Any Kitchen Will Do

Give me a kitchen and I will cook.

Chicken Piccata

chickenpiccata

It has been so long since I had chicken piccata I just had to whip some up. I don’t typically work with chicken breasts, because I am a dark meat kind of girl. For the right sauce I will go so far as to work with the white meat, as is the case with piccata. I love the combination of lemon and butter in a sauce.

Only once in my life was the butter and lemon combination offensive, and it was my fault. It was an early chicken cooking experience and it was for a dinner date. I decided to do an aggressive marinade for some chicken breasts. I marinated the chicken overnight in a can of lemonade concentrate. What I wanted to do was make sure the lemon flavor was throughout the chicken. What actually happened was the concentrate practically cooked the chicken. I sautéed the chicken in butter and proudly served it to my guy, without first tasting it. After tasting it myself I realized he was being very kind when he said it was good. I, on the other hand, spit mine out. Lemon flavor overload! That day I learned to respect the lemon.

I applied my lemon respect to this dish. The sauce was filled with lemony goodness, but not too much! The traditional piccata recipe includes wheat flour, which I avoided in this version. I did not take the traditional step of dredging the chicken in wheat flour or use it to thicken the sauce. I left the chicken uncoated and chose not to use an alternative thickener, but instead decided to keep it simple and just add some cream. Worked out great!

A very common ingredient in chicken piccata is capers. I put them as optional because I did not include them in making this version. I like them, but Little B is not a fan, so they were left on the shelf….

Chicken Piccata

6 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 large onion or 2 medium shallots, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 large lemons, juiced
1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons capers, drained (optional)

Butterfly chicken breasts (cutting in half lengthwise), cutting all the way through instead of leaving the two halves intact. Season all sides with salt and pepper.

In two frying pans over medium high heat melt two tablespoons butter in each. Place six chicken breast halves in each skillet. Sear chicken, about three minutes each side. The chicken does not have to be cooked through. Place seared chicken in 9×13 inch baking dish.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine cooking juices and scrapings from bottom into one skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion. Sauté until garlic and onion begins to brown. Add white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen drippings, and cook until steam rises. Allow sauce to reduce for about five minutes.

Add lemon juice and parsley, stirring and cooking for another three minutes. Add the cream and the last two tablespoons of butter, stirring until butter is melted and sauce begins to bubble. Add salt to taste, if needed then remove from heat.

Pour sauce over chicken. Cover dish with foil and place in oven. Bake for 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and sauce is bubbling.

Serve immediately over steamed vegetables or spaghetti squash, generously drizzling sauce over the chicken.

 

Golden Lemonade

turmericlemonade5

As the weather gets warmer I get less and less excited about warm beverages. This is an issue because of how we get turmeric into our systems. We typically do a combination of capsules and a concoction we call slime – a combination of butter/coconut oil, cayenne pepper and turmeric – either in our coffee or hot tea. I don’t do well drinking hot beverages in hot weather, so I had to come up with another method of getting turmeric in me.

Turmeric is a most awesome anti-inflammatory. It has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, boost activity in the immune system, fight against the development of cancerous cells and make you more resistant to neurodegenerative disorders. The best way to maximize absorption of turmeric (up to 2000%) is to take it with pepper and a bit of fat, which is why we take turmeric capsules that include pepper and some fish oil as fat.

After doing a bit of research I came up with this yummy lemonade. It does not include any fat, but with the dash of pepper it helps maximize the turmeric benefits. In addition to the health benefits it is quite a pretty drink. It is a bit more savory than plain old lemon lemonade, but it is a pleasant, refreshing change.

Golden Lemonade

6 cups water
2 large lemons
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/8 teaspoon pure stevia powder (equivalent to 1/4 cup pure cane sugar)

In a large pitcher add the water. Juice both lemons and and add juice with meat to water. Add turmeric and stevia. Whisk together all ingredients until stevia and turmeric are combined.

Chill for at least one hour and stir before serving. Drink lemonade over ice, either straight, or dilute 1:1 with flat or carbonated water.

