Tag Archives: Garlic

Mmm…Pork! Country Style Pork Ribs with Tomatoes & Red Wine

Count me among the many meat-eaters that love pork…the flavors, the succulence, the aroma as it cooks…I do love a good hunk of pork! And is it really all that bad for you? The recently shelved “other white meat” campaign would have had us believe it is no worse for you than chicken. While it’s true, there can be about the same amount of fat as chicken, there can also be a significant amount of calories from fat depending on the cut.

In my wiser years I have naturally become more conscious of my eating habits. I hardly ever eat bacon anymore and practice moderation when it comes to all things pork. Believe it or not, I only cook pork twice, maybe three times a month. Even so, the reason it shows up on my blog quite often is because it is indeed one of my favorite things!

While I do make a habit of choosing the leaner cuts, country style pork ribs generally isn’t one of them. I think I actually got a little giddy when I found these nicely lean boneless ribs at Aldi last week. I picked them up and excitedly anticipated giving them a try. With the long cooking of the braise they came out wonderfully tender, had only a little line of fat along one edge and the flavor was chock full of porky goodness!

I have discovered that grating the garlic on a microplane creates an intensely garlicky flavor, so much so that I only used about half the garlic I used to use. Speaking of flavor, the browning in this recipe gives it a nice head start and the tomatoes and the wine contribute to both flavor and tenderness. Lastly, covering the pan with foil creates an extra good seal to prevent moisture loss and helps retain all that good flavor.

I served this dish over spinach pappardelle; the wide noodles did a good job of collecting all that sumptuous sauce. You could also use egg noodles, ziti, or rigatoni.

Country Style Pork Ribs with Tomatoes & Red Wine

4 to 6 – Boneless country style pork ribs
1 – 28 Ounce can whole tomatoes including juice
½ Cup – Dry red wine
1 – Small Onion, diced
1 – Branch of celery, diced
1 – Medium carrot, grated
1 – Clove of garlic, very finely minced
1 – Sprig fresh rosemary
½ tsp. each – dried oregano, dried thyme
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven or a large heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat until almost smoking. Season the ribs well on both sides with kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper and sear until well browned on all sides (about 10 minutes over all). Set ribs on a plate to return to the pan later.

Add onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and herbs to the same pan and cook stirring often until the onions become transparent, about 6-8 minutes. Add the wine to the pan and stir to loosen any browned bits. When the wine has reached a rapid boil add the tomatoes and the juice from the can, gently crushing them as you add them to the pan.

Return the pork to the pan nestling the ribs into the sauce, bring to a light boil then cover the Dutch oven or pan with aluminum foil. Place the lid on the pan pressing to seal it well then flatten the foil around the sides. Bake 1-1/2 hours and allow 15 minutes rest before serving. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy,

Randy

Fusion Recipe: Orange Beef with Rosemary Soy Sauce

Photo by Kathy

Much like our crock pot, the pressure cooker spends most of the time collecting dust on the bottom shelf of the bakers rack. And, also like the crock pot, every time I use our pressure cooker I end up saying “Man, I love this thing!” Invariably, I make a mental note vowing to use the pressure cooker more often. Considering how this dinner turned out…perhaps it’s time I kept one of those little promises to myself.

Some of my favorite and most beloved comfort foods are stews and braised dishes which are for the most part cooked long and slow. Not exactly weeknight fare if you will. But the pressure cooker brings it all within reach. This dish, prepared traditionally, could take as long as 4 hours to cook; on this night, thanks to the pressure cooker, dinner was on the table in just over an hour. Yep, that’s right; I made this on a Tuesday evening after work in a little more than an hour!

If you are unfamiliar with pressure cooking, there are some great articles on the web with two of my favorite sites being Miss Vickie’s and Fabulous Foods . As a bonus (much like braising) it is claimed that pressure cooking destroys far fewer nutrients than other cooking methods making it a healthy addition to your kitchen arsenal. If you do not own a pressure cooker, by all means start reading up on them…they are safe, convenient and I simply cannot recommend this cooking method enough!

Because pressure cooking happens so fast there is not always time for flavor to develop. To counter this trend I started this recipe cooking hot, almost like a stir fry, because I wanted to build up as much flavor as possible before putting on the lid. I call this recipe a fusion because I used red wine and rosemary which are not typical in an Asian style stew. As an afterthought, a few orange peels would also bump up the “citrusy” flavor and speaking of flavor, feel free to add a little more sriracha if you like things spicy.

