Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bacon, Sweet Potato, Onion and Apple Hash - Another New Sweet Potato Recipe

No big story tonight, just a really good recipe.  Because I love potatoes.  Not just regular old white potatoes, but sweet potatoes, too.  These gorgeous orange beauties are so versatile...and so good for you!  All that Vitamin A and C, manganese...woo!   

Smoky, salty bacon, bright orange sweet potato, purple onion and sweet/tart Granny Smith apple hash makes a wonderful accompaniment to a simple meat, fish or chicken.  Last night we sizzled up some center cut pork loin chops dusted with a little Cajun seasoning, added bright green broccoli...with the beautiful orange hashed potatoes we had a colorful plate of dinner deliciousness!   

Like the sweet potato mash recipe I posted a little while back, this sweet potato dish can be the star of the show!  Squeeze a lime wedge or two over the top to balance the flavors out.  Mmmmmm.

Bacon, Sweet Potato, Onion and Apple Hash

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed
  • 1 large red onion, large dice
  • 4 slices bacon, thick sliced, cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, cored, cubed - leave peel on
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled, sliced
  • oil
  • salt and fresly ground black pepper, to taste
  • lime wedges

In a heavy skillet, saute bacon until nearly done.  Remove from pan and set aside.
In the bacon fat, add sweet potatoes and saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add onion, garlic, apple and a little more oil if needed. Continue cooking until the onion and apple start to soften a little.
Add bacon back into pan and continue cooking until the hash is crispy and browned in spots and the potatoes are all cooked through.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
Serve with wedges of lime to squeeze over top.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hawaiian Dog with Fresh Pineapple Serrano Relish

It's Thursday.  The work week is almost at an end, but not quite.  At this point, energy and inspiration are getting pretty low...even here on Dinner Plan-it.  I resorted to hot dogs for dinner tonight.  Oh yes I did!   

Well, actually I planned them for tonight (helllooooo...this is Dinner PLAN-it!) and even made a batch of fresh pineapple relish over the weekend in preparation to jazz up the old dog.  

It isn't like pineapple relish is something new on a dog. This was inspired by the raves I've read about the new (old) Station Street Hot Dogs in the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh.  They have a Hawaii Dog topped with pineapple salsa, bacon, sweet soy sauce and mint.  I haven't been over to give it a try yet, but I'm getting there soon!  In the meantime, here's my recipe for this colorful, zippy and delicious pineapple relish.  Try it on hamburgers or chicken burgers or pork burgers, too.  Or with tortilla chips!

Fresh Pineapple Serrano Relish

  •  1 C. fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 C. red bell pepper, seeded, chopped
  • 1 serrano chile, seeded, ribs removed, diced finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 3 T. cider vinegar
  • 1 t. olive oil
  • 1 t. sugar
  • 1/2 t. salt, or more to taste
  • 1/2 t. mustard seed
  • 1 t. dijon mustard
In a small pot, combine red pepper, chile pepper, garlic, onion, vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and mustard seed and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until the veggies are soft.  Remove from heat.
In a food processor, add pineapple chunks to bowl, pour hot veggie mixture over top and pulse until mixture is a coarse relish - just short of what you want the finished relish to be.  Add the dijon and pulse to the finished consistency you want.  
I've over-processed this and fixed it by adding a little finely diced red pepper, pineapple and serrano at the end to make it pretty.  If you overdo it, it won't make a difference in taste, just presentation.  
Serve the relish spooned over hot dogs - maybe smear a little mustard on the bun, too.  Or, do it up like Station Street Hot Dog and lay on the bacon and sweet soy!
NOTE:  Udi's makes a really good gluten-free hot dog bun so if you're gluten-free, you can enjoy a hot dog just the way God intended.  On a real bun!    

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Happy National Margarita Day!

Cucumber Jalapeno Margarita with Cilantro Simple Syrup

Happy Margarita Day!  I saw it on the internet so it has to be true, right?  What the hell, even if it isn't an official holiday, are you going to turn down a cold, frosty, tart and tangy margarita with a nice spicy kick?  I didn't think so.  I couldn't turn one down either...especially this one...especially today.  It's simple to make since it's a classic shaken version...you don't even have to drag out the blender and make a mess!  Yay!!!!

