Sweet Potato and Chicken Stir-Fry

My husband and I travel the world for pleasure, and of course scuba diving, in our personal life as much as both time and money will allow, but in reality, we can only do that so much.  There is only so much time and so much money, and it does not take to long before both run out.  So to fill my travel lust in between actual trips, I scour my cookbooks to find recipes to take me away.  I love that I am able to do so much “traveling” in the comfort of my own home and kitchen just through my cooking.  All it costs is the price of my ingredients and my time to make my exotic foods, and I am allowed a momentary getaway.  Granted it is not the same as actually going to these far off places around the world, but I am able to “travel” a lot more frequently this way, and it is still a fun little adventure, even if only for the duration of our meal.  Last week, I ventured down to Argentina with my culinary travels.  Yesterday, it appears I was on an Asian expedition.  I started with dessert first, as I often do, by making my pistachio chocolate cake Pistachio & Chocolate Butter Cake.  As the cake was cooling, I was able to make dinner.  Yes, we did eat the cake after dinner, although I made the cake first.

As most of you know, not only do I cook our foods all the time, but I also cook my dogs’ food too.  They eat a lot of the same foods we do (no spices or anything fancy for them though).  I made their weekly food yesterday too.  They had chicken with peas and sweet potatoes.  The sweet potato I used for them was HUGE, so I only used half.  That was part of my inspiration for what we were going to have for dinner too.  I wanted to use the other half of the sweet potato.  Other than wanting to use up the rest of my sweet potato, I really had no idea of what the rest of the meal was going to be until I just started rummaging through the fridge to see what I had.  I knew I was also going to do something with the chicken, so at least I now had two items in mind.  The rest just kind of came to me as I went along.  I cook this way quite often.  This is my play time.  When I cook this way, I’m really just having fun playing.  The final result was an Asian themed stir-fry with a honey sesame-orange sauce.

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Sweet Potato and Chicken Stir-Fry

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1 1/2 lbs chicken, cut into strips

12 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

1/2 sweet potato, cut into medium chunks,

1/4 red onion, sliced very thin

1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1″ pieces

1 large tomato, diced medium – I used a large heirloom tomato

1 TBSP garlic

1 TBSP ginger

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/3 cup orange juice

1 tsp chocolate chili

1/2 cup honey sesame dressing/marinade

1 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

 

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Cook the sweet potatoes in olive oil for about 5 minutes, then add the rest of the vegetables, except the tomato and cilantro, and continue to cook for 5-7 more minutes.

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Once the vegetables are cooked, remove them and cook the chicken, adding more olive oil as needed and salt & pepper to taste.

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While the chicken is cooking, make the sauce by mixing all the liquid and wet ingredients together.  Once the chicken is cooked, add the vegetables and the sauce and mix everything together well.  Then add the tomatoes, and about 1/2 of the cilantro.  Bring everything to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about 5-7 minutes.  When the dish is done, top with the rest of the cilantro.

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You can serve it over rice or noodles.  This dish also easily lends itself to being vegetarian as well.  You can also use shrimp either by itself or along with the chicken and it would still come out very tasty and delicious.  I served it over lime-cilantro rice, along with some warmed pita bread (I would have preferred Naan bread, but I did not have any).  I served it with a chilled fume blanc, but a good riesling would do nicely too.

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Pistachio & Chocolate Butter Cake

It’s been a while since I made a cake or any other kind of dessert, and I just felt like making a cake today, even though it was yet another hot day.  I found this exotic cake recipe that called for pistachios, chocolate and cardamom and it just sounded to good to pass up.  Cardamom is a spice I really don’t use a lot of unless I am doing an Indian dish, so it was kind of a pleasant treat to use it in a cake today.

Cardamom and cloves are ancient spices dating back to the days of the ancient spice trades.  Cardamom is a spice that is native to the Western Ghat forest of the Malabar Coast in India.  It grew alongside the peppercorns.  Peppercorns at that time were known as the “king of spices” and cardamom was known as the “queen” of spices.  These spices, along with many others, were brought to South Asia via Babylon, by the Arab traders, and from there, they traveled to Egypt, Greece and Rome.  Though cardamom was very popular in Asia, it did not take off so well in Europe at first.  For centuries, cardamom grew wild and it was not grown on plantations until the British established them in India in the early 1800’s, which could explain why they were not so popular in Europe at the time.  This being said though, cardamom was very popular in the Scandinavian countries by as early as the 9th century.  The Scandinavian counties are still among the top consumers of cardamom today too.

