Homemade Mint Ice Cream – A Refreshing Dessert

Homemade Mint Ice Cream – A Refreshing Dessert

Mint ice cream is probably the single most refreshing thing I can think of on a hot day. Since today happens to be one of those days, this post couldn’t have come at a better time! Honestly, though, is there ever a bad time for mint ice cream?? Claire is here to cool us off from the inside out with her fabulous homemade mint ice cream. Let’s get churning, Claire!

My husband Pier has a serious sweet tooth. When we first met, I was trying to quit smoking. Seeing how hard I was struggling, he tried to give up candy out of solidarity, but he failed almost daily. A plate of cookies here, a bag of candy there, doughnuts for breakfast, ice cream for dinner. It’s lucky for him his job has him doing hard manual labor, or he would be as fat as I am. Cut to seven years later, and I’ve long since given up cigarettes, but he still can’t go a day without a good sugar buzz. Not that I’m exactly guilt free; I’m what you might call an enabler. I have replaced my nicotine cravings with a desperate need to watch people enjoy foods that I have created, so there is always something sweet around the house for Pier. That way, we can both get our fix.

In the fall, it’s cookies and pies, and in the winter, sweet quick breads and cakes. It’s technically spring time now, and, I want desperately to be making shortcake and berry tarts, but I just can’t bring myself turn on the oven. Two weeks ago, I said that it was the perfect weather for grilling because it wasn’t too hot yet. One week ago, Mother Gaia read my post and decided to take it as a challenge. Suddenly, it’s summer three weeks early, and I am not into it. I suppose spring came early here, so it follows that summer would be hot on its tail, but I’m just not ready. With the California sun raining on my spring parade, I have eschewed all baked goods for a chillier option. I only want to eat cold foods that will make me cold and remind me of the good old days three weeks ago, back when I was cold. I officially declare this summer Ice Cream Season.

Pier’s favorite flavor of ice cream is mint chip. I love mint too, but I think chocolate in mint ice cream detracts from the refreshing nature of the mint.

Since it’s basically impossible to find mint ice cream without chocolate in it, and since homemade ice cream is about a million times better than grocery store ice cream, I have learned how to make my own mint ice cream.

So, when I was in the grocery store last week seeking a brief respite from the heat, and I caught a whiff of fresh mint from clear on the other side of the produce department, I knew how I would be kicking off Ice Cream Season.

Mint Ice Cream

Mint Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 bunches of fresh mint leaves
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

Put the cream and milk in a heavy bottomed sauce pan and bring it just to a simmer. Watch it carefully so that it doesn’t scald. When bubbles start to come up, remove the pan from heat and add the mint leaves. Cover the pot and allow the mint to steep for two hours. In another saucepan, whisk the egg yolks and sugar over medium heat until they are fluffy and pale, and then strain the cream into the eggs mixture, using the back of a spoon to press on the mint leaves so all the cream and minty flavor gets into the pot. Whisk until fully combined, and then cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until the custard reaches 170°F, or until a finger swiped across the back of a spoon leaves a clean line. Add the salt to taste.

Mint Ice Cream

Pour the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl or Tupperware, and cover it. Set the custard in an ice bath until it reaches a temperature of about 40°F, about 3 to 4 hours. If you’re not in a big hurry, you can also just set the container in the fridge to cool overnight. When the custard is fully cooled, pour it into an ice cream maker to churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When it’s done, pour the churned mint ice cream into an air tight container and set it in the freezer. Ideally, it should chill there for a full 4 hours before you try to serve it, but I can almost never wait that long. The texture is so creamy and buttery, and the mint flavor is so cooling and pleasant, I’m sure you’ll want to dive right in, too. I also put some fresh blackberries in the freezer while my ice cream set, and they really worked well with the mint.

Well, I know what I’m doing for the foreseeable future. What are your plans for the summer?

