The Many Uses for Fresh Herbs

As I started to type this, I realized I often start posts with, “I love…” I suppose it makes sense. If you have read the post My Love Affair with Food, you understand that I truly do love food. This blog came to be because of my adoration for enhancing the flavor of dishes with herbs and spices. Other than being beautiful plants that smell amazing, fresh herbs add texture, color and, of course, more flavor to foods. Herbs are also known for a wide array of health benefits.

I grow as many varieties of fresh herbs as I can in the mid-west. People often ask if I grow all of the herbs that become the spices used in Changing Seasonings blends, and the answer to that is most definitely, no. There are hundreds of herbs grown all over the world. In most areas, herbs are indigenous to that part of the world and are used in the dishes of the region because they have always been readily available. Some herbs can only grow in particular places because of the growing environment, the soil, the weather, etc. In turn, there are many spices that are imported from other parts of the world that are used in blends and recipes.

I sell fresh herbs at a local farmers market, and the number one thing I hear from people is, “I wouldn’t know what to do with it.” So, this blog post is going to talk about some of the herbs all cooks should have and how to use them. Later this week, which happens to be National Herb Week (May 3-9), I will share how to store fresh herbs.

Here are my top seven favorite fresh herbs:

Sweet Basil

Basil’s best friend is the tomato, so it is perfect, fresh or dried, in Italian sauces like marinara sauce which can be used on spaghetti and pizza. It can also be pureed with pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese to make pesto, another great pasta sauce. Top a tomato slice with mozzarella cheese, olive oil, and a basil leaf for a tasty and pretty Caprese salad.

Dill

When people hear dill, they think pickles but there are many other uses for the fragile, feather-like herb. Dill adds a fresh flavor to fish and potato dishes. The best friend to dill is the cucumber, not just for pickling, but in Mediterranean recipes. Chop tomatoes, cucumber, and green onion. Drizzle with olive oil and toss in roasted garlic, kalamata olives, and feta cheese. Season with a Greek blend such as Changing Seasonings Greek Isle blend, and top with fresh dill. Use as a dip with pita chips or as a topping for gyros.

 Chives

Chives with their light onion taste are perfect for adding color and flavor to many dishes. Only add them at the end of cooking or as a garnish because heat diminishes their form and flavor. Use in dips or to top soups. The chives’ best friend is definitely the potato. Prepare quartered red potatoes by boiling or roasting, and toss in butter and chopped chives. Season with a little salt and pepper.

 Parsley

I grow flat leaf parsley and Italian curly parsley. Parsley is versatile enough to be used in most dishes for added color and flavor. Many people think because it is most often used as a garnish that parsley must not have much flavor, but it actually has mild, grassy flavor that doesn’t over power other flavors in the dish. Parsley is also great for adding moisture to dishes. Try these Chicken Cheese Burgers, yum!

Thyme

There are several different varieties of thyme. Lemon thyme is one of my favorites. Thyme is a heartier herb with a strong flavor that pairs well with other herbs. Thyme is typically used to flavor meats. Season chicken pieces (I like thighs!) with salt, pepper, fresh lemon thyme, and minced garlic. Drizzle with olive oil. Top with lemon slices and bake. Serve with your favorite vegetable and rice or a pasta with alfredo sauce.

 Rosemary

Rosemary is a strong woody herb that is typically either loved or disliked because of its pungent flavor. The taste is a lemony pine that pairs well with meats. It is best used fresh because when dried the leaves become sharp. Rosemary is often used in Mediterranean and Italian cooking. Use chopped Rosemary to make a compound butter for topping steaks.

Cilantro

Cilantro is another herb that people either love or not. Like rosemary, it has a very distinct and pungent flavor. Often used in Indian and Mexican dishes, it has a fresh, slightly licorishy (yes, licorishy is now a word) flavor. Mix chopped cilantro, finely chopped red onion, salt, pepper, and lime juice with mashed avocado for a yummy guacamole.

There are several gadgets that are handy for making herb use easier. This is one that I use all of the time: herb shears.

These nifty scissors make is simple to chop herbs into small pieces. Use them to do a big bunch or just a small amount right into the dish. I have no affiliation with this particular brand, but I love how sharp they are and how the cover doubles as a tool to get the herbs from between the blades.

Garlic and Rosemary Crusted Prime Rib

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It’s National Prime Rib Day, which I think should be every day (or at least alternated with National Bacon Day)! I used to think prime rib was only for eating out. I’ve had some very, very good prime rib at restaurants. It always seems so special because many restaurants only serve it on certain days. I thought it must be very complicated to prepare. I’ve even had those utterly disappointing moments when I was told that the restaurant was out of prime rib for the night. So sad. Here’s the thing, prime rib is simple to prepare, and it is considerably less expensive than ordering it at a restaurant. Oh, and you can eat as many slices as you want!

