Chicken and Sweet Tomato Bake

IMG_2630This all started with 2 cups of on-their-last-leg sweet grape tomatoes. Theoretically, there’s nothing wrong with these little guys; they are just a little more mushy. But who wants mushy tomatoes in a salad? Not this gal.

However, something wonderful happens to the wrinkly tomatoes in the oven; they become even sweeter and the afore-mentioned mushiness becomes is an asset. The tomatoes break down easily into a deliciously stewed pile of sweet goodness. It sounds crazy but a simple mix of baked tomatoes tastes absolutely velvety when cooked down like this.
I can’t think of a better way to top some chicken.

While this is wonderful as an entrée (over rice pilaf or a vegetable) I love the idea of using this sweet, tangy flavor combination in other ways:

  • Dice the chicken and toss everything into some cooked gemelli pasta.
  • Dice the chicken and spread over a baked pizza crust with a few slices of  fresh mozzarella and a sprinkle of fresh basil
  • Stuff the whole thing into a warm baguette with feta cheese and arugula.

    Are you drooling yet?

Chicken and Sweet Tomato Bake
Serves 2, Time: 30 minutes

2 tbs olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 yellow onion, sliced thinly
2 c. (16oz) sweet grape tomatoes, halved
1 tbs Italian seasoning (or whatever you prefer)
Black pepper, Sea salt
2 (8oz – 10oz ) boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, halved (4 pieces in total)
2 tbs Parmesan cheese, freshly shaved (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350. In a shallow baking dish (8×8), combine first five ingredients, stirring well to ensure the vegetables are coated. Taste here; add more salt/pepper as desired. Add chicken, tossing to ensure that the chicken gets soaked in the tomato mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until chicken is white all the way through (internal temp of 165). If you wish, sprinkle a little Parmesan over the chicken; but it is fantastic all on its own. Serves 2 .

IMG_2631  IMG_2633
We need  Wonka Vision. Now.

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Coconut Pineapple Tofu Salad with Miso Ginger Dressing

IMG_2409With the weather warming up this week (in the 60s!), I had a major craving for a big salad. Like super crunchy vegetables, icy-crisp lettuce, tangy dressing and a giant fork. To the kitchen!

I started pulling ingredients out of my fridge (which is how most of my recipes get created…spoiler alert). I assembled a delicious bunch of things, conveniently including my favorite flavors: Coconut, Pineapple, Fresh Ginger, Fresh Garlic and Lime. Swoon.

I decided to keep with the Asian feel of this salad and make a deliciously marinated tofu, but this would be amazing with chicken or skirt steak. As it marinates overnight, the usually bland tofu gets properly soaked with coconut spicy goodness.  Marinating is key. The sweet pineapple, the creamy coconut milk and the 1-2 punch of Sriracha and lime in this marinade is so summery; fresh and delicious, I wanted to add some rum and go lay by pool. Instead, I added the tofu.

You’ll be glad you did too.

IMG_2404The baked tofu (amazing grilled if you can do it) is served over a simple Napa cabbage salad. This is where our crunch comes in…snap, crunch, yes. The miso dressing is what puts it over the top. It is ADDICTIVE. I’m a freak for umami, and miso is packed with it. You will want to stick your face in this dressing. Make extra. The best part (aside from the fact that it.is.awesome) is that you can’t mess it up. Promise. If you don’t like the flavor, keep tinkering (add garlic, add salt, etc) until it reaches the flavor and consistency you want.

Crispy, crunchy, spicy, sweet. Yes.

Coconut Pineapple Tofu Salad w/ Miso Ginger Dressing

Coconut Pineapple Tofu:
1 block extra firm tofu (or use 1/2 lb chicken or skirt steak)
1 c. coconut milk (regular or lite)
3 scallion stems, sliced (reserve green parts separately)
1 tbs lemongrass (fresh or bottled)
2″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 tbs fresh mint (or Thai mint if you can find it)
1 tbs lime juice
1 c. pineapple chunks (fresh or canned in water)
Sea Salt
Sriracha
IMG_2405Remove tofu from container. Slice into 4-6 thick slices. Tofu should be pressed. It removes the excess water and allows the tofu to soak up the deliciousness of the marinade.

