Sometimes I wish I was from Boston so I could get away with saying Chowda. But, alas, I’m Cali, born and raised. Saying Chowder, thankfully, doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it just as much! And we’re finally (FINALLY) getting into Fall. Which to me means hearty stews and soups, corn bread. Anything that makes you feel warm and cozy. Ok, basically, comfort food. Fall = Comfort Food. This one definitely fits that category.
2 Tbs olive oil (keep more on hand for drizzling)
1 16 oz pkg frozen sweet corn
3 small to medium Russet potatoes
4-6 slices of bacon, chopped (depends on your love of bacon, I used 8. Tells you a little something about me)
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Tbs butter (I use unsalted)
1 whole onion, diced (to save time, I buy the already diced onion in the produce section. Use about 1 cup)
1 tsp smoked paprika (add more for your desired flavor)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground curry
3 cloves garlic, minced (to save time, I use the preminced garlic. 1 tsp = about 1 clove garlic)
1 cup white wine (always be sure to use a wine you personally enjoy as that is the flavor your dish will have. You can always sub chicken broth)
2 cups chicken stock (I used low sodium)
1/2 cup heavy cream (I didn’t have heavy cream, so I subbed 1/2 cup whole milk. To get the thickness, though, I added 1/2 cup of sour cream. It worked perfectly!)
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh cilantro (ick) or parsley for garnish, if desired
Preheat oven to 375°F. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper (makes for easier clean-up) add the corn and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes, turn corn with wooden spoon, and roast for an additional 10-15 minutes. The corn should be getting golden brown and starting to char a little. Remove and set aside until ready to add to the soup.
While corn roasts, peel and dice potatoes. Add to a medium pot of lightly salted water, bringing to a boil and then let simmer until fork tender. Drain in colander.
Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven to medium. Add diced bacon and cook, rendering the fat. Once bacon is crisp, remove with slotted spoon onto a paper towel lined plate. With the exception of about 2 tablespoons of fat, remove the rest. Add shrimp, stir to cook slightly. You want them a bit under cooked because you will be adding them to the hot chowder were they will continue to cook. Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon and add to the plate with bacon.
Add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter. When the butter begins to bubble, add the onions and slightly increase heat to medium-high. Cook onions until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add roasted corn. Stir in garlic, smoke paprika, and curry. When onions and corn are fully coated, add white wine to deglaze dutch oven. Scrape up any browned bits and simmer until liquid is reduced, about 5 minutes. Stir in potatoes. Taste, adjust seasoning as needed.
Slowly add chicken stock while stirring. Make sure the stock is completely incorporated with other ingredients. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add cream last. Adjust seasoning.
Finally, add shrimp, bacon, and cilantro or parsley. Serve with a warm crusty bread.
Wine Pairing Suggestions:
Total time: 1 hour – 1:10 minutes
I came across this recipe on Eating Well. My first thought, “Who does not like chicken wrapped in prosciutto.” Just so we’re clear: Wrapped. In. Prosciutto. This is taking chicken thighs, which have about a million ways to be yum, and wrapping them in prosciutto. That’s like taking bacon and wrapping . . . well, ANYTHING. But saltier and tastier. Then you’ve got the mushrooms. Mushrooms and sauce are amazing. And yes, of course, I made mashed potatoes. While this dish came together in at least 45 minutes, but more like an hour, as opposed to the 35 minute “total time” suggestion from Eating Well, it was still amazing. The hubs even commented that he didn’t realize he was coming home to a 5 Star Meal. Today is Veterans Day, and I’m a Veteran, of course you’re getting a 5 Star meal!
