Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Roasted Potatoes

This is such a simple recipe, but oh so satisfying. Thanks to my friend Carla for teaching me how to make this - it's a keeper!
Potatoes, and butter, salt and pepper, and a little something else, just to season it a bit more. 
Taco seasoning - who knew? 
My kids have asked for this various times since first having it with friends last week. 

6-8 potatoes, scrubbed, skins on, chopped into 1.5 inch cubes
1/2 cup butter - melted OR Coconut Milk (WFPB)
2 Tablespoons Taco seasoning (Costco brand)   OR a blend of chili pepper, cumin, oregano, sea salt, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cocoa powder, jalapeno pepper
Sea salt, Pepper to taste

Heat oven to 375*. 
Place potatoes in large bowl, and add butter OR coconut milk and toss to coat. 
Add spices, toss to coat, and place in glass 9 x 13 baking pan in a single layer (this will make one side crispylicious).
Bake for 45-50 minutes, uncovered, until soft. 

Pairs nicely with steak and chimichurri sauce (yes, because I can't get enough chimichurri!) :)

Lucia's Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Growing up, my best friend's family had 10 kids and their home was pretty busy.  However, when her mom made this cake, kids came running (including me) from all corners of the house. Moist, not too sweet, there's was never a wrong time of the day to enjoy this treat.

Lucia's Sour Cream Coffee Cake - tried and tested for years.
1 cup butter (or 1/2 cup butter, and 1/2 cup chia gel)
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs thoroughly. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt.  Add this mixture and sour cream to the egg mixture. Add vanilla.

1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup pecans (or nuts of choice)
Put half the batter into a buttered 9x13 inch pan. Sprinkle with half of the topping mixture.
Add remaining batter, evenly on top and sprinkle with remaining topping mixture.
Bake at 350* for 30 minutes.

Chimichurri - I'm in love!

We had an amazing meal at a friend's house last week, where I was introduced to chimichurri sauce, and oh my heavens! It totally struck a chord with me. So much, that I replicated the exact same meal for our dinner the next night, and ate chimichurri with my next three meals as well. My mouth is watering again just thinking about it.

The great thing about this sauce, is that it is so versatile (and it keeps vampires away). It can be eaten on steak, grilled chicken, mixed into pasta, or that spaghetti sauce you were just whipping up, with eggs or potatoes, or on toast with eggs and avocados as pictured here.

1 bunch parsley - washed and minced
1 head of garlic (yep - a whole head, meaning all of the cloves) - finely minced, or processed through a garlic press
2-3 Tablespoons of fresh lemon or lime juice (key lime is my citrus juice of taste)
1/4-1/3 cup olive oil OR 2 teaspoons coconut milk, OR 1 tablespoon chia gel

Mix together in small bowl, and season with kosher or large grain salt, and black pepper (red pepper flakes may also be added for a little more zing, if the garlic isn't enough!)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Chili Cheese Fries - Comfort Food

I recently returned from a trip to Colorado.  
There we tried to visit one of my favorite restaurants in Minturn - the Turn Table. 
It is the epitome of a greasy spoon diner, and a local's secret. Our favorite meals there are the gringo, and boos burritos.  One of my best friends and I used to stop in after snowshoeing, and she would ALWAYS get their chili cheese fries.  Yesterday, we played with homemade steak fries in my kitchen, and here's my rendition of chili cheese fries - inspired by the Turntable. 
This is a great meal when you want to spice up left over chili, need a warm comfort food, perfect for a cool fall or cold winter's night.

1 Recipe Chili (leftovers are great)
1/2 - 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Place desired quantity of fries on oven safe plate or dish.
Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese.
Place under broiler until cheese is melted and bubbly. 

Slide fries and melted cheese into bowl of hot chili.
Garnish with sour cream, chopped onions or chives, bacon as desired.  

Steak Fries

My daughter decided that she wanted some fries yesterday, and she set out to make some. She asked for a few pointers, and made herself some great fries with the cast iron pan on the stove. 
They looked so good, that I decided to do a bigger batch, but without the heat from the stove top. 
These fries come out crisp, and tasty, and can be made more quickly than it takes to bake the frozen ones from the grocery store.  

