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Trader Joe’s, a Birthday, and Country Potato Quiche

Where has February gone? I realize that it is the shortest month of the year and all…but still. It went by far too quickly. It even had an extra day this time, so that the earth’s trips around the sun are equal, to clocks, the calendar, and apparently the entire space-time continuum. I’m not a scientist and I’ve never played one on TV, so that’s as good an explanation of Leap Year as you’ll get.

You might be wondering what Trader Joe’s has to do with February. Here’s the short version: I have a February birthday. We won’t go into which one this was, but let’s just say that we are beyond using candles on the cake without a fire permit. My kids shared the special day with me and were very generous with their gifts. A Trader Joe’s gift bag was part of the loot, and among the items in it were a Gift card and an interesting cook book.IMG_1347What was Mama D to do? As this site illustrates, I generally cook with more than 5 ingredients at a time. Still the book was fascinating. Lots of the recipes sounded delicious, and the limited number of ingredients made it all seem do-able, so armed with my gift card and some recipe ideas from the book, I paid a visit to my local Trader Joe’s. I came home with two bags of goodies. A few of my favorites like White Cheddar Popcorn and Frozen Artichoke Hearts had to come home with me (just because), but I also picked up some recipe specific items. Case in point; Frozen Country Potato Blend and Frozen Pie Crust both of which were new to my kitchen. These were the cornerstone of what sounded to be a great Meatless Monday supper, Country Potato QuicheIMG_1350Besides these two ingredients the remaining cast was filled out with eggs, grated Italian Cheese blend, and some fat-free half and half  (the last 2 being my personal substitutions). This was my first foray into frozen pie crust and I can’t say that I am a fan. The crust thawed into pieces, but once I gathered the pieces together and re-rolled the crust, I was in business. The filling was easy enough to make. All I had to do was mix the ingredients together in a bowl. The potato medley was quite unique as are many of the items at T.J.’s. Fried potatoes, green beans, and mushrooms made an intriguing and tasty base.IMG_1352I decided to pre-bake the crust for 10 minutes to guard against a soggy bottom. Then it was a matter of pouring the generous filling into the crust (thankfully the pan was on a rimmed baking sheet which averted sure disaster). Once out of the oven it rested on its laurels for 15 minutes before making its way to the table, our plates, and ultimately our stomachs. A simple salad was the only other thing that was required (oh yeah, and a nice Pinot Noir)IMG_1360

This recipe is from: Cooking with Trader Joe’s 5 Ingredient Cook Book by Deanna Gunn & Wona Miniati. I have inserted my substitutions and changes in procedures, but the idea originated with these two lovely ladies.

Country Potato Quiche
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This quiche uses Frozen Country Potatoes with Haricots Verts and Wild Mushrooms from Trader Joe's. You could use another type of frozen potato blend if you prefer. It is adapted from Cooking with Trader Joe's Five Ingredient Cook Book by Deanna Gunn & Wona Miniarti
Servings
6
Servings
6
Country Potato Quiche
Print Recipe
This quiche uses Frozen Country Potatoes with Haricots Verts and Wild Mushrooms from Trader Joe's. You could use another type of frozen potato blend if you prefer. It is adapted from Cooking with Trader Joe's Five Ingredient Cook Book by Deanna Gunn & Wona Miniarti
Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Press the crust into a deep 9 inch pie dish. Bake the crust for 10 minutes while you prepare the filling.
  2. Whisk the eggs and half & half together in a large bowl. Stir in the cheese and the potato mix.
  3. Place the pie pan on a rimmed baking sheet and pour the egg/potato mixture into the crust. Make sure that the potatoes and beans are evenly distributed.
  4. Bake 40 -45 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes (15 is better) before serving.
  5. Slice and serve with a simple salad and a nice glass of wine.
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The Trader Joe’s adventure will continue. There were plenty of other goodies in my bags that will find their way into the kitchen and maybe into this blog, as I continue to explore the idea that less (ingredients) can be more.

