Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cauliflower Mash



Before I even start talking about this delectable side dish and how ridiculously easy it is to make, I just want to throw out a disclaimer. These are not, I repeat, not a substitution for potatoes. Come on people! You don't honestly believe that, do you? Sure you can whip them to make them look like potatoes. You can cook it so that it mashed into the consistency of chunky mashed potatoes but you aren't going to trick anyone actually eating it, that it tastes like potatoes. Because it doesn't. It tastes like cauliflower. And what, if I may ask, is wrong with something tasting like what it actually is? I happen to love cauliflower. Always have, always will. Sure, when I was younger, my mom would put a cheese sauce on it, but I still liked it. Now I eat a majority of it roasted. Sometimes I dip it in ketchup because someone once said it could replace French fries. No. No it can't. That was wrong information. It's still delicious with ketchup though.  Here's the thing: indulge occasionally. It's ok. Eat some French fries, have some cake. Just don't do it every day. Make your meals as chock full of veggies and healthy protein as possible in order to take advantage of nutrients that your body craves. And can we please stop trying to turn healthy foods into a substitute for everything? Please? 

Woah... Sometimes it's difficult for me to stop after I get started. So cauliflower. It's chock full of vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese and it's an antioxidant beneficial to detoxing harmful chemicals in our bodies. There is some belief that it can balance out some systems in our body which will help prevent certain cancers. That has become extremely important to me lately. It should have always been important though. You live and you learn you have the crap scared out of you. 

While doing my grocery shopping for the week, I noticed that organic cauliflower was on sale for $2.50. Organic. Cauliflower. $2.50. Say huh? Obviously I had to throw a head in my cart. What on earth would I do with this though? Well, I could hold onto it for a few days or I could serve it up next to a steak I was grilling up for dinner. I have gotten into this habit of dry rubbing my steaks with dried rosemary, garlic salt and sea salt. If you aren't on board with that yet, get there. Quickly. So I wondered what this cauliflower would taste like with this seasoning mixture. The answer is, off the chain. Does anyone say that anymore? Can we bring it back? No? I'm old. I'll stop trying to sound hip. Just showed my age again, didn't I?

Before I embarrass myself anymore using out of date phrases, I should just post this recipe.  Make it. Give me your feedback and leave a little comment telling me your favorite way to eat cauliflower!

Cauliflower Mash

1 head cauliflower, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons butter

Fill a large pot with water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add chopped cauliflower.  Boil for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a spice grinder (I use a coffee grinder) or mortar and pestle (you can certainly just chop up the rosemary but it will fly all over the place when you hit it with your knife so be prepared), break down the rosemary, garlic powder, salt and crushed red pepper.  Set aside.

When cauliflower is fork tender (10 minutes), drain in a colander.  Press down with paper towels to remove excess water.

Transfer cauliflower to a mixing bowl.  Add herbs, parmesan cheese, milk and butter.  Mash with potato masher until desired consistency is achieved.  I like mine with some texture.  You can also use a food processor or a food mill if you prefer a smoother consistency.

See how easy that was? Serve with your favorite protein and enjoy!  


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Kentucky Jerk Chicken Legs


I've never been to Jamaica--yet, but I'm bringing the flavor of Jamaica to Kentucky with this jerk recipe I'm about to throw your way.  I have experimented and tested and experimented some more with jerk sauces.  I've even gone as far to doctor up store bought sauces.  I could never get the flavor that I wanted.  It was either too spicy or too sweet.  Dare I say, I've finally created something that makes me really, really, really happy.  I mean, really happy.  Like, I didn't want to stop eating.  But I did.  And I was sad.

Disclaimer:  I am not a jerk expert (actually I am but that's a different type of jerk).  I am an Aimee expert though, and I know exactly what I love.  To my friends--insert "jerk" jokes here. 

I'm coming to the end of a desperately needed four day weekend.  I was burnt out and just needed some me time.  Yes, I know that technically every day after 4:45 is me time, but I have completely enjoyed waking up without an alarm even though I still was up by 6:45 every morning.  It's just what I do.  I especially enjoyed getting to hang out with my mom!  We hit some yard sales (not literally) on Friday and then headed out to Marksbury Farm for lunch at their restaurant Pasture.  Go there.  I'm serious.  Simple.  Charming.  Delicious.  I also managed to get a majority of my garden planted.  I got a late start so we will see!

So.  Chicken.  I was at Trader Joe's and they just happened to have free range chicken legs on sale.  I have become quite the chicken leg fanatic but I only seem to eat them in the summer.  Is that weird? I immediately knew that I would use this marinade/sauce on them.  I like to think it was fate.  Coincidentally, this marinade is also the sauce that is used to finish the chicken.  Sweet, spicy, transformative.  I marinated the chicken for about 24 hours.  If you're a grill master, throw these babies right on the grill.  I am not.  Therefore, I threw these in the oven for about 45 minutes at 425 degrees.  I wish I was an expert griller.  Actually, I wish I was a pit-master.  I want a smoker.  Yes, seriously.  Man, I am all over the place today.  

