Saturday, March 4, 2017

VEGGIE STRINGS AGAIN!!!!!!!????????

If you are at all familiar with my BLog you know that my food preparation is all stream of consciousness.  I rarely shop for ingredients for a recipe.  What do I have in the house?  What can I make from it?  Well, I always have carrots, zucchini, various cheeses and often have shrimp in the freezer.  So I collected what I had and got to work.

I know it seems like I post this dish a lot, but it's because I like it so much, so I do make it often.  I vary it a bit each time and this time I added three more veggies.   Usually it's just the zucchini and carrots with some garlic and ricotta cheese.  Tonight, I cleaned out the vegetable drawer. I felt like being at the counter tonight using my favorite knives and some of my favorite ingredients. While I sliced and diced, I watched "The Edge of the Universe" again and "The Code" again to keep me company. I've seen each one at least three times before! I'm turning into quite a geek - these two  documentaries are so intensely fascinating!  And yes that is a Cosmopolitan you see there at the upper left in the picture of the ingredients.  I enjoyed that during this whole process!! 

Cleaning out the veggie drawer yielded a 1/2 pound or so fresh green beans which I sliced length-wise to make nice long strips to match the julienne zucchini and carrot strings that I prepared. The green beans took the longest to cook so I added just a touch of white wine to help steam them to tenderness. Some scallions that would have ended up in the trash soon, also ended up sliced length-wise. 8-10 large mushrooms cut up into some nice matchstick pieces were all added to 2 medium sized zukes and 2 large carrots on which I used my TITAN veggie stringer (pictured below).
 

You can obviously use whatever stringer type devise you have.  A mandolin is good, one of those
 hand cranked gizmos, or a small Veggetti tool!  Take your pick, they all work just fine! The Veggetti Pro will be the fastest!  I just felt like doing everything by hand tonight!  I truly love chopping and cutting veggies etc.  For me it's a therapeutic exercise!




As usual, I sautéed each veggie separately and removed them to a platter, cooking the next batch.  As soon as everything was done, I added LOTS of minced garlic and sautéed that for a minute before adding some 2% cottage cheese, light sour cream and grated parmesan cheese to make a nice cheesy sauce.  A little chicken stock loosened the sauce that was just a little too thick.
 
I thought I might add some dill, but opted for Cajun seasoning instead!  So glad I did!  The spiciness what so good!  But alas, I added a bit too much making it just a little too salty.  Hmmm.  How to compensate?   I cooked 1/2 lb of linguine with NO SALT in the water, and added it to the whole pot.  It was fantastic!  

Of course, I couldn't let I go at that.  I added more than a dozen large shrimp and let them cook and warm in this savory, cheesy spicy concoction. 

Delicious and satisfying! Let's see if I can write this into a recipe:

If you want pasta in the dish, get the water started and get the linguini cooking - about 1/2 pound.

2 medium/small zucchini, made into strings
2 large carrots, made into strings
1/2 lb. nice fresh long green beans cut down the center into strings
10 large mushrooms cut into matchsticks
5 small scallions cleaned and cut down the centers into strings
3 large cloves garlic
salt to taste
Cajon Seasoning (optional) or Dried Dill (optional)
1/4 c + chicken stock

2 T olive oil into a large hot skillet or Dutch oven

Sauté carrots strings and remove to a platter
A tiny bit more oil, and sauté the green beans strings until almost soft, remove to platter
A tiny bit more olive oil and sauté mushroom matchsticks and just before done, add scallions, remove to platter
A tiny bit more olive oil and sauté zucchini strings until just barely soft - remove to platter.
(A tiny bit more means  approx. 1 - 2 teaspoons)

Into the same pan, add a tiny bit more olive oil and sauté 3 large cloves of garlic for 1 minute.
Add 1/2 c sour cream, 1 c. cottage cheese, 1/4 c. grated parmesan and a little chicken stock to keep it from getting too thick.  Stir well until all the cheese melts together.  Add 1 - 2 teaspoons of Cajun seasoning to taste (or 1 - 2 t or dried dill if you don't like Cajun flavoring). 

If you are adding shrimp, add 12 or so shrimp to this sauce and let them cook until just pink. 

If you wish, add the pasta you cooked now and stir together with all the veggies mix well.  Ready to eat!!!

