Category Archives: Main dish

Winner Winner Buffalo Chicken Sammie Dinner

IMG_1828 All of those 4 or 5 or 6 or under 10 ingredient meals are so alluring.  Just think, with a very few items you too can make scrumptious meals.  But the ones I’ve tried end up being so blah that its easy to return to (still) simple preparations with a few more ingredients to punch up the flavors.  This flavorful buffalo chicken sandwich takes the cake for simple recipes with loads of flavor.

Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

(inspired by this recipe)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Franks hot sauce

2 chicken breasts, sliced into 1/2 inch thick “steaks”

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

3 TBS lite mayo (or more as needed)

lettuce

tomato, sliced

onion, sliced

4 ciabatta rolls, split

Directions:

1.  Combine 2 TBS hot sauce with 1 TBS softened butter, mix and set aside.

2.  Combine blue cheese and lite mayo.  Set aside.

3.  Combine remaining hot sauce with chicken and let marinade while you start up the grill.  Grill the chicken about 3 minutes per side and remove from the grill.  Pour hot sauce and butter mixture over the chicken.

4.  Toast ciabatta rolls lightly on the grill.

5.  Schmeer blue cheese mixture on the top of each roll, then assemble sandwiches with chicken, lettuce, tomato, and onion.

Notes:

  • Lite mayonnaise tends to be a bit sweet.  I’ll try this with light sour cream next time around.
  • Our whole family loves hot wings, so the chicken was a big hit.  And since each person can choose their own veggies on the sandwich, everyone gets a perfect sandwich.
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Spice of Life Vegetarian Sandwiches

How do you know that your sandwich totally rocks?  Why, of course, by sitting down at the lunch table at work, pulling out a sandwich that is technically a left over from dinner the night before, and coworkers’ jaws dropping with jealousy.  Fortunately, I work with a healthy bunch who all love a good meal.  Lunch discussions are more about current events, political ideology, local foods, and our profession in general, than anything found in People magazine or at TMZ.  Personally, this suits me well.

Back to the sandwich.  This little ditty is a breeze to make.  Simply combine the marinade ingredients and sliced veggies in a zip-lock bag and leave it on the counter.  Take a break from that amazing challenging task (tee-hee) while the marinade does its magic.  Finally, do a quick cook in the pan, assemble, and devour.  This is not the “oh my goodness, this IS spicy” kind of spicy like the grilled vegetable sandwich recipe, but rather the sweet on the front of the tongue followed by a delightful slow burn in the back of the mouth kind of spicy.

Spice of Life Vegetarian Sandwiches

makes 4 sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 tsp each: salt, thyme, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne pepper, Chinese 5 spice powder, ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 1/2 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon light mayonnaise
  • 8  slices  French bread
  • Mozzarella or Jack cheese slices
  • basil leaves

Directions:

  • Combine spices, vinegar and oil in a large zip-top plastic bag and mix together. Add zucchini, onion, bell pepper,seal and shake well to coat. Let stand 30 minutes, or refrigerate overnight.
  • Heat a skillet over medium high heat.  Coat with cooking spray.  Dump the contents of the bag into the pan and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Preheat broiler.
  • Divide sauteed vegetables among 4 french bread slices.  Top each with a slice of cheese.  Broil until cheese softens, about 1 minute.  Add remaining bread slices to the baking sheet and broil for 1 more minute or until the cheese melts and the bread browns, then lightly spread with mayonnaise.  Top cheese with basil leaves and toasted bread.

Notes:

  • Feel free to be pretty flexible with the veggies in here.  Any kind of squash or some eggplant would be perfect.
  • I totally like to snack on left overs.  These veggies are best in sandwiches and just don’t work well with casual “let me nibble on a few bites of zucchini” snacking style.
  • There are just enough juices to soak into the bread, providing some extra love.
  • If you clicked over to the grilled vegetable sandwich, you’ll notice how much the palm trees in the back yard have grown over the years.  There are 3 palms, with one of the three being a trio itself.  When we bought them about 5 years ago, they all fit in the back of our SUV.  Believe it or not!