Cold Green Bean Salad

coldgreenbeansaladAs I have mentioned many times before, we make sure there are prepared foods stocked in our refrigerator, since there are scarce convenience foods that fit our sugar free, grain free eating habits. We prepare boiled eggs, bite-sized raw vegetables, cured meats and salads of all kinds. Making salads out of staples is an easy way to keep the fridge full, like Dilly Egg Salad, Tuna Salad Saute, Don’t Have To Choose Salad, Antipasto Salad or my recently shared Cucumber Salad.

Due to the freakishly mild winter in our current climes there are already fresh green beans available, so I grabbed some and brought them together with some other ingredients for a marinated salad. The thing I like most about marinated salads is that they get better every day they sit. On day four after making this salad the acids in the dressing may have made the green beans a little less bright, but the beans also soaked up all the flavors, including the tang of the red onion, and a serving of it tastes heavenly.

I encourage you to experiment with other salad fixings too! I’ve made similar salads using slender asparagus instead of green beans, Greek olives instead of black, mushrooms along with tomatoes, and even thrown in some chopped up ham or salami. Noticing a variation on a theme? The thing I have learned making cold salads over the years is that two cups of dressing seems to be just right to coat 9-10 cups of salad, which is the case here.

Have fun in your kitchen and enjoy the bright, healthy produce of spring!

Cold Green Bean Salad

2 pounds fresh green beans
2 cups grape or small cherry tomatoes
1/4 large red onion
2 cups large black olives, drained
2 cups vinaigrette dressing (I suggest my Herby Dressing or Greek Dressing)
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons dried red pepper flakes (optional)

Make your vinaigrette dressing of choice, if not already made or using store bought. Set aside.

Remove ends from green beans and slice them into bite sized pieces, about one inch. In a medium pot with steamer insert bring one inch of salty water to a boil. Add beans to steamer and lightly steam about five minutes, with the intention to soften them but retain their bright green color. Remove beans from pot, set them aside to cool and prepare remaining ingredients.

Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise and place in bowl. Finely chop red onion and place in bowl. Slice black olives in half horizontally and place in bowl. Add green beans. If including red pepper flakes add them now.

Pour dressing over salad ingredients. Gently toss salad until well coated. Cover bowl and chill for at least four hours or overnight.

Remove from refrigerator and toss salad again, then taste and add salt and pepper to enhance dressing flavor (need will vary depending on dressing used). Toss one more time to incorporate salt and pepper, then serve.

Cucumber Salad

cucumbersaladAs spring springs around here I move away from warm, gooey comfort foods and head straight towards colder foods. My morning coffee is no longer a steaming hot cup from the French press, but cold brew poured over ice after chilling for a day. As I walk around in cropped pants instead of jeans and sweaters I love opening the fridge and grabbing a bowl of chilled salad for lunch, like this one!

In past years I have done themed posts leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, either by culture or color. This year all I can muster is the green from these cucumbers. This is not a bad thing, just with so much going on leading up to our move my priorities have been elsewhere, like making products for Grain Free Haven, ensuring the 40 year old Christmas ornaments are safely wrapped and packed, and the DVDs we barely ever watch anymore (but still keep the movies we love since Netflix and Amazon Prime are fickle).

If you want to explore traditional and not so traditional Irish dishes, here are a few like Colcannon, Corned Beef, Shepherd’s Pie     Dublin Coddle or a Traditional Irish Breakfast. Some green themed items can be found too, like Salsa Verde, Mushed Peas or Buttered Leeks. May the luck of the Irish be with you this week, and the wearing of the green reduce the number of pinches you get! Slainte!

Cucumber Salad

2 medium cucumbers (or one large English cucumber)
1/2 medium white or yellow onion
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons dried dill leaves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a small bowl whisk together all ingredients except for the cucumber and onion.

Slice cucumbers into thin discs, either by hand or with a mandolin. Place slices in a large bowl. Thinly julienne slice the onion and add to the bowl with cucumber slices.