The first thing you will want to consider is how large of a roast you need. How many people will you be serving? You should have about one pound per person. You can also look at it this way, each rib serves 2-3 people. A roast is at least two ribs, typically 3-7 ribs. One rib isn’t even a roast, just a really big steak. Don’t forget to go a little larger if you want leftovers. The next, very important, step is to have the butcher cut the roast away from the ribs (it’s a task better left to the pro and will make it easier to carve when cooked). Have him leave it sitting on the ribs though to cook because the bones give flavor to the meat. The only other thought when purchasing the roast is the quality of the meat. Although Prime grade is typically restaurant level, you can chose to pay a little more but definitely go at least Choice. A rib roast should be flavorful of its own accord. It doesn’t require marinating, though I do like to compliment the meat with flavors I love: fresh garlic and rosemary.

The next steps can get a bit controversial. To salt or not to salt?? I salt. Some people will say that the salt draws the moisture out of the meat. That is not my experience, but I also only cook my roast to rare-medium rare so it is naturally more juicy. Then, to sear or not to sear?? Searing is done by cooking the meat at a high temperature briefly. Searing puts a crust on the roast. I like the crust, hence the recipe name. I think the searing helps hold in some of the moisture too. I flavor the meat two ways. The first is by inserting cloves of garlic throughout slits in the roast. The second is a crust of chopped fresh rosemary, minced garlic, large granule sea salt, and crushed rainbow peppercorn rubbed all over the outside of the roast.

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Place the roast in the pan with the fat side up. Cook for about 15 minutes at 450 degrees. Turn the temperature down to 325 degrees and cook for the remaining time, about 12-16 minutes per pound or until the internal temperatures are as follows:

Rare: 115 °F (46 °C).

Medium rare: 130 °F (55 °C).

Medium: 145 °F (63 °C). DO NOT go here or any more done! Seriously, if you don’t want pink, just eat chicken.

Once the roast reaches the desired temperature, remove it from the oven and let it sit for about ten minutes before slicing to allow the juices the redistribute. Serve with the juice of the meat, au jus, and a little horseradish. You can make or purchase horseradish sauce, but I prefer fresh horseradish. A little goes a long way.

Leftovers make great French dip sandwiches. It can also be sliced in strips for a salad.

Garlic and Rosemary Crusted Prime Rib
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-14
 
A tender, juicy and flavorful rib roast perfect for impressing guests.
Ingredients
  • Rib Roast
  • Fresh Garlic Cloves (8-10 peeled whole & 3 cloves minced)
  • Fresh Rosemary (about ¼ C chopped)
  • 2-3 T Large Granule Sea Salt
  • 1-2 T Crushed Rainbow Peppercorn
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Place rib side down in a roasting pan
  3. Cut 8-10 slits in the roast and place a clove of garlic in each
  4. Mix the minced garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper
  5. Rub the seasoning mixture all over the roast
  6. Cook for 15 minutes
  7. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees
  8. Cook the remaining time (about 12-16 minutes per pound)
  9. When the internal temperature reaches about 130 degrees (for Medium Rare), remove from oven
  10. Let sit for 10 minutes before carving



BBQ Bacon Apple Cheddar Turkey Burgers

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I love burgers, and much like my love for pizza, I love all types: beef, chicken, veggie, and turkey. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a favorite though. A thick, juicy, medium rare beef burger is top on my list, but this turkey burger is now rivaling my Four Cheese Chicken Burgers for second place.

Face it, sometimes cooked ground chicken and turkey can be dry and a bit flavorless, even when you choose the less lean white and dark meat mixture. The key to making a great turkey burger is using ingredients that help keep the meat juicy and add great flavor. Unlike with beef, when you bite into a chicken or turkey burger, you aren’t expecting to taste good quality meat. So, you can have a little fun. There are Greimg_3199ek burger, Southwestern burger, and Italian burger recipes available just to name a few. This turkey burger combines one of my favorite fall flavors, apple, with the complimentary flavors of cheddar cheese, applewood bacon and BBQ sauce. The apple adds both flavor and juiciness, but isn’t over-powering. The fresh parsley also helps keep the meat moist, so this is one time that you wouldn’t want to substitute with dry. The feta takes the place of adding salt and also adds moisture. The blend of spices are a flavorful compliment the BBQ sauce.

I enjoy grilling, but I prepared these burgers inimg_3205 a cast iron skillet that already had a generous coating of bacon grease from the slices I fried to top the burgers. It made for a tasty caramelization on the outside of the burgers that just added another layer of flavor.

