PERFECT VALENTINE TREATS FOR YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES ##STRAWBERRIES/MELTED DARK CHOCOLATE

Sometimes, it’s the small things that say a lot. Make perfect valentine treats for you and your loved one/s by visiting your refrigerator. They will certainly thank you for same. Skewer sweet and juicy strawberries cut in heart shape ((as in pic) or whole. Bring it to another notch by melting semi-sweet chocolate.

Warm a splash of milk or cream. If you wish, add a pinch of cinnamon and a dash of vanilla for added flavors. Pour warm milk on chocolate and stir to a smooth and shiny consistency. Cool and smother berries in the dark goodness and enjoy.

Guys, Happy Valentine Day!!

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STAY HOME AND MAKE IT AN INTIMATE V-DAY AFFAIR WITH ROASTED CHICKEN BREASTS WITH WHITE WINE GRAPE SAUCE

If you haven’t made reservations for you and your significant other for valentines, not to worry. Come to think about it, the waiting period for your meals will be very extensive. And, let’s face it, it doesn’t matter the rating of the restaurant (4 or 5 star), unfortunately, the service can be somewhat disappointing during busy periods.

There is a way to have a spectacular experience by cooking and preparing an intimate meal for you and your sweetheart. It’s easy to prepare, light on the stomach, and super delicious. Both of you can get involve in prepping and cooking.

On this special evening/night, roasted chicken breasts in grape sauce with a hint of white wine  is an ideal dish to indulge in. The ingredients are:

  • Chicken breasts (2) bone-in with skin (optional)
  • Grapes (for sauce and garnish)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Crushed garlic (2 cloves)
  • Thyme (2 table spoons)
  • Onion (half of a med.)
  • Dried Basil (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Left-over chardonnay wine (1/2 cup)
  • Pat of butter (basting chicken)
  • Honey (1 tablespoon)
  • Olive oil (2 tablespoon)
  • Parsley (sprig)

Method:

  1. Season chicken breast with salt, pepper, other dried seasoning and crushed garlic. Set aside.
  2. In a ziplock bag, massage grapes until they burst and emit juices.
  3. Place them in skillet with honey under low to medium heat.

    GRAPES IN ZIPLOCK BAG READY FOR CRUSHING
    GRAPES IN ZIPLOCK BAG READY FOR CRUSHING
  4. In a sturdy skillet, drizzle olive and heat.
  5. Remove garlic from chicken breast and dry thoroughly with paper towel.
  6. Sear skin side of chicken until they become crispy. Do corresponding side. Add pat of butter and baste chicken pieces.
    CHICKEN BREASTS BEING SEARED WITH THYME
    CHICKEN BREASTS BEING SEARED WITH THYME

     

  7. Add a drizzle of left-over white wine and scrape and combine bits from bottom of pan. Add roughly chopped onion.
  8. Place in a  pre-heated oven of 400 degrees for thirty minutes; turning once.
  9. Add an additional 3 minutes with skin-side up at 410 degrees for extra crispness of skin.
  10. Allow chicken to rest for about ten minutes so as to prevent the juices from running out of chicken.
  11. Roughly puree grape sauce in blender and place on plate. Slice chicken breast pieces and garnish with herb of choice. Add fresh grapes on the side.

Guys, this dish was certainly a winner. The chicken was super tender and loaded with amazing flavors. My taste buds were greatly surprised by the tart and sweet flavors from the grape sauce along with the fresh grapes. Moreover, I added a side dish of mashed sweet potatoes which brought my dish to another level. I was over the moon.

Guys, Happy Valentines Day!

STARBUCKS IS GOING COCONUTS!…##COCONUT MILK

Once again, our neighborhood coffeehouse, Starbucks is testing a new idea; more of a product, coconut milk. Actually, they have tried it in San Diego, California and Washington before and the response seemed to have been favorable. As a result, based on customers’ demand, they have added coconut milk on their menu.

Sometime this month, (February 2015), Starbucks will offer coconut milk on its list of milk options. Based on reports in the media, it will only be in certain territories like Oregon, Ohio and Cleveland. I say bravo to them for taking this step.

It’s not surprising to me that the coffee chain has gone this route. I guess those in charge at Starbucks have discovered that the product is on the upswing. We have all seen a few of the high-profile celebrities, like Rihanna and others toting coconut water. And clearly, someone is doing their homework to know that the health benefits of coconut milk are tremendous.

