Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ancho Chile Chicken Fingers & Ancho Chile Cheddar Biscuits

This evening I decided to make Ancho Chile Chicken Fingers as well as Ancho Chile Cheddar Biscuits. I made the oven-fried chicken fingers by using boneless chicken breasts. I cut each of the 3 chicken breasts into 3 strips lengthwise and placed them in a small shallow casserole dish and submerged them in about 1 cup of buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon of ground Ancho Chile Pepper, salt and pepper. I let the chicken strips marinate in the spiced buttermilk for about 1 hour while I mixed together the coating mixture and made the biscuits.

For the seasoned coating mix, I used about 1/2 cup almond flour, 1/3 cup golden ground flax, 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese and added 1 teaspoon ground Ancho Chile Pepper (from McCormick's "Gourmet Collection") , paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, dried parsley, salt and pepper (I just shook in the last few spices and didn't measure them). I rolled the buttermilk coated chicken strips in the coating mixture and placed them on a foil covered baking sheet brushed with olive oil.  I baked them at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, then flipped them over and baked another 10 to 12 minutes until they were done.

These turned out very tasty but did not get as crisp as they would have if browned in a pan on the stove. I decided to keep the same theme with the biscuits and added Ancho Chile Pepper to them as well. When making almond flour based biscuits, I have made them both with and without using an egg. While eggs are not typical ingredients for biscuits, I find that if you want your biscuits to bind together better and be less crumbly, the addition of an egg helps a lot. You can actually slice them in half crosswise without them breaking if you want to. It just makes them less fragile. I like them made both ways, but depending on what you are using them for, you may want to add the egg in order to be able to make little biscuit sandwiches, etc. I have also made biscuits by tamping them down to flatten a little as well as without flattening them at all. I like them better when not tamped down because they can sometimes get too thin since they spread a little while baking. It's really a matter of personal preference. To serve alongside our chicken fingers and biscuits, I made a quick chopped salad. It was a tasty meal. The ground Ancho Chile Pepper is much less spicy/hot than the ground Chipotle Chile Pepper when using the same measurement. It is more of a subtle smoky pepper flavor. I snapped a couple photos below as well as the recipe for the Ancho Chile Cheddar Biscuits. Enjoy!


I kept the biscuits in round balls instead of tamping down before baking

Ancho Chile Cheddar Biscuits


2 cups blanched almond flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or Celtic sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Ancho Chile Pepper
2 tablespoons chilled butter, small diced
4 ounces (1 cup) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 cup cold buttermilk
1 large egg


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place flour, baking powder, soda, salt and Ancho Chile Pepper in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to mix well.  Add diced chilled butter and 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese.  Using a pastry cutter, quickly cut butter and cheese into dry ingredients until it appears crumbly.  Stir in the remaining shredded cheese and make a well in the center of the mixture; add buttermilk and egg and stir to mix well.  The dough will be thick and somewhat stiff and slightly fluffy.   On a parchment paper lined baking sheet, use a cookie scoop or retractable ice cream scoop to make 8 equal sized mounds of dough, spaced evenly apart.  Don't tamp down mounds of dough, they will spread slightly as they bake.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 18-20 minutes or until light golden brown.  Makes 8 medium sized biscuits.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Super Simple Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Cutlets

Tonight, youngest son came to have dinner with us...and he really loves both chicken and mushrooms...so I made a quick and simple dinner using chicken breast cutlets, sauce and cheese.  Using a meat mallet, I pounded chicken breast cutlets until they were about 1/8" thick.  I cut fresh mozzarella cheese into rectangular pieces and placed it in the center of each cutlet, then sprinkled lightly with a little Italian seasoning and rolled them up tightly and placed seam side down in a casserole dish coated with a thin layer of spicy Rao's Arrabbiata sauce.  Once they were all rolled and placed, I topped them with a couple cups of cooked sliced fresh mushrooms that I sauteed in a little olive oil with sea salt and black pepper.  I poured the rest of the sauce over the top of the chicken bundles and mushrooms, layered it with the rest of the fresh mozzarella and some Italian 6-cheese blend and baked it covered at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes, then uncovered it and baked it an additional 10 minutes and ran it under the broiler for a couple of minutes more until the cheese was lightly browned and bubbly.  I served it alongside some zucchini pasta (made with my Spirelli).  It was quick, simple and delicious!  I snapped a quick picture for you to see below.  Enjoy!


