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Filtering by Category: Recipes

SUMMER SALAD: PANZANELLA

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Summertime means salads to me. We host lots of cookouts, and we are fortunate enough to be invited to many near our summer home, and I can’t stand showing up empty-handed. While at home, I like to make things ahead of our guests arriving so I can enjoy their company. In addition, I love using seasonal ingredients that are ripe and juicy—tomatoes might be my favorite of summer. Sun Gold tomatoes are ridiculously sweet if you can find them at a local farm stand. Or better yet, pick them yourself.

Salads are terrific in warmer months so you don’t feel so weighed down. Panzanella is perfect because it’s light for the most part, but the bread fills you up just enough. I created this version of panzanella by drawing inspiration from two of my favorite chefs, Ina Garten and newer on the scene, Jessica Merchant of “How Sweet Eats.” It’s fun to incorporate pieces of recipes from those I admire and create something that I believe is even more special and delicious. This is a perfect salad when entertaining because it’s fine at room temperature and isn’t too affected if it gets a little warm while sitting out.

SERVES 6-8

                             6 cups                  rustic bread, such as country round, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 cups                  ripe cherry or grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1                  hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, halved, seeded and cut ½ inch thicK
1                  yellow or orange bell pepper, seeded, 1-inch diced
 ½                 medium red onion, thinly sliced
20                  large basil leaves, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons                  capers, rinsed and drained           

                      1 teaspoon                  minced garlic
1 teaspoon                  minced shallot                 
2 tablespoons                  white wine vinegar
1/3 cup + 2 tblsp                  good olive oil 
½ teaspoon                  kosher salt
to taste                  kosher salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and toss them with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, tossing once in the middle, until toasted.

 
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While the bread is in the oven, place the tomatoes in a colander over a large bowl, season with salt, and toss with your hands to mix. Allow juices from the tomatoes to collect in the bowl for 15-20 minutes, tossing occasionally to release juices. (The tomatoes in the colander step is not essential if you’re trying to remove steps.) Cut/prepare all other vegetables and herbs.

 
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 To make the vinaigrette, whisk together tomato juices, garlic, shallots, vinegar, 1/3 cup olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt.

 In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, basil, and capers.

 
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Add bread cubes and vinaigrette and toss to coat. Ideally, allow the salad to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. 

 
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BLACKBERRY GALETTE

Jennifer Mejia

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Last summer, when I had far fewer followers than I do now, I posted this recipe. So now that we’re in the thick of berry season, I thought it was worth sharing again because it’s so good and so simple. I love picking berries, especially with my kids. Perhaps it’s because I used to pick berries with my grandfather in his berry patch. And we’d often go across the street from my grandparents’ house and forage for wild strawberries. The satisfaction from hunting for and gathering ingredients and then bringing food to the table in the most delicious way is unparalleled. I love teaching that to my boys. They have been asking to go berry picking this summer, so I think I’ll put that on the agenda for this weekend. And whatever berries we pick will be used to make a galette. Or popsicles. Add berry picking to your list of summer activities. And if you have kids, you’ll enjoy seeing the pride on their faces after a plentiful harvest.

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This galette is one of the simplest berry desserts you can make, and its shape is beautiful, even when imperfect! Like the picking, something about its handcrafted look makes it one of my favorites. You can actually use any berry, or better yet, a mixture of berries. This yields enough dough for two galettes, but you could also use the other half for a quiche, or freeze it, if you're only preparing one dessert.

SERVES 4-6

4 cups                              fresh blackberries or a mixture of berries
1/3 cup                             granulated sugar
1 heaping tablespoon      cornstarch
1 teaspoon                        lemon zest
2 tablespoons                  freshly squeezed lemon juice

2- 2/3 cups                       all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon                        granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon                    kosher salt
1-1/8 cups                          (2 sticks + 2 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup                              ice water
to taste                             fresh mint for garnish

In a glass bowl, lightly toss the berries with 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, and lemon juice to coat. Set aside.

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Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flour, 1 teaspoon sugar, and salt and pulse briefly. Scatter the butter on top of the flour mixture and pulse until it forms coarse crumbs about the size of peas. Drizzle the water over the mixture and pulse until it comes together. (You may need to stop and adjust the dough periodically.)

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With floured hands, remove the dough from the food processor, place on a well-floured surface, and form it into a symmetrical log. Cut the dough in half and use only one portion. 

