Chicken & wine

Our noses have a way of sniffing out nostalgia.

Smell goes into the emotional parts of the brain and the memory parts, whereas words go into thinking parts of the brain. This could explain why memories sparked by smell feel nostalgic and emotional.

I often say that we didn’t have a lot of food traditions growing up, as in Spaghetti Sunday or Taco Tuesday. However, that does not mean that my mom did not make some of her most tried and true recipes over and over. This was one of them. It was made so often there is no hand-written copy that I know of. I saw something similar in one of her recipe books a month ago and asked her about it. She said no that’s not it, and quoted the recipe I was thinking of from memory. Perhaps the fact that once she made this dish for 100 volunteers solidified the ingredients in her mind for eternity.

As I grew older, the only thing I didn’t love is the canned mushrooms. I love mushrooms. I despise canned mushrooms. The original dish also contained cream of chicken soup. Cream soups are hard to find here for some reason. Only a few years ago did they start selling broth in the boxes like I’m used to back in Canada. The lack of canned goods didn’t deter me, though. Besides, I wanted to create a more homey version of this recipe for health reasons and so that I didn’t have to rely on ingredients that I can’t often find.

I think I did it. And when it came out of the oven at the end, I’m not going to lie, my eyes welled up. The smell of an entire childhood of hospitality came rushing back to my mind. It was overwhelming.

It’s really not fancy or earth shattering. But it is one of those dishes that really comfort me just to think about. My family liked it immediately. It will now become a dish that I too make often.

I hope it becomes that for you.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 whole chicken, divided
  • 1/4 cup butter + 5 TAB, divided
  • 3 TAB flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 1/4 cup butter. Starting with skin side down, cook chicken pieces about 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Transfer chicken and juices to oven safe dish. Transfer dish to oven and set timer for 20 minutes.

In a small pot, melt 3 TAB butter. Add 3 TAB flour and whisk for 1 to 2 minutes or until thickens. Add milk, chicken broth, white wine, and garlic powder and whisk until slightly thickened, 1 or 2 minutes. Turn off heat.

After 20 minutes of chicken in oven, pour liquid over chicken in oven. Cook for another 20 minutes.

In a large saucepan, melt 2 TAB butter. Cook mushrooms until tender (I like them a little crispy so I don’t overcrowd and wait until they have a golden tint on each side). Add mushrooms to chicken in oven for the last 5 minutes of cooking time.

Remove from oven. Let rest 5 minutes.

Serves 4.

Chicken zucchini poppers with creamy garlic dip

This is the first recipe I ever published on this blog. I went to edit it the other day and somehow got lost in a foreign and scary editing world from which I could not return. The post had to be trashed and I had to start all over again. So here we go.

A few years ago, our family planned a two month road trip through Canada and the USA. My husband and I wanted to drop some weight before we left so that we could eat our way through two months without worrying too much about our buttons popping off.

Someone at work told him about Whole 30 which was new to us at the time. If you’re not familiar with the program, it’s a no carbs, no dairy, no sugar plan. They suggest you do it for 30 days straight more for health than for weight loss. Of course, we were doing for both.

As men do, he dropped a lot of weight that first month. I was jealous of how good he looked that when he decided to do it again, I joined him. The hardest part for me was no cheese and no wine. I was so used to snacking on a cheese string and a diet coke every single day that I realized it was an ingrained habit. Every day about 11 AM I would find myself staring in the fridge about to grab my mid-morning snack before realizing that neither of those items were on my food list.

After a week or so though, I started to get into it. The challenge for me was to make healthy meals taste great so that my kids and my parents (who at the time were living with us) would also enjoy them. Some things were easy to cut out, others were not. But let me tell you, I sure did feel better. I didn’t cheat once during the month! Quite an accomplishment for me. The best outcome besides the weight loss was that I kicked my two diet cokes a day habit. After 30 days, the taste of diet coke was like metal in my mouth. My husband was thrilled I kicked this habit, he loathes aspartame.

I made these poppers for lunch one day and I was thrilled with the outcome.  The rest of my family put them into a pita and covered them with onions and tomatoes and ate them gyros style. We just ate them as is with a Whole 30 approved sauce and loved them just the same.  

