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Quick Comfort Meals: Simple Dishes That Mean So Much More

Quick Comfort Meals: Simple Dishes That Mean So Much More

I’ll never forget when my dad was in the hospital years ago. It was a sad, stressful, and painful time. The hands on the clock that hung on the wall just seemed to be stuck in one spot, yet the days were passing so quickly […]

Cheese Board Ideas: Decadent Cheese, Fruit, and Scratch Crackers

Cheese Board Ideas: Decadent Cheese, Fruit, and Scratch Crackers

Cheese boards are a great start to a meal (sometimes even a meal on their own) and a great conversation piece at a gathering. It’s kind of the pregame for food and allows people to socialize while tasting some new cheeses and possibly try some […]

Chopped Kale Salad Recipe: Thanksgiving Kale Salad That Looks Like Christmas On Ya Plate

Chopped Kale Salad Recipe: Thanksgiving Kale Salad That Looks Like Christmas On Ya Plate

I know Kale has been through a revival of sorts for awhile now, but I never really did jump out on that train….the kale train that is. I honestly couldn’t tell you why either. Kale is a powerhouse of goodness, having more nutritional value than spinach! It’s packed full of potassium and beta-carotene and helps with digestion because it’s chock full of fiber and water. Besides all these obvious health benefits, it tastes great too!

When I was thinking of new ideas the other night for the inevitable leftover holiday turkey, kale for some reason popped in my head. It’s a versatile green (cabbage actually) that is very hearty and could stand in for the main course on any day of the week. This salad has little pops of Thanksgiving spirit spread throughout. Besides the obvious protein, turkey, it’s filled with little gems that remind your taste buds of everything holiday.

The greens are chopped and soaked in a homemade garlic balsamic dressing. Little pomegranate seeds burst in your mouth with every crunch filled bite, thanks to the roasty toasty pumpkin seeds that are nestled between the dressing soaked leaves. And what’s Thanksgiving without stuffing? That’s mirrored in this salad with the addition of crispy cornbread croutons. If you’re from the south you’ve prolly got some leftover cornbread from the day before so oil that baby up and throw it in the oven for croutons! (If not, store bought will work too:) ) The salad is finished off with a nice grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

If you’ve never tried using kale in it’s uncooked form here’s a few tips. Curly leaf kale is the most commonly found variety. You may also find Lacinato (or Dinosaur) kale in your grocery store, as well as Red Russian leaf kale. Kale for salad is commonly shredded or “massaged” to help break down the cellulose in the leaves before eating. For this salad I’m just doing a rough chop on the more commonly found curly leaf kale and then dressing it with my vinaigrette about an hour before dinner. The vinegar in the dressing will help to slightly break down and soften the leaves of this awesome salad before it hits the table.

The dressing in this dish is a vinaigrette made with balsamic vinegar. Even though garlic can be a sharp (and even hot) addition when added raw to any dish I’m using just one 1/2 clove grated on a microplane. The sweet tanginess from the vinegar will counter the sharp garlic flavor. We were taught in culinary school that to make a traditional vinaigrette to use the 3-1 ratio. That is, 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. I’ve always found that ratio not suiting to the palate and have always used more of a 2-1 ratio. What’s funny about that is Bon Appetit recently published an article this past August (18′) on this exact same subject and said themselves to not believe the 3-1 ratio “hype”.  The most important thing you can do for yourself (and everyone around you) is use good quality ingredients for your dressings. The dijon in this recipe acts as the emulsifier as well as add a punch of flavor on it’s own. I use cold (gooooooood) pressed extra virgin olive oil for all my dressings. It’s light, fruity, and doesn’t have an overpowering “oiliness” about it. It harmonizes with whatever else you throw in the mix..or dressing.

Chopped Kale Salad With Turkey, Poms, Pumpkin Seeds, and Cornbread Croutons

 

This recipe will serve 4 small bowls of salad as a side or 2 large plates for an entree

 

*2 bunches (about 6 ounces) of Curly leaf Kale, pulled from ribs and roughly chopped

*1/2 Cup Pumpkin seeds, roastedkale lilchefchic

*1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

*1/2 cup Cornbread Croutons

*1/2 lb. Turkey, cubed or shredded

*1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano

 

Dressing:

*1/2 garlic clove, gratedvinaigrette lilchefchic

*1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard

*2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar

*5 Tablespoons Olive Oil

*1/4 teaspoon sea salt

*Freshly ground pepper

 

Make vinaigrette. In small bowl add together mustard and balsamic vinegar and grated garlic clove. Gently start whisking in olive oil and continue adding oil and whisking until emulsified. Add salt and fresh pepper and add more seasoning if necessary. Toss and gently massage kale with dressing using fingers to coat each leaf. Refrigerate for 1/2 hour to an hour.