5-8 Russett potatoes - scrubbed
Oil for frying
Salt as desired
Dish lined with paper towels

I picked up this food chopper several months ago, on the advice of my sister in law. I found it at an outlet kitchen store for less than $20.00, and love that it has many interchangeable blades.  I also found a potato slicer at Walmart a couple of years ago, that similarly juliennes food (makes easy sticks) as well.  A kitchen knife and cutting board also do the same thing, but the result may not be quite as uniform.
Slice clean potatoes into 1/4x1/4" slices.  Leave peels on as desired. 

Soak potato sticks in ice water for 10-30 minutes. This helps make them crisper, and alleviates the 'rust' that potatoes get when in contact with air. 

After soaking,I tried gently drying the potatoes with a paper towel just prior to submerging in oil, but liked them best when they were submerged in oil, still wet from ice water. Be aware however, that this may cause oil to "pop" and may cause burns.

Using a fryer (if you have one) or a heavy skillet on the stove, heat 1.5 - 2 inches of oil to 350-400* F.  
A fry basket comes in pretty handily if you have one. 

Working in small batches, remove a handful of potato sticks from the ice water bath, and place into fry basket/or directly into pan, and submerge in hot oil. 
Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes - tossing gently as needed.  

Remove from oil, and salt immediately. 
Dump into paper towel lined bowl or pan, to allow oil to drain. 
Serve hot

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Rice Spice Bites - Puerto Rican Recaito & Sofrito

 Ever wanted some extra flavor in your rice, or in a sauce, but didn't have the time to chop and sautee everything? Or have everything on hand? In Puerto Rico, many rice, soups, or meat dishes have a base of recaito or sofrito.. made with a cilantro or culantro base. These are spicy - to your preference, and add a quick burst of flavor to rice and meat dishes. 

3 bunches cilantro - coarsely chopped
8 jalapeƱos -seeded and finely chopped
5 bunches green onions - chopped
1 large garlic - 8-10 cloves, chopped
3 limes juiced
3 Tablespoons butter

Melt butter in saucepan, add everything except for the lime juice.  Sautee until tender. 
Add lime juice and simmer for a few minutes. 

Place in spoonfuls on baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and freeze for several hours or overnight - ice cube trays can also be used.  
Place in individual snack baggies or in a large bag for future use - keep
stored in freezer. 

Add as a base to rice, shrimp, or meat sauces for a quick, rich flavor. 

Hand Soap with Shea, Mango, Coconut, Sweet Almond, Avocado, Emu, and Rose Hip Oils

Super Luxurious Homemade Hand Soap

Even though I'm really stepping away from my edibles genre here, I love making lotions and soaps.
My favorite hand cream (which is the best gift ever, and clears up ecema if used regularly) is
Karen's Buttercream.  It is as yummy as it sounds!   

When I moved to Florida, I brought all of my lotion making supplies, but after a while, I wasn't quite sure about the shelf life of some of my luxury butters and oils.
I called Majestic Mountain Sage and their kind technical staff walked me through and helped me create a soap recipe from my "use it or lose it" oils and butters. 

I totally fell in love with this soap after my first batch. I love the smell, and I love the lather, and they make a great gift presentation, wrapped with velum, tied with lemon grass.   

First off - figure out how much you will need by doing the following: 
In a pyrex, measure 3 cups of water. 
Line a box (or mold) with plastic, and add water to check height/size.  Continue adding water, and adjusting recipe (double/triple etc.) as needed. 

6 oz coconut oil
4 oz shea or mango butter (or half and half)
4 oz avocado, emu, sweet almond, or rose hip oil
4 oz hydrogenated soybean oil (crisco)
6 fl oz distilled water
2.3 oz lye

Line a mold (cake mix, muffin or shoe box etc.) with a white trash compactor type of bag (not black).  
Set aside. 

In a dedicated "for soap use only" plastic pitcher, place water, and carefully pour in lye.  Make sure to wear protective clothing and eyewear.  The lye/water mixture will heat up drastically and is extremely caustic - use caution. Allow to cool, until gently warm when a hand is placed on the outside. 
This may take an hour or more. 

