Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fabulous Fajitas!!

Do you ever get to the point where you're so absolutely sick of everything you cook you can't think of a thing to make for dinner?

Well that was me today.



I got off work at 3:00, ran a few errands, and then hit the grocery store hoping for some kind of inspiration.

Pork was out, beef was out, pasta was out, rice was out, salad was out - I just couldn't think of anything that appealed to me.

And then I remembered a conversation I had at lunch. One of the women I work with recently made fajitas...

Spicy, flavourful chicken cooked in a sizzling hot pan, sweet crunchy peppers and onions, cool creamy avocado, the spicy tang of salsa, and a dollop of sour cream.

The perfect meal for a busy Tuesday evening.



Armed with a plan, I made way to the produce section and picked up two limes, a jalapeno pepper, orange, yellow, and green peppers, an avocado, and a nice big bunch of fresh cilantro.



(Note to self... remember to plant cilantro in the herb garden next summer)

Then I picked up boneless, skinless chicken breasts, my favourite soft burrito wrappers and made my way to the check out.

The first thing I did when I got home - after greeting the dog and putting on my flannel pyjamas, was marinate the chicken.

To do so, you will need:

Marinade

* 1/4 cup beer
* 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 jalapeno pepper seeded and finely chopped
* 1 tablespoon brown sugar
* 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
* 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/2 tsp salt

Stir together beer, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, jalapeno pepper, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, cilantro, cumin, and salt; mix well.

Pour into a resealable plastic bag, or large bowl, add up to 1 1/2 pounds of chicken breast, and mix until chicken is well coated. Marinate for 1 to 3 hours in the refrigerator.

In the meantime, slice your onion, and peppers.

Set aside.

Turn on Oprah - this last season has been amazing - put your feet up, and enjoy a little relaxation.



When you're just about ready to eat, heat two tbsp of olive oil in a skillet and sautee your peppers and onions until they're just beginning to turn a nice golden colour.



Add 1 tsp oregano and 1 tsp fresh chopped basil.

Remove to a bowl and set aside in a warm place.

Using the same pan, sautee the marinated chicken over medium high heat until nicely browned.



To serve the fajitas, place pieces of chicken, a couple of spoons of vegetables, avocado slices, salsa, and a dollop of sour cream along the centre of a warmed flour tortilla.

Wrap and eat.

For printable recipe click HERE



Ole!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ideas for Throwing a Holiday Cocktail and Appetizer Party

It's that time of year again and as always, I'm excited.

I figure our forefathers (and mothers) had the right idea by coming up with so many wonderful things to celebrate during the months of November and December, sensing that humanity would need a collective "pick me up" as the days grew shorter and the weather colder.

Whether that pick me up is Thanksiving, Ramadan, Hanukkah, or Christmas, the important thing is that we gather together with the people we care about to share laughter, libation, delicious food, and gratitude.

My family celebrates Christmas, and it's probably my absolute favourite time of year - which is strange seeing that I am otherwise such a summer loving person.

But Christmas and its special magic has me in its spell.

As such, it is not unusal for me to have my entire home decorated by December the 1st because I like to squeeze every drop I can from the season.


One of my favourite things to do over the holidays is to entertain, and certainly my annual "So What if it's Not Christmas - the Tree Is Up!" party is a great kick off to the season.

Every year around this time, a handful of close friends are invited over for cocktails, delicious bites, and a few laughs while they tease me about my passion for all things Christmas.

Secretly I know, though, how much the evening is appreciated and how much we all look forward to getting together.

As a believer in keeping things simple, I serve easy to prepare appetizers and drinks every year starting with the cocktails.

Too many hosts make the mistake of thinking they need a wide range of complicated expensive ingredients on hand - especially when it comes to stocking a bar.

I offer guests a variety of wine, beer, and two of my favourite signature cocktails...

The Red Shoe Martini























And The Greentini



The nice thing about having signature drinks and recipes is that your friends will begin to associate and look forward to enjoying these quiet comforts in your presence.

And in the warm and inviting atmosphere you create in your home.























Twinkle lights, and whimsy















Treasured decorations provide a loving reminder...



































Of where you have been and roads not yet taken.

And the food...

Those who know me, understand that when I entertain it is always with uncomplicated recipes that are tried and true that can be mostly made ahead of time.

