Any Kitchen Will Do

Give me a kitchen and I will cook.

Creamy Baked Asparagus

cremy asparagus

The other day Big D brought home some slim, tender asparagus. They looked wonderful, but were not the best candidates for making our favorite bacon wrapped version. I grabbed some of our pantry staples and created this easy side dish. It ended up very rich, and almost overpowered the smokes salmon we served it with. Not quite, but I will seriously consider serving it with roast pork or beef next time. This would probably work just as well with green beans. Let’s see if Big D comes home with some soon…

Creamy Baked Asparagus

1 bunch slender asparagus
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 egg
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Chop rough ends off of asparagus spears. Chop the asparagus into 1/2 inch pieces, leaving the tip pieces a little bit longer – makes about three cups of chopped pieces. In a small bowl whisk the egg. Add the cream, garlic powder, onion powder and salt. Whisk until egg is fully incorporated. Place asparagus in 9×11 or 9×9 baking dish. Pour cream mixture over the top and stir slightly to make sure all pieces are coated. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes, until cheese is gold and bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit for about ten minutes, until cream mixture is set.


Jalapeno Cheddar Muffins

jalapeno bread

Holy guacamole these things are good! They also go well with guacamole. Or just butter. Or split and used for a sandwich. Or sliced thinly and toasted and used for tea sandwiches…. You probably get that they are very versatile. They are also savory and flavorful. They remind us a lot of the garlic cheddar biscuits a soon-to-be-defunct restaurant chain serves. I don’t actually like their seafood, but love their salads and (used to) adore eating the biscuits. When reheating them just brush on some melted garlic butter and you will see what I mean.

Jalapeno Cheddar Muffins

2/3 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup butter
8 large eggs
1/2 – 3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
3 Tbsp fresh jalapeno, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Whisk together the coconut flour, salt, and baking powder. In another bowl, beat the eggs. Whisk in the melted butter. Add the coconut flour mixture to the egg/butter mixture and stir to combine until it forms a wet dough mixture. Add jalapenos and 1 cup of shredded cheese. Stir until cheese is well distributed. Divide the batter among 12 greased muffin tins or eight mini loaf tins. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the muffins/loaves. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until cheese turns golden brown. Let cool slightly before removing from pan.

Mushroom Onion Saute

mushroom onion sautee

I have spoken before about the delicate balance of having side dishes hot and ready when gorgeous meats are pulled off the grill. The grilled meat is best served warm, so everything needs to be ready and waiting! Here is a quick side dish that works with grilled stuff, and frankly, anything that is baking in the oven and needs something on the side. I sometimes forget that sharing main dishes can overshadow the often quick and easy sides, which are not to be discounted or forgotten. I remember when I first began to cook on my own I always though complicated was better tasting, and I was sooooo wrong! Simple is better, but complicated is fun! Try this. Can’t go wrong.

Mushroom Onion Saute

2 Tbsp butter
4 cups mini portobello
1 medium white onion
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt taste

In medium frying pan over medium high heat add butter. When butter is melted add onion and garlic. Toss until coated with butter and let cook until they release water (sweat). Add mushrooms and parsley. Toss until well mixed and coated. Continue cooking until mushrooms soften and onions begin to brown. Season with salt and cook three more minutes until salt is able to saturate vegetables. Remove from heat and cover until ready to serve. When served with or on top of grilled meats these vegetables soak up meat juices and complement them well.

