K.I.S.S.

The K.I.S.S. rule can be applied to many things, and it is often a very good rule to follow in life in general.  The first three letters stand for “Keep It Simple”.  The last “S” can be substituted for a multitude of things, depending on the circumstances.  For today, I am going to use it for “sometimes”.  As you all know, I love to cook and to play in the kitchen, but there are times when either I just don’t have the time to do so, or I just don’t feel like it, and sometimes, life just happens.  Fortunately, the days where I don’t feel like it are very few and far between.  Back in my catering and restaurant management days, one of the best things we could learn was to just roll with the punches, and be flexible.  I had to learn to change my plans in the blink of an eye, and just go with it.  This life philosophy has been very useful and has served me well my whole life.  The results will be what they will be.  Just accept it and move on.  I was planning on cooking a wonderful meal, but my husband brought home some fried chicken instead.  That’s fine; no problem.  I love fried chicken.  So since I was not cooking a fancy meal, I applied the K.I.S.S. rule to dinner and kept the whole meal simple.

As I have told you many times, we eat a wide variety of vegetables all the time, and I almost always have vegetables with my vegetables.  One of my favorite ways of eating green beans is to top them with mushrooms, garlic, and either tomatoes or red peppers.  I use this for asparagus a lot too.  It’s fresh, colorful and very tasty, plus it is a good way of getting your vegetable intake for the day as well.  So for our simple meal of fried chicken, I also served up green beans, topped with the above and loaded potato skins.  Loaded Potato Skins  Not the healthiest of meals, but sometimes we look for comfort over healthy.  I served it with my favorite everyday chardonnay, and it was just good, down-home comfort food that really hit the spot.

Like a lot of people, I love to top my loaded potato skins with ranch dressing.  I think it just brings out all the flavors and really makes everything come alive.

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Jeanne’s Topped Green Beans

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This recipe is so simple and yet so tasty.  I cook green beans like this a lot.  This is just enough to serve the two of us, with a bit leftover for Larry’s lunch.

 

1/3 lb green beans, stems and ends removed

4-5 mushrooms, sliced thin

1/4 red onion, diced small

1 TBSP garlic

1/4 red pepper, diced small

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil

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Cook the green beans in boiling water for about 5-7 minutes, or until they are mostly tender, with just a bit of snap left to them.  Once they are cooked, remove the green beans from the boiling water and set aside.

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While the beans are cooking, saute all the other vegetables in olive oil until they are soft and tender, and the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Once everything is done, add the topping to the green beans (or asparagus) and enjoy.  You can also add cooked bacon as well.  I add bacon a lot, but because I used bacon for the potato skins, I did not want to add more bacon to the topping as well.

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Cashew Shrimp and Vegetables

Cashews are my favorite nuts, although they are actually the seeds found within the fruit or the cashew apple, from the cashew tree.  The cashew tree is a tropical evergreen tree that originated in Northeastern Brazil.  The Portuguese colonists started exporting cashews and cashew products in the 1500’s and they became very popular in Goa in the mid 1500’s.  From there, they grew and spread all over South East Asia and then moved on to North Africa.  Today, the largest cashew producing areas are Vietnam, India, Nigeria and The Ivory Coast.  The trees can grow up to about 14 m, but the ones that are the most productive trees are the “dwarf” trees, at about 6 m in height.  They have a higher yield and mature faster than than larger trees.  The name cashew was derived from the Portuguese word caju, which was taken from the Tupian word acaju, meaning a nut that produces itself.  Cooking with cashews, in all its forms, is very popular in both Indian and Pakistani recipes.  The whole cashew has a wide variety of uses, ranging from cooking to making lubricants from the shells, to using the shells for paints and waterproofing. The shells were also used in arms production during WWII.  The fruit part can be used for making chutneys and alcohols, or can be cooked and eaten as is.  We actually have some cashew wine from Belize.  It is a very tasty, sweet wine that is best as a dessert wine.  The seed, or nut part, is also very versatile and is used in many different ways, including making nut butters, nut cheeses and milks.  Cashew milk is a good alternative to dairy milk, especially for people who cannot tolerate dairy milk.  Though cashews contain a lot of fats, they are also very healthy.  One serving of cashews provides 36% of the daily requirements for protein, 13% of fiber, and 11% of carbs.  They are also rich in thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin K, iron, potassium, zinc and selenium.  So next time your are looking for something to munch on, go nutty and go for the cashews.