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mini Stuffed Moussaka Boats (Eggplants Stuffed w/ Moussaka)

Today was a pretty day here -- cool, breezy, and sunny on and off throughout the day.  Hubby had a meeting to attend most of the day, which left me time to shop and play around in the kitchen!  I decided to get a head start on dinner to have it ready beforehand so hubby and I could take our walk before dinner and it would be waiting for us when we got done.  I had 5 beautiful small Italian style eggplants that I wanted to do something with...so I decided to convert them into Mini Stuffed Moussaka Boats...Greek food is one of my favorites -- everything is so fresh. Instead of layering the moussaka in a casserole the traditional way, I decided to halve the small eggplants, roast them, scoop out the eggplant flesh and make the traditional meat filling, mixed in with the chopped eggplant pulp, some feta cheese and then stuff it all back into the hollowed out eggplant shells, top with my grain free "bechamel sauce" and bake.  I tossed in a couple handfuls of fresh grape tomatoes to roast along with the Mini Stuffed Moussaka Boats.  They turned out delicious and made a beautiful presentation when served.  I snapped a few photos below for you to see along with the recipe.  Enjoy!

This is how it all began... 
Here's a closer peek...
Eggplants have been stuffed with the meat filling...waiting to be topped with "bechamel"...
Topped with the "bechamel" and sprinkled with Parmesan...ready to pop in the oven
Fresh out of the oven...

Mini Stuffed Moussaka Boats (Eggplants Stuffed w/ Moussaka)


5 small Italian style eggplants (halved lengthwise)
Olive oil (as needed)
1 lb lean ground beef (or lamb)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 – 1 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
8 ounces crumbled feta cheese (about 1 cup)

“Bechamel” Cheese Sauce
1 lb. ricotta
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra for sprinkling on top)
Nutmeg, dash


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly brush bottom of a 9" x 13” baking dish or similar sized casserole dish with olive oil and set aside. Place halved eggplants on a baking sheet, cut side up; brush cut side with olive oil and season with salt to taste. Bake for 20 minutes or until flesh is fork tender. Let cool for a few minutes until cool enough to handle. Using a spoon, scoop out eggplant flesh, leaving a very thin wall of flesh against the eggplant's skin so they maintain their shape and can be stuffed. Chop the eggplant flesh and set aside (it will be added to the cooked meat mixture later).

In a large skillet, brown beef; add onions and cook stirring until the beef is no longer pink and the onions are soft and translucent; add garlic and cook a few minutes more. Add tomato sauce, oregano, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste), black pepper (to taste) and fresh parsley; simmer uncovered about 10 minutes (you don’t want much liquid left). When liquid is almost completely gone, remove from heat; cool for about 10 minutes while you prepare the bechamel sauce.  

Bechamel/Cheese Sauce:  In a medium bowl, whisk ricotta, eggs, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and dash of nutmeg together until smooth and well blended; add salt and pepper to taste, if desired (the Parmesan cheese is salty, so be careful not to over salt).  

Stir the feta cheese and the chopped cooked eggplant flesh into the meat mixture. Using a spoon, divide the filling evenly between the eggplant shells and fill until slightly mounded. Place filled shells in prepared baking dish. Spoon bechamel sauce on top of each filled eggplant half and lightly spread it to cover the meat filling. Lightly sprinkle additional Parmesan cheese on top of each, if desired. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes. If desired, run under the broiler for a few minutes to lightly brown the tops. Let sit about 10 minutes or so to set. Serves approximately 4 to 5. 

*Note:  Even though you may not think 8 ounces of tomato sauce is enough; the tomato sauce is simply being used to flavor the meat and keep it moist, it isn't supposed to be like lasagna's meat sauce.  If you don't like the idea of adding cinnamon to the meat mixture, you can omit it; however it is the unique flavor that I think "makes this dish". Also, it is imperative to cook your eggplant until completely fork tender -- this is not a vegetable that is pleasant undercooked (unless you like chewing on erasers).


