Our Very Own Paladares

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I know I’m not alone when I say that I’d like to visit Cuba one day.  It’s definitely on my travel bucket list.  With regulations easing up, it looks more and more feasible that I’ll be able to make this dream come true and eat in one of the authentic Paladares.  In Cuba, a Paladares is a restaurant run by self employers, usually family run, and often in the home of the family.

Recently I was with a few good friends and they told me that their husbands were sailing to Cuba in May.  Everything about this trip sounds amazing.  They are taking a large catamaran with two captains on board.  As a woman who grew up going to sailing camp, the thought of sailing to Cuba is more than just a little enticing, but alas, it’s not my time yet.  But lucky me, we decided to have a Cuban themed brunch to celebrate the guys upcoming trip.  You can always count on me to say yes to an opportunity to cook good food and eat and drink with friends.  We did so yesterday.

Our hosts were incredibly gracious and made each of us feel welcome and loved.  While the house was impeccably designed and needed no further decoration, our host had added her special themed touches to take the brunch up another notch.  We planned this event in my favorite potluck style.  Every couple brought something delicious to the table.  I can only offer the recipes for the food that I took to the brunch,  but I had to show all of the wonderful food that was there.  I made my own version of pulled pork, tostones, and black beans, but the menu was so much more than my small contribution.  In a way, we created our very own Paladares, and that, along with great fellowship, filled my cup.

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Pulled Pork and Tostones
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Black Beans with fresh avocado
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White rice with cilantro
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Black Beans with Cilantro
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Cuban Panini’s with ham and pickles made with an amazing homemade caramelized onion bread
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American take on a Cuban sandwich made with crescent rolls
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Fresh Watercress salad with thinly sliced red onion, avocado, lime and a light vinaigrette
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Flan so shiny that it’s impossible to take a picture without a reflection of my hand
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Mojitos made with freshly squeezed lime juice and muddled mint. 
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Champagne, Prosecco, White Burgundy and a Rum sampling were provided by our generous hosts, as well

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Crockpot Pulled Pork

Ingredients:

4 pound pork shoulder-trim excess fat
1 medium yellow onion thinly sliced
sea salt
cumin
black pepper
1/2 cup organic apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
14 ounce diced tomatoes
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp lime zest
Juice of 1 lime

Pat pork shoulder down with paper towels and season with sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper, and cumin.   Drizzle olive oil into the base of the crock pot and scatter onion into the base.  Place pork shoulder onto the nest of onions and pour chicken broth, vinegar, and tomatoes into crockpot.  Mix in the brown sugar and turn crockpot to low.  Simmer for 6 hours until the pork is done and will easily shred with forks.  Remove the pork and use two forks to shred.  Once shredded,  squeeze the fresh lime juice over the pork and add lime zest and another sprinkle of cumin.  Enjoy!

Spicy Black Beans

Ingredients:

16 ounce dried black beans
4 cups Chicken or Vegetable broth
1 large jalapeno, seeds removed and diced
1 large fresno pepper, seeds removed and diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt
pepper
cumin

In a large stock pot, add beans and pour boiling water over beans until they are covered.  Cover with a lid and let them sit for two hours.  Drain beans.  While the beans are draining, add olive oil to pot and heat to medium high heat.  Add onion and stir often until softened.  Add peppers and garlic and continue to stir.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cumin and cook until fragrant. (2-3 minutes)  Add beans back to pot and cover with broth.  Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 2 hours.

Tostones

Ingredients:

4 large plaintains
canola, olive, or coconut oil to fry plaintains
cumin
salt
pepper
lime zest

Peel plaintains and cut on a diagonal into 2″ slices.  Heat a large frying pan with the oil of your choice.  The oil will need to be deep enough to meet the tops of the plaintains.  Heat oil to medium high heat.  Carefully add plaintains and fry for one minute and flip and fry another minute.  Remove and drain on a paper towel.  Use a glass to smash each piece into half the width and return to frying pan and repeat.  Remove from pan and place back onto a fresh paper towel and sprinkle with fresh lime zest, cumin, salt and pepper.  Serve hot!

 

 

Paleo Shrimp Sweet Potato Cakes With Avocado Salsa

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Sadly, I can’t take credit for this awesome recipe, but I’m excited to share the original one and my small changes.  Heather Christo is an amazing blogger, mom, chef, published author, wife…all the things.  For years I have followed a small band of food bloggers and this amazing lady is one of them.  In 2014, she was diagnosed with severe food allergies, along with her darling girls, Coco and Pia.  Being the rockstar that she is, she took it in stride.  “Turning Lemons into Lemonade, Heather has totally rededicated her passions into creating delicious allergy free recipes that everyone can enjoy without missing a thing!”