Roast fresh pumpkin seeds (if using) and then turn heat up to 425 for croutons. Spritz diced cornbread with olive oil and place on ungreased baking pan. Bake for 4-7 minutes. Make vinaigrette. Grate garlic and stir in dijon mustard.cornbread croutons lilchefchic

Just before service taste kale for seasoning and adjust to your liking. Toss in pom and pumpkin seeds. Top with chopped turkey and sprinkle on Parmesan cheese.

Cooks Notes: If you’re using fresh pumpkin seeds rinse them, pat dry, and toss in olive oil. Spread them on a sheet pan and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast at 300 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Scoot the seeds around on the pan every now and again to help them cook and brown evenly.

Pomegranate arils are widely available in most grocery stores now and super convenient. I still choose to buy whole pomegranates because it costs a lot less and I get a lot more….for snacking! Here’s a short youtube vid on how to cut and use a fresh pomegranate:

 

Cooks Notes II: A little tip. When you’re mixing your dressing in the bowl, wrap a kitchen towel around the bottom of the bowl like a little scarf so that you can whisk the dressing without the bowl dancing all over the counter…like this:

dressing towel lilchefchic

What, pray tell, do YOU do with all those leftovers from Thanksgiving? Casseroles? Soups? Sandwiches? Write me down below with your ideas, suggestions, recipes:)

Roasted Vegetables Recipes: Pumpkin Risotto With Seared Scallops

Roasted Vegetables Recipes: Pumpkin Risotto With Seared Scallops

It was around this same time last year that I made my Moroccan Pumpkin Soup and that’s also the time when the pie pumpkins showed up in my local store. That soup was inspired by Steve, my coworker who has since left us to join the […]

Best Fall Pies: Pies On Pies On Pies

Best Fall Pies: Pies On Pies On Pies

Pumpkin pie. Pecan Pie.  Some sort of fruit Pie. That’s typically what pops into one’s mind when they think of the Thanksgiving dessert table. Yes, table. Growing up, we visited my family in middle Georgia and for dessert there was a TABLE filled with an […]

Best Fall Dinners: Simple Grilled Pork Chops With Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Creamy Parsnip Mash, and Grilled Cipollini Onions

Best Fall Dinners: Simple Grilled Pork Chops With Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Creamy Parsnip Mash, and Grilled Cipollini Onions

This meal..inspired by onions. Not just any onion, cipollini onions (pronounced chee-poh-leen-ee). These little spaceship shaped roots are full of flavor and hale from Italy. They are known in Italy as agrodolce which translates literally to “bitter-sweet”. They are often found peeled of their thin skin and cooked through in a reduction of balsamic vinegar and served as an accompaniment to charcuterie platters (meats and cheeses). They have a higher sugar content than a white or red onion and are oftentimes compared to Vidalia onions when it comes to sweetness.

I decided to parboil my cipollines a bit to not only aid in removing the thin skin but to also partly cook them before placing them on a skewer and grilling them over coals. Instead of using a balsamic vinegar I decided to try the black vinegar I purchased awhile back for Anthony Bourdain’s Macu-style pork sandwich (which was ahhhhhmazing by the way). The vinegar when used straight from the container has a bit of smokiness about it. Once I concentrated this flavor by reducing from 1 cup to 1/4 cup the pronounced flavor of smoky anise shined through. I added a sprig of rosemary while it reduced down. Even with this herb being my least favorite, I could appreciate the herbaceous “piney-ness” it lent to the grilled pork.cipolline onions veggie lilchefchic

The pork chops here are simple. Salt. Pepper. Olive Oil. Boom. Nothing else. Nothing more.

Grill.

The Parsnip Mash just reminds me of Fall and all the wonderful little roots that are making their way out of the ground and onto our plates. I only added one half pound parsnips to one full pound potatoes to lend subtle sweetness and parsnip zip to this mash. It of course has plenty of butter and just a dash of nutmeg (optional).