Linguini with Sausage and Zucchini

“Pasta with.”  About twice a month we have what I’ve come to call “Pasta with” for dinner.  Sometimes it is spaghetti with cheap canned sauce.  Sometimes it is tortellini with pesto.  In the summer, it’s often bow tie pasta with fresh tomatoes, a bit of olive oil, and torn basil.  Winter begs for pasta with Sunday Gravy.  In order to accommodate the preferences in the household, the pasta is drained in the colander and the “with” is in a skillet or bowl nearby.  Everyone gets as much pasta and much topping as desired.

But then, I was watching a bit of Lidia on the local public TV station. Lidia doesn’t seem to do pasta with, but does pasta in.  Long story short, I’ve been playing with ingredients, proportions and timing for a few months now and have finally found the perfect weeknight dish.  One, it is really tasty.  Two, the timing is, dare I say, perfect.  Put the water on the stove, get the skillet heating, prep the veggies and sausage, start cooking the pasta at the same time as the other ingredients, and both finish at the exact same time.  Bon Appetit.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb linguine
  • 2 hot Italian sausages, casings removed,
  • 1/2 lb medium shrimp, shells and veins removed
  • 1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2 in pieces
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 2 TBS Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Set pot of water and pan on medium – high heat while ingredients are being prepped.
  2. When water is boiling, set pasta in water.
  3. Add sausage to pan, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring to prevent burning.  Add tomatoes, and stir for 1 minute.  Add zucchini, and let set for 2 minutes.  Add 3 ladles of pasta water to the pan, followed by the garlic.  Let cook another 2 minutes.  Add shrimp and stir the mixture gently.
  4. Drain pasta in a colander.  The shrimp should be a bit translucent in the middle, but go ahead and add the pasta to the pan.   Using tongs, gently mix the sausage and vegetables into the pasta.  The pasta will absorb the liquid in the pan.
  5. Plate and top with a bit of Parmesan if desired.

Notes:

  • This recipe / technique has been tried and tried again at home.  Finally I came upon the correct timings, ingredients, and flavors. Enjoy!
  • Yes, this was tried with wine, but I found that the wine and sausage were just not a lovely pair.
  • Adding the tomatoes at the start was a stroke of perfect luck!  They add into the flavor, aroma, and color of the dish in the most beautiful way.
  • Mmmmmm, finely diced garlic in pasta broth.  Heaven!

Deep Fried Pizza

Spring is arriving in this little nook of California.  The trees are showing off their spectacular blossoms, the asparagus is peeking out of the earth and the harvest has begun.  Strawberry stand owners are seen getting their little shacks ready to open for business.  The Brentwood Sweet Corn has been planted but doesn’t seem to be growing quickly yet, which is the only thing making local foodies grumpy.  But that happens every year.  We have the, ahem, pleasure of seeing this delicious food being planted and watching it slowly grow for what seems like six months before actually getting to cook up those cobs and munch away.  All in all a perfectly lovely time of year.

During our recent Spring Break, the husband and son went to Arizona to watch the first rounds of March Madness.  That left the 16 year old daughter and I at home on our own.  So what do we do?  Go on a total homemade junk food bender, of course!  Here my friend are directions on how to shop at a perfectly healthy grocery store and turn those prime ingredients into the most delicious junk food you have ever made at home.  Bon Appetit.

Fried Pizza

Adopted from the Panzarotti recipe in James McNair’s Favorites which is actually a book full of healthy recipes

Ingredients:

  • pizza dough
  • fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • pepperoni, sliced
  • marinara sauce
  • vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Heat 2 inches of oil to 360 degrees in a dutch oven or other heavy pot.
  2. Roll out pizza dough into a rectangle and cut into 4 smaller rectangles.
  3. On one side of each rectangle, spread a bit of pizza sauce, and top with cheese and a few pepperoni slices.  Fold over and pinch the edges tightly, as if making empanadas.
  4. Fry one at a time, turning frequently until golden, about 5 minutes.  Remove and drain on paper towels.

Notes:

  • I purchased all but the oil at Trader Joe’s.
  • Not being a pepperoni fan, I used zucchini in mine.