Studies have revealed by the scientific community that the fat content in coconut includes a large amount of lauric acid which makes it heart healthy. As a result, it doesn’t have any negative effect on cholesterol in the body. Further studies have shown that countries like Sri Lanka and Polynesia where coconut is popularly used in the diet, heart related illnesses are uncommon.

I reckon that Starbucks’ nutritionists have done the research to know that their customers will also reap:

  • loads of fibers, vitamins, minerals
  • a slow absorption in the body which will not spike the glucose level in the body
  • an extra boost of energy, which makes it excellent for physically fit individuals

The question is, “will this test of coconut milk take off?” Already, they have had a positive response in California and Washington. We in Jamaica and in the Caribbean on a whole have been using coconut milk in our sweet and savory dishes for decades.

So far, I’ve  not used coconut milk in my coffee. Maybe, I should do a taste test. Although I love the product in various dishes, I’m sure it’ll be an acquired taste, ‘chasing’ my coffee. Who knows? I’ll have to take a quick swig and determine from a few shots.

Various companies like Grace Kennedy, etc have processed the milk and canned same in different sizes. This step makes it convenient for cooks to use in the kitchen. I do stock same for when I’m strapped for time. However, I prefer to purchase the wholesome product which averages about $1.99. To me, that’s priceless.

When I take it home, I use a hammer and give it a few bangs so as to break the husk. Ahh, it’s always a pleasure to drink that refreshing water within. I extract the flesh from the husk with a dull knife. Coconut pieces are then chopped and placed in a blender with water. A few minutes of blending action will yield perfectly healthy milk from nature.

COCONUT FLESH IN HUSK
COCONUT FLESH IN HUSK
COCONUT MILK AND LEFT-OVER PIECES OF COCONUT
COCONUT MILK AND LEFT-OVER PIECES OF COCONUT

Perhaps, Starbucks should stir awareness by recruiting a few prominent individuals like sports stars and entertainers to promote the coconut milk in coffee and the diet on a whole.That would seem ‘kool’ to their fans and supporters. Starbucks would definitely see a positive on their balance sheet.

Now, the question is, “where will Starbucks access the coconut milk?” Perhaps, Jamaica Coconut Board along with Grace Kennedy. That would be an excellent way to go. However, word out is that they already garnered their supplies from an Indonesian island called Sumatra in a concentrated form.

Will the addition of coconut milk to the menu be a permanent ‘fixture’ and increase sales? Only time will tell.

 

I DECIDED TO ‘BEET IT’, AND GOT STAMINA FROM EACH SIP… ##FRESH BEETROOT JUICE

For less than $3.00, I was very ecstatic for three small beetroots. I got six in a pack at my neighborhood indoor farmer’s market and decided to use three in refreshing drink. So, I went chopping. I made sure to place parchment paper on cutting board to prevent staining from the beets.

Roughly chopped beetroot
Roughly chopped beetroots along with root ginger

Beets were placed in a stockpot with about three cups of water along with finely chopped ginger. I allowed same to be simmered under low heat for about 20 to 30 minutes. This  was then cooled and placed in standing blender with a squeeze of honey and half of a lemon. Nothing was wasted. All ingredients were blended to a smooth and drinkable goodness.

The result was beneficial beet juice that was vibrant in color. Based on research, it’s revealed that beetroots are loaded with compounds that increase blood flow to the vital organs of the body. Subsequently, there is a boost in energy levels. I could certainly do with a little more energy.  Moreover, statistics have shown that the blood pressure is lowered.

So guys, bottoms up to the energy booster of a drink. I say let’s celebrate to this burgundy portion in my chutes. Salud!

 

A SEAFOOD SUPPER WITHIN MINUTES ##GRILLED SALMON/ROASTED ROOT VEGGIES

Guys, the trick to this supper is prepping on the week-end or a day when you’ve sometime to spare. This moves makes a huge difference. You see, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I try to develop a cooking strategy whereby I roast a tray of root vegetables. These veggies act as a base for quite a few dishes.

ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES
ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES

On this particular day, I didn’t have a variety; however, I was super happy to have on hand, sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions. These were very satisfying and delicious after roasting.

On stove top, I  made a lemon/butter sauce and tossed in a few capers and olives I had on hand. Once again, I paid a visit to George; such a handy grill. George Foreman was wise to place his name on this gadget.

Anyway, after seasoning my salmon fillet with a pinch of salt, pepper and crushed garlic, I set aside for a few minutes for absorption of seasonings. I made sure to remove garlic before grilling commenced so as to prevent burning. Grill was sprayed with a little Pam and then I brushed salmon with olive oil and placed same on grill.

