Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Pantry

My next few posts will address the Pantry. Everyone should have a well stocked pantry. I'm showing you mine. One thing I learned from listening to Melinda Lee's Food News is that you have to realize that food is always in a state of decay, no matter how well preserved it is. That made me realize that I need to not just stock a good pantry, but actively use the ingredients in it. Don't buy a sauce because it's "cute" or "whimsical' - because chances are, you will probably never use it.

I made a goal to start using the ingredients in my pantry and then re-stock as needed. So this weekend, I opened a jar of capers that I had with my smoked salmon for breakfast this morning. I made a homemade tomato sauce for a meatball panini, and I made a chicken curry using one of the 6 jars of curry paste that I've had stored! I found I have a yellow Thai curry paste, 2 green Thai curry sauces, a red Thai curry paste, a curry simmer sauce and a Tandori paste. I setteled on the Tandori paste for today's curry.

I will address that curry in a later post.

I spent the last 6 hours cooking. Something I love to do. I made homemade pesto using basil and some baby spinach with toasted pine nuts and some stored roasted garlic and a very good olive oil that I don't know why I was saving it. With the pesto, I made some parmesan pesto toasts (mostly gone by now!). I made a couple of poached eggs and put on top of a wilted spinach salad (and I was too tired to eat it, so that's lunch for tomorrow!). The chicken curry with the tandori paste served with Texmati (a Texan Basmati long grain rice) and a homemade Thai salsa with fresh ginger. Tomorrow's leftover curry and rice can be used in wontons with the salsa. It's all about using everything and searching for flavor!

And finally, I think the best dish I made today was grilled artichokes with lemon mayonnaise. It was absolutely divine! I cooked the artichokes in water with lemon until fork tender then drizzled them with some olive oil and grilled them on my panini. They look very impressive and then I drizzled them again with more olive oil, fresh lemon juice and made a mayonnaise with lemon and lemon zest.

I hope this post encourages you to store food in a creative way and then to USE the stored food!

Happy Cooking!

Freezing Leftover Pesto

Here's a neat trick for freezing leftover Pesto.

Fill up a silicon ice tray with the pesto and freeze it. The next day, remove from the ice tray and store in a freezer bag. I find the pesto has a soft texture, so I individually wrap each cube with plastic wrap and place all in the freezer bag and into the freezer. You can remove individual cubes to flavor soups or sauces as needed.

Favorite Breakfast

This is one of my favorite breakfasts. I eat this almost every morning when I'm on cruise ships or otherwise traveling. And I believe it is one reason I never gain weight when I travel.

3 ounces smoked salmon
Squeeze of fresh lemon

A bowl of fresh berries

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Jules's Chicken with Rice

Rice 2 and a half cups of chicken stock 1 cup of brown rice Chicken 4 chicken breast halves a pinch of salt pepper to taste pinch of poultry seasoning bunch of asparagus cut into 1 inch pieces 1 red bell pepper slices into 1 inch strips 1 tbsp capers zest of 1 lemon 1/2 cup chicken stock 1 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp chopped garlic Rice: Bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the rice and let boil for 3 minutes then cover and let simmer on low heat until all fluid is absorbed and rice is soft. about 40 minutes Chicken: Heat a large skillet with olive oil Sprinkle salt, pepper and poultry seasoning on chicken. Brown both sides of chicken in skillet. about 5 minutes on each side. Add the peppers and garlic and then add the asparagus and lemon zest. Pour in the chicken stock and let simmer covered for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through. Before serving mix in the capers. Serve chicken and vegetables over the rice and enjoy.

Easy Snack

This snack is so easy to make and so satisfying. If you're craving pasta and don't want the calories, I suggest you try this instead.

Heat up a cup of your favorite marinara sauce in a microwavable bowl. Add some shaved parmesan cheese, and I like the crushed red chili pepper flakes. It is such a satisfying dish without the pasta guilt.

Pesto Parmesan Toasts

This is a delicious snack, appetizer or just nice with a glass of wine.

Either thin slice a mini baguette, any kind such as sourdough or seeded, or rosemary, or use the pre-sliced baguettes that you can find at specialty stores, such as Bristol Farms.

Pre-heat oven to broil.

Layer a baking sheet with foil, shiny side up and spray with a vegetable spray or olive oil.

Place the bread on the tray and spread pesto sauce on each slice to evenly coat. Add enough shredded parmesan cheese to cover each slice. Place under broiler until brown on top. Serve warm or room temperature.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

BBQ Beef Panini

1 lb Deli Roast Beef, trimmed of fat, and torn into small pieces (Or shredded with a knife) 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce Hamburger buns, onion rolls, or hotdog buns Shred the beef into a large bowl. Add the sauce (add as much as you like if you like it wet) and combine. Add the mixture to the buns and cook on the Panini. Serve immediately or set aside and reheat.

