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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Authentic Indian Lunch



My lunch today was a beautiful celebration in the mouth!  So many flavors came together to form a truly exquisite feast.  Cilantro, mint, curry, cardamom, coriander and cumin were all team players in this artistic cuisine experience.




My friend Sunita, invited me over to enjoy lunch and to show me how to cook real chicken curry.  I have to say, not many lunches i've had in my lifetime have been more inspiring or enjoyable than this one!




The first thing I learned from Sunita is that in any Indian kitchen you will find a spice box.  This holds whole spices that have not been processed at all.  For example, she grinds and toasts her own cumin and cardamom.  She makes her own tikka masala spice blend.  You should smell these flavors!  Oh yum!





Any great feast starts with a salad.  This elegant dish was crisp, sweet and savory.  Sunita doesn't go by a recipe, but here is the approximate method she used to bring together this party in a bowl.

Ingredients:
1 Apple
1 Asian Pear
1 Cucumber
2-3 Radishes
1/2 cup Roasted Corn
1 Red or Orange Bell Pepper
Handful of Cilantro
1/2 cup Pine Nuts
1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Instructions:
Dice all fruits and vegetables and roast corn over medium-high heat until starting to brown.  Whisk together vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.  Toss all ingredients together in a decorative bowl with the vinegar mixture and serve.



We've probably all had cucumber sandwiches at one time or another.  I was really inspired by Sunita's version of this classic.  She makes them a little healthier by using mostly Greek yogurt with a small amount of cream cheese.  Her garnish of fresh basil and sesame seeds really take them to the next level of foodie-pleasing status!

Ingredients:
(makes 4 sandwiches)
1 cup Plain Greek Yogurt
1/4 cup Cream Cheese
handful fresh Dill (chopped)
1 Cucumber (peeled, seeded and diced)
Salt and Pepper to taste
8 slices Whole Wheat Bread
Sesame Seeds and Fresh Basil for garnish
Instructions:
In  a bowl, mix yogurt, cream cheese, dill, cucumber and salt and pepper together. A helpful hint here is to dry the cucumber as much as you can so that the juices don't make your filling too runny.  You can do this with paper towels and you dice it.  Cut the crust off of the bread and spread mixture evenly on the bread and form the sandwiches.  If you would like to make them fancy, cut each sandwich into four triangles.  Pour your sesame seeds onto a plate and simply dip the sides of each sandwich into them.  Place on a decorative plate and top with the basil.





After lunch, my friend taught me how to make true Chicken Curry.  Let me just tell you, it looks, smells and tastes amazing!




And here is a word and recipe from Sunita herself...
Food transcends all boundaries. It brings people together.  I want to thank Lauren for allowing me to share a cooking experience. I enjoyed creating a dish and spending time with her. Though I am not an expert cook, I love cooking with my family and friends.

Lauren and I cooked butter chicken. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients to marinate chicken:

Chicken breasts (3) (cut into small cubes)
Yogurt (thick and whisked) (1/2 cup)
Ginger paste (2 teaspoons)
Garlic paste (2 teaspoons)
Coriander powder (1 teaspoon)
Cumin powder (1 teaspoon)
Light olive oil (3 teaspoons)
Lemon juice (1 tablespoon)
Salt and pepper according to taste
Turmeric powder (1 teaspoon) (optional)

Marinate for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight

Ingredients for gravy:

Onions (2) thinly chopped
Ginger garlic paste (2 teaspoons) 
Tomato puree (1 cup)
Cumin powder (1 teaspoon) (dry ingredient)
Coriander (1 teaspoon) (dry ingredient)
Cinnamon stick (1/2) (dry ingredient)
Red chilly powder (according to taste) (dry ingredient)
“Garam masala” or any Curry powder (1 tablespoon) (dry ingredient)
Butter (2 teaspoons)
Vegetable oil (2 tablespoons)
Salt and pepper according to taste
Fresh chopped cilantro for garnish
Water (1 cup)


Instructions for cooking:

