Southwestern Chicken Stew

Southwestern Chicken StewSoup Switch
My whole life I have been a rule follower. I was that kid in the class who never put a toe out of line for fear of the punishments. I have never really been the kind of person to significantly test the boundaries of anything, though I have always wanted to be that person. A rebel. A maverick. I am pretty sure this is why I cook from recipes instead of off the cuff.

To be fair, I will change a recipe to suit my tastes but only after I have made it at least a couple of times. Rarely do I mess with things from the get-go. Last weekend though, my inner culinary rebel surfaced and I took a left turn…

What started out as an adaptation of a chicken stew with peppers from the Basque region turned into more of a southwest stew/chili/gumbo type thing. There was something about the combination of ingredients that had me reaching for the black beans and cumin. Served over rice, the flavors were reminiscent of the southwest with the hearty whole meal feel of the bayou.

Maybe it was innovation or maybe it was just muscle memory that made me assume that tomatoes and peppers should also have beans and a squeeze of lime but it turned out tasty. I made enough to store some in the freezer for a future mid-week dinner on the run.

Tonight the future is here…as is a tasty dinner!

Southwestern Chicken Stew
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Stir Fry with Baby Boy Choy, Snow Peas, and Shrimp

Stir Fry with Baby Boy Choy, Snow Peas, and ShrimpBaby, I have a cold
For this first normal day of the new year, I had intended to write about my plan for better eating habits for 2019 and I DO plan on eating better. My biggest problem right now though is that I cannot shake this cold! To make things worse, I know I am not alone in my quest. The number of friends, family, and coworkers who are fighting this same battle is astounding. So instead of outlining my plan to be healthier in 2019, I’m trying to figure out just how to get healthy.

We sell a Jasmine Green Iced Tea here at the store from Teas Tea that I love. The best thing about it, other than the taste, is the fact that it is loaded with vitamin C. Plus, it’s a great way to stay hydrated. This is why I have been having it every day since I got sick. Of course, you can always drink the hot version too. The heat will help with your sinuses.

Soups are a no-brainer when you are sick, especially this Chicken Soup with Dill or my favorite, depending on my energy level, Mexican Matzo Ball Soup. Choosing any one of these options is a good way to go as well: Thai Hot and Sour Chicken Soup, Minestrone, and Spicy Chicken and Rice Flu Chaser Soup.

Because anytime you have a cold and have stuffed sinuses it can be hard to taste anything, I tend to eat spicy foods when I am under the weather. A spicy stir-fry is my go-to for a few reasons. The first is if it’s spicy, I am able to taste it. Second, ingredients like ginger, garlic, and chilies, which are most often found in stir-fry, are great natural remedies for illness. Lastly, it’s fast and filling and not boring so the rest of the family will eat it too.

For those of you out there fighting this battle along with me, carry your tissue packs with pride and know that we shall eventually persevere. We will get through this!

Stir-Fry with Baby Boy Choy, Snow Peas, and Shrimp
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 6 servings with rice or noodles  Read more…

Baked Brie

Baked BrieHot Stuff
If a party is happening at my place you can bet there are going to be snacks. I say snacks because the phrase hors d’oeuvres can be a bit high brow for what the function actually is. You do not have hors-d’oeuvres at a football party. You have snacks. Munchies. Grubs…You get the idea.

For the rare party that I throw at my place, I almost always have a cheese plate with various cheeses and fresh fruits. It’s easy and elegant and you can set it out and let people serve themselves. Same goes for a dip platter with veggies—or depending on the dip, some interesting crackers. These are easy go-to pre-dinner nibbles that allow you to interact with your guests but they’re not hot, and for parties on a cold night, I like to have at least something that is warm.

The difficult thing about serving hot hors-d’oeuvres is that it requires you to be in the kitchen and not mingling. Instead, you are in a constant stage of putting stuff in the oven or taking it out. One of my favorites is my Hot Cheesy Things which are a family favorite as well as a definite crowd pleaser. But again, there’s that oven thing.

This year I think I have found a solution to the dilemma. Baked Brie.

Obviously, this is not a new concept but you can modernize it a bit by choosing a different type of jam than the traditional raspberry or another sweet version. I’m making mine with a Maple Bacon Onion jam that we sell here at the store but it would also be good with a Balsamic Onion Jam or even a Fig Jam. Of course, anything spicy would work well too—like a little Thai Sweet Chili sauce…Yum!

Because I am using the onion jam I am going to sprinkle a little fresh thyme for a little more flavor.

Baked Brie
Yields about 16 servings Read more…

Stuffed French Toast

Stuffed French ToastToast of Christmas
Like a lot of families, we celebrate the holidays in multiple houses. Christmas Eve is generally at my place (though my sister is hosting this year). Christmas morning has been at my place the last couple of years and will be again this year. For Christmas dinner, we are all scattered. This might seem kinda strange to you to have all the celebrations with the same family at different locations. I mean what’s with musical houses? The answer is that it is not always the same faces at each celebration.

Christmas Eve is with my family, my sister’s family, and my sister’s in-laws. Christmas morning is my family and my sister’s family. Christmas Dinner is my family and my in-laws. By doing it this way we make sure that everybody gets to see each other to celebrate and exchange gifts. It also allows for some side celebrations. Let me explain…

While my family is enjoying our traditional Ebelskiver on Christmas morning, my in-laws are kinda left to their own devices. So, for the last 10 years or so, my brother-in-law hosts breakfast for their side of the family at his place. It is a much smaller and definitely quieter affair that always features a decadent French toast along with great coffee and fruit. It also means that by the time they get to my house, everyone is stuffed and thus begins the annual debate over when we should eat dinner…

French toast is a great option for a crazy holiday morning because it takes very little time and effort to put together and there are so many options out there for jazzing it up a bit. My brother-in-law has what is apparently a secret recipe that involves poppy seeds. For me, I like any version that includes fruit and/or nuts. Then, of course, you can get really wacky and stuff it for extra decadence…

And for those elves who have stayed up all night assembling a bike or a toddler-size kitchen, there is always the overnight version to make life a little easier…this Ina recipe is one of my favorites.

For those who want to go all out, here is a recipe to consider for some out of this world Stuffed French Toast….

Stuffed French Toast
Adapted from Morning Food by Margaret Fox
Yields 6 servings
Read more…

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons dipped in chocolateCookie Collection
This time of year is the season of constant dinner parties. In fact, I had a few friends over last night to talk about the upcoming baseball season and to eat drink and be merry. The food was great (and the wine was even better). But, having something sweet to end the meal and fuel the after-dinner conversation is essential. I have found that plates of assorted cookies are the perfect solution. The only challenge is coming up with a nice variety for the plate.

Some may say that forcing yourself to make a bunch of cookies isn’t a bad thing. And, it’s not. Though, having that many cookies lying around the house can be dangerous to your waistline!

It can be fun to come up with the perfect mix. Start with some ginger cookies. Add a few layer bars. Maybe chocolate crackle cookies. Definitely some shortbread. If you’re feeling crafty, make some stained glass cookies or some nutty rugelach. No matter what combination you decide to throw together, for me there almost always needs to be coconut macaroons on the plate.

I love coconut macaroons—and making them couldn’t be easier. Bonus! They are gluten-free for those friends who can’t eat gluten. I like to melt some bittersweet chocolate and either dip the macaroons or drizzle it on top for a little added holiday cheer.

Coconut Macaroons
Yields 20 to 22 cookies Read more…