Monthly Archives: May 2013

Pollo al Limone e Spaghetti (Lemon Chicken with Equally Lemon-y Spaghetti !) serves 6

This recipe came about because of the excess of lemons in our house due to my daughter’s Lemonade Stand this past Memorial Day (Read all about it HERE). I was in no way flummoxed as to what to do with bunches of lemons, as the lowly lemon can be thrown into so many dishes. With so many however I decided that the lemon flavor would be the star of this dinner.

A great use of lemons!

This dinner makes great use of lemons!

You may know that you can make a quick emulsion if you whip lemon and butter together. I have tasted many pasta dishes with a lemon zing, which is usually achieved by using this basic premise.

the zest of a lemon adds punch to any dish

The zest of a lemon adds punch to any dish

I had chicken, I had spaghetti, I had butter, and I had lemons: this dish is the result. What can I say; it will be a staple from now on!

a cool glass of good lemonade

A cool glass of good lemonade (I’m sure adding a shot of vodka or gin to this would make a great Summer cocktail!)

Cheers!

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You will need:

3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2/3 cup water

sea-salt (for seasoning meat and to taste)

2 lbs chicken thigh cutlets (no skin, no bones)

1 medium red or sweet onion, diced

1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes

zest and juice of 3 lemons

8 tbs unsalted butter

sea salt & black pepper for seasoning

1 lb spaghetti pasta (I use Barilla brand)

Method:

Preheat oven 400*

* Cook the pasta while the chicken is resting. Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining and reserve (you may need it at the end). Do not rinse the pasta. Add directly to the lemon sauce after draining*

1 – Scatter onions in bottom of big saute or roasting pan. Add zest from 1 lemon to pan, the water and 1/2 tsp of pepper flakes. 

scatter onion, lemon zest and pepper flakes into pan

scatter onion, lemon zest and pepper flakes into pan

2 –  Lay chicken on top (it is good if it’s snug). Season lightly with medium to coarse sea-salt, and the rest of the pepper flakes. Drizzle with the oil and place in the oven for

place chicken on top and season

Place chicken on top and season

3 – Remove chicken to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

remove chicken to a plate

Remove chicken to a plate

4 – Put the pan on medium/high heat and add the lemon juice and remainder of the zest. Bring to a boil and let it bubble for 1 minutes. Take off heat.

add lemon juice and boil

Add lemon juice and boil

5 – Add butter and swirl into sauce until melted.Taste sauce for addition of salt and pepper and adjust according to your liking.

add butter

Add butter

6 – Add the pasta immediately and toss everything together.

add pasta

Add pasta

Serve as it is with a grating of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and more cayenne pepper flakes…

It is great without the chicken also!

Amazingly robust yet light pasta dish 

or you can also add chicken

I also cooked some brest meat for 1 person in ur house who cowers at the mention of dark meat

I also cooked some breast meat for 1 person in our house who cowers at the mention of dark meat

The Girl With The “Real” Lemonade

I did something so quintessentially “American” this past Memorial Day (yesterday) I had to write about it. This Holiday began after the Civil War to honor those who had died (around 750,000 soldiers) and has evolved over the years to commemorate all Americans who have died in Military Service. It is a National Holiday filled with parades, picnics and barbeques. From what I could gather yesterday, it also seems to be a day that is perfect for a “yard sale” as households were out in droves on their front lawns doing the last of their Spring cleaning.

did you know that to make lemonade you use real lemons!

Did you know that to make lemonade you use real lemons!

Since I too was in that cleaning mode we decided that it was a good time to pile our junk outside and put a bargain price on it or just give it away. All I knew for sure is that when it was carted outside onto my front lawn right on main street, it was never coming back into the house again!

What we did yesterday

What we did yesterday

My daughter was very happy about the prospect of selling stuff and asked if she could man the shop. The reply was “yes” of course because there was no way I was sitting outside amidst a bunch of trash in the hot sun for the afternoon. I was very satisfied to peek out the door every now and then and feed anyone who yelled for food. Off she went upstairs to change into her “work” outfit and five minutes later she told me she would also like to run a Lemonade Stand at the same time?

a cool glass of good lemonade

a cool glass of good lemonade (Will post this recipe later this week!)

