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. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Part One: Ukrainian-influenced salads and appetizers

SLO Veg came through with just the right ingredients for my Ukrainian salads.

"The Best of Ukrainian Cuisine" is a cookbook collection of Ukrainian recipes by Bohdan Zahny. The book was given to me by a cousin from Philadelphia who also likes to cook, after she attended a Ukrainian festival in Philly and spied it. She knew I would love it!

Our grandmother was a Ukrainian immigrant who came to Philadelphia on a ship to live with relatives. She married an older Ukrainian man and together they had 10 children, 8 of who survived. Neither one of them spoke and they relied on their children to translate whenever necessary. As you can imagine, it was hard to navigate through the system in the New Country and obtain services such as medical, financial, educational, employment, etc., so they stayed pretty close to their neighborhood, surrounded by other Ukrainians. My grandmother was deeply religious and raised her children in the Ukrainian Byzantine Rite Catholic church. She kept up the customs she had grown up with in the Old Country, and recreated the traditional dishes for Christmas and Easter and other religious holidays throughout the year. My mother met my father, who was an officer in the Navy, stationed in Philadelphia, and she was 20 years old when they married and began their travels across the United States. By the time I was born, they had settled on the West Coast, far from any Ukrainian communities. When I was growing up, most kids had no idea what a "Ukrainian" even was! About all we siblings knew was that Mom had an intricate method for decorating Easter eggs, she made an Easter paska, or bread, and decorated it and had it blessed by our Catholic priest. She made cabbage rolls, called "Holopschi", for family dinners and church potlucks, making it her signature dish to bring to any event.

When my mother turned 85, we had a family dinner for her where we all tried to create Ukrainian dishes. It was a fun and creative way to learn something about our heritage and honor my mother, and I have tried to keep the annual family Ukrainian potluck going through the years. The standard has become holopschi made by my brother CC, borscht made by my sister Mac, and some new dish made by me. Last year I made perogies, or varenky as the Ukrainians call it. They are little dumplings filled with potatoes and cheese and any number of other things, depending on the season, I guess. They are filled and then boiled until the dough is cooked through, then finished with a quick saute in butter and onions. Most modern diets don't approve of butter-laden fried foods, so some of my female guests didn't even want to try this dish. The men seemed to love it, though. This year, with time constraints of my work scheduling, I need something less labor-intensive anyway, so I am making some salads and an appetizer. I already made the fish balls and put them into the freezer.

The night before the potluck, I will put together a cabbage-cucumber-apple-tomato salad with a sour cream-vinegar-sugar dressing. I don't recall my mother ever making this particular salad, but she loved to make a sweet and creamy dressing for coleslaw. She also used a lot of tomato wedges and cucumbers in her green salads, so I guess this would be right up her alley. I am also planning to make a carrot and apple salad, using the same dressing. Mom would have put raisins in it as well, so I will too.

Part Two: Cauliflower Salad with Tomato, Cucumber and Apple

SLO Veg cauliflower and tomatoes combined with apples and cucumber for a new salad version
One would think it might be dangerous to experiment on a new salad with your family, but then, hey, they are family. So they will be guinea pigs...they can deal with it. Well, maybe I will do a test-drive...

We are having our annual family potluck featuring Ukrainian dishes in honor of our mother, who was an American-born Ukrainian. She was much displaced, moving around the country with my Naval officer father in the first third of their marriage, far and away from her family and the Ukrainian community in Philadelphia. They settled in a West Coast town and lived out their days in an area that was unfamiliar with Orthodox customs my mom revered. She did, however, try to recreate some of her ethnic traditions and teach her children about their significance as she remember them. Easter was a major holiday for the Ukrainian Catholics, and much preparation went into the food for the holiday feast.

While my brothers and sisters are making some dishes often made by mother when we were growing up, such as stuffed cabbage rolls, scalloped potatoes and ham, and borscht. I, however, am selecting some dishes from my new cookbook, "The Best of Ukrainian Cuisine", by Bohdan Zahny, to perhaps broaden our depth of food experience in the Ukrainian culture. For this potluck, I have made appetizers: Cod Fish Balls, Tuna dip with rye crackers, and Cauliflower Salad with Tomato, Cucumber and Apple.
I wouldn't have thought to combine apples and tomatoes, but in this salad, it works

First, I chopped up two apples
Then I sliced cucumbers into quarter slices
The cookbook doesn't have any photos, and when the recipe says to finely chop the vegetables, I was not sure how fine of a chop it meant. So I just chose to slice and dice the apples into slivers, the cucumbers into quarter slices, and the tomatoes into a small dice. I put the apple slices into the mixing bowl first and squeeze a little lemon juice on it and let it sit while I chopped the cucumbers and tomatoes. Then the cooked cauliflower was broken up into small florets and added to the other vegetables. Next, I mixed up the sweetened sour cream and vinegar dressing. I used white vinegar, because that is what I would use in a coleslaw dressing. But again, I am not sure what specific type of vinegar is typically used in the Ukraine. The only seasoning is salt and pepper.

