaked up some of the liquids, leaving me totally unsure of what to do next. I quickly scooped up a spoonful of whatever was on top and then decide if I added a sprinkle of every ingredient I had previously added, everything would come out alright. Lucky for me, I was right. I don’t actually suggest this way of doing things (so I will omit this part in the steps portion of the recipe) and I certainly don’t recommend breaking the aforementioned cardinal rule. As you can see above, I served these awesome short ribs with garlic mashed red potatoes and carrots.

Hawaiian Short Ribs

3 LBS Beef short ribs
2 Tbsp Oil
1 Whole Onion, thinly sliced
1 Tsp Ginger ground
2 Tsp Dry mustard
2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tsp salt
1/4 Tsp Pepper
1 Clove chopped garlic
2 Tbsp Parsley (Chopped)
2 Tbsp Soy sauce
2 Tbsp White wine vinegar
1 1/4 Cup Water

  1. Heat cooker, add oil and sauté onion lightly. Remove
  2. Brown ribs on all sides
  3. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over ribs.
  4. Add onions. Close cover securely.
  5. Place pressure regulator on vent pipe and cook 25 minutes with pressure regulator rocking slowly (start timer once regulator starts make the scary noise).
  6. Remove pot from heat and allow pressure to drop of it’s own accord (you’ll know it’s safe to open when it stops with the scary noise!)

P.S. I should have known not to listen to Shannon when I realized, that this is her way of cooking…

shortribs1

Yes, that’s a mini carrot in her hand which apparently doubles for a crayon.

1

Stuffed Stuff: Peppers

stuffed peppers

I’d like to take this time to evaluate and properly appreciate, things which are stuffed. Is there anything that doesn’t become better once stuffed? I think not. How about when they go from stuffed, to over-stuffed? Even better.  Apart from when we have eaten too much and are then, over-stuffed. That one’s not so good. Take your pillow for instance; you want it pretty darn stuffed. Wallet? The more stuffed (with the green paper) the better. I’d love my wardrobe over-stuffed with ensemble options! And my brain should be stuffed with (mostly) meaningful information.

When we discuss food, my argument only grows stronger. Quesadillas? Stuff em’. Oreos? Over-stuff those! Stuffed artichokes, the best (post idea anyone?). Stuffed Mushrooms, check! (http://saltpepperketchup.net/2013/12/30/dont-fear-fungi-stuffed-mushrooms/) Stuffed chicken breast, flounder, leg of lamb, clams, and the list goes on. What better way to celebrate all the wonderfulness that stuffed can be, than with Stuffed peppers? In my opinion, 99 out of 100 stuffed pepper recipes give you merely mediocre results and so of course, I hoped to find that one-hundredth recipe. I did some extensive research and ended up adapting a recipe I found on http://allrecipes.com/. If you are not aware of this website, I invite you to explore it. Time and time again this site has done right by me. The database is HUGE and you are sure to find many different options for whatever culinary endeavor you’re taking on. These peppers were easy and really came out great. I of course used ground turkey instead of beef, and brown rice instead of white (gotta watch that figure).
 Stuffed Peppers

1 C. uncooked brown rice

1 onion, diced

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

2 C. tomato sauce

1 (10oz) can diced tomatoes

1 C. beef broth

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 LB ground turkey

1/4 LB hot Italian sausage, casings removed

1/4 C. chopped fresh parsley

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

4 Large green bell peppers (halved and seeds removed)

1 C. grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese plus more for topping

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C)
2. Prepare rice according to package directions. Set the cooked rice aside.
3. Cook onion and olive oil over medium heat until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Transfer half of cooked onion to a large bowl and set aside.
4. Stir tomato sauce, beef broth, balsamic vinegar, and red pepper flakes into the skillet; cook and stir for 1 minute.
5. Pour tomato sauce mixture into a 9×13-inch baking dish and set aside.
6. Combine ground turkey, Italian sausage, diced tomatoes, Italian parsley, garlic, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper into bowl with reserved onions; mix well. Stir in cooked rice and Parmigiano Reggiano. Stuff green bell peppers with turkey and sausage mixture.
7. Place stuffed green bell pepper halves in the baking dish over tomato sauce; sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano, cover baking dish with aluminum foil, and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.
8. Remove aluminum foil and bake until the meat is no longer pink, the green peppers are tender and the cheese is browned on top, an additional 20 to 25 minutes.
————————————–

