Broccolini

photo(3) Where I have been?

Broccolini is not exactly new or news-breaking, but for some reason it has escaped my ravenous appetite and hands all these years.  Well, Josie and I put a stop to that!

Fresh broccolini is all over my local farmer’s market and according to my Italian girlfriend, Cat, it’s one of the Italianist and tastiest veggies around.  I agree.

The vendor described the taste to me as “a cross between broccoli and asparagus.”  I agree (again.)  The easy-tasty-healthy recipe you are about to see could also be made with broccoli or asparagus but I made it with my new friend: broccolini.

Michelle’s Broccolini and Chicken Pasta

photo(4)

Ingredients: two bunches of fresh rough-chopped broccolini (approximately 2 1/2-3 cups), 2-4 fresh minced garlic cloves (I, of course, used 5), 5 tbsp. olive oil, 2-4 tbsp. butter (maybe), juice of one lemon, salt and pepper to taste, whatever pasta you like, left over diced cooked chicken.  Grated Parmesan cheese.

Directions: In a saute pan, heat oil, broccolini and garlic.  Toss, cover on med heat.  Toss again after 10 or so minutes and cover on med heat.  Let this go for about 25-30 minutes (depends on the size of the broccolini pieces.)  When greens are tender you are done.  Squeeze that lemon juice over top and inhale… oh my.  In separate pot make your pasta.  When cooked, drain pasta and mix it up with the broccolini.  Add some butter if you need a little more “yum” to coat your noodles.  You’re not making a sauce here, but you’ll want to get all the goodness to all the important corners of your dish.  Add diced chicken and top with Parmesan cheese.

Unsolicited Tips: Yes.  I know that sounds like a lot of oil and butter–but it will coat the entire dish including pasta so you’ll need more than just enough to cook veggies.  This is such a quick and satisfying summer din-din and a complete meal in one bowl.  Get outa’ hee-ya!

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For Sofia B.

photo(2)

There are four Sophias in my third grade daughter’s class.  FOUR out of less than 60 students.  When Josie started kindergarten with Sofia B., Sophia D., Sophia P. and Sophia T., I think even the four Sophias’ mothers wondered how in the world we’d ever keep them all straight!  Of course it didn’t take long for each of their endearing personalities to emerge–each one unique and precious in her own way–and suddenly nothing could be more clear than which Sophia is which.

“Michelle” was the “Sophia” of my class.  If you are a girl and you were born near the late 1960’s/early 1970’s, you had a very good chance of being named Michelle (or Lisa or Jennifer–just ask my good friends Lisa and Jen.)  Or, if you weren’t named Michelle, you likely know a Michelle or did back then.  In fact, I dare you to find someone who doesn’t know a Michelle… but I digress… (but seriously, we are everywhere.)

I used to wish for a more unique name when I was a child, but looking back now I guess I just did what today’s Sophias do: I made my way and soon nobody confused me for Michelle S. or Shelly B.

Any-hoo… Sofia B. (the only one who spells her name with an “f”) was over for dinner recently and she really liked my Yellow Rice.  I adore all four Sophias and am so grateful for each of their contributions my lovely little corner of the world, but this recipe is dedicated to one Sofia in particular: Ms. Sofia B.  🙂

Tumeric Rice with Vegetables (with Chicken if you like)

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1-2 tbsp. butter (optional)
1 cup basmati or jasmin white rice
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 diced onion
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1-2 cups chopped mixed vegetables (for this recipe I used chopped carrots, bell pepper and kale.  Other options include celery, zucchini, cauliflower…)
1/2 cup diced cooked chicken (optional)
1-2 tsp. tumeric
Salt/pepper to taste

Directions:
In a pan, medium heat, brown the onions in olive oil (approximately 5-10 minutes.)  Add garlic and rice.  Stir together for a 3-5 minutes until rice has a chance to get to know the first flavors.  Then add vegetables, chicken and butter and stir for another 3-5 minutes for another quick layer of introduction.  Then add broth, tumeric and a dash of salt and pepper.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook for another 15-20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.  Add more salt and pepper if desired.

