Lots of Lemon Verbena

It is lemon verbena season again in my backyard. Every year it takes over my backyard. It always smells so good and fresh and lemony. I do my best to use as much of it as I can, though there is no way I could ever use it all up, and every year I get more than I had the year before. So with so much lemon verbena, every year, I try to get very creative with it. I use it for everything from salads to sauces and dips to pesto.

This time, I added it to my sauce for my chicken skewers to make a citrusy sauce. My sauce was super easy to make. Once I mixed everything together, I cubed my chicken and marinated it for about 3-4 hours, then skewered it all and put it on the grill. I made it like a Mediterranean style meal, and served it with couscous and green beans topped with garlic and shallots and some Peruvian peppers on the side, and pita bread. I served a cool, crisp chardonnay on the side. Perfect!

Orange Citrus Chicken Skewers

1 1/2-2 lbs chicken breasts cut into large cubes

1 cup oragn juice

1/4- 1/2 tp red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 TBSP garlic

salt & pepper to taste

1 tsp spicy orange seasoning, optional

1/4 cup fresh lemon verbena, cut in a thin chiffonade or very thin strips

Combine all the ingredients thoroughly, then add the chicken. Let it marinate for about 3-4 hours before putting it on a skewer. Coat with a little additional sauce, if you like things nice and saucy like I do. Place them on the grill and cook until the chicken is completely cooked. Once everything is cooked, serve it up with your favorite side dishes, along with a cool glass of wine, and your are all set for a perfect, quick and easy summer meal.

Stay safe, stay well, and make the most f our day. ‘Til next time.

Did You Hear What Julia Said?

Yesterday was my first day of practice; a very early morning practice as well. I have to be at the pool at 6:00 AM every morning, which means I get up about 4:45 or so. They Call Me Coach Needless to say, I didn’t really feel much like cooking a big meal, so we just grilled up some sausages, some corn on the cob and I made some potato salad. It was a simple, typical easy-peasy summer meal. But you know I almost always have a backup plan.

I am going to give you some more wise words from Julia Child herself.

“No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize.”

How Julia Child and Hours of PBS Helped My Mother Adapt to Her New American  Life | Bon Appétit

I was thinking of this quote the other day when my chocolate lava cakes turned into chocolate soup. Chocolate Soup

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”

40 Rare Photos of Julia Child - Vintage Julia Child Pictures

“I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.”

10 Facts You Didn't Know About Julia Child | Devour | Cooking Channel

I think this may be one thing Julia and I DO NOT have in common. I’ve been cooking since I wee little thing. I used to have a picture of me cooking when i was about 3, but I can’t find it anywhere now.

“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”

Chef Julia Child's biographer recalls his great aunt and uncle - The  Ellsworth AmericanThe Ellsworth American

I definitely like her way of thinking here.

“Always remember: If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who’s going to know?”

Vintage Photos of Julia Child

Enjoy. Make the most out of everyday and live like there is no tomorrow.

Stay safe and stay well. “Til next time.

They Call Me Coach

I just wanted to give you all a head’s up ….. I am coaching again. It has been a long while in the making, but once again, I am back at the pool, where I belong (when not cooking). This time I am the HEAD COACH! I have about 116 kids, ranging in age from about 6-18. Today was my first day. It is only for the summer, but I am hoping something will come up after the summer season as well that will be more permanent. One day at a time though. This being said, I am going to try my best to keep posting daily, but it will just be a day by day thing. Now, I just need to get MY butt back in the pool and start doing my swimming again too.

Swimming class Kids having a swimming lesson in indoor pool Swimming stock vector
Children having swimming lesson

Hoisin Pork Chops

Little is known about the origins of hoisin sauce other than it is Cantonese in origin. The name hoisin comes from the Chinese word for seafood and earlier formulations might have had a seafood ingredients to provide the umami flavor. Today, it doesn’t contain any seafood. Even though there is no seafood usually used, it has a slight “seafood” flavor”, hence the name. It’s funny how things change so drastically over time. 🙂

Hoisin sauce is darkly-colored in appearance, and is sweet and salty in taste. Although regional variants exist, hoisin sauce usually includes soybeans, fennel, red chili peppers and garlic. Vinegar, 5-Chinese spice  and sugar are also commonly added. Hoisin sauce is used in both Cantonese cooking and Vietnamese cooking and can be used as a dipping sauce, a sauce for meats of all kinds, or for vegetables and wraps, especially lettuce wraps.

We had some pork chops down, and Larry decided he wanted something with an Asian flair. I went through my extensive library and came up with something both different and delicious. I decided on making some hoisin pork chops that I served with some Asian vegetables, rice, and some fried potstickers, with wine on the side, of course.

I made the sauce then used some of it a s marinade for my pork and used more to top it when everything was done. I marinated my pork for about 2-3 hours. It came out so juicy and tender, and of course, full of flavor. This time, I grilled the pork chops, but you can pan-fry it or roast it as well.

