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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Southwestern Thanksgiving Appetizers

During the holidays, appetizers are important. They whet the appetite for the meal and provide a reason for guests to sit around the kitchen while the cook prepares the meal. Try something different from the usual cheese and crackers this year.

                                           Spicy Black Bean Hummus

1 garlic clove
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained, reserve liquid. (Fresh cooked black beans reduce calories.)
2 Tablespoons black bean liquid
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 Tablespoons Tahini paste (Below is a quick recipe)
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. paprika
Dash of hot sauce or 1/4 tsp. minced Ancho chili in Adobo sauce.

Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor until a smooth paste. More black bean liquid can be added if needed to thin.

Homemade Tahini Paste

5 cups sesame seeds
1-1/2 cups olive oil

Toast seeds in 350-degree oven for 5-10 minutes, mixing often so they don't burn. Blend in blender or food processor until smooth. Keep refrigerated.

                                        Southwestern Boursin Cheese Spread

2 garlic cloves, minced
6 oz. butter, room temperature
16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
4 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesean or Asiago cheese
1 medium jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Mix softened butter and cream cheese thoroughly in a bowl. Add grated Parmesean or Asiago cheese. Add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Refrigerate until firm. Serve at room temperature with an assortment of crackers and tortilla chips.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Slow Cooker Cajun Chicken Stew

A friend of mine is reduced to Crock Pot cooking for a while. Here's a recipe for you, Mara. Anyone who likes Cajun food, chicken stew, or the easy convenience of a slow cooker will enjoy this one. I often substitute chicken breasts for thighs, but thighs and legs have a little deeper flavor.

                                      Slow Cooker Cajun Chicken Stew

2# bone-in chicken thighs, or a mixture of thighs and legs.
1 medium white onion, small diced
2 carrots, peeled and medium diced
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, washed with peeling left on, medium diced. This keeps potatoes from getting too mushy.
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon All Purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 cup chicken stock (If salted stock, use less salt in seasoning)
1/4 cup tomato sauce (Tomato juice will work. If you prefer, substitute 1 diced whole tomato near end of cooking time, but tomato sauce is more convenient.)
1/4 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning, or some type of Creole or Cajun seasoning. Old Bay is great.
1/8 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp. Tabasco sauce (About 3 shakes. Add more for additional zing)
Salt/pepper to taste

Add onion, carrots, potatoes, garlic, butter, and flour to slow cooker on low heat. Stir to mix flour with veggies. (The flour mixed with the butter and the juice from the chicken will make a nice roux as it cooks.)

In a skillet, heat oil on high heat. Add chicken and fry while turning for 5 minutes until brown.
Add chicken to slow cooker.
Reduce heat of skillet to medium. Add chicken stock and tomato sauce. Stir to de-glaze pan of chicken bits. Reduce liquid by 1/3. Add to slow cooker.

Season slow cooker contents with thyme, salt, pepper and half the Old Bay Seasoning.  Cook on low heat for 4-1/2 hours. After about 4 hours, lightly stir, add the rest of the Old Bay and Tabasco Sauce. Add additional salt if needed.

This hearty meal is great for cool weather, but don't wait until winter to try. Cajuns eat it year round.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fall Flavor Stuffed Grilled Pork Chops

Fall is the perfect time for grilling. In the Southwest, the evenings are getting cooler. In the rest of the country that means sweater weather. In Arizona, it means 80 degrees. Pork is one meat that lends itself well to outdoor grilling. Its somewhat delicate taste allows the use of brines, marinades, and sauces to enhance the flavor. This recipe is one of my favorites. It incorporates the flavors of fall in a unique way.  Enjoy!

                               Fall Flavor Stuffed Grilled Pork Chops

The Brine

2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 qts. water
1/4 cup Kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 piece cinnamon stick

4  - 1 1/2 inch-thick bone-in pork chops

Mix ingredients, stirring until salt and sugar are thoroughly dissolved. Take chops and add to brining liquid. Refrigerate for at least one hour. remove chops and pat dry

The Chops

4 brined chops, patted dry.
4 slices Fontina cheese
4 thick slices apple wood smoked bacon
1 cup chopped raw spinach
4 wooden toothpicks or skewers
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Bring grill to medium-high heat. Place bacon strips on grill and cook until almost done, turning when necessary. Allow to cool.
Alternative method - Place bacon strips on same foil-lined baking pan as sweet potatoes. Remove after 15 minutes and set aside.

Slit a pocket in the side of the chops. Add a slice of cheese, a slice of bacon, and 1 tablespoon of chopped spinach. Seal with toothpick or skewer, trying to close pocket well to prevent cheese from running out during grilling. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grill on medium-high heat about 6 minutes per side, turning 1/4 turn after 3 minutes per side.