Cardamom is the fruit from the perennial bush Eletteria cardamomun, which is actually a member of the ginger family.  Before the British started cultivating cardamom a little over 200 years ago, it was all gathered from wild bushes.  Today is is mostly harvested in both India and Guatemala.

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Pistachio and Chocolate Butter Cake

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1 stick butter, at room temperature

1 3/4 cup flour

1 3/4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cardamom

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

3/4 cup of pistachio paste – if you can not find it, no worries, it is very easy to make.  It is pistachios with about 1/4 cup of sugar and about 1 TBSP of milk.  Pulse everything together in a food processor until it forms a thick paste.

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1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup pistachios, chopped

confectioner’s sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 350* F or 180* C

Spray a 9″ springform with cooking spray and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

 

Mix the butter and the sugar together for about 3-4 minutes until it is light and fluffy,  then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well in between.  Then mix in the pistachio paste.

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Mix all the dry ingredients together.  Once the eggs, butter, sugar and pistachio paste is mixed, add the flour mixture and milk, alternating, adding about 1/2 of each and mixing.  Mix until everything is well blended.

Fold in the chocolate chips.

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Spread the cake batter evenly into the prepared cake pan, then top with the chopped pistachios.

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Bake for about 40-50 minutes or until the cake is done and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let the cake cool completely before removing from the pan and cutting.  Dust with powdered sugar before cutting.  Serve with whipped cream or ice cream on the side.   Delicious!  The cardamon gives this cake a little hint of a pepper, which makes it a little exotic.  It is not what you expect from a dessert, but is definitely an interesting treat for the taste buds.

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Something Brand New

Hello, all my loyal followers, family and friends.  As of today, and less than an hour ago, there is something BRAND NEW on “A Jeanne in the Kitchen”.  Maybe you have already seen them.  Ads are now up and running on my blogsite, at ajeanneinthekitchen.com.  That means, just maybe, I might start to see a few $$$ before too long.  WHOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO!!!!!  All of this is possible because of you and all your support.  You all get a big huge

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as well as big

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from me to you.

 

 

 

 

 

Argentine Hearts of Palm and Shrimp Salad

Give me a cookbook, and I will be a happy camper for quite a long time.  I am definitely a book lover.  I love holding books in my hands and flipping through the pages, and if it is a cookbook, I want to make all the recipes I see, right away.  I am like a little kid in a candy store, only instead of seeing visions of lollipops swirling through me head, I see visions of all kinds of different delicious foods before me.  Maybe that’s why sometimes I tend to make a lot of similar foods in a short time frame.  Lately, I have been on an Argentine food theme.   I have enjoyed this latest culinary journey down to Argentina just as much as I enjoy all my other culinary journeys to all other far off places around the world.

When we have our mermaid/merman potlucks, I almost always try to bring something healthy, since after all, we are in a fitness and exercise class and we are all trying our best to get healthier and lose some of those extra pounds that somehow seem to accumulate around our middle sections.  This time, I chose to make the hearts of palm and shrimp salad.  It’s healthy, quick and easy to make, and with the shrimp, it was a perfect fit for our mermaid/merman party. The Mermaid/Merman Gathering

The ensalada de palmitos y camerones or hearts of palm and shrimp salad is a dish that became famous and popular in the mid 1920’s at a golf resort in Mar del Plata, off the Atlantic coast of Buenos Aires.  Mar del Plata is one of Argentina’s busiest fishing ports and every year, at the end of January (the middle of the Argentine summer) Mar del Plata hosts The Festival of Fishermen, where large quantities of delicious seafood dishes are served every year, in appreciation of all the gifts from the sea.  This is one of the popular dishes served at this annual event.

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Hearts of Palm and Shrimp Salad

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1 lb medium sized shrimp, peeled, deveined and cooked

1-2 firm, avocados, sliced

1 can hearts of palm, drained and sliced

1 head of red leaf lettuce

2 TBSP fresh chives

1 red bell pepper, sliced thin

4 TBSP lemon juice

red pepper flakes to taste

1-2 TBSP olive oil

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 TBSP ketchup

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp brandy

dash of Tobasco sauce

salt and pepper to taste

1 TBSP capers

 

Cook the shrimp in half of the lemon juice, olive oil and red pepper flakes for about 5-7 minutes or until they are done and are pink all around.  Then remove them from the heat and set aside.