Once the tofu has been pressed (or if you’re impatient and want to go for it), it’s marinade time). In a large Tupperware container, add coconut milk, scallion stems, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, mint, lime and pineapple (with juice if canned). Put lid on the Tupperware and give it a good shake. Taste the marinade, add salt and Sriracha to taste. Reminder: with any “heat” element, the longer something marinates, the hotter it will get. Add the tofu, put the lid on and give it another good shake to ensure the tofu is coated. Stick it in the fridge to marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Turn the Tupperware over a few times to ensure even soaking. Once marinated, you’re ready to bake (or grill).

Pre-heat oven to 400. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Pour tofu and marinade into the dish. Bake for 25 minutes or until tofu edges have browned, flipping once to ensure even cooking. Remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly. Spoon tofu and pineapple over salad.  Serving suggestion: Add a few drops of Sriracha on the plate for dipping.   Serves 2.
IMG_2406Napa Salad

1 head Napa Cabbage
3 scallions (the reserved green parts), sliced
1/2 yellow pepper, Julienne
1/2 red pepper, Julienne
6-8 radishes, sliced
1/2 jalapeno, very thinly sliced (optional)

Clean the cabbage and remove the tough outer layer. Slice off the hard root  (trim about 2″ from the root to ensure you’ve removed the toughest part). Using a sharp knife, slice the cabbage in half lengthwise. Then slice the cabbage very thinly from the root to the ends. You should have a slaw consistency. Toss with the remaining vegetables. You can either dress the salad as a whole or dress upon plating. Serves 2.

Miso Dressing:
2 tbs yellow miso paste
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 lime, zest and juice
splash of water
1/4 – 1/3 safflower or other light oil
Sea salt (optional)

In a small jar, add the first 4 ingredients. Screw on the lid and shake, shake, shake. Add a splash of water and the oil and shake again. Taste here. The miso is quite salty so taste before adding salt. Tinker with the proportions (I added more water because I wanted it on the thinner side but see what works for you!) Serves 2 (MAKE MORE)

IMG_2422Get a big fork.

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Polenta Eggs Benedict with Goat Cheese Hollandaise (Gluten-Free)

IMG_2429Oh haaayyyyy, I made you breakfast. A delicious, creamy, crispy, savory basket of breakfast love that you’ll want to eat constantly. Seriously, I may have this again for dinner.

We’re taking major liberties with the words “Benedict” and “Hollandaise” but I think you get the drift that this is a stack of eggs and awesomeness slathered in a creamy sauce. So be cool and don’t call the Mother Sauce Police.

For the gluten-free in your life, this Benny just makes sense. We’re using thick, golden slices of polenta for the bread and our hollandaise has 4 gluten-free ingredients in it. No mystery sauce packets, no soggy English Muffins. You’re welcome gluten-free friends.

Rather than spinach or other greens, we’re adding a bit of zucchini here….cooked in the bacon fat. Yes. We. Are. It adds a great earthiness to cut the delicious richness.

But…speaking of richness, with our modifications, this Eggs Benedict rings in with roughly 425 calories and 24 grams of fat (as calculated by me using myfitnesspal, not an expert, clearly) whereas a restaurant classic Eggs Benedict can be over 700 calories and 40 grams of fat. While this is certainly still indulgent, it is a bit lighter.

We’ll take it.
With a side of Goat Cheese Hollandaise.
Now.

Polenta Eggs Benedict with Goat Cheese Hollandaise (Gluten-Free)
Serves: 2 – Time: 45 minutes
4 (2″) thick slices Polenta (prepackaged in the tube)
2 strips center-cut bacon (or more if you prefer)
1/2 zucchini, sliced into rounds
4 eggs
1/2 tbs butter
1 scallion
smoked paprika
Sea Salt, Black Pepper
*For vegetarian friends, omit the bacon, and add another slice of zucchini

Goat Cheese Hollandaise

Adapted from Food.com
1 tsp safflower or other light oil
2/3 c. chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
3oz goat cheese
1 tsp corn starch
1/4 tsp black pepper
Sea Salt

Pre-heat oven to 350. On a foil-lined baking sheet spritzed with cooking spray; lay polenta slices, bacon and zucchini in one layer. Bake for 15 minutes (flipping once to ensure even cooking) or until bacon is crispy and zucchini/polenta has browned in the bacon fat. If you do not want your polenta to be bacon-greasy, bake on its own sheet. Once cooked, turn heat off. Leave pan in oven until ready to assemble.