Unsolicited Tips: I make my own chicken broth, which accounts for some of the color and, I must say, some extra yummy flavor.  Boxed/canned broth can obviously also be used.  Brown rice can also be used, but it won’t absorb as much color or flavor.

If you haven’t used tumeric before, you may want to start with 1 teaspoon.  We love the flavor but it is new to some.  Besides being yum-ola and beautiful, tumeric is known to be anti-inflamatory, an antioxidant and tons of other current healthy buzz-words.  But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Google it and see!

Finally, in case you’re new to my blog or my life: the day I make a one-cup-of-rice recipe is the day I serve Poptarts for breakfast.  Girlfriend, I doubled this ‘thang of course!

p.s. Once Mike–in a show of defiance over my over-zealous approach to nutrition–bought some Poptarts.  Everyone hated them, even him!

 

Zingy Honey-brushed Chicken

 

honey chicken

Look who’s back!  Hi.

OK.  Moving on.  So this recipe is actually called Spicy Honey Brushed Chicken, but you can make it just zingy if you live with little people who don’t like spicy foods.

The trick to making this recipe work is to remove the skin from the chicken before baking so that all the yumminess doesn’t get wasted on the part that you (probably) don’t eat.  If you have skin-on chicken, try using a paper towel to better grab and pull that dang skin off.  It helps a lot.

Zingy-to-Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken

Ingredients: 2 tsp. garlic powder, 2-3 tsp. chili powder, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. paprika, 1/2 tsp. ground red pepper, 8 or so chicken thighs, 6 tbsp. raw honey, 2-4 tsp. cider vinegar

Directions: Mix up all that yummy stuff, pour it over your skinless chicken and pop it in the oven at 350 for about an hour or until done.  Wah-lah!

Tips: So, obviously if you like it spicy, go heavier-handed with the chili and red pepper.  I used a whole cut-up chicken tonight thus needing a bit more of pretty much everything so I just sorta gave a few extra shakes here and there.  My kitchen smells like heaven (ask Teri who just stopped in if you don’t believe me.)   There’s just something about the way the honey and vinegar do their voodoo that is exotic and simple at the same time.  I’m not sure why that works out, but what’s life without a little mystery?

Paired with my roasted potatoes and cole slaw tonight.   Also nice with rice.  Yum!

Additional helpful, yet unsolicited, tips: If possible, splurge for the raw honey rather than the pasteurized type.  Waaayyy healthier.  And then get outa’ here with your cider vinegar benefits!

Hey–It Worked!

couscous dish

So, OK.  I admit it.  Even I have those days (like during the first week back to school) when I’m scratching my head going “What the heck are we gonna have to dinner!?”

This is my new couscous dish.  It took me 15 minutes to prepare and about five to clean up so there.  And it’s nutritious.  And my family liked it.  Josie was only so-so but the other two asked for seconds.  Two ‘outa three ain’t bad!

Michelle’s Couscous Dinner:

Ingredients: 1 16 ounce box of couscous cooked following directions with chicken broth instead of water, 1 bag of peas (steamed) diced leftover chicken.

Directions: cook couscous according to what the box says.  I always prefer mine with chicken or veg. stock instead of water but you do what you gotta do.  When done mix in peas and chopped up chicken.

What I love about this meal (besides the fact that it’s east-tasty-healthy, that is): It may be the Midwesterner in me but I find it very satisfying to provide a complete meal in one bowl.  On these still warm school nights when my kiddos can’t wait to wolf down their dinner so they can run back outside and play, this type of meal is perfecto.  Then you do the math: one pot for dinner (OK two if you count the peas) and a bowl for each family member… garlic toast was served on the side so one more plate…

Easy-peasy lemon squeezy, Grasshopper.

