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cooking therapy

Today was a bit stressful! I was out in the rain with car problems.  Glad it was an easy fix!  After a day like today I definitely needed to do some cooking.  Marc was happy with the soup we had left over (it’s even better the next day), but I wanted to cook! So, I just made simple pasta for myself.  Whole wheat pasta, 3tbs olive oil, vine ripe tomatoes (gotta love hydroponics, how else could we get such beautiful tomatoes in January), garlic, parsley, red pepper flakes, and dried oregano (the oregano didn’t make it the photo shoot). 

Oil, garlic, and red pepper go in the pan on low, for about 10min.  I’m trying to infuse the oil with the sweet roasted garlic flavor (in a fraction of the time of roasting it in the oven) be very careful to avoid burning the garlic; thus the low temperature.  As the oil is being infused I dice the tomatoes and salt them; this get’s their juices going.  Then I add the parsley to the oil and season with a little salt and pepper.  I put in my pasta, and the tomatoes.  I’m very careful to not cook the tomatoes, but just heat them.  And that’s it.  I’ve had my therapy for the day, just a little time in the kitchen and —

 I’m all better!

This is a favorite! I’ve made it for my cousin after she just had her adorable little boy, and just recently when she was expecting her 2nd child. She was craving it! This is my, ‘go-to’ when a family member is feeling under the weather. Marc makes a request for this tomato based chicken soup when he starts to feel a cold coming on.
You don’t have to be sick to enjoy it. Today is the 4th straight day of rain we’ve had; Chicken soup would be perfect. Also, I’m not going to be home during my usual dinner hour; so Marc will have something to warm his tummy when he gets home.
It’s pretty basic:
• Equal parts, onion, celery, and carrots diced. (mirepoix)


• 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces. (Any chicken will do)
• 1 QT of low sodium chicken broth
• 1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
• I packet of savory broth concentrate chicken flavor, reduced sodium.
• Olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pot.
• Grated parmesan cheese
• ¼ cup of cooked rice
The aromatics:
• 4 cloves of garlic minced
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 tsp. herbs de Provence
• A handful of parsley roughly chopped


Put the oil in the pot, and put in your onions, carrots, and celery and sprinkle with salt. The salt will encourage the veggies to release their juices. Let it sweat for about 10 minutes. Add your aromatics after five minutes, turn down the heat a little bit and allow all the flavors to blend. Pour in the broth, and dissolve the broth concentrate. Next, the crushed tomatoes go in. Dump it in the pot. Add your chicken. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer. Simmer for 2 hours, uncovered.
This allows the broth to reduce, making the flavor more intense. If you don’t have a couple of hours, give it at least 30min. Your home will smell delicious!
I put about ¼ cup of rice into the bowl before I laddel the soup. After the soup goes into the bowl, I garnish with parmesan cheese.


I don’t put the rice into the soup pot because the rice will soak up all the broth. I learned that the first time I made this.

Happy Birthday Marc!

Marc’s Birthday Dinner:

Surf & Turf is on the menu along side with petite twice baked potatoes and roasted broccoli

The desert was first on the list. I had to form the ice cream into a ball shape, and then freeze it.  Then I take that beautiful brownie from La Farine bakery, and put it in a plastic bag and smash it up into crumbs.  I am careful to not make it too fine.  I then plate it and give it a dusting of cocoa powder so it looks like real dirt.  I hide it from Marc until it’s ready to plate.  When the ice cream got hard enough; with the raspberry Smuckers Plate Scrappers, I made little lines along the sides in the pattern of baseball stitches.  Then I took a toothpick threw the lines in an attempt to make the stitching more realistic.  Marc doesn’t just love baseball; it’s practically a religion to him.  The only thing he loves more than baseball is the Chicago White Sox. 

 

For the petite baked potatoes: Before boiling, I cut off a little sliver on each end so they a flat surface and would be able to  stand on their own.  Then I boiled them for about 15 minutes. Start with cold water that way the inside and outside of the potato is cooked at the same rate.   As they were boiling I got my ingredients for the filling. 

When the potatoes were done boiling, I cut them in half and hallowed them with a melon baller.  I put the insides of the potatoes in a bowl and mixed it with the milk, minced green onion, butter, shredded cheddar, minced green onion, salt and pepper.  After mixing the stuffing I placed it back into the hallowed out potatoes, and topped it with more shredded cheddar.  I baked it for about 20min in a 400O In the last 7 min. I added some broccoli along side of it.  I put a little extra virgin olive oil, and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  I do this a lot with broccoli; it’s my favorite way to cook it without losing the crunch. 

 

 When the potatoes were done boiling, I cut them in half and hollowed them with a melon baller.  I put the insides of the potatoes in a bowl and mixed it with the milk, minced green onion, butter, shredded cheddar, salt, and pepper.  After mixing the stuffing I placed it back into the hollowed out potatoes, and topped it with more shredded cheddar.  I baked it for about 20min in a 400O In the last 7 min. I added some broccoli along side of it.  Before putting the broccoli in the oven I tossedthe it with a little extra virgin olive oil, and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  I do this a lot with broccoli; it’s my favorite way to cook it without losing the crunch.

 The stars of the show were the steak and shrimp they were really easy to make. I took out the steak about a ½ hour ahead of time so it would be a good consistent temperature internally.  Salt and pepper on both sides, a couple of min on each side then five minutes in the oven, which was at 400O  After it did it’s time in the oven, I tented a piece of foil on it and let it rest for 10min, so the juices could redistribute. 

For the shrimp I made a compound butter of lemon peel, thyme, and garlic.  I was in a hurry to take the picture before the sun went down so I forgot the garlic in the photo.  I cooked the shrimps while the steak rested, since shrimps cook so fast.   