On the menu for this particular party:

Hot Mushroom Turnovers




















Crispy Baked Chicken Wings with Creamy Buttermilk Dipping Sauce






















Bright and Zesty Shrimp Ceviche in Tortilla Cups





















Crab Stuffed Mushroom Caps




















And an assorted crudite platter with Green Goddess Dip.


















I plate all my goodies together on Christmas platters (purchased at Sears my first year of marriage and treasured as much as if they were limoges)






















Placed throughout the party area so that everyone can just help themself.





















Friends, family, good food, love, and gratitude - all put together in one wonderfully meaningful kick off to the season.

Onward to a festive and flavourful holiday season here at The Kitchen Witch!




***

Author:

Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

Facebook Twitter YouTube



Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bright and Zesty Shrimp Ceviche in Nacho Cups

I serve these little gems every year as a part of my annual "So What if it's Not December - the Tree Is Up!" Christmas kick off cocktail party.

The bright freshness of the ceviche provides the perfect counterpoint to some of the heavier dishes.

For printable recipe click HERE

Ingredients

* 1 pound large cooked shrimp - peeled, deveined and chopped
* 3/4 cup fresh lime juice
* 5 roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
* 1 white onion, chopped
* 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
* 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
* 1 tablespoon ketchup
* 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
* salt and pepper to taste
* 1 avocado - peeled, pitted and diced
* 1 package Tostitos Scoops

Directions
1. Place the shrimp and lime juice into a large bowl, and stir to coat. Mix in the tomatoes, onion, and cilantro until coated with lime juice; cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Remove from the refrigerator, and mix in the Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Add the avocado right before serving.
3. Serve in Tostitos Scoops.

 

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Crispy Baked Chicken Wings with Creamy Buttermilk Dipping Sauce

This technique is seriously, the best I've ever found for cooking chicken wings. Perfectly tender and crispy without the hassle of deep frying, I know I will make a convert out of you.

I have made my recipe purposefully mild. For more heat, increase the hot sauce.

For printable recipes click HERE.


Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons Emeril's Creole Seasoning
  • 20 chicken wings
  • Half cup melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
Directions
  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and lightly grease with cooking spray. Place the flour, and creole Seasoning into a resealable plastic bag, and shake to mix.
  2. Dry the chicken really well on paper towels. Add the chicken wings, seal, and toss until well coated with the flour mixture. Place the wings onto the prepared baking sheet, and place into the refrigerator. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Whisk together the melted butter and hot sauce in a small bowl. Dip the wings into the butter mixture, and place back on the baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, and crispy on the outside, about 45 minutes. Turn the wings over halfway during cooking so they cook evenly.

Serve warm with Creamy Buttermilk Dipping Sauce

Creamy Buttermilk Dipping Sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate until needed.



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Delicious Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

This is a such a great recipe. Perfect, restaurant quality stuffed mushrooms every time.

For printable recipe click HERE



















Ingredients

* 3/4 cup melted butter, divided
* 1 pound fresh mushrooms, stems removed
* 1 cup crushed seasoned croutons
* 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
* 2 (6 ounce) cans crabmeat, drained
* 3 tablespoons minced garlic
* 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Brush a large baking sheet with about 1/4 cup of melted butter.
  2. Microwave mushroom caps on a paper towel lined plate for 3 minutes on high. Remove and cool slightly.
  3. Arrange mushroom caps in a single layer over the baking sheet.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together the crushed croutons, remaining 1/2 cup butter, shredded cheese, crabmeat, and garlic. Spoon into mushroom caps where the stems used to be. (I find it easier to use my hands to get as much of the mixture as I can into the caps)
  5. Sprinkle with additional cheese. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly browned on the top and serve hot.

Holiday Cocktails: Red Shoe Martinis and Greentinis

It's funny how the world has gone back to cocktails.



For years in all of my social circles the only thing people drank was wine and beer.

And usually that occurred among gender lines with the men predominantly drinking beer and the women, wine.

But over the last few years, I've noticed a shift.

My first venture into the world away from wine occured about two years ago while on a business trip.

A colleague and I went out to dinner to a steakhouse, and feeling adventurous, ordered dirty martinis.

For those of you who don't know, a dirty martini is full on alcohol with a splash of olive juice thrown in for good measure.

I know.

It doesn't sound all that good.

But if you love olives like we do - and these martinis came with not one, not two, but three - you can kind of understand.