If you’re shaking your head and thinking: “Oh yeah?  Great.  But my kids will never eat that.” I can only shamelessly promote myself so many times on my own blog: contact me and sign up for “Come to the Table” like Karen, Ana, and Cat did for next week…

p.s. a bloggy thanks to Kimber, Anamaria and Lydia for attending “Meal Planning 101” this week.  We had so much fun!!!  🙂

Rub-a-dub… RIBS!

ribs with slaw

OK, so I don’t know about your husband, but there’s something about Father’s Day that brings out Mike’s inner cave man.  And when I say “inner cave man” I am referring to the innate, undeniable desire for a big ‘ol piece of meat on his plate for dinner.

We eat meat.  I like it too.  I’m just sayin’ that it seems like guys like it a whole lot more than we do.

Funny enough, although I’m not a big meat eater, when I do eat meat, I really prefer it on the bone.  Cooking meat on the bone always yields more flavor; any foodie can tell you that.  But I like the bone there too.  Can’t really explain it but there you go.

Over the past few months I’ve been checking out some fun Southern Foodie blogs and playing around with different rub situations.  There are many ways to make tasty meat rubs that include everything from coffee grounds and dry mustard, to celery salt and paprika.  ‘Round here we have agreed that the one I’m posting today is a real winner in the taste department, and I love it because all the ingredients are likely in everyone’s cupboard already (or, if not, they’re not so exotic that they’ll go untouched after you whip up these babies.)

As a Midwestern transplant to the west coast, I will admit to having a very limited rib background.  My journey thus far have taught me a few things: First off, the key to yum-ola ribs is definitely slow cooking them on a low heat.  Smoking them over hickory and coals would likely be ideal, but I hardly have the time–or, let’s face it, the inclination–for that kind of rib action.  My oven does the trick just fine.  Secondly, rubs ROCK.  I really love the voodoo they do to ribs and other meats too.  You can use today’s recipe on  chicken, a pork roast, etc…

So as we are not even close to getting into a summer groove yet, allow me to get right to the point and back to a bunch of tasks that, for whatever reason, have yet to be completed in my home.

Michelle’s Caveman Ribs (These are super easy to prepare, but they do need 3 1/2 hours to cook.)

Ingredients: (which, by the way, I do not actually measure.  Big shocker, I know.)  your basic rack of pork ribs–3 or so pounds, 1/2 cup loosely packed cup of brown sugar, 1 tbsp. chili powder, 1 tbsp. oregano, 1 tbsp. garlic powder, 1-2 tsp. cayenne, few healthy shakes of salt and black pepper.

Directions: grab yerself a cookie sheet.  Place a piece of aluminum foil on it.  Pat rack of ribs quick-dry with a paper towel.  Spread/pat rub on both sides of the ribs and place them on the foil.  Sprinkle any last rub on top with the “u” shape up so that all that yummy stuff can rest there and turn into a de-lish glaze when all is said and done.  Should look something like this:

pre cooked ribs

Wrap the foil around the ribs and cook all cozied up like that at 250 for 2 hours.  Then open foil up and cook like that for another hour and a half.  When they’re done they will look something like this:

cooked ribs

And they will taste like heaven.  At least I hope they have these in heaven…

I recently served my ribs up with some cole slaw, as pictured above (see my recipe under salads) which was pretty much the tastiest dang combination we’ve had in a while.  Cave man happy = good Father’s Day.

Play around with your rub.  It’s cool and very “in” right now!  Try things like onion salt, cumin, celery salt, paprika, chipotle powder… Hope you enjoy!

 

Kitty Purgason’s White Chicken Chili

Kitty Purgason's Chili

I met this chili, and Kitty Purgason, at the Pasadena Covenant Church meal contest last fall.  This church provides shelter and meals to homeless folks on cold, wet winter nights..  Roughly 12 members of the congregation volunteered to whip up their favorite home-cooked recipes, provide a “taste off,” and use a vote to choose the upcoming menu.

People, this is my kind of church experience–it’s got “Midwest” written all over it.

My Michigander transplant girlfriend, Lisa, is a Covenant Church member and she lets me tag along when I’m in the mood.  As a native Minnesotan raised in a Methodist home and church, from the first time I popped my eclectically-spiritual face onto the Covenant scene I felt right at home.   Throw in a pot-luck taste test with a recipe made by the you-can’t-get-more-Midwestern-than-this: Kitty Purgason… Girlfriend, that is a taste of Michelle’s heaven.

