Summer Rolls

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Were stuck in this constant back and forth weather change of is it spring or is it winter? Ohio doesn’t even know! While the weather in OH is trying to figure out what season it want’s to be, I’m over here dreaming of summer and the warmer days ahead. Clear blue skies, sun shining, birds chirping, people out running, kids playing or screaming whatever it is they do best, firing up the grille in the backyard, sipping wine on the patio with the girls laughing and reminiscing on the best of the past, playing 18 holes and then sitting on the patio with the boys throwing back a few ice cold IPA’s and snacking on potato chips, the time of the year where yard work never ends. Yes, good old summer time, sweet sweet summer. Snapping out of it, were less than 50 days from spring so that’s something to be happy about! 

I literally rolled into this last weekend by starting meal prep with some Vietnamese Summer Rolls. Although, these are great for warmer weather, I feel I may have put on a little bit of a fur coat myself if you catch my weight gaining drift LOL. I need a better balance of lighter fare to keep in my diet so I thought about one of my favorite summer dishes. These rolls are great with Chicken or Shrimp, I just did a simple vegetable roll. I recommend Hoison sauce for dipping if you have it or a sweet chili sauce, which is what I used. If you have a mondoline with a shredder attachment, that works the best for getting the matchstick size you will need for the vegetables. If you don’t have one, just finely slice the veggies as thin as you can. These rolls are a definite crowd pleaser. Make them as a great appetizer to share or as a meal for yourself! 🙂

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Yield: 8 Rolls

Mise en Place:

  • Large Spring Roll Wrappers
  • 1 Head Boston Bibb Lettuce, washed, leaves picked from core
  • 2 Carrots, peeled, shredded (or thing matchstick cuts)
  • 1/2 Large Cucumber, shredded (same as above)
  • 2 Scallions, sliced thin
  • 1 Small Bunch Cilantro, leaves picked
  • 1/2 Pack Rice Noodles, cooked according to package
  • 1 Large Mixing Bowl Warm Water
  • Sweet Chili sauce, for dipping

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Method of Prep:

  • Prepare all mise en place and have all ingredients kept in separate bowls of the order you want to build the roll.
  • Lay one sheet of rice paper into bowl of warm water. Allow to sit for 10-15 seconds or until soft. Remove from water and lay on a clean surface. Gently roll out the edges to form the circle (This part can become tricky because when you remove paper from the water, the sides with begin to tuck in. Carefully try to spread out to original shape keeping your fingers wet and being sure not to tear the paper. If you cause a tear, start over).
  • Going down the center of the circle, lay one large piece of lettuce (or two small), then a pinch of cucumber, small bunch of rice noodles, pinch of carrots, pinch of scallions, and then a pinch of cilantro(keep in mind this paper is very delicate, the more you put in the harder it will be to roll and will causing tearing, keep your portion sizes small).
  • To roll, fold the bottom part up, then the top down. Working from left to right, Keep the sides tucked in using both hands and begin to fold from left to right (Be sure to have enough work space for this part as it could become difficult if space is limited . Should seal easily, if not rub a little water on the outside to seal. Roll as tight as you can without causing a rip. Should the paper rip upon rolling, just keep going, it happens and is still edible, doesn’t need to be perfect. 🙂
  • Continue each step above until all mise en place is used.
  • I recommend eating these within 2 days of making them. Store in a sealed ziploc bag or air tight container in the refrigerator.
  • Enjoy!

**Make sure the bowl of water your using is warm at all times. The longer it sits, it will become colder. Switch out to warm water every so often to help the paper soften quicker.

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Roast Chicken with Garlic & Brown Butter Green Beans

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I’m stepping aside from the plant based proteins for one post and going back to a former recipe upon request. If you have been following my blog, you understand that I have made a choice to eliminate land animals (chicken, beef, pork) from my diet due to personal health goals. Striving towards a healthier lifestyle with diet is a very difficult task but i’m choosing to take it one step at a time, day by day to get by. I’ve learned to discipline myself and hold back on buying and cooking with the usual animal proteins I once loved to work with. A trick I have found to keep active with this change it to meal plan every week. Come up with a menu for what I will cook that week, write up a grocery list and shop for only those items. It not only saves me time and money but it keeps me motivated to cook again as I actually have a plan as to what I am going to prepare for that day or evening.  I am also married to a Chef, keeping a strict vegetarian diet is almost near impossible when food and culture is everything to us. I have to at least keep dairy, eggs and seafood in my diet or I wouldn’t be able to keep this blog going!

