1001 WAYS TO COOK CHICKEN – ##CITRUS CHICKEN

There I go again with the feathery one. I do think I consume chicken at least 3 to 5 times for the week. I’ll have it curried, barbecued, jerked (with Jamaican-spices), Asian style and various other styles. Clearly, it’s my go protein in a big way. And, although grocery prices are exorbitant, still chicken remains relatively reasonable compared to other protein foods.

Because I wish to obtain my money’s worth, most times, I tend to purchase the dark portions of the bird. In addition, I try to ‘kick’ off a few cents by selecting the pieces with the skin on. To me, every cent adds up. When I bring home my chicken parts, I allot a few minutes to remove the skin and then store.

Now a days, it seems like Sunday afternoon has become a major cooking day for yours truly. So, already I had my chicken parts seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic from overnight. My plan was to roast these chicken parts which I did in a heated oven at 385 degrees for 45 minutes with a squeeze of lemon along with slices of lemon.

In bowl, I combined both citrus fruits along with a teaspoon of cornstarch for thickening. I also added a pinch of salt/pepper along with a sprinkle of sugar. All ingredients were combined and then reduced on low heat. Chicken parts were then basted with a lemon and orange sauce placed back in the oven for another five minutes for a brown exterior at an increased temperature of 410 degrees.

I served my citrus chicken on a bed of roasted assorted vegetables.

 

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BRAISED OXTAILS WITH A HINT OF RED WINE….AND THAT WAS SUPPER!!

The price of oxtails is ‘through the roof’. I guess because of the holidays, the stores take advantage of their customers. I couldn’t believe the price the last time I saw it. It was close to $6.00 per pound. Come on,  you’re talking about a meat made up of bone, a little meat and fat to be discarded.  I’m glad I’m not a big lover of the meat. However, once in a while, I do get the feeling for it.

So, today, I had a feeling for a dish of oxtails. Already, I knew I had a few pieces in a small package that I had bought a couple of weeks ago. I’m used to the Jamaican way of cooking with butter beans and all the exotic spices and seasonings. This time I decided to exclude the beans.

Oxtails take quite sometime to be tenderized. If you have a pressure cooker then the duration of cooking is decreased enormously. Of course, I don’t own a cooker so I knew I had to at least give it a couple of hours and half to braise. It can be done in the oven or stove top. I decided to opt for the stove top.

Oxtails were seasoned  with salt and pepper along with crushed garlic and a dash of balsamic vinegar. A couple of hours later, a drizzle of canola oil was heated in a sturdy stock pot and oxtail pieces were tossed and browned after removing the pieces of garlic. A splash of red wine (cabernet sauvignon) was also added and scraped up all the bits at the bottom of pot.

To that, I added a few of root veggies like onions, carrots, bell peppers and celery. Also, thyme, allspice (pimento) were added. With a drizzle of soy sauce, I added tap water to cover oxtail pieces. Oxtails were slowly braised for approximately two and half hours after checking every 20 minutes to add extra liquid if needed.

When oxtails became fork tender, additional seasonings were added. Thanks to the butcher, I never had to skim any oil from my dish. I served my cooked oxtails with steamed asparagus and brown rice along with steamed green beans. I was happy.

Hmm, come to think of it, I should invest in a pressure cooker. You never know when I might need same.

 

SOUP FOR COMFORT AND TO GRAB AND GO….##SPLIT-PEAS SOUP

Guys, like most of you, my week is super busy. And, if I don’t prepare for my dietary intake for most of the week, I’m liable to consume the wrong foods. I’m looking for easy, nutritious, tasty and inexpensive meals.

Therefore, soup is one of my go to meals. It’s a one pot wonder chock full of veggies, and doesn’t take forever to prepare and cook. I like to alternate my soups each week. Sometimes, it could be squash/pumpkin, lentil, cauliflower, chicken, etc.