Once the lye mixture has cooled to gently warm, combine oils and butters into a "dedicated for soap only" plastic or glass mixing bowl (with high sides).  Add lye solution to butters and oils, and use a blending stick/emulsifier to blend until the oil and water emulsify and achieve trace.  (Trace looks like a spoonful of cake batter, drizzled back into the batter, when the drips and drizzles are visible for a few moments).
Quickly mix in essential oils for scent, and or colors and additives. (I like a combination of cinnamon, clove, bergamot, and lemon grass, or ylang ylang).  You may also enjoy experimenting with finely ground oatmeal, lavendar, rosemary, colors, layering etc.  

Pour mixture into prepared box - lined with plastic bag. 
Allow to rest for 24 hours. 

Release from pan, and cut into bars. 
Allow to harden for 2-3 additional weeks, turning every few days. 

Notes: Don't use glass pans, they get too cold.  Don't use aluminum with the lye. 
Olive oil gives a hard dense lather, coconut and palm kernel give a fluffy lather.

Other recipes - use these with the lye calculator below to determine water and lye amounts: 

6 oz coconut oil
4 oz crisco/hydrogenated soybean oil (crisco)
3 oz shea/mango
3 oz liquid oil - sweet almond, rose hip, jojoba


8 oz coconut oil
4 oz olive oil
4 oz shea or mango

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fresh Homemade Strawberry Jam

Because we live in Florida, strawberry season begins in December and runs through March.  We have a favorite u pick strawberry farm we visit each year, and we love to bring them home and immediately process into jam to share with friends for Valentine's Day, and eat throughout the year.
  I've had many friends ask me to teach them how to make this jam.  Ultimately, for quantities, you have to follow the recipe on your pectin.  That's rule number 1.  The rest, you learn as a kitchen slave to your mother and grandmother, year after year, in the middle of summer in a burning hot kitchen and wonder why anyone would be crazy enough to want to do this (until you taste the final product of course) :)  

Here's a general recipe that will yield between 8-10 half pints: 
3.75 - 4 cups strawberries
7 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 package liquid pectin
1 teaspoon butter
8-10 half pint jelly jars, lids and rings
tongs & jar lifters

Keep the following in mind:   
It will take time. More berries = more time, but it depends on how much you are making, and finding your groove. At low altitude, one batch can be done in less than 30 minutes.
It will be messy (but not too bad).
Never EVER double the recipe. EVER. Unless you enjoy failure. I've done it - against better advice. 
Don't do it. Enough said.
It will be totally worth it.

Make sure you have paper towels on hand, lots of kitchen cloths, and an electric kettle comes in super handy. Jar lifters are a great tool also - I've dropped some jars just with tongs, and had some mishaps. Jar lifters are awesome - a $5-$10 investment that is worth it.
Find the ripest, freshest strawberries (or other fruit) around. 
At home, fill a large bowl or pot with water, and allow berries to sit for 10-15 minutes.  This helps remove soil - it drops to the bottom of the bowl.  
Pare off any bad spots, as well as stem and leaves. 
Place berries into another bowl.

Make sure that jam jars are washed (sterilized - they can stay in dishwasher on dry cycle to keep warm)
Place lids inside of rust free undamaged jar rings and submerge in boiling water.  Keep submerged, and keep water at a low boil constantly.  

Use the hot pack recipe found in the pectin box. Using a food processor or high powered blender, blend berries.  Pour into a pan, and add sugar and lemon juice as directed. Cook as directed until it comes to a boil. 

In the meantime...we multi-task
While fruit mixture is coming to a boil, line counter with clean dishcloths, and place 8-10 sterilized jam jars about an inch apart on dishcloths (this allows you to pour more quickly).
Still multi-tasking...
Heat a deep pot of water to boiling on stove. 
Make sure that the jars can fit into the canning pot (depth), and still have 1-2 inches of water cover them, boiling (electric kettles come in handy here with boiling water in just a few minutes, the microwave works too, but because boiling water evaporates, it is needed for lids and for the canning).     

Once fruit mixture boils, add 1 teaspoon butter - this will reduce the foaming later on. 

Add pectin as directed on package, and cook as needed. Usually a minute or two more after it comes to another rolling boil. 

