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Spicy Crispy Chicken Strips

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Time: 20-30 minutes

Serves: 12-15 as an appetizer / party finger-food

Inspired by: I’ve always liked crispy chicken tenders/nuggets/strips, but wished there was a non-greasy version that had real chicken inside that was safe to eat. I thought it might be fun to use my blackening spice for this and try making them for a small party. I love the crispiness, and the spice gives them an awesome kick!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless, organic chicken breasts
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (4 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup (16 tablespoons) of crispy bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of Spice it up …by Karen™ (more if you like super spicy)

Preparation:

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (or if you have a good toaster oven, there is no need to preheat, but you will need to cook these in batches)
  • Get a non-stick cookie sheet or rub a bit of olive oil on a cookie sheet so your chicken will not stick as it cooks
  • Lightly beat the eggs with a fork or whisk, and mix with the olive oil in small bowl
  • In a low, wide bowl (such as a soup bowl), mix the bread crumbs well with the spice
  • Cut chicken into strips – approximately 1.5 inches wide by 3 inches long
  • Dip the chicken into the egg/olive oil mixure to coat and then roll in the breadcrumb mix
  • Lay the chicken strips a half inch to an inch apart on the cookie sheet
  • Bake until golden brown – probably at least 12 minutes, possibly as long as 20

Notes: Because these are getting so much more surface area covered with spice than making blackened chicken with whole or half chicken breasts, these can get pretty spicy – so if you like spice, but not too much, I suggest using a bit less spice and a bit more of the bread crumbs. For parties, I have prepared these on the cookie sheet early in the day and kept them refridgerated and then took them out to bake when ready to serve. You can bring them to room temperature first, but it really isn’t necessary.

Wine Suggestions: A medium bodied red with some good fruit and spice on it would be perfect. A Syrah or Southern Rhone blend, Zinfandel or a spicy older Barolo. Off dry whites are often a fantastic pairing for spicy foods such as a Riesling or Viognier/Condrieu.


Favorite Lemony Salad Dressing

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Time: 5-10 minutes

Inspired by: Lemon is one of my favorite flavors, and I think a lemon-based (versus vinegar-based) dressing is a much better pairing with wine. Since we drink wine with most dinners, this is our “almost daily” dressing.

Ingredients:

  • Juice of two lemons (Meyer lemons recommended)
  • Olive oil – approximately 1/2 of the quantity of lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • A squirt of Dijon mustard – this Annie’s Horseradish mustard in the picture has been perfect
  • A pinch of salt and pepper

Preparation:

  • Mix the above ingredients and shake well. We combine the ingredients in a small bowl, funnel them into a bottle and shake well before using. This bottle was a gift from a very sweet family member and we love it.
  • Between uses we keep in the refrigerator. If you take it out of the fridge 15-20 minutes before using, the hardened olive oil will soften. You can also put in the microwave if necessary for a few seconds to warm it.

Shiitake-Vegetable Soup with Ginger & Lemongrass

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Time: 1:45

Serves: approximately 30 1 cup servings

Ingredients for Broth:

  • 1 white onion chopped
  • 1/2 – 1 Serrano pepper minced fine (if you like a bit of a kick)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 quarts of chicken stock or 4 quarts water and 1/2-1 jar organic “better than bouillon” chicken soup base
  • 3 tablespoons fresh minced ginger (1/4 dry ground ginger can be a substitute for fresh)
  • 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes (if you like a bit of a kick)
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced lemongrass
  • 8-10 4″ pieces of “bruised” lemongrass stalks (after trimming base and spiky tops,  beat them up a bit – crush with something heavy and cut into them with a knife to help release the flavors)
  • 5 cups sliced Shiitake mushrooms
  • 5 cups chopped vegetables such as:
    • carrots
    • celery
    • snow peas (or snap peas)
    • bell pepper
  • 1, 8oz can water chestnuts (rinsed)
  • 1, 8oz can bamboo shoots (rinsed)
  • 1, 14oz can baby corn (rinsed)
  • Optional garnish: fresh parsley or leafy greens such as spinach.

Preparation:

  • Sauté onion and Serrano in 2 tablespoons olive oil with 1/2 teaspoon salt on medium heat. Do not brown, just sauté until soft, translucent and well-cooked.
  • Add 4 quarts of chicken stock (or 4 quarts of water and 1/2 of the soup base), ginger, minced and bruised lemongrass, freshly ground pepper and red pepper flakes.
  • Simmer covered for 60 minutes to bring out flavors.
  • Adjust seasoning and add more chicken soup base as desired.
  • Add vegetables and simmer for 5 minutes or until they begin to soften.
  • Add Shiitakes and simmer 5-8 more minutes until they are the texture you like them.
  • Turn off heat and add water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and baby corn.
  • Remove lemongrass stalks.
  • Serve with optional chopped parsley or leafy greens as a garnish.

Notes: This is a broth-based soup so it should freeze well.


Chicken Vegetable Soup

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Time: 2 hours (Day 1), 1 hour (Day 2)

Serves: 15-20 cups

Inspired by: It’s winter. Everyone I know is sick this month. I wanted to create a soup with similar flavors to my delicious and hearty lentil vegetable soup, but with healing, homemade chicken stock and chicken, instead of the lentils. Experiment successful!

