Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tripping All the Way to Tuscan-Inspired White Bean, Kale and Chicken Soup

Tuscan-Inspired White Bean, Kale & Chicken Soup
I bought a huge, and I mean huge, bag of Kale on Monday and was determined to make something warm and satisfying by the way of soup. I had also just watched a travel show about Tuscany and the flavors, herbs and scents of that region and I wanted them in my food. It was inspiring, I was inspired and I got cooking. The ingredients you need to incorporate those flavors aren't all that hard to get, they are simple, clean, fresh and you probably have most or all of them on hand. This is not a heavy soup, it is hearty in flavor, but it will not weigh you down. The Hub had seconds, he is my eternal "meter"! When he has seconds I know I hit a home run! So come along with me and let's get tripping to Tuscany.

Serves 6 as a meal and 8 as a starter.

1 pound chicken* thighs, diced into bite size pieces, about 1", sprinkled with salt and pepper and a teaspoon of Tuscan seasoning mix (recipe follows at the end)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, quartered and diced
2 celery stalks, halved and diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons Tuscan seasoning mix (recipe follows at the end)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, stems removed and discarded, leaves chopped
A palm full of fresh thyme, stems removed and discarded, leaves chopped

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sunny Saffron Mango Jam

I started making jams at the beginning of this year and have found it both relaxing and rewarding. I find that I enjoy the preparation, the canning process and then knowing I have a particular jam, that I made, on hand. And not just one jar but at least 4-5 of them ... I like to make small batches. It's great for gift giving, I know few people who would say no to homemade jam. This past weekend, I visited my cousin/godmother, Lourdes, who lives in Naples, and has a bunch of fruit trees, herbs and pineapple plants in her backyard. The Hub being the fruit fanatic that he is immediately hit the backyard when she said help yourself to some mangoes. And boy, did he get a bunch of mangoes! Once we were back home and I realized how many mangoes there actually were, I told him I was taking some to make some jam. He very happily surrendered them over and now we have 5 scrumptious half pints of saffron infused mango jam! This is an easy recipe, that I think anyone new to canning and preserving would enjoy making.

Makes 4 -5 half pints

4 1/2 cups mangoes, diced, peel removed, seed discarded. (about 4-5 mangoes)
1 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon butter - to reduce foaming
A nice pinch of saffron threads, to enhance the flavor and color
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 - 3 tablespoons of natural fruit pectin. Depending on how you like your jam, is how much or less you add.

Friday, April 24, 2015

BBQ Achiote Drumsticks

It was in the high 60's last night in South Florida and for us it was the perfect weather for a BBQ with friends. It was cool, very little to no humidity and best of all no mosquitos! The stars of last night's BBQ were chicken drumsticks, that had been brined and then marinaded in achiote paste. Sides tonight are no fuss, deli bought potato salad and cole slaw. Firing up the grill got the evenings festivities going. 

BBQ Achiote Drumsticks
Serves 4-6

18-20 drumsticks
Brine solution
2-3 tablespoons Achiote paste. Click here for home-made Achiote recipe.
1/2 cup white wine
Salt and pepper to taste

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Runnin' on Red ... Healthy Juice or Nefarious Cocktail?


Since our trip last year to San Francisco I've been missing the morning juice we'd have on our way out the door to the day's adventure. My sister-in-law, Maria Lydia, who lives in SF, introduced us to the world of juicing and we were hooked. Well, maybe I was more hooked than everyone else, and by everyone else I mean the Hub.
It's taken me some time to finally breakdown and buy a juicer**. Why? Because I didn't want to spend a whole lot of money on another kitchen gadget that I wasn't quite so sure I'd really stick with. The Hub summed it up for me, you'll juice furiously for a month and then adios and logic told me ... he's probably right.
What I wasn't counting on was how good it would be for running. You see I run, I am not a marathon runner, heck I haven't even been able to run my first 5K (mostly because of accidents and a few other mishaps I've encountered every time I try to participate in one) but I can run a 5K. I run because I like to eat and you can't be a foodie with a food blog and not expect to grow in the wrong way ... horizontally. So I run, but some days after a full day of work, I just need that little extra boost of energy to help me run my best. Instead of reaching for a very unhealthy energy shot, I drink up 8 oz of this little elixir and I run, boy do I run. Thus the name Runnin' on Red.
But the nefarious side to juicing, oh yes it can be delightfully nefarious, is that some of these juices make really awesome cocktails ... yup ... cocktails. And Runnin' on Red makes a perfect cocktail.  Here's the recipe for the juice and the cocktail.