Spicy Poblano Meatloaf

spicy poblano meatloaf

I know it is only August, but temperatures up here in Alaska continue to be cool during summer and my thoughts already turn to warm, fall dinners. Some of you are walking around in swimsuits trying to survive three digit temperatures and staying in the swimming pool as long as possible. We never put away our jackets and fleece, still needing them regularly, and daylight is down to a paltry 17 hours each day. We actually get to see sunset colors before bedtime! You are allowed to laugh, but regardless of the inspiration, I came up with this meatloaf. I remember when I was a kid I would make fun of the meatloaf my mom would make. Not because it did not taste good, it was awesome. It was just a thing. I was not alone in this form of entertainment – my dad and brother joined in too. They liked the loaf just like me and always had seconds. I am still not sure why we decided to make fun of it, but one day mom had a little too much of the kidding and declared she would not make meatloaf again. She was serious. I don’t remember ever having it again after that night.  Regardless of the edge over which we pushed mom, I still consider meatloaf a childhood comfort food. An important thing to not forget is the smushing of ingredients with hands. There is no way to properly combine ingredients without using hands. Don’t even consider excluding the step. I will probably make a summer salad tomorrow when the temperature gets up to a sweltering sunny 70 degrees, but today I cuddle under a warm blanket with my plate of loafy food watching the fog and rain.

Spicy Poblano Meatloaf

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 Tbsp avocado oil
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp chili powder (adjust amount to preferred spiciness)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
2 cups grated cheese (suggest cheddar or colby/monterrey jack mixture)
Sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add avocado oil to medium frying pan over medium high heat. When oil is hot add pepper, onion, celery, cumin seeds and garlic. Sprinkle generously with salt. Stir and cook until soft and browning begins. Add the chili powder, cumin, cilantro and parsley and stir. Continue cooking until liquid is reduced and some browning begins. Set aside mixture and let cool slightly. In large bowl add ground beef, eggs and cheese. With your hands mix together the three ingredients until well combined. Add cooked mixture and combine well. Load the meat into and press firmly in a 9 x 9 square baking dish. Place in oven and bake for one hour, until loaf separates from edges of pan and cheese bubbles up and begins to brown. Remove pan from oven and let cool for about ten minutes, letting the liquid settle. Serve with a vegetable side, like a creamy cabbage collard mix.

Creamed Cabbage Collard Mix

creamy collard cabbageLots of nights I open the fridge to figure out what needs to be cooked sooner rather than later, then I have a guide for our evening meal. Other times I go out on our balcony to see what needs to be harvested from our little container garden to use as a guide. This dish was a result of both guides. There was a partial head of cabbage in the fridge, and the collard greens on the balcony needed to be thinned so the smaller, younger leaves could thrive. The savory combination was a wonderful complement to a spicy meat dish and added the requisite fiber to the meal. I encourage you to grow your own garden, keep your fridge stocked with fresh vegetables and let them inspire what lands on your dinner plate. Cook well, eat well!

Creamed Cabbage Collard Mix

1/2 medium head cabbage, roughly chopped
2 – 3 cups collard greens, stems removed
1/2 cup mayonnaise or 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large frying pan to medium-high heat. Add mayonnaise or cream and chili powder. Heat until mayonnaise is melted or cream is bubbly. Add cabbage and greens. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Stir until vegetables are coated. Let cook for about ten minutes, stirring every few minutes until cabbage and greens are wilted, but still slightly crispy. Remove from heat and cover until time to serve.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

stuffed pepper plated

We had some lovely visitors from Texas recently. While they were here we had big plans to cook a lot of stuff for them, but we ran out of meals and time. These bell peppers were still hanging out in the refrigerator after they left, so I needed to do somstuffed peppers panething wonderful and amazing with them. It was not their fault they were usurped by a brunch buffet, grilled ribeye, bacon wrapped asparagus and pizza. I used to never like stuffed peppers. They were often overcooked, filled with flavorless rice and left me hungry. When I first made stuffed peppers for myself I decided they needed to eliminate the unsavory elements. Heh. Get it? Unsavory? Okay, I will stop. I first tried stuffing poblano peppers, which turned out great. This time I worked with the previously spurned colorful bell peppers. Bottom line, I added flavor and subtracted rice. The peppers turned out to be a lively, satisfying meal on a rainy day after much errand running. Next time the peppers will not be second or third fiddle, but instead the first choice. Yummy!

