Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunning Herbs

Potted Herbs in Winter

We've had some very cold nights but today is quite sunny.
My potted herb garden is taking a sun bath while it can.
Soaking in more delicious vitality. I think I'll do the same.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Dill up your Veggies, Dips and More

Other uses for your pickle juice-carrots
See anything unusual about this image? It's a clue as to why not to throw out your pickle juice.

Bubbies makes some of the best pickles in America, so after you have finished your jar, don't throw out the juice. As it sugar, vinegar or preservatives.

Keep the wonderful kosher dill brine and re-use it to pickle up your carrots or other vegetables. Their recipe is gold medal, so why not take advantage of their amazing flavors and infuse your recipes with this delicious diller.

You can also add it to spike your deviled eggs, salad dressings and dips. Mix it into anything that would benefit from a splash of bright brine. Soups, tuna salad, BBQ sauce...

And, don't forget to grab a new jar of pickles when you are out. I get mine at Whole Foods.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Soup on Crispy Parmesan Toast

Soup on Crispy Parmesan Toast
I was given a crock pot recently and although I know the basics, turn it on and let it do the cooking, it was not being used. My first attempt was just to make some chicken soup with vegetables. I'm not much for appliance cooking and still feel a bit perplexed as to what can be done. There is no timer on this one. Just high, medium and low settings. I put everything in and tried the high setting. It worked fine. I'll still have to do some looking around and be a little more experimental. Pinterest has lots of examples, so I'll start there. The instruction insert had three basic recipes, nothing as interesting as some shared pins. Since I had little interest in crock pot cooking, glancing over was the extent of my viewing. Some great pans have covered all of my needs for anything I want to cook. Maybe my attitude will change.

Growing up my mother frequently used an electric skillet, and an electric griddle. Some people seem to like electric stuff. I like cooking with gas. At any rate, I tried it. The results were good. The ingredients cooked evenly and this is the yummy bowl of soup.

But here is the real treat of the whole experiment. Soup on toast!  A nice crusty buttered bread heal sprinkled with parmesan. As shown in the insert, the soup was both a lovely broth and a hearty heaping of I skimmed off some of the chicken and veggies and placed it on toast. Really tasty, really filling way to warm up on a cold day and satisfy all around.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tuna Two Ways-from Casserole to Soup

Simple. Delicious.

Tuna Casserole

Tuna Casserole Soup

This is my take on tuna two ways. When you make tuna noodle casserole, keep in mind that you can also have tuna noodle casserole soup. Simply take a baked casserole serving, pour over some boiling water and give it a quick stir. Or, you can heat some up in a pan with the water added. Ladle however much you want into a pretty bowl and add some red pepper flakes. Same ingredients, completely different presentation. What do you think?

Delicious, Versatile, Potato Bites

These little potatoes add a nice accent to any meal plate. Delicious hot or cold. I make enough that I have some left over and they are a yummy boost if I need something quick to eat. They are also great for breakfast. Cut them in half and toss them in a skillet to brown them up. If you like, add in some fresh veggies or mushrooms and serve alone, or with eggs. After I have washed the potatoes, I smooth on a little olive oil, so if you are reheating you don't need to add any oil to your pan. They crisp up perfectly in just a few minutes. These are the actual size, so what you see is what you get.

Potato Bites

Monday, December 9, 2013

Soup to Sauce Update

Wow Yum. I posted earlier today on a full meal but this is quite good too. I took my chicken broth watered down version of Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup, added in some leftover jasmine rice plus some miso and pepper. It's a full-bodied flavor that's a meal in a bowl. So satisfying and heart warming on a cold day. Lunch or dinner...add in some scrambled eggs and it would even be great for breakfast.

Simple, Warm, Delicious, Chicken and Rice Dinner

chicken and rice with fresh red peppers and chopped mixed green garnish

Who could argue...soup is good food. One of my favorite tag lines comes from Campbell's and two of my favorite quick soup to sauces, cream of chicken and cream of mushroom are two of Campbell's best. For this meal I thin out the condensed soup to a light cream gravy using chicken broth and water, then pour it over the chicken and rice. I cooked the chicken in a toaster oven for an hour and a half @ 200 and then cranked it up to 400 for 15 minutes to get it browned. Moist inside, crispy outside. The chicken was frozen so it took more time. Cooking from the freezer is not my favorite but it works when you are in a pinch. For the first hour I let it cook in the foil, then I open it up and pour some Italian dressing on it for extra flavor and to keep the chicken from drying out. The jasmine rice was prepared with chicken broth instead of water and gives the rice a nice boost. A quick side of fresh and crunchy pepper slices, also dressed with a light drizzle of Italian, a few chopped mixed greens, and you're all set.