To me this dish is a bit labor intensive because of all the vegetable stringing. I don't mind because I love fussing over food.  But if you use one of those automated stringers instead of doing it all by hand like I did, it's a lot faster. Either way - to me it's well worth it.  So delicious and adding healthy veggies to my diet!!



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Zuchinni Noodles - Again

I make this often!  I LOVE pasta but I don't really want to eat all the carbs.  And most of the time I don't miss it.  I make these just a little differently every time and tonight's tweaks on the recipe yielded a super delish batch of Veggie Noodles in a cheesy garlicky sauce.  Use your imagination and change it up in any way you think it might be great!  Add shrimp, firm white fish, mushrooms, scallops, and change up the spices to complement your other additions. Change it up completely and use soy sauce, ginger and thinly sliced beef for an Asian flair!

 
After I sautéed the zucchini strings, and then the carrot strings, separately, with a little sea salt,  I made sure they were "squeezed" of their liquid back into the sauté pan and set them aside on a platter. Don't overcook the zucchini strings or it will just turn to mush.  All this liquid got reduced by about half.  Add a little more olive oil to sauté 2 cloves of crushed garlic.  THEN, and this is where the magic happened - I added 3/4 c. of white wine to deglaze the pan and reduced it by about half again.  Now, about 6 oz of mascarpone cheese that I had in the refrigerator went into the pan.  I let that melt and added about 1/2 c of grated parmesan.  That simmered until it thickened up a bit. All the veggies strings got added back to this sauce and tossed it well. You might look at it and think, look at all that grease around the dish!  NO!  It's not grease!  It's a beautiful cheesy garlicky white wine sauce!  I could have eaten the whole pan!!!  But instead I put it away for tomorrow's lunch with a piece of sautéed salmon.  There is still some left and I'll add some sautéed shrimp to the rest of it OR it will be a side dish to a lovely piece of chicken breast or another steak. 
 
It's a delicious way to avoid eating too many carbs with regular pasta.  You will NOT miss the regular noodles in this dish!  That said, I have on occasion added 1/2 pound of cooked angel hair pasta and added the shrimp to make it a complete meal.  You can also add your favorite Marinara or Bolognese Sauce for a super delicious treat! 
 
 
 

Monday, February 13, 2017


It's been a long time since I posted at this blog. A year or more!! I've just been posting at FB with abbreviated descriptions and a picture. The nice thing about a Blog is that it allows you to go on and on about what you've created, and your Followers can decide to read or not to read. I would never post something this long at Facebook and I feel like telling you more than you want to know tonight. But I promise, I'll try to get right to the point. When I got home tonight, I suddenly had this urge for Nachos!! But of course, I didn't have what I needed to make them.  Or so I thought!

As most of you know, the way I usually cook is trying to figure out what to make with what I already have at home.  It's relatively rare when I shop for food to make a specific recipe, although I love doing that too. 

I had some leftover Chicken & Mushroom Shit on the Shingles (SOS) that I made with some chicken from a pot of stock I made last weekend. (In case you don't know what that is - it's just creamed chicken and mushrooms).   I had the dregs of some tortillas chips in a bag I found in the pantry.  It wasn't really enough for Nachos, but I found some frozen thin slices of French baguette.  I had some cheddar cheese.  I had a new package of Queso Fresco, which I've never tried before.  And I had 2 half bags of taco seasoning mix left on the spice rack.  Yep, You guessed it!!  I made chicken  nachos!!

Shit on the Shingles went into a sauce pan with some shredded cheddar and the taco season mix.   Ooey gooey yumminess! 

The tortilla chips went into the center of the skillet and were surrounded by some French baguette slices brushed with olive oil.  The newly seasoned and "cheesy" chicken SOS topped the chips and the bread slices.  Then it all got topped with some more shredded cheddar and some crumbled Queso Fresco.  Under the broiler it went!! Maybe 5 minutes!  Don't take your eyes off of it!!!  It will be charcoal. 

Well let me tell you.  I was TOTALLY satisfied!!!  I couldn't even eat it all.  I would have been happy if I'd been served this dish at a restaurant, except I would have paid +/- $15.00 for it.  I made it with leftovers and pantry items.  Want more details?  Jus ask me. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

EAT YOUR VEGGIES!