Chances are, you purchased more than 1/4 LB of sausage. I thought it might be helpful if I mentioned a few ideas on how to use the rest of your sausage since many of us 20-somethings can’t afford to let 3/4 of a pound (or more) of perfectly good meat, go to waste. When it comes to handling  your left over sausage, please do keep in mind the following Danish proverb:  “The dog’s kennel is no place to keep a sausage”. I have very little idea what this could mean. I doubt anyone is dumb enough to keep sausage, or ANY food (or thing) in a cage with a dog, unless the intent is for the dog to eat it. However, the high incidence rate of dog-eaten-homework still perplexes me. I was always able to keep my completed homework away from the dog’s jaws, though I know many who never quite mastered it. Anyway where was I…

The most logical answer for remaining sausage use would be, whatever this is called:

sausage1

 

If that doesn’t suit your needs, this is sure to please:

sausage2

 

If some how or other, neither of these will do, here is a more outlandish option which I can’t take credit for:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/breakfast-popovers-with-italian-sausage-recipe.html
 

Plus, this recipe is kinda stuffed, and you know how I feel about stuffed stuff (too much?).

2

Overzealous: Chicken Wings

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This past Superbowl Sunday, I came down with a severe case of overzealous. While you may be accustom to hearing this adjective, you may not be familiar with the noun. Allow me to elaborate. 

Overzealous: 
overzel1
 
Overzealous: Those individuals who purchase a lifetime supply of batteries, candles, bottled water, canned goods, thermal blankets, and update their will with every prediction of inclement weather. 
 
Overzealous: 
This past Sunday, I decided to cook WAY too much for myself, and my pint size sister. I made homemade hummus and pita chips, mini crab cakes with a sour cream dipping sauce, baked chicken wings, potato salad, and had even planned to make turkey sliders (which was quickly cut from the menu when I realized I was knee deep). What on earth what I thinking? OVERZEALOUS.
 
I had never made hummus before. While the pita chips were crunchy and salty and enjoyable, the hummus was a horse of a different color. I followed a certain Food Network star’s recipe (not to name any names- but she is often barefoot…well not actually…) and boy, was it something. Not only was I overzealous, but the amount of garlic in this recipe was even more overzealous! I will not be making this recipe again, but I am now determined to create wonderful hummus, and will certainly share when I do. 
 
Next up, crab cakes. I was looking for a recipe that was a bit healthier, and definitely not fried. The one I tried left quite a bit to be desired. The flavor was not bad at all, but once they were cooked, they became rather dry. Simply browning them in pam spray did not leave the outside as golden brown and delicious as frying in olive oil would have. The sauce did nothing to mitigate the issue. And so as you might guess, the search for healthy and delicious crab cakes in on.
 
I am happy to report the potato salad was wonderful.  Creamy and salty and a little sweet with the perfect amount of veggies for crunch…  I found the recipe here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/restaurant-style-potato-salad/
 
Fortunately, just because one is suffering from overzealous, does not mean all is lost. Chicken wings! Maybe it’s hard to mess these up, but either way, I did NOT mess em’ up! My guest has never been the biggest fan of spicy wings so I set out to create a sweet, tangy bbq sauce. Hooray,I am not a total screw up! 
 
Sweet & Tangy Chicken Wings
3 pounds chicken wings, split and tips discarded
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 C. honey
1/2 C. soy sauce (reduced sodium if you must)
1/4 C. molasses
2 Tbsp chile sauce (can be found in the international isle, near Thai products)
1 tsp ground ginger
a few dashes of hot sauce if you please
1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients well. Add chicken, Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, turning occasionally.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
3. In a large baking dish, arrange chicken in a single layer and pour marinade over. Bake in the preheated oven approximately 50 minutes, turning once, until meat is no longer pink.
In closing, one more example of overzealous:
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This is what happens when I try to open a can of peas.  Pea juice everywhere. On the counter, on the floor, on my t-shirt and even in my right eye. That’s not how you contract conjunctivitis is it? The last thing I need is overzealous and conjunctivitis at the same time.
Does anyone know where a girl can get a decent can opener? Please help me. This has got to stop!
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Mashed Cauliflower: Because it’s My Resolution Too

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Surprise, surprise: the most popular New Year resolution for 2014 was, drumroll please, to lose weight. I am among the masses which is not strange considering my female, 20-something, single status. Does it make me predictable if I start talking about choosing healthier options without sacrificing flavor (which is, by the way, 9 times out of 10, a load of horse manure)?

What if I decide from now on, every one of my posts will include kale? Okay, let’s say for the rest of our days, we eat all our meals in liquid form? Then we won’t even have to get dentures when we get old and lose all our teeth (BONUS). Oh, I know: We can have anything we want that doesn’t include gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol, is preserved, is processed, or is delicious. Sound good?