While items are in the oven; make sauce. In a small bowl, mix corn starch with cold water, stirring it until the starch dissolves. In a small saucepan over medium heat; whisk oil and chicken broth together until they boil; then reduce to a simmer.  Slowly add goat cheese, whisking until cheese is fully incorporated. Slowly add the corn starch liquid to the cheese sauce. Bring up to a low boil (you should see the sauce thicken immediately. You can add another round of the corn starch/water if you want the sauce even thicker. Add black pepper and remove from heat and cover. Taste here. The cheese can be very salty so taste before adding salt.

For the eggs, poached eggs are traditional. You can certainly poach them; however, I prefer my eggs over-easy so that’s what I did. In a small skillet, heat butter or a bit of the bacon grease until bubbling; cook eggs on one side until no longer opaque. Flip once, count to 10 and remove from heat. This produces a very deliciously runny egg.

Ready to assemble!

2 Polenta rounds
2 zucchini slices (use rounds, not strips like me).
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1 slices of bacon, 1/2 on each stack (or more, load it up if you want)
2 eggs, one on each stack

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Spoon half of the sauce over both stacks (reserving remaining sauce for second plate)
Sprinkle with scallions & smoked paprika
(Repeat with second plate)

And then you get this……

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Will you forgive me for taking liberties with the “Hollandaise?”IMG_2459
I thought so.

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Local Finds!

IMG_2340It’s no shock that I love to shop local. Findlay Market and OTR have some of my favorite stops. I’ve spent many a happy weekend afternoon browsing the shops on Vine, nibbling produce from the farmers’ markets at Findlay, and sipping some delicious vino at a wine tasting at Market Wines. Seriously, one of the best ways to spend an afternoon.

On a recent trip to Findlay Market (and subsequent hop over to Main Street); I picked up some new (to me) finds I wanted to share.

IMG_2346Lah V Dah Beauty Essentials:

I wandered into a Findlay Market storefront (between Eli’s BBQ and Maverick Chocolates, ok, I was heading over there anyway…) when the LahVDah sign caught my eye. I ended up having a great chat with the owner about her extensive beauty products. Her line is all natural, skin-sensitive and EFFECTIVE. We talked about how so many “natural” products are full of junk or are all-natural but don’t work at ALL. Her line extends from hand soap to acne clearing products to everything to clean and moisturize your lovely self.  Her business is not-for-profit; so her interest in making you feel and look fantastic is just about that.

IMG_2347
I picked up her whipped body cleanser and a vanilla oatmeal body bar. I LOVE the body cleanser. She cautioned me to use a small amount (about a dime) on a loofah; and I agreed; a smaller amount worked just fine! It smelled fresh and clean; but washed perfectly and wasn’t sticky or too drying on my skin (plus, it didn’t leave the shower a slippery mess #dontdieinthebathtub)

Urbana Coffee
Another find, tucked into a covered hallway at Findlay. Urbana Cafe “Coffee with a Purpose” provides high quality coffee products; and uses some of the proceeds to give back to their favorite causes. I like it. My interest was much more selfish; I walked by and the coffee smelled incredible. Although they’ve been brewing great espresso and coffees for individual sale,  they just recently began roasting their own beans. I am a fool for fresh-roasted coffee so I quickly snapped up a bag of their house beans to take home.

IMG_2348You know when the bag of coffee smells SO good you want to chew the beans? Yeah, this does that. Supremely rich, but smooth; this coffee produced an excellent cup of coffee without bitterness, or that “artificial” taste you can sometimes get with pre-packaged beans. This was fresh, fresh fresh.

Macaron Bar
A few streets away on Main Street; the macaron bar is open for business. This trendy Parisian cookie is one of my all-time favorites so I couldn’t wait to get in there and try one. A darling little spot; you can see the varieties of cookies being made by the staff (on the day I visited, there were roughly a dozen flavors available). Not a huge seating area; but
2 – 3 small tables. The cookies are not cheap; they are $2 per cookie; $12 for 6. I opted for to try a half-dozen.

