CHOCOLATE CHINESE FIVE SPICE CAKE

So, I admit it, the Kid’s Baking Championship inspired me on this one! If they can do it, I can do it I figured and this time it worked! 😀

CHOCOLATE CHINESE FIVE SPICE CAKE

CAKE
1 cup AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice Blend
1 teaspoon QUALITY cinnamon
2/3 cup finely chopped or grated bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup brewed coffee or espresso, Chai tea, or apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon PURE vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup sugar

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, Chinese Five Spice Powder and baking soda in a bowl.
  • In a small bowl, mix the coffee (or chai tea/apple cider vinegar) and diced chocolate.
  • Stir vigorously until the chocolate has fully melted – don’t leave any lumps of chocolate.
  • Add vanilla extract and buttermilk to mixture, and blend well.
  • Set mixture aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat the egg and sugar in a bowl until light and airy, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the chocolate mixture and mix well with a large spoon.
  • Add the flour mixture and stir until fully mixed with no lumps.
  • Pour mixture into two well prepared cake pans.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Remove cake pans from oven and let cool fully to room temperature.
  • Remove from cake pans.
  • When pans are cool to the touch, remove from pans and let sit on cooling rack at least another hour to cool, otherwise chocolate ganache will melt if cake is still warm.

GANACHE
1 cup heavy cream
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice powder

  • Place chocolate chips in a heat proof bowl.
  • Sprinkle with Chinese 5 spice powder.
  • Heat heavy cream to JUST before boiling.
  • Pour over chocolate chips and spice and let sit for 4-5 minutes – do not stir.
  • Whisk the mixture until it thickens and becomes a rich, dark chocolate brown.
  • Pour a small amount of ganache over top of one layer of cake and top with other layer. Set aside to cool.
  • Let remaining ganache cool to room temperature, so it is thick, but still spreadable.
  • Generously coat cake in ganache, running a flat spatula along the sides and top to make a smooth cake.
  • Top with chocolate sprinkles, cinnamon Sticks, and a very light dusting or five spice powder or cinnamon sugar, or crushed walnuts.
  • Chill for 2 hours, up to two days before serving.
  • Cut into slices and serve.

STUFFED CHICKEN MARSALA

STUFFED CHICKEN MARSALA adapted from Tiffany at Creme De La Crumb serves 4

This is a match made in heaven with the perfectly seasoned chicken stuffed with mozzarella, Parmesan cheese and sun dried tomatoes and then smothered in a savory Marsala mushroom sauce that tastes like it came from your favorite Italian restaurant in less than an hour.

CHICKEN
4 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 slices mozzarella cheese
1 12-ounce jar julienned sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, DRAINED WELL
2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons avocado oil
FRESH ground sea salt and pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut a slit horizontally along one side of the chicken breast to make a “pocket”.
  • 
Fill each pocket with 2 slices of mozzarella cheese, sun dried tomatoes, and a quarter of the shredded Parmesan cheese.
  • 
Pinch together the open side of the chicken breasts and secure with toothpicks.
  • Drizzle the chicken with oil, then sprinkle with FRESH ground sea salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and then rub in with your fingers.

  • Transfer chicken to a large enameled cast iron skillet.
  • Brown chicken over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side.
  • Transfer chicken on a plate while you prepare the Marsala sauce.

SAUCE
1/2 cup Marsala wine
1 cup chicken bone broth
1-2 tablespoons tomato paste, depending on taste

3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup heavy cream
FRESH ground sea salt and pepper, to taste
grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
FRESH chopped parsley or thyme for garnish


  • Add the onions and mushrooms to the pan, stirring to saute a few minutes.
  • Add garlic, stirring until fragrant, 30 seconds or so.
  • Add the Marsala wine, bone broth, salt and pepper, and heavy cream.
  • Stir and bring to a SLOW boil, cooking for 3-4 minutes.
  • Return chicken pan and spoon some of the sauce over the chicken.
  • Transfer skillet to preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until chicken is cooked all the way through and cheeses are melted. Spoon sauce over chicken midway.
  • Plate chicken and spoon sauce over top.
  • Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and parsley or thyme if desired, and serve.



NOTES: Using sun dried tomatoes packed in oil adds another layer of flavor.

