Balsamic Roasted Chicken Breast

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I’m not joking, this was a 1.19 pound chicken breast.  That’s HUGE.  That’s a little over 1/2 kilo.

I used to make this fairly often several years ago, and it’s a great marinade!  If you can get your hands on a whole, cut up chicken, it makes a beautiful meal for a family and looks really stunning on a platter.  Add some mashed cauliflower to soak up the sauce, and a nice, simple salad of greens and tomato, and you’ll have a dish that “probably” won’t have any leftovers.  But if you DO have some leftover chicken, it makes an awesome topping for a salad the next day.

*tip – when using balsamic vinegar as a marinade, you do not need to use your most expensive bottle.  Save that for use as a salad dressing or drizzled over vegetables.*

Balsamic Marinade

1/4 C Balsamic Vinegar

2 T olive oil

2 T Dijon Mustard

2 T lemon juice

1 t minced garlic

1 t minced onion

1 t dried rosemary

1 t honey

pinch salt, pinch pepper, pinch hot pepper, pinch beet powder

After it cooks:  1/4 C hot chicken broth with splash of lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 F

Whisk the marinade together and pour over the chicken breast.  I like to use a resealable kitchen storage bag, which I wash and reuse.  Marinate for at least an hour, but it’s even nicer to do it overnight.  Remove from bag and let excess marinade drip off.  Place the chicken breast, skin side up on a rack over a roasting pan.  Cook for approximately 35 minutes, brushing once during the cooking with the reserved marinade.  Remove from oven and put on a dish under a tent of aluminum foil while you prepare the sauce.

Put the roasting pan on top of the burner (make sure you are using a pan that is both oven and stove top safe!) Turn the burner to medium and pour the chicken broth into the pan.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape up all of the drippings from the pan.  Cook over medium heat until reduced by about 1/3.  Add a splash of lemon juice.  Remove from burner, pour over the chicken and serve!  This is an excellent marinade for a whole chicken as well!  Increase the cooking times by 5 minutes for the rest of the chicken (thighs, wings, legs, etc).

 

Herbes de Provence Cod

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It has been a while since I have posted.  There are a lot of reasons why, but if I have to look deeply at myself, a big part of it is because I thought:

What I ate is not post worthy

I’m experimenting a lot, and the recipes are good, but

Not post worthy

People like what I cooked, say they love it, but can it be replicated?  Can anyone do it?  Anywhere?

Not worthy

Wow.

Psalm 139:14 says

I will praise you; for I am fearfully (gloriously) and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and THAT my soul knoweth right well.

That’s US.  Who we are, when we agree with who God says we are.

So today, I made some fish.  And it was good. So I’m posting it.  Not because it’s fancy, takes a lot of technique, or ticks any of the current dietary things, or is post worthy, but because it was good, and after eating it, I FELT good, and a cloud lifted from my brain.

Not only that, but afterwards I ate the leftovers of a recipe I was working on that is the

PERFECT DESSERT for this meal.  I’m so excited again to work on that one, because somehow, in the days when I couldn’t figure out what to post…it was all coming together in a glorious and wonderful way.  A little bit of research showed, that when you put certain foods together, you actually assimilate all of the nutrients and AMP UP the nutritional value.

Seriously?

It’s true!

The dessert that I have been working on is super good, and fits completely with the fish I made tonight, it just needs a few tweaks and twiggles.  I made up the word twiggles but feel free to use it.

This recipe is for ONE.  Just multiply the ingredients if someone else is eating with you.

You start by laying very thinly sliced potatoes, carrots, and a little bit of onion in a cast iron pan that was heated to med low, and had a small amount of olive oil spread on the bottom.  I salted all the veg except the onion, and let the liquids come out.  Then rinsed them and patted them dry before putting them in the pan.  Some of the starch will come out of the potatoes.

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Then I laid the cod on top of the potatoes.  The cod was seasoned with garlic, herbes de provence, olive oil, and some pink salt.  I topped it with some thin sliced lemon, and drizzled some more olive oil over it all.

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After 10 minutes in a 350 F oven, I took it out and stirred up all the vegetables around the fish.

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Another 10 minutes in the oven, take out, stir the vegetables again, and cover in tin foil.  It should sit for at least 5 minutes covered by the foil tent.

I’ll do the first picture again, because all I do many times is top with a chiffonade of lettuce.  Even if it’s not just you eating, it’s fun to set out salt and pepper that has to be ground, and some olive oil.  That way everyone gets interactive with the food, even if someone else cooked it. There is always going to be someone who wants to put some hot pepper on it, so put that out also.  Anyway, have fun!