Printer-friendly recipe: Homemade Mint Ice Cream

Summer No-Cook Meal – Build Your Own Panzanella

Summer No-Cook Meal – Build Your Own Panzanella

No-cook meals are a summer staple, and I happened to recall one of my favorite hot weather dishes while stupidly baking pie for Father’s Day. I told you I was going to make Claire’s fantastic Key Lime Pie for Father’s Day, and I actually followed through! It was delicious and very well received, thank you very much. After preheating the oven, though, I realized I probably shouldn’t have taken this on in the middle of the day – it was sweltering hot in my kitchen. To alleviate the pain caused by all the hot stickiness, I made myself a killer sandwich on a hunk taken from a fresh baguette that had been gifted to me. The combination of tomato, fresh mozzarella, avocado, and tangy vinaigrette (and an ice-cold peach ale) was the perfect way to cool my overheated brain. I thought to myself, “I could eat this every day,” but then I realized my baguette would be stale before I even got hungry again.

And so, the perfect summer no-cook No-cook Meal meal came to be: panzanella (bread salad)! I cut the rest of the baguette into cubes and left it out on the counter to dry out a bit (unsurprisingly, this happens rather quickly in Phoenix). My next bright idea was to use up just about everything I had left in my fridge from my excessive Costco-ing. I had tomatoes, avocados, and bell peppers that needed to be used up, plus a couple logs of fresh mozzarella. I threw together a vinaigrette on the fly using avocado oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, fresh garlic, and an Italian dip mix that seemed like a good combo of herbs (I used this one, but you can play around with whatever spices you have on hand, or use a prepackaged mix from the grocery store blended with oil and vinegar).

I chopped up all my veggies and No-cook Meal cheese into roughly bite-sized pieces, threw it all in with the bread cubes, and poured the vinaigrette over the top. I covered my over-sized bowl with plastic wrap and gently shook it around to make sure everything was evenly coated, then stuck it in the fridge overnight. A couple times during the night, I shook up the bowl again, just to keep things fair (it would be totally rude to not give every piece equal access to that delicious dressing, after all!). The next day I transferred it to a serving bowl and brought it along to our family meal. It made an excellent side dish and the leftovers served as a ready-made no-cook meal for lunch and dinner the next day, especially when I added some of my sister’s leftover grilled chicken.

No-Cook meal

The first few times I made panzanella, I used a recipe, and while it was really good, it was also fairly restrictive (only because I let it be, but I think we do that too often with recipes). I have since realized that this simple no-cook meal is endlessly customizable, and can be suited to anyone’s specific tastes. My impromptu dish described above opened up my curiosity to new flavor combinations. I’m going to share with you the basic steps to making a fantastic panzanella along with some ideas I’ve got kicking around for new flavors.

I hope next time you’ve got a loaf of bread threatening to turn on you, you’ll consider joining me on the no-cook meals bandwagon!

Build your own panzanella!

  • Cubed bread of choice – it’s easier to cut up before it goes stale, so if you know you’re not going to finish the loaf, do this part ahead of time.
  • Veggies/Add-ons of choice – artichoke hearts, nuts, etc. Cut these into bite-sized pieces.
  • Cheese – Since I’m making the rules, this is not optional!
  • Dressing – Whatever you’d like. You can use bottled dressing, but it’s pretty simple to throw together a custom vinaigrette to complement your flavor profile.

Basically, you just throw this all together in a big bowl, make sure everything is evenly coated with dressing, and let it sit in the fridge for several hours or overnight, stirring occasionally to redistribute the dressing.

Tips:

  • Use enough dressing to coat everything, but don’t overdo it; you want the bread to get softly chewy, not soggy. You can always add more dressing after a few hours if your bread is still hard.
  • Hold out the super soft ingredients until you’re just about ready to serve. The last two times I’ve made this, I have put the avocado in with everything else and then remembered how squishy it gets. It’s best to keep the really soft stuff in a separate bowl, marinating in a bit of the vinaigrette, so that you can add it in at the last minute. This way your stirring/shaking won’t mash the soft bits into oblivion.
  • Pick out a bowl that looks too big. Now put that away and grab the next size up. Same principle as when you make a regular salad.
  • If you’ve got the grill going anyway, grill your bread before you cube it. This adds immense flavor!
  • Add a protein to round out your no-cook meal. Rotisserie chicken or leftover grilled flank steak would be fantastic additions.

