Thursday, May 7, 2015

805 Cowboy Campfire Beans

Lee's 805 Cowboy Campfire Beans

805 Cowboy Campfire Beans

1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound linguicia sausage
one onion, chopped coarsley
1/2 each bell peppers, red and green, chopped coarsely
one jalapeno pepper, seed removed, chopped fine
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
canned diced tomatoes with green chilies (15 oz)
2 Tbs olive oil
tomato paste (4 oz)
SunVista black beans (29 oz can)
SunVista pinto beans (56 oz can)
SunVista kidney beans (29 oz can)
805 beer - one bottle
Lee's Campfire Steak Fixings (a kicked up Santa Maria-style seasoning blend + a few different chili powders and some local coffee beans, ground up)

Take the casings off of the linguicia and break into chunks. Brown in sautee pan along with the ground beef. Season with Lee's Cowboy Campfire Fixings blend. Cook until no pink remains, then drain off any grease.

In a separate sautee pan, cook the onion and peppers until soft. Add jalapeno and garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Stir in tomatoes. Turn the vegetable mixture into the ground meat mixture in a crock pot and add some beer. Cook for 2 hours on high, then add in beans and turn setting down to low and cook for a few more hours until serving time.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My Man Can Cook! Mustard Chicken on Pasta

Lee Cooks, Too!

I know, I am a lucky gal! I married a guy who had been single for so long he had to learn how to cook. What a blessing! So that's my tip, ladies...find a man who has been living by himself. They do eat, so they do learn to cook. Usually, they enjoy cooking and creating something delicious to eat, and they like to share and show it off a little bit. At least I know my guy can follow a recipe.

I like to cook, and I usually do most of the meal planning and grocery shopping and cooking. But when my schedule isn't conducive for that, I ask my husband for help, and he gladly pitches in. So one night last week, I was working later than he was and I was feeling really exhausted. I texted him the recipe I was going to make when I got home, hoping that he would get home a half hour or so before me and get it started. The recipe was for pan-fried chicken breasts with a creamy mustard sauce over pasta, something I knew would make his mouth water just reading about it. The plan came together! I can't tell you exactly how my husband made it, because I was still at work when he was cooking. When I walked in the door, he was putting the finishing touches on the sauce. All I can tell you is that it was really good, and we will make it again. He plated everything, poured me a glass of wine, and told me it was my turn to do the dishes. That's love for you!
Here is the recipe I texted him from Eating Well:

Creamy Mustard Chicken
From EatingWell:  September/October 2013 In this healthy, creamy mustard chicken recipe, thin-sliced chicken breasts (sometimes labeled chicken cutlets) cook quickly and are delicious smothered in a velvety, light mustard sauce and garnished with fresh chopped sage. If you can’t find chicken cutlets, cut boneless, skinless chicken breast into 4-ounce pieces and place between pieces of plastic wrap. Pound with a meat mallet, rolling pin or heavy skillet until flattened to about 1/2 inch thick.
4 servings | Active Time: 35 minutes | Total Time: 35 minutes


  • 1/2 package whole-wheat angel hair pasta (7-8 ounces)
  • 4 thin-sliced chicken breasts or cutlets (about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, plus more for garnish


  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, sprinkle chicken with garlic powder and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow bowl and coat both sides of the chicken, shaking off any excess. Reserve 2 teaspoons flour; discard the rest.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken, turning once, until golden brown and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a clean plate.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Add shallot and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute. Combine water with the reserved 2 teaspoons flour. Add to the pan and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat; stir in sour cream, mustard, 2 tablespoons sage and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Return the chicken to the pan and turn to coat with the sauce.
  5. Top the pasta with half the sauce, the chicken and then the remaining sauce. Garnish with more sage, if desired.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Chicken Noodle Soup from a leftover roasted chicken

Looking at this, I wish I had added some sliced mushrooms to it. Sigh! Next time!!!

About once a week now, I stop by the grocery store deli on my way home from work and pick up some chicken. Sometimes it is wings, sometimes chicken tenders, but most often its a whole roasted chicken. I like the whole chicken, because then I have leftovers! A whole roasted chicken is such a deal for me because it costs about $6-8, depending on where you buy it, and I get a dinner and a pot of soup or a pasta dish later. I can use whatever veggies and pastas I happen to have on hand to make the magic all happen.