4 boneless, skinless thighs
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
4 thin slices prosciutto (If you are not familiar with prosciutto, accept that it will quickly become the higher-power of your bacon God)
4 tsp olive oil – divided (use extra-virgin if you’d like)
1 large shallot, halved and thinly sliced
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh oregano plus 1 tps, divided (ok, I don’t always have time to mess with fresh herbs, especially with the wonderful freeze-dried options, such as those available by Lighthouse)
8 oz sliced cremini mushrooms (I used 10 oz pre-sliced because that’s how it came and I’m not tossing out 2 oz of pre-sliced mushrooms)
1/2 cup Marsala or dry sherry (the best advice I can offer here, if you aren’t willing to drink it, don’t cook with it. Look in the wine section of your grocery store. Avoid “cooking” anything wines . Cooking wines tend to be higher in sodium and less flavorful.)
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth (you want to go with a nice ‘meaty’ broth here. There are so many that as you pour they look watered down. My tip, if they look watered down, they are, and that will translate to your dish.My personal favorite is Pacific Foods – Organic)
2 tsp cornstarch
Sprinkle chicken thighs with 1/4 tsp pepper and wrap each thigh with a slice of prosciutto.
Heat 2 tsp olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides and cooked through, 4 – 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate; wrap with foil to keep warm.
Reduce heat to medium and add remaining 2 tsp oil, shallot, and 1 tbs oregano to pan. Cook, stirring, until shallots are beginning to brown (about 1 – 2 minutes). Add mushrooms and cook, stirring until browned (4 – 6 minutes). Add Marsala (sherry will work here, too) and cook about 2 minutes.
In a separate small bowl, whisk broth, cornstarch, and the remaining 1/4 tsp pepper in a small bowl or measuring cup. Add to pan, stirring. Return to simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened (about 4 minutes)
Wine Pairing Suggestions:
Total time: About an hour
*Derived from Eating Well
Before I started grilling I kind of thought it was really simple. I mean, why else would that be most men’s sole form of cooking? I’m learning, however, how wrong I was. I’ll give you that burgers and dogs are simple, once you get used to the grill. And that’s the key, getting used to your grill. Like oven and stove tops, they are all pretty unique in how they heat. Some can take forever, such as the case with my crappy stove top, while others heat like a stove top is supposed. I’m finding this pretty much sums it up with grills, too. Also, finding that perfect spot to grill where the outside doesn’t get charred while leaving the inside raw. And timing, when to turn it, when to move it, etc. I’ve found a whole new appreciation for those that grill, and grill well. But don’t tell them or I’ll deny it. 🙂
4 chicken pieces, with bone & skin, about 10-12 oz each piece
1½ lb asparagus
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges (for garnish – optional)
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 Tbs finely chopped fresh Italian parsley (as a time saver sub Litehouse freeze-dried parsley)
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice (which is super simple since you just zested one)
2 garlic cloves, minced
In a small bowl mash the lemon butter ingredients, including ¼ tsp each of salt and pepper, until thoroughly blended. (This can be a bit challenging as the lemon juice and butter do no naturally combine well)
Carefully lift the skin of each piece of chicken, being careful to not puncture the skin. Spread 1 tablespoon of lemon butter around under the skin. Lay skin back in place.
Transfer remaining lemon butter to small saucepan and melt over medium heat. Set aside
Prepare grill for direct and indirect heat over medium (350° to 450°F).
Remove and discard the tough bottom of each asparagus. This is done easiest by taking one and bending it gently at the bottom until it snaps at its natural point, then line the rest up and cut them at about the same location. Drizzle asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Brush chicken with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill chicken, skin side up over direct medium heat, with the lid closed, until nicely marked on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Without turning the chicken, move it over to indirect medium heat, close the lid and continue cooking until the meat is opaque all the way to the bone, about 30 minutes. About 5 minutes before the chicken is done, brush the tops with some of the melted lemon butter and then turn chicken over to skin side down. Slide over to direct medium heat, close the lid, and continue cooking until the skin is brown, basting once more with the lemon butter. Remove from the grill, cover, and let rest 3 – 5 minutes.
