Mirliton Dressing

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Ever ignore the strange pear-shaped green vegetable at the produce stand? Mirliton or coyote squash is easy to transform into a dish everyone will love. Mirliton dressing with seafood and ham is one of my favorites and is an easy dish to cook in larger quantities for the week. In addition to dressing, it can also be pickled, sliced thin for stir fry and curried among many other uses. I used the whole vegetable, skin and all for added nutrients. They are out in abundance and an easy win to add to your shopping list. For the protein, I like ham and shrimp; however it is easy to substitute ground meat or ground chicken for the ham if you do not eat those meats. I did make my own bread crumbs for this dish and will include that recipe below. Certainly your favorite brand will work in this dish as well.  Check out the recipe below and share your thoughts. 

Mirliton Dressing

Serves 4

2 mirliton

1/2 lb shrimp

8oz diced ham

1 cup diced onion

1 tbsp. olive or avocado oil

1 1/2 cups bread crumbs

2 cups of kale *optional (I added it because I had it)

1 tbsp. Italian seasoning

1 tsp cayenne

Salt and pepper to taste

Bread Crumbs

4-6 slices of wheat bread (depends on size)

1/2 cup dry oats

2 tbsp of flax seed

1 tbsp Italian seasoning

Pinch of salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Pre heat oven to 350. 
  2. Rinse mirliton and boil in a pot over high heat for 30 minutes.
  3. In the last 10 minutes of boiling, toast bread, then grind it, the oats and the flaxseed in a food processor, blender or other device. Place in a baking dish and add seasoning and 2 tsp of olive oil. Mix well and brown in the oven for 10 minutes.
  4. Strain mirliton, rinse in cool water and let cool for 15-20 minutes. While the mirliton cools, rinse and chop kale small. Dice onion and sauté both in 1 tsp. oil.
  5. Peel shrimp and chop before adding to skillet and cooking. 
  6. Dice ham and add to skillet. Reduce heat. Remove breadcrumbs from oven 
  7. Chop mirliton small and add to the skillet. Add seasoning and mix well. Add in breadcrumbs and mix well. 
  8. Pour mixture into baking dish and bake for 10-15 minutes until top is lightly browned.
  9. Enjoy!

Season of Soup

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Seasonal soup is an easy win for the week and can be stocked in the freezer for easy access at a later date. I like to make a big pot and then break it down into smaller containers immediately. It’s important to break down large pots of anything: soups, stews, gumbo, etc. for food safety to ensure the food properly cools before being refrigerated or frozen. I’d recommend a couple of individual servings for easy lunch and 2-4 servings per frozen container.

I picked up some seasonal cabbage and kale from the farmer’s market and rounded out the veggie mix with mushrooms, carrots, onions and stewed tomatoes. To add smokiness, I browned a few strips of bacon to start the soup and layered on flavor with dried herbs. Check out the recipe below.

Ingredients:

2 lbs. Cabbage, raw

2 cups Kale, raw

1 lb. Organic Carrots

14 fluid ounce, Stewed Tomatoes No Salt Added

8.00 oz, Baby Bella Mushrooms

6 fluid ounce, Tomato sauce, canned, no salt added

6 cup (8 fl oz), Water – Municipal

6 Slices, Premium Bacon

1 tbsp. salt

1 tbsp. coarse Ground Black Pepper

2 tsp. Italian seasoning blend

2 tsp. red pepper flakes  or cayenne

2 cups of onion

4 cups organic Free Range Chicken Broth

 

Directions:

  1. Rinse and chop cabbage and kale. Peel and chop onion and carrots and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, brown 6 slices of bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon and add in carrots and onion and a splash of water. Turn down to medium heat and cook until softened.
  3. Add cabbage, kale, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water and stock to the pot.
  4. Dice mushrooms and bacon and add to the pot. Add all seasonings, mix well and bring to a boil.
  5. Once boiling, reduce heat and let simmer for 20-30 minutes.

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.

Pesto Quinoa

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Pesto brings lots of flavor to any dish and quinoa is no exception. Making pesto at home is easy and allows control over how much of what goes into it. I used fresh basil, orange mint, green onion, garlic and walnuts that I had on hand with a small amount of oil.  Paired with sautéed shrimp, baked chicken and roasted vegetables done two ways, it was easy to have different meals daily. Having the right cooking strategy for your week is important to being successful in eating more home cooked meals. For this week, I did the baked chicken, roasted vegetables and quinoa on the same day. The next day, I defrosted a couple of single serving bags of shrimp while I ate breakfast and cooked them afterward (5 mins). I also keep things on-hand like individual packs of tuna (ranch, herb and garlic flavored) and salad greens or canned chicken for and easy chicken salad if I need a little more variety in the week. The important thing is to stock up on healthful, easy options regularly (monthly, weekly) to supplement what you will be cooking.

Check out the recipe below. Serves 5-6.