I never throw away the carcass without making some bone broth with it first! Basically, you eat the chicken for dinner one night, then put the leftovers in the refrigerator. The next day you pluck off all the good leftover chicken meat and put it aside in a container, then put the carcass into a stock pot and fill it with water and cook it for a few hours. I like to add a few stalks of celery and carrots, along with some onion, and a couple of cloves of garlic and a bay leaf, and season it with salt, pepper and garlic. Usually, I save the ends of the onion that I have trimmed off to use in my chicken stock. That's because after you make the stock, you strain out all the vegetables and bones and skin from the chicken carcass and discard that. Then you make your soup using fresh vegetables that you are not going to cook to death. You can also add a few sprigs of fresh parsley and thyme if you have it on hand.

For a little deeper flavor in my chicken noodle soup, I have been carmelizing an onion or two in my crock pot while the broth simmers on the stove. I start with two teaspoons of butter and an equal amount of olive oil in the crock with the sliced onions. Turn it on high and let them cook for two hours, stirring every now and then. The onion cooks and browns and develops beautiful flavor. This could be just the start of a French Onion Soup, but today its going to have other vegetables and some chicken meat in it.

When the broth has simmered on the stove for a good long while and sucked out all the goodness from the leftover chicken bones and skin and bits of meat, its time to strain it. I put my strainer right over the crock pot and ladled the broth through it into the crock bowl. Then I discarded the veggies and carcass remains that were left in the stock pot. Now I have a rich broth with carmelized onions and am ready to build my Chicken Noodle Soup.

I add to sliced celery and carrots to the broth and let that cook for about 15 minutes on low. The idea here is not to cook these veggies to the point of mush. Next, I season the broth a little more, adding salt, pepper, ginger*, thyme, rosemary, basil and a dash or two of soy sauce*. I still wasn't happy, so I added a teaspoon of my onion soup mixture that has turmeric in it. I could leave out the soy and ginger, but I think I like a more Asian tint to the broth these days. Sliced mushrooms would have been genius here, too, but I didn't think of them at the time. Anyway, I put the Asian-y stuff in parenthesis in the recipe, so you can decide which way you want to go with it).

Next, I chop up some kale or spinach and a good bunch of parsley (or cilantro) and put that in, give it a good stir, then add spaghetti (or ramen) noodles. After about 10 minutes, I stir in the leftover cooked chicken from the night before, check my seasonings, and soup's ready to serve!

Leftover Roasted Chicken Noodle Soup

One chicken carcass, skin, bones and all!
Stock pot full of water
Salt, pepper, garlic
Half an onion
2-3 celery stalks
1-2 carrots
2-3 garlic cloves
bay leaf

Bring to a simmer and let it cook for 1-2 hours. Strain and save the broth for soup.

2 tsp. butter and olive oil

Meanwhile, in a crock pot, carmelize a sliced onion with some butter and olive oil on high for 1-2 hours.

My own onion soup mix

8 cups chicken broth
carmelized onions
1 tsp each dried thyme, basil, rosemary
Salt, pepper, garlic, *(ginger)
1 tsp. onion soup mix
*(2 Tbs soy sauce)
3-4 sliced carrots
3-4 stalks sliced celery
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped parsley *(or cilantro)

2 cups chopped spinach or kale
6 oz. spaghetti or ramen noodles
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped into bite-sized pieces

Start with the broth and carmelized onions, add the seasonings and taste. At this point I added my onion soup mixture and some soy sauce. The add in the carrots, celery, mushrooms and let them cook for about 15 minutes. Add the pasta and spinach and cook for another 10-15 minutes, then stir in the chicken (its already cooked!) and serve.

Chicken noodle soup that I made tonight with vermecelli noodles and some leftover sauteed squash. More traditional in taste and appearance, no soy sauce. I used one tablespoon of my Onion Soup Mix in the broth.