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Place the lettuce leaves on a platter and arrange the red pepper slices, avocado slices, hearts of palm and shrimp around the lettuce leaves.  Squeeze the rest of the lemon juice over the ingredients, making sure to really cover the avocado slices to prevent browning.    You can use lemon juice from a bottle or lemon juice from a lemon.  I used both because I also used the cut lemon as my decoration and garnish too.

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Mix together all the wet ingredients to make your sauce, then drizzle the sauce over the salad.

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Once the salad is made, sprinkle the chopped chives and capers all around.  I also used more red pepper strips to enhance my presentation.  Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving.  !Desfruitas!

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The Mermaid/Merman Gathering

One of my paying jobs is to teach water aerobics.  I have been teaching for a long, long time, and I love what I do.  It helps keep me in shape (or at least it used to) with all the cooking and eating I love to do.  One of the pools I work at is the beautiful outdoor pool in Wheat Ridge.  This is my favorite pool.  When the weather is scorching hot, like it has been all week, it is so refreshing to jump into this cool blue pool to help beat the heat.  Here in Colorado, our outdoor pools are seasonal, and are only open in the summers.  We all lament closing day, but rejoice when they open up again at the start of a new season.  We look forward to opening day of the new season the day we close the pool for the season with tears in our eyes.  My beautiful ladies that attend my outside classes have named us the Mermaid Club.  This year, we had our first merman too.  At the end of our mermaid season, we traditionally have a potluck party and everyone brings a ton of food to enjoy after class.  I have to work us extra hard on those days so we can burn off all those delicious calories we just know we are going to consume as soon as we get out of the pool.  We have so much fun at our mermaid/merman gatherings, that this year we decided to have two.  Our first one was held a couple of days ago.  As usual, there was so much good food and we all left feeling very, very full, although everything we brought was fairly healthy.

I am the lead mermaid, and am here in my natural habitat and environment, the water.  If I am not in the kitchen, I am swimming or diving somewhere in the waters around the world.

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This year’s attendees and our scrumptious feast right before we dig in and it all disappears.  We were missing quite a few of our mermaids this time, but we all still enjoyed ourselves and ate way to much.  Hopefully everyone will be able to attend our next one, the last one of the 2019 season.

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My friend and one of my original mermaid members, Kathy, is always so creative.  She brought this adorable layered tray with white chocolate dipped strawberries and gummy sharks and cherries, complete with a mermaid floating around on her pink flamingo at the surface of the shark tank.

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Since I had so much of my vegetable escabeche leftover from the other day, Our Colorado Gaucho Grill that was one of my contributions to our feast.  Again, sticking to my Argentine theme for the week, I also made an Argentine salad with hearts of palm and shrimp, or ensalada de palmitos y camerones (stay tuned for details and the recipe for later.  Most probably tomorrow’s post).

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Once again, we had a successful Mermaid/Merman party and season.  We have one more party for the season, and then our mermaid/merman tails will disappear and will return again next season.  I love all my mermaids and my new merman.  Thanks for yet another AWESOME season!  Just keep swimmin’, just keep swimmin’, just keep swimmin’.

 

 

 

Our Colorado Gaucho Grill

My husband does not need any excuses to pull out the smoker and smoke some meats.  When we planned our latest get together with Jonathon and Priscilla, that was excuse enough to start smoking again.  We wanted to hear all about their recent trip for their niece’s wedding, An Argentine Wedding In California and what better way to visit with friends than over a delicious meal with good wine, right?!

The Argentines call their ranchers gauchos, and there was a gaucho grill present for the wedding.   Grilled meats are an Argentine staple and are probably some of the most popular foods of Argentina.  I guess we were vicariously in an Argentine frame of mind after seeing their pictures, so we decided to have our own version of a gaucho grill here at home.

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Larry smoked some sausages, a whole chicken, a couple of racks of ribs, some pork and a brisket.  I looked through my South American cookbooks and found the perfect sides to go with all this meat, and Priscilla brought food as well.  We had enough food to feed a small army, yet it was only the four of us eating.  This is kind of typical of how I cook though, especially when I get with other friends who also love to cook.  We are still going through all the leftovers.  Of course, everything is changed so no one but Larry and I know they are leftovers, and even Larry has a hard time believing they were once something else.

