Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Creamy Chicken with Orzo



This week is another easy weeknight meal that I happen to put together on a weeknight after work. I was craving something creamy all day and I already knew, while at work, that I had chicken defrosting at home. On my downtime at work, I mentally took inventory of what was in my fridge, combining flavors that were simple yet rich in flavor. I could not wait to get home and into the kitchen to make this dish happen. It came out just as I imagined. You can spruce it up with spices, other types of vegetables, pair it with different types of paste or even use dark meat! I kept it simple since I am as my mother calls me a "purist" in the kitchen but it does pack a lot of flavor... lets just say there were no left overs!

Recipe:
1 1/2lb chicken breast, cut into cubes
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 pepper (red or green), minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2-3 TBS cream cheese
2 carrots, chopped diagnoally 1 inch pieces
Green beans, chopped in 1 inch pieces
Orzo (cooked according to packaging)

1. In a saute pan, heat the oil on medium heat then add the chicken pieces. Add salt and pepper to season. Cook through until no longer pink. Cook in batches if necessary.

2. Set the cooked chicken aside. Add a teaspoon more of oil to the pan then add the onion and pepper. Saute until they are soft. Add the garlic and cook for together for about 1 minute. Pour in the chicken stock to pick up any brown bits and allow the vegetables to soak in the stock. Add the chicken back in.

3. Pour in the heavy cream and cream cheese and let it all melt together over medium-low heat. Adjust to taste the amount of heavy cream/cream cheese to your liking espeically if you like a saucier dish. Season with salt and pepper. Once everything is combined, add in the carrots and greens beans.

4. Stir everything together and let it simmer for about 20-25 minutes, making sure to stir occassionally to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan. Serve over a hot bed of orzo and enjoy!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tuna & Garbanzo Hash


Sometimes I am very organized and I plan out the entire dinner menu for the coming week. I take an hour on Sunday afternoon and do as much prep work as I can so that dinner doesn't turn into a work week hassle.

And then there are times when no planning is done, no prep work gets done and I spend the week jumping through self-induced hoops to figure out what meal is going to make it to the dinner table.

On those occasions, I reach for one of my favorite "go to" meals. I usually have all the ingredients in the pantry to make Tuna & Garbanzo Hash. Normally when you see the word "hash" in a recipe you are expecting a potato to be in there somewhere.  In this case I substituted the potato with garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chick peas) to make this hash.

The flavors of this meal are influenced by sweet, smokey Spanish paprika, briny capers and black olives, garlic, the zing of a lemon and are reminiscent of Spanish and Mediterranean food. 
Best of all - it comes together in under 30 minutes. Enjoy!
  • 15-16 oz of canned, tinned or pouch tuna* (preferably Spanish tuna packed in olive oil)
  • 1 - 15 oz can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large vidalia or Spanish onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2-4 mini sweet peppers, diced 
  • 2 large carrots, diced 1/4"
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1  heaping tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of capers + 1 teaspoon brine
  • 1/4 cup sliced black olives
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup sherry or white wine


  1. Heat a stainless steel skillet  pan over moderate heat
  2. Add oil, onions, garlic, peppers, carrots and a light sprinkle of salt. 
  3. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the onions have softened.  
  4. Incorporate tomato paste, paprika, and garbanzo beans, stir well to blend, cook for 5 minutes over medium low heat. 
  5. Raise heat to medium high and add remaining ingredients, and bring to a bubbling simmer Lower heat and add in tuna, gently stirring to incorporate. 
  6. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes to allow ingredients and flavors to meld.

SERVE:
Sprinkle with a light dusting of sweet smoked paprika, top with a few strands of lemon zest and a squeeze of a lemon wedge, serve with white rice or on thinly sliced toasted french bread and chilled white wine.

*Recipe Tip: Whenever I can splurge a little I use Spanish tuna, that comes packed 
in olive oil. The flavor is far superior to the tuna that lines our supermarket shelves, if you have the opportunity to splurge a little, give it a shot.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rum-Soaked Raisins & Oatmeal Cookies


This isn't your typical oatmeal cookie recipe.

This is a recipe for the grown-up version of oatmeal cookies.

It's definitely the kind of cookie you artfully stack on a cute mini-pedestal - because it deserves the royal treatment.

It's the kind you serve after dinner with a decadently rich sipping rum, like my personal favorite Flor de Caña Centenario Gold 18, and dunk in the rum so that the cookie absorbs the deep, dark, golden jewel tone liquid.