About two weeks ago on a cold Sunday evening, I went about the usual relaxing after dinner to a netflix show with the hubs until I decided to come into the computer room and check my emails, per usual I was distracted by facebook before doing anything else. Scrolling through the feed I came across my dear friend Tony who had posted about his apartment catching fire. Shortly after reading his post, I had seen numerous reports of an apartment fire very close to me which happened to be the same building my friend Tony lived in. I was worried for him and his girlfriend, however via his post, everyone was okay and out safely, their belongings and apartment were to be determined after the fire report. I was just happy to hear everyone was okay. The next day I messaged my best friend April who happens to be Tony’s sister about the fire, she confirmed everything and agreed to meeting with me as I wanted to help with anything I could. She told me over lunch that a gofundme page was set up in their name to help raise money in any funding they might need towards new housing, clothes and all personal items to start over. I offered to give money but was quickly denied as they requested I provide nothing more than a full meal for them to enjoy as Tony & his Girlfriend Moira were living off pop tarts and pizza rolls for the time while lodging at a friends house until they get their life back on track. 

When you lose everything in a fire, you also suffer personal traits you once enjoyed such as cooking because you don’t have your own kitchen and equipment to work with. Working in someone else’s can become challenging and most often awkward as you don’t want to abuse your welcome. I asked “What should I make?” and the answer was simple, “Just cook a whole bird with their favorite sides, green beans & broccoli.” This was literally the easiest task I’ve ever had and I couldn’t be more excited because I knew exactly what I wanted to do and it felt good to go back in time and pull from the archives one of my favorite techniques for a great meal, a simple brine and roast method. This recipe is comparable to the one I was provided when I worked at the Greenbrier. Working in the Forum-an Italian based restaurant, we would brine whole Chicken and then roast the next day. Then pulling the meat from the bone to be used in one of our pasta dishes. If I ate Chicken still, this would be one of my go to recipes. This brine not only adds great flavor, but keeps the right amount of juices in tact for a moist texture. 

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Mise en Place for the Brine:

  • 4 Cups Water
  • 2 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Black Peppercorns
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 1 Small Bunch Parsley Leaves
  • 1 Small Bunch Thyme
  • 1 Whole Chicken ( I used about a 5 LB bird, insides removed)

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Mise en Place for the Roasting:

  • 1/2 Stick Butter, cut in cubes
  • 1 Bunch Fresh Thyme
  • 1/2 Lemon, sliced in rounds
  • 2 Celery Stalks, chopped small
  • 2 Carrots, peeled, chopped small
  • 1/4 Yellow Onion, chopped small
  • Vegetable Oil for brushing on top
  • S&P, for Seasoning

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Method of Prep:

  • In a wide 3 gallon pot, bring water, both sugars and salt to a simmer, continue to mix until both sugars are dissolved. Turn off heat, add in peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley and thyme. Allow the herbs and spices to steep for 10 minutes. Remove from stove and place in refrigerator to cool completely.
  • Remove pot from refrigerator, place whole bird in the brine. Fill with water until the Chicken is completely submerged, about 8 cups more. Cover and set in refrigerator overnight (or at least 4 hours).
  • When ready, set the oven to 325 degrees. Remove Chicken from brine and place on top of a roasting rack. Stuff the end of the Chicken with celery, onion, carrots (Mirepoix),  thyme sprigs and Lemon rounds. Under the skin of the breast, stuff with the butter cubes. Using a pastry brush, lightly oil the top of the chicken and season with s&p. Place in the oven and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  • Enjoy!

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***You can save the used brine and reuse it again up to 3 times, just continue to use only raw poultry or pork in the brine. This brine will hold up to 1 week as long as it’s sealed tightly.

***Save your chicken bones and use for a stock! Take used bones from the carcass and seal in a ziploc bag. Place in the freezer for up to 3 months and use for homemade stock!

Green Beans Mise en Place:

  • 1 Bag Green Beans, ends trimmed
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • 1/2 Stick Butter
  • S&P, TT

Method of Prep:

  • Bring a large pot of water, about 5 cups to a rolling boil. Blanch beans by dropping in water, allowing to steep for 2 minutes. Remove from boiling water and drop in ice water to shock or stop the cooking.
  • Drain water from beans. Bring a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add in butter and allow butter to lightly brown, you will begin to smell a light nutty aroma. Add in garlic and stir until lightly browned about 1 minute. Add in Beans, season with salt and pepper. Toss until coated well with butter and seasonings. Reduce heat, using a zester, zest the 1/2 lemon rind over beans. Squeeze in fresh juice and toss again to coat. Cook until al dente, approximately 4 minutes.
  • Enjoy!

Lentil & Chickpea Patties

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Well we made it to Friday, yay! I hope that where ever you’re reading this post from, the weather is better than 14 degrees! Sometimes the frigid temps are okay, it keeps me indoors and allows me to catch up on cleaning and organizing the mess I’ve been putting off all year, plus I get to play with this blog some more :). I have no interest in even going outside  on an adventure – at least not when the wind chill is in the negatives. I’ve been staying productive inside, not sure if it’s because that’s my way of keeping my mind off being bored or because it’s my way of keeping my body moving so I don’t put on too much of a winter coat LOL. 