Wanting to eat last night's leftover Wild Rice Stuffed Pork Chops I wanted to have some veggies with my porch chops this time.  I wanted green veggies. Didn't really have anything on hand - no broccoli, no spinach, no green beans.  I had some frozen Brussels sprouts but didn't think I'd like them much with the flavor of my dish.  I wished I had some Zucchini, and of course, I didn't.  But I did have some small cucumbers.  Not the smaller ones that are used to make pickles, but those little tiny perfectly shaped ones they call Mini Cukes.  I had them leftover from something I made a week ago. 

Have you ever had cooked cucumbers?   You will make them a regular part of your meals when you find wonderful ways to cook them!  You could use this same recipe and put it all in a blender for a lovely Cucumber bisque with a small dollop of sour cream on top!  Or try adding them to a pot of chili!  Sautee diced cucumber with the onions before you add all the other chili ingredients!

I used my mandoline with the thin cutting side to make long thin julienne cuts of the cucumbers.

I heated up my trusty cast iron skillet to medium hot and put in about 2 T of butter and 1 T of olive oil.  Tossed in the cucumbers and sautéed until they were tender, but not mushy.  This took about 4 or 5 minutes.  I then added a 1/2 t of dried dill, about 1 t of dried shallots and a little salt.  Stir, stir, stir.  Hmmm, looks good but I'd really like it they were a little creamy.  So in went 2 T of heavy cream and about 1 T of grated Pecorino cheese. 

Stir, stir stir, until the cheese melted and it's all creamy and beautiful!  So very good!

Friday, January 1, 2016

PORK FOR THE NEW YEAR

The custom of eating pork on New Year's is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving. Roast suckling pig is served for New Year's in Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, and Austria—Austrians are also known to decorate the table with miniature pigs made of marzipan. Different pork dishes such as pig's feet are enjoyed in Sweden while Germans feast on roast pork and sausages. Pork is also consumed in Italy and the United States, where thanks to its rich fat content, it signifies wealth and prosperity.
 
Well I'm not into any particular tradition other than my Mom always made pork for New Years Day and my first and late mother-in-law always made the best Pork Sauerkraut and Dumplings for the occasion.  So I just make whatever comes to mind that is centered around pork. 
 
The dish I ended up with was something I would have not minded paying $25+ for in a restaurant.  It was way better than just OK.  It was spectacular!!
 
As it happened, I had two thick cut sirloin chops in the freezer.  So last night I thawed them knowing that I'd make them on New Year's Day.  At first I thought I'd put them into the small crock pot with a bottle of some craft beer that has been in the refrigerator too long and make some pulled pork.  But when I opened the package, I realized that the chops were just too nice to put them in a crock pot.  As soon as I picked them up out of the package, I thought these are so nice and thick they deserve to be stuffed with something.  So I started searching around for what I have
 
Lundburg Wild Rice - dried cranberries, dried prunes, lot of herbs and spices, sweet wine.   So I set to making Wild Rice Stuffed Pork Chops with Herbed Pan Sauce. There is no recipe - just kept adding things until I thought it was good.  Here is how I made it.
 
I cooked 1/2 c of the rice with just a little salt.  When the rice was finished I added a few chopped dried prunes and a handful of dried cranberries.  I stuffed that into the pockets I cut into the thick pork chops that I rubbed lightly with minced garlic and salted liberally.
 
The stuffed pork chops went into a hot cast iron skillet for about 5 minute to brown the bottom then into a 325 oven for about 15 minutes to finish cooking them.  Out of the oven they came and since they weren't quite brown enough on the bottom even though they were done, I turned on a burner on the top of the stove and  browned them a little more very quickly.  Maybe just two or three minutes.  Out they came onto a platter.
 
Into the hot skillet went about 3/4 c of pink Moscato.  I don't like to drink this wine as it's too sweet for me, but I had a bottle so thought I'd use it to deglaze the pan.  (good idea!).  I scraped the bottom of the pan of all the brown bits and let the wine reduce.  I added some dried thyme, dried shallots, dried garlic, a little liquid smoke, a little chicken base, and a big knob of butter at the end.  I let this all reduce until it was thickened a bit and then just spooned it over the chops. 
 