Flavor ideas I want to try:

  • Jalapeno and cheese bread with red bell peppers, No-Cook Meal shredded rotisserie chicken, pepper jack cheese, and a cilantro lime dressing.
  • Brioche with candied pecans, grapes, strawberries, brie, and a balsamic and coconut oil dressing.
  • Kalamata olive bread with bell peppers, pepperoncini, marinated artichoke hearts, cold grilled steak, cubed feta (as opposed to crumbled), and a Greek dressing.
  • Basically anything you would put on a sandwich or in a regular salad!

What’s your favorite no-cook meal? Do you think panzanella will make it into your rotation? Let me know what combination sounds the best to you!

Breakfast with Spring Produce

Breakfast with Spring Produce

Breakfast is the greatest creation of humanity.  Because I am Breakfast a grownup (ha!), I can have breakfast whenever I want. I can also take a road trip to visit my amazing friend, Claire Hoenke, who just so happens to be the Goddess of All Things Breakfast. The first time I visited Claire, she made the world’s best biscuits and gravy, and I may have proposed marriage. The last time I stayed at Claire’s, I had driven up as a surprise for her birthday (planned by her husband, who is obviously the luckiest man alive), so she didn’t have any special ingredients stocked away to spoil me with.  Somehow Claire managed to whip up an absolutely delightful breakfast feast without waking me up.  I finally stirred when the scent of bacon, potatoes, sautéed veggies, and perfectly fried eggs became so overpowering my brain decided that maybe I could be a morning person. What I am trying to convey to you is that Claire is the best hostess and also the best at breakfast, so you should listen to everything she says. I am so excited that she is sharing some of her delightful self with us today. I think I’ve gone on long enough, so I’ll pass the mic to Claire now.

I love cooking for my friends. Welcoming people to my table gives me a sense of fulfillment like nothing else does.

While I adore hosting dinner parties, anyone who has ever spent the night at my house knows that breakfast is where I really shine.

And why not? What could be better than waking up to the smell of fresh bread and a hot griddle? Starting my morning with a hearty meal is the best way to guarantee a good day. For me, nothing beats bacon and eggs with buttermilk biscuits, or waffles with pools of butter and syrup… until spring rolls around. When the ground starts to warm and the first plants of the growing season start popping up, my appetite shifts and I crave something different.

Breakfast Around this time of the year I find myself flashing back to spring in my childhood home, huddled with my friends in my parents’ vegetable garden. As kids, my sisters and I spent all spring and summer in the back yard, and when we got hungry, we would head for the garden. I can remember the feel of the cold dirt under my bare feet, the smell of the mint, and the sweet crunch of the sugar snap peas between my teeth. There is nothing like fresh veggies right off the stem. Alas, as an adult who seems to have inherited none of her parents’ magical green thumbs, the best I can do is head to the farmers’ market with a basket on my arm.

Waking up the morning after a particularly successful trip to the market, the piles of fresh green things always call to me from my fridge. “Cook me! I’m healthy and tasty and sweet! I’m some kind of crazy gift from the earth!” and I am not one to ignore the food voices in my head. This recipe is perfect because it can be made to order. Whatever fresh produce is at the local market this week is what belongs in this dish, and it’s that kind of simplicity that appeals to the barefoot kid in me. This time, I am using:

  • Half a bunch of asparagus, cut Breakfast on a diagonal into 1” pieces
  • White and pale green parts of 2 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • A small fistful of watercress
  • ¼ cup of basil, torn into ½” bits
  • ¼ cup mint, torn into ½” bits

Depending on where you call home, you might be lucky enough to find fresh fava beans, ramps, or spring onions at your market, and those would be perfect in this dish. Spring peas are also well worth the work of shelling, and fresh escarole would take this dish to a whole new level.