My little twist is cilantro simple syrup (I make it myself...recipe below), fresh lime, Cointreau, silver tequila, slices of English cucumber and fresh jalapeno combine to make a drink worth of the holiday.   Mix one up, raise a glass and toast the holiday!!!!!

Cucumber Jalapeno Cilantro Margarita 

  • 3 slices English cucumber (seedless)
  • 2 slices jalapeno (can't take the heat?  Leave this out.)
  • 3/4 ounce cilantro simple syrup (see recipe below)
  • 1 1/2 ounces silver tequila
  • 3/4 ounce Cointreau
  • ice
Muddle cucumber, jalapeno and simple syrup in the bottom of a cocktail tin.  Add tequila and Cointreau.  Add ice 3/4 of the way up the tin.  Top the tin with the mixing glass and shake until the tin is frosty. 
Strain into a salt-rimmed glass or without salt if you prefer. Garnish with a cucumber slice and a slice of jalapeno and enjoy.

Cilantro simple syrup:  Combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a small pot.  Bring to a boil and simmer until it's clear - just a minute or two.  Remove from heat, add a handful of fresh cilantro and let the syrup cool.  Bottle and use.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Green Beans with Bacon, Red Peppers and Pecans

    Circa 1999, when the Waterfront in Homestead first opened, a stellar upscale diner graced a busy corner directly across the way from Loew's Theater.  It stood head and shoulders above the crowd of chain bars and restaurants lining the brand-spanking new streets of the newly-minted shopping/dining area.  The food at this establishment so good, so tantalizing, it drew us in all the way from the north as hungry moths to a flame of fine dining.  In a diner.  A shiny metal-ed, glass blocked beacon of gustatory promise in the sea of chain mediocrity along the Mon.  And we reveled in the delights to be found within those gleaming walls.  

    It's name?  Cap City Diner.  And it hailed from Ohio.  It wasn't part of a chain, mind you, it stood as an ambassador from the state to the west...a Ghost of Future Dining sent from Columbus to give us hope for Pittsburgh dining to come.  Cap City Diner ran the first of the races in what has become a marathon of closed restaurants in that location.  I'm not sure exactly why they closed those shiny doors....it was probably too hip for the crowds thronging from the movie looking for McFries or a grey, greasy burger....regardless, there are those of us who still remember and still look longingly at the spot that held such glory...and such glorious food....and remember.  So why am I even bringing it up?  You can't go back again, right? 

    Well, maybe.  There was one dish that I craved every single time. No matter what else I ordered - mile high meatloaf, Maytag bleu cheese crispy potato chips - the green beans with bacon, pecans and red peppers were the undisputed star of the show.  A pile of those bright green, smoky, sweet, crisp and crunchy beans were what I was there for!  So, of course, I recreated them at home.  And thank the good Lord I did.  The only other way to enjoy them again would be to drive to Columbus.  Hmmm...that just might work, too!  Here's the recipe if you don't feel like driving a couple of hours.  

    And that Ghost of Future Dining in Pittsburgh?  It got here in SPADES!  Pittsburgh dining rocks!

    Green Beans with Bacon, Red Peppers and Pecans

    • 1 pound fresh green beans, ends snapped off
    • 4 slices bacon, chopped
    • 1/3 cup pecans, chopped
    • 1 red pepper, sliced
    • 1/4 small red onion, slivered
    • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

    Fry bacon in a large skillet until it is about halfway done; add pecans and saute them together until the bacon is crisp and the pecans toasted.  

    Add the beans, red pepper, onion and brown sugar and toss together well.  Add a tablespoon or two of water, cover the pan and let the beans cook until slightly beyond tender crisp.  Toss well again and serve.

    NOTE:  A little drizzle of balsamic vinegar - not too much - is nice at the end, too.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pig Roast Pork Chops


Are you starting to Jones for some serious smoker time?  I sure am!  But.  All that snow flying in the wind out there simply isn't conducive to such activity this time of year.  Sigh.  Sure as hell,  longingly gazing through the window at the pond...right next to the smoker...right next to the grill...isn't helping, it's only making me feel worse.  And my poor fishies and froggies!  I miss them!!!!  What to do, what to do?  I'll make those pork chops inside instead!  And maybe it will help get through the next couple of months.