Falling in Love with Roast Beef

I remember when I first fell in love with meat. I was 12 and we were at Lake Tahoe at a church convention. We were not well off by any means, but we had kind friends who looked after us. One of these was a girl a little older than my sister, Kathy. Her name was Dorothy and she was in college. I think my mother became friends with her mother a couple of years prior when we went to the fall church convention in Penticton, British Columbia. Maybe Dorothy was acting on her mother’s instructions to be kind to us. Well she was very kind.

She invited us all out to dinner…a very rare occurrence in my childhood to eat at a restaurant. It seemed like it was a very nice restaurant, though looking back I probably have eaten in better places since. But at the time it was very grand, indeed. The only drawback in my mind was the menu. The main courses offered only 2 items: roast beef or trout. Since I hated fish, I was dismayed that the only thing I could choose was roast beef. My lovely grandmother, God rest her soul, was a terrible cook. And since we lived with my grandparents, I was very familiar with her cooking. She was a great pastry chef, but she just didn’t make good meat. The Sunday roast chicken was greasy, the hamburger concoctions questionable, but the roast beef was inevitably dry and tasteless. In order to eat it, I always had to put a lot of ketchup on it.

So when the waiter stood in front of me after getting everyone else’s orders, and me being last because I’m the youngest, I didn’t know what to do. “Try the trout” my brother Randy said. He loves fish and was really excited to order something as exotic as trout. “No, Tina doesn’t like fish. She’ll have the roast beef,” my mother said for me. Then I piped up “with a lot of ketchup, please.” Dorothy and my mother exchanged glances and laughed. My mother said, “Try it without ketchup. You’ll be surprised. If you don’t like it, you can then ask for ketchup.”

Now I was really worried. While we were waiting for our food to be prepared, I was fretting about how was I supposed to eat dried roast beef with nothing to help choke it down? Eventually our food arrived. Randy was thrilled that the head of the trout with its eyes still intact was staring at him. “I’m going to eat the eyes!” he said in excitement. I shuddered and thought him very strange. Then I smelt something wonderful as the waiter placed my plate in front of me. I did not see a dark brown lump of stringy beef…instead I saw something pink and glistening and smelling wonderfully strange. “Go on, try it” my mother coached me. Tentatively, I picked up my fork and knife and cut a very small sliver of the beef. I put it to my mouth and put my tongue out to taste it. I felt all the eyes at the table watching me. “Don’t play with your food. Put your fork in your mouth and eat it” my father barked at me from across the table. Gulping, I quickly did as he commanded and my eyes must have popped open because everyone started to laugh. I had never tasted anything so good, the texture and feel of it in my mouth was like nothing I ever had before. And from that moment on, I realized that it is not the beef, but it is what you do with it that counts.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Jalapeno Tuna Melts

2 6 ounce cans tuna, drained
1 Jalapeno seeded and minced
1 Stalk celery minced
1/4 cup white onion minced
1 cup minced cilantro
Juice of one fresh lime
1 cup mayonnaise

Mix all the ingredients together for a Mexican flavored tuna salad.

Cut 6 red and 6 green jalapenos in half length ways . Remove the seeds and ribs.

Spoon the tuna into the jalapenos and top with pepper jack cheese. I was told by a reader that if you refrigerate the stuffed peppers for 3 hours before baking, the tuna will absorb the heat from the peppers and make them taste milder. Thank you H!

Place in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes until the cheese is melted.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Chilaquiles are a great way to use leftovers. And after my Superbowl party yesterday, I have a lot of leftovers that need to be used up. So I have some cooked steak, tortilla chips, bean dip, salsas and cheese. Here’s how to turn this into a delicious homestyle casserole dish, very similar to enchiladas. This is a rustic, rural Mexican dish and is often served with eggs at breakfast. You can use chicken or pork or any leftover meat. The idea is to use the leftovers and not cook this fresh. I even have a corn salsa leftover to serve as a side dish for a complete meal. In a baking dish (I use a 9 x 9 square as there are only 2 of us) spray it with a good vegetable spray or olive oil spray. Add a thin layer of salsa. Add a layer of leftover tortilla chips. Add a layer of beans or bean dip, or guacamole. Feel creative. Add a layer of shredded cheese. Add a layer of shredded meat. Repeat layers until filled. Press down on the layers. Add remaining salsa on top and a final layer of cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbling, about 20-30 minutes. Remove and let stand for about 10 -15 minutes before serving.

Tomatillo Salsa

10 Medium to large tomatillos
2 cloves garlic
1 jalepeno
1 bunch cilantro
2 limes

Remove the paper like husk of the tomatillos and rinse and place in a foil lined baking dish.
Rinse the jalepeno and place in the dish.
Wrap a whole head of garlic in foil and add to the baking dish.