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Form the portion you are using into a ball. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough to form a 13-inch diameter circle.

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Wrap the dough around the rolling pin and unroll onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 

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Spoon the berry filling onto the dough, leaving a 2-inch border around the entire edge. Fold the edge up and over the filling, forming loose pleats.

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Bake for about 25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Carefully transfer (I use a wooden pizza spatula) the galette to a wooden cutting board or other surface to cool further. Cut into wedges. I like to sprinkle it with confectioners sugar and/or top with vanilla ice cream for serving. Add fresh mint for garnish if desired (I love fresh mint with berries!) 

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GRILL TIME: BEER CAN CHICKEN

Jennifer Mejia

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I really can’t take all of the credit for this recipe. My brother-in-law is the grill master, and he’s been making beer can chicken for years. The base for this recipe is his, but because I can’t remember exactly what he does, I think I’ve changed it a bit. If you’ve been following my blog from the start, you may recognize the rub. You can also make a version of this in the oven, and I do. It’s called Roast Chicken for Harry and is a favorite of a few friends of mine. Now that summertime is here, it’s grill time, so we can take Roast Chicken for Harry up a notch and impress your guests with your grilling skills.

The good news is that it’s still a ridiculously simple main course to prepare. The ingredients pictured above are all you’ll need besides a chicken and a can of beer. You will need one special piece of equipment that may not be found in every household.. A vertical roasting pan or ceramic chicken steamer is required because something needs to hold the beer can, and then the chicken sits vertically on top of it. I have this one from Williams-Sonoma, and it works like a charm. It provides the flexibility to roast one or two chickens at a time, and it’s lightweight, which is great because two chickens and two beer cans are heavy. My brother-in-law has a Big Green Egg Grill and uses this ceramic steamer to hold the beer can and chicken. The toughest part of preparing this bird is trying to keep your grill at 425 degrees consistently, but I managed to work it out fairly quickly on our Weber gas grill.

Since the rub is good for 2 months if stored in the refrigerator, you can prepare it in advance. The quantity in this recipe is enough for two or three chickens, so you can enjoy this again with very little effort if you decide to make only one. My brother-in-law likes to use a dark Mexican beer, but they can be difficult to find in a can, so I use regular Modelo. My sister thinks Budweiser is fine. ;-)

 
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                      1                        3.5- to 4-pound roasting chicken*
               ¼ cup                        smoked paprika                                
              ¼  cup                        brown sugar, moderately packed
               ¼ cup                        kosher salt
    1 tablespoon                       fresh rosemary, minced
    1 tablespoon                        fresh thyme, minced
      ¼ teaspoon                       freshly ground black or white pepper

   12-ounce can                       beer, preferably dark
                        

Preheat the grill to 425 degrees. To make the rub, add the paprika, brown sugar, salt, minced rosemary, minced thyme, and pepper into a bowl and combine well using your hands.

Remove any giblets inside of the chicken. Pat the outside of the chicken dry with paper towels. Using your hands, pat the rub onto the skin of the entire chicken, including legs and wings. (Remember, this rub is enough for a few chickens, so you won't need to use all of it.) Pour out about 1/3 of the beer in the can (you can pour it into a glass and drink it versus wasting it). Add 2-3 tablespoons of the rub to the remaining beer in the can. Place the beer can into the canister holder of the roaster or steamer. Carefully hold open the cavity of the chicken and place it over/on top of the beer can. Tuck the wings behind the body of the chicken, sort of like the chicken is kicking back and relaxing. Place the chicken on the grill and roast. *For roasting time, I use Julia Child’s formula of 45 minutes plus 7 minutes for each pound. So a larger or smaller chicken may be used, and roasting time should be calculated using this formula. Half way through, rotate the chicken 180 degrees. The skin will look charred, but it is so crispy and tasty that way.

Once the chicken is finished roasting, tent it with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes prior to carving. Then lift the chicken off of the beer can/roaster. Pour the beer mixture into a bowl or creamer for serving. Carve the chicken as you typically do. I like to keep the crispy skin aside as a treat. Spoon beer mixture over meat as desired.

