Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lemony Chicken infused with Herbs

I recently upgraded my phone and Verizon was running a special where you could get an Elipsis tablet for free with the phone purchase. Of course, the tablet is connected to a phone number, and they charge you $10 a month for access, but hey! I can take it anywhere, access my "What's in the Box?" blog, and keep on writing about good food. That's a win-win, huh? I hope : )   So anyway, I got two of them, one for me and one for the hub, who would have been monopolizing my tablet had I not gotten one for him.

The coolest thing about my tablet is the keyboard, which works on Bluetooth. Its the case and keyboard all in one. I can sit here on my bed and blog...heavenly! When I am done typing, I can pop the tablet out of the case and lie back and surf the internet. I would say this is going to be worth $10 a month.

Back to the point, today I am baking some chicken for our dinner tonight. I am doing it early, before the house gets too hot. I will be working nightshift tonight, so mine is going to be portable, while leaving some good stuff for the hub. We are trying to eat clean and exercise according to Bill Phillips Health for Life plan. Sensible eating: healthy carbs high in fiber, low fat, lean protein, no sugar. Eating carbs and protein in combination, like eggs and a cup of oatmeal. Twelve week program: Exercise six days a week with three strength training days and three cardio days. Today is the leg workout. I figured I would cook first, take a nap, and exercise this afternoon. Then I can come home, shower, and get ready for work. But for now, while the chicken bakes, I blog...

I first coated the four chicken breasts in olive oil, then squeezed in about 4 small lemons that our friend got from his tree. I added a Rancher's seasoning blend of salt, pepper, and garlic. I let it all marinate for about 20 minutes, then put the chicken into a glass baking dish. I left the lemon halves in the dish, added some sliced white onions, and layered the top with sliced garden tomatoes, springs of rosemary and basil. The tomatoes, rosemary, and corn all came in our box from SLO Veg. I know it sure smells good when baking!

I let it bake for 40 minutes in a 375 degree oven. I will take one of the small breasts in my tupperware container to work, along with some boiled corn-on-the-cob that I plan to cut off the cob, and some rice. I should have made brown rice, but I already had some left over white rice. Not quite on the plan, but I hate to throw out food. I think I will make a batch of brown rice and freeze it just to have on hand for lunches in the future.

Well, chicken is out and cooling, as is the corn. I think I will take my nap, then go get some exercise!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cucumber salad

We got a nice veggies box this week from SLO Veg with lots of summertime specialties: Cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, Romaine lettuce, kale, sprouts, peppers and bok choy, plus some luscious peaches, strawberries and oranges, and even a live Rosemary plant.

The thing I really wanted was the cucumbers to make a nice, crisp summer salad for our family barbecue. First I used a peeler and sort of made stripes down the length of the cucumber. That way when you slice them, they have a nice pretty edge. I sliced the cucumbers and sweet white onions thinly using my Cutco santuko knife, but you could also use a mandolin or the slicer on your old grater if you wish. I just wanted to see how thin I could go using the knife, which is really nice and sharp...and dangerous! You don't want to be distracted when using a sharp knife.

I got the cucumbers and onions sliced into a bowl, then I seasoned them with salt, stirred them up, covered them with plastic wrap and let them sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours while I prepared other things.
Next step is the vinegar marinade, which needs to be heated and poured over the cucumbers for a pickling effect. I used rice vinegar because I like the mildness of it, and some sugar, water and dried dill weed. So simple, so refreshing, so yummy!

The recipe is just this:
4 cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 small sweet white onion, thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar or rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons white sugar

1 tablespoon dried dill

1. Toss together the cucumbers and onion in a large bowl. Salt liberally and put aside for a few hours. Rinse and drain before adding the marinade.
2. Combine the vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan or in a glass bowl in the microwave. Bring to a boil, then pour over the cucumbers and onions. Stir in dill, cover, and refrigerate until cold.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Chicken Chile Verde

Mild roasted chilies, chunks of chicken and white rice makes the best Chicken Chile Verde
Okay! Hands down, easiest yummy dinner ever! Chicken chile verde over rice. We got a variety of peppers in our SLO Veg box this week, so I decided to use them up in a fresh verde with tomatillos -- my favorite sauce ever!