This was the very first recipe I ever blogged so of course when I made it again this week, I had to make a few tweeks and add a nice little garlic sauce on the side. It’s still delicious and good for you! Enjoy guilt free!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 2 cups grated zucchini, grated and liquid squeeze out
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TAB sriracha
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • sesame oil for frying

GARLIC SAUCE

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 TAB mayonnaise
  • 1 TAB olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Poppers: Combine all ingredients except sesame oil in a large bowl. Stir to combine well. Make small patties with your hand, flattening slightly.

To cook on the stove-top:  Heat a drizzle of sesame oil in a large pan over medium heat. Without crowding, fry on each side about 4 minutes or until golden brown and the centers are cooked through.

To bake:  Drizzle a bit of sesame oil onto a baking sheet. Place poppers on sheet, not over-crowding. Bake at 400 degrees 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through. If desired, place under the broiler for an additional 2-3 minutes or until browned on top.

Creamy garlic dip: Combine all ingredients in small bowl and mix well.

Serves 4.

Bacon & Cheese Waffles

I love the sitcom Parks & Rec. I love the character Leslie Knope. Probably the only thing I don’t get about her is her obsession for waffles. Nor anybody else’s obsession with waffles, frankly.

The only meal of the day I do not prefer carbs at is breakfast. I would much rather have eggs, bacon, yogurt, fruit … anything other than pancakes or waffles. I’m not sure why this is. My mother always made fantastic pancakes and waffles. After I moved out, I tried making pancakes the way she did. For years, I never understood what the problem was when they didn’t turn out the same. My family constantly reminded me that my pancakes “aren’t as good as Grandma’s”.  Recently, when I watched her make them, I realized she practically deep fried them, that how much oil was in the pan. Of course they were delicious that way. Of course mine didn’t turn out the same.

This recipe was another that she always made growing up. I thought that everybody knew about bacon and cheese waffles. Seems this is not the case. When I searched Instagram for #baconcheesewaffles the other day there were “fewer than 100 posts”.  That surprised me. Haven’t waffles been done six ways to Sunday?

Guess not.

So today I must share this recipe with you. I will admit, it’s not the same base waffle recipe my mom always made. A trip to Belgium changed that. Have you ever been there? Have you ever had one of their famous waffles? They can shove you with great force off the fence that you’re sitting on about waffles as they did me.

They have two varieties to choose from, the Brussels and the Liege waffle.  The Liege is thicker and contains little clumps of sugar, (not cheap to buy on Amazon), whereas the Brussels one is lighter and more like what you and I are used to. I had no idea there was a difference. But I’ll tell you, I loved every single one I ate in the three days I was in Belgium.

wafflesinbelgium

I appreciate waffles more now. Still not to the extent Leslie Knope and the rest of the world does though, I will admit.  So if I don’t love waffles why did I post this recipe? Because everybody else loves waffles, especially does my family love this bacon and cheese version.

When I make waffles, I make such a mess that it’s not worth it for me to just make them for that morning. I always double the recipe, let the waffles cool on a rack like you would any baked good, and then freeze in Ziploc bags. Then they just need to be popped into a toaster for a few minutes whichever morning you are ready for them. Much better than those boring, stale, pre-packaged frozen waffles, let me tell you.

This version has less sugar in it than most because it’s a savory waffle and because the maple syrup makes it sweet enough. Beating the egg whites separately is what makes it as close to a Belgian waffle as possible without the special pearl sugar and customized waffle makers that they use in Belgium that I want so bad but can’t bring myself to buy.

Laying a strip of cooked bacon down right on the top of the batter is what makes that bacon poke out on the top instead of getting lost in the batter. Ain’t it gorgeous?

Happy waffling!

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 12 strips bacon, cooked and cut in half

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar and whisk to combine.

Put egg whites into a small, dry bowl. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, a few minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together yolks, milk, and oil.

Add wet mixture to dry, stirring only until just combined. Add cheddar cheese. Gently fold in egg whites.

Heat waffle iron. Spray with non-stick spray. Pour batter into waffle iron, filling well. Lay down four strips of bacon on top of the batter. Leave lid open for 30 seconds before closing. Cook until golden brown (every waffle iron varies, mine takes about 3-4 minutes per side).

Remove and repeat until all batter is finished.

 

 

Makes 3 large waffles (depending on the size of your waffle iron)

Serving 1/2 waffle each, serves 6 people.

Chipotle Garlic Potatoes

Last weekend, my husband was smoking a huge pork butt on the smoker. Before the quarantine, he would use the smoker or barbecue at least once or twice a month, but now, with more free time on his hands, we get treated to some delicious meat a little more often.  In between the hours he was waiting and monitoring the pork, he came up with this simple and yet delicious side dish.