Friday, April 26, 2013

Greek Style Spinach-Feta Pie

This evening I was in the mood for my Greek Style Spinach-Feta Pie.  I also just happened to have 1 pound of fresh organic baby spinach that I needed to use...so, naturally this dinner choice was the perfect solution to use it! Even though I typically use only 10 ounces of fresh cooked spinach in this recipe...in tonight's spinach pie, I used the entire 16 ounce container...a full pound of spinach.  I absolutely love spinach...so it worked out great.  I snapped a few photos below for you to see.  The recipe is embedded in the link above.  Enjoy!

Greek Style Spinach-Feta Pie


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Grilled Steaks, Pepper Kabobs & Parmesan Cauliflower Mash

This evening I made grilled Porterhouse steaks for dinner.  I like to buy the "thin sliced" steaks to cook on weeknights because they cook so quickly -- it probably only took about 8 minutes total on the grill for medium-well. I just brushed them lightly with olive oil and seasoned with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  I cut up the rest of my red, orange and yellow bell peppers and marinated them in a little olive oil and red wine vinegar and threaded them on bamboo skewers to grill along with the steaks.  I also grilled half of a Vidalia onion to serve with our steaks.  I had a head of fresh cauliflower that needed to be used, so I made my Rich and Thick Parmesan Cauliflower Mash to go with our meal and put a pat of Kerrygold butter in the little wells to melt along with some chopped fresh parsley.  It was absolutely delicious!  I snapped a few photos below for you to see (the recipe for the Parmesan Cauliflower Mash is linked above).  It's amazing how well you can eat without wheat or grains and how much variety there is to enjoy when preparing simple, whole, natural foods.  Enjoy!



Monday, April 22, 2013

Grilled Chipotle Citrus Salmon

When I got home this evening, I decided to get my walk in before dinner instead of after the sun went down -- I walked for almost an hour to take advantage of and enjoy the beautiful weather while the sun was still nice and bright.  When I got back, I fired up our grill and then thinly sliced an orange, lemon and lime.  I had 2 pieces of wild Alaskan salmon and decided I wanted to use citrus to infuse flavor as well as a way to help keep the salmon moist while it grilled.  I also wanted to add some Chipotle flavor as well.  The salmon had skin on one side, which makes grilling it easy because you don't have to flip it and it keeps the salmon from getting burned or falling apart like it sometimes does.  I lightly sprayed the salmon with olive oil and then seasoned it with Celtic salt and Chipotle Chile Powder.  I then placed a layer of lemon slices first, then a layer of lime slices and lastly with the larger orange slices.  I placed the salmon on a hot grill and cooked it for about 8 minutes until the orange slices began to get a tiny bit charred.  I moved the salmon to a platter and covered it with foil for about 5 to 10 minutes while I placed a little salad on our plates.  I also halved an avocado and sprinkled it with Celtic salt and Chipotle Chile Powder.  It's amazing how delicious this super simple meal turned out.  I removed the slightly charred orange and lime slices from the top of the salmon when I plated them, but left the lemon slices on top and served them on a little bed of fresh sliced citrus...in no time at all we were enjoying Grilled Chipotle Citrus Salmon.  I snapped a few photos below for you to see.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Night's Greek Style Marinated Grilled Lamb Chops & Roasted Asparagus

Tonight I made the lamb chops that I had originally planned to make last night, but ran out of time to marinate them long enough.  I made Greek Style Marinated Lamb Chops with Roasted Asparagus and then sliced some mini San Marzano tomatoes and tossed them in a little extra virgin olive oil, pomegranate vinegar and salt and pepper. Roasted asparagus is so simple to make -- I just cut off the tough bottom part of the stems, toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them in a single layer on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus.  The marinade for the lamb chops contains olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, fresh rosemary and parsley, lots of garlic, salt and pepper.  It was a fresh, flavorful and simple dinner. Below are a few pictures as well the recipe for the lamb chops embedded in the link above.  Enjoy!


Happy Sunday!