This dish came about early last summer.  A friend and I were perusing the pig roast websites looking for ideas for her daughter's first birthday party. 
Many years ago, the hubby and I had done a pig roast at our place.  Boy has that business changed since then!  I couldn't get over the fact that some of the places were stuffing the pigs with chickens and sausage and apples and onions and just loads of incredibly delicious sounding smoke-able foods!  And I wanted it!  And the lightbulb went off.
Instead of doing a whole pig for a few people...duh, no...why not just stuff pork chops with those same items and do them on the smoker?  So I did.  And it was marvelous.  And I want them now.  Okay, just in the oven instead because it's COLD out there!  Too cold to smoke.

So just what are these pork chops? Double-thick, bone-in loin pork chops with a nice big pocket cut for stuffing.  Oh, don't bother having them do it at the store.  I have never gotten home and NOT had to make the slit bigger so why not just do it right yourself the first time.  In the pocket, I layer a little thinly sliced onion, a little thinly sliced apple, a little slivered fresh sage, a little sage sausage to top it all off.  Then close the slit with toothpicks, dust both sides of the chops with a good Cajun grill seasoning and put them on to smoke.  Or.  Put them in the oven to roast!  


After: Crispy fried sage leaves, too.  Fancy.

Pig Roast Pork Chops

  • 1 3/4 pounds pork chops, that's 2, double thick, bone-in loin chops
  • 1 apple, nice tart one like a Granny Smith, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 sage leaves, fresh, slivered
  • 1/4 pound sausage, sage type
  • Cajun seasoning, or seasoning of your choice

Cut a pocket into each pork chop, make it nice and big being careful not to go all the way through. 

Inside each chop, layer onion, apple, sage, and sausage, spreading each layer to completely cover the inside of the chop.  Close slit with toothpicks if you wish, I don't always do that.  And it works just fine.

Rub both sides of each chop with the Cajun seasoning and then spray lightly with a little olive oil.  Then let the chops come to room temp before smoking over applewood.

If you do these in the oven, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and bake for approximately an hour.until the apples and onions are tender, the sausage is cooked through and the chops are beautifully browned.  No, I do NOT like my pork pink, no matter what those kooky, trendy chefs are doing today.  Call me old fashioned.  I'm okay with that.

NOTE:  Next time I think I'm stuffing these with hot sausage, roasted red pepper, fresh basil leaves, onion, a little fontina...not sure what else yet...still thinking about this one....oooo...roasted garlic, too!  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Shot-and-a-Beer Steak

Shot-and-a-Beer Steak

Want to make that beer loving man - or woman - in your life smile from ear to ear?  Want to see him - or her - near giddy with hops-inspired delight?  You might just want to give this a "shot." 

This recipe is a true nod of respect to the old days of hard working, blue collar Pittsburgh.  And not just Pittsburgh, mind you, but all the gritty, REAL cities whose workers celebrated the end of a hard, sweaty day with a cool one and just a wee (?) bit of the hard stuff for fortification.  I'm talking about you Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis...ANY and all of the good old blue-collar towns we love.  Some of our teams may be rivals, we may all talk some smack sometimes, but down deep we are so very much alike.  Scary, isn't it?

So what about the steak?  I've been doing this one for years.  Experimenting along the way with types of beers (I use gluten-free now, of course), herbs and no herbs, onions/no onions, kicking up the spice or toning it down...this version is the culmination of all the trials and errors...this iteration stands heads (no pun intended) above the rest! 

The flavors are rich, caramel-y, beefy - sweet with onion and garlic accented with thyme; sharp with Coleman's mustard and vinegar; smooth with butter that helps make a silken, luscious gravy; and, more than a little bit boozy with the beer and applejack brandy!  Oh, speaking of the gravy....be sure to serve mashed potatoes to ladle the gravy over!   