You start with chilies: Poblano chilies (3), Anaheim chilies(2), maybe a jalapeno chile (1). Those get roasted until black over a gas flame, then cooled and placed in a plastic baggie until its time to mix up the sauce. (Tonight I wanted it to be on the mild side, so I didn't use any jalapenos).

Then you turn on the oven to 400 degrees and oven-roast the whole tomatillos (1 lb, husks off), onion (peeled and quartered), whole garlic cloves (3), and a couple of chicken breasts on one big baking sheet. Everything gets a splash of olive oil and salt. You can hit the chicken with your favorite seasoning blend, too. Let it bake for 30 minutes, until the tomatillos are soft and the chicken is cooked through.

The next step is to put all the peppers, onion and garlic into a blender, add a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and a couple teaspoons of lime juice, and give it a whirl. You can add a little bit of water, if you want. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary. 

Then dice the chicken into bite-sized pieces and mix it into the sauce. Spoon a couple of ladles of the chile verde over a bowl of rice and top with a dollop of sour cream. So good and flavorful, so fresh, and so darn easy!

For a quick recipe reference, check out Melissa d'Arabian's site on

Friday, July 18, 2014

Salsa Beans with Bell Peppers and Anaheim Chilies

We're having a big family potluck barbecue this weekend and I volunteered to make a batch of beans for the barbecue. It's pretty common our area to serve Santa Maria-style barbecued beef tri-tip, pinquito chili beans, and garlic french bread at a barbecue. You just can't beat good beef tri-tip cooked slow over an oak barbecue pit. 

One of my brothers-in-law, Don, used to make a good salsa bean recipe using Sun Vista canned pinto beans, Ortega tomato salsa and Italian stewed tomatoes. He was very brand-specific. He would add browned hamburger with onions and green bell peppers. He used a special seasoning salt blend that a friend of his concocted, and we always kept a supply of "Fiscalini's seasoning" on hand and used it for everything. Its kind of like Lawry's, but with more salt, pepper and granulated garlic.

Another brother-in-law, Gary, made the traditional Santa Maria-style pinqinto beans, using the small pintos, but that was a whole other batch of beans. He used dried pinquitos to start with, and it was an all day affair.

I use to make my own version of the first kind of salsa chili beans in large quantities for all our family barbecues when my kids were growing up, but nowadays the dynamics of the family have changed and we don't have big family barbecues every weekend like we use too. The trick is, when making beans for a crowd they can't be too hot, but they need to have flavor. When I make beans these days, I can make smaller batches and experiment a lot.

I prefer making chili with black beans, because they have more fiber and I like the taste better than pinto beans. I will mix some black beans in with the pintos for this batch, mostly for color. Also, I recently acquired another local rancher's seasoning blend (Perozzi family), which is similar to Santa Maria-style seasoning, but a little heavier on the pepper and garlic. So this weekend I am going to make a batch of salsa beans, sans hamburger meat, and heavy on the onions and bell peppers, for our family picnic. I want to keep it vegetarian for the non-meat eaters in our clan. My audacious barbecue-master brother will be barbecuing enough beef and chicken to satisfy the meat lovers. He is barbecuing a whole top block, or "sirloin", for the big day, along with his specialty chicken thighs.

Anyway, I got my basic ingredients: Ranch-style pinto beans, black beans, and salsa. It's not Ortega salsa, but I couldn't find any of that. I don't have any Italian stewed tomatoes, either, so I plan to add a can of diced tomatoes and a big pinch of dried Italian seasoning. I began by dicing an onion and a bell pepper. I first tasted, then chopped up one of the other peppers that came in our SLO Veg box this week. I am not sure what kind of pepper it is, but its not a jalapeno or a serrano or a Fresno chili. I got a few of those, also, but they are not for this batch of beans. I think the ones I used are just called green chili peppers, or Anaheim chilies. Pretty mild, like the diced Ortega chilies in a can, which is what I used when I don't have fresh chilies.

