Thursday, March 15, 2018

Scenes from My Pantry: Turkey Lentil Sloppy Joes

Loved "sloppy Joes" as a kid.  Messy by design and delicious.  These days the aim is still delicious but, lighter more healthy choices.

Using lean ground turkey and the hearty lentil beans, is a great alternative to preparing this traditional meat-centric meal that still feels substantial and comforting without sacrificing the flavor.

This recipe makes enough for twelve servings. You can easily freeze extra servings in freezer bags for a fast, healthy weeknight meal.... or skip the bun, and enjoy it as chili.

Turkey Lentil Joe's
Serves 12
Adapted from allrecipes

1 (32-ounce) carton reduced-sodium chicken broth
1-1/2 cups brown lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1 pound ground turkey
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives
3 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Hamburger buns

Optional: Thinly sliced red onion and Kosher pickles

Bring broth to a boil in a Dutch oven.  Stir in lentils; return to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.  Drain in a colander.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion and carrot; cook until tender, 5 to 6 minutes.  Add turkey and garlic; cook, stirring to break up lumps, until turkey is browned. Drain any oil.

Stir in tomatoes, olives, chili powder, tomato paste, and vinegar.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes.  Stir in cooked lentils; cook until heated through, about 2 minutes more.  Serve on buns with red onion and pickles, if using.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

When you are serious about your cocktail.... A Maiden's Prayer

The Maiden Prayer has all the elements which allows you to create this cocktail anyplace, anywhere with a few quality ingredients  which include gin, orange liqueur, and fresh orange and lemon juices.

A slightly sour but refreshing palate opener. A perfect lead to a good meal anytime of year.

A Maiden's Prayer Cocktail
Makes two 4-1/4-ounce drinks
Adapted from Raising the Bar

3 ounces good quality gin 
3 ounces fresh orange juice (approximately one orange) 
1-1/2 ounces fresh lemon juice (approximately 1 lemon)
1 ounce Cointreau or other good quality orange liquor
2 orange twists

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add all the ingredients except the orange twists.  Shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker is frosted and beaded with sweat.

Strain in cocktail glasses, garnish with the orange twists, and serve.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Wicked Buttermilk Cornbread

Rumor has it, southerners make the best cornbread.  Now, not being a true southerner does not mean it's not possible to deliver a wicked cornbread recipe.  Don't raise your eyebrow my southern friends when honey is mentioned in the recipe, and whole kernel corn too.  Bacon drippings and lard are divine but honey and buttermilk steals the show.

Wicked Buttermilk Cornbread
Makes 8x8 pan
Recipe adapted from Life Made Simple

8 tablespoons (1 stick butter)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup good quality honey
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup whole yellow kernel corn (if frozen, thawed)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup good quality cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Lightly spray or butter a 8x8 square baking pan.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar and honey.  Whisk in the eggs one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth.  Add the buttermilk, and corn, mix to combine.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda.  Gradually add the dry ingredients, stirring with a spatula until only a few lumps remain.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the spatula to create a even layer.  Allow the batter to sit for a few minutes before placing in the oven to bake.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted comes out clean.  Remove from the oven, brush the top with butter and allow to cool before slicing and serving.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Pura Vida....Travel Journey to Costa Rica and Green Plantain Ceviche

Nestled between Nicaragua to its north, and Panama to the southeast, and sharing two coastlines with the Pacific and the Caribbean lies the Republic of Costa Rica.  

With a 3-hour car ride from the Liberia airport to our first adventure in the Arenal region there was plenty of time to soak up the scenic landscape.  Miles of sugar cane and pineapple farms, long windy roads with twists and turns, and plenty of pot holes makes for a memorable ride.  A country flushed with rainforests, tropical fauna, active volcanoes, pristine coast lines, abundant wildlife its hard not to fall in love with Costa Rica.

Costa Ricans or "Ticos" as they commonly refer to themselves are friendly, warm and inviting. This country has a lot of soul.   Pura Vida (Pure Life) is a common expression often used to remind you to relax, and enjoy life.  It's an emotion, an attitude, its a way of life. 

No trip for us would be complete without enjoying the local cuisine.  We seek it out.  Strolling the town center at noon, we noticed a group of local workers surrounding several car trunks where lunch was being served.  Without hesitation we got into line and for about $8 for two we feasted on stewed chicken, Gallo Pinto (beans and rice), yucca, fried plantains, topped with a tangy cabbage slaw right out of pots in the car trunk. Score! A friendly local told me local cuisine include "beans and rice for breakfast, beans and rice for lunch and rice and beans for dinner".

A memorable side dish enjoyed with one lunch was a local ceviche made with green bananas. Fresh and simplistic, it was delightful. This dish stayed with me all the way home.  Green plantain has the texture of a white fish without well, the fish.   There are numerous ways to prepare this dish but, this is my crack at it.  So, next time you need a little summer in your winter or you are prepared to fire up the grill, or impress your friends with your pot luck dish... Here you go!

Green Plantain Ceviche (Ceviche de Plátano Verde)
Serves 6-8


2-3 green plantains (not ripe), cut in half
2 medium colorful bell peppers (red, yellow or orange), diced
1 medium red onion, halved and sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (or a high quality juice)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Salt and Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan, bring water to a boil.  Place the halved unpeeled plantains in the pan and cook for approximately 20 minutes (you should see the peel coming away from the banana) or until the banana is still slightly firm.  Remove from the pan.  Set aside.  Cool.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine the peppers, red onion, garlic cloves, lemon juice, orange juice, rice vinegar and cilantro.

