Eating is a necessity. However, we choose what to eat. The choices we make reveal a great deal about us. The food you eat can tell quite a bit about your heritage, your family, your fears, your sense of adventure, your attitude toward yourself and others, and a myriad of other personal tidbits to anyone paying attention. Everything about eating is a glimpse into your soul.

I hope to reveal a little bit about myself to you through my food. I enjoy cooking. I enjoy eating. I find pleasure in bringing pleasure to others. I hope that by sharing my recipes I bring you a little bit of joy.

Cook my food. Feed it to the people you love.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pear and Feta Salad with Pecan Crusted Chicken

People tell me often that I am creative. So, I sat down and tried to think of how creativity works for me personally. Usually, I will get an idea-for a recipe or a poem or a painting-and it will float around in my head for a while. The idea will gather other ideas and snowball (or mushroom?) until I must purge myself by creating. Most often the creation pours out of me whole. To an outsider it must appear as if the end result just sprang out at that moment and therefore seems more spontaneous than it really is. But trust me, there are many threads floating around in here….

I don’t know where the inspiration for this recipe came from. It has just been floating around in my head for a week or so. I think I read (Facebook) about a maple pecan encrusted chicken dish, maybe? Who knows? Who cares? I did this. It tastes marvelous.

Serves: 4
Time: 10 minutes
Hardware: Salad bowl & salad tongs, measuring spoons and cups, a cutting board, and knives, a bowl, 4 serving dishes

  • 1 bag of pre-washed Italian salad greens
  • 2 slices red onion, separated into ring
  • 2 cups of cold water
  • 1 pear
  • 1 cup of your favorite vinaigrette (or make my Pear Infused White Wine Vinaigrette)
  • ¼ cup + 4 teaspoons crumbled feta cheese
  • ½ pound pecan crusted chicken pieces (you can substitute chicken fingers)
  • ¼ cup candied pecans (optional)
  • Dash of S&P
  1. Soak the onion slices in the bowl of cold water. This will make them less pungent.
  2. Peel, core and slice the pear into ¼ inch chunks. Toss the pear pieces in a tablespoon of the vinaigrette. This will help prevent browning.
  3. Slice the chicken into bite sized pieces.
  4. Roughly chop the pecans (if you are using them)
  5. Drain the onions. Roughly dice half of them set the other half aside.
  6. Toss the greens with ½ cup of the vinaigrette.
  7. Add ¼ cup feta, the chopped onions, pears, and a dash of S&P and toss with the rest of the vinaigrette.
  8. Place the salad in serving bowls. Top each serving with onion rings, a tablespoon of candied pecans, 1 teaspoon of feta and the chicken slices.
Serve right away.
Seriously good food!

Candied Maple Pecans

These things are addictive. I mean really, before you know it you will be stealing from your grandmother to feed your habit.

Servings: 1 cup
Time: Prep: 5 minutes, Cooking: 10 minutes, Resting: 30 minutes
Hardware: Measuring spoons, a pan, a wooden spoon, parchment paper (or a silicone baking sheet), a baking sheet, an airtight container

  •  3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (real-not artificially flavored)
  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  1. Cover the baking sheet in the parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. Set aside.
  2. Put all the ingredients in the pan and stir. Heat over medium high until every thing melts, stirring often.
  3. Then turn the pan to medium low and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir occasionally. This should take 8-10 minutes.
  4. Spread the pecans in a single layer on the baking sheet and allow them to cool completely.
  5. These can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for a week.

Sprinkle these on salads, over ice cream, stir them into waffles, or eat huge handfuls of them when you think no one is looking. 
Use these as a garnish on my Pear and Feta Salad or when you make my Cranberry Bacon Cheese Spread.

Pecan Crusted Chicken

Pecans are plentiful in Florida. In fact, the land my grandparents lived on used to be a pecan grove. I remember picking up bushels of pecans when I was a child and we would spend the whole day shelling them. By the end of the day our hands would be black. I recall the day I was strong enough to crack two of them by squeezing them together in one hand. I was so proud of myself. I remember the bitter taste of the little paper hull inside.  I remember pecan pies! Pecans always make me think of home.