The brussels sprouts are simple as well. They are just quartered and then tossed in bacon grease and a glug of olive oil with salt and freshly ground pepper. They only take about 15 minutes to roast in a preheated oven.

 

This dinner was comforting and an open invitation for the upcoming cooler weather. The zingy onions I playfully added to the tops of each plate added a zippy tangy bite to this dish. I hope you enjoy this Fall dish and this wonderful season. The following recipes are for four servings.

Cipollini Onions:

*10 ounce package Cipollini Onions

*1  cup Black Vinegar

*2 Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar

*1/2 sprig Rosemary

 

Soak 4 wooden skewers in water for 20 minutes. Bring small sauce pot of water to a boil. Add rinsed onions and parboil for 3 minutes. Remove onions to ice bath to cool. Remove to plate once cooled.

Bring remaining ingredients to a boil and then immediately turn heat down to simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Reduce down to 1/4 cup. It will have the consistency of syrup and coat the back of a spoon nicely. Remove from heat and hold. This video should give you an idea of what you’re looking for:

 

Cut off stem ends of onions and remove peels. Place onions on skewers and place on hot grill with chops. Turn every 3 or so minutes making sure each side is browning. Cook until able to pierce with a knife easily. These take 12-15 minutes. Once these are done use a basting brush to paint on the vinegar reduction like a barbecue sauce. Cook another 2 to 4 minutes brushing each side and turning to coat. These make four skewers with 3 -4 onions per skewer.

 

Brussels Sprouts:

*1 Pound Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and quarteredbrussels lilchefchic

*2 slices Thick Cut Bacon

*1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

*Salt and Pepper to Taste

 

Turn oven to 400°. On a non stick baking pan cook bacon for 15 – 18 minutes. Remove bacon and hold. Remove grease from pan except for 1 Tablespoon. Add 1 tablespoon Olive Oil and toss sprouts in fat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and roast in oven for 15 minutes or until fork tender. Crush bacon with hands and sprinkle over cooked sprouts and serve.

 

Pork Chops:

*4 bone-in Center Cut Pork Chops, about 1″ thickpork onions lilchefchic

*Olive Oil To Coat Chops

*Salt and Pepper to Taste

 

Salt and Pepper chops liberally and drizzle with olive oil. Place on heated grill and cook on each side about 5 to 8 minutes depending on degree of doneness. I like my chops at 155° which after resting for a few minutes will be about medium. My family (on the other hand) still refuses to eat anything pink, so pork in their eyes should be cooked til it’s white-or 300° (j/k…like chicken for them, so 165°).

parsnip mash lilchefchic

Parnsip Mash:

1/2 lb. Parnsips, peeled and chopped

1 lb. Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped

1/2 stick Butter

1/2 cup milk

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

 

Bring large pot of water to boil. Salt water to taste like the sea with kosher or table salt. Boil potatoes for 5 minutes and add parsnips (they cook faster). Continue to boil til tender, about 15 minutes. Drain into colander. Place back in pot and mash with potato masher until smooth. Add salt and  Pepper to taste and add optional nutmeg. Add butter and stir in milk. Add more milk if desired until creamy and smooth.

 

Everyone raved about these flavors. My dad had never had cipollini onions before and loved how they paired with all the other sides. My mom actually cleaned her plate…of course after making sure that the pork chops were well done.

Family..what more can ya ask for?

What are your favorite dishes for this season? When you and all your family are able to come together, what dish is the most coveted? Who makes what? Who’s the grill master? The baker? The cleaner upper of all dishes?

Comment below:) And thanks for reading!

 

Quick Easy Rice Pudding: Drunken Cherry Not So Hidden Orange Rice Pudding

Quick Easy Rice Pudding: Drunken Cherry Not So Hidden Orange Rice Pudding

Usually the farmers market, a culinary magazine pic, or rando food network show will inspire a food post for me….but not this time. This time it was BOGO dried fruit at my local Publix grocery store. If you’re not familiar with BuyOneGetOne then you are […]

Easy Italian Pasta Recipes: Pancetta, Broccolini, and Pecorino Romano Pasta

Easy Italian Pasta Recipes: Pancetta, Broccolini, and Pecorino Romano Pasta

Italian food has always been and will probably always be my favorite cuisine to make. I’m sure living in Sicily for three years gave me a certain affinity towards not only the culture, but the food as well. Much of the food is prepared quite […]

Ground Beef And Rice Casserole: Aunt Kathy’s Spanish Rice

Ground Beef And Rice Casserole: Aunt Kathy’s Spanish Rice

This is by no means authentic Spanish rice but it’s got rice, seasoning, and a whole lotta love. Besides that..it tastes great! Along with the rice, seasoning, (and tasting great) this Spanish rice is a meal all in itself. It’s filled with ground beef, green peppers, onions and all kinds of tomato-ey goodness. After all, Aunt Kathy made it and named it- so, no comments from the peanut gallery!