For dinner last night, I decided to go Asian and made cashew shrimp with loads of vegetables.  I incorporated my Living Tree Community Organic Cashew Butter into the sauce, then added some chopped cashews on top as a garnish. More Treats from Living Tree Community Foods  Dinner was delicious!

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Cashew Shrimp

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1 lb large prawns or shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 carrot, sliced thin

1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thin

1 cup green beans, cut into pieces about 1-1 1/2 ”

1 cup mushrooms, sliced thin

1/4 red onion, sliced very thin

1 TBSP garlic

1 TBSP ginger

1 can coconut milk

1/2-3/4 cup Living Tree Community Organic Cashew Butter

4-5 large basil leaves, chiffonade

1/3 cup green onions, sliced

salt & pepper to taste

red pepper flakes to taste

cilantro

1/4 cup chopped cashews

oil for cooking

milk, if needed to thin the sauce

cooked rice

 

Saute the vegetables, garlic and ginger in hot oil until they are tender, then set aside.

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In the same oil, cook the shrimp until they are pink on both sides, about 3-5 minutes.

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Once the shrimp is cooked, remove it from the skillet and set aside.  Add the vegetables back into the hot skillet, then add the coconut milk and combine thoroughly.

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Mix in the Living Tree Community Organic Cashew Butter, and again, mix thoroughly.  The sauce might be a little thick, so add regular milk as needed if you want a thinner sauce.

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Again, incorporate everything together well, adjust the seasoning if necessary, then at the last minute, add the fresh basil and green onions and mix well.  You can either add the shrimp back in at this point, or serve this over the rice and add the shrimp as you plate it.  As you can see, my shrimp are mixed in with the sauce.  Garnish with the chopped cilantro and chopped cashews.  I served it with a cool crisp chardonnay, but a riesling would be very nice as well, especially depending on how spicy the dish is.  A sweet riesling will help cut down on the spicy flavors from the sauce.

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*** You can easily make this dish vegetarian or vegan by substituting the shrimp for either vegan/vegetarian friendly proteins or by just eating it with the vegetables.  Either way, it comes out very good.

 

A Spirited Stay at the Stanley

We went up to Estes Park and stayed at the Stanley Hotel once again.  Last time we went, in early Oct., we were a little disappointed because we stayed in the new section of the hotel and not the old, traditional part, as well as not being visited by any spirited visitors that time either.  A Quick Trip to Estes Park  So for my birthday (coming up later this week), Larry booked us for another night’s stay at the Stanley.  This time, we were not disappointed in either way.  Not only did we stay in the old, traditional part of the hotel, but we also got booked into one of the haunted rooms.  We stayed up on the 4th floor, which was originally used as the nursery or children’s section of the hotel, so many of the spirited visitors on that floor are either nannies, or the children they cared for, or both.  We stayed in room #418, which is one of the reported haunted rooms.  The ghosts at the Stanley are all friendly ghosts, and really just want to be apart of the daily activities.  Despite what you might think, especially if you are a Stephen King fan, there have never been any violent crimes or deaths at the Stanley.  The Stanley spirits do not wish to harm or alarm anyone.  They just want to be apart of the fun.  My husband missed our spirited encounter since he was sound asleep, but I heard our friendly ghosts playing and singing in the hallway, right outside our door, around 11:00 PM or so, and as per usual, I could not sleep.  I heard the voice of a young girl singing “You Are My Sunshine”.  It sounded like it was right outside our door.  A couple of minutes later, I heard the sound of little kids playing and running down the hallway.  I looked out the door, and no one was there.  The voice was very clear and distinct, and most definitely came from a young girl.  A few minutes later, I heard the nanny and the kids again.  Someone else had apparently heard them too, because I saw some other people walking down the hall and heard them saying they had heard someone singing “You Are My Sunshine” as well.   There are not that many people staying at the hotel right now, and there were no small children staying there either, since this is their low tourist season, and the hotel was fairly empty.  Maybe the quiet time of the year is when the spirits like to come out and “play”, since they can play relatively unbothered by a lot of guests roaming around, which means they are free to roam and play at will.  Having a spirited encounter definitely made my day.  Now that I have had a ghostly encounter, and have stayed in the old traditional part of the Stanley, it is time to move on and try some other places.  This one can now go down into the books and can be crossed off the to-do list.

The Stanley Hotel in the day time.

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The Stanley all lit up at night.

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Our beautiful Snow capped Rocky Mountains from the Stanley’s grounds.