STACKED SUIZA CHICKEN ENCHILADAS with PICKLED RED ONIONS

STACKED SUIZA CHICKEN ENCHILADAS with PICKLED RED ONIONS serves 2

I absolutely LOVE trying new recipes. Suiza is just the Spanish word for Swiss. I generally cook something BRAND NEW 85% of the time! So combining out of the norm flavors helps keep everything interesting and leads to some wonderful new combinations. Like Molly I combine flavors based on my likes, NOT based on their cultural origins. We used to live near a Mexican restaurant that had the most amazing food, was family run, but had THE grumpiest servers (all part of the family). EVERY time they hired a new hostess/cashier we’d all take bets on how long she’d last because they were ALWAYS cute and perky! 😀 Anyway, they had THE best Suiza chicken enchiladas and that is what this recipe reminds me of. The mozzarella is a much creamier cheese than the standard jack or cheddar normally used in this style recipe. The pickled red onion cut the richness of the ultra creamy cheese and give it a tangy finish.

Adapted from Molly Krueger at Marley Spoon

FRESH ground sea salt & ground pepper
pinch sugar
avocado oil
6 (6-inch) corn tortillas
¼ ounce chorizo chili spice blend
3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon BETTER THAN BOUILLON chicken concentrate
1/2 cup chicken bone broth
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
8 ounces green enchilada sauce
1/2 cup chicken bone broth

2 tablespoons chopped  FRESH cilantro,
1 poblano pepper, char roasted, stemmed, seeded and sliced thin
1 medium red onion, sliced thin
1 cup grated mozzarella
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
sour cream, for garnish

  • Preheat oven to 450° with a rack in the upper third.
  • Pick cilantro leaves from stems; finely chop the stems and reserve whole leaves. 

In small bowl, combine ¼ cup of the sliced onion with 1 tablespoon vinegar and a pinch of sugar and FRESH ground salt and pepper. Set aside, but stir occasionally, until needed.
  • In a measuring cup, stir to combine the enchilada sauce, broth concentrate, and chicken broth.
  • Set sauce aside.
  • Pat chicken dry.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Generously season chicken with sea salt and ground pepper.
  • Add chicken and cook until chicken is seared and cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  • Transfer chicken to a cutting board.
  • Shred chicken with 2 forks.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium-high.
  • Add poblano pepper slices, remaining sliced onions, and a pinch each of FRESH ground sea salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until veggies are softened and browned in spots, 3–5 minutes.
  • Stir in all of the chorizo chili spice blend and cilantro stems; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Transfer veggies to bowl with chicken; stir to combine.


  • Off the heat, pour ¼ cup sauce into same skillet.
  • Layer 2 tortillas on top, overlapping as necessary.
  • Top with ¼ cup sauce, half of the filling, and ⅓ of the cheese.
  • Repeat with 2 more tortillas, ¼ cup sauce, remaining filling, and ⅓ of the cheese.
  • Top with remaining tortillas, sauce, and cheese.


Lightly oil foil; cover skillet with oiled side.
  • Bake on upper oven rack until cheese is melted and tortillas are warmed through, about 10 minutes.
  • Uncover; switch oven to broil.
  • Broil until cheese is browned on top, 2–3 minutes, depending on your broiler.
  • Remove from oven; let rest for 5 minutes.
  • Top enchiladas with whole cilantro leaves, sour cream salsa and pickled onions as desired.

NOTE: If you cannot find chorizo chile spice, make your own!

CHORIZO CHILE SPICE BLEND

1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons Ancho Chile powder
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon FRESH ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon QUALITY ground cinnamon

  • Break up a bay leaf into small pieces. Using a mortar and pestle grind it up a bit.
  • Next add in the oregano and thyme and grind until finely ground.
  • Measure and combine the remaining spices, along with the bay leaf, oregano and thyme in a container and stirring to combine.
  • Store in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid and store in dry, dark place for up to 6 months or longer.