Grill chicken or broil in oven (400 degrees for 15-20 minutes)
Heat the pan
Add butter and oil with cinnamon stick
Sautee onion till translucent, then add ginger garlic paste on medium heat
Cook for 2 minutes
Add tomato puree
Cook for 5-6 minutes with the lid on 
Add all dry ingredients, salt according to taste
Cook an additional 5-10 minutes
Add cream and cook for 5 minutes
Add previously cooked chicken
Pour water
Mix to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes
Turn off the stove
Garnish with cilantro

Serve and enjoy with rice or naan




Food is fun and inspiring because it bonds people together.  I love how cooking and eating with others leads to closer relationships.  Just spending time in someone's kitchen creates opportunities to tell life stories and find out what all you have in common with them.  I hope after reading this, you will be inspired to reach out to someone you would like to get to know better and invite them over to cook and eat with you.   Try one of my recipes and tell your friend about 1cookingchick!  Love to all! -1CC



























Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Chunky Greek Orzo Salad




If I had a very large quantity of this salad and a diving board overhead, I would literally dive in head first!  There are just some flavor blends that work.  The mix and meld of fresh basil, garlic, kalamata olives, cucumber, tomatoes and feta cheese is a timeless classic that agrees most taste buds that I'm acquainted with...even those that are only a few years old!  My kids love all these foods.  Orzo, a small, rice-shaped pasta, is the perfect canvas for the artful taste these combined ingredients create.







Chunky Greek Orzo Salad

Recipe:
8 oz. Orzo Pasta (cooked)
2 Cucumbers 
1 box Cherry Tomatoes
1 jar Kalamata Olives (drained and rinsed)
1/2 Red Onion
1 package Feta Cheese Crumbles
Handful of fresh Basil Leaves
Vinaigrette:
3/4 cup Olive Oil
splash of Red Wine Vinegar
2 minced Garlic Cloves
Salt and Pepper to taste
Instructions:
1.  While the pasta is boiling, peel and finely chop the cucumber.  Slice the cherry tomatoes in half, finely chop the olives and red onion and roughly chop the basil leaves.
2.  Mix all ingredients in a decorative bowl or large tupperware if making ahead.
3. In a measuring cup, whisk vinaigrette ingredients and then pour over the salad.
4.  Stir everything together and enjoy.



Packed with veggies, this would be a great make-ahead lunch for a busy work week...that would leave you feeling energized throughout the rest of your day.  Want to make it one level healthier?  Substitute a healthy grain like quinoa or farro for the pasta.  The picnic season is upon us!  So make this the next time your family and friends gather for a lovely outdoor feast!  








Sunday, April 2, 2017

Strawberry Ricotta Scones with Essence of Lime and Mint



Inspiration happened to me this weekend...in the form of a community strawberry picking, pancake eating, beautiful weather morning!  I live in a very inspiring town called Tupelo, MS...the birthplace of Elvis Presley if you didn't know!  There are so many unique and creative happenings in our city.  I can't help but write and cook about this glorious Saturday morning I spent in a strawberry patch, picking ripe red berries and indulging in a fine breakfast treat.




My friends, Will and Amanda Reed run Native Son Farm.  It is a twenty acre, multi-location farm, that grows seasonal fruits and vegetables with the intent of feeding our community.  You can sign up for a crop share knowing that your food will be free from chemicals, synthetic pesticides and herbicides.  Other events they host are honey harvesting and tomato tasting.  For more information, go to www.nativesonfarm.com.




Chefs from my favorite local restaurant, Kermit's Outlaw Kitchen,,,affectionately known as KOK, fried up stacks of pancakes in the strawberry field.  They offered a lovely strawberry topping for the cakes, fresh mint lemonade and coffee punch.  Long tables topped with farmhouse tablecloths lined the edge of the crops.  Families and friends gathered round to dine and socialize in the fresh air and sunshine.