I still had a bunch of fresh kale around so I served this stew simply spooned over quick braised kale with a little ginger, garlic, lower sodium soy sauce and a splash of water. Also I will include notes below for a traditional braise for those of you who will not be using a pressure cooker. P.S. If you go out and get one I promise to use my pressure cooker again before it has the time to gather that coat of dust!

Orange Beef with Rosemary Soy Sauce

1-1/2 Pounds – Beef chuck, trimmed and cut into roughly 1” cubes
1 – Medium Onion, halved lengthwise then sliced lengthwise
1 – Medium Daikon radish, peeled and cut into large cubes (the Daikon was about the size of a large cucumber)
½ Cup plus 1/8 Cup reserved – Fresh orange juice
½ Cup – Lower sodium soy sauce
¼ Cup – Dry red wine
3 Cloves – Garlic, minced
1-1/2 Tbsp – Fresh ginger, minced
1-1/2 Tbsp – Agave nectar
2 Sprigs – Fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp – Fish sauce
1 Tbsp – Corn Starch
½ Tbsp – Sriracha (Chinese red pepper sauce)
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Sesame oil
Olive oil
Sesame seeds and sliced green onions for garnish

In an uncovered pressure cooker over medium high heat, warm 1-1/2 Tbsp each of Sesame and Olive oil until shimmering. When the oil is quite hot, add the beef cubes and cook, stirring often, until any exuded liquid has evaporated and some browning has occurred. Add the onions and agave nectar to the beef and continue cooking and stirring about 1 minute before adding the garlic and ginger. Allow this to cook, while still stirring often, until the onions are transparent.

When the onions have become transparent stir in the red wine and as this comes to a boil, scrape up any browned bits that may have stuck to the cooking surface. Add all remaining liquid ingredients, the daikon radish cubes and the rosemary (leaving the reserved orange juice aside). Stir gently to mix the ingredients, and then lock on the lid to the pressure cooker.

Leave the heat on medium high until the pressure has reached optimal cooking pressure, then lower the heat to medium low. Cook 30 minutes while monitoring pressure, lowering or raising heat marginally as needed to maintain optimal pressure. After 30 minutes remove the pressure cooker from heat and allow it to cool naturally until the pressure falls to zero.

When the cooker is safe to open, carefully remove most of the stewed solids to a large serving bowl using a spider skimmer or a slotted spoon, leaving the sauce in the cooker. Return the cooker to heat and bring to a boil over medium high heat once more. In a small bowl, whisk the reserved orange juice and the corn starch together to form a slurry before stirring it immediately into the sauce. Continue stirring until the sauce returns to a boil and thickens slightly.

When the sauce has thickened, very gently fold the sauce back into the stew. Serve over brown rice, braised greens, or quinoa and garnish, if desired, with sliced green onions and sesame seeds.

Note: For a traditional braise follow the recipe to the point where the pressure cooker is closed (using a heavy bottomed Dutch oven rather than a pressure cooker). Cover the Dutch oven with a layer of aluminum foil, then a heavy lid and bake in a 325 degree oven for 1-1/2 hours. Check for doneness, re-cover and bake 30 minutes more if necessary. Then follow the recipe from the point at which the pressure cooker is opened.

Enjoy,

Randy

Chicken Penne Mediterranean

Boneless skinless chicken breast can be so boring sometimes! Yesterday morning I had taken two frozen breast halves out to thaw and thought all day about how I was going to prepare them; I ran the gamut from simple and uncomplicated to full blown kitchen chemistry lab. By the time I left work I had in my mind visited Italy, Spain, and the South of France, stopped off in Ireland for a while and even hung out in Mexico and the Deep South!

When I finally got to the grocery store I was feeling totally uninspired so I picked up salad ingredients and a bottle of Pinot Grigio and headed home. I figured I would cook the chicken simply, using whatever I could dig up in the pantry. Then as I dug around I began to form an idea; I had zucchini that needed to be used, pasta, a giant jar of capers, Spanish olives, a can tomatoes and bingo that was it…We were going to the Mediterranean!