Makes 4 cups

For the Juice:
2 medium to large beets, peeled, cut in quarters
1/2 pineapple, peeled, cut in quarters

Place two quarters of the beets and pineapple into the juicer and run through juicer for about 45 second.
Juice in this manner until all the beets and pineapple have been used.
Pour into a 1 quart mason jar. Keep refrigerated.

Drink 20-30 minutes before exercising or whenever you need a little natural burst of healthy liquid powered energy.

Makes 4 servings

For the Cocktail:
12 oz Runnin on Red juice
2 lemons, 1 juiced and 1 sliced into rings with a slit
4 ounces vodka**
Crushed ice
Ice cubes
4 ounces soda water

In a martini shaker add the first three ingredients with ice.
Shake for a good 30 seconds
Fill tall slim highball glass with ice cubes
Strain juice into glass (about 3 ounces +/-)
Float in about 1 ounce of soda water and give it one stir
Place lemon ring on the glass

Drink up!

**Recipe Notes:
Some of my favorite vodkas are Grey Goose, Kettle One, Tito's, Effen.
Check back soon for my review on my very affordable juicer.

Orange, Ginger-Soy Grilled Chicken


Summer is definitely here in South Florida.  Long hot days turn into long equally hot nights and the last thing you want to do is crank up the stove, which will further crank up your utility bill, because now you are cranking down the A/C's thermostat to cool your home.

Besides, what's easier than firing up the grill and throwing together a big salad, add some bread, like my Grilled Tomato & Garlic Bread a la Catalana and dinner is a done deal.

This is probably one of my favorite grilled chicken recipes.  There is some time to invest in the way of allowing for brine time and then marinade time but other than that this is easy peasy. Prepare it over the weekend and grill on Monday for a quick and easy dinner.

Flavor wise you can't beat how the chicken takes on the deep citrus flavor of the orange zest and juice, the zippy tang of the ginger and pungent spice of the garlic. The soy gives it just the right amount of sodium.

Serves 4

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, butterflied or eight skinless, boneless thighs

Brine solution
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cups of water, divided 1/2 cup boiling water and 1 1/2 cups ice cold water

To a half cup of boiling water add the salt and sugar. Stir until completely dissolved. Once dissolved add the salt sugar solution to 1 1/2 cup of ice cold water. Add chicken. Refrigerate and brine for 8 - 24 hours*.

Want to learn more about how and what to brine? Check out my post To Brine or Not to Brine? That Shouldn't Even Be a Question.

Marinade
1 orange, zest grated and juiced
1  teaspoon finely minced garlic
1" nub of fresh ginger root, grated
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Mix all the marinade ingredients together. Store in gallon size zip bag in fridge. Make the same day you brine the chicken.  This allows for the flavors of the ingredients to marry well together.

Remove chicken from brine, rinse well and dry with paper towel. Place inside marinade zip bag.  If time permits, marinate overnight, otherwise allow for 1 hour of marination.

Heat grill over high flame.  You will know it's ready when you hold your hand ABOVE the hot grates for no more than 3-4 secs.  Place chicken on hot grates.
Depending on the thickness, grill 5-7 minutes per side. Half way through cooking time of each side, give the chicken a quarter turn to get some nice hatch grill marks.

