Inspiration needed…..

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Life forces of late seem to be pushing me into what I’m calling “a Life Rewrite” Needing some tweaks, edits, revisions to get me back on the ultimate life journey.  To help me get some inspiration with this rewrite, I consulted my Instagram account…what do I like to document in my life and share with the world???  The answer turned out not to be to shocking……food and cats.

BUT that did inspire me to look at some foods I don’t spend a lot of time cooking or have wanted to cook more of.  So I raided the cookbook section of my local library.  Libraries have great cookbook collections.  Not sure if you want to try Indian cooking, check out a book, try a few recipes, like it…go buy the book, don’t…. just return it and try another. The only thing from stopping me from checking out almost the entire section….remembering I had to cary these books to my car and then up to my house.

What was I most attracted too?  Grilling and marinades (I’m ready to make my tiny charcoal weber my bitch), Thai cuisine (I have 3 whole ducks in my freezer that seem to be whispering “cook me with peppers and thai spices”) Cuban (stand by for me when I need to get out of a funk), and grilled cheese (I’m ready to have my mind BLOWN AWAY by melted goodness).

Lift your spatula..here’s to my rewrite and maybe just maybe one of these cookbooks changing my life.

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Tahini Roasted Chicken

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Just Say No To PB&J that was the title for this Instagram pic.  Why?  Because it was my lunch for the day.  Now don’t get me wrong PB&J has its place.  But I had to start making my own lunch when I was 9.  Which means over the years I’ve started getting really creative with always bringing my lunch. This lunch were some yummy leftovers from my Sunday Night Dinner:  Tahini Roasted Chicken topped with Hummus and Olives and Cucumber-Tomato-Feta Salad on the side. Yay I got excited about that meal.

Part of adult-ing is not only planning meals, but sticking to the plan and learning how to maximize leftovers.  Hello budget savviness becoming apart of my everyday.  Here’s the breakdown — a not so intricate system of rotating when and what leftovers you eat.  (I know I’m preaching to the choir but 3-4 times in a row of the same meal just becomes depressing.  Thus has entered my system. ) Sunday Night dinner becomes Monday lunch,  Monday Night dinner Tuesday lunch and Tuesday Night dinner are Sunday Leftovers.  See that pattern developing.   I’ve become almost so OCD with my system I rarely eat out any more.  I catch myself sometimes seeing a favorite restaurant and think “that sounds good I should do that for dinner!”  But then I remember my meal plan and I head home for what’s in the fridge.  Here’s to all us trying to save a dime and brown bagging that gourmet meal for lunch!

Hey it was really good so you should make it too!  Try my Tahini Roasted Chicken (also great on the grill but it was super hot outside so I wasn’t about to do that)

 

Tahini Roasted Chicken

Serves 4

4 chicken breasts

1/2 cup tahini sauce

1/4 cup white wine

1 TBSP greek seasoning

1 clove garlic minced

1 TBSP minced fresh basil

slat and pepper to taste

Hummus — your favorite. I used white bean basil for this

Green and Black Olives chopped

 

*mix tahini, white wine, greek seasoning, garlic, and basil together in a bowl to form a marinade.

*Wash chicken breasts and pat dry.  Lightly season with salt and pepper.  Add chicken breasts to marinade and allow to marinate for 4-8 hours.

*For roasting cook chicken breasts at 375 for 1 hour.

*For grilling cook chicken breasts till meat reaches 165 degrees.

*Serve chicken with a spoonful or 2 of your favorite hummus and a sprinkling of chopped olives

 

 

just a cookie or two

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What to do on a rainy afternoon?  Bake cookies and have a friend over for tea!  That’s how I spent my Saturday afternoon a couple a weekends ago.  After having spent the morning slowly drinking coffee while reading the paper at the local coffee shop (yes I have accepted the fact I have hit that age. In fact the other couple setting reading papers and drinking coffee was easily 70…mmmhmmm I’m old and I like it.) I decided the best way to spend the rest of the day was baking goodies for a tea date with a friend.

Back in the day (yeah told you I’m ok with being old now) I was the queen of cookie baking.  Any band that stayed at my house left with some fresh baked treats for the road.  My recipe collection started to become a bit extensive. I mean I couldn’t give the same cookie to everyone or let alone give the same cookie twice to the same group of musicians.  Yet as the bands faded away and my life got busier with work, learning bread making, pasta making, whiskey infusing, the cookie baking fell to the wayside.  Now when I randomly bake up some treats I get excited. I forgot how easy most cookies are.  And how nobody can eat just one.  So what’s now on the cookbook shelf?  But yes of course a cookie cookbook.  Once that final pasta has been made I’m ready to go with the next cookbook challenge…Cookie of the Week here I come.

Coffee on the Porch

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In my free time I cofounded a non-profit. Yes us Hearty Eaters we like to have a to-do list a mile long most days. For the last 2 years my non-profit has been running a monthly event called Coffee on the Porch.  Its a simple concept.  Have your morning coffee with your neighbors.  The idea is to get people talking to one another in one of the most economically diverse and racially diverse areas in Baton Rouge, Mid City. Because if you read this blog you know that Hearty Eaters see food as the connector.  We all love to eat and drink and once that starts happening stories, laughter all flows.