Working quickly, remove from heat. 

Use a metal spoon and skim the foam from the top of the fruit mixture, depositing it into a bowl. This won't be processed, so you can eat it as soon as you want!  

Pour jam into the ready jars on the countertop. 
Use a clean rag (or dampened paper towel), and clean off the rim of each jar, removing any sugar or jam so that a proper seal can be achieved.  

Using tongs, remove rings and lids from boiling water (they need to boil a minimum of 10 minutes to soften the gum that will help them seal), and quickly place on lids.  Only tighten rings finger tight.

Place in boiling pot of water, and process as directed on pectin instructions - making adjustments for altitude. 

Remove from water - no need to dry lids, they are so hot, the water will evaporate. 
Place on dishtowels on countertop and do not disturb for 24 hours.  
If the jars have sealed, you will hear a "pop", and the center of the jar lid will be pulled down in a vacuum.  

After 24 hours, jars may be wiped with soapy water, or a rag with vinegar to make them shine and remove any residue on top of lid from evaporated water.  

"Souped Up" Hearty Multi Grain Pancakes

My family loves hot pancakes for breakfast, however I'm not a fan of premade "just add water" pancake mixes. I like the fluffy thick made from scratch pancakes - but they are a tougher sale at my house as time is a commodity in the mornings.
So, I've come to a compromise - we use the mix, but I get to add "healthy things" to the pancakes, and to make up for it, I'll usually throw in some blueberries or chocolate chips to make sure the kids will actually eat them.  It's a vicious cycle.
I'm on a huge omega 3 oils kick right now, and anywhere I can throw them in, they are included. These are full of protien, and fiber, and the omega 3 oils - so they are healthy, and they fill you up and keep you going.   I've also been adding freshly grated and toasted coconut to everything.  As in, I use my machete to break it open, and then put it into the food processor to shred, then toast in the oven.  It isn't sweet, but I feel like it is important and it isn't noticeable.   

1 Tablespoon amaranth seeds - lightly toasted or popped 
2 Tablespoons flax seed
2 Tablespoons chia seed
1 Tablespoon natural coconut - shredded and toasted (unsweetened)
1/4 cup oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
dash of cardamom

Mix ingredients together, then add 2 cups of pancake mix, and water to reach desired consistency.  Allow to sit for a few minutes so that the oats soften, and the flax and chia will begin to thicken.    
Stir, then pour onto hot griddle, and add berries or chocolate chips if desired.  Turn once bubbles appear and begin to pop. Serve immediately, with a pat of butter, and 100% maple syrup or my Blueberry Syrup.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Superfood Orange and Date Protein Power Bars - Gluten free

(Photos coming once they've cooled)
I am so excited about this recipe for protein/power bars!  
Besides being super yummy, they are rich in super foods/nutrients, (google flax, chia, quinoa, sesame, anise, and amaranth), 100% natural (no processed ingredients), and gluten free - yay! Made from nuts and seeds and so full of those healthy Omega 3's that we all need more of, but rarely get. I'm a proponent of 'made from scratch', and love that these are made with home ground nut butter, and my own shredded and toasted coconut. And did I mention that they are yummy?  

Filling and perfect for a morning when you don't have time for breakfast (I have a lot of those), after a run or bike ride, or as an afternoon snack for the kids after school.  Crunchy, nutty goodness, and totally versatile for whatever you might have in your pantry, to suit your taste.   
Heat oven to 350*
Mix the following together, spread on a cookie sheet, and toast in oven for 15 minutes - stirring occasionally. 

1 c. uncooked quinoa
1 c. uncooked oats
1 c. uncooked amaranth seeds
1/2 c. flax seeds
1/2 c. chia seeds
1 T. sesame seeds
1 T. anise seeds

Remove from oven, and place mixture in a large mixing bowl.

Add following fruit and nuts to mixing bowl with cooled grains: 
17-20 chopped (pitted) medijool dates (or any dried fruit - raisins, cranberries, blueberries, cherries)
3-5 chopped dried figs
1 c. shredded, unsweetened, lightly toasted coconut 
(Shred whole coconut, and toast in oven for 60 minutes at *225)
1/2 c. cashews
1 T. chia

Grate zest from 2 valencia oranges into a small bowl, and set aside. 