Shot-and-a-Beer Steak

  • 2 pounds round steaks, 1" thick
  • 1/2 cup flour (gluten-free to make this GF - you know I prefer Jules brand)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 12 ounce can beer (gluten-free beer to make this GF)
  • 1/4 cup applejack (more if you want!), I use Laird's - bourbon is wonderful, too!  Experiment.
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dry Coleman's mustard
  • 1 tablespoon thyme, dried
  • 10 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 large onion, diced

Cut all fat off the steaks, cut into serving pieces, dust with flour, salt and pepper - LOTS of pepper - and pound into steaks using a mallet.  Melt butter and oil in large electric skillet and brown steaks well on both sides.  Flip and season the other side with salt and pepper to taste..
Scatter the onion and garlic over the top of the steaks, nestling them down between the pieces of steak.
Combine the beer, applejack, vinegar, mustard and thyme in a small bowl or glass measuring cup.  Pour over steak, cover and simmer for 2 hours or until fork tender.  Turn the steaks over halfway through cooking and stir the liquid to keep is smooth.  Check occasionally.  If necessary, add a little water or beef stock.  Serve with the gravy and mashed potatoes!

NOTE:  If you're watching the calories, cut out the flour, cut down on the butter and oil - it's just as good!  The gravy?  Call it sauce instead! 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Duck Fat Fries at Home


Duck fat. Never, ever would I have imagined a couple of years ago that the fat of a duck would some day be such a delicacy.  Duck fat was something undesirable when you ordered the fowl in a restaurant. Nobody likes fatty duck!  When preparing duck at home, you try to cook the fat out of the duck. You prick the hell out of the skin to allow all the fat to escape.  It certainly never occurred to me that very same unwanted stuff in the bottom of the roasting pan would become liquid gold!  

Here we are a few years older, not necessarily wiser, and I'm finding duck fat fries all over the menus of the best of restaurants.  They are cooking with the dregs in the bottom of pans across the world and making delicious, crisp, flavorful potatoes that I could cry over they're so good! 

Did you see the episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate on Food Network where Michael Symon strolls out of Lola (his premier restaurant in Cleveland on 4th Street) walks a few doors down to The Greenhouse Tavern, sidles up to the bar and simultaneously waxes poetic about the glories of their Duck Fries and giddily devours them?  Once I saw that episode those fries became a goal, a quest, a raison d'ĂȘtre.  It's a good thing Kimber lives in Cleveland!  We sidled up to that very same bar at The Greenhouse Tavern ourselves and put in our order.

You know how the anticipation of something can be a let down when you actually achieve it?  NOT IN THIS CASE!  Kimber and I shared them.  Savored them. Waxed poetic ourselves over them.  We may even have been giddy over them ourselves!  Sigh.  And then we (okay, I) craved them.  Oh sure, Kimber lives in Cleveland and can hit up 4th Street and Lola and The Greenhouse Tavern at will.  But not this poor soul, I still had to dream about their goodness.

So I decided to make them at home.  And I BOUGHT duck fat!  Oh yes I did.  I paid good, hard-earned money for the very same stuff I'd been turning my nose up at and throwing away for years. And on Superbowl Sunday I made them.  In fact, I made TWO kinds of potatoes in the precious previously maligned magic substance.  Sweet potatoes and white potatoes floated and bubbled and sizzled in the golden fat until they, too, were golden.  You know when you make French fries from scratch and your whole house smells like grease for days?  Not with duck fat.  The house smells heavenly....like roasting duck.  The air is perfumed with it!  And it was easy to do.  Simple, actually. 

When I was a kid, my mom always made fries from scratch.  There weren't frozen fries back then.  I remember her cutting the potatoes - Russets - into long sticks and soaking them in ice water for a while.  Then she'd pour off the water, lay out a terrycloth towel, lay the drained potatoes across the towel, roll it up and remove every bit of moisture before cooking them in hot oil.  So I went back in time and made my new-fangled fries the same way my mom had made hers so many years ago.  Roots.  I've got 'em.  Once they came out of the oil, I sprinkled them with a little Kosher salt and just a kiss of vinegar.  And they were heaven. 

