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Salads

Comfort Food

Left-Over Lift: Arroz con Pollo

March 5, 2017

Arroz con Pollo is a staple of many Latin American households and there are as many ways to prepare it as there are moms and grandmothers.  I make it the way I was taught by my neighbor in the Panama Interior, with a few spins of my own.

What’s even better is Arroz con Pollo is versatile; serve it hot or cold, and it’s easy to put your own spin on it using whatever feels right to you, or what makes sense from your fridge on any given day.  Leave out the chicken and bingo! Now you have a Vegetarian/Vegan dish! 

My recipe is perfect for both left-over chicken and left-over rice.  I don’t always make it with left-overs. I’ve been known to gently poach chicken breasts and then hand-shred them. But that’s just not necessary. And if you are using freshly cooked rice, chill it before blending it into the dish.

This past Saturday was “beach out like a whale” day which  in my house. means lots of binge TV and binge food, including super market fried chicken.

On Sunday, I was  left with an ample amount of tender chicken under the cold, crusty, greasy skins.  I also had a decend amount of cold, left-over chinese take-out rice (let’s not discuss that binge!) — perfect since this recipe uses cold rice.

I peeled and tossed the chicken skins, shredded the tender meat, and set it aside.

ARROZ con POLLO

  • Place two cups of cold, cooked, white rice into a large bowl. If you have freshly cooked rice, spread it out in a wide dish and refrigerate 1/2 hour.

    To the rice, add the following, adjusting quantities according to taste.
  • 1  or 1-1/2 cups of shredded chicken breast
  • 2 Tablespoons sliced green (or black) olives
  • 1 Teaspoon of caper berries
  • 1 Very thinly sliced or shredded carrot
  • 1/4 Cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 Teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 Cup green peas (Frozen…then run under warm water.)
  • 1/4 Cup corn (Frozen is fine, just run under warm water.)

As a main course, I was taught to serve this warm and always together with a light, crispy and simple salad with Russian dressing. Personally, I love the warm rice dish together with the crisp cold of the salad.

TIPS: This is such a versatile and deceptively filling way to eat rice and chicken so change it any way that works.

  1. Add chopped celery tops (the light green only) or celery heart.
  2. Make it without the chicken and you have a Vegetarian/Vegan dish.
  3. Toss in a little olive or caper juice, or even a squeeze of lemon or vinegar
  4. Some people add chopped tomato
  5. Remember: Use cold rice. It’s easy to quickly chill freshly made rice.
  6. Serve hot or cold, as a side dish or as a main course.

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Comfort Food

Paleo Veg Surprise

January 23, 2016

Everything is better with bacon. And teensy cabbages are no exception. Oh, you think you don’t care for brusel sprouts…but ah, you haven’t tried this dish. I dare you to serve this up to even the most reluctant eater, and I encourage you to cheat; Don’t even tell them what it is. You’ll see.

To Prepare

  • With your favorite scissors, dice up 4 slices of bacon and stir fry until crispy.
  • Set aside and drain, leaving about 3 tablespoons of the bacon greese in the ot pan.
  • Cut about 8 fresh brussel sprouts in half. Then quarter them.
  • Toss these into the pan along with the hot bacon grease and stir fry until the edges feel crispy and begin to brown.
  • Toss brussel sprouts and bacon bits together, adding salt & pepper to taste.(If you can find Truffle Salt, try some!)

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My Daily Kitchen

Delicious Power Salad…Hold the Dressing!

August 20, 2015

There are no rules to my salads except one: I never use store-bought dressing. In fact, I hardly use any oils at all, even the healthy ones.

You can throw anything you want into your salad, but the more super foods you can add, the more your salad becomes an energy-sustaining meal, instead of a light side dish or starter.

Denser food items will keep you feeling full longer and smooth out blood sugar levels longer. By the way, there is very little oil in this salad, making it heart-healthy.

2 STEPS TO PUTTING IT TOGETHER

  • First, I grab a  couple of handfuls of already washed, very dark, leafy lettuces.
    Generally speaking, the darker the green,  the higher the nutrient content.
    I added arugula, which I try to keep on hand. Also, you can sneak in your beet tops. See BEET NOTES, below.
  • Next, I tossed in just few shakes of my favorite seasoned salt (here, I used Lemon Pepper, but sometimes I use Cajun Seasoning, or Cavender’s, or Lawry’s.  Whether you have Dollar Store spices, or fancy mixes from boutique or organic vendors, surely you have some favorite seasonings. Use them. Sprinkle in a little at a time.)
  • Next, I squeezed in about a teaspoon of lemon juice, since I used only a few handfuls of lettuce.
  • Then, and here is the surprise, I added only two or three shakes of extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil.