It was soooooo cold here the last few days and this was a quick, warm, dose of comfort that hit the spot.

TIP: You can cook the chicken ahead of time and just warm it up before you're ready to plate. The chicken gravy is piping hot, and it will round out the heat to a perfect temperature.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Oh Martha Iceberg Redo

Martha Stewart really got some flack for her salad tweet posting recently so I thought I would try and redeem iceberg. I don't think I have ever bought iceberg although I thought this was the only kind of lettuce there was until my late teens. This particular head was more loose than I remember. My idea was to use a melon baller and scoop out little bites. I was partially successful and did a little side salad with an ode to other lettuce leaves garnish, some tomatoes and a sprinkle of cheese with pepper. This is decide. To iceberg or not to iceberg, that is the question.

Ode to Iceberg

Crustless Portobello Mushroom Pot Pie

So delicious! This takes a little time to prepare even though I had the potatoes already precooked. First, thoroughly clean the gills out of the mushroom. I use a spoon for the large center area and on the delicate edges a melon baller works well. If you're not careful these can tear, so take it easy. Next, I cut up my potato into nice small bites, kind of a mash chop. Line the bottom of your mushroom with the potato, next put in some peas. I had these leftover with a little butter, a perfect amount to add in. Then thin cut some carrots and top with a little asiago cheese and pepper. This layer is done. Continue building your portobello pie with another layer of finely chopped red bell peppers. I always squeeze the water out with a paper towel or things can be too wet for my taste. Finish with a nice heap of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a few broccoli florets. I baked these covered in a glass pan for about 45 minutes @ 325. For the first 25 minutes I let them dry cook and then I add some water into the bottom of the pan to create some mushroom au jus. Plate with some lightly steamed broccolini. I peel the stems after washing and this is a nice tender touch. When you are ready to serve, spoon some au jus onto the base of the plate. I had some stew broth in the freezer and melted it before serving. These two flavors work really well together. You can use just the mushroom jus for a lighter flavor or add a bit of a thickener as I did.

History note: The name "portobello" was created in the '80's as a marketing strategy. Growers usually threw these mushrooms away because they were considered ugly and people would not buy them. Another example of how a name can make all the difference in how something is perceived. The same is true of broccolini, a trademarked name for a cross between broccoli and Chinese Kale.

Portobello Stuffed

Portobello Stuffed with Veggies and Potato

Portobello Mushroom Pot Pie

Plated Portobello Pot Pie with Broccolini

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Classic Ham and Eggies on Toast with Cheese Melt

There's been a whole lot of cooking going on the past few days and I just wanted something simple. The fridge is kind of cleared out but I had some boiled ham, eggs and cheese. This tasty toast was created in a jiff. I took the boiled ham and sliced it in to super thin ribbons and did a quick crisp in a pan. Hard cooked eggs were the next layer. Then I sprinkled a little cheese. A few more egg slices, a little more cheese, and last was a light garnish of the crispy ham. Warm for a minute or two in the oven for the cheese melt. Half a slice is plenty if you have a large loaf of bread. This is yummy sourdough. My favorite.

Maybe something for you to try if you want quickie eats. If you don't eat meat, I suggest zucchini ribbons as the base. Just cook them to a nice crispy and it will be equally, if not more delicious. The color contrast of egg and zucchini is lovely.

A slice of delight, classic ham and eggies
Open Faced Ham and Eggies
Ham and Eggs on Toast

Friday, November 29, 2013

Baby Meyer Lemons

It's gonna be awhile before these are ready to enjoy but I tell's worth the wait. If you don't already have a Meyer lemon tree plant...get one. It's pure delicious delight!

Meyer Lemon Early Growth

Baby Meyer of the most wonderful things you can have in your garden...when they are ready to harvest, you'll have many recipes that will appreciate their sweet squeeze of zest. If you don't have one already, give it a try. You'll have to be diligent with care and feeding, but it is worth the effort. Diligent is from diligere which means to love, take delight in. I hope you will!

November Garden Update

eleven days of romaine regrowth

I said I would give an update on the lettuce. This is after 11 days and it's really fun to see it regrow. Yes, it's November 29 in California and the lettuce seems to like the sunshine. Have you tried this yet? If not, I think you'll enjoy watching something regenerate itself in quick order.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cran-Crazy Recipes

Chicken thigh salad
I admit I've gone a little cran-crazy, but it is my favorite seasonal gift. Also, the pomegranates added in to the's a perfect combo.

