Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Thai Chicken Pasta

I have made variations of this recipe many times over the years. One such simplified variation I submitted to a magazine cooking contest and won 3rd place! My favorite version is one that comes together quickly on the stove top. I'm sharing that one here, including preparing the chicken. Don't let the long list of ingredients scare you! If you keep cooked, shredded chicken in the freezer, or pick up a rotisserie chicken, it makes the recipe even easier! The flavor is really in the sauce, so if you need another shortcut but you're cooking the chicken, simply season it with salt and pepper. I've made it many times for my own lunch and left out the chicken altogether! The sauce also makes a terrific dip for egg rolls or wontons.

One of the wonderful things about Asian-inspired dishes is the layers of flavor they feature : sweet, spicy, salty, bitter, and sour. This dish does a nice job of incorporating each of those elements.

Thai Chicken Pasta

For the chicken:
2 chicken breasts, cubed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons canola oil 

Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. In a small bowl, mix together the seasonings; sprinkle over the chicken. Add the chicken to the hot skillet and saute for 5-6 minutes, until just cooked through. Remove and keep warm.

For the sauce:
2 green onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground ginger, or 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable stock or even water)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional, but it's so good!)

Add the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes to the skillet and saute for about a minute. Add in the remaining ingredients, stirring well to combine. Allow it to simmer for 3-4 minutes, until it thickens slightly. If it gets too thick, just splash in a little more stock or water.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, and cook 8 ounces angel hair pasta according to package directions. Drain and add to the sauce along with the reserved chicken. Mix well; heat through and serve topped with chopped fresh cilantro, shredded cabbage, shredded carrots and/or chopped peanuts. Yield: 4-6 servings

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Rustic Apple Tart

Last weekend my daughter had plans to stay the night with a friend about an hour away. After looking at a map and realizing that we'd only be another hour away from Ellijay, the Apple Capital of Georgia, we knew what we had to do. In addition to eating some fantastic apple cider doughnuts, we picked up quite a few apples. Some for snacking, some for use in recipes. For this Rustic Apple Tart, I used Granny Smith. They stay slightly crisp and their tartness is a lovely foil for the sweet crumble topping.

Rustic Apple Tart
Pastry for a single-crust pie (the roll-out kind, not the one sold already in a pie plate) Here's my recipe!
3 medium-sized tart apples, cored, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup quick oats
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
pinch of salt

Roll out pastry dough into a circle. Place the apple slices in the middle - fan them out in a spiral pattern if you're feeling fancy - leaving about a two inch border all around. In a small bowl, mix together the streusel ingredients. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples. Fold pastry up over the edges of the apples, leaving the middle exposed. Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes, until apples are tender. You may need to cover the tart lightly with aluminum foil to prevent it from browning too much.

Monday, September 19, 2016


I think my family's obsession with bread is pretty well documented on this blog. The recipe I'm sharing today is one that is a great fall-back. I nearly always have these three simple ingredients and it's easy to mix up a batch to round out a meal. One of our family's friends named them "bisclettes" because they're like tiny versions of traditional buttermilk biscuits, and the name stuck.


1 cup sour cream
1 cup butter, melted
2 cups self-rising

In a mixing bowl, stir together the three ingredients. Spoon into mini-muffin tins. Bake at 375° for 12-15 minutes, until golden and just beginning to brown.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Lemon Kale Salad with Spiced Salmon

While I was making my grocery list the other day, I typed "salad" into the Pinterest search bar. For a second there, I thought I broke it. I could almost hear the website go, "bzrrp" as it tried to calculate the billions of well-intentioned salad recipes pinned in the database. But then I was flooded with responses and I saved lots of great salads and ideas to develop new recipes. One recipe that inspired me was Simple Kale Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette. I don't eat nearly enough veggies and when I find one that I can tolerate, like kale, I tend to use it a lot.

I had plans for a friend to come to lunch and I decided I'd use her as a guinea pig for my new salad idea. I think it turned out beautifully! There are a few elements that come together to make this dish, but every one is definitely worth it. The good news is that the vinaigrette doubles as a dressing and a marinade, plus you can make this ahead of time and keep it in the fridge.

(Salmon not shown.)

Lemon Kale Salad w/ Spiced Salmon

1 bunch kale
2 lemons, zest one and juice both
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I used aleppo pepper flakes.)
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

1-1/2 cups asparagus, cut into bite-size lengths

8 ounce salmon fillet
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

1 teaspoon butter
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

To assemble: 

Blanch the asparagus pieces (boil in salted water 2-3 minutes, cool in ice water, drain) and set aside.

Rinse the kale leaves well and strip them from the stems. Dry well. Massage the leaves gently for a few minutes. This breaks down the cellulose, making the leaves more tender and less bitter. Chop the kale and place in a large bowl with the asparagus. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon, olive oil, red pepper flakes, mustard, salt and pepper. On your cutting board, smash the garlic clove, coarsely chop and sprinkle with salt. Using the flat of your knife, smush the garlic and salt into a paste. Add it to your dressing ingredients and whisk well. Pour about half of the dressing onto the kale and toss to coat. Place in refrigerator to chill. Whisk the cayenne pepper and paprika into the remaining dressing and pour over the salmon fillet. Bake at 325° for 18-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Toss in the walnuts and seasonings. Cook, continuing to toss frequently 3-5 minutes, until the nuts are fragrant and toasted.

When ready to serve, toss the salad with the walnuts and goat cheese; top with the salmon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Italian Pasta Salad

Over the summer I set out to develop a pasta salad recipe that included some of my oldest daughter's and my favorite flavors. I wanted it to be cold, fairly light, and filling enough to be a meal on its own. I ended up serving this alongside a rotisserie chicken for the family. It was really convenient having the leftovers ready and waiting in the fridge over the next couple of days!