I’m glad he enjoyed his birthday dinner; I hope your wish comes true…oh wait he already has a girl that loves to cook! 

leftover lunch

Today is quite blustery, perfect for a bowl of warm soup, but I couldn’t avoid these left over salads I had in the fridge.  They’re so scrumptious I couldn’t pass it up.  I have a curry quinoa, which is as healthy as a bowl of oatmeal; packed with protein and fiber, perfect for me taking on that mean treadmill later!  Accompanying the quinoa is yesterday’s salad.  I’m surprised the dressing didn’t wilt the greens. 

                       BTW: Happy Birthday Marc! I love you, thanks for being my muse in the kitchen!

his & hers supper

Over the weekend I was @ Mallard’s in Albany.  It’s a kitschy bar with a hunting theme.  In their patio they had a guy frying wings.  He inspired me to make fried chicken, but I really don’t want to eat fried food again, so I made “His & Hers Supper.”

For him: Chicken Fingers with 2 dipping sauces & Mac N’Cheese

Quite awhile ago I made this blend of seasonings especially for fried chicken (I forgot what’s in–I’m so glad I labeled it!).  I made extra on purpose, so it would save me time like it did today.  Also, I use whatever bread crumbs I have around.  Panko was really easy and it has a very light airy crunch that can stand up to my dipping sauces.  I used one huge boneless/skinless chicken breast and cut it up into chicken tenders. I like to use lean chicken because the side dish is pretty loaded.

Pour ¾ inches of oil in a cast iron skillet let the oil heat to 350O While the oil was heating, I made 2 dunking stations out of 2 pie pans.  In one pie pan I put in my dry ingredients in the other I put in a couple of eggs, a splash of milk, and salt and pepper. 

Working in two batches I did the following:

  • Coat the chicken tenders with the egg wash
  • Coat the chicken with the dry ingredients.
  • Place the well coated chicken the frying pan

 Cook for 2 minutes on each side and drain on a paper towel

For the dipping sauces I go to what’s inside the door of my fridge for inspiration:

BBQ Sauce and Honey Mustard is what I usually make, but it’s not the same ingredients every time;  it depends what I have in my fridge.

 

For the Mac N’Cheese: I buttered a ramekin, and made another béchamel sauce and undercooked the pasta by about a minute.  Since I will be baking it, the pasta will finish cooking in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 375O   and Butter your baking dish

Toast some breadcrumbs in a pan with some butter and slice a tomato.  Set them aside.

Again with the Béchamel Sauce:

Melt the butter, when it starts to bubble

Add the flour.

Cook for about a minute. 

Add milk, minced garlic and thyme

Let the milk thicken

This is when you know if it’s thick enough

Add the Cheese; I used cheddar, parmesan, & gorgonzola

I had the mostly cooked pasta in a bowl and added the Béchamel Sauce and mixed thoroughly. Then put the pasta into the ramekin. 

Top the pasta with the sliced tomatoes and toasted breadcrumbs, bake for about 20min. 

I had some sauce left over so I through in some noodles I had from the other night.  I hate to waste, especially when it tastes so good.

For her: Sautéed Sardines with caramelized onions, cranberries, and slivered almonds with a balsamic reduction, on whole wheat toast.  This dish was inspired by a neighborhood gastro pub that I love.

First I caramelized the onions then just threw everything into the sauté pan let everything heat through.  As that was going I made a balsamic reduction just by adding about ¼ cup of balsamic and 2 tbs. of brown sugar.  I let it reduce and get a syrup consistency.  For the toast I use sliced wheat bread and cut off the crust, (which I reserve for bread crumbs) then cut it again at an angle.  This way I get more of the crunchy edges when I toast the bread. After plating, I drizzled the balsamic reduction.  This is packed with omeg-3’s, vitamin E, and protein; it’s still very delicious.  It’s so good I don’t feel like I’m eating “diet food,” which is key to any woman who eats with a big eater every night.   

To Share: Mo’ Color Mo’ Better salad, with a light ginger dressing. This was the first time I made this salad, again with stuff I had left over.  It was so good I couldn’t believe it, Marc loved it too!

The Salad:

  • Shredded purple cabbage
  • 1 carrot julienned
  • ½  a red bell pepper julienned
  • ½ a mango diced
  • 2 green onions sliced
  • Handful of spinach

 

The Dressing:

  • 2 ½ tbs. canola oil
  • 1 ½ tbs. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp of fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbs. cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste

left over salsa

It’s not left over;  It’s just made from left over stuff I had.  I noticed the tomatoes were getting too ripe, and I had half a jalapeño, and a quarter of an onion: all the beginnings of a great snack!

Here’s what goes in:

Tomatoes chopped

½ jalapeño chopped

¼ of an onion( I usually use red onion but I had this one ready to go)

Fresh cilantro

a couple of cloves of garlic (not shown, I forgot it when I took the picture)

juice of ½ of lime

2 tbs olive oil

 salt and pepper to taste

I know I said I’m not one for big food processors, but this one isn’t big! It does triple duty because not only is it a food processor, it’s an immersion blender, and a regular blender. I love this gadget it’s perfect for tiny kitchens!

 

If Marc doesn’t finish it all, I’ll be able to have some for my eggs tomorrow

starting my engine

Quick cook steel cut oatmeal 

1 banana sliced

A few dried cranberries

5 raw almonds chopped and toasted

1tsp splenda

pinch of salt

sprinkle of cinnamon

½ cap of vanilla extract

I get the water boiling; add in everything except the almonds.  As the oatmeal is cooking, I chop the almonds and toast them and save for the end as a garnish. 

 

This is my typical breakfast that I just love especially on cold mornings.