With these ingredients in my large bowl, I use my favorite Dollar Store scissors to cut (right hand) and spin the bowl (left hand) which chops and incorporates the lettuces, lemon, oil and seasoning.

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Now,  cover a dinner plate with this tossed, seasoned and chopped lettuce mix.

Separately, chop and set aside these ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of loosely chopped, Roasted Walnuts
  • 1/4 cup ripe Avocado
  • 1/4 cup sliced, sweet Plantain
  • 1/4 cubed, ripe Tomato
  • 1/4 cup sliced, then cubed Artichoke hearts, from a can.
  • 1/4 cut fresh (boiled earlier) beets. *See note below on beets!
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced Onion, white or red.

Arrange these remaining ingredients around your lettuce in a way that appeals. Start with the darker items, like the beets, which will serve as a nice backdrop to offset the lighter items, such as plantain, avacado, tomato.
Onions and walnuts go on last.

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TIPS:  If you really can’t wrap your head around beets, or think you can trick your family into them,  think about adding steamed carrots or heart of palm.

If you need more protein, go ahead and add a boiled egg or some lovely turkey breast. Grapes, raisens, apples, olives … and a little flax seed could also add some tang and substance.

DRESSING TIPS: Rather than douse your greens with oils, in addition to lemon and seasonings, toss in a bit of your artichoke, olive, or pickle juice. Squeeze in a spritz of orange or mandarin juice. Or pineapple. All these liquids can add zing to a dressing without adding oils!

*BEET TIPS: People routinely make the comment: “I hate beets.”
Maybe they do. Or maybe the think they do.
Beets are very nutritious and I think, misunderstood. If served right, they are a surprisingly beautiful addition to dishes. And sometimes easy to disguise!  Here are my beet tips:

  • Boil your own beetroot but not until squishy. When you use them in a salad, they will still have a firm feel, even a crunch. And they really tend to take on the flavor of your dressing.
  • Keep them cold, in their boiling juice, until ready to use
  • Chop them small and mix them into dark lettuce. People hardly notice.
  • SAVE the beet tops. The leaves are even more nutritious than the root and, you can chop these into your lettuces! Who will know?
  • Beets can be processed raw and are lovely when combined with onion, mandarin, even a little citrus rind.  Try them in a bowl with onion and Blue Cheese! Dreamy….
  • You can save and use the beautiful magenta juice in dressings, or even drink it.
Breakfast

Healthy Craving Fixer

May 10, 2015

imageAs a little girl, no trip to “the city”, a.k.a, New York City was complete until, at my mother’s pleading, my dad pulled the car over at 86th and 3rd, to fullfil her craving for the then exotic fruit, slightly odd tasting fruit, papaya,  always available at the now historical Papaya King.   She adored this gorgeously colored fruit which, to my young palette tasted a bit, well, off. Still,  I loved anything coconut, and a trip to Papaya King meant a coconut treat for me!

As I grew up and traveled some,  my taste buds came on board. In the Southern Philippines, I learned to stab a slice of fresh papaya with my fork, and then fill the tiny rows of holes with fresh squeezed Calamansi, a kind of citrus, not quite like a lemon or a lime, but these will do.

calamansiIt was here that I also learned  to love crisp, tart, unripe, green papaya, sliced into sticks, then dipped in vinegar and spicy salt. Later, in New York City, I learned you can julienne green papaya to add to salads and savory dishes.

 

Calamansi

green papayaIn Mexico and in Panama, I came to love thick fruit smoothies, either alone or paired with bananas or pineapple or strawberries.  I cut the papaya into cubes and store it in bags in the freezer. This way my smoothies are cold and fruity, undiluted by water or ice cubes.

Today,  I enjoy teaming my papaya up with the taste of coconut, which I still adore.

But when I was first diagnosed as pre-diabetic (I have corrected this with my diet), I steered away from sweets, including fruits in general, since sugar is sugar… isn’t it?

With a Glycemic Index value of 59, Papaya is generally considered a “medium” sugar threat.  And now for the good news: On the Glycemic Load Index, papaya measures at a low 10.

The Glycemic Load refers to the body’s response to sugars by taking into account both the quantity of carbohydrates as well as the type of carbohydrates. For a detailed explanation of glycemic values and how they are calculatedClick Here.  In short, this means that eating papaya occasionally, especially if paired with other foods, doesn’t necessarily cause blood sugars to spike.

When I have a true craving for something sweet, I make this delicious treat using only four healthy ingredients.