Salmon was grilled and left with amazing color and grill marks. This was then placed in skillet to soak up all the lemon and butter sauce along with the acid from the capers and olives. A squeeze of honey was added to sauce for a balance. With a garnish of fresh lemon and toppings of capers/olives, my grilled salmon was ready for serving on a bed of root veggies in minutes.

I’M HAVING A VERY HEART-FELT MORN….#OATMEAL WITH ALMOND BITS/HEART-SHAPED STRAWBERRIES

It seems like I’m in a very Valentine mood. Yes guys, I went there. I did my heart a favor by preparing oatmeal with almond bits. Based on studies, a diet over a period of time that includes whole grain like oatmeal aid in the prevention of  cardiovascular related illnesses. I’m super happy for that.

Not only did I go heart-healthy, but, I gave my brain a boost by topping my oatmeal with heart-shaped strawberries  and a serving of blueberries. Berries are filled with great amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibers and other beneficial nutrients that are vital to the body.

Guys, have a happy heart.

A DISH TO FEEL LUCKY ABOUT##BRAISED CURRIED GOAT(MUTTON) ##THE YEAR OF THE GOAT

On the Chinese calendar, this year (2015) is slanted as ‘the year of the Goat’. Based on astronomers, it’s supposed to be one for good luck. And, I could always do with an extra dose of good luck anytime.

Anyway, in honor of the goat, I’ve decided to make a  dish called braised curried goat. This dish is certainly one from my roots. Over the years, I must have consumed same repeatedly. Without a doubt, in Jamaica, the beginning of the year (New Year’s Day), every householder cooks and indulges this popular dish.

My dear uncle Dan was and is still a farmer in a rural village of a parish called St. Mary, Jamaica. He rears goats and other farm animals for consumption. Uncle Dan was and is still a generous man. He often doled out sizable portions of goat meat during the holidays. Oh, I can still remember the delicious and mouth-watering dishes prepared from those goat meats.

And speaking of goat, this brings back even more memories as a girl in my island home of Jamaica. My next door neighbor kept a female goat. Let’s call her Nanny. Looking back, I’m babbled this guy was allowed to keep a goat in a residential community. But, I guess that’s what sometimes happens in a laid-back island domain.

The thing is, that goat went off and got herself pregnant. Well, her owner was the ‘love guru’ and arranged the affair. Each day, he took her out to pasture and subsequently Nanny mated and had baby goats (kids). As a girl, it was fun for me and my siblings to stretch across the fence and feed and pet them. Those kids were so cute.

After a while though, things became rather troublesome. Those cuties grew into adults and created quite a mayhem on a daily basis. Their baaing grew louder and louder in the community. They even ate and sometimes destroyed plants in neighbors’ yard. I do think that man and his family bribed the entire residents by doling out fresh goat’s milk.

So, back to my braised curried goat. I fetched a couple a pounds from the butcher at my neighborhood indoor farmer’s market. The cost was $3.99 per pound. Although they were  ready for cooking size-wise, I further cut them into smaller portions.

MAIN INGREDIENTS FOR BRAISED CURRIED GOAT (MUTTON)
MAIN INGREDIENTS FOR BRAISED CURRIED GOAT (MUTTON)

Ingredients:

  • Goat (2 lbs)
  • Curry powder (2 tsp or to your preference)
  • Cumin (1 tsp)
  • All spice(pimento) (1tsp)
  • Onion (1small)
  • Celery (1stalk)
  • Root ginger (1tsp)
  • Scotch bonnet pepper (1)
  • Jamaica white rum (2 tbsp)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Thyme (2 sprigs)
  • Irish potato (2 small)
  • Coconut oil (2 tbsp)
  • Soy sauce (2tsp)
  • Vinegar (2tbps)
  • Cold tap water
  • Sugar (pinch)

Preparation/Method:

  1. After a quick rinse of goat meat, it was marinated overnight with crushed garlic, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce and curry powder.
  2. Mutton was brought to room temperature. Then, in a sturdy hot skillet with a few drops of coconut oil, mutton was added with a teaspoon of finely chopped ground ginger.
  3. On medium heat, meat wassauteed for about five minutes. Then rum was added.