This is a "high-end" cookie. The ingredients are more robust, richer and yes, this recipe uses better quality ingredients then your everyday cookie. Ingredients like premium rum, free-range eggs, turbinado sugar, bourbon-vanilla extract and steel-cut oats. And you might ask ...

Is it worth the investment?  Hell yeah!





  • 1 cup spiced* or dark* rum
  • 1 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 12 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 1/4 cup raw brown turbinado sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon bourbon-vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 pinches of Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground clove and nutmeg
  • 2 1/4 cups steel-cut Oats
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans (or nut of choice)

    1. Soak raisins overnight in rum. Keep tightly covered.
    2. Place raisins and rum in small pan, bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer 20-30 minutes.
    3. Drain liquid into a measuring cup, set raisins aside. Add more rum (if needed) to make up a 1/2 cup raisin-rum liquid.
    4. Pre-heat over to 375 degrees
    5. Cream sugar & butter, then stir in eggs vanilla and rum-raisin liquid
    6. In a separate bowl, except for the oats and nuts, mix all the dry ingredients together.
    7. Stir dry ingredients into batter in batches of thirds. Do not over stir, just until all ingredients are incorporated.
    8. Stir in raisins, nut and oats to incorporate well.
    9. Place rounded teaspoons of rum-raisin oats dough onto an ungreased, parchment lined cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.
    10. Bake 8-10 minutes*
    11. Remove from oven and allow to cool 3-5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool.
    Serve with milk, coffee or ... a good quality sipping rum. ENJOY!

    *Recipe Notes:
    My preferred spiced rum is Captain Morgan's Black Spiced Rum, it adds deep rich flavor. My preferred dark rum is Flor de Caña Centenario Gold 18, the toffee and vanilla notes make it perfect for these cookies. These rums aren't cheap and you can certainly substitute with cheaper varieties or use the mini-bottles if you can find them.
    Cookie doneness: for softer cookies bake to the lower range of bake time. For crispier cookies bake to the higher range of bake time. Adjust time according to how fast or slow your oven cooks.


    Monday, July 14, 2014

    Pork Chops in Dijon-Mushroom Wine Sauce


    I know it's summer and it's grilling season and generally that calls for "lighter" foods.

    But sometimes, in-spite of the season, you just crave some comfort food. Something warm and homey.

    And that's exactly how I felt this week.  I wanted - no I craved- a creamy sauce, some mushrooms, bright green peas, white wine (to cook with and drink) smothering tender, juicy chops.

    That craving resulted in my Pork Chops in Dijon-Mushroom Sauce.

    Craving conquered, Hub declared his usual "this s*** is good", the highest honor ever, and I was a happy camper.

    Serves 4

    1-1/2 pounds boneless pork loin chops, thin cut - about 1/2" thick
    Brine solution: 3 tablespoon Kosher salt, 2 tablespoons brown sugar in one quart of water
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    Salt & pepper
    2 tablespoons butter, divided
    1/2 tablespoon olive oil
    2 cups fresh sliced cremini mushrooms*
    1 large yellow onion, sliced into half moons
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    2 teaspoons dijon mustard
    1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
    1 1/2 cups beef broth/stock
    1/2 cup dry white wine
    1 cup cream* (heavy or light, your choice)
    1 cup frozen petite peas

    Place chops in brine solution and brine in fridge overnight
    Remove chops from brine, rinse, and pat dry.
    Lightly salt and pepper each side
    Heat a stainless steel pan over medium high heat, add oil, sear each side of chops, remove from pan onto a platter, set aside, covered with foil.
    Reduce heat on pan to medium-low, add 1 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Add onions and mushrooms. Saute, stirring frequently 10-15 minutes or until onions/mushrooms a deep golden color.
    Sprinkle the flour over the onions/mushrooms, stir to mix in well. Add Dijon mustard, salt pepper, stock, wine and chops. Stir until it starts to simmer lightly and slightly thicken. Reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer for 13 minutes. (Add peas in the last 5 minutes of cooking time.) Stir in cream and allow to warm through. Take off heat and add butter, stir until butter melts.

    Serve over egg noodles, or with a simple salad and a baguette to mop up the wine sauce. And please, feel free to finish the rest of that white wine too! ENJOY!