As I mentioned in my previous post in the winter were all looking for comfort food. Something hearty to keep warm when the weather outside is being weather. While I do enjoy an occasional heavy dish, I tend to find more comfort in healthier, protein packed fare. Normally I wouldn’t share a recipe that wasn’t on my must make again list, but these lentil “burgers” may interest someone else more than me. This recipe was borrowed from “Essential Vegetarian” Cookbook. I found the texture to be grainy and the inside dry. However, the flavor was good! I recommend if you do prepare these, to have some kind of a sauce with them to add moisture. I topped these with hummus which helped a lot in the mouthfeel as well. This recipe suggested a coriander garlic cream as a sauce, I didn’t like that at all with these burgers. I think there is a better alternative to this recipe with the ingredients than in patty form such as a coconut curry or soup. 

Lentils are high in protein and fiber, a versatile and nutritious ingredient. A mini version of a bean and part of the legume family, lentils grow in pods and come in a variety of colors such as red, brown and green. They are quick to prepare, and their low cost makes them an accessible form of high quality protein for many people around the world. If you’re looking to take on another version of a veggie burger, these Lentil patties are right up your alley!

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Mise en Place:

  • (1) Cup Red Lentils, cooked
  • (2) Yellow Onions, Julienne
  • (1) Tablespoon Tandoori Mix Powder
  • (1) Can Chickpeas, rinsed & drained
  • (1) Tablespoon Fresh Ginger, grated
  • (1) Egg
  • (3) Tablespoons Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
  • (2) Tablespoons Chopped Cilantro
  • (2) Cups Breadcumbs
  • Flour, for dusting
  • S&P, TT

Method of Prep:

  • In a large frying pan, heat up a tablespoon of oil. Add onion cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the tandoori powder and stir until fragrant, allow to cool.
  • Place the chickpeas, half the lentils, ginger, egg and the onion mixture in a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the remaining lentils, parsley, cilantro and breadcrumbs. Refrigerate mixture for 10 minutes.
  • Shape into round patties. lightly toss in flour to coat.
  • Over medium heat, add in some oil to a pan and cook patties 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Serve with choice of sauce.
  • Enjoy!

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Cauliflower Piccata

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Winter has officially arrived- all in one weekend might I add- here in Northeast Ohio. We got pounded with over 4 feet of snow, some areas up to 12 feet along the snow belt. Cars were trapped in between mounds of heavy snow, roads became icy where even the snow plows had a hard time keeping up with clearing the roads. The temperature dropped down to 9 degrees with a wind chill of negative 13.  I did recently read that spring is 50 some days away though, good news! Its hard to prepare for a snowpocalypse in Ohio because the weather always tends to be the opposite of what is foretasted. This time however, they were right- it’s a good thing I did my grocery shopping earlier in the week because the grocery stores and gas stations were madness on Friday. 

In the winter, everyone turns to satisfying comfort food, something to warm the soul. Commonly soups, stews, chili, pastas- anything hot and heavy, a kind of amenity to fill you with contentment during this cold and dark time of the year. A favored dish among many-Picatta may not be the first choice for something hearty on a frigid evening, I personally always find comfort in anything with butter, lemons, pasta and everything with a brine.

Piccata is a preparation typically with meat (Chicken or Fish) that is lightly dusted with flour, seared and served with a sauce of butter, lemons and capers.  My recipe is far from the classic as I am substituting a vegetable for the protein and I chose not to do the traditional Beurre Blanc (White wine butter sauce). Not going to lie my sauce doesn’t look the best and I kept it simple as I just melted butter with some aromatics and added in the capers and lemon juice.  If you prefer to keep the sauce conventional, here is a great butter sauce recipe. I found cauliflower to be wonderful alternative as the silky texture from the sauce and pop of acid readily absorbs and gives a great compliment to the produce.

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Mise En Place:

  • (1) Head Cauliflower
  • (2) Sticks Butter, cut into cubes
  • (1/2) Yellow Onion, Julienne
  • (1) Small Jar Capers-in brine
  • (2) Lemons-Juiced, seeds removed
  • (2) Cloves Garlic, sliced
  • Angel Hair Pasta
  • S&P, TT

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Method of Prep:

  • Heat oven to 400 Degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  • Prepare the Cauliflower steaks by cutting the head in half vertical, then slicing those halves in half again. The steaks will tend to break apart, it happens. Try and keep them together best you can. Drizzle steaks with olive oil, S&P. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes-turning over after 10 minutes to allow even cooking on both sides. If you want to go classic Piccata-try lightly coating the Cauliflower in a dusting of AP Flour and searing on both sides until golden. 
  • Fill a sauce pot with water, bring to a boil and cook off Angel hair pasta. I always add salt to the water for flavor and a little oil to keep the noodles from sticking together. Drain water from the pasta and set aside.
  • Prepare the sauce by first sauteing the aromatics (garlic and onion) until translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Begin to slowly add in butter cubes and continuing to whisk until melted over low heat. If butter begins to break remove from the heat. 
  • Whisk in Lemon juice and Capers (drain from brine first). Strain sauce from the aromatics, optional. (I kept the aromatics with the sauce to add to the pasta for a little something extra in the dish). Season with S&P, TT.
  • Place a decent serving of Pasta on a plate, top with Cauliflower and coat in Butter sauce mixture. (Optional-toss pasta in butter sauce upon serving).
  • Enjoy!