Halloween Hash Redux

Around this time last year I posted a recipe for Halloween Hash on Mama D’s KitchenDIGITAL CAMERA Facebook page. The dish, inspired by the colors of the season and created with what was on hand was a great meatless meal that had hints of the Southwest. I remembered it fondly and thought it would taste good on a cold October evening like the ones we’ve been having a little too often for my taste lately.

I pulled up the recipe and was appalled to see that it was riddled with mistakes. Olive oil was left out of the ingredient list and the amount of salad dressing as noted would carry the entire dish away (to the trash). Mistakes happen. It’s a part of life, but this dish tasted so good I knew it was worth getting a second chance. Today is the day to share it with you since Halloween is upon. So here we go.        ( Check out the corrected original recipe here)

Sweet potato and black beans are the cornerstone of the dish. Mama D’s Trinity: onions, garlic, and olive oil create the background structure. Chilies, this time in the shape of fresh Poblano Peppers, join Cumin and Smoked Paprika to give it a bit of Southwestern style. I opted for the sweet smokey taste of the paprika, but this would be great with Ancho or Chipotle Powder or even your favorite Chili Powder blend. Dried Cranberries got in on the act because it is Fall after all.

DIGITAL CAMERAThe original recipe used Queso Fresco which is an outstanding choice. Time was of the essence and I didn’t have time to run to the store. I only had Herb and Garlic Goat Cheese, so that became the garnish. Any crumbling cheese or even a hard grating cheese like cheddar would be a great topper. All these changes show that Mama D can always find inspiration in a recipe  and make it her own; even if it was already hers in the first place.

This definitely fits in the supper category. It is quick, easy, and pretty healthy, feeding two to three people well. I am fortunate to have a dashing-ly handsome sous chef who prepped the vegetables for me. He opted for about 3/4 inch dice. This resulted in a chunky hash that retained the shape and texture of the veggies. The original recipe had smaller pieces, the vegetables being cut in about 1/2 inch pieces. Hash making is not an exact science, so cut your vegetables to the size that makes you happy.IMG_0593

Once the oil was hot, the sweet potatoes went in and when they began to brown, I added the onion. Eventually the peppers and garlic went in along with the cumin and paprika. Everything cooked together for 15 minutes or so. I added a little chicken broth from time to time to keep the party-goers circulating. About half way through this process, I added the dried cranberries. This is a great addition if you have them, but is not a required element. I also used a little bottled salad dressing. In this case, it was a Light Chipotle Lime, but any sweet and spicy dressing will add that extra pop of flavor.IMG_0601

Finally the beans went in and the color splashed hash cooked for a few more minutes. IMG_0605Topping the dish with goat cheese added a bit of creaminess as the cheese melted and the subtle tang was reminiscent of  Mexican Crema.IMG_0621

Halloween Hash, Redux
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Servings
3
Servings
3
Halloween Hash, Redux
Print Recipe
Servings
3
Servings
3
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the sweet potatoes. Allow to cook undisturbed for 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Turn the potatoes and add the onions. Cook undisturbed for another 3 - 4 minutes. Continue to cook 5 minutes more, gently stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the peppers, garlic, and spices and cook a few minutes. If things seem to be getting too dry, add a little chicken stock as needed.
  4. Add the cranberries, salad dressing, and a bit more chicken stock (if needed). Cook until everything is tender and nicely browned. Stirring occassionally
  5. Stir in the drained beans and cook until they are heated through.
  6. Divide between two or three shallow bowls. Top with the crumbled goat cheese and serve.
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The meal was perfect for a blustery night, but it would be great just about any time that you had a hankering for hash. Be daring and nestle a poached egg on top and call it brunch. Remember: If you don’t like the results the first time there’s always the option of a “do over,” even in the Kitchen of Love.

 

Mama (and Papa) D’s Road Trip Adventures

Let me start out by saying that I love road trips. Truth be told, it’s my favorite kind of vacation. There is something about being on the road, miles from home, not knowing exactly what the next turn in the highway will hold that is exhilarating to me. Now, let me also say that as I am a woman of a more interesting age, there are certain aspects of hours on the road that raise an entirely new set of issues;  arthritis, bladder size, and road hypnosis just to mention a few. Still, I wouldn’t want to get from point A to point B in any other way, it just takes longer these days. Our recent Florida trip was just such a case in point.