Italian Pasta Salad

8 ounces pasta (macaroni, penne or rotini would work well), cooked al dente and  set aside to cool
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed into bite-sized pieces

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, ricotta, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper. Stir in the herbs and spinach. Fold in the cooled pasta, then the tomatoes and mozzarella. Allow to chill in the fridge for about 4 hours before serving.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Green Smoothies

Green smoothies are all the rage right now, and it's easy to see why! They're packed with nutrition, taste fantastic, and are ridiculously easy to make. I have one for breakfast nearly every day. My morning routine is pretty consistent: wake up, drink a glass of water while standing at the sink, followed by coffee (with half and half and maybe 1/4 teaspoon brown sugar). Then in the mid-morning, around 9, I have a green smoothie. There are lots of different combinations of fruits and veggies you can use in them, and I'll share my favorites here. It's really more about a method than a recipe, per se.

Using plastic wrap, I bundle up the fruit I want to use into little packets. Several of those fit in a quart freezer bag. I like to make a few different combinations and keep them in separate, labeled bags. If you make all the same kind it's easier to put them all in a gallon-size freezer bag. When you want to make a smoothie, you have a couple of options. 1) Place the packet in the microwave for 15 seconds at half power or 2) Let it sit out on the counter for 5-10 minutes. This softens the fruit just enough to make it easier to pack into the blender cup. I place the fruit/veggies in a blender cup and add just enough orange juice or almond milk to come up halfway. Blend until smooth; drink up! The amount of liquid will vary a little depending on the fruit you used and how frozen solid it is.

(Generally, I freeze only fruit in the little bundles. I keep a bag of frozen kale and a bag of fresh spinach on-hand to add into the smoothies. To freeze kale, wash and dry it well, then place in a freezer bag. Remove every ounce of air and seal. Toss in the freezer. I have been told you can freeze spinach like this, too, but I haven't done it.)

Kitchen Sink smoothie, before adding OJ and blending.
Green Sunshine

Berry Blend
assorted berries: strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry
almond milk or OJ

Simple Green

Kitchen Sink
almond milk or OJ

Monday, September 12, 2016

Making Fresh Herbs Last

Once you bring home leafy green herbs, it's only a matter of time before they're a slimy, unusable mess. Unless, of course, you store them properly! For the long-term, you can always freeze or dry your herbs, but some recipes require fresh herbs. I've tried various methods of keeping them fresh over the years, and this is my favorite:

When your leafy herbs like cilantro (left) and Italian parsley (right) come home, you should process them right away. I rinse them well with water - cilantro especially can trap sand. Shake off the excess water and blot the leaves dry with a clean kitchen towel.

Check the herbs for yellowed or spoiled leaves. Check the stems for any trapped leaves. You want the stems to be as clean as possible. Fill a small mason jar halfway with water - but make sure none of the leaves will be underwater. Depending on how large your bunch of herbs is, you'll need a sandwich or a quart size plastic storage bag to cover them. Store in the fridge.

They'll stay fresh this way for a good 10 days. I've also used this method with small bunches of kale. The leaves stayed crisp far longer than I expected.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Southern Fish Tacos

At the grocery store fish counter one day, I fully expected to pick up a pound of cod or halibut for fish tacos. Unfortunately, they were out of both. As I pondered what I would do instead, the guy behind the counter asked what my plans were, then suggested catfish. Surprised, I took a bit of convincing, but he seemed sure it would turn out well and I decided to trust him. Boy, did that pay off! These fish tacos turned out to be amazing - We couldn't stop eating them. I kept the toppings fairly simple and the catfish was definitely the star of the meal.

Southern Fish Tacos

1 pound catfish fillets, cut cross-wise into strips
1 cup buttermilk (enough to soak the fish)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons lemon-pepper seasoning (Again, I love Savory Spice Shop!)
Vegetable/canola oil for frying

Corn tortillas

Salsa verde - so tangy and a perfect complement to the lemony fish
Shredded cabbage
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Cilantro-Lime Sauce

In a bowl, combine the fish, buttermilk and lemon juice. Let soak for at least half an hour. In a shallow dish, combine the cornmeal, flour and lemon-pepper seasoning. In a large skillet, pour in enough oil to reach a depth of about one inch. Heat to medium-high. Coat the fish in the cornmeal mixture and fry 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden-brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels, keep warm.

In another skillet, heat a small amount of oil over medium-high heat and fry the corn tortillas, 30 seconds on each side. Drain on paper towels and keep warm.

Assemble tacos and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Triple Cheese Macaroni

My kids have all at one time or another loved and hated macaroni and cheese, whether boxed or homemade. After years of experimentation, I have finally hit on a recipe/method that pushes all the right buttons for the whole family. The Boy still doesn't like mac and cheese in general, but he'll eat this with minimal fuss. Be sure to shred your own cheese, as it will melt much better than the pre-shredded kind!

Triple Cheese Macaroni

16 ounces dry macaroni noodles
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups milk
1-1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, cook the noodles according to the package directions. In the meantime, melt two tablespoons of butter in a small skillet. Sprinkle in the flour, cayenne and garlic powder, plus pepper to your liking. Cook for one minute, whisking to combine. Slowly whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer and allow the mixture to thicken. Once the sauce has thickened, remove it from the heat and whisk in the cheddar and Swiss. Taste and add salt if it's needed. When the pasta is cooked al dente, pour into a colander to drain and return the empty pot to the stove. Melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter; toss the pasta in to coat. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese, black pepper and a touch of salt. Stir well; top with cheese sauce and stir again. Serve! Yield: 8-10 servings