When you see the ingredient list, you might feel a little overwhelmed.  Don't be.  It's worth it.  It's basically measure and mix.  For me, this is pretty spicy but balanced well with the sweetness in this recipe.  If you prefer less spice, remove the seeds from the Serranos.  Also, I use coconut oil when cooking the marinade down into the sauce.  I have not tested this out with any other oils so adjust at your own risk.  I've been seeing some recipes with what I consider to be large amounts of sesame oil. I just recently discovered that there are two different kinds. In this recipe I've used toasted or dark sesame oil.  I think I've managed to cover all my bases. Now, go. Marinate. 

Kentucky Jerk Chicken Legs

6 chicken legs
Zest of 1 orange
3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sorghum or molasses
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
4 garlic cloves
3 serranos
1/4 teaspoon dark or toasted sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon all-spice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons masa or corn flour

Marinade

In a mini chopper or food processor, combine orange zest, serranos and garlic until finely chopped.  Transfer to a medium sized bowl.  Add orange juice, honey, sorghum, tamari, sesame oil, apple cider vinegar and water.  

Place chicken legs into a plastic zip bag and pour half of the marinade in the bag.  Place in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours, turning occasionally.

Store the reserved marinade in the fridge until the chicken is ready to bake. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  

Remove chicken from marinade and dry with paper towels.  Place chicken on a rack on a baking sheet.  Bake for about 40-45 minutes.  Remove from oven and tint with foil.  Let chicken rest for at least 10 minutes. 

While chicken is baking, remove marinade from the refrigerator and transfer to a sauce pan.  Add coconut oil, brown sugar, all-spice, cinnamon and masa or corn flour.  Bring to a boil over medium-low heat.  Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the mixture starts to thicken.  Remove from heat.

Pour half of the glaze over the chicken and serve.  Reserve the remainder for dipping. 




Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Creamy Lemon Pie



Sunshine, warm weather, longer days and cool desserts. It doesn't get much better than that. Gone are the days of warm, baked desserts to comfort your freezing cold soul. You don't need that right now. You need this cool, refreshing, creamy lemon pie. 

What is it about summer (yes, I'm aware it's not technically summer) that makes me crave light and fruity desserts? I could live off sorbet in the summer or egg kisses topped with fruit. What's an egg kiss you ask? It's basically meringue, piped on a sheet tray and baked until set. It makes a perfect cloud for berries to rest on. Future blog post on those soon! 

Creamy Lemon Pie is basically a vacation in your mouth. That's weird. Try to forget that I not only said it, but that I left the phrase in this post. I feel like I should be in a rocking chair on a big porch with a soft breeze when I eat this cool, refreshing pie. 

Did I mention this was easy? Like really, really easy?  You should make this for every barbecue or potluck you go to this summer. I'm serious. Do it. Or just make one for yourself and eat the entire thing in three days. I didn't do that. I promise. 

I know what you're all saying. But Aimee. This isn't organic or even remotely healthy. You are correct. It isn't. Sweetened condensed milk is full of weirdness. The truth is, I was poor and had a can of it in my cabinet. Never fear. I have started doing research so I can make my own sweetened condensed milk. It actually doesn't seem difficult, just  time consuming. Stay tuned! 

Creamy Lemon Pie

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 prepared graham cracker crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Pour into prepared crust. 

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. 

Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes. Transfer to refrigerator until chilled, about 3 or 4 hours. 

Top with whipped cream and serve. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Italian Chicken Salad




It's no secret that I love southern food or that I love Kentucky, obviously, so it just makes sense that I also love Damaris Phillips' show, Southern at Heart, on Food Network.  She is so fun, bubbly and full of energy and her personality really shines through on her show.  Her recipes though. She takes basic concepts and then southernizes them. A couple of weeks ago she used stewed tomatoes in a caprese salad. Who would have thought of that? I'm sure there are plenty of Italians rolling their eyes but to this Kentuckian it sounds fantastic and yes, I will be making it.  For now though, I am all about her Fried Chicken Salad that she made last season. Sometimes I obsess over it. The flavors are so bright, yet creamy and light. There's a crunch from the celery and the burst of flavor from the green onions. Simply put, it is delicious. There aren't a bunch of complex flavors going on, competing with each other. It's just simple goodness where all the ingredients work together.

Now that I have said all of that, I feel I need to share my one grievance with this dish. It's called Fried Chicken Salad. Clearly it is made with fried chicken but it's a recipe that was created for leftover fried chicken. Leftover fried chicken? This is a foreign concept to me. Oh wait. One time, there was leftover fried chicken after my baby cousin Hope's birthday party. Coincidentally, that just happened to be the first time I made this recipe. The other times, I went out and purchased chicken at the grocery store specifically to make this salad. 

Confession time: I have never made fried chicken. It's on my bucket list (most people's bucket lists contain places they want to go.  My bucket list contains food I wish to master cooking) and I have every intention of getting around to it--eventually. 

Italian Chicken Salad

Adapted from Damaris Phillips

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

2 pieces of grilled chicken, cubed
3/4 cup mayo
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon 
3 stalks of celery, diced
3 green onions, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, combine the mayo, buttermilk, mustard, Rosemary, basil, thyme, zest and juice of lemon. Mix in celery, green onion and chicken. 