I didn't weigh the fruit: I just used one head of cauliflower, two medium sized apples, two medium sized tomatoes, and one English cucumber. I didn't peel the apple or cucumber.

The resulting salad was fresh and crunchy, and the dressing was really mild, giving it a clean and healthy feel. I think my daughters will like this salad. We will see what they think at potluck time!

Vegetables prior to adding the dressing
and after the dressing is added

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My Big Fat Greek Scalloped Potato Gratin

I started with this recipe, but I didn't have any thyme, so I also omitted the nutmeg and seasoned it with salt, pepper, basil, oregano, mint and garlic. I was making a Greek meatloaf, so I kept the seasonings similar in the potato gratin as well. The one thing is, my scalloped potato dish take more like two hours to cook. I thought if I gave it 90 minutes I would be good, so I put the meat loaf into the oven next to it after the potatoes had cooked for 30 minutes. Then, an hour later, I am taking out the meatloaf, which was done, and tested the potatoes, which still needed more time. We will see if two hours of cooking time does the trick. I had this problem the last time I made scalloped potatoes, too. I think I should probably parboil the potatoes next time or slice them paper-thin. Sheesh!

Recipe from the SLO Veg website:

Scalloped Potato Gratin ( Russet Potatoes/Garlic/Thyme)) 

Servings: 4-6  Level: Easy

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and
  cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for broiling
Directions: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a saucepan, heat up the cream with a sprig of thyme, chopped garlic and nutmeg. While cream is heating up, butter a casserole dish. Place a layer of potato in an overlapping pattern and season with salt and pepper. Remove cream from heat, then pour a little over the potatoes. Top with some grated Parmesan. Make 2 more layers. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Sprinkle some more Parmesan and broil until cheese browns, about 5 minutes.

My version:
Same recipe as above, only substitute the thyme and nutmeg for 1/2 tsp. each dried basil, oregano, and mint. It would probably have been even better with some feta cheese in there, but I used it all up in my Greek meat loaf.

Greek meat loaf with turkey

Greek seasoned meat loaf topped with barbecue sauce and sliced tomatoes
I decided to make a turkey meat loaf with a bit of a Greek twist: I flavored it with feta cheese and chopped spinach, and seasoned it with lemon juice, mint, oregano and basil, plus salt, pepper and garlic. I didn't measure anything, I just added about a teaspoon of each herb and about two teaspoons of a garlic-salt-pepper blend I have to three pounds of ground turkey. Then I added about a half cup of feta cheese and about one cup of chopped spinach. I had a recipe for turkey burgers that called for all of that, so I figured it would work in a meat loaf, too. I added 1/2 cup of bread crumbs and a raw egg to bind it together. I baked it at 350 degrees for one hour, then topped it with some bottled barbecue sauce and let it cook for another 10 minutes. In hind sight, I should have put some sliced tomatoes on top. Maybe I will after its cooked. Yeah, good idea.

Greek Turkey Meatloaf

3 lbs. ground turkey
2 tsp. garlic-salt-pepper blend
1 tsp. each basil, oregano, mint
1 tbls. lemon juice
1 egg
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
bottled barbecue sauce
sliced fresh tomatoes

Mix together the turkey with the seasonings, lemon juice, and egg. Stir in spinach, feta cheese and bread crumbs. Spoon into an 8x8 casserole dish and smooth out the top. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 1 hour. Top with barbecue sauce and bake for 10 more minutes. Top with fresh sliced tomatoes, cut into nine squares and serve.

Meatloaf mix all ready for the oven

Baked Cod Fish Balls

One pound of Black Cod
One of the things I really enjoy about our service from SLO Veg, where we get a tote box full of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables delivered to our door on a bi-weekly schedule, is the fish component. SLO Veg has partnered with SLO Fresh Catch to offer its customers fresh, locally caught ocean fish from the fisheries off Morro Bay.

Fish balls on a platter
Recipe from "The Best of Ukrainian Cuisine
This week's fish was Black Cod. We get a lot of cod fish: Black cod, Rock cod, Ling cod. Its a good white fish with thick fillets and we get one pound with our delivery. The problem is, there are still some pin bones in the fish that you have to watch out for when you eat it. I prefer the swordfish or tuna or Thresher shark steaks we get on occasion, because they don't have those small bones, and they are thick and dense and meaty, kind of like a beef steak.