Pour dressing over vegetables and toss until well coated. Cover and chill for at least one hour and toss again right before serving.

 

Ham and Cheese Meatloaf

hamnchzmeatloaf

I was recently longing for the Cheesy Burger Bombs I made a while back. Since we were missing the necessary cheese snack wheels, and I did not want to run to the store, I decided to create a new thematic dish. A ham and cheese sandwich wrapped up in a meatloaf! The ham and cheese sandwich elements I prefer include, of course, ham and cheese, but also mustard and onion. I also like cold, crisp pickles, but excluded them from this dish, for I am not a fan of warm pickles. Yuck!

It was fun to make this meatloaf, especially since Little B helped stack the layers! Forming the bottom of the loaf to make a little nest for the filling, then stacking it all in the middle, then closing it up and hiding the surprise in the middle. She did not agree with the inclusion of the mustard layer, but after it cooked and we sliced it up the lovely condiment blended well with the warm onion, ham and cheese and she devoured it!

The final result reminded me more of a cheeseburger than a ham sandwich; you know, the kind where they basically put breakfast on a burger, with ham or bacon and cheese and a fried egg? When I had some of this loaf as leftovers I actually topped it with a fried egg. I highly recommend the addition!

Ham and Cheese Meatloaf

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tablespoons dried basil leaves
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 eggs
3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
8 slices deli ham
12 ounces shredded colby/monterey jack cheese
1 medium yellow onion, sliced into thin discs
1/4 cup yellow mustard

In a large bowl combine beef, garlic, basil, salt, pepper, cumin, eggs and Worcestershire sauce. Mix ingredients well with hands or mixer.

Press half of the beef mixture into the bottom of a large loaf pan, bringing it up slightly on the sides.

Place a layer of onion in the middle, followed by a layer of half the ham slices. Sprinkle 8 ounces of the cheese on top of the ham, followed by another layer of ham. Spread the mustard on top of the ham. Place a final layer of onions on the mustard.

Press the remainder of the beef on top of the inside layers and press it along the edges to join the top beef with the bottom beef. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, until the top is browned and beef cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool for about ten minutes. Depending on the fat content of the beef there may be an excess of grease and juices surrounding the meatloaf. Remove as much as possible before removing loaf from pan. Tip loaf pan so the meatloaf slides onto its side on a serving platter. Turn the loaf upright so the browned cheese side is on top.

Garnish with dark green lettuce leaves or fresh herbs and serve in thick slices to show the layers.

Tuna Avocado Cups

tunaavocadocups

We will be moving (again) soon. Not far and not dramatically, just to a different town. As always, there is a process prior to our moves that involve a cleansing. Cleansing of stuff of all kinds, including the contents of the pantry, freezer and fridge. This cleansing project has resulted in eating leftovers and staples with which I have not been very creative. The process is neither bad nor good, but the lack of creativity resulted in a lack of posts lately.

In my attempt to reconcile the posting situation I realized I was hungry for lunch and had two hankerings – tuna and avocado. I stocked up on some avocados a few days ago and they were finally, wonderfully ripe. Here is what I did with my hankerings and had a filling, satisfying lunch that did not take long at all to make.

Of course you can use any of many cold salads to fill avocado halves, like my Mustard Chicken Salad, Don’t Have To Choose Salad, Walnut Chicken Salad, Dilly Egg Salad, or even the exotic and vegetarian Japanese Eggplant Tomato Salad.  I used my old, reliable tuna salad this time, which I just realized I never posted about. Well, then, I am multitasking and did not know it!

Tuna Avocado Cups

2 ripe avocados
10-12 ounces wild caught tuna in water
1 medium dill pickle, finely chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon finely chopped onion or 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1 clove garlic, finely minced or 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried dill leaves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Dash ground black pepper

In a medium bowl whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Add tuna and stir with a fork until tuna is broken up and coated with mayonnaise mixture.

Slice avocados in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Lightly sprinkle halves with salt. Spoon tuna salad into halves, molding it into a pretty mound. Serve immediately with some cheese and raw vegetables.