Drawing on fond memories of Snapper Veracruz and Pasta Puttanesca recipes I had prepared in the past I landed somewhere between simple and a science experiment. I cooked the chicken separately from the sauce because oftentimes when chicken is cooked in a liquid, it produces an unappealing protein scum (for lack of a better description). This also allowed for a good browning of the meat, assisted by a little tomato paste, that really added a richness to the final product. The anchovy paste and the final tablespoon of capers also boosted the flavor of the sauce.

Note: If it seems your sauté pan is not large enough to hold everything use a large bowl to fold together, the sauce and the pasta.

Chicken Penne Mediterranean

1 – 28 Oz Can, Peeled Whole Tomatoes
2 – Lg. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast Halves, trimmed and cut in ¾ to 1 inch chunks
8 Oz – Whole Wheat Penne
2 – Med. Zucchini, halved lengthwise then sliced
1 – Med Onion, Quartered then sliced
1 – Small Carrot, finely grated
¼ Cup – Capers, 1 Tbsp reserved
¼ Cup – Green Spanish Olives, pitted
¼ Cup – Dry White Wine
¼ Cup – Balsamic Vinegar
¼ Cup – Chicken Stock
1 Tbps – Tomato Paste
1 Branch – Celery, sliced
3 Cloves – Garlic, minced (divided)
1 Lg. Sprig – Fresh Rosemary
1 tsp. – Dried Oregano
¼ tsp – Anchovy Paste (Optional)
Fresh Ground Pepper
Fresh Ground – McCormick’s Italian Seasoning Grinder
Olive Oil
Fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved

In a large sauté pan over med heat warm 4 Tbsp. of olive oil until shimmering. Add 2 cloves minced garlic, anchovy paste and about ¼ Tbsp. of ground Italian seasonings to the pan and sauté 1 minute, stirring. Stir in onions and celery and cook stirring occasionally until the onions begin to turn translucent. Stir in the carrots, rosemary, and oregano, and cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Add the wine and allow it to come to a boil, scraping up any browned bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the tomatoes, carefully crushing them as you add them to the pan. Add the capers and olives and allow the sauce to come to a boil once again. Reduce the heat to a steady simmer and cook 30 minutes. Stir in balsamic vinegar and continue simmering.

Meanwhile warm 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large non-stick pan over high heat. When oil is shimmering, add 1 clove of garlic and stir briskly, 30 seconds. Stir in chicken and cook stirring for 1 minute then add the tomato paste. Continue cooking, stirring often until the chicken has browned and just cooked through. Add the cooked chicken, zucchini, and chicken stock to the sauce and continue simmering until the zucchini is just cooked through. Season to taste with fresh ground black pepper and remove and discard the rosemary sprig.

While sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook per package instructions. When the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain (do not rinse!) in a colander and fold the pasta, along with the reserved tablespoon of capers, into the sauce. Serve garnished with shaved parmesan.

Enjoy,

Randy

Menu – Crispy Salmon with Crash Hot Potatoes and Braised Kale

(Another installment in How To Stretch Those Dinner Dollars…)

I am usually wary of grocery store fish counters but I found the nicest, very fresh, fillets of Farm Raised Steelhead on sale at Albertson’s yesterday. As an avid fisherman I have learned to appreciate fresh fish and when or if I do purchase fresh fish it must first pass a few very important tests. First, the fish must never be frozen. I often see “previously frozen” fish at the fish counter, thawed and displayed on ice. If it was frozen why did they thaw it? How long ago was it thawed? I’m not saying I won’t purchase frozen fish. I just prefer to examine the packaging myself (for me it should be flash frozen or vacuum sealed) and I prefer to thaw it myself…thank you very much.

My second test is visual. Does the fish look fresh? If it is a whole fish the eyes should look clear, not clouded. The skin should be firm and glistening and should not look dry or wrinkled and scales should not be loose or falling off. Fillets too should glisten with moisture and should never look dried out. All fresh fish, whole or filleted, should be kept on ice and unwrapped. If the fish is just lying on a rack or shelf, or if it is packaged and wrapped, I’ll usually keep looking.

Next, how does it feel? If you press your finger on a fresh whole fish it should feel firm. The flesh should spring back quickly when you take your finger away. A fillet may not be as firm but if you press your finger into a fillet and remove it, the flesh should immediately spring back. If an indention remains when you take your finger away, or if the fish feels mushy, then the fish is probably not the freshest. Lastly and simply, how does it smell? You may feel a little funny asking but really, I’ve never even had a person behind a fish counter look surprised. I always ask to smell the fish which should smell fresh and clean, perhaps a little like the mist of a breaking wave…and never, ever should it smell fishy or strong.