I am definitely the person who cooks most often in our house, however, when my husband gets into the kitchen, he has a lot more patience and creativity than me.  His breakfast and lunch always looks better than mine. He will take the few more minutes that I can’t bother with to add whatever ingredient or component to make the meal complete. I work a little faster, with less patience.

I had no plans for these baby potatoes I bought earlier in the week, they just looked so nice in the local vegetable store and I knew about the barbecue coming up. I am not a huge potato gal, however, my husband is at heart a meat and potatoes man. He was born and raised in Nova Scotia, and for a few years in his youth, he lived with a family with 7 children who owned and operated a potato farm in the Annapolis valley and worked for them. Needless to say, they’ve made and eaten potatoes probably a thousand different ways.

After we married, the farm was still in existence for about another 5 years.  When we would go back to visit family, we always made a trip over to “Bunk and Nan’s” where the hub of work and activity was and where you could find a lot of the family during working hours.

The big meal of the day, as it is on most farms, was at noon and what they called dinner. We would go over to the farm mid-morning to find Nan, a tiny woman in her 70’s  maneuvering around the kitchen like a boss. Nan was famous for her bread, always had potatoes at the dinner table, and could pull together a full turkey dinner for the noon meal. They don’t make them like that anymore. I loved watching her work.

She had 3 fridges, 5 freezers, 2 microwaves, 2 wood stoves, and a convection oven. She didn’t have a container for flour, she had a drawer, that’s how much bread she was cranking out. She was always trying to trick her family into eating raisins by putting them in anything she could (sadly, as raisin haters do, they were spotted, removed, and left in a pile on the table). Now that Nan is 90 and not cooking anymore, her beautiful baking pans aren’t being wasted (food bloggers would appreciate this). They were distributed to her numerous children and grandchildren and are still being used to this day.

How she got food ready for, depending on the season, 6-10 hungry workers every day and made it interesting, nourishing, and delicious, was beyond me. Usually by Wednesday, I’m out of ideas.

The workers would come in around noon tired, hungry, and dirty. There was always meat, bread, and potatoes on the table.  It was a world I wasn’t used to. I’m a city girl, where most people aren’t even home at the noon hour.  My mom was always changing things up and we often never had the same meal twice.  Frankly, I enjoyed the thought that consistency here was part of life. Kind of like how families have their pizza Friday or Spaghetti Sunday. Those kinds of traditions are comforting and are what memories are made of.

When we married, I certainly did not make enough potatoes for my husband. He may have mentioned it once or twice. I started to make less pasta so he wouldn’t leave me but usually, when potatoes are involved, I leave it to him. I haven’t made mashed potatoes since he made his version many years ago.  He has the muscle but more importantly the  know how to make them perfect every time.

So was I surprised when last weekend he came up with something new for the humble potato? Nope. It was so good we raved about it almost more than the pulled pork (which caused some insecurity over his barbecue skills).

They’re super easy and pack a punch which is a normal taste around here where I live.  A little spice into everything is the order of the day in Mexico.  I always have a couple small cans of these chipotles in adobo sauce in my pantry, I even put them in my mayo to give it a kick.  The rest of the chipotles that you don’t use can be kept in the fridge in a sealed container. I don’t know if Nan would like the spice, but she would have been proud of our dinner that night: meat, potatoes, and fresh bread.

Love you Nan, and all your people who are now my people.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 lbs baby potatoes, cleaned
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 TAB chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. (We like doing this in a wok so we can easily take out the smaller potatoes that may be ready first). When water is boiling, add potatoes. Par boil for about 15 minutes, they should float to the top. Drain and cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 375. On the top of each potatoes, with a knife, make 2 or 3 lines through the potato, ensuring that you do not cut more than halfway through (not necessary, but helps the mixture stay on the potatoes). Combine garlic, chipotle, olive oil, and basil in a bowl and stir to combine.

In a large roasting pan, gently combine potatoes with sauce. Try not to mash potatoes as you combine. Put into oven. After 15 minutes, gently stir, ensuring garlic isn’t burning. Cook another 15 minutes (or longer if your garlic is okay and you like crunchier potatoes). Remove from oven and serve.

Serves 6.

Marinated Feta & Orzo Salad

I had a recipe very similar to this on the blog awhile ago. I thought it needed freshening up and definitely a new picture. Turns out, I changed a whole lot about it so I thought that I would just enter in a new post. After all, we all have a lot of free time on our hands these days as Covid-19 runs rampant, so may as well put it to good use.