But I keep trying the cod. Today I found a recipe in my Ukrainian Cuisine cookbook that solves the pin bone problem by grinding up the raw fish and making little fish balls out of it. I had just picked up a food processor and wanted to try it out, so this was perfect. The recipe is called, "Fish Balls from Cod and Farmer Cheese", and includes the title spelled out in Ukrainian, if you are adept at reading Ukrainian. I am not. I only know who to write "Xpuctoc Bockpec", which sounds like Khrystos Voskres, which translates in English to "Christ is Risen", because my mother would write that in colored icing on her Easter paska.

I am hosting a family potluck this coming weekend for my family where we all make some kind of Ukrainian dish in honor of my late mother, who was an American Ukrainian born to immigrant parents. She had a few recipes from the "Old Country", like stuffed cabbage rolls (called Holopschi), that she liked to recreate for our family. So my brother is making the holopschi, my sister is making borscht, and I am going to make a few side salads and appetizers from my cookbook. SLO Veg really came through this week for my salads with some cauliflower, tomatoes, radishes, carrots and green onion. I have two salad recipes that will utilized all of those vegetables (more on that later). One is a carrot salad with apples, and the other is a cauliflower salad with apples, tomatoes and cucumbers. Both call for a sour cream, vinegar and sugar dressing something like one would use on coleslaw. (There are no radishes in this photo...I need to fix that before I blog about the salads). But back to the fish balls.

I deviated from the recipe a bit. I soaked some wheat bread in milk (I don't
usually have any white bread around here, unless its sourdough), chopped up
Pureed fish and soaked bread
Cheddar Jack cheese gets mixed in with the fish
the fish in the food processor, then proceeded to chop just half an onion to go it it. The recipe called for soaking one-half pound of bread in water (I used 3 slices), and I had to look at the bread wrapper to see how much a whole loaf weighs:  1.2 lbs. It also called for farmer's cheese. I am not sure what kind of cheese that is. I had thought it was more like cottage or ricotta cheese, but the recipe said to grate it, so I used my cheddar-jack cheese blend. The only seasoning called for in the recipe was salt, but I added dried dill weed, salt and pepper, some lemon juice and some granulated garlic. Then I scooped out the mixture with my ball scoop and rolled them in a blend of flour and cornmeal, because I didn't want to just use flour.
I am a rebel.

Fish Balls

1 lb. cod filets
1/2 yellow onion
3 slices bread, soaked in 1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried dill weed
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tbs. lemon juice
1 cup shredded cheddar-jack cheese
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal

Puree the fish in a food processor and put into a mixing bowl. Chop one-half a yellow onion in the food processor and mix in with the fish. Season the fish with salt, pepper, dill and lemon juice. Put the bread slices in a shallow dish and pour the milk over it, then break up the bread into small pieces. Stir into the fish mixture. Add the shredded cheese and mix well.

Scoop the fish into balls and roll in a mixture of flour and cornmeal. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Serve with cocktail sauce.

Cod fish balls baking in the oven. These are pretty big. I think I will try my smaller ball-maker next time I make these, which will be the next time we get cod in our tote.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Breaded Pork Chops with apples and onions and taters

What's for dinner? Well, the planning started with the potatoes, because I had a lot on hand and they needed to be eaten. Then I went to the freezer and asked it, "What goes with mashed potatoes?" My freezer said pork chops, which was perfect, because I also had some apples that were a little beyond crisp, but would work well in a skillet dish. 

Apples and onions in a blueberry vinegar reduction with breaded pork chops and mashed taters

I had a recipe all bookmarked on Pinterest that paired breaded pork chops with onions, apples and spinach. I was fresh out of spinach, but I did have some curly kale to add to the dish. Perfect! The recipe also called for apple cider vinegar, spicy brown mustard and honey for the sauce, and I am all out of apple cider vinegar, too. However, a friend gifted us a bottle of some spicy blueberry vinegar from her recent travels to New York, so I figured that would be even better. No honey required because the vinegar is already sweet, another deviation from the recipe. Making it my own, I am!

So I peeled and boiled eight potatoes until they were soft and easy to smash, then I let my husband mash them up with some butter and salt and a dab of cream cheese thrown in for a rich creaminess. Meanwhile, I took four pork loin chops and dipped them in egg, then dredged them in a seasoned breadcrumb mixture. I had made my own breadcrumbs using some leftover french bread that I chopped in the blender. The breadcrumb mixture was seasoned with a couple of teaspoons of an onion soup mix that I put together myself and had in the pantry, and I added some garlic, salt and pepper mix to it as well. The chops were then pan fried in canola oil until the crumb coating was browned and crispy.

