Engaging stories of love, joy, comfort and friendship with proven scrumptious, healthy recipes, we celebrate LOVE as the secret ingredient for wonderful food!

Happy Sunday!

Waffles and blueberries on a white plate.

Okay, so I made these waffles this morning (my husband was pining for them) and they look pretty good – but didn’t taste great. So I won’t share the recipe with you. I don’t know what was wrong but let me work on this recipe before I give it to you. One thing they suggested was to do this sweetened sour cream – with brown sugar and ginger with sweetened strawberries AND the maple syrup. Well I think that would have put me in a sugar coma …. and I didn’t have strawberries. But I did have blueberries and I did have the buttermilk for the batter and I did have the sour cream. I always feel so cool when I find a new recipe I want to make and I actually have most of the ingredients!

Back to the sugar – so for this, I just put a dollop of plain sour cream with some slightly sweetened blueberries and it was really really good as a topping. Now I just need to work on that base waffle!

Friday night super food!

Sauteed shrimp on a white plate.

Sauteed shrimp on top of kale, turnips and red pepper

I put together this dish last night. I needed to use up an unusual combination of vegetables – turnips and kale, and I had a red pepper and one plum tomato begging to be used as it’s the end of the week. (You’re probably saying, “Yuck!”) I shop once a week for all fruits and vegetables and fill in on fish and meat from my specialty shops – Esposito’s Pork Shop and Sea Breeze Fish Market near my office. I had bought some beautiful, large, fresh Florida shrimp.

So what to do? I just thought about what would taste good for each and cooked accordingly, and hoped for the best. I always warn my husband when I’m starting to do this sort of thing, winging it, to hopefully lower expectations.

I roasted the turnips together with the red pepper tossed with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. This roasting made the turnips sweet little chunks. While that was roasting, I slowly sautéed the garlic first, then added the kale and chicken stock and cooked them until they were very tender. At the end, I sautéed the shrimp in softened shallots and dry vermouth. Dry vermouth to me, is wonderous. Unlike just a plain dry white wine, it makes anything taste like fine French food. Really. Off heat to finish, I swirled in a bit of butter, to keep the French thing going. You can do this sort of thing with chicken too and it will taste amazing. Notice, no carbs, (I could do that because Zach was not eating with us), and we didn’t miss that starch. This turned out awesome!! My husband had 4 helpings of the kale and usually he is not a big kale fan. I think he doesn’t like it when it’s not cooked tender enough.

This makes enough to serve 4, although it was just the two of us last night. But then Zach and his girlfriend finished up everything when they came home at 3:30 am. The dirty dishes were in the sink this morning. (At least they make it to the sink!)

SAUTEED SHRIMP WITH KALE, TURNIPS AND RED PEPPERS
- serves 4

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees

2 good-sized turnips, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
1 red pepper, stem and seeds removed, cut into ½” strips and then each strip cut into half lengthwise.
2 tbs. olive oil
salt & pepper

Toss all together and roast in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until turnips are fork tender and a little browned. Keep warm in a microwave (not turned on) or a warming drawer

1.5 tbs. olive oil
8 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 large bunch of kale, washed thoroughly, stems removed and chopped into 1” strips
1/3 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper
Some extra water or broth if you need it

Warm the olive oil and sauté the garlic for 10 – 15 minutes to soften. Do not let it brown. Add your kale and chicken broth, toss to combine and cover. Watch and toss often. Add more water or broth if you need to. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until kale is very tender. It will turn dark.

1.5 tbs. olive oil
2 shallots thinly sliced
1/3 cup dry vermouth
1.5 lbs. shrimp, shells removed, tails left on. Wash 3 times, dry, and salt and pepper one side of the shrimp
1 plum tomato, cut into ½” pieces
1 scant tbs. unsalted butter

Warm the olive oil and sauté the shallots on low heat for 10 minutes or longer. Do not let them brown. Turn heat up, add vermouth and let it bubble for a minute. Add the shrimp and tomato and toss and stir until the shrimp turn pink. This will take about 3 minutes. When shrimp are done, remove pan from the heat and swirl in the butter until melted.

Add the roasted turnips and red peppers with all their sauce to the kale mixture and combine. Place a mound of the kale and turnip mixture in the middle of the plate and mound a serving of shrimp in the center of the kale. Drizzle some shrimp juices on the shrimp and kale.