IMG_2349(Vanilla, Pistachio, Cassis, Citron)

The verdict? Perfect. The shells had the perfect “feet” (aka the crust on the bottom) and chew, while the fillings were smooth without being cloying. I loved every flavor I tried (and shared with friends). Worth the price tag and would make an adorable hostess gift.

I really loved all these new-to-me finds; new things make me happy.

What new things you have tried and loved?

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Chicken, Butternut Squash and Kale Stew

IMG_2354
(Served alongside some leftover roasted squash and a bit of goat cheese)

Yes, a three-peat. We may have to change this blog to Your Kind of Soup.
What can I say? I love having a homemade soup in the refrigerator for a quick lunch or dinner. So much better than store-bought; and seriously, so easy.

This recipe uses some of my favorite nutritional powerhouses: kale and butternut squash (remember, we made these into Lasagna?), plus thick pieces of chicken, warming spices and a little coconut milk for depth. While we hope that spring is around the corner the brightness of the greens feels spring-like, while the squash and coconut milk are cozy enough for a chilly night. This recipe is another gluten-free and dairy-free winner, so make it with abandon for the lactose and gluten-adverse in your life. Heck, please make it for everyone in your life, it’s that good.

 Chicken, Butternut Squash and Kale Stew
2 tbs olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled, minced
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced
1/2 butternut squash, peeled (seeded) and chopped into 1″ cubes
8 oz (2) chicken thighs (boneless, skinless), chopped into 1″ pieces*
8 c. chicken broth (please check your brand for gluten/dairy if you’re sensitive)
1 tbs cumin
1 tsp turmeric
4 c. kale, washed, chopped (thicker ribs removed)
4oz (1/2 c.) lite coconut milk
1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper (optional)
Sea Salt & Black Pepper
*Tip: Use kitchen shears to snip off the excess fat and cut the chicken neatly; much easier than using a knife!

In a large deep stockpot, heat oil and saute garlic and onion together until soft (about 4-5 minutes). Add squash, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat until squash edges soften (about 5 minutes). Create some space in the center and add chicken; saute briefly to get some color on the chicken (it’s OK if the chicken isn’t cooked fully now; it will cook in the soup).

Sprinkle mix with cumin and turmeric, toss to coat. Add chicken broth, bring soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add kale. Allow soup to simmer for another 15 minutes or until squash is fork-tender. Stir in coconut milk. Taste here; add additional spices/salt/pepper and cayenne if using.  Using a hand blender or a regular blender, blend 1/3 of the soup and return to the pot; this will give it that thick, stew consistency. Makes 8 cups. ~ 1 hour cooking time.
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I have some non-soup posts coming up, so you can put down the ladle…for now.

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Thai Chicken Coconut Soup (Gluten and Dairy-Free)

IMG_2231Yes, another soup recipe. These grey days have me hiding under my blankets.

However, I crawled out of my nest of wool socks and heavy blankets to make this fragrant, spicy and dare I say, healing Thai Chicken Soup.

Mmm. This soup. It is bursting with Thai flavors like lime, cilantro, lemongrass….all flavors that have me in a tropical state of mind (whilst I inch the thermostat a little higher….from 62 to 64; I am a thermostat curmudgeon).

We’re adding heartiness with diced chicken thighs. A more flavorful choice than chicken breast; and more affordable. To take the nasty bits off the chicken easily; use kitchen shears. Just snip off the excess fat and any grody bits; and then using the shears, chop chicken into small pieces. Much neater and easier than using a knife and cutting board.

The soup all comes together with coconut milk and tons of sautéed vegetables. Literally, you can throw in whatever vegetable is about to expire in your fridge. Zucchini? Tomato? Broccoli? Green Beans? Kale? Throw. It. In. Easy. Easy. Without the chicken/chicken broth, this dish is completely vegan; and even with the chicken; it’s dairy and gluten-free if you’re into that jazz.  I recommend serving this over a mound of brown rice which makes this a bit more of a one-dish meal and the rice soaks up every delicious bite of soup.