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One of the dishes I contributed to our Argentine feast was an escabeche with all kinds of vegetables, also known as alcauciles y zanahorias en escabeche.  Estabeches are very popular all throughout the Spanish world.  They are also very versatile and can be made with just about anything.  Every country and every region has their own specialty.  Escabeche is a technique for pickling and preserving  foods that was passed down to the Spanish during the times of the Moorish occupation in Spain, and has changed very little over time.  The basic ingredients to any escabeche are olive oil, vinegar, and sometimes wine.  Other than that, anything goes.   Ideally, an escabeche should be made a day ahead before serving, so all the flavors can really develop and come to life.  They are usually served at room temperature, although they are often served warm too.  They are great for any type of meal or snack, at any time of day.  Argentina and Uruguay are famous for their meats and wild games, so aside from this vegetable escabeche, they are also known for their meat and wild game escabeches.

Argentine Vegetable Escabeche

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3 carrots, peeled and sliced

1/2 red onion, small dice

1/2 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1″ pieces

1/2 cup mixed olives, cut in half

1  TBSP capers

1 TBSP garlic

1 bay leaf

1 can artichoke hearts, drained

red pepper flakes to taste

3/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

3/4 cup chicken broth

salt & pepper to taste

 

Bring the carrots and green beans to a  boil in water and boil for about 5 minutes, then drain and cool.

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Mix all the rest of the ingredients together with the carrots and green beans once again, cover and bring to a boil.  Then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

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Once everything is cooked, remove the bay leaf and discard, then transfer the vegetables into a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Take it out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving.

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Summer Lamb and Vegetable Tangine

A tangine is both a rich and aromatic casserole as well as a cooking vessel used to cook Moroccan and Middle Eastern foods.  The cooking vessel is a clay pot with a lid that funnels at the top and has a hole at the top that allows steam to escape.  These were traditionally used by the nomadic Berbers of North Africa.  The casserole version of a tangine is a dish flavored with a lot of spices and can be made from any combination of vegetables, meats, chicken or seafood, and is often referred to as ” A glorified stew worthy of poetry”  and as ” a dish of tender meat, fish or succulent vegetables, simmered to perfection in buttery sauces with fruit, herbs, honey and chiles” (p. 7 Tangines & Couscous – Delicious Recipes for Moroccan One-pot Cooking, by Ghillie Basan).  Traditionally, tangines are served as a meal of their own served over couscous with flat breads, such as pita bread or a crusty bread, to help soak up and mop up the juices of the stew.  When cooking tangines, you want to slow cook them over a low simmering heat to preserve the juices and the moistness of the foods and the meats.  They can be cooked over hot coals or a wood burning stove, or on top of the stove, as is most commonly done today.   I do not have a tangine clay pot, nor have I ever used one, so as authentic as my flavors may be, my tangines are not totally authentic because I cook them in a skillet with a lid, which is similar, but definitely not the same.

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We love lamb, but it doesn’t make our usual rotation of meats as often as we would like.  As with most things, when I do cook lamb, I make it a variety of different ways.  This time I made as a summer tangine that was loaded with vegetables.  I love all kinds of tomatoes, and in the summer, there is such a large variety of tomatoes available.  I love to mix and match my tomatoes, and I use all kinds.  They all have their own unique flavors and personalities.

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Summer Lamb and Vegetable Tangine

1 1/2 lb lamb, cut into large chunks

4 TBSP olive oil

1 onion, sliced thin

1 TBSP garlic

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp dried mint

1 zucchini, sliced

1 red bell pepper, large dice

1 yellow or crookneck squash, sliced

4 tomatoes, medium dice – I used a variety of fun summer tomatoes – some heirloom tomatoes as well as some grape, yellow tomatoes and sun tomatoes

2 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped fine

1 TBSP fresh mint, chopped fine

salt & pepper tot taste

1 TBSP lemon juice

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Cook the lamb in olive oil, with salt, pepper and dried mint until it is browned on all sides and set aside.  In a separate pan, saute all the hearty vegetables in olive oil until the they are soft and tender, or for about 7-10 minutes.  To cook the couscous, it is almost a 1:1 ration of water to couscous.  Bring the water with a little salt and olive oil to a full and rapid boil, then turn the heat off and add the couscous.  Mix it in thoroughly, and let it set.  The couscous will absorb the liquid and will fluff out.  Couscous has a slightly nutty taste.

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When the vegetables are done, add the tomatoes and the cooked lamb, along with a little water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

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When the stew is finished, add the fresh mint and parsley on top and serve on top of the couscous.  I served mine with warmed pita bread and hummus on the side, and my accompanying wine choice was a smooth, velvety red blend.  Delicious!

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