Follow this link to her awesome site and delicious recipes!

I made minor changes, (mainly because I was trying to remember the recipe instead of looking it up)  I know, I can be ridiculous.  I made the shrimp paste in my nutribullet.  I added the shrimp, one whole jalapeno, and a handful of cilantro to the mixer with a squeeze of lemon and lime.  It’s an awesome trick for those of you that can’t use egg as a binder.  I’m already imagining multiple takes on this recipe.

Anyway, Heather Christo is the bomb diggetty, and so is this recipe.  Annnnddddd, buy her new book, Pure Delicious!  It’s divine and a little birdy told me it’s been nominated for a James Beard Health Award!  Yummy!

Avocado & Chicken Burgers

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Oh how I love Monday lunch.  It’s the day of the week that my sister comes over to share a meal with me during her lunch break.  It’s just the two of us.  No husbands, no kids, no mom…just sister time.  Lately we have been watching the HBO series, Big, Little Lies.  It’s sooooo good!  We both read the book a few years ago and neither of us are disappointed with the writers of this series.  The cast is amazing.  Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, Alexander Skarsgard and Adam Scott are all in this wonderfully addictive drama.  Wow!  Today, I made burgers for us to eat while we indulged in our latest obsession.  Healthy. Yummy. Gluten-free burgers.  Try them out.  They are deliciously guilt-free-kind of.  🙂

Makes 4-5 burgers

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 large or 2 small avocados
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cilantro-chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large jalapeno-seeds and ribs removed
  • 1 large clove garlic-minced
  • 1 tbsp raw agave nectar (do not use if you are following  a paleo or Whole30 diet)
  • 4 ounces goats cheese

Preheat oven to 375º and line a sheet pan with aluminum foil

Cut avocado/s in half and remove the seed.  Use a tablespoon to remove the avocado flesh and chop into 1″ pieces.  In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the avocado and ground chicken.  Mince garlic clove and add to the bowl.  Chop cilantro finely and add to the mix.  Add salt and pepper to your liking and gently mix together.  Form patties with your hands and place on sheet pan.  Once oven has heated to 375º, place pan on lower-middle rack in oven.  Bake for 15 minutes and then flip burgers over.  Bake for another 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes.

While burgers are baking, dice the jalapeno pepper and place in a small bowl or ramekin.  Add the agave nectar, salt and pepper to taste, and stir.  Stir occasionally while burgers are baking.

To Serve:

Place burgers on a plate.  Top with a round of goats cheese and dress with sweetened jalapenos.

 

Healthier Stuffed Peppers

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Red Peppers stuffed with grilled chicken, quinoa, kale and cheese

As a woman that was born and raised in the South, I’m no stranger to a stuffed pepper.  There were so many meals that my mother prepared for us growing up that still cause my mouth to water, but her stuffed peppers were not my thing.  Everyone else loved them.  I’ve just never been a fan of the green bell pepper, which is what she stuffed with some kind of hamburger meat concoction.   Trust me, I’ve come a long way from the picky eater that I was as a child, but I still have no desire to add the green bell pepper to my diet.  A girl has to be true to herself.

A few years ago, my friends Bill and Cynthia brought a cool jalapeno pepper grill rack to our beach house.  They had stuffed them with some kind of sausage concoction and they were delicious.  I’m a little bit of a jalapeno pepper addict.  I like things spicy.  So, I guess it was inevitable that I would eventually start stuffing peppers.  Here’s the evidence.  🙂

Ingredients:

