Sunday, September 27, 2015

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Kabobs


There is just something about eating food that's on a stick. I'm not quite sure what it is, but it's just fun!  Any food on a stick.  It could be a popsicle, roasted marshmallows, satay...it's just really cool.

Today we are making kabobs.  They originated in the Middle East and are so popular all over now that you see them popping in many different cuisines.  We both love kabobs and find that they are quick and easy to assemble and to cook.  They are something that you can grill on a charcoal or gas grill and are usually made with beef, pork, chicken, lamb, and mixed with vegetables....or not!


I usually pick a theme for dinner and all the dishes are surrounding that theme. Today we are dreaming of Jamaica. I love, love, love jerk chicken and decided to make Jamaican Jerk Chicken Kabobs.  The perfect dish for grilling!

This is really simple to make.  You just take your chicken, some veggies, and some Jamaican Jerk seasoning and assemble your kabobs.  Serve it with some Coconut Rice and you are all set for night in Jamaica!  I happened to have a friend that just got married in Jamaica and she brought me some authentic Jamaican Jerk Seasoning, which I used but you can use any brand you like from the store. Mine was super hot (habaneros...) but I've found that there are many out there that are not quite that hot so everyone is happy.


So what's your favorite item on a stick?

Today ours is kabobs...but tomorrow who know?

Enjoy!




Jamaican Jerk Chicken Kabobs

serves 4

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 red onion, cut into chunks
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
1 summer squash, cut in half and into chunks
1 zucchini, cut in half and into chunks
Jamaican Jerk seasoning blend
skewers (wooden or metal)

Heat your grill (charcoal or gas) to medium high heat.

Cut your boneless skinless chicken into 2 inch chunks.  Sprinkle with jerk seasoning on all sides.  To assemble your skewers:  thread skewers with a pieces of onion, bell pepper, chicken, squash, and zucchini alternating.  I start out with 1 or 2 vegetables and then add chicken and alternate with more vegetables, ending with a vegetable.  About 4 pieces of chicken per skewer. 2-3 skewers per person.

Cook over medium high heat until chicken is thoroughly cooked through, about 10-12 minutes. Rotate the skewers several times to cook all sides.  Serve with rice.


Friday, September 25, 2015

S'Mores Brownies


It's September already...almost over in fact.

Where does the time fly?

I was thinking over the weekend that we didn't get to go camping this summer like we wanted to. One thing or another kept coming up and before you know it...it's September...already.

I grew up camping...or more like RVing...but I have such great memories of those times with my parents.  So many stories and adventures I could tell you.  But there's nothing like roasting marshmallows around the campfire.  I just LOVE marshmallows.  So naturally S'mores are high up on my list. I mean hello? chocolate, marshmallows, and sweet graham crackers...who doesn't love that ooey gooey deliciousness!

Well since we didn't go camping I'm going to bring the camping food to me.  In the form of a S'mores Brownie that is!



Today's recipe is simple.  Now you can get all fancy and make homemade brownie if you see fit, but a good boxed mix will do you in a pinch for this one.  I like my brownies thick so I always use and 8x8 inch pan to bake them in, so that's what I used today.




How is this S'mores you ask?  Well the bottom is graham crackers, with the brownie mixed poured on top and baked. (Yea, baked onto the graham cracker, wow!) Then you load on the marshmallows as a topping and broil it to get that roasted toasty top! OH YEA...they are GOOD!



Easy to make, and the kids will love them.  They'll keep for a while.  We actually snacked on them most of the week. So I brought my camping food to the house.  I'm so glad I did!   But be warned....you made need to control yourself from compulsively shoving them in your mouth.



Oh, and enjoy!



S'Mores Brownies

makes  9 squares

5-6 graham cracker squares, divided
1 box of your favorite Brownie Mix (or homemade mix)
(eggs, oil etc...ingredients listed on box to make brownies)
1 1/4 cups of miniature marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 8x8 inch baking pan with aluminum foil that extends up over two sides.  Coat with non-stick cooking spray. Place 7 or so graham crackers in the pan.  Breaking squares to cover completely.  