HAPPY HOMEMAKER & MENU PLAN MONDAY week 5 OF 2021

Be sure to join us for Happy Homemaker Monday and link up
with our host, Sandra at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

I hope you all had a great week. It was a strange one for me – ups and downs with my stomach/sugar issues, but it was still productive. I even worked in a painting class with a friend on Saturday. I had never done anything like it before, but had a good time and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. Then Sunday was NFL playoff day so we just lazed around and watched football and read since it was too cold to do anything outside anyway 😀

Cold, gray and rainy/snowy. We aren’t supposed to see any sun this week with gray rainy snowy days and cold temperatures, highs in the low 40’s and lows in the low 30’s. I’m going to be painting this morning so I’m wearing old painting levis and my painting t-shirt.

Hot water, peach yogurt and a cheddar cheese slice.

THIS WEEK’S TO DO LIST, PROJECTS & APPOINTMENTS
  • LAUNDRY & CLEANING I just have the normal sheets and towels as well as a load of jeans and socks to do.
  • GROCERIES & ERRANDS I have another meal box coming this week so have very little grocery shopping to do. Hubby has a doctor appointment, but other than that it’s another homebody week.
  • PROJECT – Bathrooms are still in progress – we had to order some parts that are taking some time with “pandemic shipping” involved so the flooring is at a standstill, but the back bathroom is painted and I’m now working on removing the shower “stickies” and redoing the shower floor. Removing these stupid fish and the adhesive is a tedious and VERY time consuming project! My advice is to NEVER buy these stickies with all the stupid little cutouts as they are a serious pain in the butt. As a break from dealing with the shower floor the front bathroom is being prepped and will be painted this week.

  • RECIPE RESEARCH & MENU PLANNING I’m working on a February menu, but for some reason it’s slow going this month.

WHAT’S ON THE DVR/TV
  • NETFLIX We’ve been re-watching Stargate SG1
  • REDBOX EmptyMan (weird, weird movie) Wander with Tommy Lee Jones and Dreamland
  • CABLE UNICORN, CALL YOUR MOTHER, AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE, YOUNG SHELDON 911, 911 LONESTAR, L&O SVU, NCIS, NCIS LA, NCIS NEW ORLEANS, BULL, GOOD DOCTOR, RESIDENT, CHICAGO SERIES

I’m still reading SINS by Nadia Lee. It had good reviews on Amazon, but I was having trouble getting into it, but it’s flowing now 😀 And of course now I am falling asleep quickly and not having much reading time.

It’s been a little cold here! Even the spiders are having a hard winter!

MONDAY
TUESDAY
WEDNESDAY
THURSDAY
FRIDAY
SATURDAY
SUNDAY
DINNER
SMOTHERED PORK CUTLETS with CHEDDAR GRITS & GREEN BEANS
FRENCH ONION CHICKEN BREAST with FONTINA & GARLIC BREAD
CREAMY CHICKEN & GNOCCHI DUMPLINGS with APPLE SLAW
C.O.R.N. CLEAN OUT REFRIGERATOR NIGHT
SHREDDED PORK QUESADILLAS and REFRIED BEAN CASSEROLE
BREAKFAST FOR DINNER
C.O.R.N. CLEAN OUT REFRIGERATOR NIGHT
DESSERT
MAPLE APPLE CAKE

  • STUFFED CHICKEN MARSALA
  • BROWN BUTTER SAGE GNOCCHI & SWEET POTATOES
  • STACKED SUIZA ENCHILADAS with PICKLED RED ONIONS

REFRIED BEAN BOWLS & HOMEMADE TORTILLAS

REFRIED BEAN & RICE BOWLS adapted from MOLLY YEH

1/2 pound ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon chili powder
4 ounces canned diced green chiles
14-ounce cans seasoned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can white shoepeg corn, drained
2 limes, juiced
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
3 cups cooked white rice
1 cup (4 ounces) grated white Cheddar or Cotija cheese
1/2 bunch green onions, trimmed and sliced
Salsa of choice
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced
FRESH cilantro, for garnish

  • Cook ground beef in a large skillet over medium-low heat, rendering all of the fat until cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Drain, reserving fat and set aside.
  • Increase the heat to medium and add the onions to rendered fat. Stir, then cook until soft, translucent and lightly brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Add the chili powder and cook for another minute.
  • Stir in the green chiles and black beans.
  • Stir and continue cooking to heat through, 6 to 8 minutes. Turn off the heat and mash with a fork, potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon. Or, for a smooth consistency, puree in a food processor, add 2 to 4 tablespoons water to the puree if it seems too dry.
  • Stir in corn and ground beef.
  • Stir in the juice of 1 lime and season with salt.
    To serve, fill one side of a serving bowl with refried beans. Fill the other side with cooked rice.
  • Garnish with cheese, salsa and scallions.
  • Scatter the jalapeno slices and cilantro on top.