Peel and dice the cooled bananas. Add to the other ingredients.  Toss. Chill for several hours or overnight to allow the flavors to marinate.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Rural America....Southern Hospitality and Chicken Pot Pie

Life invariably provides twists and turns.  There is no avoiding them.   Through this bittersweet symphony of life we are usually in the midst of counting our blessings, and balancing our challenges.

My parents moved to a rural small town about 10 years ago.  Southern roots run deep in this town and weddings, new babies, and death are serious business. Word spreads like wildfire upon a death and the brigade team of hospitality assembles.  Since condolences can be difficult to express, there is always food, and a lot of it.  Soon after the first of many chicken pot pies and all the fixings arrive filled with kindness, comfort, and calories.  The southern casserole speaks volumes but mostly it is the call to "How can I help?"

In honor of the ultimate southern comfort food I present you with a traditional chicken pot pie made with generous chunks of chicken and vegetables, loaded with kindness, comfort and calories.

Deep Dish Southern Style Chicken Pot Pie
Serves 8-10

Homemade double pie crust or ready-made refrigerated pie crust
2lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into generous chunks
3 cups chicken stock
2 medium potatoes, cubed
1 cup celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups frozen vegetable mix (green beans, carrots, peas and corn)
1 Tablespoon Herbs De Provence (blend of thyme, rosemary, marjoram and savory)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons butter
1-1/2 cups Half and Half
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon of water for egg wash

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  In a 4-quart stock pot add the chicken broth and the chicken breasts. Bring to a simmer. Add cubed potato. Simmer until the chicken is no longer pink.  Remove the chicken and let cool.  Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon. Place aside.

With the remaining cooking liquid reserve 1-1/2 cups of broth in a large measuring cup.  Add half and half, herb seasoning, salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

In the same pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion, celery.  Sauté until vegetables are translucent-about 3-4 minutes.  Gradually add in the flour, and mix until well blended.  Gradually add in the broth mixture, lower the heat to simmer, and stir frequently until the broth is thickened.  Add the chicken and vegetables. Stir until well blended.  Set aside.

Line a deep dish pan (10-inches) with the first layer of the pie pastry.  Add mixture until it reaches the top.  Add second pie pastry, crimp and seal.  Brush top gently with egg wash.

Bake 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Cucumber Mint Martini

Autumn approaches slowly in north Florida with heat and humidity continuing to hang in the air like a wet blanket.

This in-between time is a perfect for a late summer cocktail.  All good cocktail starts with quality ingredients-No exceptions.  We scored an artisan gin from Austin, Texas called austin reserve from our older son.  A gin with soft botanicals and a very smooth finish.  A new favorite.

There are just a handful of ingredients in this cocktail so, get your shaker out, invite a good friend, put on music and enjoy.

Cucumber Mint Martini
Serves 1
Recipe from Fried Chicken and Champagne

4 cucumber wheels (1/8 inch thick)
10 small mint leaves
1/4 ounce simple syrup (see recipe below)
2 ounces good quality gin
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/2 Grand Mariner

Garnish: Paper-thin slice of cucumber 

Recipe for Simple Syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Mix water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir, mixing well.  Bring the mixture to a boil. stirring frequently.  When the sugar has completely dissolved, remove from heat.

Let the mixture cool completely.  Place in a container and refrigerator.  Keeps up to a month in the refrigerator.

Muddle 4 cucumber wheels and mint leaves in a shaker.  Add the simple syrup. gin, lime juice, and Grand Marnier  Add ice to fill shaker.  Shake and strain into a martini glass; float the paper-thin cucumber slice on top.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Hurricane Irma's Baked Spaghetti

 A wild weather week for Florida! With time to prepare, evacuate, get out of the way, shelter in place or some combination there remains the stress of waiting and anticipating.  Mother Nature can be incredibly generous and she can be equally devastating.  This month alone Harvey doused Texas and Louisiana, and Irma exploded on the scene to wreck havoc on the peninsula of Florida.  Last year, almost on the same date we experienced hurricane Hermine.  Hate to think this is the new normal as storms are becoming bigger and stronger during hurricane season due to the warming of the ocean waters which is fuel for these storm systems.

During times of stress it is in our nature to find solace in traditional comfort foods.  While we waited and prepared for Irma's arrival a craving was building for an EPIC comfort meal to feed the family, or a crowd.  The dish was baked spaghetti and my friends there is no finer comfort.

The recipe below is my take on baked spaghetti but certainly you can change this recipe up as you like and I am sure it will be delicious.

Hurricane Irma's Baked Spaghetti
Serves a crowd  
(makes a 9x13 pan with generous portions)

1lb. Thin spaghetti
2 jars (24 ounces) good quality Marinara Sauce
1lb. lean ground beef
Olive oil for cooking
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
16 ounces 4% small curd cottage cheese or Ricotta cheese (I prefer cottage cheese)
3-4 cups Mozzarella Cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling water add spaghetti and cook according to package directions.  Drain.  Return to cooking pot and add one jar of marinara sauce. Toss. Set aside.

While the spaghetti is cooking,  heat a large pan with a drizzling of olive oil.  Add chopped onion, sauté until translucent.  Add minced garlic, sauté for another minute.  Add Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Blend with other ingredients. Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink.  Add second jar of marinara sauce. Cook another couple of minutes. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, add cottage cheese or ricotta cheese with 1-2 cups of mozzarella cheese. Blend.  Set aside.

In a 9x13 baking pan add a layer of sauce, then spaghetti, then cheese mixture and repeat the layers ending with the sauce.   Top with mozzarella cheese and bake 30-35 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.