Hoisin Sauce

1 cup hoisin sauce

2 TBSP sambal oelek sauce

2 TBSP garlic

2 TBSP ginger

1/2 cup dry red wine

salt & pepper to taste

Mix everything together and combine well. I poured some over my pork chops and let them marinade for about 2-3 hours.

I like lots of vegetables in my foods too, so I cut up a bunch of vegetables and sauteed them in hot oil. This time I used baby corn, green beans, mushrooms, sweet potato and a shallot, all sliced very thin or cut in matchstick style.

Once everything was cooked, I started layering it all up. I purposely chose not to add the sauce to the vegetables because I did not want it to be to overwhelming. So instead, I layered everything, starting with rice, a little dab of my hoisin sauce, then the sliced pork, with more sauce on top. I added the vegetables on top of the pork. It made the colors really pop and stand out, plus the hoisin sauce, which is a strong, boldly flavored sauce, did not overpower the flavors of the vegetables. I meant to add some sliced green onions on top of my vegetables, but forgot. Oh well. Sometimes, that happens. I did, however remember to add some crispy fried onion pieces on top, which was a good addition.

This dish was so colorful and full of flavors and just seemed to hit the spot. Because of the spiciness of the sauce, I would recommend a lighter, more fruity white wine, such as a Riesling or a Gewertztraminer (sp), although a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio will do just fine as well.

Stay safe, stay well, and enjoy the day. ‘Til next time.

When the Bread Gets Crusty, Turn It Into Croutons

I, like many others, over extend myself sometimes, and I buy things, with ideas in mind of how I want to make them, and then life happens, and plans change. When working with food, sometimes this means you need to come up with a plan “B” real quick or you will need to throw food away. I hate throwing away food unless I absolutely have too. So, I get creative instead.

I had planned on making something that used my pesto and some French bread, but that never happened. So, I have been using my pesto for other things. My French bread got really crusty, which was making it to hard to eat as is. So ……. When the bread gets crusty, turn it into croutons.

You can make croutons with as little or as much bread as you need to. There are no right or wrongs and no absolutes with this recipe, except that they are going to taste absolutely scrumptious. Croutons are a very easy way to use up your end pieces or dried bread. You can add whatever flavors you like and mix and match with whatever you have. This is an old trick from my restaurant days. It used up our breads that were not good enough to eat or serve on their own, and it was a great way to save on costs too, because we did not have to purchase croutons when we could easily make them up in house. This time, I made them with Parmigiano cheese, roasted garlic flakes, salt, pepper, olive oil, melted butter and dried parley.

Preheat the oven to 400* F or 200* C.

With a serrated knife, cube the bread into bite size pieces.

Mix together the butter, oil and all your other ingredients, then toss the bread into the mixture to coat well and spread out on a baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the croutons become golden brown and crisp. Toss them about half way in between to help them cook evenly. You can add them to soups or salads or just munch on them one at a time as is. They will be full of flavor.

Stay safe, stay well and enjoy the day. ‘Til next time.

With Much Thanks and Gratitude

Here in the United States, it is Memorial Day Weekend. It is a 3-day weekend, and usually marks the start of the summer season. But Memorial Day itself is a day of remembrance for all those who paid the ultimate price and made the ultimate sacrifice in order for the rest of us to live freely. For that, we are forever in your debt. Thank you so much for those who gave their all for us. You will never be forgotten.

Memorial Day Weekend: Why the Holiday Is Always on a Monday | Time

Memorial Day - Remembrance, Honor Hailing Back to US Civil War | Voice of  America - English

Happy Memorial Day Image & Photo (Free Trial) | Bigstock

Pollo Italiano

I think chicken may just be one of the most universal foods ever. You can dress it up or down any which way you choose, and it is always delicious, plus you find chickens in every country around the world. We eat a lot of chicken in our house too, maybe, because it is so universal and so versatile.

I had made some pesto to use for something else, which ironically, I have not made what I originally made my pesto for yet. That’s OK though, I know how to make pesto and it only takes a couple of minutes to make, so I think I can easily make more at any time. 🙂 Instead, I used my pesto to make some Italian chicken, with Prosciutto, pesto and cheese.

Pesto is one of the easiest sauces to make. The traditional recipe is simply olive oil, toasted pine nuts, Parmigiano cheese, garlic (lots of garlic) and salt & pepper. That’s it. However, today, the possibilities of making pesto are endless, as are the ways to use it. Pesto is also very versatile and can be used for just about anything you can imagine.

Preheat the oven to 350* F or 180*C and spray a baking pan with cooking spray.

For my pollo Italiano, I seared and browned my chicken breasts in the skillet with a combination of olive oil and butter. First, I coated the chicken pieces with flour mixed with salt & pepper and them placed them in the hot oil and butter combination and cooked until they were golden brown all both sides. Get the skillet nice and hot before adding the chicken.

When the chicken is browned, place it in the prepared baking dish. Bake for about 15 minutes, then remove it from the oven and add a little pesto, the cheese and top it off with the prosciutto. Place it back in the oven to finish cooking, for about another 10-15 minutes, or until the juices from the chicken run clear.

