Thursday, September 15, 2011

Notice of Absence

Good evening, friends.

I just wanted to let you all know that Jim's dad passed away this morning.  We will be heading to Texas very soon to pay our respects to Dub and give our support to Lis.

And at the same time, my little buddy Pauline, our 16 1/2 year-old cat is suffering from severe kidney disease.   She is in the hospital and I am so hoping they can rally her health just a bit so she can stay at home until we get back.

I'll see you all again in a few weeks.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Chinese Chicken Salad

Many, many, many years ago, I used to frequent an Asian restaurant in California.  I almost always ordered this salad.  I just love it.  When they served it, it's only ingredients were lettuce, rice noodles, chicken, and dressing.

It took me years to find a dressing recipe, back then we didn't have the internet!  But I did find one which tastes exactly like what I ate at least once a week for a couple of years.  Now through the years, I've tried to update this extraordinary salad with just a few more simple ingredients: minced ginger, green onions, and chopped peanuts.  With or without these additions, this is an amazing salad. 

A few notes about the rice noodles.  The package I bought was, I think, a 6.25 oz package.  I used half of this for my recipe.  But when breaking up the noodles, take it outside!!!!  The noodles just fly all over the place!  I used to use a deep skillet with several inches of oil to cook the noodles, but now I use a Fry Daddy, again, outside!  Even with one of those screens you put over frying pans, you'll still get a few grease spatters, so it's just so much easier to do this outside.  And speaking of frying and oil, don't let that scare you.  These noodles use very little oil to cook and you'll drain them on paper towels after cooking, so it's not like eating a bunch of oil-drenched french fries.  And one last thing.  They're just so much fun to cook!  You'll want to make sure your oil is hot enough and deep enough, but throw in a small batch (I say SMALL) and watch them poof up to about 5 times their size.  Whoosh!!!!

Use any kind of leftover chicken you have....grilled, rotisserie, roasted.  And you must, must I say, use iceberg lettuce.  Nothing else shreds like it (in fact, I just bought a package of the "Shreds" iceberg lettuce) or has the crunch.  Outside of being a bit messy to make, this is one fast salad, especially if you make the dressing ahead of time and use the packaged shredded salad.  You can have this on the table in minutes.  I will probably add some diced red pepper next time to just add a bit more color.


about 3 oz uncooked rice noodles
about 8 oz shredded iceberg lettuce
about 1 cup cubed or shredded cooked chicken
about 1/4 cup coarsely chopped dry-salted peanuts
2-3 green onions, chopped, green and white parts
1/2 red pepper, diced (optional)

1/4 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2+ tsp minced fresh ginger

Mix all dresssing ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined.

Heat oil in a deep frying pan or a fry daddy.  In very small batches, drop dried rice noodles into oil until poofed up.  Drain on a paper towel lined dish.

In a very large mixing bowl, add shredded lettuce, chicken, green onions, and peanuts.  Add cooked noodles.  (I say very large because there will be a lot of bulk, but when the dressing is added, it will shrink down considerably).  When ready to serve, toss with dressing (I only used just a bit more than half).  I never serve anything else with this.  For me, this is one perfect complete meal.  Nothing else needed.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Creamy Corn Grits

Alright, this is the South afterall, right?  Gotta have grits.  Gotta love grits.  Gotta make grits.  Yum yum yum.  I've made all kinds of grits but this was a whole different recipe.  Using a can of creamed corn.  This recipe makes a batch (at least 8 servings), so I'll definitely cut it in half next time.  But will probably double the cheese.  Luv that cheese!


one 14.75 oz can creamed corn
2 1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup plain yellow corn meal
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Combine corn, water, butter, seasoned salt, and pepper in medium saucepan; bring to boil on high.

Add cornmeal, whisking constantly, until blended.  Reduce heat to low; cook 8-10 minutes, whisking often, or until thickened.

Stir in cheese until well blended.  Serve.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cheese Crusted Fish

Like my new favorite fish couldn't get any better.  Holy Smokes!!!  I picked up this recipe at Publix the other day and thought I'd give it a shot with Swai.  I'm tellin' you, you cannot go wrong with this fish!  It just gets better and better.