So naturally, I was inspired to give you an original recipe that captures the essence of my lovely morning!  I wanted to do a breakfast treat because I was inspired by a breakfast event.  My family enjoys pastries that are not overly sweet, so that is why I chose scones.  We think that moist pastries are much better than dry, so ricotta cheese was the way to go.  I love the fresh flavors of lime and mint leaves and they reminded me of the visual experience of Native Son crops.  Therefore, Strawberry Ricotta Scones with essence of Lime and Mint were born.






Strawberry Ricotta Scones 
with Essence of Lime and Mint


Recipe:
2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
1 heaping tablespoon Lime Zest
1 stick Unsalted Butter (cold)
1 large Egg (beaten)
1/2 cup Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
3 tablespoons Half n Half
1 to 2 cups Fresh Strawberries (diced)
Glaze:
1/2 cup Confectioner's Sugar
the juice of 1 Lime
5 Mint Leaves (finely chopped)
Instructions:
1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and lime zest.
3.  Cut the butter into tiny cubes and work into the mixture with your hands until it looks like a coarse meal.
4.  In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg, ricotta cheese and half n half.  Add to the flour and butter mixture and use a fork to stir together until moistened.
5.  Add the diced strawberries and fold into the mixture with a spatula.  Apply pressure to the fruit to release the juices into the dough.
6.  Turn the dough out onto a clean, floured work surface.  Shape the dough into a flat circle and cut into 8 wedges.  (I wanted mine smaller, so I cut each of these wedges in half)
7.  Carefully transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.  (I wanted mine soft and moist, so I baked for only 15 minutes)
8.  While scones are baking, prepare the glaze.  Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.
9.  Drizzle the lime mint glaze over the strawberry scones and serve warm (with coffee).



Not many things inspire me more than cooking with fresh and natural ingredients.  I would encourage you to go out and find your closest source of organic foods.  My goal is to inspire you to create something amazing in your kitchen!  Let me know what you imagine!  Love to all, 1cookingchick.


















Sunday, March 12, 2017

Bento Box Week




I am not an organized person.  It's just not one of my personality traits.  Thankfully, people know this about me and love me anyway. Ha!  Lately I've had a surge of motivation to get organized.  Maybe it has something to do with the time of year.  Maybe I was bitten by the Spring Cleaning Bug.  Whatever the reason, I've made some small steps toward getting my home more organized and it feels great already!


The first thing I did was watch some Youtube videos on organization.  There are some great ones available!  The most inspiring chick I watched was Alejandra TV (www.alejandra.tv).  She showed how she folds her t-shirts and jeans so they take up the least possible amount of space in your drawers.  She also had great ideas for jewelry, socks and underwear, shoes and accessories.


Feeling inspired and ready to improve my home environment, I headed to Ross, T.J. Maxx and Tuesday Morning to pick up a few decorative/utilitarian baskets and bins.  Here are a few photos of my hard work in my drawers, bathroom and closet...



I must say, it feels good to be organized!...but you're probably thinking, "when are you going to talk about food?"  Well, that is what I would rather talk about any day!

All the putting things in things inspired a very compartmentalized food idea...Bento Box meals!  5 days of them to be exact.  Information about bento boxes from Wikipedia is as follows:  "...a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bento holds rice, fish or meat, with pickled or cooked vegetables, usually in a box-shaped container. Containers range from disposable mass produced to hand crafted lacquerware. Bentos are readily available in many places throughout Japan, including convenience stores, bento shops (弁当屋bentō-ya?), railway stations, and department stores. However, Japanese homemakers often spend time and energy on a carefully prepared lunch box for their spouse, child, or themselves."
 Here are my bento box ideas for your viewing pleasure and inspiration:



5 Days of Bento Box


Day 1-Lunch Bento
This one was quick and simple!  I simply threw in a pre bagged salad, turkey and cheese rollups, some veggies and fruit.  This would be perfect to take to work for a quick and nutritious lunch break selection.


Day 2-After School Snack Bento
Large Pepperonis, Fresh Mozzarella Cheese Slices, Basil Leaves, Bananas, Nectarines, Celery and Carrots.