Mix the ingredients for the boxed brownie mix in a large bowl. Pour batter over the graham crackers in the pan.  Bake according to box directions for an 8x8 inch pan or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out pretty clean.  You don't want to over bake.

Turn  your oven on broil.

Sprinkle the marshmallow over the top.  Broil until puffy and golden brown.  About 1 min.  Cool and remove from the pan by lifting the end of the foil from the pan before cutting.




Saturday, September 19, 2015

Weekend Treat: Small Batch - Plum Muffins (Regular and Low Carb Versions)


I have a long standing relationship with Plums.

We go way back.

Back to some fond memories of us spending time together at the beach, backyard picnics, school lunch boxes, and summer pool parties.  Plums have been a true companion, compadre, confidant, and most beloved fruit!  They've never failed me. Nope!  With their plump fleshy insides one bite has the juices running down my chin.

Ahhh memories of plums!


I look forward to seeing my old friends again each year when summer hits.  Black ones, red one, spotted ones...doesn't matter to me.  I'm a lover of all plums!

While I like to eat them raw, straight from the tree.  That tree is long gone.  So I frequent the local farmer's markets and buy dozen of plums each time.  I know to have eaten 1 or 2 on the way home and MGG has to hide some for himself to get any....ahhemm.  But today I craved a warm, baked plum. My second favorite baked summer fruit to blueberries.  Oh! Hot juicy plums have such a warm delicious flavor ...it is hard to beat.  So what to make?  Muffins of course!


Muffins are my weekend guilty pleasure.  I've made tons and tons of them. If you've followed me then you know I love muffins!  But plum muffins?  WOW!  Jackpot on this idea for sure.  To switch it up a bit I made a small batch of muffins, filled with cinnamon and juicy plums, topped with cinnamon and sugar.  Yum!!!

A small batch will make 6 good sized muffins.  Sometimes you just don't need or want 12 muffins, so a small batch is in order!  I'm also giving you two versions.  One is low carb using a sugar blend, and the other is the original version. Either way you make them these muffins will bring back great memories of a close friend, "the plum".  I know they did for me.


Enjoy!




Here are some of my favorites muffins:

Peaches and Cream Muffins
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (Healthier Version)
Simple Blueberry Muffins
Raspberry Sour Cream Muffins
Marshmallow Muffins
Basic Muffin Recipe (Lower Carb Version)





Plum Muffins  (Small Batch)

makes: 6

1 c flour
1/4 c + 2 T sugar (low carb version use 3 T Splenda Sugar Blend)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 T baking powder
1/4 t kosher salt
1 egg, beaten
1 t vanilla
1/4 c + 2 T 2% milk
1/4 c canola oil
2 medium size ripe plums, pitted and cut into small chunks
2 T sugar or (Splenda Sugar Substitute)
1/4 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray a 6 cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl add flour, sugar (or Splenda) cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk together to blend. Add egg, vanilla, milk, and oil to flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Fold in chopped plums.

Mix 2 T sugar (or Splenda) with 1/4 tsp of cinnamon.  Mix to blend.  Sprinkle over the muffin batter.

Scoop batter into the muffin cups, filling to the top.  Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over the muffin batter.  Bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes until muffins are golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool.  Serve.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Let's Get Grilling: Greek Chicken Breasts with Fresh Dill and Feta Cheese


Our weekend turned out very special because we got to make a dish from a favorite chef of mine, Phillis Carey.

Phillis used to teach at a local Gelson's supermarket in Calabasas.  I took one of her classes and fell in love with her cooking and her teaching style.  I remember the class was all about Chicken Breasts. Boy this lady is dynamo!  She made 4 dinner entrees (stuffed chicken, 2 sauteed chicken dishes with sauce, and a stir fry) and a dessert.  This was an illustration class so we got to sit back and watch and learn. MAN!  This chef can cook!  She whipped up the four dishes, and we ate every one, and the dessert in under 2 hours.  In addition to that she is like having your very own "Google". She is so full or tips and advise that I don't think I've learned more about cooking from any other chef.