Duck Fries

  • 2 7-ounce tubs D'Artagnan duck fat (Giant Eagle Market District carries it - ask) (believe it or not, you can order it on Amazon, too!)
  • 2 pounds large Russet potatoes - peeled and cut into French fry sized sticks - make them pretty!
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes - peeled and cut into the same size pieces as the Russets
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • vinegar of your choice - I used cider vinegar, but malt vinegar would be wonderful....just not for we gluten-free folks
Using a large, deep heavy pot, heat the duck fat to 375 degrees.  CAREFULLY lower the fries into the oil and fry until crisp and golden brown.  You'll need to do this in several batches...do not crowd!  
As each batch is done, remove to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and keep warm in the oven (200 degrees) until all the fries are ready.  Sprinkle with the salt, splash a little vinegar over and get ready to enjoy some of the best, most flavorful fries you've ever had!
Do NOT throw out the fat!  Let it cool, pour it back into the original containers and store it in the refrigerator until the next time.  And there will be a next time, trust me.
NOTE:  I use a deep pot because the cost of the duck fat is prohibitive to using in a fryer.  The duck fat is $5.99 a small container at Giant Eagle.  The same as it is online, but you don't have to pay for shipping and you don't have to wait for it!  Of course, if you don't live where you can get it in the store, it would be worth having it shipped, in my opinion.
One interesting thing...to me anyway...when you open the container, the fat is white.  When it melts, it turns gold.  And when it solidifies again?  White again.  And there was NO loss of fat in the cooking process!  That's a sign of a good cooking temp AND a good fat.  
One more thing.  Next time I make duck, I am SAVING the fat!  No more dissing the duck fat for me.  Duck fat respect.  Amen.
Okay....another thing.  The picture above?  Obviously the fries are in the back, the Old Bay Wings are in the front. 


Monday, February 6, 2012

Wheat-Free Chocolate Radicals

Enrico's Biscotti,  is an essential stop any time you're doing The Strip in Pittsburgh.  Wait, no, it's not what you're imagining...The Strip District is an area adjacent to downtown that is filled with the best in all types of foods to delight your inner foodie.  The world famous original Primanti's is there, too!

We've got grocery stores that are Greek, Mexican, Peruvian, Italian, Turkish, Chinese, Vietnamese....I think you get the picture.  Specialty stores for coffee, wine, cheese, meats and cheeses, sausages, fish and seafood and spices line the crowded sidewalks. 

Streetside vendors hawk everything from baked goods to Chinese vegetable pancakes to meat on a stick to BBQ to tacos made before your eyes...and that's just a sampling of the food.  There are tables with bargains galore in fashion, comic books, Steeler swag, colorful scarves...and then there is the live music and the lobster phone guy outside Wholey's.  It is a party!  It is a feast for all the senses! 

So back to Enrico's Biscotti.  My favorite cookie - before the gluten issue - was their Chocolate Radical.  It was a giant chocolate cookie that was simultaneously crunchy and chewy, crisp and melty.  Like The Strip, the Chocolate Radical was a chocolate feast for the senses!  I miss it.  But not totally, because this a wheat-free approximation - it comes pretty close - and it fills that dreamy chocolate void very nicely.  And whatever you do, when you visit Pittsburgh, be sure to do The Strip!

Wheat-Free Chocolate Radicals
  • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate chips - I use Ghirardelli 60% cacao (check to be sure these are GF for gluten-free version)
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, large
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (check to be sure it's gluten-free)
  • 1 teaspoon espresso coffee powder (if you don't have it, use instant coffee - I have!)
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free flour - I use Jules Gluten-free flour (if you aren't worrying about a GF product, just use regular white flour!)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder - Rumsford for the GF version
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips - same as above
  • 1 cup walnuts halves, toasted
  • 1 cup pecan halves, toasted

Preheat oven to 350.

Melt 1 pound chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water, stir until smooth and lump-free.  Remove from heat.  With mixer, beat sugar and eggs in large bowl until pale yellow and VERY thick, about 10 minutes - the thicker the better.  

Beat in melted chocolate, melted butter, vanilla and espresso powder.  

Mix flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.  Stir  into chocolate mixture.  Mix in chocolate chips and nuts.  

Line several large cookie sheets with parchment paper or use a Silpat if you have one.  Using an ice cream scoop (yes, the big one with the lever on it), drop batter onto prepared cookie sheets, spacing evenly.  Flatten out into rounds.  

Bake cookies until tops are dry and cracked, about 20 minutes, depending on your oven.  Cool cookies right on the parchment.  When cool, remove from parchment and store in an airtight container.

Makes approximately 2 dozen LARGE cookies.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Superbowl Sunday!!!

 Superbowl Sunday is here! Yippee!  Superbowl Sunday is here!!!!  So why am I excited...I don't have a dog in this fight, the Steelers aren't playing, so why do I care?  The food, baby, the food!  