Wow – a Lemonade Stand; an image of Mary Ellen from The Waltons setting up her stand to try to make a little extra money popped into my head ! To me, everything about a lemonade stand screams America. It is what every child in this country does, either on TV or in real life, to make a little extra pocket-money to buy that bike or baseball glove they have always wanted. At least that used to be the premise.

get your lemonade!

Get your lemonade!

The New York Times in the 1880’s reported “scores” of Lemonade Stands being set up by enterprising kids all over the country, going head to head with the bars who also sold lemonade. They could easily undercut the bar price and so became the go-to place for a refreshing cold beverage in the days when there was little respite from the heat by way of air conditioners and electric fans. And so the Lemonade Stand was born and was the turf of any American kid who wanted a summer job where they could keep their own hours and be financially independent.

Made with real lemons!

Made with real lemons!

Well, if my child wanted to have a Lemonade Stand  she was going to have to put the work in and have a stand where her lemonade screamed of LEMONS and not the tepid saccharine-ridden powdered stuff I had been served oh so often in a thimble-like cup that left my poor thirst unsatiated. I would have to teach her (while learning myself!) how to make really good, thirst quenching lemonade; you know, “Waltons’ Style”!

The first sale1

The first sale!

We bought bags of lemons, sugar, big plastic glasses and lots of ice and made a fabulous lemonade. It was adjusted and readjusted, (after being tasted by some experts), until it was perfect. The deal is, if you have a good product, you will have customers.

The cash register

The cash register

After she learned what a “float” of money was she was on her way. All she had to do was make a sign, and with a little help, got her table set up and was ready to make some sales. She spent the next 5 hours, waving down cars, selling icy lemonade, enlisting help from her cousins to wave down cars, while even managing to sell a broken-down lawnmower with the words “free” on it for $2!

Something to do when hanging out at The Stand (the "cup song")

Something to do when hanging out at The Stand (the “cup song”)

 The idea that the Lemonade Stand stood for a child’s first entrepreneurial experience was a concept that I could believe in again. She took her tin of cash inside at the end of the day, reimbursed us the float and the lemonade expenses and is ready to do it again some weekend very soon. Who knows, maybe she will manage to sell our other broken-down lawnmower.

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day! 

WILL POST OUR LEMONADE RECIPE LATER THIS WEEK!

Something Fantastic Made With Leftover Chicken Stock or Rich Penne with Chicken Sausage (serves 4-6)

ah yes (glad I didn't throw that stock out!)

ah yes (glad I didn’t throw that stock out!)

Have you ever cooked a chicken or some other meat (either roasted or boiled) and after dinner still have a couple of cups of liquid left over? The thing that I hate the most in this world is to waste perfectly good food. People go to the trouble of making dinner and then after dinner something strange happens: the thing that was so enjoyed a few minutes earlier gets relegated to the category of waste or scraps. Why do we regard the part of the dish that has not been eaten as somehow inferior to what we just oohed and aahed over moments earlier? It’s time for you to start saving that cooking liquid and stop buying pricy cans and cartons of broth that is not half as good as the stuff you throw out after dinner!

as unappetizing as this looks, you should never throw away perfectly good stock for a cooked chicken!

As unappetizing as this looks, you should never throw away perfectly good stock from a cooked chicken!

What you see in the picture above is what I had leftover after a chicken dinner the other night. I had roasted a chicken with some basic veggies and added liquid to my pan halfway through to get a pan sauce without actually making one. After dinner, the chicken was gone (along with everything else) but this was left in my roasting pan. Most of the time this gets thrown out – admit it! it is so much easier to scrape this into the garbage than it is to put it in a container and store it in the fridge. When you throw something like this away you are throwing out the backbone of so many dishes that can be made in a hurry with delicious results if only you had saved what looks like a congealed mess.

