Monthly Archives: May 2015

Heading Into Summer with a Slew of Slaws

Do you remember when every sandwich you got in a restaurant came with cole slaw? Casual burger joints served a paper souffle cup of creamy slaw. Fancier places put that dollop of tangy goodness in a little metal cup. Then there were the places that gave you an ice cream scoop of slaw. It was actually enough to call a serving of vegetables. There are still places that serve a side of slaw, but often it’s as a substitute for fries. It seems that a complimentary cup of cole slaw has all but gone the way of car hops and table side juke boxes. I, for one, would love to see this tradition return. The cole slaw, not necessarily the car hops, but a little music that I could choose while I eat instead of management’s idea of dinner music would be great. In the meantime I’ll create slaws in my kitchen and this is the perfect time to start.

As summer officially gets rolling, Cole Slaw will be making appearances at parties and cook outs. The days of cole slaw only being cabbage and carrots swimming in a creamy dressing are all but gone. Now slaws come in lots of variations but, they usually hold to the original meaning of being a cabbage salad (from the Dutch “koolsla”). The main ingredient can be cabbage or any of its cruciferous cousins. In a broader definition I’ve heard that any shredded vegetable salad can be a slaw. With all the veggies, fruits and dressings out there,the only limitation is a cook’s imagination. 

I like making slaws. It’s one of the only salads that you can make ahead that actually gets better. While lettuce gets soggy the longer it sits, cabbage salads get sweeter and mellower with a little time. I’ve shared a few recipes and before I give you my latest take on the cabbage salad, I thought I’d stroll down memory lane and give some links to previous adventures. Just click on the red links to see where I’ve been.

Cabbage slaws can complement most any cuisine and can even become a main dish with the addition of a protein. My Asian Chicken Salad comes to mind. Red cabbage, broccoli and carrots join grilled chicken in a spicy oriental inspired dressing. Crispy rice noodles and sliced almonds gilt this Asian lily.DIGITAL CAMERACole Slaw can even become a seasonal dish with the addition of fruits and flavors of a particular season. Apple Cabbage Slaw with Honey Mustard Dressing and Walnuts tasted like fall when it was paired with roasted pork tenderloin and sweet potatoes.DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve even borrowed an idea from another blogger for “Kaleslaw”. After I read the Proud Italian Cook’s post about this salad whose time had come, I had to make one of my own. This was a direct to Facebook post of a “non-recipe” recipe. I didn’t go to the kale-o-naise route, but my garlicy dressing hit all the right notes.

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The other thing that I like about Cabbage salads is that a few ingredients can come together to create a salad that is as tasty as it is colorful. Add the fact that it can be made ahead and this is a cook’s dream come true. That is definitely the case with this Orange Honey Mustard Slaw. Broccoli slaw blend, red bell peppers and green onions provided the vegetable action and created a symphony of color, too.

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The dressing was only four ingredients, but they came together to create a delicious tangy sweet coating that had that extra zing of citrus.

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If you want to really put that orange flavor up front, add a little grated orange zest. In fact, that’s where I’ll head next time. So with minimal chopping and mixing and a brief respite in the fridge, I had a side dish that was wonderful with grilled pork chop sandwiches. However, this salad would be great next to any sandwich, metal cup or ice cream scoop optional.

Orange Honey Mustard Slaw
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Orange Honey Mustard Slaw
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Place the broccoli slaw in a large bowl. Add the onions and peppers.
  2. Combine the mayonnaise, orange juice, honey, and mustard in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until the ingredients are completely blended.
  3. Pour the dressing over the vegetables. Toss to coat well. cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or as long as 24 hours.
  4. Serve with your favorite sandwich or grilled meat.
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So, shred that veg, blend that dressing and come up with your own “Koolsla”

 

 

 

 

Here Comes Summer: Grilled Sausage Kabobs with Farro “Risotto”

Looking out over our balcony, I get the feeling that we are inching ever closer to summer. Trees are now wearing lush green headdresses instead of sparse crowns of twigs. The grass is green and thanks to the gardeners always cut and lush. (the hubby has gone on record as not missing mowing in the least).

I’ve even ventured into the suburban farmer’s life by planting some things in our complex’s community garden. This large plot has been adopted by a dear woman named Lois. She is in her sophomore year in the garden and has sown quite an impressive variety of seeds, My meager contribution of tomatoes, peppers, spaghetti squash, and zucchini joined beans, carrots, onions, potatoes, and a mind-boggling variety of lettuce and greens.