And we got to the steakhouse hungry, so that the olives mixed with all that vodka, just seemed to go down good.

By the time our steaks arrived, the two of us were in euphoric moods.

Since that day, I have sampled martinis in many different places - with probably the best martini of all time coming from a bar at the O'Hare airport in Chicago.

The next time any of you is there - I highly recommend it ;)

But now I've kind of moved on from those and have recently begun to experiment with other types of libation starting with...






















The Red Shoe Martini... my signature drink for holiday entertaining.

You will need:

An ounce and a half vodka
1/2 ounce blackberry liquer
1/2 cup cranberry juice
Juice of one lime

Shake shake shake with ice and serve very cold.

The Greentini... my other signature cocktail for holiday entertaining




To make mix:
1 and half ounces of mandarin vodka
1/2 ounces blue curaco
1 cup orange juice
juice of 1/2 a fresh lime

Shake, shake, skake and serve very cold.

Old Fashioned English Muffin Pizzas for the Holidays

Back in the day when my husband and I didn't have a lot of money, I got very good at making our food budget stretch. I'd hit the grocery store, list in hand, with an entire two weeks worth of meals in my head - preparing family favourites like make ahead meatballs, sloppy joe mix, upside down chicken and rice pie, and mini pizzas.

This was during a time when frozen meals were a convenience that I had to make myself. But as the years went by and the two of us became more established and better employed, shopping with a strict list stopped being a necessity.

It`s a funny thing time. As the minutes, hours, and years pass by, time has a way of softening the edges on moments that were once overwhelming and devastating - giving us the gift of perspective that can only come with experience.

I can remember going to the grocery store one afternoon with a friend. She had all the money in the world, and I had $56.00 from a family allowance cheque I had cashed earlier.

Oh for the resentment.

I wandered through the store lamenting my lot in life, wishing for frozen entrees I couldn`t afford - somehow equating my worth with my ability to purchase Lean Cusines and Hot Pockets. I compared and struggled, instead of realizing what a resourceful young person I was.

The thing about blogging is that it provides constant opportunity for insight. I realize right at this moment that perhaps I`ve written the above as a reminder to myself not to be such a tough task master.
That maybe I could take a lesson from a young mother from long ago who compared herself instead of saw herself.

***

Back to now.

Where I once knew the price point of every item in the grocery store, I was suddenly faced with a new found freedom. And I'll never forget the moment I first realized it.

Pushing my cart down the cereal aisle trying to decide between Frosted Mini Wheats and Special K, I realized I was making my decisions based on preference and not on price. Further, I had absolutley no idea how much the groceries in my cart were going to cost.

Emancipation!

In the years since I`ve been blessed enough to enjoy the freedom of being able to buy whatever I want.
Frozen pizzas, pre-packaged frozen dinners, and even the coveted Lean Cuisines have all made their way into my freezer at one time or another.

But as is often the case with things longed for, the frozen entrees I once wanted so badly turned out to be just okay and not what I had built them up to be. They couldn't compare to the things I had painstakingly and lovingly prepared myself; a marriage, a confident son, a few good meals.

Which is why I`ll be posting a variety of freezer recipes over December, starting with an all time favourite snack: English Muffin Pizzas. In our house, having a fully stocked freezer with all kinds of home made goodies has became a bit of a tradition - and one my son doesn't only look forward to - his friends do too.

One day, I will no longer have my small home filled with boys wanting to know if I made any of those "pizza thingies" this year - but if God smiles on me, perhaps there will eventually be grandkids to take up the cause.

Until then, though, these are really great to have on hand.

And they're so easy to make!

Simply take 2 or three packages of english muffins and split each muffin in two.

Brush each split muffin half with extra virgin olive oil, about a tbsp of your favourite pizza sauce and then top with whatever you like.



The batch in the picture above was topped with pepperoni, fresh basil (basil freezes very well), and shredded mozzarella cheese.

I have also made ham and pineapple, Italian sausage and black olive, and three cheeese. Really, the possibilities are endless. Just be wary of omitting things that don't freeze well.

For another variation, spread the muffin halves with cheeze whiz and then top with ground beef, tomato sauce, and cheese.



To store any variety: lay on a cookie sheet and put in freezer until firm. Individually wrap each pizza bun in plastic wrap and then store in large freezer bags.