Servings: 4-6
Time: Prep: 10 minutes Cooking: 20 minutes
Hardware: A cutting board and knife, measuring spoons and cups, a food chopper, 2-1 gallon plastic zip bags, a baking sheet

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup corn starch
  • ½ cup of all purpose flour
  • 2 cups pecan pieces
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt

  1. Rinse the chicken in clean water and pat dry. Cut into serving size pieces for dinner or bite size pieces for appetizers.
  2. Grind the pecans into fine crumbs.
  3. Put the egg, water, and corn starch in a plastic Ziploc bag. Massage the bag until completely mixed. It may foam up, that is okay.
  4. Combine all the other ingredients except the chicken in the other plastic bag. Shake this like crazy to mix.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 400°.
  6. Place each piece of chicken into the egg mixture and toss to coat.
  7. Then place each piece of chicken into the flour mixture and toss to coat.
  8. Place the chicken in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  9. Allow the chicken to bake for 20 minutes for dinner pieces or 15 minutes for appetizers.
Serve warm.

This can be made through step 7, placed in a single layer on a plate, wrapped in plastic, and stuck in the fridge up to 3 hours early. Take them out 30 minutes ahead of time and then just pop them in the oven when guests arrive.

If serving this as an appetizer, stick each piece with a toothpick and offer honey mustard dressing for dipping. You can also serve this over my Pear and Feta Salad.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pear Infused White Wine Vinaigrette

Pears infuse this dressing with a delicate fruit flavor
I enjoy making my own dressing. Homemade dressing is much tastier than store bought dressing and can come in as many varieties as you can dream up.

Servings: 2 cups
Time: 10 minutes
Hardware: Cutting board and knives, pot, measuring spoons and cups, a blender, a glass jar with a lid (or a salad dressing bottle)

  • 2 ripe pears
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup white wine vinegar (you can use champagne vinegar or rice wine vinegar)
  • 1 ½ cup light extra virgin olive oil (the best you can afford)
  • S&P

  1. Peel, core, and chop the pears. Boil them in the ½ cup of white wine. Simmer the pears until they are very soft and most of the wine is absorbed. This will take about 3-4 minutes. Remove the pears from the heat and allow them to cool. Strain the pears.
  2. Put the pears and all the other ingredients except the oil and the S&P into the blender and pulse until the mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds.
  3. With the blender running, SLOWLY pour the olive oil in so the dressing will emulsify. Salt & pepper to taste.
  4. This can be made ahead, placed in an airtight container, and stored in the fridge for up to a week. Shake well before serving.
You can use different fruits for different flavors. Peaches, a cup of strawberries, apricots, apples, or a cup of raspberries would also work. If using berries (raspberries, blackberries,  strawberries) mash them up in the wine after boiling them. Strain the wine and use the wine rather than the berries themselves.

Serve this over my Pear and Feta Salad.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Black Pepper and Sea Salt Croutons

These croutons are so much better for you than the boxed, processed mess you buy in the store. They are baked, not fried and they contain no partially hydrogenated soybean oil or no soy lecithin.  Although I do enjoy some good soy lecithin.

Black Pepper & Sea Salt Croutons

Servings: 2 cups
Time: Prep: 5 minutes Cooking: 10 minutes
Hardware: Cutting board and knife, large bowl, measuring spoons, baking sheet

  • 1 loaf of day old French bread cut into 1x1 inch square (2 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 2 teaspoons of coarsely ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon of sea salt
  1.  Pre-heat the oven to 350°.
  2. Toss all of the ingredients in the bowl until the bread is evenly coated.
  3. Spread the bread in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake until the croutons are golden brown, about 10 minutes.
These can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container for 3 days.  You can change these up by adding 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite savory spice/spices (rosemary, thyme, sage.)

These go great atop Caesar Salad.

Caesar Salad Dressing

This salad is most often attributed to Caesar Cardini, an Italian-Mexican (Could there be a better combination??) He lived part of the time in California but worked in Tijuana to avoid Prohibition. (Okay, a pro-alcohol, Italian-Mexican-Can this guy get any better????)

The original recipe didn't contain anchovies, but I don't care. I like anchovies.

Servings: 1 cup
Time: 3 minutes
Hardware: Measuring spoons & cups, a blender

  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 2 eggs*
  • 1/8 cup FRESH lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 anchovies
  • ½ teaspoon capers
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (the best you can afford)
  • S&P

  1.  Put all the ingredients except the oil & the S&P into the blender and blend until the mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds.
  2. With the blender running, SLOWLY pour the olive oil in so the dressing will emulsify.
  3. Salt & pepper to taste.
This can be made ahead, placed in an airtight container, and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. Stir again before using to make a wonderful Caesar Salad.