DIGITAL CAMERAWhile it is little more than a rectangle of dirt with colorful signs and a few sprouts, our typical weather pattern of rain and sun will transform it into something green, beautiful, and delicious in the coming weeks. I can hardly wait!

Our little grill on the balcony has been seeing a lot of action lately as we take advantage of the warmer weather. We are also experimenting to learn what it does best. These kabobs were a major success. Pre-cooked sausage and quick cooking veggies were the perfect match-up for the grill’s moderate heating abilities. Everything cooked together and there was even a distinct taste of the grill.

DIGITAL CAMERAThis dinner was a raid on the pantry, freezer and fridge. The variousDIGITAL CAMERA packages traveled from their homes and converged on the counter in vivid array. Mini tomatoes, crimini mushrooms, and zucchini joined red onion to create the kabobs. Farro, frozen chopped spinach, and roasted red peppers were simmered with chicken stock and garlic to create a toothsome side dish reminiscent of risotto. These simple ingredients resulted in 3 generous servings that made a wonderful dinner for two and a spectacular lunch for the cook.

The veggies marinated for the better part of the day in a simple vinaigrette. They joined the pre-cooked chicken sausage to create a patchwork quilt of colors on the skewers.

DIGITAL CAMERAThese took only a few minutes to cook so they waited in the wings while I made the farro. I’ve shared several farro adventures already and you know that it is one of my current favorites. This time I treated it like risotto. I sautéed it in some olive oil with a very generous amount of garlic then gradually added stock. I added spinach and roasted red peppers, both from the freezer. The whole process took about 35 minutes which as we all know is about the right amount of time to enjoy a glass of wine.

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So, the kabobs took 20 minutes on the grill where they were frequently turned with love and basted with the vegetable marinade. Everything came together beautifully; a colorful and healthy dinner that hinted at the delights summer will soon deliver. I’m already looking forward to making this again, with a few homegrown veggies of my own.

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Grilled Chicken Sausage Kabobs with Farro Risotto
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Grilled Chicken Sausage Kabobs with Farro Risotto
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Sausage Kabobs
Farro Risotto
Servings:
Instructions
Chicken Kabobs
  1. Combine the zucchini, whole tomatoes, onions, and whole mushrooms in a large container. You can use a skewer to create a "pilot hole" in the vegetables. This may help the marinade to penetrate more as well as make skewering easier later.
  2. In a jar with a tight fitting lid, combine the oil, vinegar, garlic, chili flakes, herbs, and salt. Cover tightly and shake to completely blend.
  3. Pour the dressing over the vegetables. Toss to coat and store covered in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and as long as overnight.
  4. When you are ready to assemble the kabobs, slice the sausage into 1 inch chunks. Remove the vegetables from the marinade with a slotted spoon. Save the dressing to baste with later.
  5. Skewer the sausage and vegetables in random order. (Don't worry about a pattern unless that's your thing).
  6. Heat the grill to high ( or as high as it will go) and lightly coat with grill spray. Place the skewers on the grill and brush with the reserved dressing.
  7. Continue to grill, turn, and baste until everything is beginning to brown. This will take 15 - 20 minutes depending on the heat of your grill.
  8. Remove the kabobs from the grill and carefully slide the meat and veggies off the skewer.
Farro Risotto
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large fry pan, swirling to coat the bottom. Add the farro and cook for 5 minutes or so until it begins to brown. Add the garlic and cook another minute or so.
  2. Add the vermouth (or dry white wine) and cook for 2 - 3 minutes. Most of the wine should evaporate.
  3. Add the spinach and about 1 cup of the stock. Allow to simmer, stirring frequently until most of the stock has been absorbed.
  4. Add the red pepper and another cup of stock. Continue the simmering process allowing the stock to be absorbed.
  5. Give the farro a taste at this point. If you like the texture, it's done. If you like it softer, add a little more stock and continue to cook until the texture makes you happy.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to your taste and serve it with the kabobs.
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Cleaning Out the Fridge Quiche

The refrigerator is a wonderful invention. It allows us to keep a supply of fresh food at the ready. It provides a safe haven for the treasures we find at the store, keeping them safe until we are ready to turn them into something wonderful. I confess that sometimes I buy a little more than I can chew and open the refrigerator to find an array of food that has begun to lose its luster.

