My Friend, Bruschetta

bruschetta

OK, so I’m just gonna come out and say it: Bruschetta is the best salad in the world.  Yup.  WORLD.

Don’t get me wrong, I need variety in my diet and absolutely adore other salads (cole slaw, for example) but, honestly, if I had to eat one salad for the rest of my life, (a strange  scenario, but just go with it) I would–hands down–choose bruschetta.

I love the simplicity of this dish.  6 little ingredients that come together in the easiest way to create a sensory experience that appeals to the eyes, nose and mouth.  I can seriously smell the basil and garlic in that photo above.  And the ripeness of the tomatoes coupled with the malty vibrancy of the balsamic vinegar… oh my…

On a hot summer’s night when the thought of turning on the oven or standing over the grill makes me wilt, sometimes I make just this for dinner.  With fresh fruit for dessert and (who are we kidding?) a nice glass of wine… well, that’s kind of a complete meal, right?  At our house: yes.

Michelle’s Bruschetta (pronounced “Broo-skeh-tah”)

Ingredients (quantities are approximate–I eyeball it every time): 5-6 good sized ripe tomatoes, handful of fresh basil, 1 large clove garlic, 1 rounded tsp. salt, 3 tbsp. decent balsamic vinegar (I like Costco’s Kirkland brand, actually), 3 tbsp. olive oil.

Directions: dice tomatoes, chop basil (stems can go in too as long as they’re not too “stalky,”) press garlic and throw everything together in a bowl.  Mix and let sit for a few hours if possible.  That’s it, baby!

Serve on sliced pieces of french baguette.  If you’re feeling super fancy, you can broil the pieces of bread with a drizzle of olive oil for a couple of minutes each side so they get toasty and won’t get soggy with the bruschetta on top.  If you’re not fancy today (and it’s OK, I won’t judge you); slice the bread and there you go.

Tips: Tomatoes need to be ripe and pretty much any kind will do.  Basil can be droopy or even at that “just before it goes off” stage and still work just fine.  Even if you’re a garlic lover like me, use only one clove per 6 tomatoes as I suggest above.  The vinegar and tomato juice will amplify the garlic as it sits.

I make this salad a lot, take it to various summer potluck gatherings and it has never-ever-ever failed to impress.  Hope you enjoy it!

 

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Easy-Peasy Chili

easy chili

OK.  So my girlfriend, Jen, requested I deliver on my promise to post my chili scene before the weather turns.  As she is one of my favorite people on the planet (she helped schlep my kids and even brought me a gorgeous plant when I was on my imagined death bed last month,) this is a request I am happy to accommodate.

Michelle’s Easy-Peasy Black Bean Chili

Ingredients: 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 med onion (diced), 1 clove crushed garlic, 2 med bell peppers (diced–approximately 1 1/2 cups), Two 15 oz. cans black beans (with liquid–don’t drain’em!), One 15 oz. can diced, stewed or crushed tomatoes, One 6 oz. can tomato paste, 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.

Directions: Simmer onion (any kind will do,) garlic and olive oil for a few minutes.  Add bell pepper and cook until peppers start to soften.  Add everything else, stir and bring to a boil/simmer until peppers are fully cooked.  You.  Are.  Done.

(OK.  Yes you can top off your creation with shredded cheese, diced onions, sour cream, what have you… Then.  You.  Are.  Done.)

Tips: You can use fresh tomatoes if you have them, but this is the “easy-peasy”  recipe so we’re going with that theme.  Any color bell pepper and any type of onion will do.  This is a mild version so my kids will enjoy it as well.  Often I serve my three little Gringo-mouths first and then add cayenne and chipotle powder or hot sauce to Mike and mine.

You can use other beans besides black (kidney, red, white, pinto) if you like, but I only include the liquid of black beans when I cook.  Any other kind tends to have that viscous water-ish situation that I prefer to drain.   It grosses me out.  What can I say?  So, if you use red or another type of bean, you’ll need to add water.

Meat (chopped leftover cooked chicken or cooked sausage, ground beef) can also be added to this recipe, but even my meat-and-potatoes husband found this version satisfying from the get-go.

Besides the obvious ease with which this meal is created (it literally takes me 10 minutes start to finish), I love how healthy and tasty this chili is.  Legumes baby!!!!

My final fave thing about this recipe is the variety of simple ways I can use it to make different meals.  There are soooo many ways, in fact, that I’m going to don this week “Chili Week!”  Tune in all week to see all the easy-peasy-tasty-healthy ways you can make this meal for your family too!

I usually double or even triple/quadruple this recipe, freeze or share with someone I love.

For today, we’ll go with two chili thingies:

Michelle’s fave: Chili with crushed tortilla chips on top (Hey–how did that beer get in the photo!?)

chili with chips

And we also like our chili with cornbread.

chili with cornbread

I usually use Trader Joe’s cornbread mix, and substitute buttermilk for regular milk.   Super yum.

What else can a mama do with chili?  Baby, just you wait…

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.

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.