Consider this your spoiler alert: There will be no recipe at the end of this. There will, however, be more than a few words about some of the places we saw and the food we ate as well as the people we spent time with. There will also be a relative lack of pictures. I’m a hands on experiencer and often get so caught up in the experience that I forget to snap a photo. Hopefully my words will help you get the images in your mind and the carefully chosen pictures will seal the deal.

Getting to Florida was an interesting 2-1/2 day experience. We took the interstate as we did have a finite amount of time. Many stretches were numbingly boring. even using apps that led us to roadside attractions.

20151010_102242The highlight of the trip down was a brief stop in Louisville; the land of southern hospitality and bourbon. We visited the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience (This is Papa D’s bourbon of choice) This new-ish addition to what was “Whiskey Row” back in the day offered a tour that included dramatizations of how Evan Williams became one of the first and most successful distillers in Louisville. The tour wound through vignettes and a working model of the distilling process and  ended in a 60’s themed bar that offered a guided educational tasting of four bourbons. Yes, that is a real thing and it was enlightening. Having been down the bourbon trail before we were pleasantly surprised to learn a few new things. We also left with a new appreciation for the bourbon we’ve been drinking for price…it’s actually a well crafted quaff.

This area of Louisville is under major renovation and in the next few  years will house a variety of Bourbon Experiences. In the meantime, it’s fun to admire the architecture and some very interesting sculpture.20151010_120314

We arrived in Florida and spent our first night in Ocala. while this city is land locked it served as the gateway to the Gulf Coast for us. Dinner that night was at Murphy’s Tiki Bar. The name seems to be a conflict of terms and the only body of water was the pool at our hotel, but the grilled scallops were magnificent.

The Gulf Coast area of Florida is well-known for its seafood. Evidently it is also home to an amazing number of Tiki Bars. While Murphy’s was the exception, a Tiki Bar is a small restaurant/bar that sits on or very near a body of water. That water can be the Gulf, the Intercoastal Waterway, even a river. Most feature fresh seafood and knee melting rum drinks amid a tropical setting that often includes palm frond roofs and entertainment in the form of a Jimmy Buffett-esque singer or combo. We went to several of these and enjoyed sautéed sea scallops, grouper bites, and fried clams. The seafood highlight however was a place at Indian Rocks Beach that was more Seafood Shack than Tiki Bar. That was Crabby Bill’s.crabby-bills-restaurant-indian-rocks-beach-fl-side-1-500We sat at the bar and joined a cheerful group of seeming regulars. We all seemed to have come for the seafood and the Bloody Marys. While I’ve had spicier and more elaborate “Bloodys”, this one has taken the top spot. In spite of coming in a plastic cup it boasted two jumbo gulf shrimp on the garnish. I do love a drink when it comes with a snack.20151012_17340920151012_173252We didn’t stop there. We had to try the Soft 20151012_173305Shell Blue Crab, lightly breaded and served simply with spicy tartar sauce. We paired that with some Wild Caught Gulf Shrimp that were sautéed in olive oil and garlic. It was a dinner fit for the gods, but we, as mere mortals, enjoyed it anyway.

The reason (perhaps it was more of an excuse) for this trip down south was to see family. The rest of the Diehl clan lives on the Gulf Coast and we were long overdue for a visit. We got to meet our grand-niece Kaya as well as celebrate my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. Ninety years are an epic milestone and Mom greeted it beautifully. IMG_0486We finally had to leave and hopped back in the car and headed north. Trips home always have a different feel. There’s the reluctance to return from a pleasant escape coupled with the need to be home and sleeping in your own bed. We wisely opted to take an extra day, not to pack in more adventures, but to allow our bodies time to recuperate.