I removed the steaks to a serving dish, then proceeded to saute some onion slices in the same skillet I had fried the chops in, adding more canola oil to it. When the onions had wilted slightly, I added two peeled and sliced apples and sauteed them for about two minutes. Next, I mixed together 1/2 cup of the blueberry vinegar with two tablespoons of deli mustard and stirred that into the onion and apple skillet. Then I added two cups of chopped kale leaves. At this point, I added about a half cup of water gave it all a stir, and put the lid on the pan until the kale had wilted. I think this could all work by putting the mashed potatoes in a pasta bowl, topping it with the onion and apple saute, then the pork chops right on top. But I let everyone plate their own food, so it looked more like the picture at top, with everything separated.

Pork Chops with apples, onions and kale

4 pork loin chops
2 eggs, scrambled
1 cup bread crumbs, with added seasonings, such as onion soup mix, garlic, salt and pepper
canola oil

1/2 a large yellow onion, sliced
2 small apples, peeled and sliced
2 cups curly kale, chopped

1/2 cup Blueberry vinegar
2 Tbs Deli mustard
1/2 cup water

Dip the pork chops in the egg, then into the breadcrumb mixture, coating both sides well. Fry on both sides in a skillet with some canola oil, until the outside crumbs are browned and crispy. Place chops on a platter. Using the same skillet with more oil added, saute the onions until soft. Add the apple slices and cook for 2 minutes. Add the sauce ingredients and stir well. Add the kale and water, put the lid on the skillet and cook until the kale is wilted. Serve with mashed potatoes.

Sweet Potato Alfredo with Farfalline

Sweet Potato Alfredo sauce on Farfalline ribbon pasta - lotsa vitamin power here!

Sweet potatoes are such a wonderful food! I love them baked in their skins, mashed, diced and roasted, or pureed into soups. Now I can add sauces to that list. I was laying in bed this morning on my day off, nursing a sore throat and browsing my Pinterest recipes because we are getting our SLO Veg delivery today and I need to be prepared. : )

I still have some things to cook from the last delivery, because I am just not having a lot of time to cook with my new work schedule. If it doesn't get cooked Monday through Wednesday, its probably just not gonna get cooked, or prepped, or anything. So I have six or so assorted-sized sweet potatoes in my pantry, about five pounds of russet potatoes, a head of cauliflower and some curly-leafed kale. I finally used the last of my Dino kale in a soup last week, but I still have some soup leftover in the frig because I made a big pot-full. I have taken some to work to eat every day, too!

Anyhoooo, I saw a recipe for sweet potato alfredo and got all excited! I told my husband I just had to make it right now, for breakfast, and that I would put an egg on top if that made him happy. He agreed (What else could he do? Cook? hahahahahahahaha). So I made it; it was fabulous; and here it is:

Because we ate this at 9 a.m., I topped it with a fried egg. Breakfast of Champions!
Pretty, huh? Ribbon Farfalline
One cool think is I used my Torino brand ribbon farfalline pasta that I had picked up before the holidays, thinking I would use it for a special Christmas pasta dish. Instead I made lasagna and didn't use these here pasta noodles, which are naturally colored with spinach, beetroot, paprika and curcuma. (I had to look that up, too.) Curcuma: Its a type of plant that turmeric powder comes from.
That's great, because sweet potatoes are good for you, turmeric and beets are good for you, and when its all mixed together in this pasta dish, its a win-win! This sauce is going to be a go-to thing in the future, I am thinking! 

Here is how I made it:

Sweet Potato Alfredo

2-3 small or 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 lb. pasta (I used Torino Farfalline today)
water and salt for pasta
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk 
1-1/2 cups water
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

1) Bring a pasta pot of water to a boil. Cook 1 lb. pasta of your choice until al dente.

2) Peel and dice enough sweet potatoes to make 1-1/2 cups. Boil in water until soft and mashable. Drain water and mash potatoes. (You should have about 1 cup, mashed).

3) Melt and brown a cube of butter (1/2 cup) until browned in a large saute pan. Whisk in 1/2 cup of flour until it is smooth. Add one cup of milk and stir while it thickens, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mashed sweet potatoes, Parmesan cheese, 1 to 1-1/2 cups water, salt and pepper, and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper.

4) Gently stir in the farfalline pasta, being careful not to break them up too much. Serve in pasta bowls with a little more Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, or an fried egg, like we had this morning!

Bon apetit!