For turkey burgers, be sure to cook the burger completely to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees. Mine took about 6 minutes per side plus the time it took to melt the cheese. Serve on a bun with your favorite BBQ sauce. To make your own BBQ sauce click here. Lettuce, onion slices, and mushrooms would be great toppers as well. I served the burgers with baked sweet potato fries.

BBQ Bacon Apple Cheddar Turkey Burgers
Author: 
Recipe type: Lunch, Dinner
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Turkey burgers packed with flavorful ingredients that help keep the burgers juicy topped with cheddar cheese, bacon & BBQ sauce.
Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground turkey mixture
  • 1 small apple (finely chopped)
  • 1 T grainy mustard
  • ¼ feta cheese (crumbled)
  • ½ t granulated onion
  • ½ t granulated garlic
  • ½ t pepper
  • ½ t paprika
  • ¼ C fresh parsley (chopped)
  • 4 slices applewood smoked bacon (cooked)
  • 4 slices mild or sharp cheddar (smoked cheddar would also be tasty)
  • BBQ sauce
Instructions
  1. Fry bacon
  2. Mix turkey, apple, feta, parsley and seasonings
  3. Form four patties
  4. Grill or fry burgers over medium heat for about 6 minutes per side
  5. Melt cheese on top of the burgers
  6. Top with bacon slices
  7. Serve on bun with BBQ sauce

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BBQ Chicken Grilled Pizza

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I’ve written about grilled pizza before, and for good reason: I LOVE it! For several days I have been craving this bbq chicken pizza. Typically, I would suggest preparing it with leftover bbq chicken, but I am actually grilling the chicken now, while my dough preps (I use my bread machine and it takes about an hour), so it will be ready to use on the pizzas later.

I prefer to use chicken thighs because, well, they are just a juicier, tastier piece of meat. You can substitute chicken breasts if you prefer. And, really, you could use any leftover chicken or even a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken to make the meal quicker and easier. Of course, you could use refrigerated pizza crust too, but then you are really missing out on the most fun part of homemade pizza. Kids love to do the kneading and rolling!

As I mentioned, I do sometimes use my bread machine to make my dough. You could use a packaged dough mix, but it really is simple to mix up your own dough. Most of the ingredients are typically in the fridge or pantry. I just always have to remember to pick up a few yeast packets when I’m shopping for staples because that is the ingredient I am most often missing. I do like to make the dough ahead of time so it can rise in the refrigerator. A cold rise slows the life cycle of the yeast, allowing the dough to develop more flavor. Here is my pizza dough recipe:

Pizza Dough (Bread Machine Recipe)
Author: 
Recipe type: Lunch, Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5-8 pizzas
 
A quick and easy pizza dough recipe that can be mixed by hand or made in a bread machine.
Ingredients
  • ¾ C Warm Water
  • 1 T Milk
  • 1 T Oil
  • 1 T Sugar
  • ½ t Salt
  • 2¼ C Flour
  • 1 pkg Active Dry Yeast
  • Optional: 1 t Italian Seasoning, pinch each Garlic and Onion Powder
Instructions
  1. Place ingredients in the bread machine in the order listed (typically wet, dry, yeast) and set on dough setting.
  2. Once done, put on a lightly floured surface and kneed a couple of times.
  3. Pull apart into individual pizza size portions and roll into balls.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until use.

CIG_IMG005To make the chicken, I use boneless skinless chicken thighs. Other than being super tasty, they are a very inexpensive part of the chicken. Though you may be able to get them even cheaper by buying the bone-in, thighs are not the easiest to de-bone. That’s a job a leave to the meat cutter! I remove the extra fat from the pieces and then season them with my favorite bbq rub, Changing Seasonings Applewood Smoked BBQ Rub, and grill until the juices run clear.

To top the pizzas:

BBQ Sauce (I used several: spicy, honey and a teriyaki which made a great “Hawaiian pizza”)
Chicken pieces
Green Onion
Bacon
Cheese (cheddar, colby jack, pepper jack, smoked cheddar or gouda, bleu, feta)
Other: pineapple, mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, roasted garlicCIG_IMG026

Preheat the grill and set temperature at medium-low heat. Be sure the grill rack is clean so you don’t end up with remnants of your last grilled meal in your pizza crust…yuck! Brush oil on the rack. Olive oil is definitely your friend in this process. Other than brushing it on the rack, put it on your hands and rub a little extra on each crust before cooking to keep them from sticking. Unless you are very familiar with your grill’s temperature settings and the location of any “hot spots,” start with one [test] crust…just in case! My dough took about 3-4 minutes each side.