This first shot is a salad with a crumb crusted chicken thigh medallion marinated in chicken broth, with shallots, carrots, celery and thyme. So tender and juicy and a wonderful centerpiece for a salad.
Cran-Pom Salad mix with goat cheese
For the vegetarian set, this is just about the best seasonal salad you can make. Full of superfood and bursting with flavor.
Stacked Cran-Brownie
I don't usually focus on dessert, but this tiny bite is filled with satisfying flavor and won't bust your calorie count for the day.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Make Ahead Cheesy Baked Potato with Spicy Salsa or Casserole Cuisine

One potato, two potato. This is a quick and easy meal anytime of day. Baking potatoes to perfection in the oven takes about two hours. I leave the skins on, poke with a fork and lightly butter before I make a foil tent package. Once they are cooked, I refrigerate over night. Cooking and then cooling makes it easier to cut nice slices. This is just one example of what you can do for a topping. For this recipe I sliced up some good sized segments, reheated the potatoes and topped them with grated cheese for a yummy melt and added some spicy salsa. One large potato easily serves two. As an alternative, you can under cook the potato a bit. Use the same cooling technique before slicing and then make a potato casserole. Layer the potatoes and add in whatever you like. Do at least one layer of potatoes, then your other ingredients and a final top layer of potatoes with a garnish. Timing the second phase of cooking the potatoes will be about thirty minutes.

Baked Potato Slices with Cheese and Salsa

Monday, November 18, 2013

Naturally Delicious Cran-pom Purée

cranberry jam puree
Another reminder to get your cranberries now. Make some beautifully smooth puree and use in your recipes for the holidays. Freeze what's left over or increase your batch to make sure you have some extra throughout the year. This mix was made with brown sugar instead of white and included pomegranate seeds.

The cran-jam is also great for next day turkey sandwiches.

I also love it mixed into some goat cheese for a tasty spread.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Learning about Lettuce

I saw a posting on Pinterest last week about not throwing out your lettuce cuttings. After making salad last night I saved the bottoms. They said it will regrow. I don't remember which page, so I have to wing it. So here we go, I'll keep you posted as to the progress with my little experiment. I'll bet there are lots of other things we can do to conserve and create new beginnings. If you know of some, please share them with all of us. In the meantime, it makes some lovely art and planting. If you don't want to try this with me, an alternative is to use it as a natural centerpiece for your table.

Art of Regrowing Romain

Potting romain

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sriracha Chicken Salad

Nothing fancy, but oh so good. Sriracha is really popular and mixing it in to your chicken adds a great punch of flavor. I have mentioned before that it's good to have shredded chicken on hand. Fresh or frozen for a quick fix. Top it off with a little freshly grated parmesan and rainbow pepper. Delicious flavor combinations with a crunchy crisp.

Hot n' spicy Chicken Salad

Curry Chicken and Rice. A Dish to Warm your Heart...

Curry Chicken and Rice with Carrots and Poms

This small plate of curry chicken served over rice with sliced carrots, pomegranate and pepper is delicious. The spicy curry flavor and its broth are a perfect combination with the sweetness of carrots and the bright tartness of the pomegranate seeds. The plating is simple but it's a feast for the eyes. You can eat this hot or cold. If you know you won't have time to cook...make the curry chicken ahead of time and then cook the rice when you are ready. Pop the pomegranate seeds on just before serving.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Culture and Cuisine.

Opening your heart through your stomach.

Finding love for others is as simple as the food you enjoy. Cultural cuisine is an opportunity to get to know your brothers and sisters around the world.

If you love their food, you will find you can love the country of origin and its people.

Are you with me? Vote with your mouth.

Cultural Cuisines of the World

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Pomegranate. Juicy Jewels with Healthy Benefits

This super food is low in calories and high in two essential vitamins, C & K and offers the added benefit of phytochemicals. Known also as the seeded apple, the arils are fiber rich with many health advantages. Used in many culinary dishes, this in-season juicy jewel is something you'll want in your kitchen.

One half of pomegranate de-seeded

This is one half of a pomegranate seeded.
A perfect serving of

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Spiral Cut Cucumber Salad with Rice Wine Vinegar

This is a beautiful way to serve and eat your cucumbers.
Spiral cut and topped with rainbow pepper and rice wine vinegar.
So simple and so satisfying!

Spiral cut cucumber salad with rice wine vinegar and freshly cracked rainbow pepper

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Home Menus—Peas and Baked Potato Salad or Baked Potato, Peas, and Steak?