Well, I decided to lay off this oh-so-typical subject for the first few weeks of January, but I’m hoping I’m allowed to speak of it now. And if I’m not, rules were made to be broken! Truth be told, I am always looking for lighter and healthier options. I like to think I can get most of the vitamins and nutrients I need through my diet without resorting to any of the above options, or taking 2 to 3 handfuls of pills everyday (my last post- http://saltpepperketchup.net/2014/01/23/tah-boo-lee/  proves my point). I am also often focused on how I can whittle my waist or get rid of my “lunch lady arms”, as a trainer I once had referred to them. I DO feel there is a place in this life we live, for indulgence (everything in moderation, blah blah blah).

Ehibit A: This wonderful Olive & feta salad I was served along side a wonder wine pairing at Aria Wine Bar in the West Village in Manhattan- http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/aria-wine-bar/ . This was the beginning to a wonderfully decadent night which did not involve Kale.

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However, following such decadence, we moderate. And so, meet mashed cauliflower. It took me two times around to get it right.

DISCLAIMER: Do not be fooled. This is cauliflower and it tastes like cauliflower. I’m doing the best I can kids, but I’m not a magical worker. If you detest broccolis’ brother from another mother, this is not the route for you. In addition, I do not guarantee this will fool your 4 year old. They’re smarter than they look! Some would say the same for us blondes..

That being said, I really love cauliflower and so long as you don’t add a stick of butter and copious amounts of cream, this is a much healthier option. One of the best things about it is the versatility! Use this recipe as a base to whatever your cauliflower-pickin-heart desires. The Mashed Cauliflower is your oyster!

Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

  • 1 large cauliflower head
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/3 C. reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/3 C. Skim milk
  • 2 TBSP. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • sliced green onion as a garnish

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut cauliflower into florets then add to boiling water along with whole peeled garlic cloves. Cook about 10 minutes or until a fork can easily pierce through the cauliflower.

2. Drain, then throw the florets back into the hot pot (off the heat) and cover with lid. Let stand 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Place cauliflower and garlic cloves into a food processor. Add the sour cream milk, salt, and pepper and blend on high until smooth. Serve with sliced green onion, and additional grated cheese if desired.

3

Tah-boo-lee

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Not unlike Reverend Martin Luther King Junior this past Monday, I had a dream. His was for equality among all people. Mine was not nearly as important, but I REALLY REALLY wanted to make it happen. I dreamed of a fresh and delicious home-cooked Mediterranean meal. Some might say MLK’s dream has come true, others might say it’s at least on it’s way. My dream didn’t turn out exactly how I’d imagined it, but with a little patience, it was pretty darn good anyway. I realize that the comparison between myself and MLK is absolutely preposterous, but you can’t blame a girl for tryin’!
Tabbouleh can be spelled: Tabouli, Taboule, Taboli, Tabouleh. I honestly have no reason at all for choosing Tabbouleh as my spelling (or the titled Tah-boo-lee), so just go with it. I’ve recently been craving tabbouleh. It was introduced to me by my father growing up, though it was never homemade. In between the copious amounts of breads, cheeses, red meats, and (like so many other fun-loving people) spirits, he might subscribe to the newest diet fad. On one such occasion he HAD to have the all-the-rage industrial size juicer, which was used all of 3 times. But, he’s always been good about having things around the house that were healthy. Wholesome cereals with Oats and grains, Nuts and nut spreads with no additives, egg whites, fresh dark green veggies, and of course LOTS and LOTS of red wine- if doctor Oz says it’s healthy, it HAS to be true (http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/cheers-red-wine).
When I started my Mediterranean meal brainstorming Sesh, Tabbouleh was the foundation. I decided to accompany this with Lemon chicken, stuffed grape leaves, and a greek salad. I felt the meal might have been missing something given the two-salad combo, but couldn’t figure anything out to fill the void. That was the start of my frustration. Once I arrived at the ever disappointing Stop&Shop (local joe-shmoe “super” food store), my frustration grew as I discovered they were experiencing a fresh mint famine (This had me very curious about the mysterious uses of mint- we’ll save that for another day/post). However, have no fear! They had plenty of Chervil to go around (what the heck is that?…another post perhaps). The situation only worsened when there were no jarred grape leaves, or any type at all except the already stuffed kind, which clearly were NOT an option (cutting off my toe to spite my foot? Maybe). Never mind the fact that there was no Bulgur.
I now had nothing that I needed for my wonderful fairytale meal and I decided to throw my arms in the air and stomp my feet loudly and tell my mom she was mean. Sometimes when dreams don’t come true, you turn into a 3 year old. Then you realize that people are staring/judging and wondering about your emotional issues, so you apologize and tell your mom you’ll buy her a skinny vanilla latte from Starbucks to make it up to her.
SO, please accept this IOU on the grape leaves, and please understand that my tabbouleh will be mint-less and made of Quinoa. Let’s just pretend there won’t be mint because I don’t like it (which is not true) and that I’m using Quinoa because I love it (which is actually quite true). The chicken recipe I found here: http://www.inspiredtaste.net/18649/easy-lemon-chicken-recipe/
And it was OH SO D E L I C I O U S.
I did soak my chicken in salt water for about an hour before I started step one, to keep it moist- highly recommended. If you’re not familiar with this tactic, which is a new idea for me as well: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Poultry/BriningPoultry.htm
We served this with greek salad and parmesan potatoes.
Not quite the meal I’d imaged, but a meal to repeat for sure.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take many pictures of the Tabbouleh or it’s plate companions, but here are some pictures of snowy NY this week…I think my next post should be soup.
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Tabbouleh
1½ C. Quinoa, cooked to package directions
1 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 scallions chopped, including greens
Juice of 2 lemons (sans seeds if you can help it)
1 small cucumber, chopped
2 C. cherry tomatoes, halved
2 TBSP white balsamic vinegar
½ C. fresh mint, chopped (hopefully your supermarket carries it!)
½ C Olive oil (preferably extra virgin)
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Cook Quinoa according to package directions, and allow to cool.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the Quinoa, tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, garlic, parsley, mint, salt, pepper, lemon juice, olive oil, and vinegar. Toss and refrigerate for at least a half hour. Toss again before serving.
2