When the chicken is completely cooked, serve it up with your favorite side dishes and top it with just a dash more pesto. This time, I served it over rice and with a sauteed summer vegetable medley on the side.

Add some warmed bread and a glass or two of white wine, and voila, dinner is served, Italian style. It is quick, easy-peasy, and very delicious to boot, which in my book, that makes it a definite winner. !Deliciozo! !Mangia! 🙂

Stay safe and stay well on this Memorial Day weekend. ‘Til next time.

Ham and Shrimp Carbonara

I love a good creamy sauce over pasta. Anything creamy, along with butter, and often the two go hand in hand, will always capture my attention, and my taste buds. Again, I had just a little ham left over, and only a few shrimp, not enough of either for a full meal for the two of us, but by combining the two, we had more than enough for a couple of meals each.

A carbonara sauce Pasta Carbonara with Ham and Vegetables is a lighter version of an Alfredo sauce. Shrimp and Vegetable Alfredo. Both are delicious, and I do variations of both of them all the time. Almost always, my creations include pasta and vegetables. One of the most popular modern twists to a traditional carbonara sauce is made with either bacon or ham and peas. Fine by me. I love all those ingredients, and eat them all quite often. I also added mushrooms, which are another favorite of mine.

My ham was already cooked, so I cooked the shrimp in hot olive oil and a dash of butter, then added the rest of my ingredients for this quick and tasty meal. Look closely. You’ll see my little helper, who isn’t so little any more. 🙂

After all my ingredients were cooked, I added the the carbonara sauce. I like to combine my cream and egg yolks together, which also kinds of acts as a tempering agent so my eggs don’t scramble. I also added my Parmigiano cheese and salt & pepper and combined everything, then let it all cook down at a low simmer for about 10 or so minutes.

Once the sauce is ready and the pasta is cooked, it is time to spoon the sauce over the pasta and enjoy. !Mangia!

Live life. Enjoy and stay safe and well. ‘Til next time.

Nature Walks – Turtles In the Sun

My turtles are back. So far, I have mostly seen the big snapping turtles, with my old guys front and center. My big snapping turtles are rumored to be over 100 years old, and they still look great. They have been busy sunning themselves on the rocks and logs, or just hanging out on the water’s surface. They are definitely making their presence known and I am glad for it too. I love seeing all my turtles out and about.

Mr. Turtle is just chilling on the water’s surface, catching a few rays while he can.

And finally, my red-eared sliders are coming out too.

He needed a little help from Mr. Turtle though, and they were hanging out on the log together. This is the first time I have seen both turtle types together like this. I guess they really are friends, though they are practicing their social distancing at the moment.

This friendly turtle is always dressed perfectly for the seasons. Today, he is sporting his summer wear and greeting all those who pass by.

A Colorado Steak Salad

The weather is warming up and summer is here. This is the start of Memorial Day Weekend here in America, which is also the unofficial start of the summer season. Warmer weather means more salads, and I love being creative with my salads, and I love making them nice and colorful too. The more colors, the healthier it is. Don’t be fooled in thinking that when I make my salads they will not be filling though. When I make salads, I make SALADS, especially when I am making them as the main meal.

I made my dressing first so it could sit and marinate, to allow all the flavors to blend and fuse together. I made a roasted red pepper vinaigrette to dress my steak salad.

Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette

2 larger red bell peppers

1 cup olive oil

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

salt & pepper to taste

1/4 tsp sugar

1/8-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or to taste

Roast the bell peppers until they are completely charred on the outside, then place them in a plastic bag and let them sweat for at least 30 minutes. Once they have cooled, remove the charred skins with your fingers and rinse thoroughly. Then place everything in the food processor and blend until you have your dressing.

Now for the salad. Obviously, you can use this dressing for anything you like, but it went very well with my Colorado steak salad. It is a big, bold salad that needs a big, bold dressing to go with it, and this dressing was a perfect choice.

Colorado Steak Salad

1 1/2 lbs steak, marinated and cooked how you like it, then cut into thin strips

1/4 onion, sliced very thin

lettuce of your choice – I used red leaf

4 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in 1/2 – I like using mixed tomatoes

1 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, cut in 1/2

1/2 bell pepper, in thin strips

1 cup sliced mushrooms

fried tortilla strips

cheese of your choice, optional

avocado slices, optional

This is a composed salad, which means it is artfully decorated and not tossed together. Once all the ingredients are prepared, and your mis en place is set, just start layering your salad. Finish with the cheese, if using, avocado slices and fried tortilla strips. Larry likes cheddar cheese in his salads, but bleu cheese crumbles or feta or an herbed goat cheese would be good with this too, if you prefer.

This recipe is easy-peasy and does not take a lot of time in the kitchen. It is quick to make, beautiful and healthy all at once. It is culinary art.

Pour yourself a nice glass or two of your favorite wine and let the summer salad season begin. Have a great, safe Memorial Day weekend to all my American friends, and to all, stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.