Grill asparagus over direct medium heat, with the lid closed, until crisp tender, 6 – 8 minutes. Turn occasionally. Arrange asparagus on serving platter and drizzle with remaining butter. Serve chicken warm with asparagus and garnish with lemon wedges.
Wine Pairing Suggestions:
Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio
Prep time: 20 minutes / Grilling time: 43 minutes
*Derived from Jamie Purviance
This dish came together so quickly and easily, it was ready before the rice cooker! My kids always say, “I’m hungry. When is dinner going to be ready?” This time when I answered, “In just a minute.” I was telling the truth! Full of flavor to rival any takeout. My youngest foodie was putting the sauce not only on her rice, but her broccoli too! That’s when you know the dish is a keeper.
1 Tbs olive oil
1 lb steak (sirloin or flank), sliced thinly (time-saving tip: pop the meat in the freezer for 15-20 minute before slicing, it will make that task so much easier)
3 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs hoisin sauce
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tsp chili sauce (I used Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce b/c the kiddos are not quite ready for the full chili effect)
1 clove garlic minced (time-saving tip: by it already minced in a jar, such as Spice World)
1 tsp grated ginger (time-saving tip: I don’t know what I’d do without my Gourmet Garden ginger paste)
1 Tbs cornstarch
1/3 cup beef broth
1 Tsp sesame oil
¼ cup sliced green onion
Heat oil in large, nonstick pan, over medium-high heat. Add beef and sauté until just cooked, about 2-4 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, hoisin sauce, brown sugar, chili sauce, garlic, ginger, cornstarch, and water. Add this to meat and cook about 1 minute, until sauce thickens.
Remove from heat, mix in sesame oil and serve over rice or noodles. Top with sliced green onions.
Wine Pairing Suggestions:
Courtesy Closet Cooking
This has got to be one of the easiest and tastiest enchilada sauces I have made. Not to mention so authentic the hubs gave it a thumbs up! He even asked that I make some more so he can make huevos rancheros for breakfast. This will make a regular rotation in my kitchen, and there is plenty with this recipe to freeze. (I promise to include a picture next time!)
2 Tbs cornstarch
2 Tbs Morton & Bassett Mexican Spice Blend (my “go to” Mexican seasoning)
Kosher salt to taste
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 Tbs canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
In mixing bowl, combine cornstarch, Mexican Spice Blend, salt and pepper. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, broth, spice mixture, whisk to combine. Set aside.
In a medium skillet, over medium-low heat, add canola oil and sauté garlic until fragrant, being careful not to burn. Gradually stir in tomato sauce mixture. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Continue to simmer until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Serve in and over your favorite Mexican dishes.
Total time: 40 minutes
*Derived from Skinnyms.com
Just because Old Man Winter has turned his nose up at Sunny California and left us with spring-like weather, doesn’t mean that we don’t still crave winter food. You know what I’m talking about; thick stews and rich meals to warm the body (even if the body isn’t particularly cold). It must be an internal time clock, kind of like bears hibernating or salmon knowing where to spawn. If only I had a little more time, I would have added a thick slab of my buttery cornbread. Something to look forward to, for sure. 😀
12 oz boneless beef check, trimmed and thinly sliced (tip – for easier slicing, pop the meat in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before slicing)
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
5 tsp olive oil, divided
2 cups finely chopped onion (time saver – buy already chopped onions, found in the produce or freezer section)
1½ cups diagonally cut carrot (time saver – buy pre-sliced carrot chips in the produce section)
2 cups pre-sliced cremini mushrooms
3 thyme sprigs
1 Tbs tomato paste (tip – freeze remaining paste in a sandwich bag for later use. Freeze flat and just break off the amount you need)
2 tsp minced garlic (time saver – jarred minced garlic such as Spice World)
3/4 cup stout beer (such as Guinness)
1½ cups unsalted beef stock
1 Tbs all-purpose flour
1½ tsp lower-sodium soy sauce
Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbs olive oil to pan, swirl to coat. Add beef to pan, cook for 3 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove beef from pan. Add remaining 2 tsp oil to pan, swirl to coat. Add chopped onion, carrot, mushrooms, and thyme sprigs; sauté for 4 minutes. Add tomato paste and minced garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add beer; cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Combine beef stock and flour in small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add to pan. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in beef, and cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Stir in soy sauce. Discard Thyme. Serve over rice or mashed potatoes.