Wow.  I hope I can duplicate this.  And if pork is supposed to bring you good luck on New Year's Day, I'm hoping this one will work!!That was worthy of the time I spent cooking it!!! The sauce was to die for!
 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

CHICKEN CROQUETTES WITH CREAMED BRUSSELS SPROUTS

It's been a very long time since I've written a blog.  I've just been using Facebook to post foodie items.  I'll go ahead and admit that it is the lazy way to get something accomplished that I want to share.  But it's limiting when I feel like writing a lot about what's going on.

Ever since my last relationship ended I have found much solace in cooking and just messing around with food.  Having friends over for experimental dishes, cooking every night even if I don't want to eat.  Cooking is my therapy. 

Last Thursday night I put up a pot of chicken soup using legs and thighs.  I find them to be the most perfect pieces for making soup.  They have the most flavor and the meat left on the bones is best used in whatever manner you like! Chicken on the bone makes a very good for you broth full of mineral nutrients, not to mention the comfort of having a warm bowl of soup. Last time I made Chicken Salad with dried cranberries, celery and toasted pecans.  It was delicious!  That was chicken cooked in a very traditional chicken  soup with carrots, onions, celery, garlic, bay leaf, salt and pepper.  This night I was making a favorite chicken soup recipe, Chinese Chicken and Corn  Soup with Ginger and Egg drop.  The recipe can be found at  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/aarti-sequeira/sweet-corn-and-chicken-soup-recipe.html

Tonight, the chicken that I removed from the bones was puzzling me.  I was bored with the same old thing. What could I make from it this time?  I didn't want to put into the soup.  I wanted the soup to remain brothy.  So all of a sudden I had a thought of the old days when Chicken Croquettes used to be very popular.  They were typically served with creamed peas.  Well I didn't have any peas, but I had two bags of frozen  Brussels Sprouts.  So I made creamed Brussels Sprouts. 

The Chicken Croquettes:
about 2 cups of finely chopped cooked chicken
1 egg
1 T corn starch
1 T chives (or 2 t. finely chopped onions)
Salt-pepper to taste.

Mix this all up until it's nice and smooth and can be formed into croquettes.  Go through the normal breading procedure:  Roll in flour, roll in beaten egg, roll in bread crumbs. 

Add about 1  or two cups of oil to a small saucepan, enough to cover the croquettes when they are added to the hot oil.  Heat the oil to about 350 - 375 degrees.  Test the oil by dropping a few breadcrumbs into the oil.  If the immediately bubble up and foam, the oil is hot enough. 

Add three or four of the croquettes to hot oil and fry until a nice deep brown.  Remember the chicken is already cooked so the only goal here is to get these nice and brown and crispy.  Remove to a paper towel and cook the rest of them.

The cream sauce is a simple Béchamel Sauce.  a 3 - 3 - 3 ratio of fat to flour to liquid. 

3 T butter or oil
3T flour
3 C warm milk (non fat milk, whole milk, canned milk  or even add some cream)
1 tsp. salt

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the flour and let it cook for a few minutes.  You have to cook the flour to get the pasty taste out of it.

Once it is foamy and bubbly, add the warm liquid.  Cold liquid will end up causing a lumpy white sauce.  Keep stirring with a whisk until it is nice and smooth and creamy.  If it's too thick, add a little more milk.  Add the salt to taste.  Now is the time to add any other flavor you might want.  Add a little chicken base, some dry herbs if you like or just leave it alone.  Once the sauce is nice and smooth, add the Brussels sprouts and let them warm through in the sauce.

Serve them with a little sauce drizzled over the Chicken Croquettes.

I was really hungry, only my second, and last, meal of the day.  So I indulged in two croquettes!! They were delicious and very satisfying!

After nearly 5 months of dealing with a breakup, I've finally risen out of the depths of my cooking therapy, and now I'm cooking with joy again!  I've met a very nice man who is a flower farmer on the Eastern Shore.  Can you imagine!  I love flower gardening and I meet a flower farmer!  He has already given me some wonderful plants - 5 kinds of peonies that I have already planted and hope to see blooming in the spring!!  So we'll see if we can get to know each other a little better.  He has one particularly good quality - he loves to eat good food!!!



