To Press or Pour?

If you start your day with a strong cup of joe for more than just the jolt of caffeine, you also care about the flavor that really drives the coffee experience. While I will admit that a Keurig adds simplicity to getting that morning cup of joe quickly, there’s something to be said for the more traditional methods, pour over and French press coffee.

Pour Over

Pour over coffee allows for more control over the quality of the cup of joe. To start, some fresh ground beans go along way to a quality cup of coffee. If not, already ground coffee works as well. The real magic happens with a slow pour of boiling water over the ground coffee, where the pourer can ensure an even pour over the grounds to maximize the flavor in the cup of morning joy. An additional benefit to this method is the filtering ensures the cafestol, an oil in coffee beans that affects how the body metabolizes and regulates cholesterol, is filtered out. This gem of a method also comes at the fraction of the cost of some new modern tools at less than $20 for a kit. I found my glass pour over at Tuesday Morning. Other place you can likely find them inexpensively include Big Lots and Amazon.

Pro Tip: If you are trying to cut back on the sugar, try adding half of what you would usually use to the grounds before pouring the water over. The sugar gets better incorporated into the dripped coffee and reduces the need for the lump sum of coffee that is typically used.

French Press

A French press involves steeping the grounds in boiling water for at least 20 minutes to create a rich and bold flavor in the cup of coffee. When using a high quality bean, this method maximizes the flavor of the cup of coffee and ensures your cup of joe will be satisfying and strong. Similar to pour over coffee, this method is great to include half the sugar in the steeping process for reduced sugar consumption. The French Press can also be inexpensive with traditional glass devices. Stainless steel options, though more expensive, could be preferred for retaining the heat of the coffee, if you prefer to slow sip throughout the morning.

Pro Tip: Be sure to find the appropriate filters as this method tends to retain coffee oils such as cafestol which can impact cholesterol regulation in the body.

While more flavorful than other methods, the richness of the French press is likely best as a treat and had in all its glory. For the everyday use, a nice pour over still delivers more flavor and a consistent cup of coffee than some of the quicker more modern methods. I for one am in favor of tradition.

Turkey Chili

Since it’s officially cold outside, its the season for soups, stews and chilis. This turkey chili packs a punch and is perfect to warm up from a cold day. It’s also a perfect dish to restock your supply of homemade freezer meals. I am a big fan of batch cooking, meaning you freeze at least two portions of whatever is made. One pot wonders like chili are great options for this. This chili was ready in 90 minutes. While it can be eaten in less time, I like to give it a little extra time for the flavors to marinate. Check out the recipe below.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. all natural ground turkey
  • 1 small can chipotle chilis in adobo sauce
  • 1 14.5oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 14.5oz can dark red kidney beans
  • 1 14.5oz can diced tomato (no salt added)
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 2 tbsp fresh minced garlic
  • 2 cups chicken stock

Directions:

  1. Dice onion and mince garlic and add to a large pot over medium heat. Stir gently until onions start to sweat.
  2. Add ground meat and brown. Open and add the two cans of diced tomato. Add the can of beans.
  3. Add seasoning. Remove chilis from the can and chop fine before adding to the pot. Stir well then add stock.
  4. Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer. Stir occasionally.
  5. Optional: dice green onion and slice avocado to top chili. Add salsa and sour cream to cool it down.
  6. Enjoy!

Gift Ideas for Home Chefs

Every year it’s always a question of what to get loved ones for the holidays. With so many foodies stepping up their kitchen game, there are endless options of kitchen tools for easy food wins with new food creations. Below are my top three recommendations for kitchen must haved.

  1. Quality Knives are are must. Every home chef needs a set of good knives. The quality of the knives impacts not just the neatness of the cut or dice, but also the speed of food prep. After years of changing out knives every couple of years, I was thrilled to discover the Cutco brand of knives. While the expense is certainly on the front end, these knives come with a forever guarantee. I personally started with the 3-piece sheath set at about $300 and it is a set that can always be added to. With the holidays, there are bound to be sales for this great gift for home chefs.
  2. A Garlic Press is a kitchen must have. As a deep lover of garlic, I use at least a head of garlic per dish and sometimes the effort of peeling and chopping garlic leaves my nails smelling like garlic the next day. The Chic Chic press I received was hands down one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten. This is great for small amounts for dressings or marinades, or large amounts for roasts or rubs. At less than $20 for a good press, this is an easy win for a gift for a favorite home chef.
  3. An oil mister is an undervalued kitchen gem. With the new interest in air fryers and other healthy eating appliances, an oil mister is a great way to make proteins crispy, add minimal oil to a salad or grease a pan for morning egg scrambles. My Misto oil mister has served me very well. I’ve been able to use it for both avocado and olive oil which has been great for mixing things up.

These are three gems that I use daily in most cases. If you would like to gift my top three kitchen gems, check out Cutco’s website for their specials on knives. The other two can be found through Amazon or specialty shops such as Williams and Sonoma.

A Little Greek

Having variety when doing meal prep is a must. It gets boring eating the same things cooked the same ways and one easy way to add variety is to add herbs and create flavorful sauces to complement the protein of choice. This week I decided on crispy baked rosemary and thyme chicken with millet salad and a tasty tzatziki sauce. Check out the recipe below and share your thoughts.