In addition to your produce, you will need:

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • 2 or 3 ounces of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
  • 4 eggs
  • Good, crusty bread

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium sauté pan. When the oil starts to shimmer, turn the heat down to medium-low and toss in the asparagus and leeks. Cover the pan and cook for about 2 minutes, until the asparagus just starts to get tender. Add the scallions and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Add the mint and basil and cook until the asparagus is very tender. Add the watercress and toss until it’s just slightly wilted. Season with some kosher salt and divide the greens into four bowls. Breakfast

Meanwhile, bring about two inches of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat to bring the water down to a simmer and add the vinegar. Crack an egg into a small bowl, and then gently slide the egg into the water. Once the white is opaque, repeat the process with the next egg, and so on. Poach the eggs for about 3 minutes each until the whites are set, but the yolks are still runny.

Breakfast

Using a slotted spoon, transfer each egg as it finishes onto a bowl of greens. Drizzle each serving with olive oil and some grated or crumbled cheese. Serve with slices of bread and soak in the goodness!

Breakfast

Wait; it gets better…

Breakfast Are you still breathing? Want to meet me at Claire’s for breakfast? If you’re not up for the trip, print off the recipe and give it a go at home using goodies from your own garden or local market!

Printer friendly recipe:  Poached Eggs with Spring Veggies

No-Cook Meals – Chill Out With This Cool Summer Salad

No-Cook Meals – Chill Out With This Cool Summer Salad

 No-cook meals are the way to go when the temperature skyrockets and the humidity leaves you in a crying, sticky heap on the floor (that’s not just me, right?).  Chef J has you covered with this super summer salad. Customize it to your tastes and use as a side or the main course. Pick up a loaf of bread on your way home from work and call it a night. No-cook meals could very well save my sanity this summer, so thanks, Chef J!

This town is too hot! So instead of cooking, we’re just going to throw some stuff together, grab a beer (or glass of white wine with an ice cube…), and plop down on the couch. Turn down the AC and crank up the Netflix — we’re chilling out with a cold salad! The kids still say “chilling out,” right? Never mind; I don’t care what the kids are saying these days.

You can add some grilled chicken, salmon, or shrimp to the mix if you would like. You can also throw in some avocado if you can find some good ones at the market. Or toss everything together and wrap it up in a tortilla so you can eat it in the car. This salad is great with whatever fruit you have growing on your tree or a handful of fresh berries; just don’t over-think it. Be cool!

No-cook meals are all about being cool.

Summer Salad

Makes two large or four small portions.

  • 4 big handfuls of salad greens No-Cook Meals Sumemr Salad
  • 1 cup of cubed watermelon, save the juice
  • ½ of a white nectarine, sliced
  • ½ of an English cucumber, sliced
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 2 TBS chopped parsley
  • 2 TBS chopped basil

Vinaigrette:

  • 2 oz. watermelon juice
  • 2 TBS pink lemonade
  • 2 TBS vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • a pinch of salt & white pepper

Whisk all ingredients together until emulsified.

Season to taste.

Arrange everything so that it looks pretty or just toss it together. Serve it with plenty of air conditioning and maybe a light, citrusy summer ale.

Printer friendly recipe: No-Cook Meals

Summer Produce – Ratatouille & Braised Peaches

Summer Produce – Ratatouille & Braised Peaches

It is definitely summer here in Phoenix — the sun is shining and our faces are melting! Somehow, Chef J has found a bright spot (pun intended) amid the suffering, and is willing to share it with us. Slather on the sunscreen and hit the farmer’s market this weekend so you can play along at home. Ok, Chef J, bring on the summer produce!

Summer is terrible here. Phoenix in the summer is a proving ground for the resilience and stubbornness of humanity. You know that feeling when you watch yourself lock your keys in the car? That paralyzed, defeated, “Why did I do that?” feeling? That’s how everyone feels here in the summer. We all knew it was coming. It happened last year and we all swore we wouldn’t put up with it again. But here we are. Here we are, basting in our miserable sweat, cursing our inability or refusal to escape. A couple of weeks ago I espoused some of the positive side effects of the sweltering torridity; I still love BBQ, pool parties, and flip flops — but there is more to it than that. There are some wonderful things about this place that keep me around throughout the season! Since a blog about pretty girls in sun dresses probably wouldn’t work for this venue, I will stick to something we can all enjoy: Summer Produce!

