Monday, November 13, 2017

Colorful Brown Rice and Chicken With Fall Vegetables

A captivating chicken, brown rice, Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, dried cranberry casserole is topped with sliced almonds. It’s flavored with thyme and a touch of cayenne pepper to enhance your taste buds. It reminds me a bit of Thanksgiving stuffing with a nutty flavor and packed with lots of color. It’s what’s for dinner when you don’t know what else to make and you have all of these items in your pantry and fridge just waiting to be used. If you need to make a gluten-free dish, this is one you will want to try. You could even make it your Thanksgiving stuffing or is that called dressing? In any case, try it, you'll like it!

1 cup of raw brown rice, cooked
1/2 medium onion (1 cup), chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
16 oz package of fresh Brussels Sprouts, ends trimmed and quartered
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1-1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1-2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp dried thyme leaves (or 3 tsp fresh thyme)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/2 cup sliced and toasted almonds

Cook the brown rice and set aside. 1 cup of raw brown rice will make about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of rice. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Saute' onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil until tender in a frying pan with high sides. Add butter to pan and swirl it around the pan to coat. Add the fresh Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes and fry until brown. If you caramelize the sprouts and onions, it will add a rich flavor to your dish. Add cut-up chicken and brown on all sides, pushing vegetables to the sides and top. 

Add salt, pepper, thyme, cayenne pepper and paprika and stir well Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Turn burner to simmer and cover pan, cooking the chicken to doneness and veggies so they are soft enough to eat. This will take about 10-12 minutes.

Add the rice and stir well. You may need a little more chicken stock, but it should not be "soupy, only moist. Add the cranberries and stir well to distribute them.

Grease a 9X12 inch glass baking dish  and scoop rice, chicken and veggie mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle the almonds on top. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until casserole is hot. You don't want to overbake or it will become dry. You can cover the dish with foil if you need to.

Remove from oven and serve with a salad. 

This makes at least 8 servings. You can keep this for leftovers the next day. Reheat with a  splash of broth to keep it moist.

ANOTHER IDEA: To make this a vegetarian dish, use vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock and leave out the chicken. 

YET ANOTHER IDEA: You could make this as a side-dish for Thanksgiving and it's gluten-free! It would make a delicious Thanksgiving dressing or stuffing.

To make this even nuttier -- throw in some cooked wild rice. Add some celery and garlic. Increase the heat level by adding more cayenne pepper. This recipe has a wonderful flavor!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

What inspires my menus and all that jazz......

I recently posted photos on Facebook of a meal I made (see one below). A friend asked me some questions and so I replied. It turned into a wonderful little article that I thought I'd put on my blog. I hope it is helpful to others besides her!

JH: How do you plan your menus, Camille? Do you think of what sounds good or shop sales and build from there? Do you get in ruts? What inspires you???

**Warning: this is kind of a long reply. **

I love your questions! I'm a once-a-week menu planner. I use a small whiteboard that is magnetic to write it out and attach it to my refrigerator. I usually look at the ads and shop the sales or look at what is on sale before I start my menu planning. I use seasonal veggies and fruits to cut cost on fresh produce. Menu planning usually happens on Sunday, so that gives me time to thaw meat from my freezer and make a shopping list. I always keep my lists on my phone, categorized by store. I also have a shopping list on my fridge so I can add those quickly to my phone.

I stock up on items when they are sale, so if there is something I want to make, I often just look at what I might need to buy to complete it. I will also look at items in my pantry and fridge that are about to expire and try to use them up. A huge factor in menu planning is to look at my week to see how busy I am and try to plan meals that are easy for those days when I have no time to spend in the kitchen. I might plan a crock pot meal when I know I'll be gone for most of the day. I also (believe it or not), look at the weather for the week ahead. If it's going to be cold, I plan meals that are warm and cozy and for days when we can grill, I plan a few meals like that. Dave and I cook together so often that he's become a factor in my menu planning! He will chop veggies and meat and I will cook it. He grills, I marinade the meats that go on the grill. If he comes home early, I usually put him to work! He also cleans up my kitchen every night after dinner. Making meals with leftovers is also important because Nathaniel has to take meals with him when he's gone all day. He loves leftovers, so that helps!

I also keep a running list of menu ideas on my phone. I have an app where I can write notes and when I think of things I haven't had in a while, I jot them down so as not to forget (sometimes in the summer I write up ideas for winter meals). It can be as simple as "beef stew" to as complex as an entire menu "meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and baked apples."