Wine Pairing Suggestions:
Syrah / Shiraz
Total time: 40 minutes
*From Cooking Light
We were having some friends over on Saturday evening and I needed to pick up some salmon and a few other things (it is SO true what they say, never go to the store hungry. Cha Ching later . . .). The Whole Foods in Lafayette was the best decision because I could go right after dropping the kids at Spanish and hopefully avoid the crowds. On a really quick side note, did anyone know that Whole Foods sells, gasp, clothes?? And if so, why has no one told me?? I also got some cute activities for the kids that evening, but I digress. So, here I am, approaching the seafood counter and already feeling a bit intimidated, but standing firm in my decision to make good seafood choice. But, wait, what? What is that that I see (I’m almost feeling nostalgic for Santa Claus because my Wondering Eyes might be deceiving me)?? The list that I have been carrying in my purse (and is starting to disintegrate) is now before me at the Whole Foods seafood counter, in not one but TWO locations! And each seafood option (on the behind the glass label) actually denotes if it is a “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative”. THIS is why Whole Foods has now become my new fishmonger. And how could it not?? I knew the choice I was making right then and there. No worries. No question. The best seafood for the environment AND my family!
- Seafood and What It Does For Your Health (healthysummer.wordpress.com)
- Wrapping Up Something Fishy (lifesnotfairtrade.wordpress.com)
Being a big fan of seafood, I’m often at the fish counter wondering what is the best purchase. Not only health wise for my family, but for the environment as well. It seems just when I have a clear understanding, the wording gets changed on the sign or label, and I’m feeling confused again. It is important to me and my family that we purchase fish caught or farmed using environmentally responsible practices to keep the world’s oceans healthy and abundant. I want my kids, and their kids, to be able to enjoy the wonderful bounty of seafood we still have available. Below is a breakdown I picked up at the California Academy of Sciences and they were provided by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This guide is for West Coast Fall / Winter 2013. The Best Choices are well-managed, caught or farmed in environmentally responsible ways. Good alternatives have some concerns with how they are caught or farmed. Avoid is seafood that is overfished, or there are strong concerns with how they are caught or farmed.
|Best Choices||Good Alternatives||Avoid|
|Abalone||Basa/Pangasius/Swai||Abalone (China & Japan)|
|Arctic Char (farmed)||Cod: Pacific (US trawl)||Caviar, Sturgeon (imported wild)|
|Bass: Striped (US hook & line, farmed)||Crab: King (US)||Cod: Pacific (Japan & Russia)|
|Catfish (US)||Flounders, soles (US Pacific)||Crab: Red King (Russia)|
|Clams, Mussels, Oysters||Halibut: California||Halibut: California (gillnet)|
|Cod: Pacific (US)||Lingcod||Lobster: Spiny (Brazil)|
|Crab: Dungeness||Lobster: American||Mahi Mahi (imported)|
|Halibut: Pacific (US)||Mahi Mahi (US)||Orange Roughy|
|Lobster: Spiny (CA, FL & Mexico)||Pollock: Alaska (US)||Rockfish / Pacific Snapper (AK bottom trawl)|
|Rockfish: Black (US hook & line)||Prawn: Spot (US Wild)||Salmon: Atlantic (farmed)|
|Sablefish / Black Cod (AK & Canada)||Sablefish / Black Cod (CA, OR & WA)||Sharks|
|Salmon (AK)||Salmon (CA, OR & WA wild)||Shrimp (imported|
|Sardines: Pacific (Canada & US)||Scallops (wild)||Squid (imported)|
|Scallops (farmed)||Shrimp (Canada & US Wild)||Swordfish (imported)|