My organization, Mid City Studio,  floats around this 40,000 peopled area, picking a new porch or stoop or yard to setup in each month and serve free coffee to anyone who shows up.  This year we added a little extra component, a map.  We like maps.  Maps help tell the story of a place.  And frankly you can live your whole life somewhere and not know a lot about it.  We’ve made maps so far that feature bike-able public art tours, homeless services, and local civil rights history.  In June we made one of my favorites so far.  The Soul Food Map of Baton Rouge. The qualifier for being on this map?  Can I get something smothered with mac & cheese as my vegetable.  And for desert check out our August Map tracking the best and tastiest Snoball stands.   mmmmhmmmm tis good.

I’m Getting the Hang of This

 

I’ve got about 40 pasta recipes under my belt as I work my way through the Pasta Bible.   Making one recipe out of each chapter before starting back at the beginning again.  When I hit the stuffed pasta section I have the same thought every time…….”wait what was it that worked really well last time”  Ravioli, man, if you don’t do it all the time you forget the little tricks that really helped stuff, hold together, cook them, etc from the last time.  But I must be remembering a thing or 2 that’s working.

This last go around were spinach-ricotta ravioli in a butter cream sauce.  To me the ravs were too big, sloppy looking and I was praying they would hold together as they boiled.  However I got a huge complement which made me realize I have been over obsessing with making super perfect ravioli every other month. Friends were over to dine on these guys, when one friend looked in her bowl and exclaimed “wow look at how consistent these are in shape!”  Bo-ya consistent shaped ravioli…its the little things y’all.

One day my kitchen will be like……

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Catch yourself thinking of what would be in your dream kitchen every time you are in your kitchen?  Or maybe you have a tiny apartment size stove so why bother cooking anything real?  Or there is no counter space so you only do simple 3 ingredient recipes.

Feels like there are so many excuses about why people choose not to cook to the level they want to because the kitchen just isn’t up to par, no gas 6 burner stove, no granite counter tops.  19 is when I got my very own kitchen in my first apartment that was the tiniest apartment and kitchen, in the top of an old victorian house with no ac.  Since then I have had around 10 more kitchens, all with their perks and faults. There is one thing I have realized in all these kitchens…..you can make 5 star food no matter the kitchen.

This made me decide I wanted to de-mystify the idea that to make great food you need a big fancy kitchen.  I have, for 14 years, made 100s of raviolis, roasted turkeys, ducks and chickens, baked french pastries, and infused enough booze to run my own distillery all in kitchens that have been used and abused by tons of renters.  If you want to cook great food you can do it anywhere.

In the next few months I’m going to feature tiny, small kitchens that produce meals worthy of bon appetite on a weekly basis.  These home chefs have come to realize the same thing that I have….if you want to cook you can work with whatever you have. With each kitchen feature there will also be a recipe to their favorite item to cook.  Because if they cook it in there kitchen you can too no matter your kitchen.

Kicking it off is my own kitchen.  Its lacking in counter space, was not thrilled by the glass top electric stove, and digging for the right pots and pans is a rubic’s cube puzzle every time.  But I’ve baked breads, made homemade pasta, pan-fried dove breasts and did a small stint with cooking authentic indian cuisine.

My favorite dish so far in this kitchen has been Penne Pasta with Cream and Smoked Salmon….trust me make it your kitchen can handle it!

RECIPE: PENNE PASTA WITH CREAM & SMOKED SALMON

serves 4

Ingredients

3 c dried penne pasta

4 oz thinly sliced smoked salmon

1 tsp fresh thyme

2/3 c extra thick creme

salt and pepper to taste

  • cook penne pasta till tender
  • while pasta is cooking slice salmon into thin strips
  • melt butter in a pan, stir in cream with a quarter of the salmon and thyme, heat gently for 3-4 minutes stirring constantly
  • drain pasta, toss in cream & salmon. top with remaining salmon and thyme serve immediately

 

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Strawberry-Fresh Basil and Feta Scones

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Having spent 2 and 1/2 years where every Saturday morning I got up and baked bread, I still sometimes savior the fact that Saturday mornings can now be lazy.  I love the option of getting up early hitting the farmers market, or going for a bike ride or maybe just drinking coffee till noon in pjs reading magazines and the newspaper.  And then some Saturdays there is still the need to bake.  I know I have written now so much about how mixing flour and kneading dough is the best form of zen therapy ever, but its so true.

Having the need for a little baking therapy the other Saturday there were just the right combination to make scones that will blow any tea party out of the water.  Its summer and sweet basil with strawberries you can’t quite get enough of. Oh but wait you need something a little savior to balance off all that sweetness, the answer came from the cheese drawer….feta.  The best smell is when the strawberries start warming up in the oven filling up the whole house with sweet summer baked smells. These have been awesome for breakfast all week but I also recommend eating them with chicken salad or a savior caesar salad.

RECIPE: STRAWBERRY-FRESH BASIL & FETA SCONES

12 Scones

Ingredients

2 cups flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

4 tbsp butter –  melted

3/4 c milk

1/3 c feta

1/2 chopped strawberries

1 tbsp fresh basil

 

In a large bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt together, toss in strawberries, feta and basil.  Add butter mix, and in milk need till forms a dough.  Roll dough out till 1/2 inch thick, cut scones into traditional triangles. Bake at 400F for 15 minutes.