  • 4 whole organic red peppers
  • 1 cup dry organic quinoa
  • 2 small skinless and boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup raw kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 3 cups Gluten Free organic chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella and asiago cheese
  • 3 large cloves of garlic freshly minced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pack gluten free taco seasoning
  • 1 tsp. fresh parsley
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.   Rinse chicken and pat dry.  Season both sides with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil to medium high heat in a small frying pan.  Add the chicken and cook until the juices run clear.  Most small chicken breasts should cook in about 5-7 minutes.  It just depends on their size.  The chicken will need to be flipped over half way through the cooking time. Once cooked, remove from pan and set to the side. Leave any leftover chicken fond in the pan.  Let chicken breasts sit for at least ten minutes before you cut them.  While the chicken is cooking, fill a small boiler with 2 cups of the broth and the quinoa.  Bring to a slow boil and reduce heat to low and cover.  Simmer for about 9-10 minutes.  Keep an eye on it and stir periodically.  You just want to cook it until the liquid is gone.  Salt and pepper to taste.  While quinoa is simmering, add the remaining olive oil to the pan the chicken was cooked.   Bring the pan to medium high heat.  Once hot, add the vinegar to the pan and use spatula to lift fond. Add the minced garlic to the pan and cook until it is golden. ( takes about one minute)  Add the kale and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until wilted.  Remove from heat and add the kale to the quinoa.  Mix 3/4 of the cheese and all the taco seasoning into the mixture and set aside.  Chop chicken into small pieces and add to the quinoa.  Remove the tops of the red peppers, seeds, and ribs.  Place in a casserole dish that will fit all four peppers inside.  Fill each pepper with quinoa mixture.  Top with remaining cheese.  Pour remaining broth into the casserole dish.  (this will help the peppers steam)  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes.  Peppers will be soft and liquid will have evaporated.  Remove foil and broil the peppers for 2-3 minutes.  Do not walk away while broiling.  As soon as the cheese starts to bubble, they are ready.  Let peppers stand for 5-10 minutes.  Chop fresh parsley and sprinkle over hot peppers.  Serve with a light salad.

Notes:

This makes 4 stuffed peppers.  Depending on the size of the peppers, there may be leftover quinoa mixture.  You can save this in the fridge for 2-3 days.  The peppers that I used were rather large and technically were two servings each.  The hubs and I shared one.  My sister heated hers the next day in the microwave and added goats cheese.  It’s not a bad idea, so feel free to add more cheese.

 

 

Fried Chicken & Waffles

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Believe it or not, it had never crossed my mind to make these at home before yesterday.  As a southerner, born and raised, I have an intimate relationship with this combination.  Just the mention of it causes my mouth to salivate.  So in celebration of finishing a self imposed 21 day detox, I fried chicken.

Ingredients for Fried Chicken:

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 tbsp. butter

Directions:

Cut each chicken breast into three pieces. Sprinkle each piece with salt and pepper on both sides.  Fill two separate pie or casserole dishes with flour in one and half and half in the other. Mix honey into the half and half mixture.  Dredge chicken in flour, followed by half and half, and then back to the flour once more.  I use tongs to lessen the “biscuit fingers”
Heat a large skillet with the canola oil to medium-high heat.  When hot, add butter and use a spatula to mix it into the oil.  Add chicken to pan.  It should immediately start to sizzle.  If it doesn’t, your pan isn’t hot enough.  (this can make the chicken greasy)  Cook each piece for 3-5 minutes per side.  Try to only flip once.  Make sure that chicken is cooked until the juices run clear and there is no pink left inside.  Cut it open in the middle if you question it, at all.

Ingredients for waffles:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the waffle iron until ready.  Beat the eggs with a hand mixer until light and fluffy.  Add in flour, milk, half and half, canola oil, sugar, baking powder, honey, cinnamon, salt and vanilla.  Once the mix is smooth, set aside for 2-3 minutes.

Spray waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray and ladle mix into the iron.  Cook until golden brown.

To Serve:

Place one waffle on a plate and top with 2-3 pieces of fried chicken.  Add a few tbsp. of butter to the hot waffle and pour maple syrup over the whole plate.  Serve hot!  Depending on your hunger level, this either serves 2 or 4 people.  My waffle iron makes large waffles that could easily be cut in half.

This is not gluten free or low in fat, but it’s entirely worth the splurge.

Italian Sausage & Cannellini Bean Stew

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Italian Sausage & Cannellini Bean Stew

Today was pretty low key and awesome.  After a leisurely morning catching up on things, the hubs and I decided to take a ride out to Saxpahaw.  We were both desiring brunch at The Eddy.  It’s one of those places that can make you feel a little uncool, because the servers, bartenders and most of the customers are bohemian/hipster and awesome.  I love it and can’t get enough of it.  The menu changes often, paying close attention to what’s local and what’s in season.  The people watching is a bonus, guilty pleasure of mine.

Anyway, after lunch, I stopped in at Left Bank Butchery.  It’s the local butcher that supplies pasture fed and slow-raised meats.  The Italian sausage was one of those things that I couldn’t pass up.  We usually eat chicken or turkey sausages, so this was a decadent treat, but life is short.  So tonight I made this stew using up items that I already had at the house and it turned out to be a winner, so I hope you will try it, too.

