Retirement Day

or as some might call it … Superbowl Sunday.

I call it Retirement Day because I am hoping a certain quarterback has enough sense to make this his last game. As a Patriots fan I think it’s better to get this guy his last ring and get him outta here.  So that is why today I root for the arch-enemy and not the new young talented star who probably actually deserves the win.

No matter what you call the day, it definitely involves food!

I suggest some nontraditional game day food of stuffed peppers. Filled with spicy Chorizo sausage, rice and tomato sauce – they are big on flavor and easy to make.

(Notice my subtle nod to team colors today.)

The Recipe

2 links ( about 1- 1 1/2 cups) chorizo sausage diced small (I use a fully cooked, locally made version, but you can use your favorite brand)

1 small (about 3/4 cup) sweet onion fine diced

2 large sweet bell peppers – your choice of colors, tops cut off and diced, seed/ribs removed

2 cups +/- cooked rice

8oz can of tomato sauce (I like the “Spanish style”)

(2) 1/4 cup hot water (separate)

1 tsp sugar (or sweetener of choice)

shredded or grated Parmesan cheese to top each pepper ( a couple of tablespoons apiece)

Salt and Pepper to taste

spray a baking dish with cooking spray, add 1 of the 1/4 cups of hot water. Place the peppers in the dish either on their side split in half (as I did in photo) or upright on their ends. Cover tightly with foil and bake 20 mins in preheated 350 degree oven. While those are cooking, saute the chorizo, onion, pepper tops, salt and pepper in a medium hot saute pan till the sausage starts to get a little crispy, the onions are browning and soft. The pan probably won’t need any oil to start as the sausage is quite fatty – but if you feel like it needs it start with a tablespoon of oil or so in the saute.  Turn the heat down and add the rice and the 2nd 1/4 cup of hot water to help re-moisten the cooked rice and de-glaze the pan. Once all combined and the water is incorporated. Add the tomato sauce and sugar and turn off heat. Mix thoroughly and taste for seasoning adjustment. Pull the peppers out of the oven, drain off excess water – they should be a little soft but holding their shape. Fill each of the peppers with plenty of filling, top with some cheese and return to oven uncovered for another 20 mins at 350 degrees.

 

 

Freezer Stew

and cabinet too.

Recently I was searching for dinner in my kitchen. I wanted something that could be prepared quickly, with ingredients already on hand, and of course healthy and delicious.  Not that I am making that cliché New Year’s resolution mistake of starting a diet or anything. no. not me. (okay maybe just a little – but to be fair the office treats were out of hand!)

I always have an assortment of frozen veggies and veggie blends in the freezer along with leftover cooked rice. ( yup I freeze that too!) Onions of course are a staple in any kitchen. Having some chicken breast was just lucky.

A simple stir-fry sauce can be made with soy sauce, ground ginger, garlic, salt and pepper.

I start my chicken pieces in a little oil and get them about 75 percent cooked before adding the frozen veggies. If you are using fresh onion – go ahead and put that in right away with the chicken. After the frozen veggies go in (bonus that the ice crystals melt and deglaze the pan!) toss everything around for a few minutes. I prefer my veggies not overly done. If you like things a bit more tender, put them in a little earlier and leave them on longer. Once all the ingredients are basically cooked to your liking, add your stir-fry sauce in. I don’t add the sauce in too soon, because it will burn before the chicken is done. The idea is to let this sauce just coat everything and cook a bit too.

As soon everything is cooked through, sauce coating everything, toss it over some rice. (leftover, defrosted or prepared fresh) If you don’t have a sesame allergy and you have some toasted sesame oil on hand… a drizzle of this would be just great on top.

Who needs take out?

Avocado Lottery

Picking out an avocado at the store is a little like buying a dollar scratch ticket. You never know what you are going to get. Big winner or just a waste of a dollar.

It’s a low investment so you are not too worried if it doesn’t work out. But the dream of choosing just the right one and scoring big is strong! Oh the things you could do with the winnings.

When I pick out a winning avocado I know immediately that it needs to be enjoyed simply. The buttery flesh of a perfectly ripe avocado only needs a little salt, some ground cumin, a splash of lime juice. That’s it unless you want just a hint of hot sauce.

The secret to my nachos is simplicity. Oh and put the cheese down first. I use the broiler to melt the cheese onto the tops of the chips first. That way you get no soggy chips under there, the cheese acts like a barrier between the wet stuff and the chips. Next some fresh diced tomatoes if you can get your hands on some this time of year. A pinch of salt and pepper. The final topping is the perfect lottery-winning avocado. Mashed up with the above mentioned and simply spread on top. The avocado all fresh and velvety on top of cheesy, crisp chips. Truth be told you could leave off the tomatoes but why would you ever want to do that!

The colors are rather appropriate for the season, no?

The colors are rather appropriate for the season, no?

 

 

 

Co-Workers

My co-workers are a great source of inspiration in many ways but when it comes to food…look out waistline!

First it was the cheesecake, then the purple potato loaded with butter and now some yummy roasted spaghetti squash! True that the spaghetti squash is not new to me. You can see my previous post on this wonder-veggie here.

But she did get me thinking about the many ways to serve it and of course covered in red sauce and cheese immediately came to mind!

But first the roasting…

spaghetti squash

I actually roast mine totally plain. I simply cut it down the middle (careful!) and place it cut face down on a parchment lined cookie sheet. No oil, no salt, no pepper.