I pre-fried the onions and peppers until they were soft and slightly browned to bring out a lot of flavors. Then I simply open my cans of beans, drained off some of the liquid, and pour them into the crock pot. I will add diced tomatoes, some salsa and a tablespoon of tomato paste and stir it all together and let it cook low and slow until it is time to eat. Everyone always like these beans, and it can't get much easier.

My recipe is:
1 white onion, diced
2 Anaheim green chilies, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 gallon pinto beans, UN-drained
(I used ranch-style today, because I like their sauce)
1 28-can black beans, drained
1 cup salsa
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon chili powder
1-2 teaspoons seasoning blend (I used Perozzi's private blend. You can use Lawry's  or Santa Maria-style seasoning)

Empty crock? Does that mean they liked it???

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Roasted Potato Salad with Lavender

We got some beautiful Red Potatoes in our box from SLO Veg this week. I love red potatoes! I had to make something with them first thing!

I remember my sister making a lavender potato salad for a family potluck, so I decided to use that herb. I had gotten some lavender from SLO Veg several months ago and now is a good time to use it. First off, I wanted to roast the potatoes and infuse them with some Rosemary flavoring. 

I rinsed and quartered my potatoes, then put them on a baking sheet. I drizzled on a few tablespoons of butter olive oil that I had gotten in Monterey at Tasty Olive. That store has about 50 different olive oil flavorings, plus a bunch of vinegars, and my girls and I had a ball there last November. I am sure some of our local growers have similar flavors of oils and vinegars, so I am going on a search for them very soon. 

Meanwhile, I set the oven to 400 degrees and layed a few sprigs of freshly cut rosemary on top. I put the potatoes in the oven and let them roast for a good hour while I was packing my husband a lunch and making our breakfast. (Sprouted oatmeal with fresh strawberries stirred in!)

(to be continued!)

Sea Bass with roasted Zucchini and Carrots

We recently moved into town to be closer to everything, like our work, doctors, shopping, and our favorite gym. We also have access to at least three farmers markets in this community instead of just one. However, we are still taking advantage of the delivery service provided by SLO Veg, partly because it saves me time and partly because it allows us to have a variety of fruits and vegetables we might not normally purchase. This way I have to do a little recipe investigation, which keeps cooking fun and interesting, instead of doing the same old thing week after week. Our delivery day also changed, so now I get whatever the fish catch of the day is for Monday from SLO Fresh Catch, as well. While we are not now right next to the ocean, we are still just a short drive from the fisheries. We have cows across the street. We might even get a few chickens for the backyard. It's the SLO life!

We were excited to get some Sea Bass in our delivery this week. It's a nice firm, meaty fish with fewer bones to pick through than the Grenadier and Cod selections. We had to take tweezers and pull out some bones that looked like long needles, but there were only about four of them in one of the pieces.

This olive oil is from Tasty Olive in Monterey
The fish was simply prepared with just a little coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning, then pan fried in a mixture of olive oil and butter. It took just 2 or 3 minutes on each side before the fish began to flake apart. Then I removed the fish from the pan and deglazed the pan with some white wine (a lovely, local Dry Gewurtztraminer). I squeezed in the juice from one big Meyer lemon and added a teaspoonful of capers to the sauce, which was then poured over the fish after it was plated.

I made a side dish of orzo pasta that I browned lightly in butter in the pot, then added water (1:2 ratio pasta/water). When it was cooked through, I stirred in some shredded Romano-Parmesan cheese and a small handful of chopped chives and basil.

Our plates were finished with a generous helping of cheesy orzo pasta and some roasted zucchini, red onion and carrots. The special thing about roasting the vegetables was I used a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme, picked right from our front walkway planter, which were simply placed on top of the vegetables that had been drizzled with buttery olive oil on a cookie sheet. I let them go in a 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes, and the flavors of the herbs infused throughout the vegetables during the cooking time. Finished with a sprinkling of coarse salt: Simple, savory, delicioso!