Ingredients:

6 large drumsticks

1/2 cup sliced cherry tomatoes

2 tbsp. chopped mediterrean olives

1 tbsp of olive oil or cooking spray

4 tbsp chopped dried rosemary

1 tbsp onion powder

1 tbsp garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup dried millet

1 tbsp fresh thyme (reserve for millet)

1 clove of garlic minced or pressed (for millet)

1 cup of liquid (water and chicken broth)

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes

1/8 cup feta cheese

2 tbsp fresh basil

Tzatziki Ingredients:

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1/2 juiced lemon

2 tbsp mint 

1/2 cup diced cucumber

1 clove of fresh garlic minced or pressed

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a pan with foil. 
  2. Chop dried rosemary. Rinse chicken and add to lined pan. Drizzle oil on the chicken and rub evenly on chicken. Sprinkle seasoning in an even coating, including the rosemary and place in oven. Set timer for 35 minutes.
  3. Wait 10 minutes before starting the millet. Add millet and liquid to a medium pot with thyme, garlic and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then top and reduce heat to low for 15 minutes.  
  4. While millet and chicken cooks, dice cucumber and set aside. Add yogurt to a medium bowl, add minced or pressed garlic, squeeze in fresh lemon juice, chop mint and add to the bowl. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  5. Strain any remaining liquid from millet. Add to a bowl. Slice cherry tomatoes into quarters and chop olives and add to the bowl. Rip in basil and add in feta cheese. Mix well. 
  6. Plate and enjoy.

A Variety Of Salmon

Salmon is one of my absolute favorite things to eat and I can literally eat it multiple ways in the same week. When looking for options, here are a few of my go-tos.

Salad: searing salmon with some fresh herbs and fresh lemon juice is a great way to pack in the flavor and keep it simple. In addition to a variety of greens, I like to things like avocado, walnuts and chopped apples to round out the nutrition. 

Basil Pesto: Pesto makes everything wonderful and is especially tasty with Salmon. With a few simple ingredients: basil, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil, this is a quick sauce to make that holds up well throughout the week. I find that I like it with and without Parmesan, especially when watching the added fats in a dish. You can always experiment with other nuts you have on hand if you’re not a fan of pine nuts.

Simply Seasoned with a whole grain: A little pressed garlic and fresh squeezed lemon juice is a simple accompaniment to salmon. I also love to use fresh thyme and lemon and served over warm quinoa or a bulgur pilaf.

What’s your favorite way to prepare salmon? Let me know your thoughts on my favorites.

Revive Your Salad Game

Spice up your salad game with new flavors to keep things interesting. People often lament eating salads; however it’s important to keep them flavorful and filling. I like to change up both the proteins and the assortment of veggies. Check out two ideas below.


Chicken Fajita Salad: All of the accompaniments of chicken fajitas make a wonderful salad with a few handfuls of mixed greens. I caramelized onion with yellow, red and green bell peppers with mushrooms and sautéed some spicy chicken to go on top a bed of mixed greens, sliced and seasoned avocado and some sliced jalapeño peppers. This can be an intentional dish, or a way to repurpose leftovers from a taco night.


BBQ pork salad: Flavorful pork can definitely make the slide of vegetables go down easier. For this salad I used mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumber and some assorted olives I had on hand. You could always swap the olives for picked jalapeños if you typically eat those with the pulled pork. I topped the salad with some microgeens I have been growing for some added nutrients and flavor. Keep the dressing simple with a lime and garlic dressing or balsamic vinegar just on the greens. There’s plenty of fat on the salad already with the olives, avocado and pork so adding more in the dressing is not needed. Once again this salad is a great way to use leftover bbq, roasted pork or chicken to mix up meals or get in more vegetables. 

Helping Hands

Tasty and healthy meal assistance

A little help from the store can go a long way to making quick work of dinner. I’m a big fan of portioned proteins for easy freezer storage and easier use for making the right number of portions at a given time. This shrimp and kale dish was elevated with a simple sauce using onion, garlic, a little stock and a roasted eggplant and tomato spread from Trader Joe’s. The spread while low in calories, was packed with flavor that easily added to this quick dish. This took 10 minutes to make and additionally, I made enough to freeze. You can always double this portion for a family of 4 or to have additional portions to freeze for easy meals during a busy week. Check out the recipe below.

Ingredients:

1/2 lb of shrimp

2 cups fresh kale

1/2 cup of fresh mushrooms sliced

1/2 cup of onion

1/4 cup of chicken or seafood stock

1/4 cup of eggplant spread

1/2 tbsp avocado oil (or olive)

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1 tbsp onion powder

1 tbsp garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch of water


Directions:

  1. Rinse and kale and add to a skillet with a pinch of water over medium heat. Add onion and stir.
  2. Slice mushrooms while kale cooks and add mushrooms to the pan. Season and reserve a little of the powders for the shrimp. Cook for 3-5 mins.
  3. Add the eggplant spread and stir in. Add stock to deglaze the pan. Cook for 2 minutes and add to a plate.
  4. Add oil and let it warm. Add shrimp and seasoning and cook for 2.5 minutes before flipping and cooking for the same time.
  5. Top greens mixture and enjoy.