Enjoy!!

A different chicken dish!

Sesame braised chicken with shiitake mushrooms and daikon on a white plate.

Sesame Braised Chicken with Shiitake, Daikon & Ginger

This is a great Sunday dish, as it does take some time. It’s a Melissa Clark recipe from The New York Times that I have altered, again. Not much, but I just can’t help myself. But I really do like Melissa’s recipes! She and I must be on the same wavelength. That’s the thing. There are millions of recipes out there. I pick the ones that I think I’m going to love, (based on the ingredients, time to prepare, ease of preparation, will it be fun to make?) If you make things you love, you will serve them with love – because love really is the secret ingredient!

Now I did make a mistake in making this – had to do with not reading the recipe all the way through carefully. I threw in the scallion tops into the pot to roast with the chicken so you don’t see raw scallion rings in my photo. No matter, the dish was great – and different!! We all love chicken but we’re always looking for something different, right? Melissa talks about the daikon radish getting silky and she’s right. You’ll want to crawl right into this dish. Perfect for a winter night.

I also used the stems of the mushrooms but I don’t think I’d use them again as they were a bit woody. Maybe save them to chop fine and use in a risotto later.

I served this with Jasmine steamed rice and some sautéed okra. It was yummy!

SESAME BRAISED CHICKEN IN A POT WITH SHIITAKE, DAIKON AND GINGER – adapted from Melissa Clark and The New York Times
- serves 4

3 bunches scallions (about 3/4 pound)
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 pound Daikon radish, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 – 3/4 cup shiitake mushroom caps
8 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 inches ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 whole chicken (3 1/2 pounds)
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 whole star anise pods
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Trim the roots off the scallions. Separate the dark green tops from the bottoms.

In a 5- or 6-quart Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil and 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add the scallion bottoms, daikon, mushrooms and garlic cloves. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 7 minutes. Add the ginger and cook 1 minute more. Use a slotted spoon to transfer vegetables to a platter.

Pat chicken dry; season inside and out with salt and pepper. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil and 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil to the Dutch oven. Brown chicken, turning, until the skin is well browned about 3 – 4 minutes on each of the 4 sides. Turn chicken breast-side up. Scatter the vegetables around the chicken. In a small bowl, whisk together the stock, sherry and soy sauce. Pour over the chicken. Drop in the star anise pods. Tightly cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink, 40 to 60 minutes.

Remove to a cutting board. Skim fat from the surface of the cooking liquid. Chop the scallion tops and stir in, with the vinegar. Carve chicken and serve, topped with vegetables and pot juices.

For a snowy football weekend!

Spicy chicken chili in a spoon.

Spicy chicken chili

Tomorrow, we are entertaining for the big Giants game. I thought this chili would be perfect to serve with all the garnishes and hot cornbread, plus a big tossed salad.

What can be better than to make a big pot of chili on a beautiful snowy Saturday with a fire going in the fireplace? NOTHING!

This is a favorite recipe of mine, adapted from a very old Food and Wine Magazine. It gives you the big chili flavor and isn’t nearly as heavy as it’s made with chicken. It has a melody of spices and heat from the jalapeños. If you don’t like so much heat, remove the seeds, but I like to keep them in. I also like to use Greek oregano which is much more potent and grind cumin seeds for the cumin powder. Again, more powerful flavor.

Joko – I hope you like this!!

SPICY CHICKEN CHILI
-serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs (about 4), cut into thin strips, all fat removed
4 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped fine with seeds
1 28 oz. can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, hand crushed, with their juice
2 1/2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1 15.5 oz can of drained and rinsed pinto beans
1 15.5 oz.can of drained and rinsed black beans
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

For garnish:

Minced sweet onion
Grated sharp cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Cilantro leaves
Sliced pickled jalapeños

Serve on top of a few tortilla chips or steamed rice

Serve with warm cornbread

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook, covered, until they soften, about 20 minutes.

Increase the heat to moderate and stir in the chicken strips. Cook until they are no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt. Add the jalapeños, the tomatoes with their juice, and the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Uncover the saucepan and stir in the beans and black pepper. Simmer until the chili is thickened, about 15 minutes or even longer. Serve topped with the onions, sour cream, cheddar cheese or more jalapeños. It is nice to give your guests a choice. Top all with cilantro leaves.