Nothing to do but eat soup and #prayforspring

Thai Chicken Coconut Soup
Adapted from Bon Appetit

IMG_2225
2 tbs safflower oil (or coconut oil)
4 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
1 (6″) piece of ginger (about 2 stems); peeled & minced
1 bunch scallions, stems only**
1/2  zucchini, peeled and sliced
1 large carrot, shredded
5 large mushrooms (button or shiitake), sliced
1/2 c. broccoli, crown diced, stem, peeled & shredded
1 jalapeno or red chili pepper, sliced thinly (optional)
Sea Salt
2 tbs (heaping) bottled or fresh lemongrass , sliced
.75 – 1 lb boneless chicken thighs, chopped 1″ pieces
4 c. chicken broth (check your brand for gluten/dairy, if you’re sensitive)
14.5oz (1 can) lite coconut milk
1 lime (juice and zest)
1/2 c. cilantro, stems removed, roughly chopped
Sriracha and Sea salt to taste
2 c. dry brown rice (for serving)
**The stems are perfect here as their strong flavor has time to mellow in the soup.
Feel free to use both white and green if you prefer**

Brown Rice:
In a sauce pot; combine rice and 5 c. cold water. Bring to a boil; and reduce to a low simmer and cover. If serving with soup;  I recommend putting the rice on first; it should take about 50 minutes to cook; the time it should take to prepare/cook the soup.
Makes 8 servings.

Soup:
In a deep soup pot; heat oil. Add garlic, ginger and scallions; saute until aromatics have a bit of color. Add vegetables (zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, lemongrass and chili pepper (if using) and sprinkle with sea salt. Saute to soften slightly; about 3 minutes.     IMG_2238 IMG_2239
(Bottled lemongrass; found in the Asian section of Whole Foods)

Create some space in the pot; add chicken and quickly saute; don’t worry about cooking thoroughly; it will cook in the soup. Add chicken broth and coconut milk; bringing soup to a boil for 2-3 minutes; then reducing to a simmer. Add lime zest, lime juice and cilantro. Simmer for 1-15 minutes. Taste; add sea salt and Sriracha as needed.  Makes 8 cups.

IMG_2242 #dontleavethenest #unlessyoumakesoup

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Thick and Rich Mushroom & Chicken Soup

IMG_2123 Deep Freeze 2015! As we settle into another below-freezing week here in the ‘Natti, it’s time to make some soup.

And while I love soup; I particularly love soup as a meal. This riff on a Hungarian Mushroom Soup is full of fragrant onions, savory mushrooms, big bites of gently sautéed chicken and deliciously carby pasta. Proteins, Carbs, Vegetables, Umami favor;  this soup has it all. One pot, one bowl, one gigantic glass of wine; and dinner is served.

Thick and Rich Chicken & Mushroom Soup
Servings: 8-10 (1-cup servings) Time: 1 hour

1 tbs butter (I implore you, Kerrygold is fantastic)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 (8 oz) container button mushrooms, cleaned and diced
1/4 c. wine (red or white) or chicken broth
2 tbs flour
1/2 lb  chicken (about 2 breasts or 3 boneless thighs), cleaned and diced
1 oz (about 6 or 7) dried wild mushrooms, broken up & reconstituted, reserve broth
6 c. chicken broth
2 heaping tbs dried dill (or 1/4c. fresh dill, minced)
4 oz small shaped pasta (or long pasta broken into 1″ bits)
1/2c. half & half
1 tsp smoked paprika
dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
Sea salt & pepper to taste

In a large deep stockpot, melt butter. Add garlic, onion and button mushrooms and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Once vegetables have some color and are starting to stick (about 5 minutes), deglaze the pan with wine or chicken stock. Creating space in the center of the pan, add chicken. allow to cook on one side, flip over. Don’t worry about cooking it 100%; it will continue to cook in the soup.

Once vegetables and chicken are starting to stick, sprinkle with flour. Toss to coat vegetables and chicken. Add wild mushrooms and mushroom liquid, stirring to combine well. Add chicken broth and bring soup to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Add dill and pasta and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes. Slowly stir in half and half (so it doesn’t curdle; if it does, it’s completely edible, just not as pretty). Sprinkle in paprika and cayenne if using, allow to simmer for 10 minutes.  Taste here. Add salt & pepper to taste. This needs nothing for serving; but a little freshly shaved Parmesan or aged Gouda would put it over the top. Makes 8 cups.

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Re-heating tip: As with any pasta-based soup, add a little chicken broth when re-heating to loosen up the soup again.

IMG_2132This soup came together in no time at all; but will fill your house with the most amazing aroma that will have you hanging around the kitchen drinking wine, waiting for it to be done.

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