The Ultimate Cheese!

The Ultimate Cheese (If you have a hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in your fridge at all times, it can be the savior of many a pasta dinner!)

I made this dinner merely to prove my point, and this is only one use. It can be used in a soup, in simpler pasta dishes, or added to a rice dish as the stock. You can also add water to it and discard the cooked veggies (using a sieve or small colander) and substitute it anywhere broth is called for in a recipe. It will taste far superior to its store-bought counterpart.

the backsteps

The back steps are beginning to look a little more Summery and I can’t wait for my garden to become lush and alive with herbs and flowers.

Of course you can still make this dish with bought stock! I guarantee you that I most definitely do not have stock in my fridge every time I need it and resort to bouillon cubes and water more often than using precious saved chicken juices. I just wanted to let you know that the thing you have been throwing away after some of your dinners could be put to good use!

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You will Need:

1 lb sausage (chicken, turkey or pork will work – it can be a seasoned or flavored sausage), removed from casing

4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 tsp chili flakes

4 to 6 cups chopped spinach (we love spinach so used 6!)

1 1/2 cups leftover stock (it can have stuff in it like onions, carrots, garlic, celery and herbs) OR 1 1/2 cups chicken broth OR 1 good quality bouillon cube and water

1/2 cup tomato puree

2/3 cup heavy cream

1 lb ridged penne pasta (I used Barilla Brand mini-penne)

1 tbs cold unsalted butter (optional)

grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (if you have it)

Method:

1 – Put big saute pan on medium heat and add the oil. When it has warmed, add the chopped garlic and the chili flakes. Swirl around and cook for about 1 minute.

cook garlic and chili flakes

Cook garlic and chili flakes

2 – Add the sausage in bits (I broke it into the pan right out of the casing). Cook until the sausage is browned and nearly cooked through (about 12 minutes). You will need to stir and break sausage up with wooden spoon intermittently as it cooks.

add sausage

Add sausage

*Put the pasta water on (add about 2 tsp coarse salt to the water) and when it boil cook pasta according to instructions. Your aim is to have the pasta cooked by the time you reach step 6. Scoop out about 1/2 to 1 cup of pasta water before you drain the pasta. You may need it to thin out your sauce. Do NOT rinse the pasta when it is drained*

3 – Add the leftover stock (or whatever broth you are using) and let it come to a simmer. You may turn heat up slightly while you add the liquids.

add leftover stock or broth

Add leftover stock or broth

4 – Add the tomato puree and stir into the sausage mixture before adding the cream. Add the cream and let the sauce come to a slight boil.

add tomato puree and cream

Add tomato puree and cream

5 – Add the spinach and stir. Cover pan with a lid, turn heat down and cook for about 2 or 3 minutes at a low simmer.

Add spinach

Add spinach

6 – Turn off heat and add the cooked penne to your sauce and stir. You may also add a tablespoon of cold unsalted butter at this time if you want more glossy creaminess. If you like a thinner sauce or want to loosen the pasta a little, you may add some of the reserved pasta water until you are satisfied. You may also taste for addition of salt and pepper.

add cooked penne

Add cooked penne

Divide between bowls and pass grated Parmigiano Reggiano and more red pepper flakes if you so desire.

serve

Serve

An A+ Soup with Chinese Noodles (chicken, spinach, lime) – Serves 8

I got home at 7pm last night and we were eating this soup in 45 minutes (granted I worked in the kitchen like a speed demon!). This was another case of knowing I would be home late but not wanted to waste money ordering out (not to mention the food wouldn’t be as good and all of that paper and plastic waste from containers, utensils and napkins!).

A+ Soup

A+ Soup

This is an amazing meal and satisfies all kinds of hunger, from the person who wants lots of food to the person who has a longing for something restorative and healing (like my daughter who was getting over a tummy bug).

A few ingredients made this dish stand out for me: lime juice, thin vegetable-laden broth and the addition of fresh Chinese-Style noodles (below).

