“Lamb-y” Lamb

This is not a political statement, and maybe it’s all in my head, but I think American lamb is much less “lamb-y” then imported Australian/New Zealand lamb.

This can’t be a crazy concept since all naturally grown/cultivated things tend to pick up the influences of the local “terrior.” Maybe there is something about the Australian/New Zealand countryside that helps contribute to that strong “game” taste in the meat that I am not a fan of.

However with enough garlic and lemon any lamb is bound to taste great! Typically I cook my lamb with a heavy greek-style red sauce, with plenty of garlic and some cinnamon undertones. Recently I was inspired to lighten things up and keep it light with a flavorful marinade of lemon, garlic, rosemary and my-not-so- secret lamb seasoning blend.

I marinated a small (2lb) boneless leg portion of lamb overnight in this flavorful marinade. Patted it dry without scraping off too much of the seasoning and sprinkled it with fresh salt and pepper. After leaving it out for 30 mins or so to get the chill from the fridge off, it I roasted it at the usual 20 mins/lb in a preheated 400 degree oven. Use a thermometer and trust it. 145 degrees internal temperature is considered medium well* and if you pull it out and it’s reading 140 degrees – trust your self and keep it out, lightly covered with foil to finish while resting. It should continue and come up about another 10 degrees. DON”T put it back in the oven “for just a few extra minutes” like I am always tempted to do. And do.

The line between “medium-well” and overdone is a thin one. As is often the case and becuase I am such a worry-wort about the cooking temperature, I may have crossed over that line. Oops! The meat was still tasty and tender and my husband didn’t mind but I probably should have skipped those last few minutes in the oven and left well enough alone! ( or in this case left “medium” alone!)

well done lamb

I did serve it with spinach rice (“Spanakorizo”) and a simple, chunky red sauce made from canned tomatoes poured around the lamb in the beginning, mixing with the roasting juices in the pan.

 *Author’s Note:   I prefer my lamb medium to medium-well but if you like yours a little less done, 120-130 degrees internal temperature is where you want to be for “medium-rare.” However don’t go by me, as I am not official – go to the FDA website!

 

 

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Light And Bright

That’s how I like my chicken soup.

I like a broth that is flavorful and rich but still light and little sparkle from some lemon never hurt any chicken soup.

This soup makes a nice cheerful bowl in March, especially when winter never seems to end !

chicken soup

This soup couldn’t be easier…

I started out with some diced chicken breast and onions in a slow cooker with enough water (fortified with a bouillon cube)  to fill the cooker. (I was out of box stock but you could use that too or homemade if you had it!) I added carrots and lima beans from the freezer about halfway through.  I cooked the light egg noodles separate and just spoon the soup over at serving time with plenty of salt and pepper and a generous twist of lemon when you serve. If you had some leftover rice, that would be nice too. Cooking times vary depending on your slow cooker and whether you use the low or high setting, but basically you need the chicken to be cooked through and frozen veggies too.

Move Over Blueberries….

…You don’t have to rule the pancake world! Other berries can play too!!

Inspired the other day by Trisha’s blueberry pancakes but not having any blueberries (or sour cream) on hand, I had to make a few changes to the original recipe.

I almost always have fresh strawberries in the fridge and so I thought “why let blueberries have all the fun?”

Strawberries and lemon posing for their "beauty shot"I just cut the strawberries into smaller chunks so they would distribute evenly in the pancake batter and have a chance to “cook” a bit in the brief time that a pancake stays on the griddle.

I also went a little heavier on the lemon zest than the recipe advised, because really, “who doesn’t love a little lemon?!”

With the substitution of some low-fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, these pancakes turn out so light and yummy. You don’t feel weighted down after eating 3 or maybe like 6. (they were small!)

Make sure to use real maple syrup and for a little something extra, warm the syrup and add just a tiny dash of cinnamon to it.

Also a good trick is to cool all the extra pancakes on a rack and then package them for the freezer in singles or enough to make a serving. They can be pulled out and heated up in your toaster – just like those ones that “pop” out of your toaster only with out all the artificial flavors/colors.

pancakes 2

Perfect Party Salad

Are you looking for a light, refreshing salad to serve at your next summer party? Something different from the standard potato and pasta salad?

Well not to toot my own horn but…”toot toot”….I have got just the thing for you!

Rice salad with veggies and a lemon-basil dressing.

I served this alongside some grilled pork tips that I marinated overnight but those could just as easily be fish, chicken, beef or turkey – whatever floats your boat!