Roasted Carrots

roastedcarrots

For the past few weeks I have spent a lot of time at the Dallas Farmers 
Market supporting my business Grain Free Haven.  Between customers 
I found myself regularly staring at the goodies sold by the produce vendor 
across from my booth. They have a lot of greens and citrus right now, but 
I especially have been coveting the carrots. Long, slender and bright orange 
with springy green tops. 

I don't eat a lot of root vegetables like carrots, potatoes or turnips. They 
are not entirely evil, but have a higher level of starches and sugars 
than I usually consume. The higher number of carbohydrates in a food, 
the more cravings I get after eating them. Ironically, after focusing on 
eating steamed veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and celery of late 
(about 1-2 net carbohydrates per serving) I got a craving for the lovely 
carrots (about 4 net carbohydrates per serving). I actually blame the 
tomatoes and cucumber (2-5 net carbohydrates per serving depending 
on size) I have been piling on my salads. I'm thinking that if the worst 
craving I have is for roasted carrots I am doing pretty well in the 
craving department!

Yesterday I finally gave in and bought some of the carrots. I will be 
using the tops later for some veggie or chicken broth, but for now I 
roasted and enjoyed the lovely carrots. Here is the simple way I 
prepared them. 

I loved every bite, but will definitely be going back to the green 
roughage tomorrow!
Roasted Carrots

10-12 medium carrots, tops removed and rinsed 
8 whole garlic cloves 
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil 
1 teaspoon onion powder 
1 teaspoon sea salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 
1 tablespoon dried parsley leaves 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

In a small bowl combine the oil, onion powder, salt, pepper and parsley. 
Using your hands or a basting brush cover all the carrots with the 
mixture and place them on a shallow baking sheet. 

Spread the garlic cloves randomly among the carrots. 

Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven. Carrots should be slightly 
softened but not mushy. If you prefer them softer, shake the pan so the 
side of the carrots touching the pan changes, then cook for 5-10 more 
minutes. Serve immediately.

Peanut Butter Chicken

peanutbutterchicken

Chicken chicken and more chicken! It seems to be the dish of choice lately, what with all the business in the house of late. I am probably not the only one that has noticed my posts are full of quick proteins and vegetables and mixes. I don’t think it is a bad thing, but is far from earlier posts of more time consuming dishes, like king cheesecake, tortillas, posole, cinnamon rolls or fondue.

This dish came from a combination of pre-gymnastics pending meal time and a bit of exhaustion from a day of baking for Grain Free Haven. If I ever worry about my family being interested in eating something all I have to do is slather it with peanut butter. The idea inspired me and this is what I came up with.

If it is not spread on top of a piece of bread it may just be a spoonful scooped out of the jar. If all else fails there are cookies, whether sugar free or just grain free. It is hard to find a jar with simple ingredients. I tried to make my own a few times but burned out food processors, grinders and blenders. Seeking out basic peanut butter (leaving out chemicals and preservatives) that will hold together is not easy. Natural butters are an easy choice, but, frankly, don’t have the stability of butters with sugars. Honestly, we lean towards the butters with simple sugars alternating with sugarless ones. Everybody has a vice, right? This chicken recipe relied on peanut butter with some simple sugars – usually labeled ‘natural’ on the side of the jar. I hope you enjoy the chicken, for what does not go well with peanut butter?

Peanut Butter Chicken

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
6 – 8 chicken thighs and legs, bone in and skin on
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl whisk together peanut butter, Worcestershire sauce, water, garlic, onion and sea salt.

Generously season all sides of each piece of chicken and place, skin side up, on a shallow baking sheet.

With a knife or back of a spoon spread the peanut sauce on the skin top of each piece of chicken. Place baking sheet on top level of oven. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and sauce is beginning to brown.

Remove from oven and let sit for about five minutes before serving.

Italian Sheet Bake

italiansheetbake
I love one dish wonders. Throw some yummy ingredients on a pan, slide it 
in the oven and viola! Dinner! 