I do get into a rut at times and that's when I ask my family for ideas when we are sitting around the dinner table either eating or after dinner when we're all stuffed full. I've found more success when they are hungry! :)

I probably have 100 cookbooks in my personal library (mostly those Pillsbury ones), but I also have about 10 folders with recipes I've printed from the Internet. Some are ones I've made (I date them so I remember) and others that look good and I want to make. I try to separate them into categories, but that has gotten away from me, so one of my tasks this winter is to organize them even better.

My mom was a fantastic cook and planned menus all the time. I still have a few of her written menus and look back at them for ideas. She taught me to have a variety of proteins in the week, so I try to plan at least one beef, one pork, one chicken, one vegetarian, and one fish/seafood menu each week. Some weeks I don't cook them all, but that's my general guideline. I also have menus on my blog which I sometimes peruse for ideas. I also look at the Internet for menu planning ideas. All of these inspire me. Once in a while I go out to dinner and when I find something on the menu that sounds good (or I actually order it), I will try to re-create it at home. This is inspiring too. I've actually looked up menus on the Internet from restaurants and found inspiration.

I've told my children that a healthy meal has many colors, so planning meals has become a challenge to incorporate color into the plate. Taking photos has really helped me to see the colors (or lack thereof) and my family's love for a large variety of food has been helpful.Put simply, we eat just about anything!

Overall, I think I've found a good balance by making family favorites and then adding in a few new recipes so that we don't get tired of the same food. I found that there are so many ways to eat vegetables for example, so if I find I'm in a bit of a rut, I might even try a new way to spice up or cook a veggie (which may not be on my menu).

I hope this has been helpful. I think this just turned into a blog post for my food blog:

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Cabbage, Brussels Sprout, Apple Slaw with Maple Sweetened Vinaigrette Dressing

"Oh yum!" That's all I could say after making and eating this coleslaw. A wonderful fall side dish, it's addicting to the soul! Give it a try. It really makes a colorful side dish to brighten a fall plate.

1/2 of a medium head of red (purple) cabbage, shredded (about 10-12 oz or 8-10 cups)
8-10 Brussels Sprouts, thinly sliced (about 6 oz)
1 medium apple (I used Honey crisp), cut into matchsticks
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup pecans, chopped roughly

Maple Sweetened Vinaigrette Dressing
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. maple syrup (plus more if you want it sweeter)
1/4 cup unfiltered raw apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg's)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large glass bowl (bigger is better so you can toss the salad), place the cabbage, Brussels sprouts and apple.

To make the dressing, whisk together the first 3 ingredients and then slowly stir and whisk in the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the dressing with the cabbage mixture. Sprinkle the nuts on top and give it a good stir just before serving. This will keep the nuts/seeds crisp. This can be made in advance and it still tastes great a day later!

See how colorful it makes the dinner plate?!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad with Tahini-Miso-Maple Syrup dressing

Dave and I had this salad at a local restaurant this weekend, so I decided I needed to make it at home. It turned out better than the overpriced one at the restaurant. I'm really digging tahini and maple syrup together in a salad dressing.

1 big bunch of kale (6-8 cups)
1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, rinsed and ends snipped off
Salt and Pepper
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Cut kale into bite-sized pieces, removing the hard stem. Massage kale while rinsing under water and spin dry. Kale should turn bright green. Shave or thinly slice Brussels Sprouts and add to the kale. Salt and pepper salad.

Next, make dressing.

Tahini-Miso-Maple Syrup Dressing
1/4 cup tahini
2 Tbsp. white Miso
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp Maple syrup
Small garlic clove, pressed through garlic press
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1-2 Tbsp warm water (to thin)

Using an immersion blender, blend tahini, Miso, 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar and Maple syrup (cover with hand or use a deep dish to do this because it will splatter) until smooth. Check for sweetness -- if too sweet add another tablespoon of vinegar. With a spoon, add garlic, cayenne, black pepper and check for consistency. If too thick, add 1 Tbsp warm water and stir well. If still too thick, you can add more water. Taste for sweetness or tartness, depending upon your liking.

When ready to serve, add almonds, cranberries and dressing to the kale-Brussels sprouts salad. Serve immediately.

The dressing is so tasty -- I could eat it with a spoon! :)

Black Bean 7-layer Dip

This is a great appetizer or even works as a light meal on a Sunday night. We've been making this dip for years, but I finally decided to put it on here because it's just that good!