I hope I've talked some of you into finding/trying this fish.  Good grief, it is so good!  And this recipe, well, it just puts it over the top.  I served it with creamy corn grits (also outstanding, recipe to follow) and edamames in the shell.  Absolute perfection.  All of it.


2 swai fillets, 5-6 oz each
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup egg substitute, or 1 large egg, beaten
1 cup crunch Cheetos, crushed
1/2 cup Panko break crumbs
1 tsp dried parsley flakes
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp canola oil

Place flour on plate and eggs in a shallow bowl.  In a second shallow bowl, mix crushed Cheetos, panko, parsley, coriander, and pepper.

Dip each fillet in flour (coating both sides); shake off excess.  Dip each fillet into egg.  Finally, dip into crumb mixture (coating both sides); press with fingertips to coat evenly.

Preheat large saute pan on medium 3-4 minutes.  Place oil in pan, then add fish, cooking 3-4 minutes on each side or until goden and crisp.  Drain on paper towels.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Salmon with Feta and Capers

It is official!  This is my new favorite salmon recipe!  Oh WOW!  Three flavors I love: salmon, feta cheese, capers.  Who'da thunk they would come together so deliciously?  So simple and absolutely perfect.  OK, I'm ready for another serving, please. (I served this with steamed asparagus and roasted red potatoes.)


1/2 to 3/4 pound salmon filet
olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 lemon, depending on juiciness
lemon pepper seasoning
minced garlic
heaping 1/4 cup feta cheese
2 Tbsp capers

Rinse salmon and pat dry.   Place on aluminum foil (you can place the foil in a baking dish if it makes it easier for you to handle.....I'm lazy and look for easy clean-up).  Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Squeeze lemon juice over fish.  Sprinkle liberally with lemon pepper seasoning.  Sprinkle minced garlic over the top.  Spoon out capers, drain, and sprinkle across the fish. 

Use a lot of feta and capers, more than you'd think.  Lastly, lightly drizzle with olive oil again.

Bake in a preheated 375 oven.  My oven cooked this size filet in about 10 minutes, then I broiled it for about 2 minutes to help melt/brown the cheese.  My 1/2 pound filet came out perfectly with this timing.  The photos above are before/after baking/broiling.  ENJOY!!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Fig Spice Cake (no photo)

OK, let me first explain the reason for the "No Photo" line.   I had made two beautiful layers of a cake I fashioned from a couple of recipes.  Jim and I had lunch at "212" the other day and for dessert he ordered a spice cake with figs.  A wonderful autumn dessert.  On the line of a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.  Since my last fig recipe, I still had about a dozen left and thought I'd try to come up with a recipe to use them in a spice cake.  I just love the little crunch/snap of those fig seeds in each bite.  So searching through the internet, I settled on primary recipe from  This recipe didn't include the fresh figs and called for pecans instead of walnuts, so I perused a few other recipes to figure out how much of each I should add.  And I think I came up with the perfect recipe.

So back to the "No Photo" part of this story.  I had just baked two perfect-looking 8" spice cakes.  I had them on the dining room table getting ready to invert them to the wire racks to cool.  Just as I was turning the first cake, my elbow bumped the second cake and "BLAM!!!!!!!"  right onto the floor.  The second cake kinda crumbled.   Lindie bounded to the scene of the accident hoping to come to immediate assistance.  I was able to keep her at bay for a few minutes, enough time to try to salvage half of the cake.  Since the cake was still warm, it broke up a bit, but I took the non-floor/fur-touched cake and kind of smooshed it back into the cake pan.  I then put that in the freezer for about 15 minutes to reform, then gently inverted it back onto the cake plate.  Amazingly, it stayed together.  After frosting the top of that layer, I then cut the good cake piece into two pieces and, after cooling, ended up making a three-layer cake.

So goes the saga of my Fig Spice Cake.  I hope to make it again and insert a decent photo.  Regardless, the recipe will remain the same.  It is a keeper.

A few notes:  the Epicurious recipe which I will list below (with the inclusion of the figs and walnuts) calls for using 9" cake pans.  My cake pans are 8" so instead of the 30-35 minutes baking time, mine took about 38-40 minutes.   Also, you can make the frosting the day before, just let it come to room temperature before icing the cake to make the spread much easier.  Also, I tend to go a bit lighter on icing, so I would just make 2/3 of this recipe.  If you like it really sweet, keep it as it is.