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Herbes de Provence Cod

1 piece cod approx 6 oz (I used a frozen at sea piece)

2 T good olive oil

1 T Herbes de Provence ( I used a blend from a place called gaec le frigoulet – but I can’t find a website.  It is the BEST EVER blend I ever had, and it was a place where we just stopped because I said “let’s stop here” as we drove past it on the road.

1/2 clove minced garlic

More olive oil

Mix olive oil, garlic and oil together with a fork.  Let sit for a while.

Pat your fish dry if it is very wet.  Coat each side with the herb mixture.

Drizzle with some more olive oil, and cook in oven for 20 minutes.  Take out and cover with tin foil for at least 5 minutes.

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Char Sui (Chinese Barbecue Pork)

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PACKAGED MARINADE VS HOMEMADE MARINADE

A Scientific Experiment that Resulted in Me Eating A Lot of Pork

Whilst looking at wonderful recipes, I came across one for Char Sui, or Chinese BBQ Pork.  It was on a site called culinarychronicles, and was crossposted on another site called mamabatesmotel.

I have one of those brains that can latch on to something like a Border Collie focuses on sheep.  Intense concentration.  Unwavering devotion to a cause, principle, or course of action.  It is in those beautiful moments that everything seems to just…flow in a river of excitement and anticipation.

In the case of trying a new recipe, it’s mouth watering anticipation.

And WOW, did I want to try to make char sui.

And travel to multiple Asian countries to purchase it from market stalls and street vendors.  To use it as filling in puffy steamed buns and on a kebab.  Could I surprise my Chinese friend with a hunk of it just to see what she thought?  Would it do?

Could I make a gluten free version?  Could I get the red color without using food coloring? Could I make a decent version using items I already have in my pantry?

Off I went to the store to pick up organic, pasture raised pork shoulder.  Expensive yes, but besides the taste which is so much better, it has elevated levels of healthy fats that can withstand high cooking temperatures without breaking down.  Not fed antibiotics, not fed GMO corn and soybeans, not fed various waste products.  And of course, raised in a much more humane and ethical manner which is very important.  Especially for an animal lover and former vegetarian like me, who simply has a body that NEEDS animal products, especially the fat.

But I digress.

Once I had the pork shoulder, lo and behold, I came across beet powder for a natural food coloring, and a gluten free hoisin sauce.

Score!

And from there I discovered a seasoning packet with no listed gluten sources AND all natural coloring, no artificial red food dye.  And it was the last packet.

Scoredy Score SCORE!

The seasoning packet directions are simple and take just seconds to prepare.  Open packet, dissolve in water, and pour over meat.  Badabing badabang, done.

Homemade is not too much longer but goes into the minutes range.  I had sake (yes, I know it’s not Chinese but I’m using what I have), molasses and sorghum, amino acids, a red wine vinegar, chili paste, Chinese 5 Spice, garlic, ginger, clam juice.  Close enough.

How would it work out?  Here are the two versions side by side as they are starting to marinate.  As you can see, the packaged version on the left has a much brighter red color.  Maybe because it contains carmine – a natural dye that is made from bugs.

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Here is a taste test after three hours of marinating.  The top is the packaged, and the bottom is the homemade.  It’s cooked at 450 F for 20 minutes in the oven, and then broiled for about a minute or so total.  They weren’t glazed before broiling.  I would like to say that the only reason I cooked it after three hours was in the interest of science.  Because the seasoning packet had 2-3 hours of marinating in the directions.  But that’s an excuse.  I just couldn’t wait to try it.

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I would say that there wasn’t a HUGE amount of difference between the 2 versions at this point.  There was a faint…oh…metallic aftertaste to the packaged version, but it was very mild and hardly noticeable.

Back they went into the fridge to finish up properly.

And the results of the experiment?  Besides eating a lot of charred hunks of pork?

  1. neither version had that appealing red ring of color that you see in pictures, but the packaged version had an overall brighter reddish hue, whereas the homemade was a deeper red.
  2. the packaged version STILL had a slightly metallic taste, but the flavor was good
  3. the homemade version tasted much better when  eaten side by side. After the full day of marinating you could tell the difference.
  4. I would recommend taking some of the marinating mixture, adding some hoisin and honey, and reducing it on the stove.  You can brush the hot mixture on the top of the meat right when it comes out from under the broiler.  I didn’t do this, but will next time.  That way it will have a nice, shiny, sticky glaze.