    *Recipe Notes:
    Use any variety of  or combination of mushrooms, that you like.
    You can substitute cream with  half & half, fat free half & half, or milk of choice.
    Learn more on how to brine, read my post To Brine or Not to Brine? That Shouldn't Even Be a Question

    Sunday, July 6, 2014

    Spicy, Sweet & Sour Pickled Beets



    I got a hold of some really lovely beets a few weekends ago at the Farmer's Market. I was going to juice them to make my favorite beet juice mix.

    ... But then I was inspired by one of my favorite food bloggers, Katie Zeller at
    Thyme for Cooking, who recently published a post on pickled beets. Check out Katie's site, her recipes are delish and her stories about cooking, life in France, her adorable dogs and her mon mari never fail to make me chuckle.

    After her post I knew I had to make pickled beets. 

    But there were conditions ... I wanted them sweet, sour and spicy. 

    After all, I have a jalapeño bush bursting with red peppers and I have a Thai pepper bush also bursting with little fire cracker red peppers. 

    (Don't be afraid of the heat, use as much or as little as you want. Just a little tiny kick is good.)

    And so ... my recipe was created and damn if those beets aren't just right! Oh man, are they good!

    Also, this is a recipe for canning, so be sure to visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation to learn food safety and safe preparation methods. 

    You can also skip the canning process and place all the beets and liquid in one big jar in the fridge. After initial use, it'll be good for about 2 months. Let it "stew" for about two weeks in the fridge before digging in.

    You use this on grilled meats, fish, salads, pretty much anything or just enjoy alone with a glass of white wine, that's my favorite.

    Makes about 5 half pints
    • 2 lbs., medium sized beets, cooked peeled and sliced into 1/4" discs
    • 2 cups of red onions, sliced into half moons
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 stick cinnamon
    • 3/4 cups beet cooking liquid
    • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
    • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar*
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds
    • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
    • 1/2 teaspoon allspice, whole
    • 1 - 3 jalapeño* peppers, seeded and diced
    • 1 - 2 Thai* peppers, with slits on one side. (optional)

    1. Clean beets thoroughly, remove greens*, but leave root intact to avoid excess juice from eking out.
    2. Place beets in a large saucepan*, cover with water, add 2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar - to further guard against excess juice eking out..
    3. Bring to rolling boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
    4. Remove from pan, allow to cool under they can be handled. The skin will not peel off easily.
    5. Add all ingredients except for beets into a large pot, bring to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5-8 minutes.
    6. Add beets to simmering liquid and allow to heat through.
    7. Spoon beets into sterilized jar, then fill each jar with cooking liquid, leaving 1/2" head space.
    8. Wipe rims of jar, put lids and rings on the jars and hand tighten
    9. Process* for 30 minutes in a water bath
    10. Remove jars and allow to cool for 24 hours then further tighten lids
    11. Let "stew" for two weeks before eating*.
    Serve on salads, hot dogs, burgers or just eat as is! ENJOY!

    *Recipe Notes:
    If you can't find or don't have white balsamic vinegar (available at Trader Joe's) just use apple cider vinegar.
    You can prepare the beets a few days ahead. You can even make them in the slow cooker, by cover with water and cooking on high for 4-5 hours or low 8-9 hours.
    Saute greens in butter, olive oil and garlic for a nice side, or use it for juicing.
    Before canning be sure to visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation to address food safety and safe preparation methods.
    You can eat them right away but if you let the flavors meld for a few weeks, I promise you will enjoy the beets even more.
    You can skip using the peppers or just using one type of pepper. Each offer a different type of heat and I like the combination.

    Thursday, July 3, 2014

    Recipes to Celebrate the 4th of July!


    I've put together a list of some of my favorite recipes that are just great for your fourth of July celebration. Just click on the links below and you are on your way to some fabulous recipes for citrus chicken, tequila-lime shrimp, grilled corn on the cob, a delicious Catalan-style grilled tomato & garlic bread, a warm potato salad and one of my favorite Nicaraguan cabbage slaw and a few more.  Enjoy!

    Spicy Coconut Curry Grilled Shrimp

    Tropical Citrus Grilled Chicken

    Smokey n' Sweet Steak & Everything Else Rub

    BBQ Achiote Drumsticks

    Garlicky Tequila-Lime Grilled Shrimp-Kebabs with Cilantro-Garlic Aioli

    Sweet and Savory Roasted and Grilled Corn on the Cob

    Grilled Tomato & Garlic Bread a la Catalana

    Sweet and Tangy Pickled Vegetables

    Hot Bacon Mustard Potato Salad

    Nicaraguan Cabbage Slaw or Ensalada de Repollo Nica