HOMEMADE TORTILLAS adapted from Molly Yeh

2 cups (254 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
FRESH ground sea salt and tri-color pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup avocado oil

  • Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a medium bowl.
  • Add the oil and mix until coarse and mealy.
  • Stir in 3/4 cup water to form a dough.
  • Turn it out onto a surface and knead, adding more flour if needed, until a smooth, slightly sticky dough is formed, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a towel and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Heat a dry skillet over medium heat.
  • Divide the dough into 8 equal parts and roll them out on a lightly-floured surface until they’re really thin, keeping the remaining dough balls covered. I like a 1/16- or 1/8-inch thickness but wouldn’t turn down a 3/16-inch-thick one.
  • Cook them in the skillet on both sides until they’re just starting to show some brown spots, 45 seconds to 1 minute per side.
  • Keep warm in a towel until ready to serve.

BEEFY RICOTTA MEATBALLS with PENNE PASTA, TOMATO PESTO & GREEN BEANS

The meatball mixture can be made ahead of time you can even shape them like I did into squares using my Joie silicone ice cube tray and then store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you’re to ready to use them.

Adapted from Marley Spoon’s Anna Painter

BEEFY RICOTTA MEATBALLS with PENNE PASTA, TOMATO PESTO & GREEN BEANS

4 ounces sun dried tomato pesto
2 ounces (regular) pesto
2 ounces cream cheese
2 cups (dry) penne pasta
1/4 cup panko crumbs
4 ounces ricotta
scant 3/4 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons FRESH chopped parsley
½ pound green beans
1 small shallot, FINELY chopped
FRESH ground sea salt & ground pepper
avocado oil
1 tablespoon butter

  • Preheat oven to 450° and arrange rack into the center position.
  • Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Trim green beans, then cut or snap in half.
  • Finely chop parsley leaves and stems.
  • In a medium bowl, combine ground beef, ricotta, panko crumbs, 1 tablespoon of the chopped parsley, FRESH ground sea salt and pepper to taste. Gentle knead to blend.
  • 
Shape beef into 6-8 meatballs of about 2 tablespoons each. Choose your shape round or square – I use square if I’m making them in advance because I use silicone molds to freeze them in.
  • Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with oil.
  • Bake on center oven rack until browned on the bottom and cooked through, 10–12 minutes.
  • While meatballs bake, add pasta to boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost al dente, about 8 minutes.
  • Add green beans to the pot with the pasta, and continue cooking another 4 minutes until pasta is al dente’ and green beans are tender. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and green beans.
  • Place drained pasta and beans over the butter in a bowl. Toss to coat.
  • Return the pot to the burner and add oil in same pot over medium-high.
  • Add shallots and a pinch each of salt and pepper; cook 2 minutes, stirring, until softened.
  • Add cream cheese, pesto, sun dried tomato pesto, and reserved cooking water.
  • Cook, whisking, until cream cheese is incorporated and sauce is smooth, about 1 minute.
  • 

Add pasta, green beans, and half of the parsley to pot with sauce.
  • Cook, stirring, until pasta and green beans are coated well.
  • Add meatballs to pot and gently stir to combine.
  • Garnish with remaining parsley.

 

GINGER TAMARI CHICKEN & VEGGIES with NOODLES

Every now and then I try a food delivery service to see how they rate. I choose recipes I’ve never made before, but recipes that I believe I will make again without the need of having the ingredients delivered. This is one of those recipes that I have slightly adapted to ingredients I have on hand regularly. This recipe fits that need.

I’m also subscribing for the next 3 months to a fairly new service from Pampered Chef for a Seasoning series that I will keep you updated about.

Craving noodles? This recipe will feed that craving BIG TIME with its tender chicken and fragrant sauce full of flavor. The FRESHNESS of the sugar snap peas and cabbage add a delicious crunch and balance the meal to perfection.