Stuffed Bell Peppers

5-6 bell peppers, any color
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground sausage
1 egg
1 cup Colby/Monterrey Jack cheese, grated
1 tsp ground cumin
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp red chile flakes
1 cup beer (recommend an IPA)
5-6 slices Monterrey Jack cheese
Salt to taste
1 batch chimichurri (optional)

Remove top of each pepper, also removing pulp and seeds from inside. Rinse, shake out excess water and place in 8 x 11 inch baking dish. Divide onions equally among the peppers by dropping them into the bottom of each. Sprinkle onions with salt. In a large bowl combine beef, sausage, egg, grated cheese, cumin, garlic, salt, black pepper and chile flakes. Squishing it all together with your hands is the best method. Firmly press the meat mixture into each pepper until it is level with the top. Bake for 45 minutes. Place a slice of cheese on top of each pepper. Return to oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes, until peppers are soft and cheese begins to brown. Remove from oven and let cool for about ten minutes. Suggest serving drizzled with chimichurri.

Herbilicious Chicken

herbilicious chicken

It is so herby and so delicious it must be herbilicious! And chicken to boot! We even made it twice in one week, which is very rare in our house – not only making the recipe, but making chicken. We are a protein kind of house, and most often rely on beef and pork to keep up our intake. Chicken is okay, but not our first choice. A dish has to be really good to get a double-make in a week. Our little balcony garden is growing like gangbusters and the nibbling birds cannot keep up, so we actually get to eat some of our harvest! Our oregano and sage look a little sad, but the cilantro, basil and parsley are very happy with the circumstances, and they do what they can to try and keep up with the towering collard greens. After not doing much gardening in recent years I am now reminded by our little plot just how much better food tastes when I grow it myself. It is amazing how much the sense of taste is influenced by the feeling of such an accomplishment. I can only imagine this dish would also be herbilicious with other herb combinations, so walk out in your garden and grab some handfuls. Let me know how it goes!

Herbilicious Chicken

6 – 8 chicken thighs, skin on
1/4 cup butter
3/4 – 1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup fresh parsley
1 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup fresh basil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper. In large frying pan over medium high heat place all thighs in the dry plan, skin side down. Cook until skin begins to brown, about eight minutes. Turn thighs and cook for five more minutes. While chicken cooks roll the parsley, cilantro and basil together and slice them up, then finish with a rough chop. Add butter to pan and flip thighs so they are all coated with butter. Add herbs and garlic, again turning the thighs so they are coated. Cover pan and cook for ten more minutes, until juices from chicken run clear. Add cream and stir thighs until cream mixes with juices and herbs. Lower heat and let simmer until cream is heated and chicken is cooked completely, about five more minutes. Serve immediately.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein Cookies

protein pb choco cookies

These cookies look ready for a picnic, don’t they?! First impressions may give the appearance of being just a regular cookie, tempting you to abandon your diet or require an additional 20 minutes on the treadmill. Not so! Look closely and you will see they are full of protein, and only have sugar if you choose for them to. We love our sugar free chocolate bars all chopped up and performing the role of topping. Our cookie treats have evolved from the wheaty, to the sugary but not wheaty, to this finale of non-wheaty and non-sugary. We are pretty impressed with ourselves, especially Big D who has become quite the consummate baker! I even changed the name per his request to put the protein after the peanut butter and chocolate chip – I am so proud! Enjoy these cookies on a Sunday picnic, or a Tuesday night – what a treat!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein Cookies

1 cup natural peanut butter
1 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp butter
3 eggs
1 cup almond flour
2 Tbsp whey or hemp protein powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3 Tbsp Stevita
¼ tsp sea salt
1 cup chocolate chips (or sugar free chocolate bar, chopped)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine peanut butter, butter, eggs and vinegar in medium bowl. In a separate bowl combine remaining dry ingredients except chips. Add dry mix to wet ingredients and stir until well blended. The dough will be stiff. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper – paper is optional if sheets are nonstick. For each cookie take 1 – 2 tablespoons in hand and shape a cookie, about  ¼ inch thick and place on cookie sheet. Leave approximately ½ inch between cookies. Gently press three to four chocolate chips into the top of each cookie. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until cookies begin to brown. Remove from oven and cool completely before removing cookies from parchment paper.