Grilled Sweet Potato Cakes

4 medium sweet potatoes
4 pats butter
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
S/P to taste

Bake in 400 degree oven for 45-55 minutes. Check doneness by inserting a toothpick. Should go in easily.
Scoop out meat, chop, add thyme, cinnamon, salt and pepper, and form into 4 round patties.
Place on medium-high heat grill. (Can be grilled with chops) Grill 2 minutes and turn. Add pat of butter to grilled side.

Serve with chops.

Cranberry-Mandarin Orange Salsa

1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 cup Mandarin oranges, small diced
2 tablespoons chopped white onion
1 tsp chopped jalapeno
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon Mandarin orange juice
1/2 tsp dried thyme
S/P to taste

Mix all ingredients. Allow to sit 1/2 hour for flavors to marry. Serve over grilled stuffed  pork chops.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Southwestern Taco Casserole

Southwestern food is delicate balance of heat and spices. The object isn't to burn your lips; it's to allow multiple layers of spice and heat to mingle in your mouth, delivering flavor with the heat. Here is an uncomplicated dish that showcases layering of spices.

                                                 Southwestern Taco Casserole

2# ground beef (I use 95/5 for less fat)
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
1 cup water
6 - 6" corn tortillas
2 cups corn, fresh, canned, or frozen
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1/4 cup hot sauce
4 tsps. cumin
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced jalapenos
1/8 cup diced Anaheim peppers
1/8 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup minced onion
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 tsp dried rosemary
salt/pepper to taste
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Crumble and saute ground beef in skillet at medium-high heat until almost done. Lower heat to medium. Add onions and minced garlic. Season with 2 tsps. cumin. Cook until slightly transparent. Drain ground beef, add taco seasoning and 1 cup water. Cook on medium until most liquid is absorbed.

Drain corn and season with salt, pepper, 1 tsp. cumin, and rosemary. Add minced jalapenos and butter. Microwave for 2 minutes and stir to combine flavors.
Drain and rinse black beans and season with 1 tsp. cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Microwave for 2 minutes.

Mix together tomato sauce, hot sauce, Anaheim peppers, and bell peppers. You can adjust the heat level with more tomato sauce to lower, more hot sauce to raise it.

Grease a 9" casserole dish. Place 3 corn tortillas on bottom, Spoon in half the meat mixture, half the beans, and half the corn. Drizzle with half the tomato sauce and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Layer 3 tortillas on top of this and repeat process.

Cover with foil or glass top and bake in 350 degree oven 25 minutes. Remove top, sprinkle with dollops of cream cheese, and heat for another 4-5 minutes until cheese melts and browns.

Serve with sour cream and sprinkles of cilantro on top.
Rice makes the perfect dish.

This is the dish I'm serving tonight. I can't wait.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Malaysian Ikan Bakar Fish with Citrus Basmati Rice

I love Asian food. Their use of chilies and spices adds subtle layers of flavor and heat enhance a dish. Asian food is both spicy and savory. In my new novel, Slow Boat to Hell, one of my characters is a chef studying Malaysian and Indonesian recipes. I thought this would be a good time to introduce Faith's version of Ikan Bakar,a Malaysian staple found in many roadside stands. I will be posting other Faith Nomore's recipes as novel progresses.


                             Malaysian Ikan Bakar, Faith Nomore Style

2 pieces red snapper (Faith uses fresh Dorado but it's hard to find. Mahi mahi could be used.)
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ginger, minced
2 tsps. Turmeric powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tsps. miso paste or fish sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon srirachi sauce
1/4 tsp. salt

Take all ingredients except fish and blend until they form a paste.  Make slits across snapper and rub paste over fish. In Malaysia they wrap the fish in banana leaves. In the US, you can warp in foil. Place in pre-heated 350 degree oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes until flaky.

Roasted Tomato-Mango Salsa

5 Plum tomatoes, oven roasted, seeded, and small diced
1/2 cup diced mango
1/2 red onion, small diced
1  Anaheim pepper, small diced
1/2 red bell pepper, small diced
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
salt/pepper to taste

Citrus Basmati Rice

1 1/2 cups basmati rice
4 quarts water
1 1/2 tsps. salt
3 tablespoons orange juice
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons small died mango
2 tablespoons chopped orange, seeded, peeled.

Bring water to a boil. Add salt.
Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Add rice and sauté or stir for 2-3 minutes until nutty aroma. Add rice to boiling water, cover, reduce heat to low and cook 15 minutes. Drain any remaining water.

Stir in other ingredients.

Serve fish with rice. Add salsa. Enjoy.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Tangy Chicken Kabobs with Grilled Pineapple-Lime Rice

It's summer, time for backyard grilling. Grilling imparts a particularly hearty flavor to food as it bastes in its own juices and absorbs the smoke from the juices hitting the charcoal briquettes or gas-grill rocks. This recipe combine the heartiness of a chicken dinner with the light tropical flavors of the outdoors with a touch of zest thrown in for good measure.

