Monday, April 6, 2009

Sunny days and good food with Family

Sunday was damn near a perfect day for me. I spent the early morning running through the quiet sunny streets of Seattle and the rest of the day hanging out, talking, enjoying some of my favorite people and also some damn good food. Spring finally peeked its little head out and the sun was shining, it is so refreshing and unexpected considering when I flew in on Thursday night it was still snowing here.

Sunny days and springtime make you feel a rebirth in your soul, well it makes me feel that way. I have been suffering from a serious case of being uninspired. Being busy precipitates that yes, but I think the doldrums of winter just hung on a little too long for my soul to bear this year. Brussel Sprouts left the building (at least the in season, organic) a while ago and I stopped desiring them and I had been anticipating the spring crop of food and with it new and exciting ideas, inspiration and lots of delicious eating. But somewhere along the line, I got stuck knee-deep in the muck (or maybe it was snow/shoe sucking mud) and have not felt like my Fast Foodie self in a very long time. As I was running yesterday morning, trying to shake off an early morning pity party for one, I realized that I needed to snap out of it. I love food! Food and cooking and all things culinary are my inspiration, my passion, it is what keeps me going! So by denying myself that or not jump starting myself in it during this very busy, stressful time is a serious detriment to my psycho/emotional/spiritual life! Sometimes, like yesterday getting out for my run, you just have to force yourself out the door (or when it comes to food, into the kitchen) and within a few minutes you will be utterly blissed out, wondering how you ever doubted that this was a good idea. I am the same way about socializing, I am filled with hesitation and then when I just get out there and do it, I can't believe I almost missed out. Maybe I am just like that in everything!

Needlesstosay, I was proud of myself yesterday because I not only got myself out on a nice run when I was feeling hesitant, I spent a few hours with my good friend Britt and was able to enjoy some of her delicious food. She fed me well (and as she is a Celiac and on the SCD & Body Ecology Diets, she fed me only things that my digestive system was happy with!!). I love simple thoughtful food, it seriously rocks my world. After hanging with Britt, I headed to the store to pick up ingredients to make dinner for my cousin Erika whom in recent months I have become super close with and absolutely adore, her husband and her step-daughter. I spend many a Sunday night at their house and love being able to share my cooking with them (when I am not being lazy and uninspired). It was a fun challenge since 3 out of the 4 of us eat (some) meat (and wanted meat included) and one is a vegetarian. I decided to take a Vegetarian Times recipe that I had been mulling over and throw in my own twist as well as a Food Everyday Recipe for Chicken Paillards. I finished off the meal by introducing my family to Coconut Bliss and boy were they satisfied! While these recipes were distinctly original, stay tuned because as I write this I am slow cooking an amazing Whiskey Spiked Beef Chili with a ton of great vegetables which is completely and totally my own. I have been salivating all day smelling it cook!





Chicken Paillards with Slow Cooked Onion, Arugula and Chickpea Salad



This recipe was super easy and we were able to do a tofu version as well. For the Arugula Chickpea Salad that went over the chicken, we decided to slow cook the red onion since none of us is particularly fond of raw red onion. Turned out to be a brilliant call.


Serves 4

Ingredients


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 to 8 ounces each)
  • (optional: 3 1/2 inch slice of extra-firm tofu)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 bunch fresh arugula (5-6 cups), tough stems removed


Directions


  1. In a cast iron skillet, over medium high heat cook red onions in olive oil until soft and tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Lay chicken flat; holding a sharp knife parallel to work surface and pressing down on the chicken with your palm to hold it flat, split chicken in half horizontally. Cover with plastic wrap; pound each cutlet with the flat side of a meat mallet or the bottom of a small pan until inch thick.
  3. In a shallow dish, combine 2 tablespoons oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.  Add chicken; turn to coat. Heat a large skillet over medium-high; lightly brush with oil. Cook chicken until opaque throughout, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
  4. In a bowl, toss together basil, 2 tablespoons oil, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.
  5. In a salad bowl toss together chickpeas, cooked onions, arugula and dressing.
  6. Top chicken (or tofu) with salad, salt and pepper to taste





Indian Inspired Root Vegetable Stew





This recipe came from Vegetarian Times this month, I was looking to try something new and different and this recipe had me intrigued due to the combination of Indian spices and dried fruits. The chicken from the previous recipe definitely made its way into the broth once it was plated and I could easily see adding chicken or lamb or beef to this recipe and slow simmering it for a while. I was really impressed with the way the spices and dried fruit played off one another. The dates and dried apricots go in whole and become super soft and sweet. The recipe orginally called for sweet potatoes and turnips, but I swapped those out for butternut squash (less starch), parsnips and carrots. I think the sweet potatoes could have possibly made the recipe unbalanced to the sweet side, so I think my substitutions were a brilliant call. I also increased the amount of vegetables without increasing the liquid making it not super brothy and quite substantial.


Ingredients


Serves 6


  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and chopped (11/2 cups)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 31/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbs. red miso
  • 3 medium parsnips, diced (2 cups)
  • 3 medium carrots, diced (1.5 cups)
  • 1 large butternut squash, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 8 pitted whole Medjool dates
  • 8 pitted whole dried apricots
  • 1/3 cup pitted, oil-cured black olives
  • 11/2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Directions


1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté 7 to 9 minutes, or until golden and soft. Stir in garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, and cinnamon, and cook 2 minutes, stirring often, or until spices are fragrant. Stir in broth and 11/2 cups water, scraping up any brown bits stuck to bottom of pan.
2. Whisk in miso until smooth, then add turnips, sweet potato, dates, apricots, olives, and ginger. Bring mixture to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish each serving with 1 Tbs. chopped cilantro.



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