Lessons in Kitchen Mishaps

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So I did something I haven’t done in years; I burned a creation that I just knew would be mouth-watering delicious. I even shamefully ate it partially cold at lunch, afraid that it might smell a little scorched. While trimming my tomato plants, repotting herbs that I started indoors, and working on my spinach trellis, I lost track of time and my inspired dish suffered. Though my spicy stewed coconut chicken dish was not perfect as intended, the ginger basil fried rice was it’s saving grace as that had my full attention. It was also a good reminder that time waits for no one, so neglecting to set a timer thinking “this won’t take long” is a recipe for scorched food. I sufficiently learned my lesson. This is a pretty inexpensive dish, using chicken legs as a base which adds lots of flavor while being wallet friendly. Even the fried rice required little using items already on hand. If you’d like to try a non-scorched version, check out the recipe below.

Spicy Stewed Coconut Chicken 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pack of chicken legs (4 count)

1 can diced tomato

6oz coconut milk

6 cups of water

2 cups of chicken stock

1 cup of chopped spinach

1 cup diced onion

3 cloves of grated garlic

2 tbsp. fresh basil

1 tbsp. garlic powder

1 tbsp. fresh ground peppercorn (or coarse black pepper)

1 tsp. cayenne (optional)

1 tsp. sea salt

Directions:

  1. Bring water and stock to a boil in a medium pot. Rinse and add chicken legs, garlic powder and ground peppercorns or pepper. Boil for 18 minutes.
  2. Remove chicken and cut from the bone before adding back into the pot. Add diced tomato (with liquid), coconut milk, basil and cayenne. Grate in garlic or mince well and add.
  3. Peel and dice a small onion and add to pot. Cook for 10 minutes on simmer, then rinse, chop and add spinach. 
  4. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Enjoy with plain or fried rice.

Ginger Basil Fried Rice

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked white or brown rice (preferably a few days old)

2 eggs

2 tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce

1 small carrot grated or in slivers

1 tbsp. sriracha 

1 tsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. grated ginger

2 cloves of sliced garlic

3 tbsp. chopped basil 

1 tbsp. oil (olive, avocado or coconut oil)

Directions:

  1. In a wok or large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Slice garlic and chop basil while oil heats.
  2. Add garlic and basil and stir to infuse in the oil. Add rice and stir occasionally, lightly browning for 5 minutes.
  3. Grate ginger and add to pot. Peel carrot and grate or peel into slivers with a potato peeler.
  4. Move still browning rice to one side of the pan and add the eggs. Mix in well with the rice.
  5. Add soy sauce, sriracha and sesame oil and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Enjoy.

Post Labor Day Cleanse

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After Labor Day indulgences, I decided to make a couple of juice blends to detox and cleanse my system. While beets are not at the top of most people’s favorite list, beet juice has some incredible cleansing properties. Beet juice is known to help lower blood pressure, increase blood flow, boost stamina and improve digestion among other benefits. Beets are loaded with potassium, fiber, vitamin C and nitrates which specifically aid with blood flow and pressure. Adding in a power partner like carrots which increase metabolism, boost the immune system, strengthens vision and improves skin and it’s a no brainer. While carrots are naturally sweet, I boosted the flavor of the mix with a couple of small apples, lemon and ginger.

I also made another juice blend of cucumber, celery and lemon juice. Celery is good for more than just soup and a ranch dressing companion. Juiced, it has antioxidant properties, minimizes oxidative stress, has anti- inflammatory properties and also helps lower blood pressure. Cucumber of course help promote weight loss with a boost to the metabolism, it hydrates the body as it’s mostly water, acts as a natural laxative and boost immunity.

These are two easy juice blends to get you back on track with a healthful diet and weight management routine. The best part is you don’t have to kill your budget to make it work. I made 32 ounces of the beet blend for about $4.25 and the same amount of the cucumber juice for about $2.75. Organic beets can be found at Trader Joe’s for about $1.69, organic gala apples $2.99/bag, organic celery about the same and organic carrots for $.89 a bag. Cucumbers are in season and I brought four for $1 at the farmer’s market. Ginger is also available at most stores or produce stands and since you only need a 1 inch to 2 inch piece, it shouldn’t cost more than $.50. Lemons can be found almost anywhere inexpensively. So if you have a mind to give it a try, check out the recipes below. Enjoy!

 

Beet and Carrot Juice

Ingredients:

1 lb. organic beets washed and peeled

2 lb. organic carrots washed and peeled

3 small organic apples

2 inch piece of peeled ginger

1 medium lemon peeled

 

Directions:

  1. Wash and peel carrots and beets.
  2. Rinse apples and peel ginger and lemon.
  3. Add to juicer alternating between beets and carrots to push all of the pulp through. Add ginger then lemon and juice.
  4. Store in airtight containers in refrigerator for up to three days.

 

Celery Cucumber Juice

Ingredients:

½ lb. organic celery

3 medium cucumbers

2 lemon peeled

1 inch piece of ginger (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Wash celery and cucumber well.
  2. Peel lemon and ginger.
  3. Juice celery and cucumbers first and then lemon and ginger.
  4. Store in airtight containers in refrigerator for up to three days.

Alternative Side Dishes

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I love every kind of potato there is, but every now and then I like to try something new. There’s always those close cousins that get ignored like butternut squash. Since squash is in season, I decided to try preparing it in a different way. This would also be great as a replacement in sweet potato casserole or in a standard potato hash. This made a great side to baked chicken and sautéed greens and is easy to prepare ahead. You can always change up the chicken with different seasonings if you want to make enough for the week. Check out the recipe below.

Mashed Rosemary Butternut Squash

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 medium butternut squash (~2 cups)

1 cup of water

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. fresh rosemary

½ tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste 

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and add water to an oven safe baking pan.