Today, I’ve decided to cook split peas. In a sturdy stock pot, I drizzled a little olive oil. Diced carrots, celery, onion, bell peppers and garlic were sauteed. I seasoned with salt and pepper. I then added rinsed split peas and tossed for a few minutes. To that I added plain tap water; (chicken broth would also be great). I also tossed in a couple veggie bouillon cubes and thyme for added flavors.

In less than an hour, my split peas soup was cooked. The peas were fork tender. I cooled and then placed in standing blender for a quick puree. I then added diced pieces of left-over ham and garnish with parsley. Perhaps, at consumption, I’ll have me a piece of crusty garlic bread.

Guys, I’m happy; over the moon. I know for sure that I’ve back up with this very tasty split peas soup.

SOMETIMES, YOU JUST HAVE TO CREATE A PICNIC ON THE INDOORS

I like to take advantage of the beautiful Fall weather here in Florida when I can. Therefore, a few days ago when the forecast called for a cool and dry week-end, I was elated. You see, it doesn’t take much for me to be happy. Moreover, living here in So. Florida, U.S.A, you take the cool weather as you can as majority of the year is quite warm and humid.

As a result, I planned on having my breakfast/brunch on the back patio of my dwelling; a picnic of sort. This is where I can seize a little serenity and get in touch with nature. I love to behold the beautiful and carefree ducks and ducklings paddle along the man-made waterway. Early in the morn, it’s quite lovely and heart-warming to hear only the sweet sounds of the water and the music from the trees.

So, I was quite disappointed because  the last couple of days, So. Florida has been flirting with the eighties in temperatures. Moreover, the humidity has been in the high percentage. Even for Florida, these weather conditions are a bit unseasonable. Anyway, I didn’t dwell too much on it. I had to find a way to enjoy the morn.

Lo and behold I came up with a plan. You see, sometimes, one has to improvise. Instead of a picnic on my back patio, I decided to bring it within. I grabbed me a comfy throw and spread it across my living room rug. I placed my thermostat on a comfortable cool 70 degree.

Then, I proceeded to make yours truly an omelet along with bite size pieces of left-over ham. Yes, the one I did with rum/brandy glaze. I served my omelet with rye toast along with fresh cranberry spread. I had some fresh/sweet strawberries I fetched from the store the other day. I added a few raspberries and orange wedges. Still had a little hot chocolate, so I decided to rock it as well.

Guys, I perched on the carpet and listened to some inspirational messages from the ‘tube’; after all, it’s Sunday. Just as the preacher/speaker said, I’ve nothing to worry about because the Good Lord takes care of us all. Now, all I needed to do was to make note in my journal and grabbed me a little shut-eye in the aftermath.

A BOXING DAY DELIGHT ##LEFT-OVER JAMAICAN ACKEE/CODFISH AND HAM

Guys, it’s Boxing Day (the day after Christmas). Today, in my neck of the woods, the sun has chosen to remain out of sight for most of the day. It has been raining ‘cats and dogs’ and is quite gloomy. And, like the sun, it took me sometime to really lift my head from the pillows.

I dragged my dear self on the outskirts to nab me some endorphins. Oh, it helped for a bit. But, deep down I knew that I needed some more shut-eye. Gosh, I needed to gather my focus that was still missing. Thank God I went with the flow and paid a visit to ‘La La land’. I woke up and felt like my old self.

I know; I know, I overdid a bit. After all, it was Christmas. But, it was worth it. I believe I had me a couple of glasses of white wine. Then, I decided to graduate to an Irish Cream mixed with ‘good old’ Jamaican White Rum (oh, it brought back sweet memories). It was smooth and tasty as it made its way down. After chatting for a bit and doing a jig, one can forget the consequences of mixing drinks.

Anyway guys, I hopped in my kitchen and decided to clean up what was right before me. In a tupperware was some left-over ackee and codfish (Jamaica’s national dish). It was one of the items on my brunch from the big day, (Christmas). I finely chopped some left-over ham and added it to my national dish. All I had to do was to steam me a little brown rice with asparagus.