The Albertson’s Farm Raised Steelhead fillets passed every test with flying colors. Not only that, at $5.99 per pound it was a great deal! The 1-1/2 pound fillet was big enough for two dinners for 2 for Kathy and I which works out to about $2.25 a plate. Not bad for fresh fish! I still had half a bunch of kale from the other night and I wanted to use that up so this Saturday night dinner really was quite the value meal.

Speaking of feeling funny…I feel a little funny posting other people’s recipes on my blog. If this is going to be “Recipes Randy Cooks” though, then it should most definitely include recipes created by others. Kat loves the crispy salmon skin the sushi chefs make so I was looking for a way to crisp the skin when I found this video by Gordon Ramsay. I was getting a little tired of rice so I chose an old favorite potato recipe, Crash Hot Potatoes. Like I told my friends on Facebook, if you have not tried this potato recipe…do it…do it now! You will not be disappointed.

Menu – Crispy Salmon with Crash Hot Potatoes and Braised Kale

For the Kale

About 2 Cups – Fresh Kale, stemmed and cut into bite sized pieces
2 Med – Shallots, Halved, then sliced lengthwise
2 Cloves – Garlic, minced
A couple of Lemon Peels (Left over from making the lemon vinaigrette and lemon zest used in the other 2 recipes)
1 Sprig – Fresh Rosemary
¼ Cup – Chicken Stock
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat and cook the shallots and garlic until just beginning to brown. Remove to a bowl and set aside. Add another Tbsp. olive oil to the pan and sauté the kale for two minutes before adding the lemon peels, rosemary, chicken stock, and salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes.

Remove the cover, add the shallots & garlic back into the pan and continue simmering uncovered a few minutes more allowing most of the broth to evaporate. Remove the lemon peels and rosemary and serve with a drizzle of the lemon vinaigrette from the fish recipe.

For the Potatoes

4 Med – Red Bliss or Yukon Gold Potatoes, whole, two inches or less in diameter
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 Sprig – Fresh Rosemary, stem removed & chopped fine
Lemon Zest (from the fish recipe)
Olive Oil

While pre-heating the oven to 450 degrees, boil the potatoes until they are just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drizzle olive oil on a foil-lined sheet pan and place the potatoes on the pan. Using the bottom of a jar or drinking glass, gently but firmly press the potatoes until they burst, then flatten them to about ½ inch thick while trying not to break them apart. Drizzle each potato with olive oil, season with kosher salt & fresh ground pepper, and sprinkle with the rosemary. Bake until the potatoes are browned and crispy, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with a little of the lemon zest and serve.

For the Fish…

2 Portions – Salmon or Steelhead, 4-6 oz each, skin on
1 Sprig – Fresh Rosemary, stem removed & chopped fine
Zest of 1 Lemon
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil
Lemon Vinaigrette (I used 1 recipe of Good Seasons Italian Dressing made with lemon juice instead of vinegar.)

Rinse and pat dry the fish so that it is very dry. Using a very sharp knife, make a series of deep slices into the skin, crossways along the center, about every three eighths of an inch. (The slices should not reach the edges of the fillet.) Season the skin side with kosher salt, lemon zest, and chopped rosemary making sure to get plenty of the seasonings down into the slices. Drizzle with olive oil and set aside until your sides have been cooked and are ready to serve.

When you are ready to cook the fish, Heat 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium high heat until the oil begins to smoke. Carefully place the fish into the pan, skin side down, and do not move it until the fish appears to be cooked about three quarters of the way through. While it is cooking add salt and fresh pepper to the exposed side.

When the fish appears to be cooked about three quarters of the way through, gently turn it over. Cook 2-3 minutes, turn again, and cook one minute more on the skin side. Remove the fish from the pan and plate skin side up. Drizzle lightly with the lemon vinaigrette and serve.

Enjoy,

Randy

Menu – Pan Seared Pork Chops with a Dijon “Cream” Sauce, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and Sautéed Kale with Caramelized Onions and Garlic

Oh, but I do love pork! Granted, as we have grown both in age and in wisdom my wife and I eat much less pork than we used to. The old “everything in moderation” certainly holds true here and while I do eat more pork than beef, I also believe it’s all about balance and I try not to overdo it. No really…I do!