What’s Mama D to do? I don’t have the heart or the budget to throw it all away, and it is still quite usable. The time has come to combine things into a delicious meal and quiche is a perfect solution. Flaky pie crust and creamy custard are the blank canvas that will hold the vegetables and meats that the fridge has to offer.

This adventure included some crimini mushrooms and asparagus along with some thyme and onion. They were a bit past their prime, but perfect for this quiche.

DIGITAL CAMERAMy protein of choice was peppered bacon.  I found three lonely slices that I chopped up and browned on the stove.

The veggies were chopped and cooked in the same pan (minus the drippings, but with the yummy brown bits) to give them a little extra love before they jumped into my “not home-made” crust. Yes, the crust came out of the fridge, too. Would homemade pastry make this dish better? Maybe, but I had a box of the pre-made variety and it needed to be used,too.

Whatever pastry crust you use always “blind bake” it before you add the fillings. Once the dough has been fit into your vessel of choice, line it with some parchment paper and fill it with dried beans. Bake it in the oven until it is nice and golden. A clear glass pan allows you to check the bottom as well. Remove the beans and paper and add your fillings. No soggy bottom crust here.I topped the sautéed goodies with some grated Swiss cheese. Any cheese will work here. Use what you love or what you have on hand. Only use about a cup. The custard is rich enough and you want the veggies to be the star here.

DIGITAL CAMERAEggs, cream, and milk create a luscious custard that only requires a little salt and coarse ground pepper. I’m not a fan of nutmeg, a traditional ingredient here, but add some if it floats your boat. In fact you can add any herb, spice, etc. It’s your quiche after all.

When you are ready to add the custard to the quiche, put it on a rimmed baking sheet. This too, is a required step. The pie will be very full and eggs being eggs, it will grow before it sets. A baking sheet is much easier to clean than an oven. I speak from experience.

DIGITAL CAMERAThe quiche needs to bake for 30 – 40 minutes then it needs to set for at least 20 minutes more. Add the blind baking step and you are approaching the 2 hour mark on prep time. If you like a late supper (and this is the perfect dish for that) make it part of your weeknight wonderland. I think it’s a delightful Sunday night supper that puts a delicious topper on the weekend.

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Cleaning Out the Fridge Quiche
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This is my version of quiche. Feel free to use whatever fillings you want.
Servings
6
Servings
6
Cleaning Out the Fridge Quiche
Print Recipe
This is my version of quiche. Feel free to use whatever fillings you want.
Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
Blind Bake the Crust
  1. Fit the pie crust into a pie or quiche pan. Use a fork to poke small holes all over the crust. Place a sheet of parchment paper into the crust (crumple it a bit to allow it to fit better). Pour dried beans onto the parchment paper. A pound of dried beans will fill a 9 inch pie plate nicely.
  1. Bake the crust in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 - 30 minutes. The crust should be light golden all over. Do not rush this step; the non-sogginess of the crust depends on it. Remove the crust from the oven. Carefully remove the parchment paper and beans (these will become your official "blind baking" beans). Set the crust aside.
Filling
  1. Chop the bacon into thin pieces and cook in a medium fry pan over medium high heat. The bacon should be crisp. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Remove the drippings from the pan but leave the brown bits of deliciousness.
  2. Add the onions to the fry pan and cook for 4 minutes or so until they begin to soften.
  3. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook another 5 minutes until the mushrooms begin to brown. Add the asparagus and cook for a few more minutes until the asparagus is tender crisp.
  4. Add the reserved bacon bits back to the pan along with the thyme leaves and cook for 2 - 3 minutes more.
  5. Pour the vegetable/bacon filling into the pie crust. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top.
  6. Beat the eggs until the are very thick. Add the cream and milk and beat with a whisk until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add salt and pepper and any other spices or herbs you like.
  7. Place the filled pie crust on a rimmed baking sheet. Carefully pour the custard into the crust stopping when it is filled to the top. You may have a little custard left, but not much.
  8. Place in a 350 degree oven and bake for 30 - 40 minutes. The filling should be puffed and golden and a knife should come out clean when poked in the center.
  9. Remove the quiche from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting.
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This is far from the traditional preparation for a quiche. It doesn’t however, make it any less delicious. This is a versatile recipe that can be adapted any number of ways. Have some fun with it and come up with your own fridge cleaning masterpiece.