But back to the salad…

Fresh, light and lemony – This can be made the night before (perfect party food!) and than just toss and re-season before serving. It would be nice to garnish with some lemon wedges, a fact I didn’t think about until after I took the picture. A food stylist I am not.

I used some of my favorite veggies – partly for taste and partly for color. (Zucchini and yellow bell pepper respectively)

Of course no dish is complete unless I can find a way to get tomatoes into it!

However can you guess what is missing? And I didn’t even miss it…. CHEESE!  Add some at your own option. Some crumbled feta might be nice.

The recipe

Serves A LOT – like 10-15 servings. Cut in half if you are not having a party.

2 cups raw rice cooked via your favorite method to yield about 6+/- cups cooked rice, cooled

1 medium zucchini, sliced thin (think “mandolin”) lengthwise to create ribbons, but you could just as easily dice.

1 large sweet yellow bell pepper, fine dice

3 small tomatoes, diced

2 cups chiffonade cut basil leaves (loose pack, measure after cutting)

3 lemons, zested and juiced. Will need about 3/4 to 1 cup juice.

1/2 + 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or other oil of choice

1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard

Fresh minced garlic to taste, I like a couple teaspoons.

Plenty of salt and pepper

Combine the cooked rice, zucchini, lemon zest, yellow pepper and tomatoes by lightly tossing. Now gently stir in the 1/4 cup of oil to just moisten things.  In a separate bowl whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup of oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and some salt/pepper. Now pour this dressing over the rice and veggies. Add the basil and gently fold to combine. You don’t want to bruise the basil leaves. Taste for seasoning – add more salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least an hour – longer if your cooked rice was still a little warm.

Production Notes

I used a nice white, long grain, Basmati rice and made sure to cook it carefully so the grains would be separate and fluffy. You could use your favorite rice instead – even brown! But I think a “sticky rice” (like sushi rice) might not make as nice of a fluffy salad.

Just Add Couscous

Open 1 can of your favorite black olives.

Chop up some of your favorite fresh herbs from the garden.

Squeeze a lemon for some juicy brightness

Of course you must have some minced shallots.

A little butter always makes everything nicer.

Don’t forget to season it…

And Just add Couscous!

Six Steps to Dinner

Step 1: Frozen low-fat, whole wheat ravioli ( We’re trying the “healthy” thing.)

Step 2: Fresh asparagus –  they were on sale and we love them.

Step 3: Fresh lemon juice – still using the shipment from the relatives.

Step 4: Leftover rotisserie chicken – great for sandwiches and cabinet stew.

Step 4: Parmesan cheese – ’cause I can’t eat anything without cheese.

Step 5: Frozen pesto (Hard to remember the garden under all that snow.)

Step 6: Eat and enjoy (I do need to work on my “plating” skills.)

Full Disclosure:

Olive oil, salt and pepper were used in the making of this dinner.

When Relatives Mail You Lemons…

…Make dinner with them!

My dad grew up in southern California – land of citrus trees, surfers and traffic. His family is still on the west coast.

Every so often one of his sisters will send a box of citrus or avocados or both.  They have these trees right in their backyards. Lemons, oranges, persimmons – you name it!

Right now I have a crisper drawer full of lemons from the last shipment. Organic too!

I was at work the other day thinking about what I was going to make for dinner that night.

Of course doing my work all the while 😉

And then I took a moment to play “recipe roulette” with eatyourbooks.com

This website indexes the recipes in your cookbooks!

Recipe roulette works like this: I log into my account and I search my indexed cookbooks for recipes containing ingredients of chicken and lemons. Who knew that I had 68 recipes with chicken and lemons in them among the many books on my shelf!

Here is where the roulette comes in. This website gives a list of the main ingredients but not the actual recipe – they only index the recipes for easy search.  So I know I have the chicken and the lemons and I go home and “hope” I have the rest on hand and if I don’t… I improvise – in the spirit of making a “cabinet stew”.

After arriving home and consulting “Everyday Pasta” by Giada De Laurentiis – for a recipe of  “chicken in lemon cream” that I had no idea was hiding in that book; I realize that I have no fresh parsley and no penne pasta. But that is OK because I have rotini and a small jar of capers calling out from the pantry.

Looks like Chicken Piccata with mushroom lemon cream sauce for dinner!

(I also had some mushrooms to use up!)

Oh and a chance to use my new simple juicer!! (upper right in top photo)

And Brussels Sprouts, because you always need a green veggie.

…Now on to “lemon bars” – it seems I have 5 different recipes among my cookbook collection!