Catch a Chicken Cacciatore (3x fast)

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Cacciatore means hunter in Italian. In Cuisine, alla Cacciatora refers to a meal prepared “hunter-style” with tomatoes, onions, herbs, bell peppers, and often wine. Cacciatore is popularly made with braised chicken or rabbit. Today, I doubt many people are actually hunting the chicken used for their Cacciatore. This makes me wonder, could it ever actually be as good as way back when? Perhaps the reason Italians of Old loved it so much was because the meal before them was such a labor of love.

Can you imagine if heading to your local grocer meant chasing around a bunch of squawking chickens with a sling shot (or hopefully rifle)? Upon slaying your chicken, you’d have to wander around the forest picking mushrooms, hoping that your well trained eye doesn’t mistakenly harvest a fungi that kills a member of the family or two. Homicide might put a slight damper on the magical meal you’ve slayed, and then slaved over the stove to prepare. Once you’ve arrived home with your clucker and your non-poisonous mushrooms, you can hand it over to the woman of the house to do all the real work.

*Now in this imaginary scene, we’re making the assumption of traditional male/female roles. I do recognize that in many households the woman does the slaying, and the man does the slaving (much like my family growing up). In others, the woman does the slaying, and the other woman does the slaving. No matter how you slice it, the important thing is that chores are shared.*

This is where our job begins in modern times, since my grocery store will do the shopping for me and even deliver it, so long as I’m paying. (No, no, I am never THAT lazy, well, hardly ever)

A second option to consider- perhaps they enjoyed it so much back then because at one time in Italy, Chicken and the “sport” of hunting were only available to the wealthier families. If chicken were the equivalent of today’s caviar, foie gras, or a center cut filet mignon, would we enjoy it more? If hunting chicken was as much fun as chartering a private yacht around the Virgin Islands, who wouldn’t want to do it? Maybe if chicken wasn’t a dime a dozen, it would seem more delicious.

When I decided to make Chicken Cacciatore, I hoped to make something that was truly delicious even if I didn’t deal with loud mouth chickens, or risk the lives of my loved ones.

There are about as many variations of this dish as there are stars in the sky. As many as there are brown eyed girls. As many as there are reality tv shows. In fact, there are seemingly as many versions of cacciatore, as there are family dynamics. To pick any one variation is no easy task. How did I do it? A little game I like to call eeny-meeny-miney-mo. Well not really, but it was kind of a guessing game. I did a good amount of research and put together aspects of different recipes and the finish product is sure to please. Ask my dinner guest (what up cousin Shawn?!).. he only ate three chicken thighs and ½ pound of pasta. I rest my case.

Chicken Cacciatore

 8 chicken thighs
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large bell pepper, chopped (any color)
1 onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 ( 28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 Tbsp drained capers
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
red pepper flakes to taste

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, coating well.

In a large sauce pan, heat the oil over a medium-high heat. Add chicken to the pan and saute just until brown, about 5 minutes per side (You may need to do so in batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Add the wine and simmer about 3 minutes, until reduced a bit. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, capers, sugar, oregano, and basil. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, making sure to coat in the sauce. Bring sauce to a simmer. Continue simmering over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes. It may be necessary to thicken with flour. If so, add a tablespoon of flour to a bit of cold water separately. Then add to the sauce, stirring until combined.

Serve with al dente pasta or rice of your choice (cooked to package directions), and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

That’s All Folks:

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