Onion Soup Mix

2/3 C dried minced onion
3 tsp. parsley flakes
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Use 4 Tbs. in a recipe in place of 1 packet of store-bought onion soup mix. Makes enough to fill a pint mason jar.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Chicken Pho

I made my own Chicken Pho, which is a Vietnamese soup with noodles and spices and bean sprouts and bok choy....mmmmmh! It is cropping up on all the menus lately at Panera and Chinese food places and all kinds of other eateries. The hearty broth flavored with aromatic spices tingles the senses in the most delightful way.
This week SLO Veg Delivery sent tat soi, which is a cousin of bok choy, along with organic carrots and celery, so right there I had the makings of a good soup. I had picked up a roasted chicken from the deli the other night and I had about half of it left over, perfect soup stock makings. I pulled off most of the meat, putting it aside, and put just the carcass into a pot of water, along with the ends and tops of my celery and carrot sticks. Then I added the seasonings: cloves, a cinnamon stick, Chinese five spice powder, salt, pepper and garlic powder. I added a generous dash of fish sauce and soy sauce and let the pot simmer for a couple of hours on the stove top. This can also be done in a crock pot, cooking on high for 4-5 hours to bring out the most flavor.
The broth is then strained and the bones and simmering spices and vegetables are disgarded. Now you have a wonderful, flavorful soup base to mix with the chicken pieces, chopped fresh carrots, celery, bok choy, and noodles for the pho. Restaurants serve cilantro, jalapeno pepper, and mung bean sprouts on the side, to be added to the pho at the table, but I just added them all into the pot and ladeled it into serving bowls.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Mustard Sauce on Swordfish

Today's early Spring bounty from SLO Veg: cauliflower, tangerines, kale, grapefruit, carrots, artichokes, curly parsley, strawberries, lettuce mix, beets, tat soi and swordfish.
 Mustard Sauce on Swordfish

We got a beautiful box of fruits and vegetables today, along with two thick, fresh swordfish steaks, courtesy of SLO Veg and SLO Fresh Catch. I knew we could put together a delicious, fresh and flavorful dinner in minutes with items like the salad mix, grapefruit, carrots, and fish.

My husband got home first, so I texted him and asked if he could start the mustard sauce for the fish. It needed to reduce for 20 or so minutes, so if he got it started, I could steam the veggies and fry the fish when I got home. He also put together a yummy green salad with the lettuce blend we got in the box, some segments of grapefruit and feta cheese. I had already mixed up a blueberry vinegar and basil dressing to serve on the salad, so our dinner salad came together nicely. I still had a bunch of broccoli from last week, so I steamed it with the organic carrots we received  today, along with some sliced onion and finished it with a squeeze of lemon juice.  

The swordfish was simply seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and sauteed in butter. When it was cooked through, I put it on the plate with the steamed veggies and spooned some mustard sauce over the fish. 

 Lee followed the recipe from SLO Fresh Catch for Mustard Sauce for Fish. He used some homemade chicken broth that I had previously frozen, and chopped up a green onion. Mustard and butter brought the sauce together and really made the fish delicious! It really can't get much simplier than this.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Argentina! with Chimichurri Sauce and Potato Salad

Chimichurri. Chimichurri, chimichurri...I just like to say that word. Okay, so I took a little trip down to Latin America recently. I wanted to make a batch of chimichurri sauce, which I learned is as common as ketchup in Argentina. I also know when I posted a blog entry about chimichurri in the past, my Argentinean friend Marie liked it! It was nice to know someone had heard of it before, that it was a thing, because I was really just trying to figure out a way to use up extra cilantro and parsley. In my quick research, I learned a bit about the cuisine and culture of Argentina as I surfed through the food blogs. While browsing for chimichurri recipes, I found an Argentinean potato salad, and many versions of a skirt steak or flat iron steak doused in chimichurri.

Chimichurri is made up of cilantro and parsley, with a bite of garlic, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Argentineans use it on steak, and practically everything else, I guess. I wanted to use it as a sauce for fish, but according to one food blogger, fish is not a common dish in Argentina. The people are mostly farmers and therefore live off the land, not the sea. Who knew? Of course, that makes their fisheries plentiful and enticing to foreign fisherman, who are now taking advantage of the abundant fish.