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MIXED BERRY SMOOTHIE BOWL

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Having lots of antioxidants in my diet is important because I believe in their benefits, mainly the protection of our cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are thought to cause inflammation, and inflammation is thought to be a root cause of many diseases such as cancer. Açai berries have become extremely popular because they’re high in antioxidants and they taste great! I became addicted to açaí bowls from Juice Generation. That addiction was short-lived once I reviewed my Amex bill after a month of daily consumption, so I started purchasing frozen açaí and making them at home…

Until one day I was out and still had that craving. Fortunately, I had bags of frozen mixed berries—blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Unlike açai, they’re available almost anywhere AND they’re also high in antioxidants, especially blueberries. So I decided to start making mixed berry smoothie bowls for breakfast, even when I have a supply of frozen açaí. Mixed berry smoothie bowls are simple, quick, and extremely tasty—so delicious that you’ll forget you’re eating something healthy.

You can use regular milk, but I’ve been trying to minimize my dairy intake. I recently discovered NuMilk “Make Your Own” Fresh Almond Milk available at Whole Foods. It has a clean almond taste, is dairy-free, and is free of the ingredients I can’t pronounce that are required to keep shelf-stable almond milk shelf-stable. Nature’s Path makes a wonderful hemp granola that my younger son and I love as a topping. And the best part of a smoothie bowl is that you can top it with anything you desire. Just try to keep it healthy. My younger son asks me to make smoothie bowls for him at all times of day. Have one for breakfast, or take a clue from him and consume it as a healthy snack or lunch.

1 SERVING

                      1 ½ cups                  frozen mixed berries
½                  banana, preferably ripe
  1 heaping tbsp                  almond or cashew butter
  1 tbsp                  honey or agave nectar
2 tbsp                  almond or coconut milk

   ¼ cup                  hemp plus granola
  1-2 tbsp                  unsweetened fresh coconut
 as desired                  sliced fresh banana
as desired                  fresh blueberries
as desired                  sliced fresh strawberries

Use organic ingredients where possible. Combine frozen berries, ½ banana, nut butter, sweetener, and milk in a high-speed blender and blend/purée until smooth but NOT liquid. This may require stopping and stirring a few times and/or shaking the blender to break up chunks of frozen fruit. Scoop into a bowl and top with granola, coconut, fresh fruit, and any other healthy topping desired.

"IRONWOMAN" SMOKY BBQ VEGGIE BURGERS

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Lately I have been trying to focus on being healthier from within. I’ve started working out again—a serious workout at Orange Theory Fitness—and I’m trying to go two or three times per week. For any of you who have tried OTF, you’ll know they monitor your heart rate. And my heart rate monitor has proven that I am really out of shape. That must change, especially since I am now halfway through the decade toward 50. And my boys are only 4 and 7 years old. This mama needs to stay healthy and fit for many more years so I can chase them, literally and figuratively.

But along with exercise comes eating better. Many years ago, one of my sister’s best friends beat Stage2/3 breast cancer. Yes, she had surgery and underwent chemotherapy and radiation. In addition, she made a strong, conscious effort to think positively—she would imagine her tumor shrinking every night as she held her son who was less than one year old at the time. But she also dramatically changed her diet after a lot of research about what many believe causes tumor growth. She concluded there were two huge culprits—refined sugar and animal protein—so she eliminated both from her diet and has never looked back. I am happy to say that over a decade and a half later, my sister’s dear friend is as healthy as can be. While it wasn’t until the past year or so that I’ve begun to make huge changes, my concerns about refined sugar and animal protein have been in the back of my mind all of these years.

Animal protein provides a lot of nutrients. Red meat, specifically, is a great source of iron. But I’m not a huge fan of red meat on a regular basis for a variety of reasons. Recently, my youngest son was found to be iron deficient. So we went to see a nutritionist to help optimize his diet in an attempt to increase his iron levels without supplements…because iron supplements for kids taste awful and are extremely difficult to mask. Luckily, there are many great sources of iron besides red meat, although plant-based sources of iron are not absorbed as well and as easily as meat sources. To assist with the absorption of iron, you can do a few things. First, Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron, so eating strawberries, raspberries, citrus, and red peppers in the same meal with iron-rich foods will help. On the other hand, calcium inhibits the absorption of iron, so steer clear of foods like cheese and milks that are rich in calcium (even many non-dairy milks are now fortified with calcium) when consuming iron-rich foods. It’s best to consume your calcium and iron at least two hours apart.