Sometimes people have different appetites and having alternatives, even for your home menu offerings, is a good way to satisfy different taste buds. Here are two ways to cook the same ingredients but serve them differently. One is the hearty steak, baked potato with cheese and peas, the other is a baked potato salad with fresh and crisp salad ingredients. A simple switch that your family will appreciate. Choice is good.

Baked Potato and Pea Salad

Steak, Baked Potato and Peas Plated

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Serving a Small Plate of Tilapia Salad

small plate of tilapia salad
You don't have to do much to get some tasty going on. This small plate of fish on salad is delicious and nutritious. I quickly grilled some tilapia and the salad is just a quick chop. Squeeze some lemon on top and it's ready.

I find eating on small plates makes for a more intimate relationship with the food. Little plates, little bites, but it all tastes special.

You can always have another plate if you want, but when you start small it satisfies the senses and helps cut back on calories.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sensational Soy Soup-Miso Happy

Miso! Miso!

Having a yummy bowl of soy soup is so satisfying. It's ready in minutes. I chopped up some spinach and added a few carrots to this bowl, but you can add anything you want or nothing at all. The soy paste is a wonderful broth all on its own, or used as a marinade for fish or sauteed dishes. Maybe you just add in some ramen. Tofu is a very popular ingredient. However you fix it, it's one tasty flavor you'll want to keep on hand. Soy bean paste is vitamin and mineral-rich plus high in protein. There are many kinds of miso available. Most American markets carry white, red, and brown miso but if you have a nice Japanese market near by, they have a larger selection. Buy organic!

IMPORTANT TIP:  You don't want to cook your miso paste. Never boil miso. Simmer your desired add-in ingredients in water or stock, dissolve miso in a small amount of water and then combine.

Bowl of miso soup with carrots and spinach

Monday, October 28, 2013

Spicy Hot Link Sausages

My neighbor is a year-round griller. Last May he shared some of what he was cooking and although I don't eat sausage very often, these are so good I asked him to pick some up on his latest run to Costco. Six months may be too long in between visits with these naturally smoked, flavor-filled hot links. They are made in California by Evergood Fine Foods and are fully cooked, gluten free, milk free and egg free. They come packaged in three sets of four hot links for $10.00. A great buy if you want an almost instant meal. Just heat and serve. Mustard, fresh ground black pepper and a few green peppercorns add just enough zip and I'm thinking if you like hot links, you're gonna love this combination.

hot link sausage with mustard and green peppercorns

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Black Bean Nacho Nights

Nachos are a great go-to when you need to feed a crowd some quick delicious. I made two kinds. One without extra cheese on top except for a garnish, and another with crumble crunch tortillas and extra cheese. The only thing that takes a little time is cutting up the ingredients for the salsa fresca.

This salsa just has chopped tomatoes, serrano chili peppers, red peppers, chili flakes, sriracha and a half lemon/lime squeeze. One can of black beans, tortilla strips and some mex-mix cheese is the rest of the party.

Each nine inch pan serves about 4 people.

Close up of nacho ingredientsTasty plate of black bean nachos with melted cheese and home made pico salsaNachos before the bakeBlack Bean Nachos with crunchy crumble tortilla chips and extra cheese

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Joy of a Salad Spinner

I realized while cutting up my veggies for a salad and the ease of washing it all with my salad spinner that it brought me great joy. Truly, great joy. All the colors were playing with my eyes, I could feel their freshness and taste the crunch before I had even taken a bite. Cooking brings so many pleasures, but the amazing array of colors I get to interact with while prepping has to be one of the highlights. This salad spinner has an awesomely bright green insert that is a nice frame to hold everything. My point in writing this, and sharing the image, is to remind you of just how amazing life can be if you stop and see some of the simple wonder right in front of you. There is even satisfaction in pulling the cord to spin out the water, grateful that I have hands that offer me the ability to do so. Oh, I know... it all sounds a bit Polly-Anna but I think she knew how to see things in a happy light. And I do too. Take a moment today and spin some fresh thinking in to your heart. It can be right in front of you, just waiting to be noticed.

Salad spinner and Fresh Salad Ingredients

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fastest Frozen Pizza in the West

I try new products as they come on the market and this new pizza from Safeway® is excellent. It's a Margherita with a wood-fired crust. Hand-Stretched and baked in Italian wood-burning ovens. (it's a product of Italy) and cooks in 7-8 minutes. Adding a few toppings always enhances these store bought pizzas, and gives it a more homemade look and taste. For this first taste test I used a spoonful of marinara and meat sauce, a tomato slice, some basil, chives and asiago sprinkles on the mozzarella rounds which are on each slice. Then I tossed on a few more tomato bits. It was delicious. I don't know for sure, but I think this is the fastest cooking time for a frozen pizza and one I would buy again. If you have a Safeway near you, I give this a complete thumbs up and think you will too. As a base pizza that you add toppings to, or one straight out of the's a wood-fired winner. Keep a few on hand when you need a quick fix.