**Note: Eat immediately to keep the butter sauce from solidifying or breaking upon sitting**

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BBQ Jackfruit Tacos

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Happy New Year to you & yours! 2019 marks 7 years having this blog. Woah, it seems like only yesterday I was sitting in a new apartment in sunny West Palm Beach, FL in front of my 2010 HP Laptop trying to figure out how to start a blog with the vision of capturing an audience who give a damn to read my words and feel inspired to want to cook my food. This blog just like the food world, has changed a lot over the course of time. I began this website because food blogs were trending. As a writer and food buff, I considered this a way to spend my down time where I can start a personal food journal of recipes that I can share with others in hopes they would embark on the same journey as me. I was uncertain of the direction for this blog until I began writing more. In due time, I understood the meaning behind what I wanted from my audience and that was to encourage taking control of the food you put in your body. I want the public to spend less on going out to eat and more at home in their own kitchens. I wanted to give simple, low cost, healthier food to help create a beneficial lifestyle. With this being said, not every one of my recipe’s is the healthiest but it’s all about balance. When you discipline yourself to eat better every day, it’s okay to reward yourself and indulge in something good, kind of like a treat yo self day. 

I sit here now at a desk in front of my 20″ HP monitor in my first post of 2019 and couldn’t be more excited to head into another year of taking care of myself, for myself. I am going to try new foods and cuisines. You wont see (hardly any) meat recipes in my posts going forward (Please feel free to substitute protein of your choice in any of these recipes!). I made the change last year to eliminate most proteins (with the exception of seafood) so I could focus on higher protein foods with fewer calories and saturated fat. I want more Vitamin and mineral rich meals. Heart disease runs in my family and consuming more heart healthy foods are great start to prevent having to undergo future heart surgeries, etc. Once you turn 30, you start to realize it’s time to take care of yourself better.

As with a new year, comes a new product I’ve never worked with and have only tried once before, the Jackfruit. A very hipster, trendy plant based fruit exceedingly popular with Vegans as a meat alternative. Once cooked it takes on a texture and resemblance of pulled pork.  This young, unripe fruit soaks up flavor well and is truly versatile. Jackfruit is packed with fiber and antioxidants along with great benefits for your body. More information on this miracle fruit here. This recipe was adapted from the  cookbook “But I could never go Vegan!” The outcome of this was tasty, however I am not sold on BBQ as a taco condiment. I would love to make these as tacos again but next time just using a classic taco seasoning for the Jackfruit. 

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Mise en Place:

Guacamole:

  • (2) Avocados, halved, pitted and peeled
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro
  • (1) Lime, juiced
  • (1) Garlic Clove, minced
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cumin
  • S&P, TT

Tacos:

  • (1) 6 oz Can Jackfruit, packed in brine (not syrup)
  • (1) Cup Sweet Baby Rays BBQ Sauce
  • (1) Tablespoon Tomato Paste
  • (1) Tablespoon Hot Sauce
  • S&P, TT
  • (1) Medium Yellow Onion, Sliced
  • (1) Orange Bell Pepper, Sliced
  • (1) Yellow Bell Pepper, Sliced
  • Tacos Toppings of Choice
  • Corn OR Flour Tortillas

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Method of Prep:

  • Rinse the Jackfruit thoroughly in a colander. Use your fingers to tear into shreds, set aside.
  • Mix BBQ sauce, tomato paste and hot sauce in a small bowl. Season with S&P if needed. Set aside.
  • Heat a Tablespoon of Oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent.
  • Add the Jackfruit and bell pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the sauce mixture, reduce heat to medium low and cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally. Add more salt and pepper if desired.
  • While the Jackfruit is cooking, prepare the guacamole. In a large bowl mash the avocados until creamy leaving a few chunks. Add in remaining ingredients and mix until combined. Cover and chill until ready to use.
  • Heat up a small saute pan. Cook one tortilla at a time 30-60 seconds on both sides or until lightly browned.
  • Prepare tacos with garnish of choice.
  • Enjoy!

*I cooked up rice, added in fresh chopped cilantro and added cooked black beans as well. Both make great sides or garnish!

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