Charcuterie Nights

Adult Lunchables

Sometimes a grown up lunchable in the form of a charcuterie board makes a quick dinner and is fun to entertain with. I like to add an assortment of salami, garlic stuffed olives, caper berries, fresh fruit (blueberries, cherries, strawberries ) and of course cheese. For small groups my go to options are an herbed goat cheese that I top with a drizzle of honey, some smoked Gouda and a smoked or peppered cheddar.


But if its an individual party, adding some greens or salad is an easy addition to balance out the richness. It’s as simple as finding a mix of meats and cheeses that appeal to your tastes. I personally like the Columbus brand variety of salami and the Brooklyn Cured brands, but I’m always on the hunt for new tasty additions. Additionally, I like to add surprises to the board such as coffee dark chocolate or chocolate covered almonds. What’s your favorite mix? Please leave a post to reply.

Sip and Breathe

Simple Syrup

With Labor Day fast approaching, it’s a great time to start planning the drink menu. This is the perfect time to kick back with a small group of family and friends and take a moment to relax. Why not do it in style? I’ve been experimenting with homemade simple syrups after my friend Carolyn showed me just how easy it is. Check out this recipe for my lavender mint simple syrup to make a simply superb French 75. During my time in Rochester NY, I fell in love with a local lilac gin by Black Button Distillery, but this cocktail can be made with any favored infused gin or vodka. I recommend making the simple syrup ahead of time over the weekend or the day before, just to save yourself some time. Any left over syrup can be used for cold or hot tea!


Simple Syrup Ingredients:

1 /2 cup dried organic lavender

2 sprigs of fresh or dried mint

2 cups of distilled water

1.5 cups of raw sugar

3 clean food pouches or a glass jar.

Directions:

  1. Bring water to a boil. Add measured lavender and mint to a bowl.
  2. When water boils, cover lavender and mint and cover bowl with a plate or lid.
  3. Let lavender water steep for at least a hour but no more than 2 hours.
  4. Strain water into a measuring cup and add water and sugar into a medium pan and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce to medium low heat and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes.
  7. Add to food pouches or glass jar with an airtight lid. Store in a cool, dry place or refrigerate.

The drink below serves 1. Just multiply each ingredient for the number of drinks prepared. 🙂 If you are making more than two drinks, I’d recommend buying cold pressed lemon juice or your preferred product to save on the manual labor.


French 75 Ingredients:

1.5 oz infused gin

1 oz cold pressed or fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/2 oz of simple syrup (double if you like sweeter drinks)

3 oz of champagne

Directions:

  1. Add gin to a glass, add simple sugar and mix with a spoon
  2. Add lemon juice and top with champagne
  3. Optional: zest a lemon for garnish 
  4. Enjoy

Planning for Meal Prep

Meal prep made easy

Its that time a year where meal prep is critical, or as the kids say, clutch! I am a big fan of giving myself variety through meal prep and dinner bowls are not only cost effective, but offer variety. At a lofty $3.50 per serving, these beans, greens and grains bowls are tasty and cost effective. I made enough for the week, to share and to freeze. The trick is to break it into the basics.


Grains: I like to explore new seeds and grains and for these bowls I used a quinoa, bulgur wheat mixture for some varied nutrients. This served as the base for the bowls and a side for a couple of other meals.


Greens: As a Southerner, I love a good pot of greens. I made huge pot mixing kale, turnips, collards and mustards with a bunch of garlic and onion. It should be cooked until tender which is usually 20-30 minutes with the pre-chopped bags I used.


Proteins: Stewed black beans with fire roasted tomatoes are a great addition for vegetarian bowls or chicken fajita bowls (adding optional avocado). I also baked fish and sautéed two chicken breast for varied bowl options. 


Tip: Cut onion ahead of time and freeze it. I dice, slice and finely chop onion and store it in small freezer bags to have on hand. I do the same with bell pepper! This made it easy to caramelize onions and peppers for the chicken fajita bowl option.


Cooking:

  1. Start with the greens. With 1 1/2 diced onion and a head or two of minced garlic, add it to a large pot with a cup of water. Rinse a large bag of greens and add to the pot. Preheat the oven for the fish.
  2. While that cooks, start the grains, following the cooking instructions on the bag or your usual method if using a favorite. I used half stock, half water for some extra flavor and a few cloves of minced garlic.
  3. Stir greens and season well with salt, pepper, onion and garlic powders and cayenne. Start stewed tomatoes on stove top and cook down for a few minutes before adding a cup of water and a can of beans. Season well. 
  4. Bake fish of choice with some fresh thyme and lemon and a drizzle of avocado or olive oil. While that bakes, season a sear the chicken breasts (or thighs).
  5. Optional: use pan from chicken to caramelize onions and peppers for the chicken fajita bowls.
  6. Remove fish from oven and turn off stove tops. Let food begin to cool before adding to storage containers.
  7. Freeze or share additional portions.