    MUTTON IN HOT SKILLET READY TO BE BRAISED
    MUTTON IN HOT SKILLET WITH FINELY CHOPPED GINGER READY TO BE BRAISED
  4. Chopped seasonings and thyme were also added. Then, cold tap water was added to cover meat.
  5. Lid was placed on skillet under low to medium heat. Whenever water evaporated additional water was added until meat was fork tender.
  6. Approximately fifteen minutes into cooking process, add chopped Irish potatoes. These will aid into thickening of gravy.
  7. A taste test of dish is done and if additional seasoning or spices are needed these are added.

Guys, I served my good luck dish with steamed Jasmine rice and steamed veggies. And, like a true Jamaican, I also had a serving of avocado and fried plantains. I’m feeling lucky!

NEED A BASE FOR A MEAL? #ROASTED ASSORTED ROOT VEGETABLES

Though we may be dissimilar in certain facets of our lives, we all have quite a few things in common. One of the paramount areas is in regards to dietary needs. Most of us, work for long hours, take care of personal needs, and attend to the needs of loved ones day-in and day-out. But, at the end of the day, we return to our abodes and the question often ask is, “What’s for dinner?”

For me, I like to prep in advance. If I don’t, I’m liable to grab anything at hand. Therefore, one way I try to solve my culinary needs (for at least a few days) is to make a base dish. I like to purchase a variety of root vegetables like, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, etc. And, on the week-end or when I get the opportunity during the week, I do a quick roasting of these beneficial veggies.

Like most times, today I was strapped for precious time. I wanted to grab a few more veggies to add to the ones I had in-house; however, I was exhausted. Thus, I decided to ‘rock’ with what I had: carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic.

CHOPPED ROOT VEGGIES READY FOR ROASTING
CHOPPED ROOT VEGGIES READY FOR ROASTING

On a baking sheet pan, I drizzled a little olive oil on my root veggies, added a pinch of salt, pepper, cinnamon, thyme, and crushed garlic. Veggies were roasted for approximately 35 minutes in a 400 degree oven until they were caramelized on the exterior. The great thing about roasting vegetables is that it brings out the natural sugar and nutty taste in them.

How I use roasted root veggies:

  • Add to a refreshing garden salad for a sweet/nutty contrasting taste
  • A great side dish for an entrée
  • Add a protein like fish, meat or poultry and it becomes a complete meal
  • Excellent base for a hearty soup by adding chicken or veggie broth and other ingredients
  • Ideal for a filling breakfast with eggs or sardines

This move provides me with great peace of mind. I know that these root vegetables are packed with amazing nutrients and will keep me satiated for hours. All I need to do is to work around these by adding protein of choice. Already, a huge culinary problem is solved.

RAIN WAS BEATING ON MY FRONT DOOR; SO, I DECIDED TO TINKER WITH MY WAFFLES

Once more, ‘Mother Nature’ has a mind of her own. It’s the height of the winter and it seems like summer is beating on my doors. Gone is the cool temperatures and in with warm temperatures and thunderstorms on the outskirts.

Now, on a day as this, what does one do? I had the answer. Clearly, I wouldn’t be hitting the jogging trails. So, I proceeded to my humble kitchenette and pulled out my waffle iron. While I was at it, I retrieved a few berries in the refrigerator along with milk, butter, egg and whole-wheat flour(yes, I keep my whole-wheat flour here). I hit the cupboard, and grabbed the baking soda and cinnamon. All I needed was ripe banana and apple.

BATTER READY FOR WAFFLE IRONS
BATTER READY FOR WAFFLE IRON

I made yours truly a ripe banana/shredded apple waffle batter. I decided to top my waffle batter with fresh blue berries before I close the lid.

WAFFLE BATTER WITH BLUEBERRIES READY TO BE COOKED
WAFFLE BATTER WITH BLUEBERRIES READY TO BE COOKED

Guys,, as I listened to the rain beating on my patio floor I topped my finished waffles with fresh blue and strawberries. With a super hot cup of java, I made my way adjacent to the sliding doors watched the skies expelled buckets of precipitation below.

APPLE/BANANA WAFFLES ARE SERVED WITH FRESH BERRIES AS TOPPINGS ALONG WITH HOT COFFEE ON THE SIDE
APPLE/BANANA WAFFLES ARE SERVED WITH FRESH BERRIES AS TOPPINGS ALONG WITH HOT COFFEE ON THE SIDE

Ahh, as I sipped my coffee, I was hit with tremendous satisfaction and joy knowing that my stomach and palate were filled with wholesome and amazing foods. Let it rain!!