We recently had chicken leg quarters and some hot Italian sausage in the 
fridge, which brought on this Italian feast. It was inspired by my 
mother in law. She regularly makes a delicious dish with chicken, sausage 
and a lovely tomato sauce with fresh herbs, served on top of pasta or 
spaghetti squash, or the spiffy new veggie noodles that are popular these 
days. I did not have the fresh herbs, but definitely had the other elements. 
I decided to pull out a sheet pan and fill it up with our future dinner.

Next time I will probably double the amount of cabbage, but the organic 
head I got this week was tiny, so maybe not. 

The star of this dish, surprisingly, was the tomato sauce. The low and slow 
cooking temperature roasted the tomatoes, so they had a rich, powerful 
flavor that perfectly complimented the chicken and sausage. The cabbage 
absorbed the flavors of the juices and it evolved into a great side dish. 

The recipe is flexible as well--the chicken and sausage ratio could vary 
significantly depending on your supplies, just make sure the tomato sauce 
is on top and the cabbage is below.

Italian Sheet Bake

2 cups jarred or canned diced tomatoes (about 16 ounces)
1 Tablespoon dried basil leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano Leaves
1 tablespoon dried parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cabbage head, medium chop
5-6 hot Italian sausage links
4 chicken leg quarters
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Place oven rack on the second level from the top. Preheat oven to 325 
degrees. 

In a medium bowl (if using a stick blender) or food processor add the 
tomatoes, basil, oregano, parsley, garlic and salt. Purée tomatoes 
and herbs into a sauce. Set aside.

On a shallow baking sheet evenly spread the chopped cabbage. Make 
a slit in one side of each sausage, arranging the links around the edge 
of the pan, slit side up. 

Generously season all sides of the chicken quarters with salt and 
pepper. Arrange chicken in the middle of the bed of cabbage, skin side 
up. Drizzle tomato sauce on chicken and sausage, spreading it to 
cover the surface of all the pieces. 

Sprinkle the cheese over the sauce. Place sheet in oven and bake for 
one hour and 15 minutes, until sausage and chicken is fully cooked, 
at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Remove sheet from oven and let sit for five minutes before serving.

Big D’s Breakfast Mix

bigdbreakfastmix

Big D and I have a big love of oatmeal. It started when we were children and carried on into adulthood. It has always been a staple on our camping and kayaking trips – easy to pack and prepare simply with water (ideally hot if we properly manage our alcohol stove fuel). Although our love for the stuff carries on, our desire to avoid high carbohydrate foods is now ever present.

The other morning we decided to try some of our staple pantry ingredients to make a low carbohydrate version of a morning porridge. The chia seeds worked well as a thickener, and gave us all serious boosts of energy that lasted pretty much all day, which is very much needed during a cold winter day.

After making a thinner version for Little B, she came on board with our concoction as well, followed by the demand to recite the old porridge-centric fairy tale, The Three Bears. Quite appropriate, I thought! I am thinking future batches may include a bit of peanut butter, or sprinkling of cocoa powder for fun. Little B will eat pretty much anything with berries on it, so it is almost a sure thing in the future for her too!

The mix recipe can easily be doubled or tripled, as long as it is kept in an air tight container, so go ahead and stock up!

Big D’s Breakfast Mix

1 cup golden flaxseed meal
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 cups almond meal
2/3 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons sea salt

For Single Serving
1/2 cup breakfast mix
1/2 cup hot water
¼ cup heavy cream or other milk product (soy, almond, cashew, lactose free…)
Dash of preferred sweetener (optional)
Nuts or berries (optional)

Combine flaxseed meal, coconut, almond meal, chia seeds, cinnamon and salt in an air tight container. Stir or shake until ingredients are well mixed together.

To prepare a bowl of breakfast mix, stir the bulk mix, then scoop ½ cup of the mixture in a bowl. Add hot water and stir, then add sweetener and cream. Stir once more and then let sit for at least one minute to thicken. Add more hot water to adjust thickness as desired. Add nuts or berries if desired and eat immediately.

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