Friday, June 13, 2014

Master Quench Chicken and Pasta

A few years back, I was enjoying an evening of music and friendship at the Lion's Den in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.   They always have a wonderful choice of local brews and high end wines.  That's what I usually drink.  I was drawn to a specialty drink on the menu called a Master Quench.  One of the ingredients is maple syrup, the real stuff of course.  I had to try it!  Maple syrup is one of my addictions.  It was made with vanilla vodka, ginger beer (not ginger ale), maple syrup, and a dash of cayenne pepper.  Yes, it sounds strange!  But MY OH MY!  It is so good.  The sweet of the maple syrup takes some of the bite out of the cayenne pepper and the blend of those flavors is awesome!
My favorite REAL maple syrup

Fast forward to today.  I decided to make a marinade/sauce for my chicken and pasta based on those flavors.  I melted 2 ounces of butter and added 1/3 cup of Sriracha hot sauce, 2 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger, 3 tablespoons maple syrup and a cap full of real vanilla extract.  I let it warm slowly until I could smell all of the flavors had melded.

I cut up 1 1/2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs into bite sized chunks and put in the bottom of my rice cooker.  I poured the melted butter mixture over the chicken.  I add 1 pound of elbow pasta and 4 cups of chicken broth. I mixed with tongs and put into the rice cooker base.  I cooked on the white rice setting until done.  I checked it after 12 minutes and stirred to be sure there was enough liquid for the pasta.   

It was AWESOME!!  My husband had 4 helpings.  It was so colorless though.  Next time, I will add diced sweet green and red peppers.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Melting Pot

The United States has to be the best place to eat!  Where else can you have an Italian panini filled with
sauteed vegetables spiced with Indian seasonings and melted together with sharp Vermont cheddar cheese?  And the bread used was San Francisco sourdough.

That's exactly what I had for lunch on Sunday.  I tutor long hours on the weekend and the mother of one of my students must have felt badly that I was missing lunch on Sunday.  So, she made me a sandwich.  It was awesome.  It got me to thinking about the melting pot that is this country, not only in the people, but the food.

For example, how about having an egg roll filled with BBQ pork and cole slaw?  Or a pizza with feta cheese and spinach?   I think my favorite melting pot food is Italian polenta served as a base for American BBQ pulled pork. 

The possibilities seem endless!!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

South of the Border Breakfast

This morning I took a trip to Mexico.  Well, not really!  I never left my kitchen in New Jersey.  I sauteed two poblano peppers with an onion and two minced cloves of garlic in 1 teaspoon of olive oil.    I added a few turns of freshly cracked pepper and a pinch of seasoned salt.  When the peppers and onions were completely wilted, I folded it all into a warm flour tortilla.  To round out my breakfast, I had a fresh mango that I peeled and sliced into chunks.  HEALTHY AND SO DECADENT!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Diane's Casablanca Meatball Stew


The "scribble" above is not scribble.  It is Arabic for Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco. 

I love to try ethnic foods and I love to experiment with spices.  My palate has grown each year as I experiment with flavors.  I love the flavors that originate with the ancient spice trades.  The cinnamon, ginger, coriander and cumin flavors that traveled the world with explorers in order to warm European bellies are among my favorites.

Today, I made up my own spice mixture for a fake out Moroccan meatball stew.  


1 cup pearl barley

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons freshly ground ginger
1 cup chopped mushrooms (any kind words, I used reconstituted porcini mushrooms)

1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon

3/4 to 1 pound meatballs (preferably lamb)
1 pound baby carrots
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes with chilis
1 bouillon cube or  1 packet onion soup mix
 3 cups water or beef broth

Pour barley into a rice cooker.

In a skillet, heat olive oil using medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic and ginger.  Stir as the onion becomes translucent and the garlic and ginger give off their fragrance.  Do not brown and don't use higher than medium heat.  Poor into rice cooker. Stir to coat the barley with the oils and mix with the aromatics.

In the same skillet, turn heat to medium high and add mushrooms.  (If using dried porcini mushrooms, skip this step.)  Saute mushrooms until they begin to color and have given off much of their moisture.  Add them to the rice cooker.  Add cinnamon to the cooker and stir to coat everything in the warmth of the spice.

Put the bouillon cube or the packet of onion soup mix in the cooker.  Add the carrots and meatballs to the rice cooker.   Add 3 cups of water or beef broth.

Set rice cooker to white rice and cook until done.