Ingredients:

  • 32 ounce Beef Broth (4 cups) (Gluten Free)
  • 1 small Yellow Onion diced
  • 1 medium Sweet Potato, peeled & cubed
  • 1 15 ounce can Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 28 ounce can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 pound Italian Sausage links whole
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped Spinach
  • 2 large Garlic Cloves diced
  • 1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 tsp. chopped Parsley

Directions:

Add butter and olive oil to a large pot on medium-high heat.  Once butter has melted, add the sausage links. Cook for 3 minutes on each side.  Remove links and set aside.  Add onions to the grease and cook for 2-3 minutes until browned.  Add garlic and let cook for about a minute.  Stir often.  Add the beef broth, cannellini beans, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper, salt, pepper and sweet potato and bring to a high boil.  While heating, cut sausage links into approximately 2 inch rounds.  Add sausage and spinach back to the pot and turn heat to low.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  To serve, top stew with parmesan cheese, parsley and bread.

 

Roasted Garlic & Potato Chowder

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Roasted Garlic & Potato Chowder

When your yard still looks like a winter wonderland, you make chowder.  Today is day five of the Snowmageddon.  The first day was super fun, filled with four-wheeling, sledding, mimosas & bloody Mary’s, friends and even a Krispy Kreme doughnut.  It was a great day.  Day two was a day spent at home with the hubs in front of a fire looking at the beautiful snow and catching up on reading.  Day three, the hubs had to go back to work, which meant I needed to get my act together.  Day four, I braved the grocery store to re-stock and make chowder.  It was awesome.  I didn’t finish until late last night, because I snuck out for a Tai Chi class with the girls.  (worth it)  So Day five, I’m posting the recipe.  I hope you like it.  The garlic takes on a sweet taste after roasting it.  Enjoy and stay warm!

Ingredients:

  • Two large heads of garlic
  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups chicken broth (I used organic with no salt)
  • 1/2 large Yellow, sweet onion-diced
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 4 tbsp butter (I use Irish butter)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Green onion for garnish

Directions For Roasting Garlic:

Remove most of the outer paper on garlic, leaving the cloves attached.  Use a very sharp knife to cut off the tops.  Set onto a small sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle olive oil on top.  Wrap the aluminum foil tightly around the garlic head.  Place oven rack in the middle and set oven to 400°.   (I wrapped each head separately)  Place these wrapped bundles on the middle rack once the oven has preheated and roast for forty minutes.  Turn off the oven and let sit for another thirty minutes to an hour.  You can’t really roast these too long.  They just get better.

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Directions for Chowder:

Roast Garlic in the oven.  Peel the potatoes and cut into 2 inch pieces.  Boil the potatoes until fork tender.  Remove potatoes and place in a bowl until ready to use again.  In the same boiler used for the potatoes, wipe out the bottom and add butter and olive oil.  Place temperature on medium high heat. Once the butter has melted, add diced onion and saute for a few minutes until soft and golden.  Slowly add the chicken broth and potatoes back into the pot.  Bring to a simmer.  Squeeze softened, roasted garlic into the pot with salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for a few minutes and remove from heat.  Use an immersion blender or a regular blender to make chowder smooth.  Once onions and potatoes are blended, add in cream slowly and blend one more time.

To serve:

Add a few green onions for garnish.  Sour cream, cheese and cooked bacon are nice additions, too.

For lunch, this chowder can stand on its own with a side of bread, but for dinner, I added a ribeye and a wedge salad with blue cheese dressing.

Flash Lightning Chicken & Pastry

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Chicken & Pastry

With the snow approaching at lightning speed, I had a lot on my to-do list today.  The hubs requested that I make the home improvement stop for Ice Melt and Fire Starters and also the Liquor store to up his supply of Makers Mark.  With that done, I had my own list to attend to, which was mainly going to the dreaded grocery store.  Whenever the forecast calls for snow, there’s a mad dash to clean out the grocery stores of bread, milk, eggs, water…You get it.  I needed to get there before it was all gone.  I decided that chicken pastry was going to be one of the things that I was going to make.