For Cake:
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cups) unsalted butter, cut into 1" pieces and softened
2 3/4 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temp for 30 minutes
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups, about 12 fresh figs (I used Black Mission Figs), finely chopped

For Frosting:
3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
3 3/4 cups confectioners sugar
1 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350.  Butter the flour cake pans, knocking out excess flour.

Sift together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices into a large bowl.

Beat together butter (1 1/2 sticks) and brown sugar in another bowl with an electric mixer (fitted with paddle attachment if using a stand mixer) at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla.  Reduce speed to low, then add flour mixture and sour cream alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until batter is just smooth.  Mix in walnuts and figs until just combined.

Spoon batter evenly into pans, smoothing tops, then rap pans once or twice to expel any air bubbles.  Bake until pale golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 30-35 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes in pans on racks.  Run a thin kinife around edge of pans, then invert racks over pans and reinvert cakes onto racks to cool completely.

Make Frosting:
Beat together cream cheese, butter, and zest in a bowl with clean beaters at medium-high speed until fluffly, 1-2 minutes.  Sift in confectioner's sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined, then add lemon juice and beat a medium-high speed until frosting is smooth.

Assemble and Frost Cakes:
Halve each cake layer horizontally with a long serrated knife using a gentle sawing motion.  Put one layer, cut side up, on a cake stand or large plate and spread with about 3/4 cup frosting.  Stack remaining cake layers, spreading abourt 3/4 cup frosting on each layer and ending with top cake layer cut side down.  Spread top and side of cake with remaining frosting.  NOTE:  You can adhere additional chopped walnuts to the sides of the cake, gently pressing to help them adhere.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Warm Chicken and Fig Salad

It is fig season!  I love figs, but I have just never used them much.  This was a recipe in our newspaper's food section the other day.  I had picked up some Black Mission Figs on sale the other day and thought I'd give it a try.  And the salad added another new twist for me: skinless chicken thighs.

As the article so perfectly states "skinless chicken breasts have become the new cottage cheese-the ubiquitous base upon which so many weight-loss diets are built."  Amen.  Don't get me wrong.  We are definitely big purchasers of this cut.  And it is so versatile and a really healthy choice.  But really, how many times have you found yourself craving a naked, unseasoned hunk of chicken breast?  After a while, you need a deeper, richer flavor.  Yes, the thighs have a bit more fat content, but it's minimal considering alot of other alternatives.   It's perfect for a grill because it's just way too hard to overcook, meaning it will always be moist.  For this dish, I used bone-in thighs, but for presentation purposes, I think I'll try boned thighs next time.

But back to the figs.  Oh, and arugula!  And fresh rosemary.  A perfectly lovely, delicious, filling, nutritious entree salad.  Serve simply with a whole grain roll.  Enjoy!


4 Tbsp red wine vinegar, divided
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary, divided
8 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs, each cut into 2 pieces each (2-2 1/2# total)
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 tsp chopped fresh basil
3-4 fresh figs, cut lengthwise, into 4-6 pieces, depending on size
8 cups loosely packed fresh arugula
shaved Parmesan, to taste

In a large bowl, combine half each of the vinegar and rosemary.  Season with S&P.  Add the chicken and toss to coat.  Cover and marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes or in the frig for up to 4 hours, turning the chicken occasionally.

Place the onions in a large bowl and add the remaining red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt.  Mix and set aside for 15 minutes to one hour, tossing occasionally.

Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-low.  Place the chicken thighs on the grill and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until nicely browned and cooked through, turning the chicken halfway through grilling (I cooked mine on the George Foreman outdoor grill, on #4, 15 minutes for the boneless halves, 20 minutes for the bone-in halves).  Transfer the chicken to a plate and sprinkle with basil.  Set aside.

Add the arugula, figs, and remaining rosemary to the onions and vinegar.  Gently toss the salad, then season with S&P.  Divide the salad between 4 serving plates.  Place the chicken thigh halves around the salad, then sprinkle with the shave Parmesan.

Nutrition Info per serving:
228 calories
8 grams fat
8 grams carbs
31 grams protein
2 grams fiber