Ok, I admit it; I did pick up this lovely package of chops just last week and last night was the second Tuesday in a row that we enjoyed them. It will however be quite some time before we have them again as they are a fattier cut of pork. Even though there is still some debate regarding the health benefits of pork I do try to pick the leaner cuts if I am going to cook it.

So while you will see it here once in a blue moon I hope you can appreciate that we consider pork an exception to our otherwise healthy diet, a special treat if you will. The same holds true for beef. Some may call it rationalization but I firmly believe that eating whole grains, lower fat foods, and fresh vegetables as the major part of my diet gives me a little leeway. It allows me to enjoy myself from time to time and cook something a little less good for me without feeling guilty. And it tastes oh so good!

As a nod to that healthier diet this sauce is my lower fat answer to a Dijon cream sauce. There is no butter and there is no cream. I think the non-fat yogurt adds a nice creaminess to this sauce and in such a small amount that it doesn’t overwhelm the other flavors. Adding the yogurt at the last minute, off the heat, keeps it from separating or curdling in the sauce. You can use plain non-fat yogurt in many dishes in place of sour cream, milk, or cream just be sure not to let it boil.

This recipe is written as a menu for 4 and it comes together in 1 to 1-1/2 hours depending on the size of the potatoes. Although I did not do it this night, I often sprinkle Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs over the kale as a garnish. Try it, you’ll like it!

Menu – Pan Seared Pork Chops with a Dijon “Cream” Sauce, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and Sautéed Kale with Caramelized Onions and Garlic

For the Sweet Potatoes…

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse and dry 1 Sweet Potato per person. Using a paring knife carefully pierce each potato once, at least halfway through (from the side). Rub potatoes thoroughly with olive oil and bake 1 to 1-1/2 hours until cooked through.

For the Kale…

4 Cups – Fresh Kale, trimmed and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 – Medium Onion, quartered then sliced thick
2 – Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Cup – Homemade or low sodium Chicken Stock
McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder
2 Tbsp. – Olive Oil
Malt Vinegar (Optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and lower the heat to low. Add 4 good grinds from the Herb Grinder (about ¼ Tbsp) and cook slowly, stirring occasionally until the onions begin to turn golden. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking and stirring occasionally until onions begin to brown (about 30 minutes over all).

Add the kale and toss to coat well with the olive oil, raise the heat and sauté for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and cover. As soon as the stock comes to a boil lower the heat and stir once more. Cover and cook on low 10 minutes more, stirring now and then. Remove lid, stir and continue cooking uncovered to allow most of excess stock to cook away. Stir in the vinegar (if using) and serve.

For the Pork Chops…

4 – Center Cut Bone-In Pork Chops, about 1/2” thick, trimmed of excess fat
1 cup – Chicken Stock
1 Tbsp – Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp – Plain Non-Fat Yogurt
1 Tbsp – Whole Wheat or Unbleached Flour
3 Tbsp – Olive Oil
McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder

Sprinkle the pork liberally with the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder then with kosher salt and set aside (at room temperature) for 20 minutes.

In a large skillet heat 3 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Gently lay the pork chops into the oil and reduce the heat to medium. Cook chops 3 minutes to brown then turn the chops and cook 3 minutes more. Move the chops to a foil or parchment lined sheet and place into the 350 degree oven to finish.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 Tbsp. of flour. Continue stirring until the flour is blended with the remaining oil then return the pan to the heat. Cook, stirring for one minute more then add the chicken stock. Using a whisk, stir the stock until well blended then allow the sauce to come to a boil, stirring occasionally.

When the sauce has thickened somewhat, whisk in the mustard and continue cooking and stirring until the sauce becomes quite thick. Remove the pan from the heat and turn off the burner. Remove the chops from the oven and place on plates or a platter. With the pan still off the heat, whisk in the yogurt until well incorporated then spoon the sauce over the chops.

Serve with the cooked greens and sweet potatoes.

Enjoy!

