A Poem By The Stroppy Git Who Hates Poetry

Normally I do not reblog other people’s blogs and ideas, but this was to funny not to share.

Bitchin’ in the Kitchen

My much loved fellow blogger, Kristian found a challenge on a blog I haven’t come across before but will have to start following I think!

Esther of Esther Newton Blog set a challenge to write a poem about food.

Yes you read that right. A Poem.

Me. The girl who’s idea of a classy sonnet is ‘The Boy Stood On The Burning Deck…

I make no secret of the fact I’m not a fan of poetry. I’m a big, Big, BIG fan of Kristian though so I read every thing he writes. As should you! Seriously, I love his stories. He’s one of my absolute favorite bloggers.

So poems. Poems and me. I went there. Apologies in advance but the devil made me do it!

I never thought that I should see

A food that couldn’t quite please me

A filthy psycho chose to tease

And thus invented cottage cheese

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Tuscan Steak

After our wonderful Caribbean vacation, where we ate mostly seafood, we came back really wanting and craving steak.   Like with everything else I cook, I like to make things in a variety of ways to keep our meals fun and exciting, so I am always coming with new twists to old classics.

I used a nice flank steak that I marinated with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, paprika and Worcestershire sauce.  I let it marinate for about 4 hours before grilling it up.  To me, the best way to eat a steak is medium rare.  That’s when it is really juicy and tender and all the flavors just really pop.  But, as I always say, cook it how you like it.

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To make my steak Tuscan style, I used fresh baby spinach, tomatoes, garlic, onions, mushrooms and butter beans.  Normally I use the smaller cannellini beans, but I accidentally picked up the wrong can.  I usually have a wide variety of beans on my shelves, both canned and dry.  In the end, it really does not matter.  Cannellini beans are smaller, but their flavor is pretty similar to butter beans.  Any white beans will do.  I removed all the stems from the spinach and diced all the vegetables.

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Once everything was cut, I was ready to cook my vegetables.  I sauteed them all in olive oil with salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, basil and thyme.  I use both dried and fresh herbs.  It really just depends on what I have on hand at the time.  If you are using fresh herbs, a general rule of thumb is to add them towards the end of the cooking process so they do not get lost in the cooking process, whereas with dried herbs, you can add them at any stage of the cooking process and the flavors will incorporate into whatever you are cooking.  Also, when using fresh herbs, you will use a bit more than if you are using dried herbs.  With dried herbs, the flavors are more concentrated than they are with fresh herbs.  I prefer fresh when I have them, but dried is certainly a great alternative.  Usually, unless a recipe calls for specific amounts (although if you have been following me, you should probably know by now, I rarely follow a recipe when cooking), I use about 1 tsp of each herb.

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After the vegetables were cooked and softened, I added the beans. Drain and rinse the beans before adding them to the vegetables, then continue to cook for an additional 5-7 minutes.

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I layered my plate by starting with the beans and vegetables, then added the cooked steak, and finished with a little more beans and spinach on top.  I added a slice of polenta with caramelized onions and herbs Caramelized Onion, Herb & Polenta Loaf then completed the meal with a smooth, medium-bodied fruity red blend.  This was a perfect end of summer meal that we enjoyed out on our deck.

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Tuscan Steak

2 lbs flank steak, cooked

2-3 cups fresh spinach, stems removed and chopped

1/2 cup mushrooms, quartered or diced

1/2 cup chopped tomatoes

1 heaping TBSP garlic

1/3-1/2 cup onions, diced small

1 can of cannellini or butter beans, drained and rinsed

olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

1 tsp each basil, oregano, thyme

 

Cook your steak to your liking.

Saute all the vegetables and herbs together in olive oil.  When the vegetables are done, add the beans, and continue to cook for about 5-7 minutes.  Layer your plate with the spinach and bean mixture, then add the steak, and if you like, add a touch more spinach and beans on top of your cooked steak.