These Chinese Style Noodles worked great with this soup

These Chinese Style Noodles worked great with this soup

I try my best to keep fresh wonton skins, egg-roll wrappers or these noodles in my fridge. They can be found in the cold fridge in the veggie section of most supermarkets. They are fresh, floury, light, and delicious for all kinds of dishes. They have an expiration date so I always grab a packet from the back with the longest expiry date. Last night they were the perfect thing to bolster the thin broth.

If you decide to make this, and have some leftover, keep the noodles in a container separate from the soup and add to the reheated soup cold, (the residual heat will warm them up nicely). At least that is what my plan is for lunch today!

Just wanted to show you more of what is growing in my garden at the monent: lovely chives

Just wanted to show you more of what is growing in my garden at the moment: lovely chives (they would also make a great garnish for this soup)

* This is a very good Blood Type A Diet recipe. if you are very strict or a sensitive “A” omit the cayenne pepper flakes*

You will need:

3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 lb chicken breast, very thinly sliced

1 medium onion (sweet or yellow)

2 celery ribs, including leaves, diced

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 sprig fresh rosemary (left whole)

1 cup shredded or matchstick carrots

1 bunch scallions, including green part (green onions), sliced

10 or so medium shiitake mushrooms, caps thinly sliced

4 cups baby spinach leaves (or regular spinach – chopped)

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes

10 cups veggie or chicken broth (or 12 good quality bouillon cube and water)

juice of 1 lime (or about 3 tbs)

sea-salt to taste

Method:

1 – Put large soup pot on medium heat and add the oil. when it has warmed, add the onions, garlic and celery and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pepper flakes.

Saute onions and celery, add chili flakes

Saute onions and celery, add chili flakes

2 – Add the carrots and rosemary and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.

Add carrots and rosemary

Add carrots and rosemary

3 – Next add the sliced mushrooms and scallions and continue to cook for another 3 or so minutes.

add mushrooms and scallions

Add mushrooms and scallions

4 – Add the broth (or water and bouillon cube) and turn heat to high. When the liquid comes to a boil, add the chicken and stir.

add liquid, then chicken

Add liquid, then chicken

5 – Add the spinach leaves (or chopped spinach) and bring back to a boil. When it begins to boil, turn the heat down and bring soup to a slight simmer. Cover with lid and simmer for about 12 minutes. Turn heat off and add the lime juice. Taste for addition of salt or pepper. Stir and replace lid. Let the soup sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Add spinach

Add spinach

6 – While the soup is sitting put a big pot of water on to boil (boils faster with a lid!) and when it is boiling cook fresh noodles according to instructions. Drain and rinse well with cold water and set aside.

*this brand says it takes 3 minutes to cook, but I found they were cooked in 2 minutes. I’d advise checking the noodles earlier than the cooking time stated in the instructions*

Put some noodles into bottom of bowl

Put some noodles into bottom of bowl

To serve, place a portion of noodles in the bottom of a soup bowl (as much or as little as you like) and ladle the soup over them.

Add Soup

Add Soup

Some of us add a swirl of sriracha sauce to the soup which gave it an additional bite of heat.

Add hot sauce if you like (we like Sriracha Sauce)

Add hot sauce if you like (we like Sriracha Sauce)

A Great Summer Tea – Thai-Style! (makes 1 big pitcher)

All of a sudden it is Summer and time to decide on some cooling drinks to sip in the late afternoon. I did not grow up drinking Iced teas and in all the years I have lived in the United States it is still a drink that never comes to mind when I want to quench my thirst with something refreshing (besides a great summer cocktail!)

rhododendron

My lovely rhododendron which I planted at the bottom steps of the back door tree years ago is in full bloom!