That was the beginning of an indepth period of learning for me.  I took every class she offered and learned, studied, and cooked my way through her recipes, longing for more.  Then when the we had the recession and Gelson's closed their cooking school.  That's been quite a while now, and the last time I saw Phillis.

So about a month ago I happened to be itching for a class again and started looking at the Westlake Culinary Institute which also holds classes.  Low and behold I found that Phillis was teaching there now.  I felt like I had died and gone to heaven!  She was back...and I was going to be there!

Today's recipe is called Greek Chicken Breasts with Fresh Dill and Feta Cheese. This recipe was one of my favorites from the class so I was eager to try it first.  



Oh boy, the flavors are excellent!   Again Phillis has said that if you don't care for chicken, use pork chops, or even a steak. The marinade and cooking techniques stay the same except for the cooking time.  If you don't care for feta, change it to a different cheese such as blue cheese, queso fresca, or ricotta salata then change out the fresh dill to tarragon or thyme or even oregano.  All will work well.

Easily cooked on an indoor or outdoor grill this dish will please everyone at the dinner table.
Enjoy!



Greek Chicken Breasts with Fresh Dill and Feta Cheese

serves 8
source:  Phillis Carey

8 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup olive oil
3 T fresh lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 T. Dijon mustard
3 T minced fresh dill
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
3/4 cup crumbled sheep's milk feta cheese

Trim the chicken and pound to an even 1/2 inch thickness.  Place chicken in a casserole dish.  Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, dill and pepper.  pour over the chicken, turning to coat.  Cover and refrigerate 1 to 3 hours.

Preheat grill.  Remove chicken from marinade and season well with salt.  Grill chicken breast side down first for 4 minutes.  Turn chicken over and top with feta cheese.  Grill chicken, with the top down, another 4 to 5 minutes or until cooked through and feta has softened a bit.  Serve.




Saturday, September 12, 2015

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad



It's a summer of salads! Even though it's September and all the stores claim that it's fall already, it isn't here in Southern California.

Nope. It's 105, hot and humid. So I would say that still qualifies as summer, wouldn't you?

Even so, the stores still have a wonderful assortment of late summer vegetables that need to be put to good use.  So why not make a salad with some juicy summer tomatoes and some fresh herbs?  


I've been glancing through my Ina Garten cookbooks lately and picked up one titled "Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?".  She has the most perfect recipes that just always, always work. The flavors pop and I've never had a dish I didn't like from Ina. Don't you just love her?  So anyway, I found a wonderful salad she called "Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad" which was right up my alley.  I love the combination of tomatoes, cucumber, mint, garbanzo beans, feta etc....all wrapped up in a lemon vinaigrette.   This was what I decided to make and I'm sooooo glad I did!

This was fabulous.  Crunchy, sweet, salty, and tart all rolled into one dish.  Plus, this was really easy to make.  Great as a side dish with some grilled chicken, or as a lunch main dish. It holds up well so the leftovers are just as delicious.  A real winner!


Here's her recipe below.  

You can't beat a salad, in the summer, or any other time.
Enjoy!





Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad


(Serves 4 to 6)

adapted from Ina Garten's : Copyright 2010, Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?


1 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded, cored, and ½-inch-diced 
1 hothouse cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded, and ½-inch-diced 
1 can or jar (12 to 16 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup julienned fresh basil leaves 
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons) 
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves) 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
½ cup good olive oil 
8 ounces good feta cheese, ½-inch-diced 

Place the scallions, tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, parsley, mint, and basil in a large salad bowl and toss to combine. 