New Safeway Wood-Fired Frozen Margherita Pizza with extra toppings

Monday, October 21, 2013

Cranberry Harvest is On-Relish the Season

It's here, it's here! It's cranberry time. One of my favorite things to make with cranberries is a mix for salad dressing. Once I cook the cranberries, a simple mix of water and sugar to taste, I freeze the sauce to use it all year long. If you prefer, you can just freeze the whole bag of berries and make what you need, but I like having it on hand for quick and easy dressing or a saucy glaze. For the salad dressing, mix a large spoonful of cranberry relish in to vinegar and olive oil for a bright burst of flavor.

So, go out and get some cranberries now, before it's too late.

TIP: Before you freeze it, you'll want to put it through a strainer if it's a more chunky sauce, or cook it a little longer, and crush the berries to thin it down.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tasty Mistakes Take a Shot at Convention

Chili SIde Shot in a cordial glass
Just a quick post about tasty mistakes. Today a friend was fixing spaghetti for lunch and did not like the jar sauce taste. It's a good sauce overall, but was not meeting her taste buds with satisfaction.

What to do...I took the basic sauce and a few things that were on hand to recreate it in to chili side shots topped with cheese and chives.

I've posted my chili preferences earlier, but this new twist is nice.

Made from the marinara sauce base, it had a creamy, yummy, extra smooth flavor I had not previously achieved.

It's extra fun in the glass. Serve as a side shot...the mouth of the cordial glass is just big enough for a spoon. Dress it up a bit with a chive garnish, and it's a "V' for victory.

cheese and chive topping with garnish

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Steamed Spinach Sandwich with Crunchy Carrots and Pumpkin Seeds

steamed spinach sando on whole wheat with crunchy carrots and pumpkin seeds
Time to lighten up your lunch with some crunch. Steam some spinach, and squeeze out the moisture. Form it in to a nice
pattie and place it on the lightly toasted whole wheat bun. Top with carrot slices, pumpkin seeds and a little of your favorite cheese.
Sprinkle a few red pepper flakes and it's ready to eat.

You can make the spinach ahead and put it in the fridge.

This is delicious hot or cold.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Tomato Soup Mac & Cheese

kids meals-tomato soup mac & cheese

Keep it simple for the kids. Make your Mac & Cheese.
Add in a few spoons of tomato soup.
Top with a few greens and some happy cheese.
Ready to serve in minutes.
Get your kids to make this for themselves.
They will feel proud of it and enjoy the simple pleasure.
Add any other ingredients you like.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Poached Tilapia in Butter and Lemon Juice Bath with Spinach and Tomatoes

Prepping for success.Spinach, Tomatoes and Lemon Ice
This is a really quick meal to put together and deliciously fresh. Doing the prep ahead makes it a lot easier. Fortunately, I have a lovely Meyer lemon tree and also some frozen lemon ice from the last harvest.

Hand selecting and de-stemming the spinach takes a little time, as does the chiffonade but it's all worth it.

The tomatoes are simple slicing and then I de-seed. Putting them in a bowl keeps them all in one place and then I add the water. Cleaning out all the seeds and draining the water a few times to make sure I have not missed any.

Using a non-stick pan, I melt the butter and then add in the lemon ice shavings. Next, I put the boneless, skinless Tilapia fillet in the pan, cover with a lid and let it cook slowly. Once it's tender, I add in the spinach and tomatoes at the last minute for a very quick steam. (The spinach is sliced so thin, it can even cook itself on the plated fish)

Poached Tilapia with Spinach and Tomatoes
Carefully plate your fish with a broad spatula. The fish is very tender and can break apart if you are not careful. Then pour the lemon and butter sauce onto your plate.

Serve with a mini side salad topped with asiago and about three or four drips of ranch dressing. Rim the salad with some of your fresh spinach.

Finish with freshly grated pepper and a squeeze of lemon to taste.

TIP: If you have some broken pieces or actually prefer that to this formal setting, it still looks and tastes great.

Plus, if you have some leftovers, it's great over a crisp salad or in a fish taco.

PS. These are frozen Tilapia that are individually wrapped. Perfect for either single or group servings at the last minute.
Read To Chef Spinach
Meyer Lemon Ice Shavings topped with lemon slice