Phoenix is fertile ground for the growing trend of farm-fresh produce. We live in a great region for summer produce such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplant, herbs, and many other delicious plants; but when the weather starts to get unbearably hot, I know peaches are on the way. Luckily, we don’t have the humidity of Savannah, but we can grow a mean peach in these parts! I have a three year old peach tree in my back yard that I know will one day produce some succulent fruit — it has kept me from moving on more than one occasion…

So in honor of summer, and to make up for all of the barbequed meat I have been eating lately, I will be enjoying two of my favorite summer vegetarian dishes this weekend.

If you are not fortunate enough to be in Phoenix for the summer, I’m sure there are some fantastic ingredients available at your local market. Talk to the farmers, pick some summer produce that looks good, try something you haven’t had before, and enjoy the delicious treats growing all around you!

Ratatouille

  • 1 yellow onion, sliced Summer ratatouille
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut lengthwise and sliced*
  • 2-3 small tomatoes
  • 3-4 summer squashes, cut lengthwise and sliced
  • 2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and sliced*
  • Fresh herbs, chopped
  • red wine
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Heat oven to 350.
*Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and set aside for 20-30 minutes. Rinse the eggplant thoroughly.
*Roast the peppers over an open flame until they are completely charred. Place them in a bowl and cover so they can steam. When they have cooled you can easily wipe off they skin with a paper towel- do not rinse them, though.
Sauté the onion until brown, deglaze with red wine and remove from heat.
Combine all of the vegetables and toss with olive oil, herbs, salt & pepper.
Put them in a large baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for about 1 hour.
You can also do this recipe on the grill — no need to heat up the kitchen if you’re cooking out back.

Braised Peaches with Goat Cheese and Granola

  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup wheat germ
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 oz. honey

Combine all ingredients and bake at 225 for about 2 hours.

  • 1 bottle of Chardonnay (give or take a glass…)
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 4 oz. honey or maple syrup
  • 6 peaches, halved (save the pits!)

Combine wine, vanilla, honey and pits. Bring to a simmer and reduce until syrupy.
In a sauté pan, pour hot liquid over the peaches and braise until just tender. Summer Peaches

  • 6 oz. goat cheese
  • 6 oz. plain yogurt
  • 2-3 TBS honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Whisk all ingredients together.
Top each peach half with a dollop of cheese mixture and sprinkle with granola.

 

Printer friendly recipes: Using Summer Produce

How to Remove Stains and Scratches from Butcher Block

How to Remove Stains and Scratches from Butcher Block

One of my favorite cutting boards is the John Boos Round Herb Cutting Board that came with a nifty mezzaluna rocker knife. Not only is this board superb for chopping herbs, I use it every day to hold an unruly fruit or vegetable. The concave bowl just seems perfect for hugging that last lemon, a spare onion, or a shiny apple just waiting to be eaten. Unfortunately, I did not notice my onion went bad one day and it left a really nasty stain on the board. I wiped it up, but it had penetrated pretty deeply. Then I procrastinated about 6 months before doing anything about it! Maybe this sounds familiar. But don’t fret; there is hope.
Unsightly stains and deep scratches can be removed from butcher block to help restore their appearance. Stains can result when liquid spills are allowed to dry on the block. If addressed soon after, they can be removed pretty easily by wiping with a damp, soapy sponge, drying with paper towel, then applying some Boos Bees Wax Board Cream.

Penetrating stains, older stains, and knife gouges in butcher block will require some “muscle” but they usually can be removed!