However this Iced Thai Tea from my latest cooking mag. (bon appetit to be precise) has won me over completely. And, it was even something that I would have skipped over when making my first peruse through the new issue seeing as the title was “Tea It Up”

My son was the one who found it and said I just had to make it. We have this new ritual (me and him) which is when any new cooking issue comes to the house I bring it with me when I pick my kids up from school and leave it on his seat as a little treat for him. As much as I want to, I don’t even take the plastic off and have a sneak-peek.

Lovely Ice Tea - perfect for this weather

Lovely Ice Tea – perfect for this weather

He really appreciates having the privilege of ripping it open and getting to see what foods are being highlighted that month or season. But what he really loves is telling me what I have to cook, and if I hum and haw about it, he reads the ingredients to show me how quick and easy it will be. I’m afraid he is mostly a sucker for the colorful juicy pictures of finished dishes, and the picture of a giant glass filled with ice and a creamy pale orange iced-tea with the word “Thai” in the title was no exception. First of all, if the dish smacks of Asian flavors whatsoever it will always be demanded, not to mention he is going through a black tea phase, (my fault, as Barry’s Tea, the tea I drank growing up in Ireland is always being pulled out and brewed to have with a piece of cake or a biscuit (cookie)). How could I refuse!

The back steps to my little yard.

The back steps to my little yard.

I have to say that I am glad to have kids that push me to try things I would normally not bother with, like this glorious Thai-Style Iced Tea. It is a bit of work, a tad expensive (requires a vanilla bean which cost me $6) and it needs time to chill, but it was so good it is what I am taking to my friend’s house for Brunch this weekend!

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You will need:

8 cups cold water

10 star anise pods

3 tbs sugar

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (instructions below)

15 black tea bags

1/2 cup heavy cup

1/2 sweetened condensed milk

ice cubes (for serving)

Method:

cut, then scrape seeds from vanilla bean pod

Cut, then scrape seeds from vanilla bean pod

1 – Scrape the seeds from vanilla bean like so: using a sharp knife cut vanilla bean down the enter length of pod.  Hold one end with finger and scrape the inside of the pod with a knife, running it down the entire pod. The seeds will collect on the knife as you go. (Don’t throw away the scraped pods as you can make vanilla sugar with it – see picture below!).

Place the scraped vanilla bean pod in a bowl of fine sugar adn it will infuse with lovely vanilla-y flavor. Perfect for sprinkling on toasted buttered bread or fresh berries like strawberrs for a quick summer dessert.

Place the scraped vanilla bean pod in a bowl of fine sugar and it will infuse with lovely vanilla-y flavor. Perfect for sprinkling on toasted buttered bread or fresh berries like strawberries for a quick summer dessert.

2 – Combine 1 cup of water with sugar, star anise and the vanilla bean seeds in a small pot and bring to a boil. When it begins to boil, turn the heat down and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

combine ingrediets and boil to infuse flavor

Combine ingredients and boil to infuse flavor

3 – Combine the tea bags with the 7 remaining cups of water in a large pitcher or bowl and add the cooked water mixture to it when it is done simmering. Place in the fridge and chill for 4 hours.

Add tea bags and more water

Add tea bags and more water

5 – Strain the mixture using a sieve into another pitcher and add the cream and condensed milk. Stir everything together.

Strain chilled tea (and add creams)

Strain chilled tea (and add creams)

Serve over ice, or as is if you want it to be more intense. Can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Serve over ice - yum!

Serve over ice – yum!

Really Great Smokey Baby-Back Ribs (serves 6-8)

This past weekend was a hectic one to say the least and I had to be smart about what to cook. The best kinds of dishes to cook when you have guests and are on the go are ones that demand little time to prepare, slow cooking and are hearty enough to keep everyone happy for hours.

This dish most certainly fit all the criteria and was more delicious than I could have imagined.

This Weekend: Really Great Smokey Baby-Back Ribs

This Weekend: Really Great Smokey Baby-Back Ribs

I implore you to add this to your list of ways to cook my favorite kind of pig: Baby-Back ribs!

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You will need:

4 tbs olive oil

2 racks baby-back ribs, cut into 2 to 3 rib pieces, seasoned lightly with sea-salt and black pepper.