The steam from the moist squash innards will cook it perfectly. I like to go about 30-40 minutes in a 400 degree oven until it’s just tender, preferring to under-cook it a bit since it usually gets cooked again in the full recipe.

spaghetti and meatballs

use jar sauce and pre-made meatballs for quick and easy assembly. (I won’t tell!)

Now the tender squash strings are ready for anything you want to throw at them! Butter and fresh herbs perhaps? Maybe a cream sauce? Or as I did recently with red sauce, cheese and yes some meatballs!!

This made for an easy, make-ahead dish that could hang out in the oven till everybody was ready to eat! It could just as easily been wrapped and frozen at this point for another more busy night!

No matter how you serve it, you are sure to win the crowd over. Even the husbands who don’t usually eat vegetables!

 

 

Purple

My coworker was eating the most beautiful potato I had ever seen the other day.

It was purple!

It was a Stokes® Purple Sweet Potato to be exact. It’s really the color of purple, not just hinting at being purple, but so deep and rich in it’s ‘purple-ness’ it is hard to believe that it is a natural product…but it is!

These are not Photoshopped -they are real… and delicious!

And as my co-worker pointed out they have that same earthy flavor and consistency of roasted chestnuts.  Definitely different and more complex than your average sweet potato.

I just ate them with butter and sea salt but if you need them to be sweeter – sprinkle a little brown sugar on them.

 

 

Talking Turkey

This time of year office talk inevitably turns to what everybody is doing for Thanksgiving and more importantly what they will be eating.  One co-worker mentioned that she really doesn’t eat much turkey throughout the year, while another mentioned that he uses it in some form a couple of times a week. Still another co-worker talked about how juicy her turkey burgers were.

Naturally all this turkey talk had me craving turkey well before the big day. It also made me think about how often I eat turkey. (not that much actually) At this point I couldn’t wait till the holiday to have some turkey – I needed to satisfy my craving soon with a little “pre-game” turkey dinner.

turkey dinner

I found a turkey breast that was reasonably sized ( there is only 2 in my house after all) and some beautiful veggies at the local public market.

I roasted them at the same time but in different pans. The veggies were spread on a sheet pan with parchment, coated in olive oil, salt, pepper and ground cumin.

The turkey breast was massaged with butter and sprinkled with salt, pepper, dried rosemary and poultry seasoning. The turkey breast sat atop a bed of diced onion, celery and apple. The turkey juices, melted butter and soft veggies makes a wonderful chunky sauce to serve alongside.

The turkey breast, once cooled, can be sliced thin to make the most wonderful turkey sandwiches!

Soup Season

It is soup season here in New England and homemade soup is often overlooked in favor of opening a can. I have opened many a can and will in the future I am sure, but this particular day I opted for an easy homemade version.

I used only a couple fresh items (celery, onion, chicken) and the rest came from the pantry and freezer.  It started out as a thought of “chicken corn chowder” but when I discovered that I actually only had a 1/4 of a bag of frozen corn in the freezer, it quickly became “use up some of the other random frozen veggies in the freezer soup.”

creamy chicken veggie and rice soup

I started by sauteing the cut up chicken pieces in butter. (The flavor is in the “brown!”) Next I sautéed the celery and onion  in the pan. (classic technique) I used a can of cream of mushroom soup (everybody’s “favorite recipe-add-in!”) to give the soup a rich creaminess. The frozen veggie selection could really be anything you like that happens to be hanging around your freezer: peas, squash cubes, you name it!  Some left over cooked rice at the end gave this soup a hearty nature.

The Recipe

1 1/2 cups +/- (3-4 small stalks) of celery ( I like to peel the strings first before dicing – it really makes a difference!)

1 1/2 cups +/-  (1/2 medium) onion – diced

1 cup frozen corn (fresh or frozen)

1 cup chopped/sliced carrots (fresh or frozen)

1 cup lima beans (frozen or fresh if you can get your hands on them!)

1 can (10 oz) cream of mushroom soup (I happen to have a version with roasted garlic too – it made a nice difference)

2 cups low sodium chicken broth/stock (heated up)

1 lb chicken cut into bite size pieces – no bones or skin. (I used white meat but dark would be delicious)

2 tsp poultry seasoning

1 tsp dry sage

2-4 tablespoons butter to saute ( use oil if you like instead)

Salt and pepper to taste/season

Coat the chicken pieces in 1 tsp of the poultry seasoning and a pinch of salt and pepper. Brown the pieces with 2 tb of butter in a heavy bottom pot over med-high heat. Remove and set aside. Add more butter if pot is too dry and saute the onions and celery with another pinch of S/P until softened and golden. Add the chicken pieces back in. De-glaze the pan with the 2 cups of stock. Add in the can of soup*.  Add the 2nd tsp of poultry seasoning and the dry sage. ( leave out the extra sage if you’re not a fan of a heavy sage-flavor.) Bring up to a low simmer. Add the corn, lima beans and carrots.** Let the soup simmer, partially covered, for 20-25 mins until chicken is fully cooked and tender. Add the cooked rice and warm through before serving.  Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper to taste. NOTE: I don’t add the rice till just before serving so the soup doesn’t get too gummy.

* use a gluten-free brand of soup if you want this dish to be completely GF.

** if using raw carrots add them in with the celery and onion in the saute to help get them started cooking and softening.

Makes approximately 4-6 bowls depending on how big your servings.