Let’s start off with WHO exactly “Aunt Kathy” is. She was my friend. She was the person I’d call to make feel better and end up being the one that got cheered up at the end of the conversation. We shared the same weird family “ailments” because we ARE family like low body temp and funky thyroid issues. Along with the internal likeness came external likeness too,  like our same (but atypical) eye color and our wicked sense of humor. She’d always call me Sweetie or Peanut whenever I’d call and we’d spend the rest of the convo just laughing away. In one of our last conversations she told me I’d always been more of a daughter to her rather than a niece. She said we were like soulmates. I’ll never forget that, and those words will forever be in my heart.

I called my cousin a couple of days ago to see how she was doing and ask about her moms favorite casserole. I’d mentioned it to her last week and she said she’d mail me a copy. But selfishly, I couldn’t wait. This past Sunday was two weeks ago that my beloved Aunt Kathy passed and to be honest, I just wanted it. To hear the ingredients she picked. How she prepared it. I dunno.

We shared a love of food. Of cooking. We talked about it often. We’d laugh about the cooking shows on the Food Network and ooh and ah at new and maybe not so new seasonal recipes we were going to be making for the holidays. She was an amazing cook. My fondest memories are of us all gathered together for Thanksgiving at her house. She would make a HUGE turkey! Sometimes two! The sides were off the chart amazing and there was something for everyone. Dear Lord, the dessert table (yes, TABLE), was set out for the likes of kings and queens.

She was the epitome of gentleness. Of sweetness. If you could package up love and warmth and kindness, it’d be her. And so;

Aunt Kathy’s Spanish Rice:

 

*1 1/2 – 2 Cups Cooked White Rice (Follow package instructions- I used one cup of uncooked rice to 1 3/4 cups water to achieve 2 cups of rice)

casserole ingredients lilchefchic

*5-6 Slices Bacon

*1 lb. Ground Beef

*1 Large Sweet onion, diced

*1 Medium/Large Bell Pepper, diced

*1 Package Chill-O Mix Flavoring Packet

*2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste

*1 Can Crushed Tomatoes (15 oz)

*3/4 cup water

*2 teaspoons salt

*1/3 to 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

 

Render bacon in large skillet and remove from heat. Set bacon to side and pour off bacon fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon in pan. Add ground beef and onions and bell pepper to pan. Cook beef until no longer pink. Drain in colander to remove fat and put back on heat. Add in seasoning packet as well as 2 teaspoons of salt. Stir together and add tomato paste, crushed tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cook for 10 minutes. Stir in cooked rice. Crumble cooked bacon and add to dish. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to your liking. Transfer to lightly greased 9″ x 9″ casserole dish. Top with Parmesan cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes or until bubbly and nicely browned.browned casserole lilchefchic

 

Aunt Kathy loved this dish served hot from the oven with a simple tossed salad dressed in Italian dressing.

 

Cooking brings people together. Recipes connect family members. I was insistent on getting this recipe because I wanted to somehow connect with my aunt again-somehow. When this came out of the oven I spooned myself up a big bowl and sat up on the counter beside the stove and immediately felt like I was with her. Just knowing how much she enjoyed having this dish for her husband and kids made me feel like she was right there with me enjoying it too. That’s why I love food. It connects us.

 

What special family story do you have? Is there that one special dish that you love to make because it reminds you of that special someone? Who was it? Your grandmother? Maybe even your aunt? Share below:) I’d love to hear your story.