 

Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Mushrooms

I love pasta.  I can eat pasta all the time, in many, different ways, and never get tired of it.  However, pasta is high in carbs and eaten all the time, it can be very fattening and because of the sugar content, it can wreak havoc on someone who is trying to control their sugar intake.  A healthy alternative to eating pasta is to substitute spaghetti squash for pasta.   The two are similar in that spaghetti is in the name of both, and they can both be used in a similar way, but that is where the similarities end.  For one serving of pasta, add about 100 calories to the meal, whereas the same serving size of spaghetti squash only adds 20 calories.  Spaghetti squash is also very high in fiber and antioxidants, as well as vitamins A, B complex and C, making this a much healthier, less fatty alternative to eating pasta.    Spaghetti squash is in the same family as pumpkins, zucchini, acorn squash and cucumbers.  They are all part of the winter squash family known as the cucurbita family or gourd family.

I used my spaghetti squash last night and added a rich and hearty sausage and mushroom bolognaise sauce, served with a nice little side salad and a rich, crusty chiabbata dipped in olive oil with garlic, pepper and balsamic vinegar.   I added a rich red blend to complete the meal.  I actually used the spaghetti squash as a little “boat”, and just topped the sauce right on top along with mozzarella and baked it all together.

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I add wines to my sauces all the time, but not usually when I make a bolognaise sauce.  Every now and then though, I change things up a bit and vary my recipes, just to give them a kick and do something a little different.  This was one of those times when I added red wine to my bolognaise sauce.   I had some red wine that I just did not like at all, and could not drink.   I very rarely find a bottle of wine that I do not like, but believe it or not, it does happen every now and then (I am not going to reveal the name of the unliked wine).  Well, I hate to waste anything, so even if I do not like things in their original form, I will always try my best to re-purpose it in other ways.  This time it was in making my sauce.  I admit, as much as I try my best to make everything from scratch, I very rarely make my own pasta sauce from scratch, mainly due to lack of time.  Instead, I enhance ready-made sauces and make them my own.  These are the ingredients I used, along with my favorite ready-made sauce.

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The spaghetti squash was in the oven baking with salt, pepper, and olive oil, at 350* F for about 10-12 minutes to soften while I pan-fried my sausages and was cutting all my other ingredients for my sauce.   After the sausages were cooked, using the same pan, I sauteed my mushrooms, garlic, onions and red pepper flakes in olive oil, then added the red wine.  By using the same pan, you get all the flavors and drippings from the sausages that add to the flavor of the sauce.  This time, I used a chicken-basil sausage, but you can use whatever type of sausage you like.  We eat a lot of sausage, and we try all kinds.  Because spaghetti is such a staple here in the United states, and everyone has their own “favorite” version of bolognaise sauce, I would not even think of stepping on those time-honored traditions by giving an actual recipe.  For some reason spaghetti and spaghetti sauce takes on the personality of the person who prepares it.  Often times these recipes are family heirlooms that have been passed through the generations.  So make your spaghetti sauce in your own favorite way and try it with the spaghetti squash to add a new twist to things.

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After the mushrooms, garlic and onions have softened,  add the sauce, the remaining ingredients, including the spices and herbs (dried herbs.  If using fresh, wait until the last few minutes of cooking or add just before serving so the flavors and textures do not get lost in the cooking process); and the sausage.  Incorporate everything well, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to simmer for an additional 10-20 minutes, or until the sauce reaches your desired consistency.

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I was going for a baked and crusted effect, so I spooned my sauce over my squash boats and topped them with mozzarella cheese.  Then I baked them for an additional 20-30 minutes, or until my cheese was completely melted and had a nice brown crust on it.  You can also just spoon it over the cooked and scraped squash to make it look more like “spaghetti” too if you prefer.  It was just a different presentation and a slightly different taste, but basically it is the same.

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Buon Apitito e mangia!