How to remove Stubborn Stains and Scratches:

Remove stains with salt

  1. The first step is to try and remove the stain by sprinkling kosher/table salt on the stained area and rubbing with a damp sponge for a few minutes. Always rub in the direction of the wood grain to avoid further scratch damage. If the stain is still present, continue to step 2; otherwise, wipe clean and move on to step 5 to finish up.
  2. Stubborn stains or deep scratches will require sanding. There is no set “grit” or coarseness of sandpaper to use. sand 300w  You will want to experiment, starting with a finer grit and working to a coarser one, until you find the grit that works.I can’t say this enough – always rub in the direction of the wood grain (not against it). Trust me, you will be tempted to do so, but please don’t, or risk further scratching the board.Once you see the stain or scratch is being removed, stick with that sandpaper. Remember: the higher the number, the finer the grit.Given butcher block is a very hard wood, it makes sense that you will need to use a coarse grit in the range of 80 to 100 Stains removed  to correct the problem.
  3. I would start with 150 grit and if that does not work, move to the 100 grit or 80 grit.
  4. When the stain is removed, be sure to use a couple different grit papers to sand the area to a smooth finish again. Use the 150 grit first, then finish with a 220 grit paper to restore the smoothness.
  5. Wipe the butcher block with a damp, soapy wash cloth to remove sanding dust and dry thoroughly.
  6. You must treat the exposed surfaces with a food safe mineral oil to protect and moisturize the wood. The best cure is to apply Boos Mystery Oil to penetrate the cutting board and restore the moisture. Then follow with an application of  Boos Block Board Cream to put a protective seal on the block and reduce the chances of future spills  penetrating the wood.
  7. Remember, you should apply oil or cream to your butcher block once a month to keep your board healthy.
Given my Round Herb Board is Hard Rock Maple it took me a while to find the right grit to remove the stain. I was surprised that I had to go down to a 60 grit and sand for about 15 minutes. But it was worth it! Then I used the 100, 150 and finally 220 grit, respectively, which left it feeling silky smooth again.
My beloved Herb Board looks like new. Herb is happy too!
Embracing International Cuisine

Embracing International Cuisine

With the Winter Olympics upon us, we are given the opportunity to peer into the cultures and traditions of people from all around the globe.  We see all sorts of inspiring stories about athletes and their lives, providing a bit of human connection to such a grandiose event. You know what helps foster human connection better than almost anything else? If you said “food,” you’re absolutely right! Food brings people together around the world and is a social event in basically every culture.

Because the U.S. is such a melting pot, we have the privilege of having international cuisine at our fingertips at just about any moment. Whether you purchase something frozen from the grocery store, shop at your local deli for authentic cuisine, or decide to make something at home, you have access to more variety than you will ever have time to taste! We have Julia Child to thank for bringing international cooking into the homes of Americans when she exploded onto the culinary scene with accessible French recipes and techniques that could be duplicated in the home kitchen. Given the popularity today of cooking shows, blogs, and recipe forums, we now have an unlimited supply of internationally-inspired recipes that we can create and share with friends and family. We have entire grocery stores dedicated to bringing ingredients from faraway countries right into our backyards. Let’s utilize these resources and celebrate the international delights in which we are all capable of indulging.

A great way to sample the fare of many different nations is to host an international potluck, and the Olympic events are a fantastic excuse to do so.

Have your friends and family each bring a dish inspired by a different country or by their own culture and let everyone enjoy the diversity of food.  You will experience the vast array of flavors that are spread across our world and get a taste for how different regions can create a variety of flavors, oftentimes using some of the same spices or other ingredients. We live in a diverse society and should take advantage of every opportunity we have to experience and understand all of the cultures that play into it – and food is a great place to start! Chef J has shared one of his favorite Russian recipes to give you a little inspiration.

Roasted Chicken and Eggplant
Pesto: Roasted Chicken and Eggplant

  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ cup toasted pecans
  • ½ cup packed fresh basil
  • ¼ cup packed parsley
  • 3-4 sprigs marjoram
  • 2-3 sprigs oregano
  • ½ cup shredded asiago cheese
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • Salt & pepper
  • 8 oz. olive oil

In a food processor, combine all ingredients except oil, and pulse until a paste is formed.
Slowly add the oil while blending.
Season to taste.

Eggplant:

  • 1 eggplant, sliced into ½” rounds
  • Salt & pepper
  • Olive oil

Brush the eggplant with oil and season with salt and pepper.
Roast at 375 for 20 minutes.