Serve on a bed of your favorite greens. 


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Herby Grilled Chicken


Am I the most inconsistent blogger in all of the blogging world?  I keep myself up at night wondering how these other bloggers do it?  I am jealous.  I would love to post every, single day just like they do. Somehow it just doesn't happen.  By the time I work my full time job and do all the things around my house that have to be done (by me and only me), I find it difficult to write one post a week and most of the time I don't do that.  Bad blogger, bad. I love blogging.  I wish I could do it full time, but if I'm being honest, I just do this for myself as a creative outlet since there is zero creativity in my day job. Ok. Thanks for letting me vent. 

My grill has been out of gas forever and I finally got a new one a couple of weeks ago. I don't have an excuse for waiting so long other than being a big chicken and convincing myself that I would somehow explode in a fiery inferno if I messed with it. Good news: I survived and now I have been obsessed with grilling. Chicken, salmon, steaks, hot dogs, salads--yes, you read that right, salad, anything I can get my hands on goes on the grill. When the weather is as beautiful as it has been here lately, it's hard to cook inside. Especially after the winter we had--way more snow than I ever care to see again. 

Since going mostly organic, whenever it's accessible, I have been purchasing organic chicken breasts, pounding them out and marinating them in big, bold flavors. This herb marinade is no exception. Vinegar combined with dried herbs and olive oil is a perfect, healthy way to add flavor to pretty much anything. Grilling up some veggies? It works for this too. It's adds so much brightness to boring chicken though. I use white vinegar in this recipe which leads to a very vinegar-y flavor. If you want to lower the intensity, just reduce the amount of vinegar and/or increase the olive oil. 

As if your mouth wasn't already watering and you weren't on your way to buy some chicken, I'll make it even better! This recipe is quick! The marinade whips up in about 5 minutes and can be grill-ready in 30 minutes! Quick side bar: because of all the vinegar in this recipe, I wouldn't recommend marinating the chicken for more than 3 or 4 hours. The acid will actually cook the chicken. Weird, right? 

Herby Grilled Chicken

2 boneless skinless chicken breast
3/4 cup vinegar
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp oregano
1/2 tbsp Rosemary 
1/2 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp honey
1/4 cup olive oil 

Place one chicken breast in between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Pound out until chicken is a uniform thickness of about 1/2 to 3/4 inch.  Repeat with the other chicken breast. Discard plastic wrap.  Place chicken in a shallow baking dish. 

In a medium bowl, wisk together vinegar, pepper, salt, garlic powder, oregano, Rosemary, thyme, honey and olive oil. 

Pour marinade over chicken, making sure it is all covered.  Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in refrigerator up to 3 or 4 hours. 

Preheat grill. Over medium flame, grill chicken on each side for 5-7 minutes or until internal temperature has reached 160 degrees.  Remove chicken from grill and let rest for about 5 minutes before serving. 

Oregano Ranch Dressing



Oregano, mayo, sour cream, garlic.... Some of my favorite things. Add a few more ingredients to this and you have an incredible salad dressing bursting with flavor! I love ranch dressing and there aren't many things that I won't dunk in this spectacular creation. One time, in the 6th grade, we had been stuck inside for far too many days due to a flood that had converged upon Cynthiana.  It must have been around Valentine's day because there was red jello in the fridge.  Since we were going to be out of school for a few days, my mom allowed me to have some of my friends over to spend the night.  She had some ranch dressing and veggies for us to snack on and eventually brought up that red jello.  I'll blame it on a combination of boredom and sleepiness, but there was a dare to dip the jello in the ranch dressing.  Let's just say it wasn't delicious.  In fact, it made one of the girls sick.  I obviously have a stomach of steel.  Why did I even tell you that story?

This year has been somewhat of a challenge for me.  I've had a biopsy and some surgery and now have something that is referred to as ADH (I won't get into all that right now) so I've decided to make some changes to the way that I eat.  Nothing too drastic but I have made the conscious decision to eat organic and non-gmo in order to avoid as many chemicals as possible.  I eat local whenever possible and have upped my efforts at eating more veggies.  Especially green ones.  However, sometimes, lettuce can just be boring.  Hence the need for ranch dressing.

I don't know anyone who hates ranch dressing.  Whether it's served with an obvious choice like salad or wings or something less popular like jello, it's just perfect.  I love it with raw veggies, roasted potato wedges, crackers, pretzels, sometimes I just dip homemade croutons in it.... I could go on but I'll stop.  I promise you'll love this version of ranch dressing.  It's become a mainstay in my fridge for the last few weeks and it should become one in yours as well.  Buy fresh, organic ingredients and it will show in the tastes of all your recipes--including this one.  The only thing I didn't use organic in this recipe was the mayo.  I use olive oil mayo but will eventually getting around to making my own mayo.  Now, if someone would just buy me that food processor,  I could make good on that.

Oregano Ranch Dressing

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

2/3 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup milk (vitamin D works best)
1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoon organo
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl.  Mix well.  Transfer to mason jar for easier storage.

Enjoy!