Chicken in Coconut Gravy

Have you ever waited around and waited around and waited around for something to happen and it didn’t, so you just piped up and did it yourself?  At work, years ago, we shared monthly pot luck meals.  There was usually a theme, but that was not necessary.  It was just so comforting to share a good meal with people that depend on each other every day.  But the organizer moved away, and stuff happened, and times got rough with the economy, and I wondered what I could do to bring back shared warm experiences with this group of people.  Gathering a few partners in crime, we just set up dates and themes for the year, and voila, food and people appeared!  Food and stories are once again being shared, and we’re just enjoying some relaxing time together.  Mission accomplished.

A bonus to being part of creating themes is that my favorites get included!  We all love the fresh produce in the area, so salad bars and finger foods always include amazing local delectable treats.  This group loves soup, so that will be one theme.  But me?  I just love stuff over rice.  Veggies over rice, stir fry over rice, and especially curry over rice.  Luckily, a friend renamed it “goodness over rice” which was a wonderful advertising improvement.  This is my favorite curry recipe from my favorite curry cookbook that has been reworked for my own home kitchen and was well received at our shared meal.  And isn’t that what it is all about anyway?  Sharing food, sharing stories, and sharing time together.

Chicken Curry

Chicken Curry

Adapted from the recipe “chicken in thick coconut gravy” in 50 Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi

Ingredients:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup almond flour (almonds pulverized in a spice grinder until powdered)
  • 5 TBS canola oil
  • 15 dried arbol chilies
  • 4 heaped tsp coriander seeds
  • ¼ tsp mustard seeds
  • 3 green cardamon pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 4 cloves
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 cups onion, diced
  • 1 inch piece ginger, peeled and diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 ¼ lb boneless chicken, cut into 2 inch chunks
  • salt
  • water

Directions:

1.  To a large skillet heated over medium heat, add 1 TBS oil to coat the pan and the chilies.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring often.  Add the coriander, mustard, cardamon, and cinnamon and cook for just under a minute.  Add the cumin, peppercorns, cloves and turmeric, cooking 1 more minute stirring constantly.

2.  Put the spices, coconut milk, almond flour, 1 cup of the onions, and cloves into a blender.  Blend until it becomes a smooth paste, about 5 minutes.  Add water if the mixture becomes too thick to blend.

3.  To the skillet heated over medium low, add 3 TBS oil and the remaining onion.  Sauté slowly until just turning golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Add the spice paste and one cup of water to the skillet.  Stir to mix thoroughly.  Add the chicken and cook over low heat, covered, 15 minutes.  Remove the lid, add ½ cup water and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce reduces to the desired consistency.

Notes:

  • It is imperative to have the spices measured out and ready to use before step 1.
  • The original recipe used fresh coconut and required creating your own first and second extracts of milk.  I found by trial and error that using canned coconut milk with ground almonds produced a very similar consistency.
  • Buying all of these spices in the spice rack of pretty bottled spices at your local store would put you back a pretty penny.  Look for the spices in small bags in the Mexican or Indian sections of the store.
  • For those who like to double some of their spices, do not double the cardamon pods as they are quite strong in flavor and will easily take over the dish.
  • For the work potluck, I complete the steps through the sauteed onion, then put everything in a crockpot that I brought to work and plugged in to cook the chicken.

Jambalaya for a Crowd

Sometimes life is like a puzzle.  Needing to make a meal for a Kaleidoscope family, no kids or teens involved, something that could be stashed in the fridge or freezer if there is an unexpected turn in the cancer treatment, and a 2 pound bag of shrimp in the freezer calling out my name.  Oh yeah, and a newish New Orleans cookbook hanging out on the shelf.  The decision became clear: should I make jambalaya or, um, jambalaya?  Jambalaya it is!

This version is truly enough for a full crowd of friends ready for a good meal.  I was a bit worried in that the ingredients and directions are so straight forward.  There was no secret ingredient, no fantastically original cooking method, nothing to show that this would be simply perfect.  This just has the perfect proportions of delicious ingredients with classic cooking techniques.  And really, isn’t that what we’re looking for in a classic dish like jambalaya anyways?