Day 3-Asian Flavors Bento
Asian Beef with Lime Ginger Rice, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Beets and Sauteed Bok Choy.  The recipe for the Beef is below.


Day 4-Mediterranean Flavors Bento
Grilled Chicken and Garlic Pine Nut Couscous with Feta and Fresh Basil, Sauteed Swiss Chard with Walnuts and Roasted Sweet Potatoes.


Day 5-Movie Bento Box
This one was inspired by Gilmore Girls.  If you're a fan of the show, you know that Lorelai and Rory are always watching movies and eating junk food.  My daughter put this one together.  She is a very organized and particular child, so she was totally on board with the bento meals!



Asian Beef with Lime Ginger Rice

Beef Recipe:
2 1b. Ground Beef
2 Garlic Cloves (minced)
1 1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
2/3 cup Hoisin Sauce
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1/4 cup Rice Vinegar
3 tsp Sesame Oil
1/2 cup chopped Green Onions
Sesame Seeds for garnish
Instructions:
Cook the ground beef and garlic until meat is thoroughly browned over medium heat.  Drain the excess grease.  Turn the heat to low and add all other ingredients.  To serve, spread mixture over the Lime Ginger Rice and garnish with sesame seeds and green onions.

Rice Recipe:
2 cups cooked White Rice
2 tsp Ground Ginger
the juice of 1 Lime
1 Tsbp Butter
Instructions:
Mix all ingredients together and serve with the Asian Beef.



So this is what I learned from my week of Bento Box research and practice.  The possibilities are really endless. You could make any theme and mix of foods.  This is a way to make eating healthy more fun.  If you make the choices aesthetically pleasing, you and your family are more likely to eat the nutritious stuff.  If you love this idea and want your own set of bento boxes, I've attached the link to the ones I bought, below.  As always, I hope I've inspired you to try something new in the kitchen. Also, I love feedback!  So if you have your own ideas or inspirations for bento box meals, let me know!  Until next time, love to all!  -1cookingchick












Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Best Cheesecake Recipe




All of my family members LOVE cheesecake!  Actually, who doesn't?  This indulgent treat can be intimidating to attempt.  I have the solution for that, courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis.  Her blend of marscarpone cheese, lemon and vanilla flavors paired with an almond graham cracker crust, is a winner every time.  





As always, I like to get a little creative and tweak the recipe just a bit.  Giada doesn't call for it, but I add one or two teaspoons of lemon zest into the cheesecake batter.  It just adds a little something to the overall flavor.  Also, this time, instead of vanilla extract, I used this vanilla bean paste.
It really added something special as well.  There were little bits of vanilla bean visible in the cheesecake.  It just felt fancy, you know?  I think we found this at T..J. Maxx, but I'm sure it's on Amazon or at Fresh Market too.



You'll see in Giada's recipe, that she does this amazing Nutella topping.  I love it.  But this time, I wanted to try something different.  I had a sudden inspiration to blend cherries with balsamic vinegar.  Sounds weird, right?  It was tasty!  Here's how I did it...



Balsamic Cherry Reduction

Recipe:
1 cup Frozen Cherries
1/4 cup Water
1/4 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
Instructions:
1.  Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
2.  Stir frequently as the mixture comes to a boil.
3.  Turn down the heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
4.  (Optional) Use your whisk to slightly chop the cherries.
5.  Pour into a gravy boat or small bowl and allow to cool before drizzling over the cheesecake.




...and here is my masterpiece!...Mascarpone Cheesecake with Balsamic Cherry Reduction




























Something else I would highly recommend is a little cheesecake-making party!  Strap your babies on, give your older kids some Legos and get busy.  I hope I've inspired you to try this wonderful recipe.  So grab a friend and your springform pan and get ready to impress your people!











Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bruschetta Bar



Hello foodie friends!  Today I want to give you an idea for what to serve when you're having several creative people over.  It's so easy to do a beautiful Bruschetta Bar and you can make it as light or as hearty as you want.  You can offer a variety of cheese, meats, fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs.  Your guests can decide which flavor blends they would like to pile on top of their baguette slice.

The inspiration for this came from the Bruschetta Special that is always on the menu at a local restaurant here in Tupelo--Forklift.  I caught up with the owner, David Leathers, to ask him about it.  He said a lot of people think that bruschetta can only be the tomato and fresh basil topping for baguette, that we're all familiar with.  He said customers have actually argued with him over it. Ha!  But by definition, it is an Italian antipasto, or starter dish, consisting of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and olive oil and topped with any manner or combination of vegetables, cheeses, cured meats or beans.  Leathers loves for his cooks to get creative with the Bruschetta Special at Forklift.  I decided I wanted my guests to do the same.


Here is the complete list of items that I included in my Bruschetta Bar:
1.  Toasted Baguette Slices
2.  Diced Tomatoes
3.  Fresh Dill
4.  Diced Blood Oranges
5.  Goat Cheese
6.  Olive Tapenade
7.  Feta Cheese
8.  Artichoke Pesto
9. Peruvian Peppers (from another local restaurant -- Neon Pig)
10.  Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
11.  Meyer Lemon Olive Oil
12.  Balsamic Reduction





When you're slicing the baguette, do it at an angle, with a serrated knife so there is more surface area for piling the yumminess on top!



I found this at the grocery store near the vinegars and oils.  It's basically balsamic vinegar and sugar boiled down to a slightly thick consistency.  It was delish with almost every flavor combination!




Here are some of the Bruschetta creations we made!  Clockwise from top left:  Goat Cheese, Dill and Peruvian Peppers...Pepperoni, Artichoke Pesto and Balsamic Reduction...Goat Cheese and Balsamic Reduction...Feta Cheese, Blood Orange, Dill and Meyer Lemon Olive Oil.





The occasion was the first official meeting of the Tupelo Bloggers Club.  We're starting out small, but we have lots of exciting ideas and are calling all local bloggers/instagrammers who want to be part of a super fun and creative group.  We plan to attend/cover local events and happenings and just basically be a collective voice of the Tupelo scene!



I hope I've inspired you to create your own Bruschetta Bar.  It is a fun and easy meal idea...for a party or just for your family.  Got kids around?  You can easily incorporate kid-friendly toppings for the little people.  As always friends, get in the kitchen and get creative.  Above all, have fun and love people!










Friday, February 10, 2017

Sausage Rotel Casserole



Dressing up...this should be a fun and exciting childhood experience.  Not so much for my kiddos.  They've been studying Fairy Tales in school lately and this week held a couple of dressup opportunities.  Since I made my daughter wear a fancy princess dress to her Fairy Tale Ball, she said I ruined her whole day.  My son came home with a list of specific Fairy Tale characters he could choose from to dress up as...but he insisted that he had to be a super hero. Sigh.  

I was thankful for a simple recipe to throw into the oven while my kids were throwing fits about dressing up. Ha!  This Sausage Casserole is probably not the healthiest recipe, but it is hearty and filling...and most of my family members loved it!  It's great for a busy weeknight when you may or may not have some cranky family members to please.




Sausage Rotel Casserole

Recipe:
1 lb. ground Sausage
4 sticks Celery (chopped)
1/2 Onion (chopped)
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
2 cups Cooked White Rice
1 can Rotel Tomatoes (drained)
2 cups shredded Cheddar Cheese
Instructions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Cook the Sausage, Celery and Onion over medium heat until the meat is browned.
3.  In a large bowl, mix the meat mixture with the next three ingredients and 1 cup of Cheese.
4.  Pour mixture into a greased baking dish and sprinkle the remaining cup of Cheese over the top.
5.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is bubbly and browned a bit.




I finally talked him into dressing as a bear from Goldilocks and the Three Bears!  I don't think he made it off the bus with the ears.  Oh well.  Fairy Tale week is just not for us. Ha!