Luckily for you (and me), these veggie burgers are loaded with iron, as quinoa, chickpeas, and pepitas, aka pumpkin seeds, are all rich in iron. The original recipe is from The Minimalist Baker Everyday Cooking cookbook, and I’ve adapted it to add pumpkin seeds, use a store-bought BBQ sauce, and optimize the ingredients to take the guesswork out. In my opinion, the most important factor in making this recipe delicious is to use a really smoky BBQ sauce. The pumpkin seeds add a little more crunch and a little extra saltiness, but if you don’t like the added crunch, you could always grind the pumpkin seeds in a food processor or Nutribullet before including. My four-year-old LOVES these burgers and would eat them every day of the week if I served them. They’re that good! And they’re super simple. Did I mention they’re healthy and a great source of plant-based protein and iron? You’re welcome!

SERVES 4

          1        15-oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed & drained
¾ cup        cooked quinoa
½ cup       plain bread crumbs
1 tsp       garlic powder
  1 ¼  tsp       ground cumin
1 ¼ tsp        smoked paprika
1 tsp        chili powder, plus extra to sprinkle           
  1 ½ tsp        kosher salt, plus extra to sprinkle
 1 heaping tbsp         coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
¼ cup         smoky BBQ sauce*, plus more for serving
¼ cup        roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

  about 3-4 tbsp        grapeseed oil (for frying)
  4        good buns, such as brioche or potato rolls
as desired        fresh cilantro  
 as desired        red onion, sliced

Cook the quinoa according to package directions. But it’s usually a 2-to-1 ratio of water to quinoa. I measure about 1/3 cup uncooked quinoa, which yields a little extra than required when cooked.

 
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Add garbanzo beans to a medium bowl, and using a pastry knife (or fork), mash, leaving a few whole. Add the entire first group of ingredients. Stir and mash together with a wooden spoon and then your hands to combine. Form a huge ball with the dough, divide evenly into 4 pieces, and shape into burger patties. Don’t make them too thick, as you want them to fill the bun. Place on a plate and sprinkle with salt and a little chili powder, if desired. 

 
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Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add enough grapeseed oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan. Place burgers seasoned side down and cook for 3 minutes. Sprinkle the top side with more salt. Flip and cook another 3 minutes. Place on a paper towel to cool. Place on a bun with cilantro, red onion, more BBQ sauce, and anything else you may want to add. 

 
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These can be made ahead of time up to the cooking step and stored for 2-3 days in the refrigerator. Before cooking, allow to sit out at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.

*I use Trader Joe’s Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce (you can pronounce all of the ingredients). 

CASHEW? I DON'T EVEN KNOW YOU!

Jennifer Mejia

 
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I just couldn’t resist that title. I may live to regret it since someone reading it without a photo or any context won’t have the first clue what this post is about. When I was a kid, my mom used to say, “Tissue? I don’t even know you!” when we asked for a tissue. That mom of mine is a funny gal! No wonder I love her so much. (Did I mention she would also pump the gas pedal to the beat of the music while driving down our back road if a song came on that she liked?)

Let me get to the point because this post shouldn’t take up too much of your time. When I was a kid, I got a recipe for peanut butter, honey, raisin, and oat snack bites from my Sunday School class. Don’t ask me how or why it was part of the lesson or materials, but they were a favorite snack of mine. I used to make them myself at 8 years old. I attempted to look for that recipe about 10 years ago at my mom’s house without any luck. Fast forward, a nutritionist I worked with gave me a recipe that I thought was very similar. But with all of the peanut allergies (including Kai’s), I decided to try these with cashew butter and make a few little tweaks. I need a healthier way to satisfy my cravings as I try harder to cut refined sugar. These little bites are packed with protein, fiber, and Omega-3 fatty acids. They are a perfect healthier treat when your sweet tooth is calling!

Before I get to the recipe, allow me to provide a few health benefits for consuming these treats, other than just satisfying your sweet tooth. First, there’s protein. I’m often tired…exhausted, truth be told. I need energy, and I usually do the wrong thing and pick up something loaded with sugar and other carbohydrates. Naughty girl! Since protein takes longer than carbohydrates to break down in the body, this treat will provide a longer-lasting energy source. Next we have fiber, which is great for controlling blood sugar, helping with digestion and regularity, and helping to lower cholesterol. That’s just to name a few. And the benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids (plant-based in this recipe) are almost too many to list. But a few that are important to me are helping to reduce the risk factors for heart disease, fighting depression and anxiety, improving eye health (as I can’t see a thing any longer without my readers), and fighting inflammation, which is believed to be a root cause of so many diseases. For those of you who are pregnant or have kids, Omega-3s can promote brain health for your unborn child during pregnancy and for infants once born, and it can also reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children.