Jambalaya for a Crowd

adapted from the book Gumbo Shop: Traditional and Contemporary Creole Cuisine by Richard Stewart

Serves at least 12    |      Jambalaya for a Crowd (printable version)

Ingredients:

1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 lb smoked sausage, sliced into ¼ inch rounds

1 large onion, chopped

1 large or 2 med. Green peppers, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped,

5 cloves garlic, diced

2 16 oz cans petit diced tomatoes

1 tsp white pepper

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp salt

1 cup long grain rice

3 cups stock (from step 1 below, cooking the chicken)

2 lbs peeled raw shrimp

Directions:

1. Cover the chicken with water ans set over a medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces from the pot and reserve the stock. When cool enough to handle, remove the chicken meat from the bones and skin and break into bite sized pieces. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a large heavy bottom dutch oven over a medium heat, saute the sausage in the oil until lightly browned. Remove from pot and set aside with the chicken pieces. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper to the pot and saute until just tender. Add the diced tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot.

3. Stir in the rice and mix well. Stir in 3 cups of the reserved chicken stock, bring the pot to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Add the sausage and chicken and cook uncovered 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp, stirring into the jambalaya and cook until they are just pink.

Notes:

  • If you are squeamish about cutting up a chicken, this is a great place to learn since the chicken will be shredded anyways.
  • Did I mention the yum factor?
  • If you’ve never even made jambalaya before, this will still feel wonderfully familiar to you.  Its just one of those cozy meals.
  • Why is the title Jambalaya for a Crowd show this simple one person serving?  After delivering loads of jambalaya to the Kaleidoscope family and eating dinner at home, this was all I had for a photo to share.  Be lucky there was anything at all to share!

Fig Pizza with Pomegranate Cumin Dressing

Have you ever discovered something for the first time, only to realize it was right in front of your nose all along?  This summer I discovered the Tachella Family farm stand.  I’ve driven by it for years, but rarely stopped in.  They have a wide variety of fruits and veggies and ample parking.  They even note on each bin whether the contents are from their own farm or another farm, and usually even name the other farms.  This seems like a “duh” concept, but it is not always practiced in the area.  I certainly appreciate them for this.  Parking sounds like such a pathetic topic to even bring up, but believe you me, it can get crazy out there!

Finally, I just realized why even with all of these pluses, they don’t do a booming business.  Inside versus outside.  Most farm stands have tables outside, piled high with fresh foods that clearly call your name as you meander by.  Look at my lovely nectarines!  Yes, this watermelon wants to go home with you today!  We tomatoes are finally here and can’t wait to get reacquainted with you! But at the Tachella stand, everything is inside.  You just have to trust that its there and the foods will be delicious, which they always are.  I’m glad that I tucked inside last weekend, their last for the year, and found these adorable figs.  Time to cook!

Based on the recipe Grilled Sausage and Fig Pizza with Goat Cheese from Epicurious

Ingredients

Pomegranate Cumin Dressing

6  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4  tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons sliced fresh mint leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon ground cumin
6 tablespoons minced shallots
Fig Pizza
1 pound purchased fresh pizza dough
5 tablespoons Pomegranate-Cumin Dressing, divided
1 cup coarsely grated Fontina cheese
Fresh arugula
2 thin red onion slices, rings separated
6 fresh figs, quartered

Directions:

1.  Prepare dressing by whisking the ingredients together.  (The pomegranate molasses can be made by simmering 1 cup of pomegranate juice for 15 minutes.)

2.  Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Halve dough; roll to 10-inch rounds. Brush tops with some of dressing.

3. Grill pizzas, seasoned side down, until golden on bottom, about 4 minutes. Turn pizzas over. Top with Fontina, arugula,  figs, and onions. Drizzle with more dressing. Cover; grill until Fontina melts and pizza is cooked through, about 4 minutes.

Whisk first 5 ingredients in bowl. Mix in shallots; season with salt and pepper.

Notes:

  • I used prepared pizza dough from Trader Joe’s.  While the shape of the pizzas was, um, unique, the dough was certainly easy to work with and grill.
  • The original recipe called for sliced sausages.  I made the first pizza with the sausages and felt they just didn’t add anything to the dish.  The top photo has sausages just because it was the money shot.
  • This dressing is crazy delicious!!!
  • The original recipe added some goat cheese crumbles at the end of the cooking.  I didn’t want anything to compete with the figs and Fontina, so just omitted it.