Randy

Chicken Soup with Cannelloni and Kale

(or What to do with all that Chicken Stock – Part 2)

One of my favorite ways to spend a Sunday morning is sipping coffee, listening to The Sunday Blues with Dar , and cooking a big pot of soup. The work is indeed therapeutic for me and I feel the stress of the previous week slip away as I slice onions, chop celery and carrots, and build the foundation of a flavorful meal. Then as the kettle begins to heat up and the steam begins to rise, that pleasant and familiar aroma fills the house and warms me to my soul!

To be honest I had misgivings about posting this recipe as the photo is not particularly glamorous and this soup in particular is really quite simple. Then as I thought about it I realized that soup is one of my favorite things to cook, I make it quite often, and it has become an integral part of the culinary routine in my home. Soup is economical as it is often made with the trimmings and leftovers from previous meals, and who can deny the heartwarming qualities of a big bowl of soup and a hunk of fresh bread?

So there you have it. This too is a Recipe Randy Cooks. And so it will be included.

This soup is a recent favorite and one of the easier soup recipes that I make. The garlic is a recent addition and it not only boosts the flavors but also raises the antioxidant levels of the dish. I guess the jury is still out on the old “Jewish Penicillin” theory but if we can raise the nutritional benefits of a dish by adding a little flavor then I am all for it! It may be surprising to you that with a whole head of garlic in the recipe, the garlic flavor is really quite subtle.

Sometimes I make this soup with chunks (2 cups) of browned Italian turkey sausage; sometimes I make it with chicken. Both are quite good and satisfying. Although I did not do it in the soup pictured, another favorite way to add flavor to this soup is to add a tablespoon or so of pesto to the bowl before ladling in the hot soup. Also of note in the photo, the “garnish” is a few good grinds from a McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder .

I served this soup with a fresh green salad and a warm whole grain baguette.

Chicken Soup with Cannelloni and Kale

2 Cups – Boneless Chicken Breasts, cubed in approx. ½ inch cubes
2 cloves – Garlic, minced
2 to 3 Grinds – McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning
2 – 14.5 oz Cans, Cannelloni (White Kidney) Beans, rinsed and drained
4 Cups – Kale, rinsed, trimmed and chopped large
1 Whole Head – Garlic
8 Cups – Homemade Chicken Stock
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 425°. Using a knife or kitchen shears trim the top of the garlic head just enough to expose the tops of the cloves inside. Remove as much of the papery “skin” from the outside of the head as you can, without the cloves falling apart. Place the garlic in the center of an approx 12” square of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper. Bring the foil up around the garlic and seal loosely into a package. Bake for 30 minutes or until the garlic cloves are brown and soft through and through.

Meanwhile, place a large soup pot on the stove and bring 7 cups of chicken stock to a simmer over medium heat. Add the beans and the kale, stirring to blend. Reduce the heat enough to maintain a light simmer.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and season the oil with 2 to 3 grinds from the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder. When the oil is shimmering add the chicken and 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook stirring frequently until the chicken is brown in places and cooked through, 6-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon (or a Spider) remove the chicken and garlic from the skillet and add it to the soup.

When the garlic is done roasting, separate the cloves and squeeze the contents of each clove into a blender. Add 1 cup of chicken stock and blend until smooth. Add this mixture to the soup, stirring to incorporate. Simmer the soup another 30 minutes to allow all of the flavors to develop.

Enjoy!

Randy

Casserole of Chicken, Quinoa, & Brown Rice with Mushrooms

(or What to do with all that Chicken Stock – Part 1)

As a follow up to Singing The Praises Of Chicken Stock I wanted to post a series of recipes that use chicken stock (or broth) in various ways. At the risk of repeating myself, stock is a valuable ingredient in healthful cooking and a means of boosting the flavor in what otherwise might be a boring and uninteresting dish. My recipes will always call for stock because I like the flavor but you may certainly substitute broth if you like.

Second only to the chicken stock, the mushrooms create a lot of flavor in this recipe. To coax as much flavor as possible from them I start cooking the mushrooms in a hot, hot pan. Because of the high water content in mushrooms, they create a lot of liquid in the pan as they cook. With the pan very hot, this excess water cooks away quickly leaving the mushrooms to brown. On a lower temperature the mushroom would steam instead of browning…that’s not what I want in this recipe!