Wednesday, December 31, 2014

THERE IS MORE TO COOKING THAN PREPARING A MEAL

There is nothing so comforting to me than cooking.  And when I'm cooking for someone else, it's all the more satisfying.  It's New Year's Eve!  It's the first one I've spent alone in 10 years.  My sweetie is in Hawaii visiting his daughter over the Christmas break. How lucky is he, and how lucky is she!  This year it's me and my little man, Matrix.   He's kinda like - ok, mom, whatever.  But he's good company!  I mean -- how entertaining is that photo of him on my desk.  This is a fairly regular pose whenever I'm on my computer.  He needs to make an appearance.  He even feels the need to walk across the field of view whenever I'm on a Skype call.
--We are enjoying the fire I put in the wood stove tonight. It's going to be really cold tonight.  Down into the 20's I think.   I made myself a small shaker of Cosmopolitans to last through the evening while I cook and write my blog.
As many of you know, I haven't written a regular blog for a long time.  I've been posting shorter posts on FB  about what I've been cooking. But blogging allows me to
share a few more details.  Well, what it really does is allow to me tell you more than you really want to know about what I'm doing, cooking and thinking.  Who cares right?  It doesn't matter.  Blogs allow people to say whatever they want no matter what anyone thinks.  I guess we figure that if you don't like what we have to say, you won't read it, right?   But I hope I don't get to that point - where you don't want to read anymore. 
Tonight I'm starting dinner for tomorrow - New Year's Day!  I've invited a friend to come for an early dinner of a traditional European meal of Pork Roast with Sauerkraut and Dumplings.  Later we'll watch a movie that came in the mail from Netflix "The Hundred Foot Journey".    Big surprise- it's a foodie movie about restaurant owners! 
Unfortunately, since the grocery didn't have a proper pork roast in the in the refrigerated case, I had to improvise.  I had to get some country style ribs, and a few pork steaks.  You have to have some bones in the roast to get the flavor you need, so the ribs will add that flavor and they are very meaty.  Instead of roasting all this, I've put it in the crockpot.  Layered with sauerkraut, sautéed onions and sliced garlic, it should turn into a succulent dish with lots of flavor!   A light sprinkling of caraway seed will add that distinct flavor that only caraway seeds can give to this dish.
Of course this meal needs something else.  Just pork and sauerkraut does not a meal make.  So I'll make home made dumplings to toss with the drippings that the pork will render with the sauerkraut.  The recipe for the dumplings can be found at my post for Chicken Paprikash  at How to make Nokedli (Hungarian dumplings)
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.reliefnurses.com.au/archive/images/nokedli.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.reliefnurses.com.au/archive/feast.html&usg=__tCGZtUIWXHbqeZbI1OVaCRBKQZw=&h=265&w=300&sz=24&hl=en&start=6&sig2=pB2g4NhKD-njI-jqPdPMmA&um=1&itbs=1&tbnid=vMrNDEj1tqqOmM:&tbnh=102&tbnw=116&prev=/images%3Fq%3DNokedli%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26sa%3DG%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26channel%3Ds%26tbs%3Disch:1&ei=TzP5S8CaEoOkNerUjIwF
Did you know that Pork is a traditional New Year's dinner because it is believed that because pigs root FORWARD as they search for food, it is symbolic of moving forward in life.  And because Pigs "used to be" so fatty, they also represented prosperity with all the fat and richness of the meal.  So serving a pork roast was to represent a year of prosperity to come to those who prepared and ate it! (The fact that I didn't use a big fat pork roast cuts way back on the fat that this roast  will render, but not on flavor!  Using ribs will give the kind of flavor that you can only get with cooking meat on the bone!It's also a good example of how you can improvise when what you really want isn't available.  I would have preferred a nice Pork Butt for this!)
 I also wanted to make something that would be a nice contrast to the Pork and sauerkraut, and although it too is cabbage, I chose to make sautéed red cabbage with apples and onions.  It is sweet and delicious!    This is a small head of red cabbage sliced as you would for slaw, sautéed with a sweet onion. 
Just sauté a large sweet white onion in a little olive oil, add the red cabbage and a grated sweet apple, salt pepper and voila!  A succulent healthy side dish! 

I'll post some more pictures of the completed meal tomorrow!

I wish you all a healthy and prosperous New Year!  I've learned that gratitude for what you have can open the doors for allowing more good fortune to enter your life.  Be grateful and prosper!