Friday, February 24, 2012

Cool Jerk

The first Friday of Lent and I realized I had nothing but chicken to cook.  Correction, I had nothing but chicken and a really nice pork roast.  Oops...the TERROR!!

Thank goodness for the Internet! saved the day!  I revised two of their recipes to make a Caribbean dinner that made me wonder if I wasn't actually in Jamaica. I used their Jerk-Spiced Shrimp and Caribbean Rice and Peas recipes to make a tropical getaway for my taste buds.

If you do not have a grill, cook the shrimp any way you prefer, but I do suggest a cast iron skillet or grill pan.  Serve with Red Stripe Light Beer, Rum Punch, or a tropical lemonade and no matter where you live, you'll suddenly be transported to a place where steel drums ring and ocean breezes soothe.

Reggae Rice
Serves at least 5 hungry folks

2 tsp. coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 small onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups brown texmati rice (or basmati)
2 & 1/2 cups water
8 oz. chicken broth
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk (I used lite)
1 can pigeon peas (I used pinto, but field peas are good)
Grated zest of one lemon
1 tsp. salt
Fresh parsley, chopped

Heat oil in Dutch oven, add onions and bell pepper.  Cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for additional 30 seconds.

Add rice, water, broth, and coconut milk.  Simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes or until rice is tender.  Add in peas, lemon zest, salt, and parsley.

Cool Jerk Shrimps (Yes, I Said Shrimps)
Serves 4 Large Helpings


2 tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (or 1 tsp. if not using fresh garlic later)
1 tsp. red pepper
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 tbsp. melted coconut oil (or olive oil)
Juice of one fresh lime (mandatory - must be fresh!)
1 clove garlic, crushed (nix if you used 1 tsp. garlic powder)
2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp
Cooking Spray (either regular or coconut cooking spray)

Combine paprika through garlic in a small bowl.  Add 1 tablespoon of seasoning to oil, lime juice, and fresh garlic.

Preheat grill.  If using grill pan or skillet, heat right before you're ready to eat.  These shrimp cook fast!  Place shrimp in a bowl after being rinsed well.  Add seasoning marinade and a pinch or two of dry seasoning.  Combine well.

Take a large piece of nonstick foil and spray with cooking spray.  Once grill has reached around 350, place shrimp on foil and transfer to grill racks.  Cook for about 5 minutes, or until shrimp are cooked and plump. If using a grill pan or skillet, cook until heated through and plump.

Serve with Reggae Rice and get to jammin'!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Positively Pre-Cooked

If you've read my blog entries before, you know I love to use pre-cooked chicken breasts that I keep in my freezer.  I buy a large package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and bake them for 45-60 minutes at 350.  Then I place them, usually by threes, into freezer bags.

This solves a lot of my dinnertime dilemmas.  I mean, A LOT.

I believe that by keeping staples at the ready - chicken broth, canned tomatoes, canned beans, onions, garlic, seasonings - that you have the ability to make any dinner easy and quick.  Please remember my first rule... (other than wash your hands before you cook)...KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Tonight's dinner is a product of this belief system.  YEA!!!!!

I didn't even defrost the two chicken breasts all the way, that's how simple it was.  The link of chorizo sausage is pre-cooked by the manufacturer.  I used the seasonings and veggies that existed already in my kitchen, and you should employ the same theory.  Don't have potatoes?  Use rice and cook it on the side.  Don't have the same seasonings?  Use ones you do have.  Some of my recipes are not versatile, they need to be made to the letter.  But most of my posts, such as this one, include recipes that you can make any which way but loose.  Give this meal a shot.  It's gonna spice up my Thursday quite nicely!

Chicken & Chorizo Stew
Serves 4


2 tsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped (I used a poblano)
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 tsp. oregano
1 link Aidell's chorizo
1 & 1/2 cups Dutch Yellow Baby Potatoes, halved
2 pre-cooked chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 pinch of saffron threads
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. Bijol powder
(If you can't find Bijol, use a mix of cumin and turmeric)

Heat a Dutch oven on medium, adding olive oil.  Saute onions, oregano and pepper until soft.  Add garlic for one minute.  Add chorizo and potatoes.  Saute for 2-3 minutes.  Add chicken and saffron.  Stir well.  Add in tomatoes, broth, paprika, and Bijol.  Cook on medium to med-low until potatoes are fork tender.

This can be served with Queso Fresco (white crumbly Mexican cheese), Feta, or even a sharp Cheddar.  A nice piece of hard bread, a glass of wine, and you've got a meal that is more than worthy of the effort and the eating.  Bon Appetit!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cochinita Pibil, Part 2

After being in the slow cooker for 5 hours, I turned the pork down on warm.  It was definitely tender by then, being boneless.  Those banana leaves, I have to say, don't smell all that grand, but they do a wonderful job at keeping the moisture in.  The finished product was beautiful and delicious!

I served the Cochinita Pibil with warm tortillas, shredded cheese, pineapple salsa, tomatillo salsa, cilantro, hot sauce, limes, and grilled corn on the cob.  We have enough pork left over to make burritos, tamales, or enchiladas.  I highly recommend not only this recipe, but the entire book!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cochinita Pibil, Part 1

I bought a cookbook by the brilliant Rick Bayless not too long ago in the quest to make more Latin-based meals.  This book is gorgeous.  Do not crack it open if your stomach is on empty.  Or even near empty.