I know I have mentioned Seeds Of Change quinoa & whole grain brown rice in a previous post. I can’t recommend this product enough; if you come across it at Costco or otherwise please do give it a try. I use it here because it is convenient, healthy, and the spices blend perfectly with the other ingredients. Other starch suggestions for this recipe would be brown rice, couscous, or even orzo. Check for seasonings if you use a mix, I needed no additional salt with the quinoa.

This one is rich enough that the only side I served it with was a nice green salad and was plenty for two with leftovers.

Casserole of Chicken, Quinoa, & Brown Rice with Mushrooms

1 – Large Boneless Chicken Breast Half (about 12 oz.), halved lengthwise from the top and sliced very thin (as for a stir fry)
8 oz – Fresh Mushrooms, sliced
1 – Small Onion, chopped
2 – Celery branches, sliced (leaves add flavor…use them too!)
1 Clove – Garlic, minced
2 Sprigs – Fresh Thyme, left whole
2 Cups – Chicken Stock
2 Cups – Quinoa & Whole Grain Brown Rice, pre-cooked
2 Tbsp – Unbleached Flour
Olive Oil
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
About 1/4 Cup – Panko Breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a large (12”) skillet over medium high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, carefully add the mushrooms and cook them stirring constantly much as you would a stir fry. When the mushrooms begin to release their liquid slow down a little on the stirring but keep them spread out so the liquid will evaporate quickly.

As the mushrooms dry and begin to brown, stir in the onions, celery, garlic, thyme, and ½ teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking and stirring until the onions soften. (Note: The mushrooms should be getting nice and brown by now. Don’t worry if some of the vegetables stick a little bit…they will loosen when you add the stock.)

When the onions become tender and translucent stir in the chicken, separating the slices and blending them carefully into the mixture. Continue cooking and stirring gently for another 5 minutes then Stir in one tablespoon of the flour until well mixed. Stir in the second tablespoon of flour and cook, stirring gently, for one minute more. Stir in one cup of stock and cook until some thickening begins. Stir in the other cup of stock and cook until bubbling and thickened.

Remove the thyme sprigs and discard, then stir in the quinoa and gently mix until thoroughly incorporated. Pour all into a 9X9 casserole, sprinkle just enough breadcrumbs to cover evenly on top. Bake 25 minutes, allow a few minutes to rest and enjoy!

Randy

Penne with Italian Sausage, Fresh Tomatoes, Feta, & Herbs

For a weeknight dinner that is super easy to prepare try this Penne with Fresh Tomatoes, Feta, and Herbs. Want to mix things up a bit? Replace the sausage with bite sized cubes of cooked chicken or turkey breast, use whole grape tomatoes instead of chopped, or add capers and chopped green & black olives for a real Mediterranean twist. This pasta is great served with salad and a hunk of crusty whole wheat baguette and makes more than enough for lunches the next day.

Penne with Italian Sausage, Fresh Tomatoes, Feta, & Herbs

2 pounds tomatoes, halved, seeded, chopped
1 16 ounce package Chicken or Turkey Sweet Italian Sausage, sliced diagonally, browned well, and drained
1 cup green onions, green and white parts diagonally sliced
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon, chopped fresh garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 13.5 ounce box Whole Grain Penne pasta

Mix first 8 ingredients in a large pasta bowl. Set mixture aside.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Add hot pasta to tomato mixture and gently toss to coat. Add Olive Oil, Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and gently toss.

I Love Shrimp and Grits!

I love shrimp and grits and in my travels around the South I have enjoyed more than my fair share of some fine versions of this recipe. Unfortunately shrimp and grits dishes are nearly always loaded with salt and fat. Between the ham or bacon (or ham and bacon), heavy cream, and butter I would not call this dish particularly heart healthy. However if you think about it the main ingredients are not all that bad.

Shrimp – Surprisingly, ounce for ounce, shrimp are packed full of low-fat, low calorie protein, they are a good source of selenium, vitamins D and B12 and they actually provide more good cholesterol than bad! Note: If you are using frozen shrimp always buy shrimp that does not contain sodium triphosphate.

Grits – Grits are a very good source of antioxidants, dietary fiber, and iron.

Cheese – Cheese is one of the best sources of calcium in the world and it’s rich in phosphorus, zinc, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and vitamin A. This recipe contains cheddar cheese; did you know that aged cheeses like cheddar are actually good for people that are lactose intolerant? This is because aged cheeses contain very low levels of lactose and can be an important source of calcium for people that suffer from lactose intolerance.

