The unspoken value of freedom, friends, and good flavors.

Chicken / April 7, 2015

Last week we ended an era. A 27 month era to be exact. It was a quiet ending, without fanfare, parades or even an audible woop, woop. Instead of a celebration, it was welcomed with hugs, tears, and family as we quietly moved my husband’s mother into a Home so she could be cared for by professionals, during her last stages of dementia.

There really is no way to verbalize what you go through when caring for someone who must suffer through the incomparable symptoms of this cruel disease and it is full of opposites. For instance, it is so quiet being a caretaker, like an echoing chamber of secrets filled with random forgetfulness and vanishing memories. And because you cannot go anywhere like you used to, devoid of the sound of life.

And then it is also noisy, even deafening as you wade through the daily ritual of TV, repeating commands, and the incessant symphony of fear. Everything seems to be vibrating with tragedy, and on some days, hopelessness.

I started this blog in the beginning of our journey as caretakers, knowing I’d need a creative outlet at home to see me through the noise and the silence. I had no idea how right I was. It has saved me. And as you can see, posts have slowed down to a crawl over the last three or four months as her condition has worsened. That is why, when we saw her embraced by the wonderful people who now care for her and watched the smiles on their faces as they assured us everything would be okay, I knew to heal myself I would have to start cooking again.

There are only a few things true in the world. Love, kindness, and the comfort of doing what you love to show kindness. That is what cooking is for me.

I won’t narrate the culinary journey this time. Only a few snapshots and the recipes to go along with them for you to try. And a little advice. You never know when your next trial will arrive. But remember, it comes with a round trip ticket. Eventually it will end, and you, well you will be okay.


Herbed Salmon Patties

Over Caper Lemon Lentils and Honey Sriracha Cream Sauce

Serves 8


Ingredients:

Patties:

2 cans pink salmon
4 stalks celery
½ medium white onion
2 eggs
¼ t nutmeg
¼ t dried dill weed
Juice of one lemon
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
2 T fresh thyme leaves
¼ C Italian seasoned bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
2 T mild olive oil
1 C cream
¼ C Sriracha sauce
3 T honey


Lentils:

½ package green lentils
½ bottle capers, drained
3 cloves of garlic, peeled, whole
Juice from one lemon


Direction:

  • In a large saucepan, heat the 2 quarts of water to boiling. Add the lentils, and the peeled three cloves of garlic, and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 35 minutes. When ready to serve, add the capers and the lemon juice and a little salt.
  • While the lentils are cooking, combine the ingredients of salmon down to the salt and pepper. Combine well, form and divide into 12 – 14 patties. Fry them in a small amount of oil, on high, turning when they’re brown. I had to do it in two batches. About 3-4 minutes per side. In another small bowl, combine the cream, honey and Sriracha. Heat in the micro just until hot.
  • To plate, top a serving of the lentils with a patty, ladle the cream sauce over and top with a sprig of fresh thyme.

Fire Roasted Tomato Macaroni Stew

Ingredients:

24 ounce can Fire Roasted diced tomatoes
¾ lb ground beef
1/3 small white onion, chopped
3 small celery stalks chopped or sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic chopped finely
1 T fresh thyme leaves
1 can tomato paste
3 C water
2 T olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 C dry macaroni


Direction:

  • Heat a large Dutch oven and add 2 T olive oil. Then add the onions and celery and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the hamburger and cook until the pink is gone.Add salt and pepper.Add the can of tomatoes, and three cups of water and the can on tomato paste and the garlic. Cook over low heat, covered, for 10 minutes. In the meantime, in a large pan of boiling water, cook the 1 cup of macaroni until done. Drain, add to the stew, then add the fresh thyme and let cook for about another 3 minutes. Taste and add salt as needed.

Weekday Wild Rice and Apple Salad

This is a leftover creation. I encourage you to experiment!

Ingredients:

1 ½ C leftover, cold, cooked Trader Joe’s wild rice medley
3 celery stalks, chopped
¼ small onion
¼ to 1/3 C golden raisins
Handful of toasted pecans, rough chopped
1/2 C chopped fresh cilantro
1 large Fuji apple, diced
Juice from one lemon
Drizzle of mild olive oil
Salt and pepper
¼ C sweet
Thai chili sauce


Directions:

  • Mix all ingredients. Serve!
  • NOTE: You could easily add cooked shrimp, chicken, or even calamari…or for a really fancy twist, I suggest cold duck!

Chicken and Ricotta Stuffed Manicotti With Jalapeno Jelly Cream Sauce

Serves 6 


Ingredients:

1 package Manicotti, about 14 tubes
1 15 oz container ricotta cheese
1 extra large egg
1/3 C white wine
Salt and pepper
¾ C grated Pecorino Romano plus ½ more for garnish ½ C chopped fresh basil
4 C mini red, yellow and orange peppers
4 T mild tasting olive oil divided ¾ lb lean chicken breast strips, cooked,
cooled and chopped finely ¾ C heavy cream
1/3 C jalapeño pepper jelly


Direction:

  • Toss the mini peppers with about 2 T olive oil and salt and pepper to coat. Place on a large cookie sheet,
  • spread all over and not touching. Roast peppers at 400 degrees F for about 35 minutes, or until you see the skin blistering and a little bubbling. Take out and cool in a bowl. Then chop into chunks.
  • In a frying pan, heat 1 T oil and cook tenders without salt and pepper. Cook through, about 4 minutes or
  • so on each side (you don’t want any pink) then add the white wine and reduce for about 3 minutes. Remove, drain, cool and chop finely or mince. Depending upon the consistency you want. Reserve about 1 T of the reduced wine mixture for the cheese mixture.
  • In a large pan, bring 2-3 quarts of water to a boil, and cook the manicotti to a very firm al dente. Remove
  • and immerse into ice water to cool. Drain and pat dry.
  • In a large 8 C bowl, add the ricotta, pecorino, the egg, the fresh basil, the cooled chopped peppers, and the cooled chopped chicken. Add a bit of nutmeg and a dash of salt and pepper to taste.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place all of the cheese/chicken mixture into a large zip lock baggie. Cut
  • about a ¾ inch width hole at the bottom. (You can make it bigger if you want to after you try this size…) Pipe the mixture into the tubes, just until full. Put the remaining olive oil in a large baking dish. Arrange the stuffed manicotti in the dish. In a small bowl, combine the jelly and the cream. Pour over the manicotti, and cover with the rest of the cheese. Cook in the oven until bubbly, about 20-25 minutes.
  • Serve over brown rice medley, alongside a green salad and use any remaining roasted mini peppers to
  • garnish plus a flourish of fresh basil.


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