Binding mixture: 
1 c. unfiltered raw honey
Juice from 2 valencia oranges
2/3 c. nut butter (peanut, almond, or cashew)
(blend 3/4 c. raw nuts in high power blender until it turns to paste)
1 t. kosher salt
1.5 T. coconut oil

Heat honey in saucepan, over low heat.  Add orange juice and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for a few minutes so that it reaches a syrup like consistency. Stir in nut butter and whisk until smooth. Add salt and coconut oil.  Stir constantly and bring mixture to a boil.  Allow to boil for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat before this reaches a nougat like consistency.  

Immediately pour over grain/nuts/fruit mixture, add grated orange zest, and quickly mix together. Pour into a lightly greased 9x13 pan.  Use hands or spatula to compress, and smooth down, and bake at 350* for 20 minutes. 

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 2 hours.  
Cut into bars. 

Optional - Melt 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips with 1 T. coconut oil.  Dip bottom of power bars into chocolate, and allow to cool on parchment paper. 

Individually wrap in plastic wrap.  
These store well in the cupboard, or refrigerate or freeze.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Copycat PF Chang's General Tso Chicken

I made this copycat PF Chang's General Tso Chicken for dinner last night and it got RAVE reviews - "Better than a restaurant, mom" kind of reviews. My pickiest eater had three servings - she stocks up on the stuff she likes, and picks at the stuff she doesn't, so that in itself is a recommendation on it's own.

4 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
3 minced garlic cloves
3 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger - strings and all
1.5 cups white sugar
2 Tablespoons molasses
3 Tablespoons sweet soy sauce (thick, and found at Asian stores)
4 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon onion powder

Mix Sauce together, cover, and set aside in the fridge.

3-4 cups diced chicken breasts (no skin or bone, raw)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1.5 cups oil for frying
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3-4 red chili peppers - optional (there are many varieties - whatever is on hand)

Place flour, pepper, salt and pepper flakes in large ziplock bag.  Add chicken, seal, and shake until coated. 
Heat oil in wok, and place coated chicken pieces into hot oil.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, frying until cooked through, and as they begin to turn golden brown. Remove from oil, and drain on paper towel.  Repeat until all chicken pieces are cooked.  

Drain all but 1 Tablespoon of oil from wok (chicken debris is ok), and add chili peppers.  Heat for a few minutes, so that their skin can soften, and release the pepper oils.  Remove sauce from refrigerator, and slowly add to wok, stirring constantly, until it boils and thickens and combines.  
Remove from heat, and add chicken - stirring to coat. 
Serve over hot rice

Serves 8

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Eggs on a Goldenrod

 Eggs on a Goldenrod

I learned how to make this when we were first married, as it was one of my husband's favorite breakfasts. This pulls together in a pinch (about 10 minutes) when hard boiled eggs are on hand. This warm and creamy comfort food, offset with crunchy toast, brings a welcome break from breakfast monotony. 

4-6 hard boiled eggs - reserve one yolk
Toasted bread (butter is optional)
Basic White Sauce

Basic White Sauce
4 tablespoons Corn Starch
1 quart milk
8 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Stove Top: Combine corn starch and milk in a small saucepan; stir until smooth. Add butter, salt and pepper. Stirring constantly, simmer over medium heat for 1 minute.

Microwave: Combine corn starch and milk in a 2-quart microwave-safe bowl; stir until smooth. Microwave on HIGH (100%) for 2 minutes; remove and stir. Microwave 1 to 2 minutes more, or until mixture thickens and boils for 1 minute. Remove from microwave. Stir in butter, salt and pepper.

Once the white sauce has thickened, use an egg slicer to dice 4 hard boiled eggs - reserving one cooked egg yolk. 
I use one like this, and hold the egg in my hand, and cut criss cross.  This can also be done with a knife and cutting board. 

Add diced eggs to white sauce, and stir to combine. 

Spoon sauce over toasted bread. 

Gently push the reserved egg yolk through a small sieve, to produce a fine egg yolk powder.  Sprinkle over the creamed eggs and toast as a garnish and serve.  

Serves 6-8