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This was the view from our room.  We are overlooking the new building, The Aspire, where we stayed last time, and Stanley Lake.

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Some of the rich, lush decor from they days of yesteryear at The Stanley.

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They no longer use keys like this anymore, but they make a great display of what used to be.

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No attention to detail is spared at the Stanley, even with the light fixtures.

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Before checking into the Stanley, we roamed around town for a bit.  As I mentioned earlier, it is the low tourist season.  A lot of the shops were closed, but the ones that were open were happy to see us.  Estes Park, like so many other small mountain towns, has a lot of artists who call Estes Park home.   There are craftsman of all kinds, and they are all more than happy to share their artistic passions and creations with anyone and everyone who is interested in learning about them.

We stopped into a glass shop and watched one of the artists making some beautiful blown glass pieces.  This to me is very fascinating, since I love working with glass.  I have never done any blown glass pieces, but I have done both stained glass and fused glass pieces.  I need to get back into working with glass again soon.

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We also stopped into a weaver’s school, where they were weaving some rugs.  They were more than happy to give me a brief weaving lesson too.  This is an original weaving loom, made in the 1800’s.

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This is a modern weaving loom.

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I am getting my first weaving lesson.  They were using strips from old jeans to weave into the rug.

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Estes Park is a small town, yet they have a lot of candy and taffy shops.  We counted at least 4 taffy shops along the street.  Neither of us are big taffy fans, but it is kind of interesting to watch it being made.

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We had a simple dinner of soup, salad and pizza at Poppy’s Pizza & Grill, a family owned restaurant right on the river.  The river is frozen at the moment, but I have been there before when it is flowing freely, and have seen beavers in action while dining at Poppy’s.  You can find Poppy’s Pizza & Grill by checking out the website estesdining.com.

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Our dining view of the river.

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Larry had a salad from the salad bar, and I had this delicious soup and a glass of pinot noir.  The soup was loaded with chicken and vegetables and just hit the spot.

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The sausage on this loaded pizza was handmade in-house and was great.  It had just the right amount of spice to make it just right.

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After returning back to the Stanley, we had some libations in the famous Cascades Bar, located in the lobby of the hotel.  The Cascades is a world renown whiskey bar, and they offer a multitude of fine whiskeys from all over the world.  Neither of us are whiskey drinkers, but the bar/restaurant are still sights to behold.

Just a small sampling of all the whiskeys offered at The Cascades Bar

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I hope you all enjoyed our quick little trip to beautiful Estes Park, nestled in the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.  Estes Park is located about 1-1 1/2 hours west of where we live, so it is an quick, easy escape from day-to-day reality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frosted Cashew Butter Cookies

It’s been awhile sine I’ve last made cookies.  Cookies are my downfall, and if they are around, I will eat them until they are all gone.  So I am trying my best not to make them nearly as often as I would like, so I am not “obligated” to eat them all.  However, with that being said, I knew I wanted to make some cookies with the cashew butter I received from Living Tree Community Foods the minute I received it.  More Treats from Living Tree Community Foods  At long last, the frosted cashew butter cookies are made, and they came out fabulous!  I served them on another one of my gifts from CheForward, that came in before the holidays.  Presents for the Chef.  I am feeling so honored that so many wonderful people are sending me these fantastic products to sample.  Thank you for allowing me all these unbelievable opportunities to sample so many extraordinary products.  To me, I am just having fun playing in the kitchen with my new toys.

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Frosted Cashew Butter Cookies

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1/2 cup butter at room temperature

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour, sifted

3/4 tsp baking soda

1 cup Living Tree Community organic cashew butter

1 1/4 cups cashews

 

Preheat the oven to 375* F.

 

Mix the butter and sugar together until creamy.  Then mix in the egg and vanilla and mix again.  Add the cashew butter and mix once more.

Combine all the dry ingredients, mix well, and add them into the butter and sugar mixture adding about 1/3 at a time, mixing in between each addition.  Once all the ingredients are combine fold in about 3/4 cup of chopped cashews.

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Spoon out about 3/4 TBSP of dough and form into a ball, place the dough balls onto an ungreased baking sheet, then press the dough balls to flatten them and bake for about 12-14 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden.  (I know my lens needs cleaning.  I often have stuff on my hands while I am trying to take the pictures, and as careful as I try to be, sometimes I still get stuff on the lens).

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Once the cookies are baked, remove them from the oven and let them cool completely before frosting them.