The only positive thing about the Steelers not playing today is not having to stress over what the outcome might be - alright, it's obvious I'm desperate to turn the dark cloud of a non-Steeler Superbowl into a silver lining.  At least I can concentrate on the food instead of who actually wins or loses.  (Well, I do have a preference...I prefer that anyone but Brady wins.)  

Another positive is that I don't have to slave over the black and gold, finely detailed Steeler sugar cookies in helmet shapes with my favorite numbers emblazoned in icing upon them.  (Those numbers would be 86, 43, 99, 83, 25 and 92 for starters.  If you, too, are a Steelers fan, you KNOW the players behind those numbers!) Although I'd give my eyeteeth to have a reason to make those cookies.

Enough about what I''m not making, What will the dishes gracing the coffee table in front of our TV be this evening?  Old Bay wings (Old Bay = Baltimore =  the Ravens aren't playing either!  Sorry Baltimore friends...we DO have a rivalry, but I do love my Old Bay!), Duck Fat Fries - white AND sweet potato and Taco Soup.  Here's an equation again, warning!  Taco soup = SOUP-er Bowl.  Sorry.  Had to go there.

Taco soup isn't a complicated, slave-over-the-stove for hours kind of dish.  This easy, bold, beefy dish comes together in a hurry into a meal that's almost a chili, almost a soup and completely game day appropriate.  It's everything you crave in a taco...beef, beans, tomato, chiles (and then some), then top it off with sour cream, salsa, sliced green onions, shredded cheese...whatever YOU like in a taco. Crown that bowl of goodness with crushed tortilla chips for that final corny, taco touch and it's a touchdown in a bowl.

Taco Soup

  • 2 pounds ground beef, extra lean
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • half a head of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 envelopes taco seasoning mix (I like the hot n spicy kind) (to make this gluten-free, check the label!)
  • 1 envelope ranch-style dressing mix (to make this gluten-free, check the label!)
  • 1 16-ounce can black beans, undrained
  • 1 16-ounce can corn, undrained
  • 2 16-ounce can hominy, undrained (hominy MAKES this soup...do NOT skip it)
  • 2 4-ounce cans green chiles, undrained
  • 2 10 3/4 -unce cans RoTel undrained
  • 2 14 ounce cans beef broth

Brown meat, onion and garlic in soup pot.  Begin adding ingredients one at a time, alternating dry ingredients with canned ingredients.  Stir after each addition. Cover; simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Serve in bowls.  Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, crushed tortilla chips, a dollup of sour cream a little salsa and sliced green onions.  Your taco shell and garnishes are on top of the soup! 

Lemon Garlic Old Bay Wings
(picture later)

What's the Superbowl without wings?!  I don't know and I don't intend to find out.  Here's an alternative to Buffalo wings if you're in the mood to try something new.  And completely wonderful.

  • 24 wing portions - flats and drummies
  • 3 T. Old Bay, plus more for sprinkling before serving
  • 1 T. granulated garlic
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • juice of 1 large lemon or 2 smaller lemons - good juicy ones
  • 3 T. olive oil

Put the wings and the rest of the ingredients into a large ziptop bag and mix them around well.  Squeeze the air out, zip and refrigerate overnight or for at least a couple hours before baking.

Preheat the oven to 400.  Spray a rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil, arrange the wings so there is plenty of room around each and bake for 30 minutes.  Turn each wing over and continue baking until browned and crisp.  Remove to a serving platter, squeeze a little lemon juice over the top and sprinkle with a little additional Old Bay.  

I like these just as they are - naked.  The hubby likes them dipped in bleu cheese dressing. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Lemon Chicken with Asparagus, Snowpeas and Mushrooms

    The title of this dish tells you almost exactly what's in it.  And you're thinking Chinese, right?  Nope.  Not a speck of soy sauce, not a smidgen of sesame oil...not even a drop of chile paste.  Surprised?  So what are the flavors?  Bright and tangy lemon, tender chicken, fresh, crunchy snowpeas, earthy mushrooms and sweet asparagus. The flavors are clean and decidedly Spring! 

    We love this for a quick dinner, but the bite-size pieces  make this a great dish for a large crowd, too.  Those occasions when you have a lot people over who end up balancing plates on their laps?  This is the dish to serve...you won't need a knives and forks!  