 

 

 

Grilled Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

Neither my husband or I grew up eating Brussels sprouts, so we just assumed we did not like them much.   This was true up until a few years ago, when I decided why not, let’s give these a try and see what they are all about.  I am so glad I did too.  Now we eat them quite frequently, in many different ways.  Our newest way to eat them was marinated in balsamic vinegar and grilled.  Yummy!  A Quick, Impromptu Dinner with Friends

Brussels sprouts are part of the cruciferous  or Crucifarae family, also known as the Brassicaceae family, which also includes cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage and other leafy green vegetables.  They are very nutritious and there are many health benefits to having a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables.  They are loaded with all kinds of vitamins, and are very high in vitamin C.  One 1/2 cup serving of cooked Brussels sprouts can provide up to 81% of your daily intake of vitamin C.   Not only are Brussels sprouts high in vitamin C, but they also contain a large amount of antioxidants and fiber.  Antioxidants are known to reduce the stress in cells, which helps lower the risks of chronic diseases, and is also known to help fight against cancer.  Because fiber moves through the body very slowly and undigested, having a diet rich in fibers helps to lower the amount of sugar absorbed in the bloodstream and regulates insulin production.  It is also believed that Brussels sprouts contain anti-inflammatory properties as well.

These simple ingredients really made the Brussels sprouts come to life.  I had a little extra balsamic vinaigrette leftover from before and added that too.  But, mostly it was salt & pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

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This is so easy to make.  I cut the Brussels sprouts in half and tossed them with all the ingredients, then placed them in a vegetable basket for grilling small or delicate vegetables.  We grilled them for about 20-25 minutes, flipping them over after about 10 minutes.

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There was just a hint of sweetness to the flavor because of the balsamic vinegar.  These are super easy to make and really delicious too, not to mention very healthy as well.

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A Quick, Impromptu Dinner with Friends

We had the unexpected pleasure of having some good friends stop by just as I was starting to prepare dinner.  It is just as easy to cook for four as it is for two, so instead of setting up only two chairs outside on the deck, we set up four.  When the four of us get together, we always have a great time.  The time just passes by quickly and we never stop talking.  And usually, the wine flows pretty freely as well.   We opened up a bottle of Albarino wine that we bought when we were in Virginia, back in May.  Virginia Ranks #5 in Grape Production for the United States  Our friends Janet and Bob are wine lovers like I am, and we had wanted to share this bottle with them ever since we got back, we just had not had the opportunity to do so until now.   Along with our wine, we had a cool, fresh Mediterranean meal that consisted of a spicy lemon-herb grilled chicken, topped with my yogurt sauce (yes, we had a bit leftover from the other day, but it is all gone now – Gyros with Brisket), vegetable cous-cous, grilled Brussel sprouts in balsamic vinaigrette and warmed pita bread.   It was a cool night, with hardly any bugs, which made it a perfect evening to enjoy out on the deck with good friends, good food and good wine.  I love these quick, impromptu get togethers.  Often times, these are the most fun.

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My marinade was made with garlic, red pepper flakes, black pepper, salt, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, thyme, basil and lemon verbena.  I mixed it all together and let the chicken marinate for about 2 1/2 hours before grilling it.  Like how I cook most of the time, I don’t really measure things, I just cook by instinct, and eyeball how much of things I need to use.  The chicken was very tender and full flavor.

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Grilled spicy lemon-herb chicken, grilled Brussel sprouts in balsamic vinaigrette, yogurt sauce, vegetable cous-cous, Albarino white wine.

 

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Spicy Lemon-Herb Chicken

1 heaping TBSP garlic

1-2 tsp each, parsley, basil, thyme, lemon verbena (optional), chopped fine if fresh or dried

1 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 tsp each salt & pepper

3 TBSP lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

1-2 lbs chicken

 

Mix all the ingredients together and pour over the chicken.  Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours.  Then grill the chicken until it is done.

 

 

Last of the Leftovers

WHOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!  We have finally finished off all the leftovers we had from our little gathering last week.  Lots of Leftovers They were all delicious, but I am really glad to start cooking first-overs again.  The last of the leftovers was the smoked pork.  We made it into sliders the first time around, and the second time around, I used it as an Asian stir-fry.  My refrigerator is now empty and all the leftovers are gone, so it is time to fill it up again, with more yummy, delicious first-over foods.  I wish I could lose all the weight that I have gained as fast as I can get rid of all the leftovers. That just isn’t happening nearly fast enough, unfortunately, but that’s another story for another day.

This was our smoked pork when we first took it off the smoker.  This, like everything else we served, was very tasty, so we were not going to let it go to waste, although unfortunately, all this food is quickly going to my waist.  From this, we shredded it and used it for sliders first, and from sliders, it became an Asian stir-fry with a lot of vegetables.