1 or 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2-4 Tbsp. salsa (add extra hot sauce to make it spicier)
1/2 cup - 1 cup sour cream
1-2 cups Guacamole (use homemade without tomato)
1 cup Mexican cheese blend, shredded
1/2 cup - 1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup black olives, sliced
3 green onions, sliced, including green tops

Mix salsa with black beans and spread on a large flat plate. Spread sour cream on top of black beans leaving a small edge of black beans showing. Next, layer on the guacamole, leaving a slight amount of sour cream showing.

Sprinkle on the cheese to cover everything below. Then top with tomatoes, olives and green onions in layers. 

Serve immediately with tortilla chips or you can cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. This tastes best when served the same day because the guacamole will turn brown. However, it still tastes good the next day (even though it might be a little watery).

This dip is so versatile and many substitutions (or additions) can be made to this. It's a great party dip and fun to bring to a party when asked to bring something to share.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Scones with Spiced Glaze

I made these and they were very tasty -- not too sweet, but satisfied my hunger for a hearty harvest scone. I have never made scones before, so this was a first! There are a lot of recipes out there like this, but this one doesn't have the extra powdered sugar glaze which means it isn't overly sweet. I do recommend you eat them all up in one sitting or within a day or try one for dessert with pumpkin ice cream!

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup, plus 2 Tbsp. sugar (I use evaporated cane sugar)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (I freshly grate this)
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
6 Tbsp cold butter, cut into cubes about 1/2 inch each
1/2 cup canned organic pumpkin puree
3 Tbsp buttermilk or half and half (might need a smidgen more if your egg isn't big)
1 large (extra large is better) egg, beaten

Spiced Glaze
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp whole milk
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 pinch ground ginger
1 pinch ground cloves

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and flour lightly with a small amount of whole wheat flour. Set aside

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices. Add butter and cost it with the flour mixture. With a pastry blender (or your hands) mix the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse corn meal. Butter should be no larger than a petite pea.

In another bowl, mix wet ingredients: pumpkin, buttermilk or half and half and the beaten egg Stir until well blended, then add to the dry ingredients to form a ball. It should resemble biscuit dough. If too wet, knead a little on a floured surface. If too dry, try adding a touch more of buttermilk. The key is not to over mix the dough or your scones won't be light and fluffy.

Pat the dough onto the floured parchment paper into a 1-inch thick rectangle approximately 4 inches wide by 12 inches long (use a ruler, I did!).

Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 3 equal portions (about 4X4 inch squares). Then cut each square into an "X" pattern so you end up with 12 triangular pieces of dough. Separate the triangles slightly or leave together if you want the scones to be less "crisp" around the edges.

Bake for 14-16 minutes or until lightly brown and when touched they spring back.

While the scones are baking, make the glaze.  Drizzle the glaze onto each scone in a zigzag pattern. Save about half of it to glaze again as the scones cool. You can cool the scones on a wire rack and wait to eat for an hour -- or serve warm with more of the glaze. Use up the glaze on the scones, but if you don't want them too sweet, you can allow the eaters to put more glaze on, depending upon personal preference.

Store any uneaten scone in a tightly sealed container. They taste best out of the oven or if eaten the same day they are baked. If you know you won't eat all of the scones, you can freeze the unbaked scones and then thaw and bake as directed above, maybe adding a few extra minutes if they are cold when you place them in the oven.

They are very filling and have a nice nutty flavor. Feel free to add pecans to the mix or put a few raw pumpkin seeds on top of them after you glaze them (that's what I will do the next time I make these).

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

5 ingredient 100% Whole Wheat Bread

I use a bread machine for this bread because I haven't a clue how to make bread without it. One thing you need to watch when it first mixes is that it is moist enough or it will turn out dry, so keep this in mind when making the bread in a bread machine. If you make it by hand, you can get a good feel for how moist it will be when you're kneading it.

1 1/2 cups warm water (I usually end up adding another 1/4 cup more)
2 Tablespoons olive oil or butter
1/4 cup honey
4 1/4 cups organic whole-wheat flour
1 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp. yeast or 1 packet

Place in the order your bread machine usually calls for ingredients. Set on Whole Wheat setting. Mine calls for wet ingredients on the bottom and takes a little over 3 hours. Remove loaf immediately and watch it disappear.

Make one loaf (1.5 pounds)

Since this has no preservatives, eat it right away or store in refrigerator or freezer after 3 or 4 days, We keep a paper towel in the plastic baggie to keep moisture at bay.