I served my ackee and codfish/ham on a bed of steamed brown rice and asparagus. I then added avocado (I call it nature’s butter), wedges of plummy tomatoes and a few pieces of fried plantain.

Guys, to say that I was happy is quite an understatement. I was on ‘cloud-nine’, pretty much over the moon. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. Hurray for left-overs on ‘good-old’ Boxing Day, the day after Christmas.

NB.- Ackee is a tropical fruit that is native to West Africa. It was introduced to Jamaica in earlier years and has become a national dish when its paired with salted codfish. This fruit is savory in taste as its cooked as a vegetable.

AND WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING…..I WENT TO WORK ON A PIECE OF HAM RUMP

When it comes to preparation and cooking for the big day, Christmas, I believe one should make a concerted effort to cook dishes in advance if possible. And so, that’s what I did. I went to work on a piece of bone-in ham. It took me virtually a couple of hours to bake same. This move will allow me to have space in the oven for other goodies on the day of Christmas.

After I made a few hashtags on my rump, I stuffed it with a few cloves for added flavors as well as appearance wise. It was a six-pounder so I cooked for approximately two hours (20 minutes per lb). I then basted my delicious ham with a rum/brandy/brown sugar sauce. To that I added freshly squeezed orange juice and a piece of pineapple along with a teaspoon of cornstarch for thickening. Sauce was simmered to a great reduction and then brushed during  twenty minutes before completion of cooking time.

I was proud of my baked rump of a  ham. I garnished same with various fresh fruits. Guys, the combination of the salty piece of ham and the contrasting fresh/cool fruits were just amazing. To say that I’m happy is an understatement. Guys,  I’m over the moon.

Merry Christmas! And, as always, be kind to your loved ones as well as your beautiful palates.

 

IT’S GOING TO BE A BATTLE OUT THERE…….FUEL UP!! #CHRISTMAS SHOPPING

Guys, before you hit the malls and other shopping venues, make sure you have a satisfying protein meal like eggs, or fish. Guys, it’s the Christmas season, you know the lines are going to be long. A parking spot is another challenge to overcome. And, if and when the hungry pangs come calling your patience also goes out the door, quicker than the fastest man on earth, Usain Bolt.

Those yuletide songs will drive you crazy if your stomach is also doing its own thing. Be prepared! Take along a few healthy snacks that will provide energy and endurance for you and your loved ones. Energy bars are great. Grab a ziplock baggie and pack a few nuts, dried fruits, apples, etc. They make a world of difference. You’ll be  ‘jingling belling’ all the way with smiles on your face.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!! FELIZ NAVIDAD!! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

IT’S THE MORN AFTER……DECIDED TO GO GREEN, JAMAICAN-STYLE ##CALLALOO

Early Saturday morn, I hopped out of bed with a huge smile on my face. Then, it hit me, it was the morn after.  I’ve been a naughty girl the previous night. After all, it was Friday night. Moreover, Christmas is a few days away.  A little spirit and bad/good grub were etched on my brain.The food was a wee bit salty and of course, some were sweet.

Come on guys, you know it; a combination as this is what drives our palate overdrive. With some music and a little gab with company, (good company), things can go a wee bit out of hand.  I’m afraid I had the time of my life. Mark you, I didn’t overdo it…..well, I don’t think so. Anyway, as the sun lifted its golden head through my blinds, I realized I had to go whip my derriere into shape.

Returned to base and that’s where I went to business on my chop board. You see, the previous day, I fetched yours truly some Jamaican spinach (callaloo). Love that indoor farmer’s market. The operators cater to the residents of the neighborhood. Every ethnic foods, ground provisions and other are in-house so to speak.