Our local fish this week was Bank Rockfish, and as I reviewed the recipes on the SLO Fresh Catch blog, I didn't see any recipes that immediately sparked my attention. I didn't feel like having a gremolata, or a lemon fish, or a salsa-topped fish. One thing I did note: fish is best with the simplest preparation: fried, poached or baked. I think I will just use a bit of breading and fry it in a pan, then top it with the rich, green chimichurri sauce. That should be a nice break from the usual tartar sauce, even though my husband makes a great one. It's kind of his thing, so I always try to let him do the tartar honors.

Then, I had these potatoes that I had prepped the other day for making French fries, but then I didn't have enough canola oil to fry them, so they were chilling in a bowl of water in the frig. Why not make a potato salad instead? Even though the potatoes are already cut into a fry shape, I think they will work; I just chopped them into shorter pieces. Argentine Potato Salad with little pimento stuffed green olives, no less! It has green olives, dill, and green peas, so it coordinates with the green chimichurri sauce.

Then, because I needed another vegetable, I decided to bake a head of cauliflower with the spicy yogurt sauce that I found on Pinterest. Its such a dramatic-looking way to fix and serve cauliflower, perfect for impressing dinner guests. I had a beautiful head of cauliflower from our SLO Veg box this week just waiting to be presented in this way. 

I know this dinner is going to be very WHITE in color...white fish, white potatoes, white cauliflower. That's a little weird, but hopefully it will still look appetizing. The green notes will brighten it up, I think.

Chimichurri Sauce


  • 1 cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, trimmed of thick stems
  • 1 cup cilantro, trimmed of thick stems
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves (can sub 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes


1 Finely chop the parsley, fresh oregano, and garlic (or process in a food processor several pulses). Place in a small bowl.
2 Blend in the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Adjust seasonings.
Serve immediately or refrigerate. If chilled, return to room temperature before serving. Can keep for a day or two.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Creamy Chinese Celery Soup

So you know we get this box of fresh, locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables delivered right to our doorstep every other week by a service called SLO Veg. We have been getting the bulk of our produce from them for the past two years now, and I swear its the best thing we have ever done for our diets.

While my daughters think its too much trouble to wash and prepare all that produce with their busy schedules, I find it therapeutic. My girls like fresh veggies from Trader Joe’s that are washed and cut and ready to eat (they're young!), whereas I like the process of chopping and sautéing and putting together a recipe from scratch. It gets me out of a food rut. I do like to pre-prep whenever I can, so on my days off I might chop some veggies or marinate some meat so that I can put a dinner together quickly the next work day. Vegetables are usually pretty quick to prepare, though, so as long as I have a plan, life is good. 

One thing I really like about the SLO Veg service is the way they tell you a few days in advance what to expect in your next delivery, then they offer a bunch of recipe ideas using the items that will be in the box. Genius, right? What a great marketing angle. I am sure Rachael was behind that idea; probably Dan is more of the brawn in this operation, but I could be wrong. Whoever thought that one up, well, that's irrelevant...I am just so glad they did. Saves me so much time! Otherwise I try to save recipes I come across on Pinterest because I have read the blog about "This Weeks Harvest Box" and know what I am going to need to cook.

I browse recipes constantly. It was weird when my sister-in-law asked during our last visit, "So, what are you reading these days?" and all I could think of was cookbooks, books about nutrition, and recipe blogs. Sigh! Thank goodness for Pioneer Woman. At least on her site I can read "Confessions" or something about life on the ranch and so forth.

Today I am doing what I love best: watching cooking shows (Anne Burrell is on right now, making a fava bean soup and a Swiss chard crostini. *Note: save idea for later!), cooking some soup on the stove, taking pictures of what I am cooking, and blogging about it. Great day in my book! I already made some quick ramen soup with celery and carrots and cilantro to eat while I do all the above multi-tasking. This morning I have already sliced up some top sirloin marinating in orange juice that will become carne asada tacos tonight after my husband gets home. I have some leftover rice to serve with the tacos, and I might doctor up some canned pinto beans as well. But I am hankering for hearty vegetable-type soup, and soup I will make.