3 floyds brew pubWe did make one final stop and this was less than two hours from home. We stopped for lunch at 3 Floyds Brewery and Pub. The pub which was turning out “gastropub” food before it was the thing to do, also makes some of the most interesting beers around. There were easily 12 beers on tap. All of them have names that evoke a Germanic Dark Lord Heavy Metal Image that matches the music playing overhead. House made meats and duck fat popcorn grace a menu that is filled with interesting selections that pair magnificently with their beers. This is a local brewery that only distributes to a handful of Midwestern states. It’s modest site is tucked inside of an industrial park in Munster Indiana…there is expansion afoot, however. There was quite an impressive building going up next door that bares the name FFF Distillery. Now that will be something to investigate…

We’re settled in back at home now. The trip was filled with fun and family and more than a few memories. Thanks for letting me share some of them with you. Now it’s time to get back into the kitchen.

Inspired Supper: Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu-Italian Style

I absolutely love coming up with recipes. It’s so much fun to ponder, “What should I make for supper?” and then let my mind wander until the perfect blend of ingredients comes to mind. I must confess, however, sometimes my ideas are not always completely my own.

I like nothing better than to read a cookbook as if it was the hottest best seller. There are so many things to learn from the pages of any given culinary tome. Another source of inspiration comes from the myriad cooking magazines that are available. I make it a point to pick up two or three every month, choosing something different each time. The inspiration for this recipe comes from one of those magazines.

Food Network Magazine featured a Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe in its September issue. It was a classic recipe turned inside out and prepared on the grill. It was interesting enough to catch my eye. Once my eye was caught, my brain started thinking about how I could make it my own. It was easy to prepare and the ham and cheese wrapper was definitely open to interpretation. The question became, “Where should I go with this recipe?” The answer was quickly obvious. Why to Italy, of course. I kept the chicken breast and the grill leaving the other ingredients behind. Except, that is, the zucchini which is always a pleasant partner in any Italian caper. Prosciutto and provolone cheese became the wrapper. A few sage leaves came along to provide an earthy surprise.2015-09-20 18.58.24

I decided that boneless, skinless chicken breasts can always use a little help in the flavor department, so I marinated them in olive, oil, lemon juice, and some Italian herbs. A bit of onion and some garlic also joined the mix. Then the grill did its magic and when the chicken was almost done, I added the sage, cheese, and prosciutto, 2015-09-20 19.35.29The beautiful bundles returned to the grill for a few minutes to turn a lovely pale gold. I decided to top it with some of my pesto to round the final turn for a classically Italian dish.2015-09-20 19.46.00Then there was the matter of the zucchini. My grill isn’t very large and can only provide a friendly and hot haven for one thing at a time, so the zucchini roasted in the oven. It was paired with red and sweet onions a glug of  olive oil and some Italian herb blend.2015-09-20 18.51.15Towards the end of the cooking I added a sprinkle of finely grated Romano cheese and let it brown up under the broiler. A little roughly chopped parsley and it was ready.2015-09-20 19.38.26This was a very satisfying supper, not too heavy and bursting with flavor. Other than marinating the chicken, everything was ready in about  half an hour. Perfect for a weeknight, but great for a weekend meal after a busy day.2015-09-20 19.48.05

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu: Italian Style
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu: Italian Style
Print Recipe
Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Place the chicken in a zip top bag. Mix together the lemon juice, grated garlic, chopped onion, one teaspoon of the herb seasoning, and one tablespoon of the olive oil. Pour into the bag with the chicken squeeze and turn the bag to coat the chicken evenly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours
  2. Remove the chicken from the bag and place on a hot grill. Grill until lightly browned. Turn and grill until the second side matches the first.
  3. Remove the chicken from the grill and lay three sage leaves on each breast. Top with a slice of the cheese and wrap with the prosciutto. Return the chicken to the grill cheese side up and cook for a few minutes to melt the cheese and crisp up the prosciutto.
  4. While the chicken is grilling, combine the zucchini, onions and the remaining olive oil and herb blend in a baking dish. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 - 25 minutes.
  5. Top the zucchini with the Romano cheese and broil until the cheese is golden. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
  6. Top each chicken breast with 1 tablespoon of the pesto. Plate it up and serve.
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I’m happy that this recipe inspired me and happier that the inspiration turned into something delicious. The moral of this story is that any recipe worth “borrowing” is worth making your own. 