 

GINGER TAMARI CHICKEN & VEGGIES with NOODLES

3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders
toasted sesame seeds
4 cup shredded cabbage blend
2 ounces BETTER THAN chicken concentrate
1 ounce Tamari (Japanese soy sauce) or Bragg’s liquid aminos
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or your favorite FLAVORED rice wine vinegar
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 tablespoon butter
6 ounces, bucatini, square spaghetti or linguine
1 ounce FRESH ginger
1 SMALL bunch green onions
1 cup sugar snap peas

  • 
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Pat chicken dry, then cut into ¼-inch thick strips.
  • Trim snap peas, then cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces.
  • Trim scallions, then thinly slice on bias.
  • Peel and finely chop ginger.


  • Add noodles to boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost al dente, 8–9 minutes.
  • Reserve ½ cup cooking water, then drain.
  • Add all of the tamari, chicken broth concentrate, and 2 teaspoons each of vinegar and sugar to reserved cooking water, whisking until sugar dissolves, Set aside.
  • 

Season chicken with salt and pepper.
  • Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high.
  • Add chicken to skillet and cook, stirring and turning, about 3 minutes until cooked through and just beginning to turn golden.
  • Add chopped ginger and half of the scallions and cook, stirring, until aromatics are fragrant and chicken is cooked through, about 30 seconds.
  • Transfer to a plate.

Heat more oil in same skillet over high if necessary.
  • Add snap peas, 4 cups shredded cabbage, and a pinch each of salt and pepper to skillet and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender and browned in spots, about 3 minutes.
  • 
Add tamari-broth mixture to skillet with vegetables, stirring to combine.


  • Transfer noodles, chicken and any resting juices, and 1¼ teaspoon sesame seeds to skillet with vegetables and sauce.
  • Cook, stirring, until sauce coats pasta, about 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Serve chicken with noodles garnished with remaining scallions and sesame seeds.
  • Enjoy!



NOTE: I usually use Bragg’s liquid aminos because the sodium is much less than traditional soy sauce and I find very little difference in flavor. Tamari takes it a step further by being higher in protein, containing anti0oxidants and being much smoother in flavor. It is also less likely to contain the additives and preservatives that traditional soy sauce does. These are all based on personal preference and availability.

BEEF & BEAN ENCHILADAS ~ TAKE OUT STYLE

Take Out Style Enchiladas are a power packed recipe full of flavor with a velvety chili sauce that is very fragrant, but NOT overly spicy. Adapted from Jennifer Aaronson @ MARLEY SPOON

BEEF & BEAN ENCHILADAS ~ TAKE OUT STYLE
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
2/3 pound lean ground beef, browned to crumbly and drained of grease
1 can shoepeg niblet corn, drained
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar-jack blend
2 ounces pickled jalapeños, FINELY chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 green onions, sliced and diced (greens and whites separated)
1 tablespoon beef broth concentrate
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 tablespoons taco seasoning
1 tablespoon WONDRA flour
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon avocado oil

  • Preheat oven to 425° with a rack in the center.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium.
  • Add taco seasoning, tomato paste and 1 tablespoon flour; cook, whisking, 1 minute.
  • Whisk together broth and beef broth concentrate.
  • Add to saucepan, stirring to blend. Bring to a simmer, cooking 8-10 minutes until slightly thickened.
  • Season to taste with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper. 
 Remove from heat and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine ground beef, beans, scallion whites, chopped jalapeños, half of the corn, 1/3 cup of the sauce and ⅔ of the cheese; stir to com-3bine.
  • Season to taste with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.

  • Brush tortillas on both sides with oil, then place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Bake tortillas on center oven rack until just warmed and softened, about 2-3 minutes (watch closely). Wrap in foil or a clean kitchen towel to prevent from drying out, keep covered until ready to use.

  • Lightly oil the inside of a medium baking dish.
  • Pour in ¼ cup sauce, spreading to coat the bottom.
  • Arrange tortillas on a work surface.
  • Divide filling (about ⅓ cup each) evenly among tortillas; roll up tightly and arrange in prepared baking dish, seam side down.
  • Top with remaining sauce.
  • 
Sprinkle enchiladas with remaining cheese.
  • Bake on center oven rack until cheese is browned and bubbling, 20 minutes.
  • Garnish with remaining scallions sprinkled over top, and with remaining jalapeños on the side.