Ingredients for Broth:

  • 1 chicken, 3.5 – 5 pounds, with skin, cut up, remove innards
  • 3 stalks celery, with leaves, cut into chunks
  • 2 large carrots, cut into chunks
  • 2 yellow onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1-2 dozen sprigs parsley
  • 1-2 dozen black peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste

Ingredients for Soup:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2  medium yellow onions, diced
  • 3-4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt (+ add additional at the end to your desired taste)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 carrots, chopped
  • 4-5 stalks celery with leaves chopped
  • 2-3 quarts chicken broth (made from above ingredient list)
  • 2, 28oz cans fire-roasted tomatoes, diced
  • 1 bunch collard greens with tough ribs removed, chopped
  • Juice of one Meyer lemon

Preparation Day 1:

  • Place broth ingredients (chicken, celery, carrots, onions, parsley, peppercorns, bay leaves and salt) into large soup pot and cover with water by 1-2 inches. Add a bit more for a more brothy soup.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a very low simmer. Cover and boil for 1 hour. Uncover and boil for another 30 minutes, until chicken is tender and falling off the bone.
  • When cool enough to handle, use tongs to transfer chicken from the pot to a container. Strain broth through a fine sieve (or colander lined with cheesecloth), into a separate container. Discard all solids from the strainer.
  • Refrigerate chicken and broth separately for at least 8 hours or until fat has risen to the top of the broth.

Preparation Day 2:

  • Remove fat from the top of the broth, and separate chicken meat from the bones and skin. Discard bones and skin. Use forks to shred or fingers to separate chicken into small pieces.
  • In large soup pot, heat olive oil. Sauté garlic for 1-2 minutes. Add onions, salt, pepper, cumin, thyme, and optional red pepper flakes. Sauté for another 5-8 minutes until soft and translucent.
  • Add the celery and carrots and sauté for another 10 minutes.
  • Add chicken broth and tomatoes with their juices.
  • Cover and bring to boil.
  • If you’d like the carrots and celery to stay a bit firm, turn off the heat. If you prefer them soft, boil for another 10 minutes and then turn off heat.
  • Add greens and let sit for 5-10 minutes until they  have softened.
  • Add the juice of one lemon and mix well.
  • Taste and add salt if necessary. For more than two quarts of broth, you may also want to add a bit more cumin, pepper and thyme.

Notes: This is a large batch, but it freezes well.


Frosted Butter Cookies with a Hint of Lemon

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Time: Approximately 2 hours active: 30 minutes to make the dough, 30 minutes to rollout and cut cookies, 30 minutes to bake, 30 minutes to decorate. Also allow at least 2 hours to chill the dough before rolling it out and at least 2 hours after decorating for the frosting to dry.

Serves: 1 batch makes 20-25 medium sized cookies. These pictures show a double batch.

Inspired by: My family, like many, had a tradition of decorating cookies together at Christmas. Since I love everything lemon and have a Meyer lemon tree, I decided to add my own twist that gives these just a hint of lemon. I never make them at Christmas, but do enjoy making them around other festive holidays.

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup softened unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups unsifted all purpose flour

Frosting Ingredients:

  • Confectioners sugar – approximately 1 cup
  • Fresh lemon juice – 1-3 teaspoons
  • Food dye if you want to color your frosting, and any other sprinkles, sparkles or decorations you’d like

Cookie Dough Preparation:

  • Measure butter, granulated sugar and salt into bowl. With electric mixer, beat until smooth.
  • Add egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon extract and vanilla extract and beat until fluffy – 2 minutes.
  • Gradually add flour, stirring with mixer or wooden spoon until well combined and smooth.
  • With hands, shape dough into ball. Place on waxed paper or plastic wrap. Flatten into disc and wrap.
  • Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight until dough is firm.

Bake Cookies:

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • On lightly floured pastry board, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick and press together cracks at edges. Use cookie cutters for cut outs. Place cookies 1 inch apart on uncreased sheets (using parchment paper can help keep them from burning).
  • If cookies start getting soft while making them, it can help to put the cookie sheet with the cookie cut outs into the freezer for 5 minutes before baking. This will help them will hold their shape better while baking.
  • Bake 10-15 minutes or until edges are just barely golden.
  • Remove to wire rack to cool.

Icing:

  • In a small bowl or coffee cup, mix 1 cup of confectioners sugar with a teaspoon of lemon juice. Add lemon juice and continue stirring until you get your desired consistency. A thinner icing will be more like a glaze. A thicker icing will create better color.
  • After cookies have cooled, use a pastry brush for glazing/painting, and dust with sprinkles/sparkles while the frosting is still wet.


Lentil Vegetable Soup

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Time: 90 minutes

Serves: 20 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound French green lentils (3-4 cups)
  • 3 medium yellow onions, chopped (3-5 cups)
  • 2 leeks (white part only), chopped (2-4 cups)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt (+ add additional at the end to your desired taste)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional – adds a bit of a kick)
  • 2 carrots, chopped (1 – 1.5 cups)
  • 4-5 stalks celery with leaves chopped (3-4 cups)
  • 3 quart chicken broth
  • 2, 28oz cans fire-roasted tomatoes, diced
  • 1 bunch collard greens with tough ribs removed (or Kale), chopped (3-5 cups)
  • Juice of one Meyer lemon

Preparation:

  • Rinse and drain lentils.
  • In large soup pot, heat olive oil. Sauté leeks and garlic for 2 minutes. Add onions, salt, pepper, cumin, thyme, and optional red pepper flakes. Saute for another 5-8 minutes until soft and translucent.
  • Add the celery and carrots and sauté for another 10 minutes.
  • Add chicken broth, tomatoes with their juices, and lentils.
  • Cover and bring to boil. Then uncover and simmer for 1 hour, until lentils are cooked (French green lentils will still hold their shape and firm texture even when cooked through).
  • Add greens and simmer for another 5 minutes or so until they have softened.
  • Add the juice of one lemon and mix well.
  • Taste and add salt if necessary. If you are using a broth that already has the appropriate seasoning, you may need very little salt. But if you are using low to no sodium chicken broth you’ll likely want to add more salt.

Notes: This is a large batch, but it freezes well. The recipe is modified from one published by Ina Garten in the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook 1999.


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