1 Cup papaya, diced.
2 Heaping tablespoons coconut milk (I like to spoon it on, chilled)
1 Tablespoon crushed flax seeds (easy to crush up in a coffee grinder!)
1 Slice of Lemon or Lime

TIP:  Keep papaya cubes cold and handy by freezing them. Then, use the same above ingredients to blend into a  fresh smoothie, and, if you are feeling festive, add and ounce and a half of rum! 

Main Dishes

Salad Tricks

April 22, 2015

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I confess…I am a salad-making sinner. I like my salads to feel like a real meal, filling, something of substance that I can scoop up, even with a spoon. I have a special way I prepare all my salads and it works great for large parties, and for getting extra greens into the kids.

Now I have a way more sophisticated brother, Nicholas, who spent years in France and who falls of the much finer side of cooking and dining. He prepares his salads using  either the whole lettuce leaf, or if torn, done so gently, but still left in large pieces. He says this is the proper way to serve a salad.  I’m sure he’s right.

But okay…. try to look cute and impress your date while wrestling a leaf of lettuce the size of a cat’s head into your mouth … and do this gracefully, without splattering oil on your fine silk blouse.  You can cut gently, but that gets awkward if the lettuce is defiant, holding on to the plate, refusing to be cut, then suddenly letting go, causing your knife and fork to send the lettuce shooting off your plate.  Finally, if the salad is not tossed, you have to find a way to get the dressing on all your salad without making this a distracting project that keeps you from having charming conversation.

So I have developed a method of salad-preparation that solves all these issues and has added benefits!

  • Your guests will find this easy to eat and they will be utterly full when through!
  • With each bite, you will get the satisfying flavor of the dressing without needing to struggle for the flavor.
  • You can customize each salad — easily — for guests that have dietary restrictions.
  • You will get twice the greens into your kids.
  • If you are having salad as a main course for a luncheon, you can get all the work done ahead of time, until the plating.

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Here is how I prepare my salads…

First
I gently separate all my lettuce leaves and soak them about 10 minutes in a tub of water with vinegar & salt just to make sure they are really clean.

Second
I then tear them tenderly into smaller pieces and place them in a salad spinner (the greatest thing since grated cheese!). I spin until completely dry… (nothing worse that watery, drippy lettuce on a plate.)
So, my lettuce is washed and dried and I can set it aside in the fridge until I am ready to continue. I usually place the greens in a large bowl and cover with a damp tea towel until you are ready to put your salad together.

Tip: I like to store individual portions of cleaned lettuce in baggies, sucking  the air out of each baggie but not tightly enough to bruise, then tie the baggie air-tight and keep in my vegetable drawer for a later day. Voila! Instant salad.

Third
I have all my salad toppings ready and handy. These I prepare long before my guests arrive so I have little pressure at meal time.  For example, if I am using carrots, I have them already lightly steamed & sliced (Carrots are easier to eat and healthier lightly steamed). If using chicken, unless I am grilling it, I have it poached and pulled. In one photo on this posting you can see I used a lovely pear in my salad and I had it sliced and ready to go. Same with the hard-boiled egg, already cooked, peeled and at the ready.

Fourth
Putting it all together! This is the most important part of the process.

When it’s time to plate up and serve, I measure out two large handfuls per person of lettuce and place into a large, large bowl. Make each handful really hearty bunches, more than would fit on a plate before chopping.

Fifth
I sprinkle about half dressing I think I will need, measuring about 2 tablespoons per person. (Go light! Dressing is like hair cuts, in reverse. Once the hair is cut, you can’t put it back. And once you’ve added too much dressing, you can’t take it out. )  I can place dressing on the table .

Sixth
Here’s the ticket! Holding the bowl with my left hand (I am right-handed)  I start cutting my lettuces up furiously, with scissors. That’s right, scissors, the kind you get at the dollar store or office supply. The cheap ones. Nothing fancy, as long as they cut. I can’t live without scissors in a kitchen.

I use a system of cutting and turning the bowl, I go fast, developing a sort of rhythm, cut…turn…mix a little;  cut…turn…mix a little. I do this until the salad is reduced by nearly half, the leaves appear bite-size or smaller, the dressing is incorporated but not too heavy.  You do not want the salad to be wilted.

Plating:
As I have my plates lined up and all my toppings at hand, the rest is simple.
Then I fill each plate all the way to the sides and lay on my toppings in a way that I think looks pretty.

Tip: If you have guests with special diet requirements, it’s easy to cater to them by simply keeping out certain items. If someone can’t eat nuts, leave the nuts off that plate!  I once had 8 women over and one had just learned she was diabetic, so for her plate, I simply added more tomatoes, nuts, egg, and left off the potatoes and croutons! Everyone was happy.