We got a big bunch of fresh green celery in Monday's box, so now, this week from SLO Veg, some delicious Creamy Chinese Celery soup! . My husband and son aren't real big on celery, so if I make it into a bunch of soup and freeze it, I can take it to work and have a nice hot, delicious homemade treat for myself without traumatizing them by actually forcing them to eat celery themselves. They can have canned tomato soup and be happy about it. (They would be!) The great part is that this recipe calls for a potato, of which I have two or three leftover from my box that was delivered two weeks ago.

My soup starts out with a whole bunch of chopped celery, a white onion, some sliced leeks and three really cute little white potatoes. I am making more that what the recipe from SLO Veg calls for, because I want to eat some and freeze some. I sliced the leeks first and got them soaking in a bowl of water, because leeks tend to collect a lot of sand inside the layers, so you want to soak them and let the sediment fall to the bottom of the bowl. Then you scoop the leeks out and proceed with the cooking.

I put all the veggies into a stock pot with a chunk of butter and began to sauté them. Oops! I forgot to peel the potatoes, so I quickly did that and gave them a chop and tossed them into the pot, too.  Now I've got it all in the pot and its set to simmer for an hour.
I had to open a really nice bottle of Pinot Blanc we recently got from a SLO area winery, Claiborne-Churchill. It was either that or run down to the market for a cheap bottle of white wine. I was a little stingy with the wine in the soup, because I want more for me to enjoy later when I eat my delicious bowl of soup. Wait, that was Chinese Celery Soup, right? I think it needs a splash of fish sauce, too, and some cilantro, maybe a dash of celery seed to bump up the flavor. I have some fish sauce in my pantry somewheres...

Okay, its been an hour or more. I can let the soup cool a bit before I attempt to puree it in the blender. Too bad I wore out my immersion blender, because that is perfect for blending soups. I guess I need a new one...hint hint! Anyway, the recipe says to puree the soup and then strain it. I skipped the straining step, because I need all the fiber I can get. I served it with some Chinese fried noodles instead of croutons, too. Dang I'm good. Keeping it real! (as PW would say!)

What is Rachel doing on her show? Its playing and I am not even paying attention, but it looks like she might be making some kind of soup, as well. I need to back it up and see what she is doing. (Salmon and dill chowder!) Then I need to search for Anne's crostini recipe. Ahhhh! Such a busy day at home.

Creamy Chinese Celery Soup (Celery/Shallots/Leeks) 

Servings: 6  Prep Time: 30 Minutes  Total Time: 1 1/2 Hrs

For soup 
1 medium leek (white and pale green parts only),
1 medium russet (baking) potato 
1/2 cup chopped shallot 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
2 bunches Chinese celery (1 1/2 lb total),
 top leaves discarded and stalks cut into
 2-inch pieces 
1/2 cup dry white wine 
4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken 
broth (32 fl oz) 
1/2 cup heavy cream 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon black pepper 

For croutons 
6 (1/4-inch-thick) diagonal baguette slices 
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
Kosher salt to taste 

Garnish: fresh Chinese parsley leaves or 
flat-leaf parsley leaves 
Preparation: Make soup: Wash leek well in a bowl of cold water, then lift out and drain well. Peel and chop potato. Cook shallot in butter and oil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add leek and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add celery and potato and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add wine and boil 1 minute. Add broth and simmer, covered, until celery is very tender, about 1 hour. Purée soup in batches in a blender until very smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids), then pour through a large medium-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing hard on solids. Discard solids. Transfer soup to cleaned saucepan, then stir in cream, salt, and pepper and heat over low heat until hot. Thin with water if desired. Make croutons while soup simmers: Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush baguette slices with oil and season generously with kosher salt and pepper. Arrange in 1 layer on a baking sheet, then bake in middle of oven until golden brown and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve soup topped with croutons. Cooks' notes: • Soup can be made 1 day ahead and cooled, uncovered, then chilled, covered.

*Note: I added about 1/4 cup of fish sauce, 1/2 tsp celery seed, 1 tsp dried cilantro, and I sautéed the veggies in butter instead of olive oil. I didn't strain the soup prior to adding the cream, either. Just pureed it in the blender then added the cream.