It’s still quarantine time and I’m trying to use up what I find in my pantry. We are going out once a week for fresh vegetables and fruits, but we have so much in our freezer and in our pantry and non-perishable items scattered all over the house that we are starting to look like a grocery store ourselves.

It’s kind of fun actually. I have plans to make a recipe, and then see something different located somewhere in my home, and start to fiddle. It’s nice to have the time to fiddle. And to learn what substitutes work and what doesn’t.

I’ve always loved orzo.  Looks like rice, tastes like pasta.  Most times when I serve it to guests here in Mexico they ask if it’s rice and are (usually) happy to find out it’s pasta. It’s not easy to find here, so when I do, I usually make sure I grab a few packs of it.

The method for marinating the feta in this salad is also a good trick for other fresh cheese. Try it with goat cheese or even fresh mozzarella.

This salad is fast and easy, light and bright. Enjoy!

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz. piece of feta
  • 1 TAB fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 TAB red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup uncooked orzo
  • 1-15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • fresh herb of your choice, parsley, mint or dill work best
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add lemon slices and cook until lightly browned around the edges, about 2 minutes per side. Cut lemon slices into quarters or smaller if you prefer. Transfer lemon slices to a medium bowl. Break feta into large pieces and add to lemons along with oregano, red wine vinegar, and remaining 1/2 cup oil. Toss gently to coat and set aside.

Cook orzo as you would any pasta, drain, and rinse. Let cool slightly. In a large bowl combine orzo, herbs, chickpeas, and red onion. Stir to combine. Add feta mixture and toss gently. Add salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4.

 

 

Browned Butter Pears with Crunchy Almond Crumble

During the current pandemic, like many others, I find myself purchasing more of an item than I usually would. I guess internally I’m worried that one day we won’t be allowed to go into the grocery stores at all so I’m even buying larger quantities of fruits and veggies  when I see them, afraid it will be the last time.

Last week I bought a bag full of pears. I don’t know why. Nobody else in my house will eat a pear besides me. Fruit does not last long in the heat either.  After a couple of days in this Mexican humidity at best, fruit has brown spots and is softer than it should be (why do you think we make banana bread so often?) and needs to be used right away or gets wasted. And I hate wasting food.

So the other day when I opened up the fridge and saw this bag of pears (that I promised myself I would eat all by myself), starting to rot, I knew I had to use them for something.

Something simple like pears cooked slightly in butter and sugar and topped with a crunchy almond crumble so crunchy it’s almost like granola?  Should we just call it cranola? Sounds like a plan.

This is a very simple dish. The crumble makes more than you need. Store the rest and keep it in the fridge or freezer and top your morning yogurt with it.  I could NOT stop eating it after I made it. Crunchy and salty and sweet all at the same time, it’s just about the perfect crumble. Granola. Whatever.

Use a different fruit if you choose, and put some ice cream on the side next time (if I had some I would have) and you have a beautiful dessert. Frankly, I would eat this for breakfast too. Fruit, granola, what’s not breakfast about that!

Oh, and currently, as I type this, I am snacking on said crumble with perhaps a few chocolate chips added. Happiness.

INGREDIENTS:

ALMOND CRUMBLE

  • 1 cup almonds, divided
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup oats
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 TAB cold butter, diced
  • 1 TAB honey

BROWN BUTTER PEARS

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 TAB brown sugar
  • 6 pears, peeled if you choose (the skin can come off when cooking), sliced
  • 1 TAB cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger

DIRECTIONS:

For the crumble: In a large saucepan, toast the almonds for about 4 or 5 minutes until the aroma releases and they soften. Let cool a few minutes. Set aside 2/3 cup almonds. Take the rest and transfer to food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Transfer ground almonds to a medium size bowl. Add flour, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, oats, and salt. Stir well to combine. Add butter and with your fingers, work butter in with your fingers until well incorporated (mixture should form clumps). Coarsely chop the reserved 2/3 cup almonds and add to mixture. Add honey and stir to combine.

Turn mixture onto a large parchment lined baking sheet. Break large clumps apart and spread evenly, don’t crowd. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and crisp. Set aside to cool.