Wedges of corn bread are always a good complement to chili. Or serve the chili over steamed rice or a few tortilla chips.

Paula Deen and my fatness rant

Ok, I have to get on my soapbox now. Paula Deen has Type 2 diabetes!!! Duh!!! Are you kidding me? I mean, really, you are what you eat and if she’s surprised after eating all the butter, cream cheese, fried food and sugar she eats, she’s nuts. And believe me, I’ve spent a lot of time in the South. Southern cooking is not all that, or just that.

First of all, the fact that she hid it from her audience and fans  for three years is despicable. She had to get all her ducks in a row with whatever diabetes drug she decided to take, make the deal to negotiate to endorse it, and get the money from them. This is incredible! I think she is scum. (I won’t hold back.)

I have always told my children, look at the chef whose recipes you’re making. James Beard’s recipes were always loaded with butter, cream, mayo and everything fattening. He was huge. His recipes were incredibly tasty and frankly, not all of them were fattening. In fact, I still use his Canadian method for cooking fish as a standard.

Never to put her name in the same category as James Beard, as she is not a chef, I was watching Rachel Ray two weeks ago while making dinner with one of my sons. She was promoting four weeknight dinners with pork, each dinner for four people had a full stick of butter!!! That’s ridiculous. That’s two tablespoons of butter per person, per day, not counting the fats from the sausages and other cuts of meat, because she doesn’t drain the fat. Look at Nigella Lawson – I love her personality and I like a lot of her recipes – but you can’t eat like that all the time. Maybe just a few times a year. I splurged with Bobby Flay’s Nacho Burgers I made two weeks ago.

Now Melissa Clark and Mark Bittmann, they are both average-sized, slim people and their recipes speak to it. The article in The Times today talked about all the butter used in Michelin star restaurants like Bouley. But you don’t eat at Bouley but maybe once a year for a special occasion – at least for me – and these people – Paula and Rachel are encouraging folks to eat like this every night of the week. It’s absurd! And by the way, Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Per Se is mighty thin, as the portions at his restaurants are small too. All of his dishes are just one or two bites. Chef Anthony Bourdain said that Paula Deen’s fatty food made her “the worst, most dangerous person” on the Food Network. It’s true, because she’s got all of America listening to her.

I even try to use less oil whenever possible. And I do love my olive oil. But if a meat recipe that calls for browning, calls for three tablespoons of olive oil, I try to do it with two. I even have a recipe for four chicken breasts that calls for one teaspoon of olive oil to brown the skin side, and believe me, it works!

Take a look at the line up of people waiting to get in to Paula Deen’s restaurant. You’re not surprised, are you?

Deen

Eat right, eat healthy!

From the gothamist.com – this is terrible that half of Americans will be obese – obese – not just overweight by 2030!

Planes, Trains And Automobiles Struggle With Fat Americans

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In Sao Paolo, there are “fat seats” for obese transit patrons

Shortly after learning that half of all Americans will be obese by 2030, the Times has decided to investigate the pressing issue of fat Americans on public transportation. It’s a real problem, you guys! Just ask Kevin Smith.

New Jersey Transit is adding new trains cars with 2.2-inch wider seats, a move that will change the configuration of the entire train from three seats on one side and two on the other to two on both sides. Amtrak is introducing “designs that will be able to accommodate the larger-sized passengers” next year. The Federal Transit Authority is proposing changing bus testing regulations to “more accurately reflect average passenger weights.” Metro-North is attempting to trick fat passengers by making the middle seats look larger with a center seam instead of arm barriers, though they’re not actually making the seats bigger. (Not all passengers are pleased with this: “They are just as uncomfortable as before,” said Jim Cameron, chairman of the state-created Connecticut Metro-North Rail Commuter Council. “Anything they did on the M-8’s to give the illusion of more space cannot deny the physics of time and space.”)

“It’s clear that the U.S. population is getting heavier,” said Martin Schroeder, chief engineer for the American Public Transport Association, in what could be the understatement of the century. “We are trying to get our hands on that and figure out what is the best average weight to use.” Or, as Cameron puts it, “Why subject my girth to other people?”

Contact the author of this article or email tips@gothamist.com with further questions, comments or tips.