And best of all, this baby couldn’t be simpler to make. If you want, you can increase the amount of ground flax seed and chia seeds, but I always like to provide a lower amount, and then you can increase as desired. For flax seed, I like to purchased whole flax seed and then grind it in my Nutribullet. I just think it’s fresher and perhaps a little more beneficial that way, but that’s probably just my crazy brain and not based on anything I’ve read. If you use a food processor, it’s much easier, but just be aware that your bites won’t look exactly like the photo above. If you don’t have a food processor, you’ll be just fine, as those pictured above were mixed by hand and I survived the stirring. I promise you’re going to love these, and in my opinion, they taste so much better than using good ole peanut butter.

MAKES 20-24 BITES

1 cup       cashew butter
¼ cup                honey (organic preferred)
1 cup                  organic quick oat
2 tbsp                ground flax seed
1 tbsp                 chia seeds
¾ cup                raisins
¼ cup                 unsweetened coconut flakes
¼ tsp                  kosher salt
 

Combine everything in a food processor and pulse until combined OR combine everything in a bowl and use a spatula to combine. Roll into balls about 1 to 1 ½ inches in diameter and refrigerate for one hour before eating. Store in refrigerator or freezer in an air-tight container. 

 
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MAKE IT AHEAD: COQ AU VIN

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Nothing says come in from the cold more than this one pot meal. It’s comfort food. It’s delicious. But I feel like the name itself…maybe the fact that it’s French…sounds intimidating to many. Over the years, I’ve tried lots of recipes for this fabulous dish, including one from Ina (of course). The good news is that’s helped me create my own version. One that’s really easy. It’s prepared completely on the stovetop in about 30-40 minutes of active prep and cooking time. (The braising takes longer but you can relax during that time.) And the best news of all? It’s actually better if served the next day. So it’s a great dish to make ahead if you’re expecting guests and would rather spend time with them than in the kitchen once they arrive.

I like to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Free range/organic. I think chicken thighs are best for braising—they get nice and tender and you can actually cut them with a fork once braising is complete. But you can also use a whole chicken cut into pieces or any one cut if you have a favorite. Remove as much of the fat as you can before browning so it’s not a super fatty/greasy dish.

A few tips. When you make coq au vin, which translates to “chicken with wine,” contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to use expensive wine. (But you can drink it once it’s served!) A $10-12 bottle of dry red wine will do the trick. As for prep, I typically like to prep all of my ingredients ahead of time. Things like cutting vegetables and herbs. But in this case, since the first step is to brown the chicken and that takes time, you can cut all of your vegetables and measure your liquids while that’s happening to be more efficient.

If you choose to make this ahead, you won’t be disappointed, as it actually tastes even better the second day. (But don’t worry if you want to eat it right away…it’s still delicious!) And the best news is that when you remove it from the refrigerator the next day, you’ll see that a thick solid layer has formed on the top. That’s fat. Pick it off with a spoon or fork and discard it before reheating. You’ve just made your dish a bit healthier.

SERVES 6-8

About 2 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (preferably organic)
                            to taste               kosher salt
to taste               black pepper (preferably freshly ground)
2 tablespoons                 unsalted butter
2 teaspoons                freshly minced garlic
1 large               Vidalia onion, cut into 8 wedges
1/2 pound (about 4) carrots, sliced 1/2 inch thick, diagonally
about 10               cippolini onions
4 slices                thickly sliced bacon, diced
1 ½ cups                dry red wine
1 cup                chicken broth
2-3 tablespoons                  good brandy or Cognac
1 tablespoon                 tomato paste
10 sprigs                  fresh thyme (preferably tied with kitchen string)
½ pound                  crimini mushrooms, stems removed and quartered if large
1 tablespoon                   all-purpose flour or corn starch
2 tablespoons                   water

Remove excess fat from chicken. Pat dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt one tablespoon of butter. Brown the chicken in batches in a single layer, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken and set aside. 