For the pears: combine butter and sugar in a small bowl. Transfer to saucepan and turn on heat to medium. When butter is melted and slightly bubbly, add pears without crowding, then add cinnamon and ginger. Cook pears for about 5 minutes or until they are the consistency that you like (normally I like a little bite to mine, but because the granola is so crunchy, I made mine softer).

Transfer pears to plate. Drizzle some of the butter mixture over the pears. Add crumble and serve.

Serves 4.

 

Crispy Mushroom Mascarpone Pasta

For those of you who don’t know me, my husband, two teenagers, and I have been caregivers for my now 85 year old parents for the last 6 years here in Mexico. Recently, we made the hard decision together that they needed to go back to Canada for many reasons. Unfortunately, the decision was made about a month before the world went crazy with Covid-19 and by the time the wheels were in motion, airports started shutting down, borders started closing, and we needed to get them home.

We booked a flight for them on a Saturday, had a little gathering on the Sunday, and on Monday they literally walked out of their house. Do you ever go on vacation with your house a mess? Can’t do it, right? It’s got to be somewhat tidy. What if people come by and think you’re a slob? And who wants to come home all relaxed to a messy house? Well, these brave people I call my parents walked out of the country and home they had been in for 6 years with barely time to give it a wave good-bye. It was a hard day.

In the month since then, while my sister was caring for them in Ontario and preparing them for their new life there, I had the job of emptying their (thank goodness rental) home, selling all their furniture, and packing up what they wanted to keep. Not the easiest job, especially during a pandemic. But we got it done and surprisingly, all the furniture and appliances sold and anything leftover was donated to those less fortunate. Which during these recent days, is a lot of people.

One bonus of all this is I inherited a few great items I am too cheap to buy for myself: kitchen-aid mixer, a little toaster oven (which is a big deal because my oven doesn’t have a range, it just seems to cook everything at 450 degrees), some great kitchen gadgets, and more. My mom, having been a lover of all food magazines for years also left behind about 50 magazines, mostly Bon Appetit and one called Food & Drink that we get (for free!) from the liquor stores in Ontario. There was no way I was going to trash all of those without going through them.  Finding any magazine in English down here that doesn’t cost $10 CAD is a dream.

So I spent my nights flipping through all of the magazines and ripping out ideas and recipes and inspiration. On Monday, the house was finally empty and cleaned. So as a gift to me, I decided I get to finally have some fun in the kitchen. I was so excited to try a recipe from a Bon Appetit magazine from November 2019 called White Pesto Pasta. It looked so easy and good and something a little different. I thought I had everything in the fridge.

I was wrong.

I was missing the main ingredient, ricotta. What to do. We live in the days of not running out to the store for an item or two. At this point, we are going out once a week for fruits and vegetables. But, I had my heart set on this pasta. Low and behold, I found mascarpone in the fridge, which I had been saving to make tiramisu for a friend. Mascarpone is an ingredient I use so rarely, but try and keep in the fridge because during the times I actually want to purchase it, it’s most likely nowhere to be found in our stores.

So I took the basic idea of that recipe, but kind of tore it to shreds also, and came up with a brand new one. Last year I finally learned how to make a great carbonara, and I wanted to make this sauce much like that one, silky and smooth with only starchy pasta water.

So, that’s what I did. And because I didn’t want my kids inhaling it all, I added some crispy mushrooms. The second I say mushrooms they run the other way. It’s my way of keeping food just for me.

Try it, I hope you like it as much as I did. It’s quite rich so you won’t need more than one helping. Try and serve it immediately after making. Much like carbonara, the sauce is best when eaten fresh.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 2 TAB butter
  • 1 cup button mushroom, sliced
  • 6 slices of serrano ham or prosciutto, sliced
  • about a cup of baby spinach
  • 250 grams pasta of your choice
  • fresh grated parmesan for serving

DIRECTIONS:

In a small saucepan, lightly toast the walnuts on medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool slightly. Add walnuts, garlic, mascarpone cheese, and the juice of half a lemon into a food processor and process until smooth.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Transfer mushrooms to saucepan, being careful not to crowd them.  Cook them on each side for about 3 minutes, they will turn nice and golden and look crispy. Once all mushrooms are done, transfer to small bowl. Take serrano or prosciutto and fry in same butter in pan for about 4-5 minutes until slightly crispy. Add to mushrooms.

Cook pasta to al dente in a large pot of salted water. IMPORTANT: save one cup of starchy water when draining.