    I like to serve this with either a buttered rice brightened with a little chopped parsley and sliced green onions when I'm feeling fancy and have the time - or I just serve it with plain brown rice like pictured above.  To round out the meal, maybe a green salad or a fruit salad and some good bread - maybe even some fresh blueberry muffins to highlight the spring feeling!  

    And yeah, I know it isn't spring yet, but I'm sure dreaming of it...aren't you?  Especially after the snowflakes were flying today.  I'm hoping that by bringing out some early spring flavors in my cooking (and maybe some store-bought daffodils for a centerpiece...just to pretend) then maybe, just maybe, the real spring will get here sooner?  Maybe?  Yes?

    Lemon Chicken with Asparagus, Snowpeas & Mushrooms

    Serves 4

    • 1 pound boneless chicken, cut into medium-sized chunks
    • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
    • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1tablespoon lemon zest
    • 1/3 pound snow pea pods, fresh, whole, stem ends removed
    • 1/2 pound asparagus, woody ends snapped off, sliced diagonally into 2" pieces
    • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms

    • 1/2 cup chicken stock
    • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
    • 2 teaspoons water
    • salt and pepper, to taste

    Combine chicken with 2 t. of oil and 2 t. cornstarch.  Toss together in a bowl until chicken is coated.

     Heat 2 T. oil in a skillet and sprinkle the oil with salt.  Add chicken and saute until it just cooks, but doesn't brown.  Remove chicken to a plate.
    Add the veggies to the pan and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender and then add chicken back to skillet.
    While the veggies are cooking, stir together the remaining 2 t. cornstarch, 1 T lemon juice, the stock, water and salt and pepper.  When the mixture is smooth, pour it over the chicken and veggies in the skillet.  Stir until the sauce thickens and serve over rice.

    NOTE:  Double, triple or quadruple (etc., etc., etc.) the recipe to serve as many people as you need to.  This is naturally gluten-free!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Thai Green Curry Sweet Potato Mash

Sometimes we tend to view someone we know one way, one way only.  We don't see other possibilities of their personalities - never see other aspects that may exist in their out-of-office, everyday life. Think of a co-worker you know as a dedicated professional dealing with the ins and outs of the office day after day...dependable, conscientious, dedicated.  Serious.  You have a certain mindset about what and who this person is.  Then, you find out that serious, staid individual performs in musical comedy several times a year. What?!  Well, how interesting!  Who knew?!  A new appreciation develops, a new admiration.

There are foods like that, I think.  Peas comes to mind.  A simple dish of buttered peas is just about how we all enjoy them.  And then there are sweet potatoes.  Oh sure, we jazz those up at the holidays...maybe with brown sugar or marshmallows or we even go wild with a few toasted pecans. There's the standard baked sweet potato with butter, salt and pepper - or even (getting wild again) with cinnamon and brown sugar.  What else can you do with sweet potatoes besides the usual...besides the day-to-day staid, expected?  

Do I have a recipe for you!  An entirely new way to look at AND serve sweet potatoes.  With a little spice, a little tart, a little heat, a touch of sweet....you've got potatoes with pizzazz!  These are sweet potatoes with so much personality that I recommend serving them with a simple protein...grilled steaks, grilled pork chops or broiled chicken because these potatoes shine, folks...they become the star of the show that is dinner.  I'm talking Thai Green Curry Sweet Potato Mash! (Maybe next time we'll take on the humble green pea.)  Oh, and that aforesaid performer?  Real.  Really.  Tax people can be SO surprising sometimes.

Thai Green Curry Sweet Potato Mash
8 servings
  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon green curry paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/3 cup light cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Cook potatoes covered with water until tender.  Drain, return to pan, keep warm.
Melt butter in small skillet over medium heat.  Add shallots, cook until just soft.  Stir in brown sugar, salt, green curry paste, cumin, cinnamon, and cayenne; cook a minute, stirring constantly.  

Add mixture to potatoes along with cream and lime juice.  Mash with potato masher and serve.  So pretty!  So good!  So good for you!  1 serving has only 120 calories and is super high in potassium and vitamins C and A.

NOTE:  I like to serve these with a small wedge of lime to squeeze over the top before enjoying!