I’d Like That On The Top, Please

When Harry met Sally she always wanted things “on the side” I’ve spent a lot of time sharing recipes for great main dishes and sides. Sometimes I include a garnish or topping, but for the most part I present my recipes”naked” or with the sauce served separately. This does not mean that I do not like toppings on my food. Often it’s because my healthy eating practices make me want rich toppings “on the side.” I do make and enjoy toppings on occasion and its high time that I share some with you.

Toppings can be the dressing on a salad, the crowning touch on a vegetable, or a sauce that enhances an entrée. It can be a garnish that adds that irresistible touch to something. Looking back in Mama D’s Archive of Love, I did find a few recipes.

The Orange Mocha Barbecue Sauce that topped some ribs last summer was wonderful and really made the ribs sing an octave higher. A lightened up vinaigrette has given life to many a salad with a lot less fat but plenty of big flavors. Mama can’t rest on her laurels so I’ve come up with a new idea that will be perfect for summer’s lighter fare. I’ve also put a recipe together for an avocado dressing that would make an old shoe taste good.

First up, that light topping. I was grilling some sweet potatoes a few days ago and wanted to top them with something. I wanted to keep it on the light side as well as use a lime whose time had come. Since the whole meal had a southwestern theme, I thought I’d use some cilantro from the garden. 003006Speaking of the garden…we have lots of little lettuce shoots, a hardy batch of radish leaves and budding tomato and pepper plants. That’s the nature of gardens; they grow just enough to get you excited and slow enough to make you appreciate the time involved.

Back to what was to become a Cilantro Lime Yogurt Sauce. This was super easy and will be super easy to adapt to other flavors and dishes. A carton of plain non-fat Greek yogurt, a handful of chopped cilantro and the juice and zest of a lime were all I needed to make a refreshing sauce that was great on the sweet potatoes and found its way onto the chicken and zucchini as well.

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I added a little Agave Syrup to tone down the sour and a pinch of Chipotle Powder to crank up the heat. I’ll make this easy and call it a non-recipe recipe. Those are the measurements I used and I’m sticking to them.

The Avocado Buttermilk Dressing was another spur of the moment idea inspired by what was on hand. A ripe avocado, some buttermilk and the desire for something that was like guacamole but really not.

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I wasn’t sure if I was making a dip, a soup, or something entirely different. The avocado flesh and buttermilk went into a bowl. I heated some garlic in a little olive oil to tame the flavor. This is a technique I use often as I’m not a fan of raw garlic (nor is my stomach). A little lemon juice brought out all of the flavors. A few seconds contact with my immersion blender and it was ready. It was absolutely delicious. So good in fact that I couldn’t relegate it to being “on the side.”

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The recipe is a blank canvas that would enjoy the company of any herbs and spices of your choosing.

Buttermilk Avocado Dressing
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Servings
1 Cup
Servings
1 Cup
Buttermilk Avocado Dressing
Print Recipe
Servings
1 Cup
Servings
1 Cup
Ingredients
Servings: Cup
Instructions
  1. Heat a small fry pan and add the olive oil, swirling to coat the bottom of the pan.
  2. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes or so. The garlic should be fragrant but not brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  3. Scoop the avocado flesh into a deep bowl or the pitcher of a blender. Add the buttermilk and cooled garlic and olive oil mixture.
  4. If using the bowl, blend with an immersion blender until smooth. If using a blender, whirl until smooth.
  5. Add the herbs and spices, if you choose, along with a pinch of salt. Whirl/blend one more time and give it a taste.
  6. Adjust the seasonings to your liking and transfer to a bowl or jar with a tight fitting lid. Refrigerate for an hour or so to let the flavors get better acquainted.
  7. Serve as a dressing on salad, a sandwich spread, a dip for veggies or chips, a topping for chicken, or just lick it off of a spoon.
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On the side, on top it’s all relative. Use these ideas as a springboard to your own sauce inspiration. A little something extra may be the perfect addition to lighter summer meals.