The Midwestern United States isn’t exactly known for its gourmet approach to food.  Common references to “casseroles” and questions regarding the usage of cream of mushroom soup have arisen.  And while, yes, casseroles (actually, the correct term is “hot-dish,”) and cream of mushroom soup are something with which we Mid-westerners are familiar, we offer much more to the culinary world.

The Midwestern philosophy to cooking is actually quite a hat-tip to the modern mama.  Savory.  Efficient.  Satisfying.  Wholesome.  These are words that, when used to describe dinner, are often met with smiles.  I said SMILES.  Who couldn’t use more of those at the table?

I love Kitty Purgason’s White Chicken Chili for three reasons.  First of all, it’s easy-tasty-healthy. Second, the ingredients can be kept on hand (most in the pantry) for easy whip-up’ed-ness. Also, you can totally fudge the quantities on pretty much everything (just throw in extra this if you are missing a can of that) and still present a delicious meal for your family.  Now you can smile too!

Finally, the name Kitty Purgason makes my heart smile.  Back in Rochester, Minnesota I had a classmate named Kitty who, in the third grade, helped me with fractions and taught me how to draw trees that didn’t resemble lollipops.  My childhood friend, Kitty, was friendly and generous, much like the Covenant-Church-Kitty I recently met.

Besides “Calva,” my elementary classroom rosters had a list of surnames including Torgrimson, Olson and Thompson.  So, when kind hand of someone named Kitty Purgason was extended to me over my chili sample that fall day, I just knew this recipe would join my life and table.

Now it can join yours too.

Kitty Purgason’s White Chicken Chili

Chili Ingredients: 1 chopped onion, 2 crushed garlic cloves, couple three cans chicken broth (0r approximate equivalent), leftover diced cooked chicken, 1 can drained white or pinto beans, 1 can corn (drain but save liquid in case you need it), 1 can chopped tomatoes with liquid, 1 (or 2) small can mild green chilis, optional: chopped fresh tomatillos if available.  See toppings ingredients below…

Definitely serve with: fresh lime, tortilla chip crumbles Optionally serve with (unless you’re at my house, then this is definite too!): sour cream, fresh chopped cilantro, diced green onion, hot sauce

Directions: Saute onion and garlic with a few splashes of olive oil.  Add everything else and bring to a simmer.  Um… you’re done and it likely took all of 12 minutes.

Notes: This is a very mild chili, which works great for my kids.  We all love the lime and chips on top and I put the rest of the accoutrements on the table and we sprinkle as desired.  Mike and I add hot sauce, but of course…  Doctoring your bowl of yum up with all the fixin’s is really half the fun.  Also, even though I live a stone’s throw from a Latino super market and could get tomatillos in a second, I have never gone to the trouble when making this recipe and and it still tastes stellar.

Final Note (still with me?): Feel free to use fresh corn, fresh tomatoes, etc… if you have them on hand, of course.  But isn’t it nice to know you don’t have to?

Ahh… Kale. I’m Back, Baby!

refrig soup

Refrigerator Soup.  What the heck is “refrigerator soup?” you ask.  It’s whatever you have left in your refrigerator at the end of your shopping cycle which you then chop up and throw into a pot.  With broth.  And wine. 

As promised post-cookie-bar-hangover, today’s post includes kale.  Kale!  Purge my soul (and arteries) my good friend, dark leafy greens!

This is–hands down–my favorite kind of soup to make, in case you’re wondering.  I love to make refrigerator soup for three reasons:

1. It insures I don’t waste.  Anything that grows out of the ground and a few other items that I found in my fridge are in this here bowl.