IMG_3628Now, comes the part where you have to act fast. Once you have flipped the crust over, quickly put on the desired toppings and get the lid closed so they can warm and the cheese can melt. If you are going to let others put their toppings on, you will need to remove the crust to the baking sheet while they top it and then put it back on the grill. Cook for the remaining 3-4 minutes until the cheese melts and the bottom is a golden brown (or darker if you prefer, I like my edges a little crisp and dark.).

I had extra crust, so I made some garlic cheese bread by brushing the crust with olive oil and topping it with garlic powderCIG_IMG035, Changing Seasonings Bread Dippin’ Blend and grated parmesan cheese.

My favorite combination this time, teriyaki bbq sauce, chicken, bacon, green onion, pineapple, cheddar and feta chesses. I wish I would have had smoked gouda on hand. It is one of my favorite cheeses and the smokiness would have complimented the grilled chicken wonderfully.

Making individual grilled pizzas can be a lot of fun for a family or small group of people. These can be baked if say, your grill runs out of gas or the weather turns poor (both situations I can attest to from experience!).

 

Farmers Markets: So Much More Than Produce!

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Farmers Markets are becoming a venue for more than just produce. According to a USDA survey in 2011, the number of Farmers Markets in the U.S. has grown from 4,685 to 8,268. Home based vendors of many different products have a place to share their talents and passions, and benefit from the foot traffic at the market. The same USDA survey showed that one in three of the people surveyed visit a Farmers Market at least once a week.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are beautiful, delicious, and healthy. In this part of north east Indiana, unless they have a greenhouse or are growing indoors using growing lights or the newly popular, hydroponics, most gardeners aren’t able to plant many things until after the magical date of Mother’s Day weekend. As with other parts of the country, Mother Nature has been having a bit of a tantrum, so let’s hope warm weather is coming soon! After planting, it then takes awhile, 45-75 days for tomatoes depending upon the type and whether they were starter plants or seeds, as an example, for produce to grow and ripen. That means it may be late June before the abundant harvests begin happening. But, don’t stay away from the market until then! There are many things available earlier such as fresh herbs, peas, green onions, and garlic. Then, of course, there are baked goods such as breads, cookies and muffins, and craft or homemade items such as soaps, seasoning blends, magnets, and potholders.

Many entrepreneurs start as home based vendors, so by shopping at the Farmers Market, you are supporting the growth of local small businesses. You are getting an item that was made, by hand, with much time and care, using quality supplies and ingredients because the final product is a reflection of the passion in the person making it. In my town, the Farmers Market is held in historic downtown, on the courthouse square. After visiting the market, you can wander into other shops and restaurants, and explore the great things available. Another of my favorite markets is in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Also close to the artsy downtown area, the vendors at that market have tasty and unique products.

Here are a few tips for shopping at the Farmers Market:

  • Shop early in the morning for a good selection, but later in the day for the best deals. Remember that vendors may leave if they sell out or if traffic is slow.
  • Some vendors are able to accept credit or debit cards now which is helpful to you especially for higher priced items, but smaller gardening operations prefer cash with small bills (it’s hard to have change when everyone brings a $20 from the ATM).
  • Bring your own bags for easier shopping and to be more environmentally friendly. It’s also costly for vendors to provide bags if the market doesn’t allow re-using grocery bags.
  • Remember, there is more than produce available!
  • Farmers Markets are a great place for trying new things like that funky looking eggplant, fresh herbs or a zucchini blossom.
  • You are a primary marketing tool for vendors! Word of mouth recommendations or your posts on social media help them to grow their customer base, so please SHARE!!

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If you are interested in more information or becoming a market vendor, here are some resources:

In Auburn or the DeKalb County, Indiana area, visit the Downtown Auburn Business Association (DABA) website at http://www.daba4auburn.org/Farmers-Market.html

In Fort Wayne, Indiana or the surrounding area, visit the Fort Wayne Farmers Market website at http://www.ftwaynesfarmersmarket.com/

In other areas of the country, visit the USDA’s Farmers Market Directory at https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets

 

 

 

 

Source: USDA Outdoor Farmers Market Dot Survey, 2011

My Love Affair With Food

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I love food! There I said it. I probably love food more than many other things in my life. And, it’s not just about eating it. In fact, I’m often happier cooking for others than for myself.

 

IMG_0838IMG_1679I love how foods look. I use words like colorful and striking when I describe food. Fruits and vegetables are beautiful to look at, and fresh farm eggs and seafood can be gorgeous too. Then there are my very favorite, herbs and spices. In plant form, herbs are as amazing as flowers to me. When they are dried into spice, they are transformed to vibrant colors and interesting textures.