CREAMED EGG SALAD

CREAMED EGG SALAD
6 eggs, hard boiled and cooled
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish, drained

  • Mix cream cheese and sour cream together until smooth.
  • Add sugar, onion powder, salt and pepper, mixing until well blended.
  • Grate hard boiled eggs with a cheese grater into the mixing bowl.
  • Add pickle relish.
  • Serve on croissants.

HAPPY HOMEMAKER & MENU PLAN MONDAY week 4 of 2021

Be sure to join us for Happy Homemaker Monday and link up
with our host, Sandra at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

I wasn’t very motivated to check too many things off of my to do list this past weekend (woke up with a stomach bug Saturday and had a bad reaction on Sunday), though last week was quite productive with painting the back bathroom, cleaning the fixtures and finishing the sub floor in preparation of the new flooring that has of course been “slightly” delayed amid the shipping issues of the pandemic. We did watch all the NFL playoff games though.

I have some outdoor furniture that needs fresh paint, but it’s been too cold anyway to do that project and some Valentine’s Day crafts and treats I’d like to make, but like many people, I’ve been semi-consumed by the news over the last couple weeks and stayed home and away from the public as much as possible. These are certainly troubled times and I’m hopeful, prayerful  that there are MUCH better days ahead for us all.

On to the post for today.

As always it’s dark and foggy outside. Not unexpected for this time of year. The weather prediction for the last 10 days has been fading in and out predicting snow for the end of the week, but we’ll see what happens.  Either way it will be cold and wet this week, also no surprise for this time of year! 😀 I really like the rain, but I don’t care much for gray and dreary.  I have been fondly remembering when we were back in Michigan. It was much colder and we got tons of snow, BUT we also received A LOT of sun during the winter between snow storms. 😀

I have on old Levis, a faded favorite hoodie and slipper socks that will be replaced with POPS as I work.

I’ve been playing with my Christmas present, a NINJA FOODI and part of my breakfast are some wonderful dehydrated pears I made over the weekend that I’m having with my hot water.

THIS WEEK’S TO DO LIST, PROJECTS & APPOINTMENTS
  • LAUNDRY & CLEANING Just the standard sheets and towels, vacuuming…
  • GROCERIES & ERRANDS I have a recipe box coming this week so don’t need to do any grocery shopping this week.
  • PROJECTS Painting and new flooring bathrooms and laundry room
  • PAPERWORK & PHONE CALLS
  • RECIPE RESEARCH & MENU PLANNING

WHAT’S ON THE DVR/TV
  • NETFLIX We started watching Stargate 1 at night since we hadn’t seen it in many years
  • REDBOX The Spell, Empty Man
  • CABLE Chicago (Med, Fire & PD), This Is Is, The Curse of the Cat People, Law & Order SVU, Blue Bloods, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, Call Your Mother – cute new sitcom, Magnum, MacGyver, The Good Doctor, The Resident, American Housewife, Young Sheldon, Last Man Standing

I’m still reading SINS by Nadia Lee. It had good reviews on Amazon, but I was having trouble getting into it, but it’s flowing now 😀 And of course now I am falling asleep quickly and not having much reading time.

And the most important thing to remember is that it IS refillable! 😀

MONDAY
TUESDAY
WEDNESDAY
THURSDAY
FRIDAY
SATURDAY
SUNDAY
DINNER
MEXICAN MANICOTTI
BRISKET BRAISED CHICKEN
BEEFY RICOTTA MEATBALLS & PENNE PASTA with TOMATO PESTO
C.O.R.N. CLEAN OUT REFRIGERATOR NIGHT
CHICKEN SUIZA ENCHILADAS & PICKLED RED ONIONS
BARNYARD BREAKFAST PIE
EGG ROLL IN A BOWL
DESSERT
CHOCOLATE BUTTERMILK CAKE

  • CHOCOLATE BUTTERMILK CAKE
  • BEEF & BEAN ENCHILADAS
  • CREAMED EGG SALAD
  • GINGER TAMARI CHICKEN & NOODLES
  • REFRIED BEAN BOWLS & HOMEMADE TORTILLAS
  • BEEFY RICOTTA MEATBALLS & PENNE PASTA with TOMATO PESTO