Cajun Stir Fry: Spicy Cajun Fried Rice With Skrimps, Sausage And Steak

Cajun Stir Fry: Spicy Cajun Fried Rice With Skrimps, Sausage And Steak

Got leftover rice? Love “stir fries”? The quotations are there because I, like many others, forgo the wok and use a flaming hot skillet to make my quick stir fries and have had great results in doing so. Making a successful stir fry comes down […]


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Got leftover rice? Love “stir fries”? The quotations are there because I, like many others, forgo the wok and use a flaming hot skillet to make my quick stir fries and have had great results in doing so. Making a successful stir fry comes down to timing. The main “cookin” is done before the heat is even applied to the pan. Having everything prepped up and ready to go makes everything run smoother when your ingredients are lined up (like lil’ soldiers) in the order that they go into the sizzlin’ hot pan).

veg prep lilchefchic

I’ve made quite the memorable meal with leftover rice. Making a breakfast scramble using hot bacon fat as my fry oil of choice or sesame oil to do an Asian rice dish or plain ol’ olive oil even. The possibilities are endless.

Most recipes call for a medium grain rice when making a stir fry but I’ve had great success with white rice. My favorite go to rice at the moment is Jasmine rice. It has a lovely fragrant smell (almost like popcorn popping) when it’s cooking and is very versatile in most recipes.

I find that using leftover rice does the best for frying because the grain has been allowed to dry out a bit and doesn’t absorb the hot oil as much as using fresh rice. I’ve also found that the rice tends to be less sticky due to the decreased moisture content.

With this recipe I used 2 1/2 cups of cooked cold Jasmine rice. Before frying, use your fingers to gently break up any clumps that may have formed in the rice.

Cajun Seasoning Mix is typically paprika, garlic powder, cayenne, and a mix of dried of herbs such as oregano and thyme, as well as salt and pepper. When I make my own I usually leave out the salt and pepper so that I can add more heat (if needed) to a dish without adding more salt. But that’s really up to you- the cook! For this recipe I used a store bought brand which had the salt included in the mix. To control the salt content I didn’t add anymore salt until the rice was cooked and mixed with the vegetables. Then I tasted it and adjusted the seasoning as needed. Just remember, you can always add seasoning, but you can’t take it away!

Let’s get started!

Cajun Stir Fry

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 4 oz. bell peppers, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped (1 cup)

  • 2 1/2 cups to 3 cups leftover cooked Jasmine rice fried rice lilchefchic

  • 4 to 5 ounces Smoked Sausage, chopped in 1/4 inch pieces

  • 8 ounces shrimp, cleaned

  • 8 ounces sirloin steak

  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning Mix, of your choice, divided

  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

  • Olive Oil, about 3-4 Tablespoons

  • Butter, about 2 Tablespoons

I use two pans for this recipe. One pan is a stainless steel pan I use for searing and sauteing. The other is a 9 inch nonstick. I sear the steak first and let it rest and then turn the heat down a notch, add some whole butter, and then sear the shrimp.

In the metal pan turn heat to medium high heat. Once hot, add about 1 tablespoon olive oil followed by 1 tablespoon butter. Season steak on both sides liberally with salt and pepper. Sear steak on each side until cooked to your liking. I like mine medium rare so for a smaller 1/2″ thick sirloin I cook for about 3 minutes on each side. Remove steak from pan and turn down heat to moderate heat. Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon butter to pan and cook shrimp for about 3 minutes total. In the video below you can see I’ve cooked them lightly on both sides and then flipped them on their belly to finish them off for about 30 seconds before removing to a plate.

In the nonstick pan add about 1/2 Tablespoon of oil with your smoked sausage. I used a blend of chicken, pork and beef sausage for this recipe but if you’re using all pork you can skip the extra oil because of the high fat content in the sausage. Cook sausage on medium heat until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Remove sausage from pan and add onions and peppers. Cook for about a minute before adding in 1/2 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning. Continuing to stir, cook for 2 minutes and add in garlic and continue cooking (and stirring) until garlic is fragrant and onions are translucent. Remove vegetables to plate. Add one tablespoon oil to pan and add in remaining 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning. Stir seasoning in pan for about 30 seconds just to toast it a bit and now add your rice. Cook rice and coat in oil and seasoning until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in cooked vegetables.

Taste the rice and adjust the seasoning to your liking, adding more salt or more spices. Plate up Cajun rice. Thinly slice your rested steak and place on top of rice along with cooked shrimp.

Enjoy!

What does your family do with leftover rice? Do you have any tried and true recipe favorites that you love making with leftover rice, or leftovers in general? Leave me a comment below!:)


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