* There is a slight risk of salmonella from using raw eggs. If you prefer you can substitute 2 tablespoons of GOOD mayo for the eggs. However, unless you or your guests are pregnant, children under the age of 10, or have a compromised immune system, I’d use the eggs.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mactastic Macaroni Salad

Tomorrow is the first day of summer-picnic season!  Macaroni salad is as necessary to a proper picnic as is a striped blanket, a lovely day, and ants.

This salad is so easy that you might not wait for the ants.

Servings: 8
Time: Prep: 5 minutes, Cook: 9 minutes, Chill: 2 hours
Hardware: measuring spoons and cups, a cutting board and knives, a mixing bowl, a pot, a colander, a large storage container, a small storage container

  • 1 cup olive oil based mayonnaise (you can substitute lite mayo)
  • ¾ cup fat free sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon pickle juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

  1. Mix all the ingredients together until they are all completely incorporated. Set aside ¼ cup of the dressing.
  • 8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ small onion (¼ cup)
  • 1 stalk celery
  • ½ small bell pepper (¼ cup)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pickles (use dill or sweet~whatever you prefer)
  • Dressing
  • A few grinds of fresh pepper
  1. Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Rinse in cold water and drain.
  2. Boil the eggs.
    • You can cook the eggs and the macaroni together to save time.
  3. While the macaroni and eggs are cooking prep the veggies. Wash and dice the celery, onion, and pepper. Dice the pickle.
  4. Peel and roughly chop the eggs.
  5. Mix everything but the reserved dressing and pepper. Refrigerate the salad for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
  6. Mix in the reserved dressing and a few grinds of black pepper just before serving.
    • Pasta is thirsty and will soak up most of the dressing. The reserved dressing will ensure that your salad is creamy.
You can also try one of these variations:

Italian Mactastic Macaroni Salad
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (mixed in dressing)
¼ cup chopped pepperoni
2 tablespoons chopped black olives
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Clucking Good Mactastic Macaroni Salad
Replace the pickle juice in the dressing with lemon juice
½ cup chopped chicken
¼ cup peeled, chopped tart apple
3 slices of fried crumbled bacon

Macaroni of the Sea Mactastic Macaroni Salad
¼ cup thawed English peas
1 small diced carrot (¼ cup)
¼ cup rinsed tuna

Hamtastic Macaroni Salad
4 eggs instead of 2
½ cup diced ham
8 oz cheddar cheese cut into cubes (mix this in with the reserved dressing)

Mactastic Shrimp and Macaroni Salad
Substitue 1 cup of  Lemon Dill Mayo for 1 cup of mayo
Replace the onion with green onion
¼ cup rinsed canned salad shrimp

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Beef Kabobs

Florida is on fire right now. As of this morning, 250 wild fires raged throughout the state. For weeks now smoke has hung heavy in the air. This happens every year. Wildfires are so common, in fact, that a species of pine tree found here, the Marsh Pine, has evolved to only release its seeds when burned.

All this smoke has made me think of grilling. I know. I’m weird like that.

Few things are more satisfying than food on a stick
Servings: 4-6
Time: Prep: 15 minutes; Marinade time: 2-6 hours; Cook: 40 minutes
Hardware: A grill, measuring spoons and cups, a cutting board, a zester, a gallon Ziplock bag, a large glass bowl, a small plastic container with a lid, a pot, a paper towel, skewers, tongs, an old dish rag, a grill, a microwave, a brush, 2 plates

  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice and the zest of one lemon
  • ¼ cup limejuice and the zest of one lime
  • 1 cup of orange juice
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried cilantro
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
 Shish Kabobs
  • 1 pound beef (sirloin, top sirloin, filet)
  • 10 baby potatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 10 large white mushrooms
  • 10-15 cherry tomatoes
  • cooking spray
  • oil for the grill