This was fun to make and eat!  I served an Asian cabbage slaw with it, and that recipe will be shared in a few days.  It’s a recipe familiar to most Americans (except that I use Miso) but almost non existent in Europe, which is a pity because it is SO GOOD, and cabbage is perfect for digesting pork.

Sauce

For 2 – 2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder cut into 1 1/2 wide strips

4 T gluten free Hoisin

4 T Bragg’s Amino Acids (tastes like soy sauce)

4 T Sake

2 T Molasses

2 T Sorghum

2 t gluten free chili paste

2 t Chinese 5 Spice

2 t clam juice (gluten free, because it says so on the jar)

2 t beetroot powder

2 t minced ginger

2 t minced garlic

2 T red wine vinegar (or use the vinegar you have)

2 T water

Whisk together sauce ingredients and pour over meat.  Marinate overnight or 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 450F

Line a pan with aluminum foil to catch drippings and put an oven safe rack on top of the foil.  Place pork strips on the rack – and cook for 20 minutes total, flipping after 10.

Remove from oven and turn broiler to high.

Remove pork from cooking rack and place directly on the pan.  Brush well with the marinade juices.

Broil for about 30 – 45 seconds, remove from oven and quickly flip, then return for another 30 seconds or so.  Do NOT leave the oven unattended. 30 seconds only seems like a long time when you’re waiting for water to boil.  When you’re broiling meat in the oven it goes extremely fast and your meat could burn.

Remove from oven and let sit for a little bit to let the juices redistribute before serving.

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Three Sisters Vegetable Medley and Maple Glazed Scallops

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Many Native American tribes planted a crop called “The Three Sisters”.  Consisting of grain corn, beans, and winter squash, all could be stored and eaten later as a nutritious and protein rich meal.

This companion planting was as beneficial to the soil as it was to the body.  The sturdy, upright corn stalks provided a trellis for the bean vines to climb upwards, and the nitrogen producing bacteria on the roots of the bean plants fueled the growth of the corn.  The large leaves of the rambling squash vines provided moisture retention and shade to the soil during the hot summer afternoons.

This recipe uses canned items, but if you wanted to get really authentic you could use hominy, polenta, or grits instead of the sweet corn.  All of those are grain corns.  Dried beans are also more authentic, as they have fully developed their protein structure.

String beans, sweet corn, and summer squash don’t really count as “The Three Sisters”, but they do taste good together.

*Fun Fact – Is corn a vegetable, grain, or a fruit?

It depends on when you eat it.  Corn is a type of grass – a cereal grass.  Meaning that you can eat the seeds (dried corn kernels) as a grain.  When you eat sweet corn, it’s considered a vegetable because the kernels are tender and immature.  Botanically, the kernels are the “fruit” or seeds of the grass.  So there you have it!

Maple Glazed Scallops  (These only take about 5 minutes to cook, so save for last)

6 scallops, pat dry, and season with garlic salt and pepper

2 T butter

2 T water

2 T maple syrup

Heat a cast iron skillet to medium.  Make sure it’s nice and hot.  Mix water and maple syrup together.  Add butter to the pan, and once it’s browned, gently lay your scallops in the pan.  Cook for 2 minutes without moving the scallops around.  Flip, and cook for another minute.  Add the water and maple syrup, and let cook for another minute.  Transfer to plate.  Pour liquid (it will have cooked down very quickly) over scallops.

Three Sisters Medley

1 C Cannellini beans (canned)

1 C sweet corn (canned)

1 C roasted butternut squash, diced

1 C baby spinach, rough chopped

1 C red bell pepper, diced

1 green onion, sliced very thin

1/4 cube vegetable bouillon, crumbled

1 T nutritional yeast

1 T crushed dried sage

1 big pinch red pepper flakes

1/4 C heavy cream

1/4 C marscapone

2 slices thick cut bacon, fried and chopped.  Reserve bacon fat.

salt and pepper to taste

Combine beans, corn, squash, bouillon, yeast, sage, pepper flakes, and cream in a bowl.  Heat skillet to medium low and cook red pepper and green onion in bacon drippings until onion is translucent and peppers are getting soft.  Pour in the vegetable medley, stir, and when cream hits a boil add the chopped spinach.  Once the spinach starts to wilt, stir in marscapone.  When the marscapone is fully melted, reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve the scallops on top of the Three Sisters Medley, and top with bacon and the maple juices from the scallop pan!

