Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Nutty Chicken Salad Veronique

There are many versions of Chicken Salad Veronique, and it has graced the plate of many a ladies' luncheon. Essentially is it just chicken salad with grapes and nuts. It's popular because it is always good, and it can be seasoned to suit any taste. I happen to like my chicken salad with a touch of curry. I think it makes it much more interesting, particularly when served on a sandwich, so that the flavor really comes through.

Nutty Chicken Salad Veronique

2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
1/2 cup toasted pecan halves, rough chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon paprika
Pinch of garlic salt
1/3 cup mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl mix chicken, grapes, pecans, celery, parsley, and seasonings until thoroughly combined. Fold mayonnaise into chicken mixture. Refrigerate until serving time. Serve on top of flaky croissants with a piece of romaine lettuce.
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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bacon Chili Corn Chowder

I am a chowder kind of girl, so when I saw this recipe on Twelve Tomatoes, I knew that it was in my future. The recipe is good, very good, but I took it over the top by stirring in a cup of shredded Pepper Jack cheese, and kicking it up a bit with some smoky ground cumin. Even Mr. O-P, who is not a spicy guy, and whose soup love begins and ends with Chicken Noodle, liked this one. The original recipe called for five cups (approximately 6 ears) of fresh corn. I'm sure that fresh corn, in season, and perhaps roasted on the grill, would have added much to the deliciousness, but I only had frozen and it was still delicious. The heat is adaptable, so if you like more, add another chipotle. Also, experiment with your own variety of onions. I didn't quite have enough scallions called for, but did have one lone leek on the verge of becoming limp and trash bound, so I thinly sliced it, and tossed it in; if you don't have a leek, use more scallions.
Bacon Chili Corn Chowder

6 slices bacon, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 large yellow onions, diced
4 scallions, chopped
1 leek, white part only, finely sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1 15-ounce bag frozen corn
2 whole Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce, diced
1 can (4 ounces) diced green chilies
2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons Masa (I used cornmeal)
1 cup Pepper Jack cheese, shredded
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large pot, cook bacon pieces over medium heat until crispy. Remove some of the bacon and save for garnish.  Add the diced onions (scallions and leeks); cook and stir for 3-4 minutes.

After the onions start to soften, add butter to the pot, let melt and then add the corn. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.

Add both varieties of chilies and stir, cooking for 1-2 minutes.
Pour in chicken stock and bring to a simmer, then pour in cream.

In a small container, combine Masa (or cornmeal) with a little bit of water and mix together, then pour into the soup. Allow to cook and thicken for around 15 minutes. Add cumin and paprika, and stir to blend. Add cheese and stir until it melts.

Garnish with croutons, chopped chives or scallions, crumbled bacon, popcorn, crumbled tortilla chips, or cheese curls.

Serves 8
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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Key Lime Cheesecake

As a rule, I am not a cheesecake person. It's not that I don't like cheesecake, I do, but when it comes to making it, I generally leave that up to Mr. O-P who has a recipe for a cheesecake that just melts in your mouth. This week, however, I had a hankering for cheesecake, and not just any cheesecake, but one that would be laden with citrus, lime, to be exact, and not just any limes, but Key limes.

I set to work squeezing each and every one of them with my little handheld citrus squeezer that is worth its weight in gold, until I had a half cup of the fragrant juice. Prior to squeezing I scrubbed the limes, and zested two of them until I had a healthy teaspoon of fresh lime zest.

I adapted a recipe for a basic cheesecake into what you see below. This recipe is a real keeper. I served it for dessert on St. Patrick's Day drizzled with a light green tinted white chocolate. Everyone was expecting basic cheesecake, but their eyes grew wide and moans of utter delight escaped their lips when they tried this one. I will make this again and again and maybe, just maybe, will try to create an orange (read: Creamsicle) version.

Key Lime Cheesecake

14 whole graham crackers
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup brown sugar, packed

1 cup sugar
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1 bag of Melissa’s key limes (or 1/2 cup fresh key lime juice)
1 teaspoon lime zest
3 extra-large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F. Make crust by combining graham crackers and sugar in a food processor. Drizzle in butter while motor is running; pulse to thoroughly combine. Press crumbs into bottom and halfway up sides of an 8-inch springform pan. Bake 5 minutes, remove from oven, and set aside.

Mix cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla, and beat until smooth and creamy. Add lime juice, zest, and eggs, and continue to beat until smooth and creamy. Pour into graham cracker crust. Bake 60 to 70 minutes until top turns light brown. Cool completely and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours (overnight is best). When completely chilled, remove pan sides. Slice into 8 equal slices and serve. 
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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Life-changing Potatoes: A Product Review

I am not a particular fan of convenience foods. For the most part, the majority of them are nutrition free. That is not to say that I don't, on the rare occasion, make use of them. They are, after all, convenient, and so I will admit to having a brick of Velveeta in my fridge (Who doesn't like those gooey grilled cheese sandwiches made with pasteurized, processed, cheese food?  Although I think the wordcheese” is no longer a part of the description, or perhaps it's the wordfood.), and a can or two of condensed cream of mushroom soup. I will also admit to feeling a tad guilty any time I use one of these products (but the convenience, she shrieked!).If you are like me, then I have some sit-yourself-down-and-brace-yourself good news. I have found a truly delicious, organic, natural convenience food, thanks to the good people at Melissa's Produce. Like manna from heaven these peeled and steamed baby potatoes  are going to change your life. They are peeled, people!  Peeled!  These tiny little potatoes are peeled!  They are also fully cooked to fork tender perfection and pretty much ready to eat as is. Slice them and add them to a salade niçoise -- tuna, green beans, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, onion, capers, and potatoes. (They are, after all, a product of France, and don't we all just love French food?!) Cube them, add some crunchy mix ins, and toss with cider vinegar and mayonnaise and you have a quick potato salad. Make shorter work of soups, chowders, and stews by adding these ready-to-eat potatoes. 

What I love about them is that they can be tossed into a 12" skillet in which a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of oil have been heated to sizzling, and in minutes you have the most creamy and delicious little potatoes browned in butter that you can imagine. I made these for St. Patrick's Day and received raves. I'll also serve them with pork chops and have the meal on the table in under 30 minutes.
These are life changing, people!  Flavor, nutrition, and convenience all in one package.  Kinda makes you want to swoon, doesn't it?


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