       Tangy Chicken Kabobs with Grilled Pineapple-Lime Rice

Tangy Chicken Kabobs

2# Marinated chicken breast, cut into 2# cubes (See marinade recipe below)
1# thick sliced apple smoked bacon, cut into 2" strips
1 can Mandarin oranges
1 red onion, peeled and diced into 2" squares
1 red pepper, seeded and diced into 2" squares

Skewer Chicken. If using long metal skewers, oil first. If using long wooden skewers, soak in water 1 hour prior to use. Order is not important, but do have 2 pieces of bacon on each side of chicken. Layer with onion, red pepper and Mandarin oranges. 4 pieces of chicken per skewer makes a good portion, or 2 pieces per skewer if you want crossed skewers on plate as a presentation.

Pre-heat grill to Medium-high, about 350 degrees. Oil grill before using. Lay kabobs on oiled grill. Cook for 10-15 minutes, turning so all sides cook evenly. Chicken is done when juices run clear.

Chicken marinade

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Juice from 1 lime
1 tablespoon Mandarin orange juice
1 tablespoon pineapple juice
1 garlic clove, crushed but intact
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients. Place whole chicken breasts in large Ziploc bag. Add marinade. Shake well to evenly coat chicken. Refrigerate 2 hours (Overnight is best). Discard garlic clove before grilling.

Grilled Pineapple-Lime Rice

2 cups water
1 cup long grain rice
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon lime zest
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 cup chopped, grilled pineapple
1/4 teaspoon salt

Grill 2 pineapple rings or slices of fresh pineapple. On Medium-high heat, bring water to a boil. Add butter and rice. Add lime zest, lime juice, and salt. Reduce to simmer and cover. Cook for approximately 20 minutes. When done, add chopped grilled pineapple.

Serve rice with Chicken Kabobs for a full meal. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Slow Cooker Cajun Chops

Slow Cookers are great for tenderizing meats. They saturate the meat with all the blended flavors as they cook. Best of all, slow cookers keep the kitchen cool by eliminating the oven and stove-top burners. This recipe will make you want to pack up and move to New Orleans.

                                           Slow Cooker Cajun Chops

4  5-oz. boneless pork chops
3/4 cup AP flour, divided into 1/2 cup for dry marinade and 1/4 cup for slurry
1/2 tsp. Creole Seasoning mix
1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsps. Canola oil
1 can chicken stock
2 carrots, medium diced
1 green bell pepper, medium diced
2 celery stalks, medium diced
1 medium white onion, medium diced
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled and medium diced

Dry Marinade

Mix all but 1/4 cup flour with Creole Seasoning, Old Bay, pepper, and thyme into a large plastic bag.  Add chops one at a time and shake to coat. Heat skillet over medium-high burner, add Canola oil and sear chops 1-2 minutes per side. Use a little of the chicken stock to deglaze pan. Save  for slow cooker. 

Slow Cooker

Pre-heat slow cooker to high. Place seared chops around edges inside slow cooker, forming a bowl for vegetables. Mix up vegetables and add to slow cooker. Mix the remaining 1/4 cup flour held back with a little chicken stock to form slurry. Add remaining chicken stock and slurry to slow cooker. It will help develop a delicious gravy. Don't forget the skillet deglaze.

Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.

Note: I included no salt. Chicken stock and seasonings contain salt and should be sufficient. Salt can be added to taste if you prefer. Product should be nicely spied, but you can add a few dashes of Tabasco sauce to liven it up. Put a little N.O. jazz on the stereo and enjoy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Healthy Garden Skillet

Ground turkey is an excellent substitute for ground beef. It's lower in fat and calories than ground beef. I prefer the ground turkey breast for chopped steaks or tacos, but whole ground turkey works great for savory dishes. This recipe couldn't be much healthier, especially if you use fresh vegetables from your own garden, but frozen or canned will work.

                            Healthy Garden Skillet 

1# ground turkey
1 small zucchini, diced
1 small yellow squash, diced
1 large garden tomato, diced, or 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup bell pepper, green or red, diced
1/2 cup peas
1 small potato, thinly diced
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon shredded basil
olive oil
salt/pepper to taste

Sprinkle salt and pepper into ground turkey to season. Form ground turkey into small meat balls, 1/2 inch in diameter. Drizzle olive oil into skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté meatballs, turning occasionally until browned, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from pan. Add diced potatoes. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Then add peppers, zucchini, squash, and onion. Cook for 3-4 minutes until tender.

Reduce heat to medium. Add tomatoes, peas, cooked meatballs, and marinara sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in Mozzarella cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle fresh basil on top and serve.  

Can be a stand-alone dish or serve with a side of pasta.
Add red pepper flakes for a little heat.