 

Weeknight Wonderland- Orange Sesame Chicken Tenders

Some weeknights feel like dinner can’t get on the table fast enough. Other nights, a little delay of reinforcement can be a good thing, as long as it doesn’t take too long. It doesn’t matter which you choose, as long as you can get some of the prep done ahead of time. That’s where marinating comes in.

Marinades don’t always mean that something is going on the grill, in fact, this chicken bakes in the oven after an overnight soak in a citrusy and spicy marinade. It doesn’t go in the oven naked either. It is generously coated in crunchy toasted panko bread crumbs and sesame seeds. Sesame oil, sriracha, and soy sauce give this marinade a distinctly Asian flavor. Fresh orange juice and zest along with orange marmalade give it a citrus zing. Garlic makes it yummy and a little chicken stock helps you not miss the oil.

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The recipe makes a lot of marinade, but it is going to do double duty, marinating the chicken and creating a wonderful glaze for the finished tenders. The do-ahead/time-saving feature here is that you can marinate the chicken for 24 hours. Make the whole batch of marinade and pour half of it over the chicken. It can relax in the fridge overnight along with the reserved marinade (in a separate covered container, of course). The longer marinating time lets the flavors really permeate the chicken.

About 30 minutes before show time, remove the tenders from their marinade and let them drain on a rack. Lightly toast the panko crumbs and sesame seeds in a dry pan then pour them in a shallow bowl. Clean and dry the rack and place it in a foil lined baking sheet. spray it lightly with cooking spray. Coat each tender with the crumb mixture and place on  the rack.

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These will take about 20 minutes or less in the oven. While they bake, you can reduce the reserved marinade. This will take about the same amount of time that the tenders do. Isn’t that convenient?

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Sesame Orange Chicken Tenders
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Sesame Orange Chicken Tenders
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Combine the first six ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake well to mix things up completely.
  2. Put the chicken tenders into a zip-top bag. Add half of the marinade mixture and seal the bag. Put the chicken and the jar with the remaining marinade in the refrigerator. Allow the chicken to marinate for up to 24 hours.
  3. When you are ready to prepare the chicken, remove the tenders from the marinade and allow to drain briefly on a wire rack. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  4. In a small dry fry pan over medium heat toast the panko and sesame seeds tossing often until the crumbs are light golden and the sesame seeds begin to become fragrant. Transfer the mixture to a shallow bowl and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Roll the tenders in the crumb mixture pressing the crumbs in to create a nice thick coat.
  6. Wash and dry the rack you drained the chicken on and put it on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet. Spray it all lightly with the cooking spray.
  7. Place the coated tenders on the rack leaving plenty of space in between. Bake for 15- 20 minutes. The chicken should be golden brown and feel firm. While the chicken bakes, cook the remaining marinade.
  8. In a small fry pan, heat the remaining marinade over medium high heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and allow to simmer,thicken and reduce for about 15 - 20 minutes. If the glaze seems too thick add a little more stock. Continue to cook as necessary until the glaze is the consistency you like.
  9. Remove the tenders from the oven when they are ready . Transfer to serving or individual plates and drizzle with the glaze. Serve with sides of your choice.
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Choose sides that are quick as well. A precooked rice pouch that you can add your own special touches to and a vegetable that stir fries quickly keep time within the 30 minute range. Another time saver is to have ingredients do double ( and even triple) duty. I sliced the whole bunch of green onions; the tops went in the rice, and the bottoms joined the broccolini. The carton of stock just stayed on the counter so I could add it to the veggies and the glaze as needed. It also served as the cooking liquid for my rice.

I opted for home cooked brown rice which added an extra 15 minutes or so to my prep time but it was the passive kind; the stove did the work. A little sesame oil and chicken stock perked up the flavor of the rice. I stir fried the broccolini with a little garlic and ginger that played very nicely  with the onions. Start to finish it took less than 15 minutes.

The combination of flavors and textures was amazing. The best part is that it was super easy and with a few do-ahead steps, quick to fix. It was a satisfying dinner that will appear again in Mama D’s Kitchen. Give it a try in your kitchen.