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Grapes and Pine Nuts

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Antioxidants, fiber (or should I spell it “fibre” just to shake things up a bit), vitamins and minerals galore, toasty, crunchy, and pops of sweet.

Top with crumbled bacon if you would like, or better yet, serve with sausage.  It’s especially good with Italian style sausage, and if you’ve never had sausages and grapes for supper, then you’re missing out.

The only thing this picture is missing is the sprouts and the pine nuts!

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Brussels Sprouts are a variety of cabbage that grows on a stalk, and the sprout itself is actually a “bud”, like a flower bud.  They’re not “baby cabbages” like I once thought, but an actual type that originally came from the Mediterranean region and then moved north through Europe.

One cup of these sprouts has 120% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C.  And you know what my favorite dessert is to have after this meal?

A couple of mandarin oranges.  More Vitamin C.  And the other part of a good dessert?  The almost forgotten and lesser known Vitamin C – Conversation.  

This entire meal can be on the table in about 30 minutes, leaving plenty of time to enjoy each others company.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Grapes and Pine Nuts

1/2 pound Brussels Sprouts, sliced in 1/2 lengthwise through the core

olive oil

salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes

1/2 C red grapes, sliced in 1/2

2 t pine nuts

Iron skillet

Preheat oven to 400F.  In a small mixing bowl, drizzle some olive oil over the sprouts and add in the seasonings.  I don’t measure.  Mix to make sure everything is coated and then put into your skillet.  Don’t crowd them too much or they’ll steam instead of roast.  Set timer for 15 minutes.

Take out pan and flip the sprouts.  Add the grapes and nuts to the pan.  Return to oven for 5 minutes.

Transfer to plate immediately so those little nuts don’t get too brown!  Top with bacon, or some additional salt and pepper and a drizzle of good olive oil.

 

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African Peanut Chicken Soup

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I like fancy food – a lot, but I also like comfort food – a lot.  This recipe definitely falls into the comfort food category.  It also falls into the really good and healthy for you category.

It would take pages to write down all of the benefits that you can get from curry powder alone, and this recipe has almost a 1/4 cup of it.  Surprisingly it doesn’t taste like an overwhelming curry, but your body sure recognizes how good it is and starts to use it right away.

If there was one benefit that really stands out, it would be anti-inflammatory.  But even that is not enough.  These ingredients are strongly anti-cancer and even guard against cognitive malfunctions such as alzheimers.  Your liver will thank you too, because it’s great for clearing out congestion, which is pretty common in the cold winter months.

Convert it easily to a meatless (and vegan) version by substituting chickpeas and roasted cauliflower for the chicken.  A good quality vegetable broth made with carrots or squash will also provide a similar richness as the chicken broth.  Go even further, and get even more nutrition by adding some miso to the finished version.  You wont have to cook it as long, so just adjust your time.

I feel really good after eating this dish, and I know you will too!

 

African Peanut Chicken Soup

1-2 T coconut oil

2 chicken thighs (bone in, with skin)

1 yam, diced

1/2 C onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1  jalapeño pepper, diced, no seeds (can use a different kind of pepper if you would like)

1 T grated ginger

1 smoked kipper, minced (or you can use a smoked fish that you just put in the pot while cooking and then pull out)

3 T curry powder (no salt)

pinch sugar

pinch hot pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

1 quart low sodium chicken broth (I add additional bone broth concentrate for flavor and nutrition)

1 C creamy peanut butter

1 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes, drained

1 C coconut cream

salt and pepper

Heat up your dutch oven to medium low, and add the coconut oil.  Salt and pepper your chicken thighs and brown on each side.  Stir in the yams, garlic, onion, pepper and curry powder with a pinch of salt. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes or so.

Stir in the chicken broth, peanut butter and tomatoes.  Add the bay leaf and sugar, cover, and simmer for about an hour.  Pull out the chicken thighs and once they are cool enough to handle, shred the meat and finely mince the skin. Return them to the pot and stir in the coconut cream.  Add a good amount of black pepper, and then taste to see if it needs more salt.

Let cook for another 20 minutes to half hour, but don’t let it boil.  It should be hot, but not boiling.

Serve with crushed peanuts on top and raw pumpkin seeds or cilantro.

*options: you can make this a stew by reducing the amount of broth or by adding additional chicken thighs which can be served whole over a bed of rice*

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