 

Golden Cashew Butter Frosting

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup Living Tree Community organic cashew butter

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2-3 TBSP milk

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Melt the butter and the cashew butter in a saucepan, stirring constantly until well combined and melted and the butter has a slight golden color.  Then combine it with the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla.  Combine well, making sure all the lumps are dissolved.  Once everything is combined well, start spreading the frosting on top of the cooled cookies.  Place a whole cashew on top in the center of the cookie before the frosting sets (you can use chopped cashews if your prefer).

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I had some leftover chocolate ganache from when I made the chocolate almond butter tart, Chocolate Almond Butter Tart so I decided to melt it and drizzle it over the cookies to spruce them up and to really make them stand out and pop.

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The finished cookies came out even better than I had hoped.  They are decadently delicious, and quite possibly, my new favorite cookie.

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Award ceremony – January 2019.

My friend Goldie cracks me up and always puts a smile on my face. She is so supportive of my blog ” A Jeanne in the Kitchen” too. We all need more Goldies in our lives.

One day at a time...

Here we are again.

Sooner than we thought we would.

It is the end of January.

We have discussed in prior posts and comments how time flies, but I’m just marveling how having a calendar does nothing to help. You would think that having one and being able to look at one to see how much time we have would prepare us. But it does not. At least not me.

So live, because who knows when your calendar will run out. And you will not see it coming, since you never look at it anyway.

Thank you to all who are reading this for entering a new year with me. For staying on this crazy blogging bus.

And a special THANK YOU to those who nominated me. You will see that some of the tags are a bit outdated, but it is because I was busy around the Christmas season…

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Spicy Scallops a la Crema

I guess it has been awhile since we last dined on scallops.  I was thinking it had not been all that long ago, but apparently, I was wrong.  I love, love, love scallops.  They are among my favorite seafoods.  I could eat them everyday and never get tired of them.  They are also very healthy for you. Spicy Southwestern Scallops  Not only do I love scallops, but I also love anything in a cream sauce, loaded with vegetables.  I know, it is super fattening, and not the healthiest sauce option, but we all have to have some vices, right?!  Fortunately, I do not eat foods in a rich cream sauce everyday.  I would weigh about 600 pounds if I did.  Every now and then, though, it is just fine.   The other day, I made a spicy scallop dish in a rich creamy sauce that was decadently delicious; spicy scallops a la crema.

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Spicy Scallops a la Crema

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1 1/2 lbs sea scallops, rinsed and patted dry

5-6 slices bacon, chopped and cooked

3/4 cup mushrooms, sliced

2 tomatoes, diced

1 TBSP garlic

1/4 red onion, sliced very thin

3 cups baby spinach, stems removed, chopped

1/4 cup sweet Spanish peppers

salt & pepper to taste

red pepper flakes to taste

1-1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

olive oil and/or butter for cooking

2-3 TBPS butter

cooked pasta

 

Cook the bacon to your desired level of crispiness.  Usually when adding bacon to a dish, I like it a little crispier than if I am just eating bacon by itself.  Set aside and reserve the grease.

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Cook the scallops in the bacon grease and add either more butter or olive oil, as needed.  Cook the scallops for about 2-3 minutes per side.  If cooking a lot of scallops, cook in batches.

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Once the scallops are cooked, remove them and set aside.  Again, using the same pan, and adding either more butter or oil as needed, saute the vegetables and add the seasoning,

 

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Add the cream and mix well.

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Once the cream is mixed in, you may need to adjust the seasonings if needed.  Then add the bacon, scallops and Spanish peppers.  Add the remaining butter to the sauce to finish it and make it really rich and creamy.  Combine well and serve over your favorite pasta.  You can use any kind of pasta you like, but this is a heavier sauce, so a heartier pasta will be best.  For this dish, I used farfelle or bowtie pasta.

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Dinner was served with cheese bread (I left it to my husband to cook while I was at work, and it got slight over done.  It still tasted good though.) and a crisp chardonnay with hints of apples and melon.  Decadently delicious!

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Life Happens

I apologize for my “lack of blog’ content today.  I had a super busy day, and it’s still going.  All I can say is  …. Life happens.  We all just have to roll with the punches, and live it.  Live it now, while it is happening, not in the past when it is too late or in the future when no ones knows what will happen next.  Fear not though, there are still many, many fabulous dishes yet to be cooked and enjoyed.  I’ll catch you all on the flip side.

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