Place on platter and cover with foil.  Allow to rest 5 minutes. Dig in and ENJOY!

Serve with my Grilled Tomato & Garlic Bread a la Catalana, and  my favorite tangy Nicaraguan Cabbage Slaw and your favorite beverage.  For us, it was an ice cold Stella Artois.

*Recipe Notes:
Adjust brine and marinade time to your schedule. If you only have 8 hours till dinner, split the time equally between the brine and marination process.


Kielbasa with White Beans and Tarragon




Lately, I have been experimenting with kielbasa in my cooking and I have to say it is delicious! Like sausage, it is easy to cook with, and is versatile in that you can pair with just about anything: rice, pasta, beans, pita, wraps, vegetables and more. You can saute it, grill it, broil it! It cooks up quickly and doesn't dry out. In this recipe I sauted the kielbasa. It is ok for it to char a bit; it'll taste just as good with a little extra crunch. You can easily switch the kielbasa with any sausage you like if you want to change it up or if you do not like kielbasa. This recipe cooks up in 30 minutes or less, which of course  makes it a wonderful weeknight meal! My boyfriend had seconds...that is how delicious my Kielbasa with White Beans and Taragon was!

Recipe:
1lb Kielbasa, sliced in discs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
salt and pepper
1 15 oz can white beans, rinsed (like great northerns or cannellini)
3/4 cup white wine
1/2 tablespoon tarragon

1. In a saute pan, heat oil on medium heat and cook the kielbasa. Cook on each side until browned or to taste turning over to brown both sides, about 10 minutes. Set kielbasa aside on a plate.

2. In the same saute pan (you may need to add more oil), add the onion, carrots, salt and pepper (to taste) and cook, stirring constantly, until soft, about 8 minutes.

3. Add the wine and beans, simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the kielbasa and tarragon. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Turkey Kielbasa Alfredo with Broccoli

Turkey Kielbasa Broccoli One Pan Recipe

It's Wednesdays with Eryka and ladies and gentlemen, I present to you another recipe for kielbasa! I think Kielbasa is my new obsession. It is so versatile and I keep finding new ways to use it. This week I am using it in pasta, one of my other obsessions/favorites. Kielbasa pairs great with pasta, more so with a white sauce, like Alfredo. I made a homemade Alfredo sauce. It is simple to make, not too fancy and an excellent weeknight meal. If you scanned the recipe already and saw one of the ingredient is lemon juice, your eyes are deceiving you. My Alfredo sauce takes lemon juice. It adds that spark of flavor to the sauce. As usual, I cook the kielbasa in the pan and I then make the sauce in the same pan to pick up the flavors from the cooked meat. This alters the color of the sauce making it less white, but oh so  tasty as well as rustic looking! The broccoli adds a pop of fun green plus a dash of nutrition. Pair with your favorite pasta and enjoy!

Recipe:
Wednesdays with Eryka
1lb turkey kielbasa, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste
pinch of nutmeg
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 box linguine or pasta of choice
2 broccoli heads, chopped

1. In a pan on medium heat, heat the olive oil then add the kielbasa and onion. Cook together until kielbasa is browned and onion is soft. Add in the white wine and simmer until evaporated. Remove from pan.

2. Add the butter and let it melt. Stir in with a whisk the flour. Stir together until a light brown color and all lumps from flower are gone. Stir in slowly, with the whisk, the chicken stock, the milk and cream. Stir until all combined with no lumps.

3. While sauce is cooking add in the lemon juice, salt and pepper, nutmeg and mozzarella. Stir all together. Add the kielbasa/onion mixture back into the sauce. Simmer while pasta cooks.

4. In a large pot, cook your pasta of choice. In the last 2-3 minutes of cooking add in the broccoli. You may have to adjust the cooking time because adding in the broccoli will change the temperature thus altering cooking time. Drain when pasta is al dente. Put pasta back into the same pot and add the sauce with kielabasa. Serve and top with parmesan cheese!