|Seabass: White (US hook & line)||Squid (US)||Tuna: Albacore / white canned (except Canada & US troll, pole and US longline)|
|Shrimp: Pink (OR)||Swordfish (US)||Tuna: Bluefin|
|Tilapia (Ecuador & US)||Tilapia (China & Taiwan)||Tuna: Skipjack / Light canned (except troll, pole and US longline)|
|Trout: Rainbow (US farmed)||Tuna: Albacore / White canned (US longline)||Tuna: Yellowfin (except troll, pole and US longline|
|Tuna: Albacore / White canned (Canada & US troll, pole)||Tuna: Skipjack / Light canned (imported troll, pole and US longline)|
|Tuna: Skipjack / Light canned (US troll, pole)||Tuna:Yellowfin (imported troll, pole and US longline|
|Tuna: Yellowfin (US troll, pole)|
This guide has a limited number of seafood items due to its size, but you can visit the website at seafoodwatch.org, download their free app, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Three easy steps you can take today are: 1) Ask, “Do you sell sustainable seafood?” Let businesses know this is important to you. 2) Buy: From the Best Choices list. If that is not possible, choose from the Good Alternative list. Plan another meal if your only options are on the Avoid list. 3) Look: For the Marine Stewardship Council blue ecolabel in stores and restaurants.
- Seasonal Foods: Sanddabs (winelandia.com)
- Choosing your seafood wisely (marcycockrell.wordpress.com)
- Dinner Guide to Saving the Ocean (lastwordonnothing.com)
We spent the last week soaking up the sun in beautiful (and HOT!) Cabo San Lucas. But, knowing that I owed everyone a post, took my info along for the cooking pasta installment. Unfortunately the resort did not offer free wifi (can we please get with the times Sheraton??), though each room was allotted 30 minutes a day. Oh, did I mention you had to haul your sunscreened “cookies” to the lobby for that? To the lobby. Who wants to do that? Especially when we’ve got mid morning margaritas poolside!
This is a very basic Italian pasta cooking guide. I can tell you that there are so many opinions out there about cooking pasta, I was confused and didn’t know what to believe. This being so basic made it very clear for me and corrected some of the mistakes I had been making. I hope it clears up any confusion anyone else has, too!
Oil: The first tip is something I’ve always done, added olive oil to the water to prevent the pasta from sticking. Which doesn’t actually work, and if you use enough water, it won’t be an issue anyway. Instead, use that olive oil for drizzling over the sauced pasta for a final hit of flavor (unless using a butter- or cream-based sauce).
Pasta: 1 lb of dried pasta can generally serve 4 to 6 people as a main course, depending on whether the sauce is light (such as a simple tomato sauce), rich (creamy Alfredo), or bulked up with other ingredients such as vegetables, meat, or seafood. Also, sauces that are smooth or have very small bits, such as garlic and oil, are best with long strands of pasta. Chunkier sauces are best matched with short tubular or shaped pastas.
Water and Pot: For 1 lb of dry pasta you’ll need 4 quarts of water. Less water can result in the noodles sticking together in one big clumpy mess (yes, this has happened to me). You want to use a pot that is at least 6 quarts, which helps you avoid boilovers. Dont forget the salt! Adding salt to the water is important for good flavor. I have always underseasoned the water, not knowing that you need 1 Tbs table salt (or 2 Tbs kosher salt) for 4 quarts of water. If you are worried you are going to forget the salt, add it directly to the box of pasta as you take it out of the pantry. Finally, don’t add the pasta to the water until the sauce is almost ready.