1 large (not huge) Vidalia onion

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 cup roughly chopped flat-leafed parsley leaves

2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped (click here if you don’t know what this is)

1 tbs adobo sauce (use 2 tbs if you want more smokey heat)

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (I used San Marzano tomatoes)

1 tsp sea-salt (if using a fine-grained salt, start of with a 1/2 tsp)

Freshly ground black pepper

4 cups chicken broth OR 1 good quality bouillon cube (Rapunzel) and 4 cups of water)

Equipment: you will need a very large casserole with lid for this dish.

* I served this with basmati rice but you can serve with a pasta, like spaghetti*

Method:

Preheat oven 400*

1 – Sear the prepared ribs (see ingredients list instructions) in batches on high heat in large saute pan until browned on both sides. You will need to add more oil as you go. Transfer to a big casserole (with lid) that can be put into the oven.

sear ribs

sear ribs

2 – turn heat down to medium and add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes before adding the chopped chipotle peppers, adobo sauce and parsley.

saute onions, add seasonings

saute onions, add seasonings

3 – Add the tomato puree, broth (or water and bouillon cube) and salt and bring mixture to a boil.

add liquids

Add liquids

4 – Pour this mixture into the casserole over the ribs and place in the oven for 1  1/4 hours. Remove from oven and check meat by piercing with a sharp knife. If it is very tender you can remove it from the oven. Let it sit covered for about 10 minutes before serving. Taste the sauce for additional seasoning. Also, if the sauce is very thick you can add a little more water to thin it out to your liking.

assemble dish and cook

Assemble dish and cook

Serve each person 2 or 3 rib sections with whatever you like, (suggestions below). You can also have some cayenne pepper flakes on the table for those of you who like more heat. A sprinkle of some flat-leafed parsley would not go astray either!

Serve alone or with rice, pasta or bread

Serve alone or with rice, pasta or bread

The meat can also be removed from the ribs and returned to the sauce which makes it easier to eat, especially if you serve it with a long pasta like spaghetti or tagliatelle.

Quick Pork Ragu (serves 6 with Pasta)

Okay, this is a crazy weekend with far too many things on my plate to wax on about how great this easy-peasy (lemon-squeezy!) pork dish tasted. As is pretty obvious I love to cook, but sometimes the pressure of time makes it an activity that is squeezed in between all the other things that are part of my life.

A great speedy ragu

A great speedy ragu

The same goes for the writing. I have only time enough to give the recipe before zooming off to do the million things that very inconveniently came crashing down on me all at one time! I don’t like when my weekend is taken up with things that are not so important to me but still need to be done.

On the bright side, if you only came to my blog for a recipe then it will be convenient as you to not have to scroll through a lots of extra stuff to get to it!

This is a great dish if you too find yourself short on time this weekend. You can also double up and feed a crowd!

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You will need:

1 lb pork tenderloin, thinly sliced

3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2 stripes bacon, roughly chopped or sliced

1 medium sweet or yellow onion, small dice

1 tsp finely chopped rosemary leaves

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (chili flakes)

1/2 cup white wine

28 oz can tomato puree

1 tbs tomato paste (regular or smoked)

1 tsp salt

several grinds of black pepper

Method:

1 – Put sauce pot or deep saute pan on medium heat and add oil. When it warms add the onions and cook for 2 minutes before adding the chopped bacon. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally before adding the rosemary. Cook for another minute.

saute onions, bacon & rosemary

Saute onions, bacon & rosemary

2 – Season the pork with the sea-salt and pepper and turn up heat. Add the pork and cook for 5 minutes until it takes on a light brown color. Add the wine and turn the heat up to high. Let it bubble for about 1 minute.

add pork

Add pork

3 – Add the tomato puree, paste, and chili flakes and bring to a boil. Turn heat down, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

et voila!

et voila!

Serve with spaghetti, ridged penne or pasta shells. A salad on the side would also be a nice addition.