Pesto Ingredients:

1/2 cup basil

1/4 cup mint

1/4 cup green onion tops

1 clove of garlic 

1 tbsp. chopped walnuts

1 tsp. avocado or olive oil

Roasted Veggie Ingredients:

2 cups chopped zucchini with skin

2 cups chopped carrots 

2 cups chopped broccoli 

2 cups chopped bell pepper

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp. sherry vinegar 

1 tbsp. lemon olive oil (or regular and 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice)

1 tbsp. garlic olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste 

Other ingredients:

1 cup quinoa dry

2 cups of water

6-8 chicken legs

  • 5-10 shrimp (optional)

1/2 tbsp. garlic powder

1/2 tbsp. onion powder

1/2 tbsp. oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Line a baking sheet with foil and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Line a second baking sheet with foil and add chicken with an even coating of the seasoning and oil and mix with a gloved hand. Place in oven for 45 minutes.
  3. Rinse all vegetables. Cut ends off zucchini then cut in half. Cut each half  in half longwise. Cut into strips and then cube. Repeat with carrots.  Cut bell pepper in half and remove seeds and stem. Cut into strips and then dice. Add all to the baking sheet and roughly break broccoli florets by hand and add them. 
  4. Split vegetables in half and season half with the balsamic vinegar and garlic olive oil and the other with the sherry vinegar and lemon olive oil or juice and regular olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste and mix each well with a gloved hand. Bake in oven next to chicken for 30 minutes. Set timer.
  5. Add quinoa and water in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Once it boils, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.
  6. In a small blender or bullet device, add pesto ingredients. Blend for 30 seconds until smooth.
  7. Once quinoa is done, add to a bowl and and pesto. Mix well and salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Once roasted veggies and chicken is done, remove from the oven. Turn it off.
  9. Enjoy!

*For optional shrimp, cook in 1 tsp of oil with a pinch of salt and pepper and garlic powder for 2 minutes. Juice a half a lemon over shrimp and flip them. Add a little more juice and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 1 minute as it will continue cooking.

A Bit Of Succotash

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Another crock pot dish has made my life easier this week and is one that will freeze easy for go-to meals when I don’t have time or am not in the mood to cook. Succotash is an inexpensive go-to dish that is primarily veggie based and a southern favorite; a rich tomato-based fusion of flavor that can slow cook in the crock pot and make it easy to run errands, workout and live life. You can always spice it up with a pinch of cayenne for an added kick. I grew up with this dish made with sausage; however it can be made with or without it. At about $9 for the pot without the sausage, this dish is a must add to the line up. Give it a try and share your thoughts!

Succotash
Serves 8-10

Ingredients:
8 husks of corn
2 medium/large tomatoes
1 1/2 large bell pepper
1 large yellow onion
1 head of garlic (6 cloves of garlic) minced
1 14.5 oz can tomato sauce (no salt added)
1 6 oz can of tomato paste
1 lb (16 oz) smoked sausage of choice
1 cup frozen or rinsed and canned Lima beans
1 tbsp. coarse black pepper
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
3 1/2 cups of water

Directions:
1. Shuck and rinse corn, then cut off cob and place in crock pot.
2. Peel onion and garlic; dice onion and mince the garlic and add to the corn.
3. Rinse and slice bell pepper before dicing and adding to the crock pot.
4. Rinse and slice tomatoes. Cut the whole sliced tomato in half (horizontal) then dice for smaller dice. Add to mixture in pot.
5. Slice and add sausage to the pot. Rinse and add Lima beans to the mixture or just add them in if using frozen.
6. Add tomato sauce and fill the emptied can with water twice to add to crock pot.
7. Add tomato paste and seasonings and stir well before setting timer to 4 hours.
8. Cook brown rice 30 minutes before timer is done.
9. Serve and enjoy.

 

A Bit Of Recovery

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If your holiday season was jam packed like mine and full of traditional food and treats, the beginning of 2017 will be all about cleansing and getting back into routine. Growing up in New Orleans, my family always ate black eyed peas and cabbage on New Year’s Day for luck and financial prosperity in the new year. I decided to stick with tradition which is great for both my budget and cleansing with simple foods. Of course cabbage can be cooked a variety of ways, but I kept it simple with the ingredients to keep cabbage as the star. Check out my the recipe below and I wish everyone luck and prosperity in the new year and its adventures.

Ingredients:
1 head of cabbage (2-3 lbs)
4 slices of thick bacon (approx. 1/4 lb)
1 1/2 cups of diced yellow onion
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
3 cups of water
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. coarse black pepper
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tsp. cayenne pepper

Directions:
1. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat and add bacon. Flip after 3-4 minutes and then reduce to medium heat .
2. Peel and dice the onion while bacon cooks.
3. Remove bacon and place on a paper towel and add onion to the bacon drippings in the pot. Stir and add 1/2 cup of water to prevent sticking.
4. Break off darker large leaves if attached, rinse and slice the larger leaves into thirds and stack them before slicing them into strips. Add to pot and stir.
5. Rinse the remaining head of cabbage, cut off rough end and cut in half. Remove the core from each half by slicing in a “v” around the core for easy removal.
6. Cut each half into large chunks, then a large dice like you would an onion. Add to the pot and stir.
7. Chop bacon into large pieces and add to the pot.
8. After 15 minutes, add vinegar, sugar, and seasonings. Stir well and cook for 15-20 minutes. If serving with rice, start rice and set the timer for both.
9. Serve and enjoy.