2. It’s DE-lish and different every time I make it.  Fun!

3. It’s healthy.  But of course.

It’s hard to record a recipe for food items such as this, but I will share what I did yesterday, K?  If you’re a psycho-measurer or to-the-letter-instruction-manual-follower, you are likely to be annoyed very soon…

Ingredients (as I recall…) 3 tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 onion, 2 cloves garlic, two kinds of cauliflower, broccoli, stems and leaves from both as well, carrots, celery, kale (KALE :)!), leftover brown rice, leftover chicken, chicken broth, 1/4 cup white wine, blob of “better than boulion,” salt and pepper to taste.

Directions: Chop up and simmer everything from the beginning of the list until you arrive at the rice.  Cook down until veggies get a bit softer.  Add everything else and bring to a boil.  Leave at a good bubbling place until veggies are cooked.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Tips: Quantity on the afore mentioned items…?  Yeah… Uh… How does “whatever you’ve got” sound?  Also, timing on this is also absolutely not key.  I didn’t pay a lick of attention to how long any of this took, I’m sorry to say… I was in domestic mode yesterday, cleaning my floors, folding laundry, dusting, etc, so I just popped by every 20 mins or so to take a gander at what was going on.  But hey, that’s me.

So, you know, with absolutely no details of any kind to follow, this recipe prolly won’t make it into my cookbook someday.  But man did we enjoy it last night.

Just For Me

Workshop reminder: Feb. 5 and Feb. 13th!  Check out my workshop page for more details, or comment on this post/email me on Facebook!

just for me!

This blog, and pretty much every piece of my life puzzle right now, are dedicated to getting healthy food into little bodies and keeping the people who make it as sane as possible.

Occasionally, though, it’s nice to take a break from the “we” part of who I am, and do something just for me.

The other day I was alone in my quiet house.  The laundry was done.  Dinner was prepared.  After almost nine years as a full-time homemaker, I’ve let go of conundrum created by holding a Master’s degree and still being OK with checking these sorts of accomplishments off my daily list of to-dos.  It’s all good.

I made a salad.  For one.  Me.  Mixed greens, fresh sliced pears, thinly sliced red onion, grilled chicken, feta cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing that I fixed on the spot.  I didn’t consolidate my efforts in the kitchen by chopping ingredients for future salads.

I didn’t even make enough to share.

p.s. This was a weird day for me–which you already know if you’ve been reading my blog!  I actually love to make ridiculous quantities of food and share it all with the world.  If you’re interested in attending a workshop “just for you” to get some excellent tips on meal planning or how to get your kiddos to eat anything (including a salad!) make a comment on this post or check me out on Facebook!

Winter Salad

I know I use the word “love” excessively when I talk about food, but, well, I really do love a good salad!

In my humble opinion, a “good” salad should contain a variety of textures and colors and be filled with seasonal produce, when possible, that combine to make interesting and varied flavors.  If you are looking for the iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing, you can stop reading this post now.  If you’d like to tantalize your taste buds (oh my!) and whip up something delicious and nutritious, keep reading…

For a southern Californian, it is easy to make fresh salads year round.  But what’s a meal maker to do if it’s January and one happens to live in, for example, Otisville, MI?  Don’t despair, Michigander amigas!   It is still possible to make a decent winter salad, even if you live in the temporary tundra.  You likely won’t be hitting the farmers market this weekend like I will, but I think you’ll find most of my suggestions at super market near you.

If I use leafy greens, I always start with something dark.  For this salad I used spinach.  You know those fancy restaurants that serve salad sculptures precariously balanced on plates with artsy looking leaves and stalks so large that even a muppet could fit in his mouth?  I hate that.  I like my salad to be easily poppable into my mouth.  You can use a knife or, my fave time saver, poultry shears.  Snip, snip, done!

cutting greens

I chopped up some carrots, celery, cucumbers and then cabbage.  I especially like the striking contrast between the bright white-ish cabbage and the dark spinach.  I do say it is a quite a nice visual, don’t you agree, Dah-ling? (see photo below)

In the summer, there’s nothing (NOTHING) better than a ripe red tomato in a salad.  But in the winter there’s nothing (NOTHING) more disappointing than a white, cakey tomato in a salad.  Don’t do it!  Yes, you need something acidic to make your salad truly del-ish, but there are many better winter options than a lackluster tomato! Even with So-Cal’s year round produce scene, options are still seasonal.   Try a tart apple, fresh or canned sliced pears, or what I used in this bowl of yum: some fresh oranges.