For two weeks I wondered what to make from this cookbook until I spied the recipe for Cochinita Pibil.  This is usually a chicken dish, but this recipe called for a pork roast that is cooked in a banana leaf-lined slow cooker.  For years I've wanted to do a pig-in-the-ground party, and this recipe allowed me to do something similar but in my slow cooker.  Genius!!!

I cannot post the recipe as I do not own it or the right to publicly share it.  If you need specifics, shoot me an email.  Cooking experiments can make me pretty nervous. There's so much at stake - cost, time spent prepping and cooking, and then the wonder if the meal will even be any good.  I feel good about it this time.  So far, it's been really simple to make.  The most difficult part was locating banana leaves and the achiote block. I purchased the achiote from  Later, I found out I could have gotten it for half the price at my local Asian supermarket.  Where I also was able to find banana leaves in abundance.

I lined the slow cooker liner with banana leaves that I had frozen.  Prepping them was simple.  I ran them into a hot water bath for about 10 minutes, then trimmed them up well. Line your slow cooker however best suits the bowl of the cooker.

I made the achiote marinade with lime juice and salt, but since one of my limes had gone bad in the center, I used the juice of one clementine in order to make 1/2 cup juice.  I like the flavor of orange and pork, and the  clementine will bring a slight sweet flavor to the tart limes.  I love limes, and this meal brings about so many flavors I adore in one sitting.

If you've never seen achiote before, it is a paste of annatto seeds, garlic, vinegar, spices, and salt.  You can refrigerate it up to a year, so buy the bigger block.  You'll use it, I promise.  I plan on using mine for more cochinita pibil as well as seafood dishes.

I was supposed to use a bone-in roast but my store had the boneless roasts on sale - buy one get one.  Frugality wins out this time!

This little pork baby has to cook six hours on high, and Part 2 of this post will reveal how it all turned out. I've got my fingers crossed and my taste buds waiting in anticipation!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Greek Pizza & More

I love pizza night.

Sure, it means I have to make the dough and then roll out each pie.  But it's so worth it.  This is pizza the way we like it, without all the grease and the cheese that makes you question if it's really cheese.  Every time we order delivery pizza, I feel a little sick afterwards.  Making your own pies means controlling the chemical additives and junk that the pizza companies would rather you not know about.

Tonight was Greek Pizza night, and I threw in a Spanish one for the heck of it.  Bell peppers, tomatoes, black olives, prosciutto, feta, chorizo - all you need is a glass of vino and you're good to go!

I order my pizza flour from King Arthur Flour Company.  Trust me, this flour is worth it.  Your pizza dough will be smooth and elastic.  It will also be the perfect combination of crunchy meets chewy. If you cannot find the 00-style flour, buy a decent bread flour.  All-purpose flour just won't cut it.

You can find my recipe for pizza dough here.

The toppings we used were:

8 oz. Boar's Head Feta Cheese (I crumbled the entire block)
1 bell pepper sliced thin
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 slices purple onion, chopped
Small can sliced black olives
Parmesan, grated
McCormick's Greek Seasoning (no salt)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 link Aidells chorizo, sliced
3 oz. prosciutto, torn to pieces

The pizza dough recipe listed above (use the link) makes three pies.  Use the toppings knowing you'll need to split them three ways.  I wanted to do a chorizo/Granny Smith apple slice pizza, but I figured my family would not appreciate that.  At least it wasn't my usual fave - bell pepper and anchovy!

Use 1 tbsp. olive oil instead of pizza sauce

The last toppings are Parmesan, seasoning, and olive oil drizzle 

Bake on a pizza stone at 445 for 15 minutes

Finished Greek pizza

Some chorizo pizza goodness!!

Bottom line:  make these pies how you prefer.  The dough takes about an hour and 15 minutes from start to finish.  If you use the right flour, it takes seconds to roll out.  With a little planning, you can make meals you and your loved ones will be proud of.  Much better than delivery regret!

One More Time...

Another soup recipe.  I know, I know.  You're probably sick of all the soup I've been making.  But this one is fast and flexible.  And, if you're having the same miserable weather I am, this soup will jazz up your day a tad.

I served my soup for lunch with a slice of reduced sodium Ezekiel Bread topped with 1/2 cup sliced avocado.

~ Food Science Time ~

I'm no Sheldon Cooper, so here goes...
People ask me how to keep avocado from turning brown.  I rinse my hulled avocado under running water, then I drizzle lime juice on it.  The water rinses away the component that helps oxidize the avocado flesh and the citric acid in the lime juice helps preserve it.  Our culinary nerd moment is now complete.

Quick Black Bean Soup
Serves 6 


2 tsp. safflower or olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 Cubanelle pepper, diced
1 Serrano, diced (optional)
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 tsp. Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 (15 oz.) cans of seasoned black beans
1 (14.5 oz) can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
A bunch of cilantro, rinsed and chopped
2 tbsp. Hatch roasted green chiles, mild (optional)

In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium.  Add onion, Cubanelle, and Serrano.  Saute for about five minutes.  Add garlic, oregano, and cumin.  Saute for one more minute.

Add in beans (entire cans, do not rinse or drain), tomatoes, broth, cilantro, and chiles.  Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.  Blend with an immersion blender until 2/3 of batch is blended.  Cook for 5 more minutes on a full simmer until heated through.  Serve immediately.

Weight Watchers Points+ per bowl: 3 per one cup bowl, the avocado sandwich was another 4+ points