CHICKEN & APPLES ~ PURE COMFORT FOOD

This recipe is adapted from Eliza Winograd Marley Spoon and provides a hearty and complete comfort meal with rustic mashed potatoes, flavorful chicken with its sweet and tart apple with a creamy sauce and crisp tart salad as a companion. The recipe as written didn’t have enough OOOMPH for us (it was actually quite bland), so I OOOMPED it up a bit 😀

CHICKEN & APPLES over Mashed Potatoes with Spinach Salad

SALAD & DRESSING
2  cups torn baby spinach
1 1/2 tablespoons avocado oil
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon FINELY diced shallot
1 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced into 1/4 inch cubes
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted if desired

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons oil, 2 tablespoons vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the chopped shallots.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Set aside.
  • Just before serving, toss spinach leaves and chopped apple, nuts and dressing.

POTATOES
1/4-1/3 cup sour cream
2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and large diced
2 tablespoons butter
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper

  • Place potatoes in a small saucepan with 1 teaspoon salt along with enough water to cover by 1-inch.
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.
  • Drain, return to pot, add 2 tablespoons butter and keep covered. 


CHICKEN
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (see note)
2 teaspoons BETTER THAN chicken concentrate
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon salt + FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders
1 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced into 1/4 inch cubes
1 shallot, FINELY chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 + 1 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon WONDRA flour
1 cup water

  • Pat chicken dry and generously season all over with a mixture of the onion powder and FRESH ground sea salt and pepper.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium-high.
  • Add chicken until well browned on both sides but not cooked completely through, 2–3 minutes per side.  Transfer chicken to a plate and keep warm.
  • Melt 1 tablespoon butter in reserved skillet over medium-high.
  • Add apples, garlic and the remaining shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned and slightly softened, 3–5 minutes.
  • Sprinkle flour over skillet and cook 30 seconds.
  • Whisk together water, chicken concentrate and Dijon mustard. Add to skillet, gently stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom.
  • Return chicken to pan, simmering 5-7 minutes until chicken is cooked through, apples are tender and sauce has thickened.

  • Return saucepan with potatoes to medium-high and add sour cream and 2 tablespoons butter. Coarsely mash using a fork or potato masher.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Serve chicken with apples and sauce spooned over top with mashed potatoes and salad alongside.

NOTE: I substitute a creamy horseradish for the Dijon due to an allergy that works well for me, but the flavor base is up to you 😀

SOUP BY ANY OTHER NAME ~ TUTORIAL

Is it a soup, a stew, a bisque or a chowder? And what is the difference between them? After a little research I realized that there are specific reasons for each name, mainly regional cultural and/or the type of cooking vessel.

So let’s check out a few “definitions” or descriptions that I wish I’d had years ago!