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This is one of those meals that just kind of grew from using a little bit of this and a little bit of that, which allowed me to use up all the leftovers I had and empty out my refrigerator.  I added my leftover pork along with the left over sweet potatoes that I sliced thin; a little extra of both red and green bell peppers, sliced into thin strips; and some green beans, mushrooms, onions, garlic, ginger, basil and lemon verbena (from my backyard).  Once everything was cooked, I added some leftover soy-ginger vinaigrette/marinade Seared Ahi Tuna Salad for my sauce, served it over rice with some Asian dumplings, and voila, dinner was done.

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Cooking my vegetables.  Saute the hardier vegetables first, like the sweet potatoes, green beans and bell peppers then once those are soft and tender, add the rest of the vegetables and the garlic and ginger and continue to cook until they are all done.  This is one of those meals that I really emphasize using what you like and using what your have.

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Since the pork was already cooked, all I had to do was add it after the vegetables were cooked and then I added my soy-ginger vinaigrette/marinade mixed with a little corn starch to thicken it up, and cooked it all for about another 7-10 minutes.  After everything was cooked, I added the basil and the lemon verbena and mixed them in well with the rest of the stir-fry.

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Once everything was done, I served it over rice, added some cooked Asian dumplings and topped it off with a bit more basil and lemon verbena for my garnish.  Then I finished it all off with a cool, crisp chardonnay that had hints of apples, citrus and melon that accompanied the meal very well.   But the best part …… all the leftovers are now done and have been recreated, eaten and enjoyed as something totally new and different from what they were as first-overs.

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Soy Ginger Vinaigrette/Marinade

1 TBSP garlic

1 TBSP ginger

1/3 cup soy sauce

1-2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/3 cup rice vinegar

2-3 TBSP honey

1/3-1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup olive oil.

2 tsp fresh bail, chopped fine.

 

Whisk everything together and chill until ready to use.

Gifts From the Heart

My dear friend Priscilla, whom I have known since I was 12, had a birthday.  We have known each other most of our lives, so birthdays are most special when we just get together and have a good time enjoying each other’s company.  But this time, I made her day really special.  I made her gifts, and they all came from the heart, and to us, those are always the best kinds of gifts.   Everything I gave her I made especially for her.  Priscilla loves to cook and appreciates good food and wine just like I do.  I made her the lavender truffles, Time for Truffles although she did not know that at the time I posted about them.  They were a big hit.  I also bottled the wine as well.  The wine came from our favorite winery here in Colorado, InVINtions, A Creative Winery, located in Greenwood Village, down in the Southern Denver Metro area.   It was one of their red blends, but we bottled it and it is our label (if you look closely, it is my dog Vinnie on the label, also enjoying his glass of wine).  I also painted this fun whimsical picture for Priscilla as well.  My creativity has been blossoming in many different areas lately.  There was definitely a theme of wine and chocolate going on; two of my favorite things.

IMG_2956‘We had a girls’ night out, since our husbands went out on their own too.  This doesn’t happen too much anymore, so we took full advantage of our girls’ night out and had a great time.  After Priscilla opened her presents, we went our for dinner to a fun Cuban restaurant in nearby Louisville, CO.  The restaurant was called Coabana, and you can contact them at Coabana.net.  Neither of us was hungry enough for a full dinner, so we chose a fabulous selection of tapas and sangria.

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Even though we thought we were dining light, and split everything, there was still a ton of food. Because it was all so delicious, of course, we had to eat as much of it as we could.  From left to right, we had shrimp ceviche with avocados and pickled onions, served with grilled plantains or tostones; croquettas de pescado or fish croquettes; lamb empanadas with a roasted red pepper and habanero sauce and chips and salsa.  The atmosphere was fun and festive and very colorful.  It was like a little bit of Havana right here in the North Denver Metro area.  I really recommend Coabana.  The food is traditional Cubano style food.  The atmosphere was fun and colorful.  And the service was very good and very friendly.  You can tell by the smile on Priscilla’s face that we had a very enjoyable evening and dinner, and I hope she had a very happy birthday too.

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