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Pour the dressing over the salad, tossing gently to coat all the vegetables. Add the feta, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss gently. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Brown Butter Banana Bread Coffee Cake



I think I've died and gone to HEAVEN!

Now you may be asking why?  The picture above is just a normal looking coffee cake.
Well it's not...

I've discovered brown butter.

Yes, that's right brown butter.

This stuff is straight from the GODS!  I've seen so many recipes floating around the blogesphere about brown butter this and brown butter that....cookies, cakes, ice cream...everything you can imagine and I thought "ehh" "doesn't sound all that special"  Boy was I wrong!


So I came across this simple coffee cake that uses brown butter...and bananas.  I decided to give it a try and see what all the hooplah is about.  Once I got that butter in the pan and stirred and stirred, something magical happened.  It foamed, then turned golden, then the foam went away and the butter became nutty and fragrant.  I just stuck my finger in it for a taste and about swooned! Seriously, I had NO IDEA this tasted so good.  Where the heck have I been that I've not been on the brown butter train!

The rest is history.  It's my new passion.  I'll be making brown butter this and that from now on. You'll get sick of me and brown butter...


Now this coffee cake is a nice moist cake with a crumb topping and bananas inside...but let me tell you, on it's own it's good, but with the brown butter it is fabulous.  Best coffee cake ever!


So if you do anything at all, make something with browned butter (preferably my coffee cake here!). This is so good it should be a bucket list item.  Go forth and brown butter!

Enjoy!



Banana Bread Coffee Cake

Ingredients

Cake:
¾ cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, browned and divided
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 egg
½ cup milk
1 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Topping:
½ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons reserved browned butter
1 cup pecans, chopped (optional)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray a 10” pie plate with cooking spray.  Add 6 tablespoons of butter to a small frying pan. Cook over low heat, stirring continuously until it browns. It will foam up, and then turn brown.  The foam will diminish and the butter will become golden. Remove from heat. 

In a medium bowl add the flour, baking powder, and salt.  To a large bowl, mix the sugar, 4 tablespoons of the browned butter, and egg.    Stir in the milk and mashed bananas.  Add the dry ingredients into wet and stir until just combined.  

To make the topping: stir together brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, remaining 2 T. browned butter, and the pecans. Pour the cake batter in to the pan and top with the crumb topping. 

Bake for 25-28 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.


source:  Crazy for Crust blog


Monday, September 7, 2015

Tomato Tabbouleh Salad


You know the rule about every time you bring in a new item of clothing or shoes that you should get rid of one?

That rule should apply to Pinterest!

My Pinterest postings are way out of control.  Way out...

I start looking and pinning and before long my "to make" board is so stuffed with items that I can't find anything, just like my closet!  They are filled with wonderful dishes that I've been saving an looking at saying "someday".

Well today is someday.  


First up is a great salad.  This is a variation of a Middle Eastern Tabbouleh salad. The main ingredient is bulgur, which is a cereal that is a whole dried cracked wheat. It's often used in place of rice and today it's the main ingredient in our Tabbouleh. Other common ingredients are parsley, mint, lemon juice and a variety of vegetables. Today it's all about fresh summer tomatoes and cucumbers to make a light summer salad.

We both love summer salads and this one is a winner!  We served it with Kabobs for dinner and then I had it with a sandwich the next day.  Delishhhh!


On to the next item in my Pinterest "closet"!  What will it be?



Tomato Tabbouleh Salad

serves 4


1/2 c bulgur
1 c boiling water
1 c cherry tomatoes, halved (I used orange and red)
1/2 medium hot house cucumber, small dice
1/2 c mint leaves, finely chopped
1/2 c Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/4 c lemon juice
1/4 c olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

To a medium saucepan add the bulgur.  Add the boiling water, cover and simmer on low about 20 minutes.  Check to make sure all the water is absorbed.  Fluff with a fork.  Add to a large bowl and allow to cool.

Meanwhile chop your tomatoes, cucumber, mint, and parsley.  Add to the cooled bulgur.  Stir to combine.