 Add bacon, carrots, onions, and garlic, and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in red wine, broth, brandy, tomato paste, and thyme and stir to mix. Add chicken back in, including any juices on the plate. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

 After 20 minutes, heat remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms to the chicken pot and simmer uncovered for an additional 10 minutes. Remove chicken from the pan. In a separate bowl, blend flour or corn starch and water. Add to pan, increase heat to high, and stir constantly for 2 minutes to thicken sauce. Add chicken back to pan. Serve. 

 If making ahead, allow to cool, place in refrigerator overnight. The following day, remove the thick layer of solid fat. Then reheat covered over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. 

 
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MEXICAN CHICKEN SOUP

Jennifer Mejia

 
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A few weeks ago, a chef I follow on Instagram posed a question to her followers about minimizing food waste. I commented that I often like to prepare a meat dish that serves more than we can eat in one night, and then I use the leftovers to create something new the following day. I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually like to eat the same thing two days in a row. I need variety to keep things exciting. Doing it this way saves time so you’re not starting from step 1 every night.

If you’ve roasted a chicken and you’re wondering what to do with all of the leftovers, look no further for a solution. While this delicious and easy recipe is not my creation (I got the original from a friend who got it from a book), I have shamelessly stolen it and made it my own over the years.  It’s a really tasty and ridiculously simple soup that is perfect for a cold winter day. But the best part is that you won’t spend all day preparing it. Instead, you can relax by a warm fire and cozy up with a good book or watch an old movie. You can obviously prepare chicken for the soup if you don’t have leftovers, but I like to make my Roast Chicken with Lemon-Butter Sauce and then save the leftovers for this soup the next day. Enjoy life! Don’t spend it all cooking.

SERVES 4

About 1 pound       cooked chicken off the bone, roughly chopped
1 cup                  Vidalia (sweet) onion, medium diced
¾ teaspoon                  fresh minced garlic
  ¼ teaspoon                  ground cumin
  ¼ teaspoon                  chili powder
14.5 oz can                  diced tomatoes with herbs, undrained
4 oz can                  diced green chiles, undrained
32 oz                  low sodium chicken broth
1 ½ teaspoon                  kosher salt
1                  ripe avocado, sliced
1 bunch                  fresh cilantro, leaves only
1                  fresh lime, cut into wedges
1 cup                  grated Mexican cheese blend
  ½ cup                 sour cream
  4                 corn tortillas
  3 tablespoons                 extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using a pastry brush, spread olive oil on one side of corn tortillas. Sprinkle with salt. Cut strips about ½ inch wide, place on cookie sheet, and bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on desired crispiness.  

In a large dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat, drizzle 1½ tablespoons olive oil. Add onions, garlic, cumin, and chili powder and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in chicken broth, diced tomatoes,  green chiles, and chicken. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with 1½ teaspoons salt or as desired. Place in serving bowls. Squeeze a fresh lime wedge over soup. Add toppings as desired—cilantro, avocado, cheese, tortillas, and sour cream.

 
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FUDGEY GOOEY CRINKLE COOKIES

Jennifer Mejia

 
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If I have one weakness in life, it’s chocolate. These ooey-gooey cookies are like crack (just an expression…I’ve never actually tried crack). And they’re beautiful to boot…almost like they’re topped with a freshly fallen snow. But that still doesn’t make me feel guilty about devouring them. The inspiration for this recipe actually came from a pastry chef in the Washington, DC area. My sister makes these cookies at Christmastime (she’s about the best cookie and pie baker I know), so I wanted to try them with a minor twist. They are like brownies but in a cookie form. The key is not to overbake them so they maintain their gooey-ness!

Most crinkle cookie recipes I’ve seen use cocoa and granulated sugar. I think the use of chocolate chips and brown sugar instead makes them perfectly moist and fudgey. Make sure you allow time for the dough to be refrigerated. I make the dough, which is super easy to prepare, the night before. Be careful, it’s tempting to forego the cookies and just eat the entire bowl of dough. Your friends and family will love them. And with a little help from my Christmas tree, a few holly berries, and jute twine, you can make beautifully festive gifting bags.

MAKES 72 COOKIES (Recipe can be halved.)