Freeze for up to 3 months or bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Yield: 6 dozen. To use frozen Pizza English Muffins: Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

If in a big hurry, you can put these under the broiler for about seven minutes - just watch them :-)

***

There's a certain kind of bonding that happens in families over food.

I still make the tuna buns my mother made back in the 70's when company came over.

At the time, I thought of them as a big treat, but it's only as an adult I've come to realize that my mother was doing the best she could with the ingredients she had.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

In fact, I made a batch of them Friday night while we took our Christmas decorations out - and while I did, I remembered playing charades in our rec room, good smells, and happy times.


















Perhaps one day my son will feel the same, looking backwards on winter nights.

For a brief moment, he'll remember the smell of toasted english muffins, pepperoni, cheese, or tuna - and know for sure he was loved.

***

"Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return."
Mary Jean Iron



***

Author:

Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

Facebook Twitter YouTube

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turkey Stroganoff

A "Pantry Cooking" blog...

***

'Food was important: food for a long winter, one that would follow a bad crop, one in which everything we ate would come from the garden. There was nothing unusual about this, except that there wouldn't be a spare dime to buy anything but flour, sugar, and coffee. A good crop meant that there was a little money tucked away under a mattress, a few bills rolled up and saved and sometimes used for luxuries like Coca-Cola's, ice cream, saltines and white bread. A bad crop meant that if we didn't grow it, we didn't eat it.'


John Grisham - A Painted House




I come from a long line of Kitchen Witches.

Women who grew their own food, crafted their own recipes, and with a pinch of this and a dash of that, were able to put together tasty, soul satisfying dishes meal after meal.

New vegetables from the garden in cream sauce.

My grandma called this "Hodge Podge."



Warm buttery bread straight from the oven



And meals thrown together with items from a well stocked pantry.



Kitchen Magic.

A craft passed down through the generations so that everytime I bake my grandmother's dream bars or stir up a pot of her jam, I am once again priviledged to touch her soul.

People live on in their recipes and in the memories created by good food.

***

After many years of living an extremely frugal lifestyle as a stay at home mom, I learned the magic of creating new recipes from ingredients found in the pantry.

So I thought it would be fun every now and then to share some of my favourite "cooking inexpensively and healthfully from the pantry" recipes. And what better today than to start with my recipe for:

Turkey Stroganoff




















I created this recipe because I sometimes crave the taste and comfort of turkey dinner, but don't want the fat and calories.

This dish is a delicious and healthy, high fibre weeknight alternative.

And the beauty is that it uses ingredients that can be found in most pantries. It's also a great way to use leftover turkey.

Your Magical Ingredients:


  • Cooking spray
  • 2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 12-15 sliced white mushrooms
  • one pound cooked ground turkey, or 4-5 cups shredded leftover turkey meat
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • One cup frozen peas
  • 1 tsp herbes de provence or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • One can Campbell's Half Fat Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • One cup craisins
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds
  • 2-4 dashes worcestershire sauce (to taste)
  • 3/4 package Healthy Harvest whole wheat egg noodles
Spray a heavy bottomed dutch oven with cooking spray and sautee the apples, mushrooms, celery, and onion over medium high heat.



Cook until the onions begin to caramelize and are soft and translucent and the mushrooms begin to release their water. (You can add 1/4 cup of the chicken stock to the pot at this point if the veggies begin to stick. This is a healthier alternative to sauteeing in oil)

Add the cooked turkey and continue to sautee.



Add the rest of the chicken soup stock (3/4 cup), the herbs, salt, pepper, minced garlic, and frozen peas.

Bring to a boil and let simmer until the peas are cooked (about 3-4 minutes).

Add the cooked onion, mushrooms, celery, and apple mixture, one cup craisins, and the tin of soup.

Add about 2- 4 dashes worcestershire sauce to taste (I start at two or three, taste, and go from there)

Adjust any other seasonings to suit your taste.

Simmer on medium heat stirring often.

Meanwhile, cook 3/4 of the package of egg noodles according to package directions to al dente (boil app five minutes).

Add the noodles to the stroganoff mixture. Toss in the 1/4 cup of toasted nuts. Stir together, and serve.




















If you close your eyes you might even think its Thanksgiving again...

From my cauldron to yours, keep those pots stirring!

Bippity

Boppity

Boo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For printable recipe click here:

Healthy High Fibre Turkey Stroganoff