Another winter salad secret of mine is craisins.  Yum!!!  These tart and tangy little garnet gems (they seriously do look like jewels, don’t they?) are the perfect complement to my almost-done masterpiece.

craisins

My kids are well-trained (hello–I hope so!) to eat a good salad, but prefer it without cheese or red onion.  So I usually toss theirs with a balsamic vinaigrette, serve them, and then add the rest for the grownups.  I adore thinly sliced red onion in pretty much any kind of salad, and I also like a dash of cheese.  In this salad I used a mild and salty crumbled feta.  Parmesan or goat cheese could also have worked.   If I use pears, I sometimes like a mild blue cheese.

People who enjoy my salads often get annoyed when they discover that I usually mix the dressing right on top as I go.  “How can I recreate that Michelle!?”  I like a few dashes of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic salt, pepper, sugar, sometimes mustard, sometimes honey, sometimes apple cider vinegar, sometimes celery salt…  (Sorry.  That’s not helpful; it’s annoying.  I think you get the picture…)

I promise to post some actual salad dressing recipes soon.  Honestly, though, when you’ve got so much good stuff in your bowl, a simple vinegar and oil (my general go-to) dressing from a bottle can do just fine too.

Drum roll please… Tah-dah!

salad

Some tips: Add the juice from oranges or pears to the dressing: yum!  This salad was served as part of a meal, but you can make your salad the main dish by adding some protein and maybe some bread or crackers on the side.  My preferred protein pals include chopped chicken, chickpeas, kidney beans or fresh nuts (walnuts, pecans=smile.)  Candied nuts taste marvy, but pack on the calories, so I usually just use plain.

Get creative with your salads.  My mom likes chopped cauliflower and broccoli in hers.  Sometimes we don’t even include lettuce or other leafy greens.  Gasp!  I know.  Shocking.

The “Joye” of Cooking

teriyaki chicken

So I’ve been sorta-kinda posting on MWF (OK, technically this is only my second week with that schedule, but must we split hairs?)   Today, in case you’re not aware, is Thursday, but last night my girlfriend, Joye, found out about a chicken dish I was preparing.  She said it sound delicious and couldn’t wait to see the recipe.

Apparently flattery will get you everywhere with me ‘cuz here you go (Joye!)

Michelle’s  Very Own Hawaiian-Teriyaki Chicken

Ingredients:
Whole cut-up (organic if you like) chicken
1 can crushed pineapple in juice
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
tsp. garlic powder

Directions:
Set oven at 350 degrees.  Pour soy sauce and garlic powder in the bottom of a baking pan.  Place chicken upside down to coat with sauce/powder mixture and then flip over.  Pour pineapple over chicken.  Add a shake of garlic powder over top.  Crumble brown sugar over top of pineapple and then drizzle with vinegar.  Bake uncovered for one hour or until done.   Broil top for a couple of minutes to create a nice crusted glaze over top of chicken.

Tips: you can use whatever chicken you have around (thighs, breasts, whatever.)  Brown sugar, soy sauce and vinegar measurements can be adjusted for smaller quantities, in fact I don’t even measure, just sorta eye-ball and pour until it looks right.  You want about a quarter inch of liquid in the pan when it cooks.  Add a dash of orange (or pineapple) juice if there isn’t enough.  The sauce from the meat tastes super-yum over steamed brown rice…  Oh, and you can substitute cubed or round-cut pineapple, just drain some of the extra juice before pouring.

Bonus Tip: The best thing about this recipe is that I always have the ingredients on hand and can whip it up in a NY minute.  And, yes, the title of this post was a no-brainer. 🙂

p.s. (geeze, shut up already, Michelle!) this recipe is also posted on the “meat” section of my recipe page.  OK.  I’m done.  For real.