Chopped Jamaican spinach (Callaloo)
Chopped Jamaican spinach (Callaloo)

In a sturdy hot  skillet, a little coconut oil was drizzled. Chopped onions, garlic, tomato, scallion were softened as well as seasoned along with salt and pepper. A sprig of thyme was also added. Thank God the callaloo crop was of the tender kind. Moreover, I didn’t have to add any liquid as the callaloo emitted its own fluid.

I did a quick toss of all the ingredients and watched my dear fiber food came alive. As you can observe, it’s quite brilliant in hue. It took me virtually less than fifteen minutes to steam this amazing veggie.

And, like a true Jamaican, I served my steamed callaloo with a few pieces of fried plantain. Oh, what beautiful contrast!  And yes, I added a toasty English muffin. Ahh, I’m afraid I’ve to go there, I also added a few tiny pieces of smoked ham. Come on guys, it’s the yuletide season. I didn’t say I was a saint.

Steamed Callaloo with fried plantain
Steamed Callaloo with fried plantain

Hurray for callaloo! Any spinach will do; but, I’ve to give my dear Jamaican spinach a huge shout out. Yeah mon!

Guys, as always, be kind to your loved ones as well as your beautiful.

 

THAT’S IT, I’M GOING TO GET ME A POT BELLY PIG AND GO TRUFFLE HUNTING!!

Guys, I’m sure you must have been hearing quite a lot about truffles and truffle oils a bit. I’ve been familiar with the name for a few years; but, I’ve not consumed this pricey food. One of my faves on Food Network, Ina Garten (love her), would sometimes drizzle a bit of the oil in mac/cheese, and other dishes.

Anyway, just the other day, the Queen of Talk, the mogul, my idol, Oprah Winfrey was attached to a bit of news about truffles. Being the food enthusiast that I am, I decided to dig and sniff my way on this truffle ‘hoopla’ so to speak.

Oh, by the way Ms. Winfrey struck gold in Italy with a huge white truffle. And of course, the experts state that white truffle is the ‘white diamond of Italy’ which is pricier than the black version.http://www.yahoo.com/food/oprah-went-truffle-hunting. All I can say, that guy at the end is packing ‘a huge truffle’).

So anyway, based on my findings, I understand that truffles are of the fungi family. They are really mushrooms that are found underground in the wild. Generally, they thrive between fallen leaves and twigs of specific trees like oak, hazel, beech, etc. Some can even be buried underground of up to three feet.Their best seasons for excellent growth are Fall, Winter and Spring.

Some say if you like the taste of porto bello mushrooms, you will love the taste of truffles with a little more to them. They taste nutty and earthy (after all, their home is underground). Those who have consumed them say that their flavors are very aromatic.

For most of us, the cost of truffles is pretty expensive. One of the reasons for so is because of their rarity. More over, it involves quite a lot of labor to hunt for these so-called diamonds in the rough. Therefore, in order to retrieve these members of the fungi family, one has to use special hunting dogs or pigs (hogs) to nab them.

I did a bit of digging on the Internet for the prices of truffles along with its products. Amazon carries same. Some of their prices are:

  • A minced black jar of truffles (1.74 ounces)- $22.95
  • Roland black truffle oil (3.4 ounces) – $13.30
  • A  combination set of white/black(2) 3.4 ounces – $34.95
  • A black truffle (super concentrate) (3.4 ounces) – $19.95

Guys, I don’t know about you, for now I’ll continue to enjoy my port bello mushrooms. I’ll drizzle some of my extra virgin olive oil on them. I’ll use this brain of mine to imagine that Antonio went hunting and fetched me the biggest truffles in the wild. As I sip on my inexpensive glass of pinot noir, I’ll smile with a happy palate.

Maybe, one day I’ll treat yours truly to a bottle of truffle oil. Who knows? I might be able to afford a hunt for truffles in Umbria, Italy. But, for now, I’m fine. Oh, I’m still seeking Antonio. …that’s for real!

Guys, as always, be kind to your loved ones as well as your beautiful palates.