 2 cups                 semi-sweet chocolate morsels*
  1 cup                  dark chocolate morsels*
1 cup                  canola oil
  6                  large eggs, room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons                  pure vanilla extract
  3 cups                  all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon                  baking powder
  1 tablespoon                  kosher salt
½ cup                 confectioner’s sugar for rolling

Place two inches of water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Combine the morsels, brown sugar, and oil in a heatproof glass bowl wide enough to sit over the opening of the saucepan. (You can also use a double boiler, but I don’t think many people have them. I have an All-Clad that I love if you’re in the market.)

 

I use Nestlé Toll House Semi-Sweet and Dark Chocolate Morsels.

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Melt the mixture, stirring occasionally.

 
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Once melted and consistently smooth, remove the bowl from heat. Using a wire whisk, mix in the eggs and vanilla until completely combined.

 
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In a separate bowl, use a wire whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Then gradually add this dry mixture to the chocolate mixture, stirring by hand to combine.

 
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Cover and refrigerate overnight. 

The following day, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a wide, shallow bowl, place confectioner’s sugar (sifted if necessary…you don’t want lumps). Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to sit for about 15-20 minutes (the cookies bake better this way). Scoop the dough and form balls about 1 ¼ inches in diameter. Roll the balls in confectioner’s sugar to coat completely. Don’t shake off the excess. Place balls about 2 inches apart on the parchment paper.

 
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Bake 12 minutes. The cookies will be soft and appear slightly cracked/crinkled. Do NOT overbake or they’ll be crispy and lose their gooey-ness. Remove from oven and allow to rest on the pan for 1 minute. Move to a wire rack to cool completely.

 
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To make for a wonderfully festive gift presentation, stack several cookies in a food-safe clear plastic goodie bag. I use these from Party City. Then use jute string and festive plants like holly berries and/or pine branches (I clipped them from my own tree!) to tie the bags.

 
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COCO-CHOCO BARK

Jennifer Mejia

 
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I’ve always said, you can’t trust a person who doesn’t like chocolate. I’m only half serious. Maybe you just can’t trust them when it comes to dessert. (Insert wink emoji.)  But would those who say “no” to chocolate change their mind if that chocolate dessert was somewhat healthier for them? This version of chocolate bark was inspired by a recipe from a nutritionist who helped me make small changes to eat healthier and satisfy my sweet tooth at the same time.

This recipe is SO simple. It’s made with raw cacao and coconut oil. Raw cacao is high in antioxidants, which absorb free radicals that cause tissue damage and disease like cancer. The benefits of coconut oil come mainly from healthy fats called medium chain fatty acids (MFCAs). MFCAs are easier to digest, have anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties, and are processed by the liver so they are immediately converted to energy instead of being stored as fat. And there are many other believed health benefits of coconut oil like a reduction of inflammation and arthritis and prevention of heart disease and high blood pressure. You can google coconut oil benefits and find a world of information.

This treat is sweetened with 100% pure maple syrup, which is slightly better than sugar, in my opinion, since it has small amounts of minerals like iron, calcium, and potassium. You can make this coco-choco bark your own by adding whatever ingredients tickle your fancy. Or you can use my favorites listed below.

2/3 cup                   unfiltered coconut oil (liquid measure)
2/3 cup                   sifted raw cacao powder
1/3 cup                   100% pure maple syrup
big pinch                   sea or kosher salt
amount desired                   dried cranberries, blueberries (preferably juice-sweetened)
amount desired                   nuts or seeds such as almonds, walnuts, pepitas
amount desired                   unsweetened coconut flakes         

 

Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper. Scatter desired toppings evenly across paper (this will also help hold the paper in place). 

Sift raw cacao powder into a bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the coconut oil over low heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and immediately add maple syrup. (You don’t want to heat maple syrup because it loses some of its sweetness when heated.) Stir vigorously with a wire whisk until well combined, about 1 minute. (If it’s not blended well, you’ll have parts of your bark that are not sweet.) Add the sifted cacao and salt and whisk briskly another minute to combine. Immediately pour sauce over toppings, encouraging the liquid to spread evenly and evening out toppings. Sprinkle the top with a little extra salt. Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Break apart and store in refrigerator. 

Note: You can simply change the ratios of the first three ingredients to make a larger batch for a larger sheet pan if you have space in your freezer.

 
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Ingredients: Cacao Powder from Amazon, others from TJ’s

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sprinkle evenly across the pan

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sifted raw cacao powder

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coconut oil

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NOT properly mixed — keep whisking if yours looks like this

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raw cacao powder added

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spread the chocolate mixture and ingredients evenly

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