2. Cut the Squash in half and roast for 1 hour or until tender (fork should go in easy).

3. Let cool for 20 minutes, then scoop out and discard seeded center. Using a spoon, scoop out squash and add to a bowl. If the skin is too soft for scooping, peel each half with a knife.

4. Mash squash until smooth and add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.

Pasta Pot

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I find that cooking is all an exploration of what works and what doesn’t. I am all about finding efficiencies to prepare good meals that are cost effective and saves me time on cleanup. Since I spent time making granola and bread this weekend, I turned to my crockpot for an easy meal. I’ve always wondered if you could cook meat fully in the crockpot without browning it first and whether it would cook pasta for an easy all in one dish; yes you can. I was thrilled with how well it came out and I grated a little Parmesan on top for that final touch of flavor. Check out the easy recipe below and put your crockpot to good use.

1 lb lean ground beef

1 cup sliced mushrooms

8oz frozen spinach

1 25 oz jar of vodka sauce

8oz of dry corkscrew pasta 

1 1/2 cup of diced onion

2 cups water 

2 tbsp fresh rosemary

2 tbsp fresh basil 

Directions:

  1. Defrost lean ground meat at least two hours before starting.
  2. Add meat to a crockpot and breakup thoroughly.
  3. Dice and slice veggies and mince herbs; add them to the crockpot including spinach.
  4. Add pasta then sauce and water.
  5. Cook on high for 4 hours.
  6. Enjoy 

Wonderful Legumes

 

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I always keep a can or two of beans on hand for a quick lunch or dinner. Most can be jazzed up in multiple ways and this bean dish certainly packs a lot of flavor. Garbanzo beans or chickpeas are a staple in hummus and other Mediterranean and Indian dishes. It is a good source of plant based protein that is also a good source of fiber. Not only is it a great option for a meatless lunch or dinner, but one that can literally be prepared virtually any way.

I decided to make it the star of a salad on a bed of arugula with tomato and cucumber from the farmers market and an egg. The chickpea salad below can be added to a salad or eaten on its own. Check out the recipe below and share your thoughts. 

Ingredients

1 14oz can of chickpeas

1 tsp grated turmeric

1 tsp grated garlic 

1/4 cup chopped parsley 

1/8 cup diced yellow onion

1/2 of a juiced lemon

Pinch of salt and pepper 

Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

2 gloves (for turmeric handling)

Directions:

  1. Open the can of chickpeas, strain and rinse them. Add to a bowl 
  2. Peel and dice the onion and add to the bowl.
  3. Rinse and mince parsley and add to the bowl.
  4. Glove hands (to prevent staining) then peel turmeric and garlic. Grate into bowl.
  5. Add seasoning and juice the lemon directly into the bowl and mix well.
  6. Serve over salad greens with diced cucumber, tomato and boiled egg or other protein.

Satisfaction and Comfort

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I’ve gotten on a kick making bread at home, really just to see if I could. I’ve been surprised that it something that can be done in an hour and even better, that I can  add things like flaxseeds, oats and chia seeds mostly to my hearts content. While baking it was a fun experience, making an open-faced turkey, avocado and tomato sandwich sealed the deal. This was a quick and easy meal that was both filling and satisfying. And there is just something to be said about fresh baked bread. 🙂

Using a teeny tiny avocado, I reserved half for an easy guacamole later in the week and cut slices out of the other half. I mashed a slice for more of an avocado butter to spread on the bread, added the tomato and turkey and the remaining slices on top. This takes all of 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Ingredients

3oz of Turkey

1/2 small avocado

1/2 medium tomato

 1 slice of bread

Salt and pepper to taste 

  1. Warm a slice of bread. 
  2. Cut an avocado in half while it warms and remove the pit. Store one half and cut the other half into slices.
  3. Mash one to two slices on the bread and smear like butter. Add a tiny pinch of salt and pepper.
  4. Slice 2 to 3 slices of a tomato and add to bread. Add a tiny pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Add smoked turkey and top with remaining avocado and red pepper flakes.

Summer Hydration

 

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Water is essential to the health of your body. Just like gas in a car, we cannot function without it. But who says water has to be boring? While I love the stuff as is, sometimes water with a boost of flavor makes it easier to drink. I love to play around with different infusion combinations. It’s an easy way to boost your consumption of nutritious herbs, fruits and veggies and support the health of your body through something you have to have. The best part is you can create any combination that works for you.

This mix that I made is really to support good digestion. Now while juniper berries are not your average stocked item, spice companies like Red Stick Spice carries it for about two bucks a bag. With stores like Red Stick, I love that you can buy just how much you need to try out something new, rather than investing in large quantities of something you will use sparingly. Since I made my own blend, I purchased reusable muslin tea bags to make removing the ingredients from the water easy. You can also always strain it with a mesh strainer. If you do, I would steep one kettle of water and let it steep for 30 mins to and hour, strain it into a bowl then add the water back into the pitcher and fill the rest of the pitcher with room temp water. This will last all week in the fridge. Check out the recipe below and enjoy!

Ingredients

1/8 cup dried juniper berries 

2 1 inch pieces of ginger

1 tbsp. Tarragon (dried or fresh)

1 lemon sliced

1 orange sliced

2/8 cup of orange mint or basil

Directions:

  1. Bring a kettle or pot of water to boil. 
  2. Rinse and slice citrus. Add to a large pitcher. 
  3. Rinse and peel ginger. Add ginger and other ingredients to a muslin tea bag. Add to pitcher.
  4. Add water, top and steep for 30 mins to an 1 hour.
  5. Remove citrus and satchel. Refrigerate and enjoy.