Draining Pasta: Don’t forget to reserve some pasta water to thin the sauce. A tip to remember this is to place the measuring cup in the colander at the start of cooking. That way, when you go to drain the pasta, there is no way you’ll forget! Also, since pasta has a tendency to cool quickly, it’s a good idea to warm the serving bowl. Here is a great trick: if you’re using a large serving bowl, put it under the colander while draining the pasta. The hot water will heat up the bowl which will keep the pasta warm longer. Once the pasta is drained, shake the colander a couple of times, but not to the point that the pasta is bone-dry. The little bit of cooking water that clings to the pasta will help the sauce coat it.
Sauce: I’ve always just dumped the sauce on top of the mound of pasta and proceeded to fight the pasta to get the sauce mixed. This always left me frustrated and pasta that wasn’t very well mixed. The best way to handle all of this is to transfer the drained pasta back to the hot pot and add just enough sauce to coat the pasta evenly, along with enough reserved pasta cooking water to thin the sauce slightly, if needed.
Pasta Fork: It’s finally time to eat! Grab your plastic or stainless steel pasta fork and start serving!
*Derived from Cook’s Illustrated
- 4 Quick and Easy Pasta Sauces (williams-sonoma.com)
- Pasta Buying Guide – Italian Pasta (serves4.wordpress.com)
- Easy “Penne alla Puttanesca” (ickk.wordpress.com)
- Italian Pasta – Indian Style (matterofart.wordpress.com)
Have you ever had one of those weeks where you just seem to be off your cooking mojo? Well, this is my week! I tried a new recipe the other night and it just didn’t turn out like I had hoped. While it highlighted our wonderful summer vegetables; heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, lemon, and green beans the fettuccine was left tasting flat, as if it were an afterthought. I can picture a room full of chefs standing around the island in the test kitchen, enjoying the amazing bounty the summer garden has to offer. One chef realizes that, basically, they have a summer salad or side dish, but are supposed to be coming up with the main meal. They exchange glances, “What are we going to do?” It’s finally decided, just add pasta! Except, just adding pasta did not work in this scenario. So, I’m going to tweak it a little and see if I can come up with something that will meet my Serves4 expectations. This flop, however, motivated me to do a little research on pasta and cooking it. This is a breakdown of buying the right type of pasta. The next installment will be about cooking it. Salud!
When doing your weekly shopping at the local market, you will notice two basic pasta choices: dried (such as Barilla) or fresh (such as Buitoni). As these two type of pasta are made differently, they also handle sauces differently. Dried is made from high-protein durum wheat flour. This allows it to cook up springy and firm. Dried pasta is best suited for thick tomato and meat sauces and concentrated oil based sauces. Fresh pasta is generally made from a softer all-purpose flour and is more delicate than dried. Fresh pasta is well suited with dairy-based sauces.
Pasta has come a long way in the last several years. You will find that dried pasta is no longer gummy and bland. Cooking to al dente allows dried pasta to retain some chew, but is not gummy or hard at the center.
Fresh pasta is made from pasteurized egg and can be found packaged to avoid spoilage in the refrigerator section. It’s very easy to over cook fresh pasta, so be sure to keep an eye on it. Drain the pasta a few minutes before al dente and return it to the pot with sauce for a few minutes to continue cooking. Fresh pasta being slightly underdone allows it to absorb the flavor from the sauce and the pastas starchiness will help sauce thicken.
Whole wheat and and grain pastas have not come as far. Generally, wheat pasta cooks up gummy, grainy, or lacking the rich wheat flavor you’d expect. While pasta made from spelt has a pleasant earthy flavor, pastas made from corn, rice, and quinoa tends to have a shaggy, mushy texture and strange flavors. If you are brave enough to still try one of these pastas, cook as you would dried pasta.
I always thought cooking pasta was one of the easiest tasks in the kitchen. Just boil water, dump it in, and wait. Perfect pasta, though, takes a little more attention than that. Stay tuned, we’re going to go over finessing pasta next.
PS – This is the recipe that didn’t turn out. Looks good. Tastes kind of bland.