  1.  If you are using bamboo skewers soak them in water for 30 minutes. This will prevent them from burning. Weight them down in the sink with a plate.
  2. Cut the meat into bite size chunks. Try to make the chunks the same size so that they will cook evenly.
  3. In a large glass bowl, mix all of the marinade ingredients. Reserve ¼ cup of the marinade. Store it in the fridge in the plastic container. Put the steak in the Ziploc. Pour the remaining marinade in the bag too. Place that in the fridge. (I always put this in a bowl, bag and all, because sometimes those zippers unzip. Not fun.) Marinate the steak from 2-6 hours, turning the bag over every once in a while.
    • Don’t marinate the meat for too long or it will become mushy.
  4. Wash the potatoes and boil them for 10ish minutes.  They should be completely cooked, but still firm enough to be skewered with out falling apart.  Drain them.
  5. Remove the steak from the fridge and allow it to sit out for 30 minutes. This allows it to return to room temperature and helps everything cook evenly.
  6. While the meat is resting wash and prep the veggies. Remove the stems from the mushrooms. (Chop these up and toss them in a salad.) Seed the peppers and remove the white ribs. Cut the peppers and onions into 1-1 ½ inch squares.
  7. Spray the skewers with cooking spray.
  8. Drain the steak and pat dry. Discard the used marinade.
  9. Create the kabobs by skewering the meat and veggies.
    • Vary the order that you add the ingredients. I like to put the tomatoes on the ends so that they don’t over cook and fall off.  Try to put the potatoes toward the center to make sure that they are completely cooked.
  10. Spray the kabobs with cooking spray.
  11. Warm the reserved marinade in the microwave.
  12. Prepare the grill by using the old rag and tongs to coat the grill with oil. This will ensure that the kabobs don’t stick and that you get those groovy grill marks.
  13. Start the fire.  You should grill the kabobs on an uncovered grill over direct flames. Grill for them for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating ¼ turn every few minutes. Cook 10 minutes for rare, 12 for medium rare.
  14. Remove the kabobs from the grill to a clean plate. Brush all the kabobs with the warm reserved marinade. Allow them to rest for 5 minutes.
 Serve with a salad.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

All Love Veal with Olives

The history of olives and that of humans are intertwined. The olive tree is the oldest fruit tree known to man. We have cultivated them for at least 6,000 years. The trees themselves are extremely long lived, some of them growing for 1,000 years. Olives were used for everything: lamp fuel, lubrication, food, and wood. They were so useful that they became sacred. Athena won the right to be the patron of Athens by giving the people the gift of the world's first olive tree. Odysseus blinded the Cyclops with an olive branch and thus avoided being eaten. During the ancient Olympics the winners were rewarded with a crown of olive leaves. Noah realized that the great flood waters were receding when a dove returned to the ark with an olive branch. God sent the dove to make peace with humans and this is why “extending the olive branch” means making peace to this day.

So tonight, I offer you a meal featuring this sacred fruit. Peace.  Enjoy.
Sweet wine, earthy mushrooms, salty olives, happy diner
Servings: 4-6
Time: Prep: 10 minutes; Cook: 15 Minutes
Hardware: measuring spoons and cups, a cutting board and knives, a gallon Ziploc bag, a heavy bottom skillet (I prefer a cast iron skillet), a wooden spoon, tongs, a plate, tinfoil, a whisk (I use a flat whisk)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (maybe more)
  • 2 oz pancetta (or two slices of bacon)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small onion (¼ to ½ cup)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 1b veal scalloppini (you can use chicken)
  • 1 cup pitted green olives
  • 4 oz button mushrooms
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons sweet butter (no salt)

  1. Dice the onions and garlic.
  2. Wash the mushrooms and roughly chop them.
  3. Rinse the olives under running water.  This is very important otherwise this dish will be too salty.  Roughly chop the rinsed olives.
  4. Dice the pancetta.
  5. Place the flour and cornstarch in the plastic bag. Put the scallopini in the bag and shake it like crazy to coat the veal. Set aside.
  6. Loosely tent the plate with foil.
  7. Heat the olive oil in the pan on medium high.
  8. Add the garlic, onions, and pancetta to the pan and cook for a minute or so.
  9. Push the onions, pancetta, and garlic to the side.
  10. Shake as much flour from the veal as possible and add it to the pan a few pieces at a time. Don’t crowd the veal.
  11. Because it is so thin, scallopini cooks quickly. Only allow the veal to cook for 1- 1 ½ minutes and then turn with the tongs. Cook for another minute or so on the other side.
  12. You may need to add a little more olive oil if the pan becomes dry.
  13. Remove the veal from the pan and keep it warm in the tinfoil tent.
  14. Turn the pan down to medium and add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the olives and mushrooms. Cook for another 2 or 3 minutes or until the mushrooms begin to release their liquid.
  15. Add the wine. Use the whisk to deglaze the bottom of the pan.
  16. Allow the sauce to simmer for about 5 minutes. Using the whisk, stir often, scrapping the bottom and sides of the pan as you do.
  17. Whisk in the remaining butter and simmer for another minute.
  18. Add the veal to the sauce and cook for another minute or so until everything is warmed through.
    • You will NOT need to add salt to this dish.
Serve with risotto and a baby spinach salad.