In the large saucepan, toss together your noodles and the starchy water. Shake the pan a bit a few times for about 3 or 4 minutes. (This allows the noodle to retain starch and the sauce will stick better to the noodle). Transfer mascarpone mixture and spinach leaves into the pasta and stir to combine, shaking pan for a few minutes so the cheese and water combine and the spinach leaves wilt. Add mushrooms and ham and stir to combine and then season (some ham is saltier than others so I recommend seasoning right at the end). Remove from heat. Transfer to plates and top with freshly grated parmesan and freshly ground pepper.

Serves 2.

German Potato Bites

I posted this recipe quite a while ago, but life has gotten away from me and I haven’t been able to blog it. Fortunately, I found my scribbles from the day I made it and can finally put it to paper. Or rather, blog.

If you don’t already know this, I LOVE appetizers. Hors d’oeuvres. Whatever you want to call them. I would much rather order four different appetizers on a restaurant menu and nibble from them all than one big meal.

I saw a version of these online somewhere and I thought how fun they looked and how different they are from anything else I usually make.  I’m more of a brie and puff pastry or cheese dip kind of gal.  Plus, I had just found some GOOD potatoes in this town (yes, we have been lacking in good potatoes) and was raring to put them to good use.

These are like Oktoberfest in a bite.  And not difficult to make because I used smoked sausage and sauerkraut from a jar.  Minimal cooking and preparation and you get a unique and what I think is an adorable appetizer.

Poor yourself a cold beer and enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • about 5 large russet potatoes
  • 5 ounces smoked sausage, sliced
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup beer
  • 2/3 cup sauerkraut, drained
  • chopped parsley for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400°. Clean and slice potatoes using a mandoline if you have one or in about 1/2 inch thick slices. Place in bowl and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place slices on a baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil and bake for about 20 minutes before flipping over and continuing to cook another 20 minutes or until golden and tender. Remove from oven.

While potatoes are roasting, warm a little olive oil in a large saucepan. Add sliced sausage and cook until brown, flipping as needed, usually a few minutes on each side.  remove from pan.

Into same skillet, add sliced onions, salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat until onions become soft and then softly brown, about 15 minutes. Once softened, pour in beer and allow to simmer and cook down, about another few minutes or so. Remove from heat.

To assemble: take a potato slice, top with sliced sausage, then onion and sauerkraut.  Make sure sauerkraut is at room temperature, not cold.

Makes about 20 bites.

 

 

Peanut Soba Noodles

Am I the only one who picks up ingredients in a store, never having used them before, and declaring to oneself that a challenge has been created? A challenge to try something new and see either (a) what you’ve been missing out on all these years; or (b) something you know to pass up the next time you see it on a menu.

I was in Belize recently and I saw these soba noodles.  Belize has a very high concentration of Asian food and their grocery stores are fun to walk through.  I’m a noodle fan so I will ALWAYS pick up a pack of noodles. When I saw these, I knew I had to try them.

Soba is a Japanese word that means buckwheat so in actuality, these are buckwheat noodles.  That may not sound that appealing and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would like the taste.  However, I can guarantee that they are delicious. They are chewy with a grainy texture and can be eaten hot, cold, or even at room temperature.  It’s a nutritious, gluten free noodle, despite the fact that the word “wheat” is in it’s name. Of course, many noodles these days have wheat flour added to them so please check your package to see what yours contains.

I had some free time one day and dug these out of the pantry. My husband is a salesman and often comes home mid-afternoon not having eaten all day. I almost never have food ready for him at this time of the day, but this one day I thought I would try something to please his palate. So out these noodles came and a simple sauce to go with it.

Although you may have had a variation of this sauce many times over, it goes really well with these hearty noodles.  My husband doesn’t like when I use the regular peanut butter with sugar in it, says it has a weird taste (insert eye roll here). So I used the natural kind. But you can use whatever you want.

Go find some soba noodles and enjoy this yummy Japanese dish!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 250 grams soba noodles
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 TAB fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 red, orange, or yellow red pepper, cut into slices
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce (I use light sodium)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 TAB rice vinegar
  • 1 TAB hot sauce (optional – necessary in my house)
  • 1/2 cup natural or regular peanut butter
  • water
  • 2 chicken breasts, grilled and cut into strips (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • green onions, chopped, for garnish
  • you can also add other veggies, I added mushrooms to mine

DIRECTIONS:

Cook soba noodles according to directions. Do not rinse. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat sesame oil on medium heat. Add ginger and garlic and saute for about one minute until the aromas are released. Be careful not to burn. Add pepper and saute an additional few minutes until softened. Add soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, and hot sauce if using. Combine well and cook for two minutes.  Add peanut butter and about 1/2 cup water to thin out (using more or less to make it the consistency you prefer). Cook for a few minutes until sauce is warmed through and to your desired consistency.