Chocolate Bar And More

chocolate bar

Dark chocolate is one of my favorite things. It makes me very happy. Chocolate chips have eluded us in our sugar free world – if chips are available at the store they either have sugar or artificial sweeteners we don’t eat. Some recent failures resulted in chocolate that started melting right after removing it from the freezer, or the balance of chocolate and sweet was not quite right. The coconut butter seems to make a big difference in consistency and flavor. It is made from the meat of the coconut, but with a mild taste. It also stays nice and solid at room temperature, which helps these bars hold up to room temperature adversity. You still get a little meltiness on your fingers when handling it, but what good chocolate bar doesn’t? This chocolate bar recipe does not result in perfect little chips with curly peaks, but the resulting small bits that serve the same purpose are lovely. We joyfully toss them into our homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream and cookies. Sweet levels can be adjusted to taste, and the bar also melts smoothly for home mocha lattes or dessert topping. I am continuing my quest for a curly topped chip, but what is life without a quest?

Chocolate Bar

3 ounces coconut butter
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
½ cup Stevita
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

In a small saucepan add coconut butter and chocolate. Melt over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in Stevita, cocoa powder and vanilla. Continue stirring until smooth. Pour into molds or spread in a pan lined with aluminum foil. An 8×8 size pan makes for the thickness of a typical chocolate bar. Refrigerate until chocolate sets firm, about one hour. For chocolate chips use a sharp knife to chop into small pieces.


Funky Fries

jicama friesI don’t use jicama in my recipes very much. Most often I include it on crudites platters to add variety from the typical celery and carrot sticks. Just last week at a potluck there was a delicious, crunchy salad made with jicama. It was very good, and took me to researching a bit more about using it for other things. You may be sick of hearing about this by now, but we continue to seek out low starch, healthy replacements for otherwise unhealthy comfort foods. When we recently succeeded in making burger buns there was a logical inquisitiveness about the traditional side dish – french fries. I really like the baked fries I made a few years ago, but they rely on potatoes, which are not a routine part of our diet anymore. I know from experience that jicama is crispy and a bit sweet, and in my opinion more flavorful than the traditional potato used for fries. I was skeptical about my hunt for the jicama at the local stores. Everything we buy arrives here on barges or planes (nope, no driving to Juneau!). Although local stores place orders for goods, there is always a mystery about what will actually arrive when, so it is hard to predict much of anything. I was overjoyed when I walked in and there they were, in their muted brown glory – a big pile of jicama! I even found a rather symmetrical one, for they can come in rather lumpy shapes and sizes sometimes. The peeling of it was easy, as usual, and the chopping duties were shared with Little B. I figured these fries could handle some stronger, savory flavors like garlic, onion and parmesean. I was right! The big pile was eaten up by the three of us and our visiting family, so I cannot speak to how robust (or not) leftovers would be. If I ever find out in the future I will let you know. Serve them along with some ketchup (or plain, or with mayo or whatever you like) and you have fries!

Funky Fries

1 jicama
1 Tbsp avocado oil
¼ cup parmesean cheese, finely grated
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and slice jicama into strips no thicker than ¼ inch. Slice strips in half. In a large bowl toss fries with the avocado oil. In a plastic bag combine cheese, garlic, onion and salt. Add fries and shake until coated. Place fries evenly spaced on a baking sheet, for too little space in between can prevent crisping. Depending on the size of the pan and the jicama, you may need two or more pans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and flip the fries. If you are baking with two pans make sure you switch their position in the oven – my oven bakes faster on the bottom rack if there are two in at the same time, so switching after tossing helps them all cook evenly. Return to oven and bake for 10 – 15 minutes more, until edges are crispy and brown. Serve immediately. Recipe varied from the one found here.

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