We awoke to another gorgeous spring day this morning.  It is cooler than normal, but its bright, sunny and quite breezy out.  While our pollen count has come down, it is still in the 700's which is quite high. We again decided to get our walk in first thing this morning and take advantage of the beautiful weather before having breakfast and beginning our chores.  It was 48 degrees at 10:00 when we went out for our walk but its supposed to get up to 67 today -- we ended up walking for an hour to enjoy the beautiful weather.  When we got back in, I wasn't sure what to have for breakfast -- but I wasn't in the mood for eggs and I definitely had my fill of peppers yesterday after having them for both brunch and dinner!  So, I mixed a cup of Fage 2% plain Greek yogurt with some stevia, a few diced strawberries, some chopped walnuts and then paired it with half of a sliced avocado sprinkled with some Celtic salt and black pepper.  I know it sounds like a really weird combination...and it probably is, but it worked for me and I enjoyed it.  I snapped a couple photos below.  Enjoy!

Spring has definitely sprung -- this is one of my viburnums and a few azaleas -- even my roses are blooming!
I didn't begin sneezing until I stepped out in the backyard to snap a couple photos!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Pizza...It's a "Pepper Palooza"!

Today was most definitely a "Top 10" day here weather wise.  I had originally planned to grill lamb chops for dinner, but got home too late to marinate them sufficiently beforehand...so my back-up plan was PIZZA!!!  I still had lots of the colorful peppers left that I used earlier in the week as well as in this morning's delicious omelette...so I decided to go with that theme again!  I thinly sliced the cooked Italian chicken sausage left from Thursday night's dinner and sliced the red, orange, yellow and green peppers along with some onions and mini fresh San Marzano tomatoes and sauteed them lightly to put on my pizza.  I shredded some mozzarella cheese...and I was ready to roll!  We ran some errands this afternoon and did our Costco run as well.  Tomorrow will probably be a "work in the yard day" for us (along with some shopping and other errands) -- it is supposed to be another gorgeous day like it was today. I might even wash my car if there's no rain in the forecast for the week.  It always seems to rain the day after I wash it for some reason!  Well, below are a few pictures of my delicious pizza and the recipe for the crust is embedded in the link here --->   Almond-Flax Parmesan Herb Pizza Crust.  Enjoy!  

P.S. -- If you want your crust perfectly flat and smooth, lightly spray a sheet of parchment paper with olive oil spray and place it on top (oiled side down) of the ball of pizza dough centered in the middle of your pizza pan or baking sheet and then use either your hands or a flat edge of something (I used my big container of black pepper -- it's about 10" tall and squared) and press it smooth by swiping it the direction you want the pizza crust to go.  Carefully peel off the parchment paper...and "Voila"...perfectly flat, smooth, thin pizza crust!  I got that tip from one of my regular readers and it works like a charm!  If you don't have parchment paper, a lightly oiled rubber spatula will press it out just fine.




Happy Saturday! My Colorful Brunch Omelette!

This morning we slept in and took our time getting up and started.  It was bright, sunny, brisk and cool and only in the upper 40s when we woke up...but you could tell by the beautiful blue skies and birds chirping outside that it was going to be a gorgeous day.  I decided that before we had breakfast we would get dressed and get our walk in first thing this morning.  We walked for over an hour and it was absolutely gorgeous outside.  For breakfast, I decided to use some of the colorful peppers and leftover Italian chicken sausage to make a big beautiful omelette for "brunch" since we were eating so late.  I sliced up some onions, red, green, orange and yellow peppers and some mini San Marzano tomatoes and made an omelette bulging at the seams with them.  I shredded some sharp cheddar cheese on top.  It was absolutely delicious and should last me until dinner time!  I snapped a few photos below for you to see...now I am off to seize this beautiful day!  Enjoy!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Chicken Scampi-ish over Zucchini Noodles

This evening, I made a quick and simple dinner -- my Chicken Scampi-ish.  I normally like to serve it on top of Rich & Thick Parmesan Cauliflower Mash.  This evening I decided to try it over zucchini noodles (made with my little Spirelli) instead.  While it turned out good...I must be honest, I still think it tastes best on top of the Parmesan Cauliflower Mash.  It has loads more flavor than the zucchini noodles.  I tossed the zucchini noodles with finely grated Parmesan cheese to flavor them a bit first...and while it was good -- the other is much more flavorful (in my opinion).  I love the simple, fresh flavors in the Chicken Scampi-ish.  I snapped a quick photo below for you to see. The link to the recipe is above.  Enjoy!