Chicken:

  • 1 Chicken breast
  • olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Season the chicken.
Sear on one side in a hot sauté pan.
Flip and move the pan to the oven. Cook until an internal temperate of 165 is reached, about 7 minutes.
Allow to rest for a few minutes.
Cut into bite size pieces

Pickled Onions:

  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp coriander

Combine all ingredients, except onions, in a small sauce pot and bring to a simmer.
Remove from heat and add the onions.
Pour everything into a zipper bag.
Squeeze out all of the air and seal.
Let it sit at room temperature until cool.
Refrigerate until needed.

Assembly:
Spread a bit of the pesto on a slice of eggplant.
Add a piece of chicken and a few pieces of onion.
Roll up and skewer with a toothpick.
Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Printer friendly recipe: Roasted Chicken and Eggplant

New Year’s Resolution – Create Your Own Food

New Year’s Resolution – Create Your Own Food

The new year is upon us. With it comes a new set of goals and resolutions, hopes and promises. Unfortunately the same ten or fifteen pounds is still hanging around. Gyms will be filling up this month and people will be abstaining from the delicious fatty foods that they love all in an attempt to make up for the holiday gluttony. The reality is that most of us will not keep the resolutions that we made. Those resolutions are not made to help us start the new year right; they’re made to help us justify eating pie every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. And that’s OK. You’re not going to better yourself by making faulty promises or outright lies and then feeling guilty when you don’t follow through. All any of us really want is happiness. The trick is to be happy with who and what you are, in whatever situation you find yourself. And the trick to that is to be honest. It’s OK that your butt has grown over the last year. You can shrink it if you want to, but big butts are cool too!

I have found food to be the catalyst to making life better. It makes perfect sense, really. You have to eat food to live. If you take control of your food, you take control of your life. That doesn’t mean eating diet food; fake food makes a fake life!

Resolution: Eat real food. Create your own food.

It’s very easy to plow through a pint or two of ice cream when all you have to do for it is stroll through the frozen food isle at the grocery store. Try making your own; take the time to do it right and you will savor every last spoonful. When you create your own cuisine you know and control what goes into it. You learn to think about what goes into your body. You will take pride in what you make, what you eat, and by extension, what you’re made of. My diet consists of literally anything that I want to eat; but I make most of it myself.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to keep a garden. If that seems too intimidating, start with a few potted herbs. By seeing them grow and being responsible for keeping them alive you will be more compelled to use them. Which means you will cook more. And by using fresh herbs you will cut the need for salt and fat- a sprig of fresh rosemary packs a lot of flavor. Lemon zest is a great way to add a bright flavor and enhance the other ingredients of your dishes. Try making your own pizza dough; top it with olive oil, fresh garlic, fresh herbs, lemon zest, a little salt and pepper, and some freshly ground Parmesan cheese. It will be better than anything that you could get delivered, at a tiny fraction of the cost, and you don’t have to feel guilty about it! Here are a few recipes that take advantage of herbs and spices for flavor. But remember: don’t deprive yourself of the food you like, empower yourself by learning how to create it on your own. That knowledge will go a long way. If you knew what went into making the food that gets passed through the drive-thru window, you would drive right past.

Pomegranate Roasted Lamb

  • 3-4 lb. lamb leg meat
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2-3 sprigs of marjoram
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 8 oz pomegranate juice
  • 8 oz red wine
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 shallots, diced

Combine the lamb with the coriander, marjoram, rosemary, cardamom, white pepper, juice and wine. Marinate for at least a few hours. Heat oven to 325˚ Heat up a roasting pan or tagine, add the oil. Sauté the onions and garlic until they start to get a bit of color, add the lamb and caramelize slightly on all sides. Add the liquid, loosely cover and move to the oven. Cook until tender, about 1½ hours.

Arugula Cranberry Salad

  • 1 oz. pure cranberry juice
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 2 oz. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp lavender
  • 6 oz. olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 lb. fresh arugula
  • 1 lb. fresh spinach
  • 2 TBS each: chopped, fresh basil, parsley, marjoram
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese

Whisk together the juices, vinegar, mustard, ginger and lavender. Slowly whisk in olive oil, season to taste. Toss with arugula, cranberries, pecans and cheese.

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