Roast everything in the baking dish at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes until the tomatillos are soft and brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.
In a food processor, add the cooled tomatillos, and squeeze out 2 of the garlic cloves. The remaining garlic, store in a plastic bag or container in your refrigerator for other uses. It is even good spread on crackers with wine.
Remove the stem and seeds from the jalepeno and add to the food processor.

Rinse the cilantro and cut away the stems and add to the food processor. Squeeze in the juice of a whole lime and add 1 tsp of kosher or sea salt. Process in food processor until blended smooth. Taste for salt and lime and add more as desired.

This salsa will thicken up with time. The tomatillos have a natural pectin in them that acts as a thickener.

I take this salsa to office parties and it is so simple to make and very popular.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Blueberry Crumble

I have to confess that I saw this on “Fast Food My Way” on PBS with Jacques Pepin. So now that I can’t take credit for it, enjoy it anyway! It’s about the easiest, tastiest dessert to make.

The Ingredients:

1 Package Blueberries per Person
2 Shortbread Cookies per Person (I can find individual Walkers Shortbread sold 2 to a package at a local store)
Drizzle of Honey
1 Ramekin per Person


Wash the blueberries and put into the Ramekins. Drizzle Honey on top. Crumble the Shortbread Cookies and place on top of the blueberries. Heat the Oven to 350 degrees. Place Ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until the blueberries are bubbling. Serve with Vanilla Ice Cream or Clotted Cream if desired.

Black Bean Salad

2 15 oz cans of Black Beans, rinsed and drained 1 JalapeƱo, seeded and minced 1 small Red Bell Pepper, cored and diced ¼ cup small diced Red Onion ¼ cup minced Cilantro leaves ¼ cup fresh Lime Juice Salt and Pepper to taste ½ Teaspoon Ground Cumin Combine all the ingredients in bowl. Let marinate for 30 minutes and taste to adjust seasonings. Options: For a more Middle Eastern flavor, increase the cumin to 1 tsp, and add Mandarin Supremes and toasted slivered almonds or pine nuts. Or puree ingredients to make a flavorful bean dip with no fat. Or add thawed sweet corn for a whole different concept.

Corn Salsa

2 Cups of Petite Sweet Frozen Corn, defrosted ¼ cup diced Red Onion 1 Jalapeno, cored and seeded and minced ¼ cup minced Cilantro (or basil leaves) Juice of 1 lime Salt and Pepper to taste Combine all the ingredients

Blue Cheese Spread

I first tried something similar to this at a Bed and Breakfast in Mendocino, California. They served evening wine and appetizers during the cocktail hour. This spread is great on crackers or vegetables.

Soft blue cheese, such as a Napa Valley
Minced dried apricots
Chopped pecans

Bring the cheese to room temperature. Add the apricots and pecans and drizzle honey to taste.

Melba Pizzas

I created this snack a few years ago and it quickly became a favorite for parties, hors d'eouvres or just snacking.

Garlic flavored Melba toast crackers
Smoked cheese, such as Mozzarella, Fontina, Gouda, Cheddar
Plum tomatoes (or garlic roasted tomatoes or dried tomatoes)

Fresh Basil leaves
Parmesan Cheese
Red pepper flakes

Preheat your broiler

Line a pizza pan or a baking dish with foil, shiny side up

Spray the foil with a vegetable or olive oil spray

Arrange the Melba crackers on the foil

Add a fresh basil leaf. By putting the basil down first, the other toppings will prevent it from burning.

Add a slice of cheese on top of the basil.

Add the tomato.

Sprinkle the top with the grated Parmesan cheese.

Place under the broiler and watch carefully so it doesn't burn.

Remove as soon as the cheese is melted. Sprinkle with the red pepper flakes as desired. These can be served immediately or at room temperature.


This is so easy to make and is great with leftovers such as chicken, steak, my sister-in-law had me use a pork loin once in this. Or just with cheese.

Flour Tortillas
Sharp Cheddar cheese (or jack, pepper jack, whatever you prefer)
Your favorite taco sauce (optional)
Leftover meat (optional)

Salsa, sour cream, guacamole - whatever you like.

Heat a large skillet and place a flour tortilla in it. Heat for a few seconds and turn over. You are just making the tortilla pliable and warming it up. Remove to your work space.

On half of the tortilla, spread a layer of cheese and a layer of meat (optional) and add a small amount of taco sauce. If you over fill it, it will ooze and make a mess. Fold the tortilla over in half to a half moon shape. Do the same thing with a second tortilla. Return the quesadillas to the hot pan. Keep an eye on the bottom not to burn it. As soon as it starts to turn brown, flip them over. As soon as they are brown on the other side, remove from the pan to a cutting board. The cheese should be melted and the outside crisp. Cut each quesadilla into thirds and plate with toppings.