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Italian Sausage w/ Peppers & Onions

This evening I was in the mood for something different for dinner. Over the weekend, I picked up some beautiful, colorful bell peppers...red, yellow and orange. I also had half of a green Poblano pepper left in the fridge...so I decided that the peppers would go great with some Italian sausage and onions. I stopped by the store on my way home to pick up some fresh Italian chicken sausage. I browned and sliced it and then lightly sauteed some peppers and onions and sprinkled it all with some Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh basil...and "Boom"...dinner was on the table in no time. I originally planned to make some yellow squash "pasta" to put it on top of, but decided I wanted to eat it just the way it was. It was quick, simple and delicious. I snapped a few photos below for you to see.  Enjoy!

Simple...and delicious
Beautiful & Tasty!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Southwestern Chipotle Cheddar Pie w/ Baby Kale

This evening I decided to make dinner that used up some of the ingredients I had available. I decided to make a quiche-like pie using baby kale and to give it a Southwestern theme. I had an 8-ounce container of fresh organic baby kale that I sauteed in a little olive oil for a few minutes until it was wilted and then tossed in some sliced green onions and fresh mushrooms and cooked a couple more minutes until tender. I had about 1 cup of leftover squash medley (zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes) from the other night that I tossed in to the pan with the cooked  kale to heat slightly. I made an almond flour pie crust and added Chipotle chile powder to make it a bit spicy. I also added Chipotle to the egg mixture, as well as some sharp cheddar cheese. It turned out really good. As soon as I pulled it out of the oven, it looked like a storm was coming up really fast, so hubby and I decided to get our walk in first and then eat dinner afterwards. We got an hour walk in before dinner and it was so nice to just come in and sit down and eat when we came in. I snapped a couple photos below for you to see and posted the recipe I created as well. Enjoy!

Southwestern Chipotle Cheddar Pie w/ Baby Kale



2 cups almond flour
3 tablespoons cold butter, diced into small cubes
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon ground Chipotle Chile Pepper


8 oz. fresh baby kale, sauteed in a little olive oil until wilted and tender
1 cup diced cooked vegetables (I used zucchini, squash and mushrooms)
3 green spring onions, thinly sliced
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon ground Chipotle Chile Pepper
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
Salt & black pepper, to taste
1-1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
5 eggs (or 1-1/4 cups Egg Beaters)
1/2 cup half-n-half


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Place all crust ingredients in a medium bowl.  Cut butter, egg and Chipotle powder into flour with a dough/pastry blender or cutter until mixture resembles small pebbles and the flour is thoroughly moistened (the same way you prepare a pie crust).  Press crust mixture into pie dish or tart pan (I used a 10" pyrex pie dish).  Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until lightly browned; remove from oven and set aside.

Increase oven temp to 350 F degrees.  In the same medium bowl, place the well drained cooked kale and other cooked vegetables; add green onions, Chipotle, lime zest, salt, pepper, cheddar, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, eggs and half-n-half.  Mix until well combined.  Pour mixture into the lightly baked crust and top with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan and bake at 350 F for 15 minutes; lower oven temp to 325 F (so edge of crust doesn't over brown); bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until filling and eggs are set and cooked .  If center still seems a little jiggly, cook an additional few minutes.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tuesday's Southwestern Style Chicken Salad...

This evening I wasn't very hungry for some reason, so it was harder for me to decide what to make for dinner.  I had a package of boneless chicken breasts in the fridge to use, so I boiled them and decided to make chicken salad.  I figured it would be nice to have as a lighter dinner this evening and great as leftovers for lunch tomorrow. I had a few ripe avocados on my counter that needed to be used as well...so I decided to whip up a quick Southwestern Style Chicken Salad.  I diced the cooled cooked chicken and placed it in a bowl and then rummaged through the fridge to see what kinds of things I might want to add to the chicken salad.  I diced a celery stalk, thinly sliced a green onion, finely diced some red bell pepper and a baby kosher dill pickle  I tossed it all together with some mayonnaise, salt and a good shake of ground Chipotle chile pepper for spice and Southwestern flavor.  I had some extra toasted slivered almonds left from making green beans with almonds the other night so I stirred in some of those too for added crunch.  To serve the chicken salad, I cut a ripe avocado in half and filled and topped it with the chicken salad.  It was really, really good and so very simple to make as well.  Before it was completely dark outside, I snapped a quick photo for you to see below.  Enjoy!