Growing up with a southern mom means that I was very familiar with the process of making pastry from scratch and rolling it out on the table, boiling a whole chicken, and putting a lot of TLC into it, but alas, I’m from a different generation that is often looking for speed.  Today, I bought a rotisserie chicken, organic chicken broth, and my latest find…dried pastry in the noodle section.  After gobbling my bowl up tonight, I didn’t feel I was really missing anything.  (Well, nothing will ever beat moms) Anyway, I’m still really happy with the results.  If you are feeling the need for some fast comfort food that you can make at home, look no further than this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 2-32 ounce boxes of chicken broth
  • 1/2 box of McLib’s Dried Southern Dumplings
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion-diced
  • 3 large garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions:

Add olive oil and butter to a large stock pot and heat until  glistening.  Add diced onion and cook for about two minutes on high until softened.  Add garlic and continue to cook for another minute until fragrant.  Slowly pour in the chicken broth and heat to simmering.  In the meantime, remove the chicken meat off of the store-bought chicken and chop white and dark meat up.  Add chicken to the pot with salt and pepper to taste.  You have just made chicken and pastry that tastes like homemade in about ten minutes.  I hope you like it.  I’ll be hitting the treadmill though.  eeek.  It’s not a diet recipe.

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Chicken & Kale Yeah Crock Pot Soup

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Chicken & Kale Yeah Crock Pot Soup

It’s been rainy and chilly again today, which in turn means it is time to pull out the crock pot!  For me-eating a large bowl of soup is like taking a long, hot bath.  It warms me to the bone like nothing else.  With that in mind, I started hunting for the perfect soup.

I looked through a lot of my previous soup recipes and one of them for Jalapeno & Bean Chicken Soup enticed me.  It inspired me to write this recipe.  Since I’m trying to eat healthier, I added Kale and made sure that my ingredients were all low-or-no sodium components.  And because I love the hot stuff,  I added extra heat by including the cayenne and red pepper flakes.  Somehow the jalapenos didn’t sound like enough heat.  So if you’re feeling like you need a pick-me-up, I hope you’ll try this recipe and let me know your thoughts.

This stuff is not for the faint of heart.  If you can’t take the heat…don’t even try it. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
  • 1-14.5 ounce can of Diced Tomatoes (low sodium or no salt added)
  • 1-16 ounce can of Northern Beans
  • 1-16 ounce can of Navy Beans
  • 1 large bunch of organic baby Kale-approximately 4 ounces
  • 4 large cloves of garlic minced-approximately 1 tbsp.
  • 1/2 large jalapeno diced with ribs and seeds removed-approximately 1 tbsp.
  • 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 1/8 tbsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp. Olive Oil

Topping Suggestions for Serving:

  • Juice of 2 Fresh Limes  (optional
  • Tortilla Chips  (optional)
  • Hot Sauce  (optional)
  • 2 Avocados  (optional)
  • Hot Jalapenos from a jar or can  (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro (optional)

Directions:

Drizzle Olive Oil in the base of your Crock pot and top with chicken breasts.  Salt and Pepper both sides of the chicken.  Sprinkle cumin and cayenne pepper on top of the chicken. Add baby Kale.  Drain beans and add to pot.  Add diced tomatoes-juice and all.  Pour the chicken broth in and add the garlic and jalapeno.  Heat to high for 4-6 hours until the chicken is done.  Remove chicken from pot and shred and then add back to the pot.

Serve with a squeeze of lime juice, cilantro-if you like it, a couple slices of avocado, sour cream and tortilla chips.  Enjoy!

 

My Green Juice

In the last few years I have fallen in love with green juices.   Luckily we have a great local juice bar, The Blend Boutique, to fill my needs.  But some days, I just don’t want to leave the house to buy one, so I made this recipe to satiate my green juice cravings.  It’s spicy and refreshing.  After a full holiday season of over-indulging, it’s time for me to get it together.   Even though I love the juices made with Kale and Collards, this one has more citrus in the recipe.  It’s my version of cold medicine.

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My Favorite Green Juice

Ingredients

  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 English cucumber
  • 1/2 of a large jalapeno (ribs and seeds removed)
  • 1/2″ piece of fresh ginger
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lime
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1 tsp fresh parsley
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup ice

When I first started making juices, I used a Magic Bullet blender.  These are affordable and available everywhere.  I upgraded last year to the Ninja blender and love it, but either of these do a great job.  

Instructions

Wash fruit.  Peel cucumber and fresh ginger.  Cut open avocado and add the meat of the fruit to the blender with the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.  This recipe yields one 20 ounce glass (give or take, depending on the size of your fruit)

  • Jalapeno can easily be left out of the recipe, but the extra kick from the Capsaicin has many good healing qualities that make it worth adding.