In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Add this dressing over the salad stirring to combine.  Refrigerate your mixture for about 1 hour to allow the flavors to come together.  Serve cold or at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator up to 5 days in a airtight container.  


adapted from Averie Cooks


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Red Velvet Berry Parfaits


It's time to celebrate once again, the last summer hurrah.   Labor Day weekend is almost here and boy do I have a wonderful dessert for you!

I saw a recipe on Rattlebridge Farm  for a Red Velvet Berry Crumble and was so wowed by it that I new I was going to do a variation of my own...parfait style.  It's the perfect red, white, and blue dessert to go along with many holidays such as Memorial Day, 4th of July (Independence Day) and especially Labor Day.

Since I only wanted to make a few of these parfaits, I took some help from my grocery store and bought 2 slices of red velvet cake and deconstructed them for my parfaits.  You could use red velvet cupcakes, brownies, or pound cake.  I've seen most of these in our local Ralphs market.  Add some vanilla or cheesecake flavored pudding, some berries, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream all layered in pretty dishes and you are set.  Easy as pie!


The taste is unbelievable too.  I mean, who doesn't love red velvet cake?  There are whole books just on the stuff.  It's the bomb, and is highlighted in this dish!

So if you are planning a get together, BBQ, or any family gathering for the weekend, this is the perfect dessert.  Hope you enjoy it...we gobbled it up!



Red Velvet Berry Parfaits

serves 4

1 pkg. sugar-free vanilla pudding (or cheesecake flavored)
2 c 2% milk
2 store bought red velvet cake slices (or cupcakes, brownies, pound cake, etc.)
handful of fresh blueberries
handful of fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
handful of fresh raspberries
vanilla ice cream 

Make the vanilla pudding according to package directions using the milk.  Allow to set up in the refrigerator for 5 minutes before using.  

Cube the red velvet cakes and place several in the bottom of 4 dishes or glasses.  Top with a large dollop of pudding.  Add a few more pieces of red velvet cake and divide all the berries among all the glasses.  Top each with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Place a blueberry on top.  Serve.



Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Weeknight Wonder: Cashew Chicken and Simple Vegetable Stir Fry



I love easy 20 minutes meals, don't you?

I work hard and really don't want to cook a major dinner during the week. Something quick, tasty, and hearty sounds good so I often turn to stir frys. My blog is full of stir fry recipes so be sure to search for them. I just love that I can throw together a quick meal in 20 minutes. A little help from a convenience item once in a while doesn't hurt either! In this case I used Kikkoman's stir fry sauce, which is very good.

This keeps the meal down to 20 minutes, and you can get a hot, healthy dish on the table in no time.  



The vegetables used are simple everyday veggies from your refrigerator.  Carrots, celery, and green beans.  Items I usually have on hand all the time, but you can use whatever veggies you have.  No fancy veggies this time, which should save you a trip to the store.  Meals like this are great for leftover items you need to use up so grab what you have!


Try this delicious meal soon.  It's the perfect weeknight meal, and better than takeout!

Enjoy!


Cashew Chicken and Simple Vegetable Stir Fry

1/4 c stir fry sauce
1/4 c water
½ 1b boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
¼ c. cornstarch
2 T. canola oil
1/2 c shredded carrots
2 stalks of celery, sliced
8 oz. green beans, trimmed
1/3 c roasted, unsalted cashews
White or brown rice, cooked


Combine stir fry sauce, and water in a small bowl. Set aside.

Place the cornstarch on a plate and dredge the chicken in it to coat.

Heat oil in a wok or skillet. Add chicken and stir fry over medium high heat about 5-7 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Remove from skillet to a plate. Add carrots, celery, and green beans. Stirring until crisp tender, about 8 minutes. Add chicken and cashews and stir until cashews are toasted. Add stir fry sauce and toss until ingredients are covered.

Serve over hot cooked rice.




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