  • BISQUE – A French style cream base soup whose main characteristic is a smooth and velvety texture that uses seafood as the protein. This dish is simmered SLOWLY over a low heat which results in the tender meat and rich broth.
  • BOUILLABAISSE – A Mediterranean based fisherman stew.  Traditionally it is made with a mixture of garlic, tomatoes, saffron, fennel, fish and shellfish.
  • BORSCHT – A Russian style stew whose main ingredient is beets.  Traditionally it also contains tomatoes, cabbage and many times chunks of meat.
  • CASSEROLE – a kind of stew that is cooked slowly in the oven in a “casserole”, a large, deep dish. The casserole dish is typically a dish used both for cooking the food in and serving it in also. Casseroles are of global origin and use. Here, in America, the casserole typically has three components; a meat or protein component, a vegetable and a starch, usually a potato or rice and often there is a cheesy or crunchy topping.
  • CHOWDER – Chowder is French in origin and refers to “chaudiere”, a type of “cauldron” used to cook for large gatherings.  Many times chowders are made from household staples. Early settlers used ingredients like salt pork, locally caught fish, bread or biscuits. Centuries later potatoes replaced breads or biscuits and milk or cream was added to create rich flavors and thickening of the sauce.
  • ETOUFFEE – A spicy Cajun braising process to cook proteins, usually a single meat, in a small amount of liquid making a thick stew with a spicy sauce or gravy. The meats are stuffed or smothered with aromatic vegetables and herbs, covered and SLOWLY simmered until the vegetables flavor has become one with the meat. Cooking this way ensures a flavorful, moist dish that is usually an entree versus a side dish.
  • GAZPACHO – A pureed mixture of raw summer vegetables including tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. Classic versions are thickened with breads and include some form of peppers. This is also served cold most often. Gazpacho is considered Spanish, but originated in Greek or Roman times and was brought to Spain the the 1500’s.
  • GUMBO – the word gumbo iteself is derived from the African congo word Quingombo for okra, one of the main ingredients used to thicken gumbo.  Ground sassafras root or file’ powder is another common thickener. variety of meats served WITH rice unlike Jambalaya that rice is IN the dish – RICE IS THE COMMON COMPONENT – it is just the way it is used in the dish is different – Rice is a VEHICLE for gumbo, but an integral COMPONENT of Jambalaya. Gumbo has a variety of meats/proteins (a fish, poultry, sausage for example) whereas Jambalaya uses a single meat, usually a fish of some sort.
  • JAMBALAYA – A pilaf style main dish with a rice like a Paella (probably its early ancestor), but with a Creole Cajun, New Orleans style flavor influence. Traditionally Jambalaya is made with a combination of pork, chicken, shrimp and a variety of herbs and spices.
  • MINESTRONE – An Italian vegetable bean soup made with combinations of pasta, cheese, pesto and primarily FRESH seasonal produce.
  • MULLIGATAWNY – An Indian soup that almost always contains a chicken stock with curried meat or seafood that is smothered in a coconut milk or cream and lentils, carrots or apples.
  • PAELLA – A Spanish dish whose name primarily refers to the style of pan used that is  broad and shallow. Traditionally this was made with rice, chicken, rabbit, beans and sometimes snails. Nowadays the “traditional” ingredients have varied to include fish, shellfish, vegetables, pork and sausage.
  • POSOLE – A hearty Latin stew that is a blend of chicken stock, chicken or pork, chile peppers, vegetables and hominy. This stew is usually served on special occasions or days of feasting. By many this is considered the gringo version of Menudo that uses a less appetizing (to gringos) cut of meat, the cow stomach.
  • POTAGE – is a French soup made with a coarse thick cream and primarily vegetables. It translates into “special of the day”, but NOT the blue plate special as it is traditionally made with the freshest of seasonal ingredients.
  • POT PIE – Pot pies have been around for centuries with quite a history from being called Sea Pies made aboard ships or from Roman times with live birds that flew out of the pies to eventually becoming a comfort food traditional in America. Pot pies to me are one of the BEST comfort foods. There is nothing better than a flaky crust filled with a mixture of chunks of chicken, peas and carrots in a rich gravy like soup. A great cousin to the pot pie is a Shepherd’s pie that has a topping of mashed potatoes or a cornbread, biscuit topping.
  • SEVICHE – A FRESH, raw seafood in a marinade made from tomatoes or lemon juice.  The acids in the tomato or lemon juice “cook” the seafood, removing the raw taste and leaving you a flavorful dish.
  • STEW – Stews are found all around the world by many names, each dealing with regional cultural ingredients. Some of those examples are Hungarian Goulash, Italian or French Ragout and American Brunswick stew from Virginia or Burgoo from Kentucky. Stews are made up of the browning of small pieces of meat in a hot fat, poultry pieces or chunks of fish that then simmers with vegetables, herbs and spices in enough liquid to cover everything in a closed vessel of some sort (dutch oven or stock pot). A stew can be simmered over low heat on the stove top or baked in the oven also at low heat and when left alone allows the flavors to blend naturally while also tenderizing tougher cuts of meat. The sauce that develops as the dish cooks may be thickened by pureeing the vegetables or by incorporating flour or egg yolks.
  • VICHYSSOISE – A classic French soup that is made with potatoes, leeks, herbs, chicken stock and a heavy cream. This is typically pureed and served chilled with a FRESH chive garnish. Shhh… don’t tell anyone, but I like it warm and hate it cold, but love the flavor mixture.