Add soba noodles and toss well to make sure they are coated well. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with green onions and toss some roasted peanuts on there for crunch if you want and enjoy!

SERVES 2

 

 

 

Asian Udon Veggie Stir-fry

If you know me, you know that I don’t always have access to the ingredients I wish I could get my hands on. Every year, more and more new products arrive, but some simple things still aren’t here.  Like decent brown sugar. Or good flour, never mind more difficult ingredients, like those used in foreign cuisines.

We actually are fortunate when it comes to Asian ingredients. There’s very few things we can’t get our hands on.  (At least for the dishes I’m making. Please don’t tell me what I’m missing out on). But recently, on one of the local Facebook pages for expats, I noticed that someone recommended a store in Cancun for harder to find Asian ingredients. I messaged my friend in Cancun and asked if she knew about it. Um, yes, she replied, “I told you about it a year ago”.

Duh.

The other day we were making a trip up to Cancun. My mother has a doctor’s appointment there every two months and we usually include in that a trip to Costco. My friend sent me the address and location and even a picture of the store. We took off in what I felt was plenty of time to find it.

It’s a good thing we did, because it was a bit of a fiasco. I was not aware that it was actually a warehouse, in an area of warehouses, without a sign. We drove around and around and nobody seemed to know where it was. Finally one guard said yes you’re in the right spot and ‘it’s four light posts down the street’. I counted. No store. I called my friend. I asked her to call the store and ask where they are. Finally a young woman comes out and waves at me. Finally, we had found it.

I walk my two elderly parents in …. yes, to a warehouse. I’m confused. I ask if I’m allowed to buy oriental products and if so where are they? Yes, of course, they’re up those 25 stairs in a tiny office. My parents laugh and say we’ll just wait down here.

I go up to the office. There are 7 people working inside a tiny area. I continue to be confused. I see what looks like 3 shelves of someones messy and disorganized pantry. I finally begin to understand. This is a warehouse for restaurants. These are their samples and I order whatever I want.

Ahhhh.

So here I am. Asking the cost of each and every thing that interests me. Texting my friend back in Playa. Texting my mother downstairs. Realizing at this point I only have 10 minutes left before we head out for the doctor appointment. I become frazzled.

But, I did end up with some good loot. At good prices. My favorite find was these udon noodles I have never seen. Usually we buy the pre-cooked udon noodles at Costco and we like them a lot. But I had to try these ones. I wasn’t disappointed. I had to cook them a little like regular pasta but I had the time and it was worth it.

stirfryingredients

I decided to put the pretty noodles in a meatless stir-fry because I have NOT been eating enough vegetables lately. (And my daughter didn’t seem to notice the mushrooms, which is the one vegetable she’s not forced to eat). This is fast and easy and you’ll probably have all of the ingredients in your pantry if you do any type of Asian cooking. If you use the already softened noodles, this meal can be ready in under 30 minutes; 20 if you are a better vegetable chopper than me.

Of course, you can change up the veggies if you so choose. I had some wilting spinach so I threw that in as well although it’s not pictured. You don’t need the red pepper, but I added it for color and crunch.

Try it tonight. It’s light and healthy and delicious. And easy. Did I mention easy? Just look how little directions there are.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 TAB honey
  • 2 TAB rice vinegar
  • 4 TAB sesame oil, divided
  • 1 TAB sambal oelek (or another kind of chili paste)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 TAB minced ginger
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 carrot, coarsely grated
  • small head broccoli, broken into small pieces
  • half onion, thinly sliced
  • half red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 250 grams udon noodles
  • 2 TAB cooking oil

DIRECTIONS:

Combine soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, 2 TAB sesame oil, sambal oelek, garlic and ginger in a small bowl and whisk until combined.

In a large frying pan, combine cooking oil and 2 TAB sesame oil and turn to medium heat. Add broccoli and onion and let cook for 1 to 2 minutes before adding remaining vegetables. Stir until cooked but still has a bite, about 4-5 minutes.  Add pre-cooked udon noodles and sauce and stir until combined. Let warm through in pan for about 2 minutes before removing from heat.

Makes 2 large servings.