My point is, while I don’t want to turn my blog into a “diet” or “nutrition” blog, I believe you can eat smart without having to sacrifice flavor and enjoyment. In this recipe I still use a little fat but every single ingredient brings health benefits to the table, the fat that it does contain is good fat, and your taste buds will still have a little fun!

Shrimp and Grits

Notes: There is no extra salt added to the recipe because the extra sharp cheddar and the blackening seasonings add enough salt for my taste. The Chipotle Tabasco brings a nice smokiness and the granulated garlic just seems to round out the flavor. If you prefer a “clean eating” style meal, feel free to use low fat cheddar cheese. I like to serve these with fresh spinach sautéed with chopped shallots and plenty of fresh ground pepper.

2 ½ Cups – Homemade chicken stock (or low-sodium canned broth)
¾ Cups – Quick cooking grits
¾ Cups – Extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp – Plain nonfat yogurt
¼ Tsp – Granulated garlic
½ to 1 Tsp – Chipotle Tabasco sauce, depending on your taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 Lb – Large shrimp (About 20), peeled, deveined, and patted dry
1 Bunch – Green onions, sliced on the bias (at an angle) in half inch slices
1 Clove – Garlc, peeled & minced
3/4 Tsp – Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Blackened Redfish Magic
1 Tbsp – Olive oil

Turn one burner on high and another on low. On the first burner bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large sauce pot with a tight fitting lid. Slowly whisk in the grits, chipotle Tabasco sauce, granulated garlic, and ground black pepper. Move the sauce pan to the burner that is set to low, whisk once more and cover. Stir occasionally and cook 7 or 8 minutes until the grits are thickened.

Toss the shrimp with the Blackening Seasonings.

Place a large sauté pan on the first burner (still on high) adding the olive oil as the pan gets hot. Stir in the garlic and keep stirring until you smell the garlic, about 30 seconds. Stir in the shrimp and cook without moving for the first minute. Shake the pan to loosen the shrimp and cook one minute more without moving. Add the green onions and toss (or stir) with the shrimp, remove the pan from the heat and set aside. (The shrimp will continue cooking with the pan off of the heat.)

When the grits have thickened remove the sauce pan from the heat and fold in the yogurt and the cheese. Continue folding until the cheese has thoroughly melted and blended with the grits. Serve 4 to 6 shrimp per serving over a generous mound of grits.

Enjoy!

Randy

Country Style Pork Ribs Braised in Wine and Garlic

OK Ladies, make this one for your man and he will be volunteering to do the dishes! This is one of my favorite easy recipes and there are always plenty of leftovers for lunch.

You don’t need an expensive, ceramic Dutch Oven to make tasty and tender braised dishes; If you don’t have a Dutch Oven try cooking this in a large skillet with a snug fitting lid. For braising, just before putting the dish in the oven, cover the skillet with foil then place the lid on gently but firmly to create a good seal. Similar to pressure cooking this traps in the moisture and adds steam to the cooking equation which results in a moist and very tender end product.

Country Style Pork Ribs Braised in Wine and Garlic

4 to 6 – Country Style Pork Ribs, trimmed of excess fat
1 Cup – Dry White Wine (such as Pinot Grigio)
2 Lg Cloves – Garlic, minced
1 Lg or 2 Med – Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
2 Tbsp – Olive Oil

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

On the stovetop heat a heavy bottomed Dutch Oven (or an oven proof Saute Pan with a tight fitting lid) over medium high heat. Meanwhile coat the ribs generously with Salt and Pepper.

Add the oil to the Dutch Oven and heat until the oil is just beginning to smoke then carefully add the ribs browning them well on all sides (about 3 – 4 minutes per side). Remove them to a plate when well browned.

Add the garlic to the pan and stir briskly for about 1 minute then add the wine. Allow the wine to come to a boil while scraping any browned bits loose from the pan. Cook about one minute more.

Return the ribs to the Dutch Oven, add the rosemary sprigs and cover tightly. Carefully place the Dutch Oven in the oven and bake for one hour. Check the ribs for tenderness, cover and bake 20 minutes more if necessary.

Remove the Dutch Oven from the oven, uncover, and allow the ribs to rest 10 minutes before serving, basting occasionally with the pan sauce.

Serve and enjoy!

Randy