 

I love how foods smell. I can determine what is cooking and even, sometimes, tIMG_0157he individual ingredients in a dish with my sense of smell. Like many people, the scents of different foods bring particular memories to my mind. One of my favorite smell memories is coming home when my mother was fixing dinner on taco night. Every time I brown ground beef and add taco seasoning, the memory comes rushing into my head and I smile. I prefer food scents for my candles, air fresheners and even my body lotion. Lemon and vanilla are currently my top picks.

IMG_0638I love how foods feel. They can be soft, hard, squishy, grainy, dry, wet, cold, and a million other textures. Maybe not a million, but lots and lots. If a dish can be mixed by hand, I am on it! When I wander through the Farmer’s Market or the produce section of the grocery store, I touch everything.bacon 1

I love the sound of foods cooking. Bacon sizzling. Grease popping when batter covered vegetables are dropped into it. Bubbling boiling water. Meat searing as it touches a hot grill.

Lastly, I do really love how food tastes. I love spicy foods, sweet foods, sour foods, and savory foods. I take time to savor each bite. There are very few foods that I have tried that I don’t like. Sure, there are some things that aren’t my first choice of foods to eat like lima beans, fishy tasting fish, and celery. There are also some foods I prefer mixIMG_3118ed into dishes, like peas and tomatoes, it’s a texture thing. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to travel the United States, even overseas and sample different cuisine. When growing up, my father was in the Air Force and my parents had friends from many different ethnic backgrounds so I was exposed to foods from all around the world. There are many, many things I haven’t tried, yet, but when given the chance, I will try anything at least once. In the case of caviar, once was all I needed and all I will ever need. Remind me not to become rich and famous because I refuse to eat caviar on a regular basis. But, other than those I have mentioned, I am struggling to think of other foods that I truly dislike.

I have shared in other posts that cooking is therapy to me, and it really is. If I have had a rough day, an evening in the kitchen can make everything better. When the everyday busyness of life is overwhelming, I can’t wait for the opportunity to be with my family for whatever holiday is next and IMG_6097cook, cook, cook. I love spending hours researching, writing recipes, grinding and blending seasoning blends. I love food so much that I started writing about it a few years ago, and my interest in herbs and spices evolved into a business. I wish I could inspire everyone to cook more and to use more herbs and spices in cooking. I am truly passionate about food and cooking.

So many people are striving to be healthier, me included. I think that cooking at home is one of the first important steps to living a healthier lifestyle. Not IMG_0830all of the recipes I write would be considered healthy, but they are home cooked which is always better than fast food. And I believe the premise of everything in moderation when it comes to food. By changing an ingredient or two, or baking something instead of frying it, a recipe can be made healthier. Herbs and spices can make such a difference in cooking. By just changing the seasoning and adding different vegetables, a chicken breast can easily be transformed into a Greek, Indian or Mexican dish.

My current love affair with food includes eating a lot more beautiful fruits and vegetables, fewer heavy carbs and added sugars (which is a challenge for this bread and candy loving gal!), having healthy lean proteins and plenty of water. Regardless of how food and I are interacting, one thing is for sure, it will always be one of my first loves and longest lasting relationship!!

Slowly Recovering…

 

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At the beginning of the year, I had a technical glitch and lost my entire website/blog. After recovering from the devastation, I spent some time learning a lot more about URL’s, webpages and hosts. All of my subscriptions were brought up-to-date (actually, just to be safe, I paid a couple years in advance!). It was possible for me to pay a large sum of money to have my site restored from a backup, but I also learned that there are sites on the Internet that back up websites, and you can access the information from their archives for free. I used Wayback Machine. There is a catch to the free way though…

I have been going through the tedious process of rebuilding through a lot of cutting and pasting, relocating and re-inserting photos, editing missing links, and formatting printable recipes. I still have most of 2014 to recreate. Because of this, and a little injury that led to back surgery a few months ago, I haven’t added any new recipe posts. These days, I refer to myself as more of a frustrated food writer than a food blogger. I was reminded recently though that all of this behind the scenes stuff will lead to my blog coming back even better than before. Thanks to Taste as You Go for the reminder and the inspiration to keep moving forward!!

11164785_821470481271517_8305805108964623476_nIn the meantime, if you are a new visitor to the site, please peruse the archives for some great recipes and informative posts about using herbs and spices to enhance your cooking. If you are a return visitor, thank you for hanging in there! I promise there will be new content soon! I do make regular posts that include recipes on my Facebook page so please “Like” the page to keep connected.  The Changing Seasonings online Market is also available if you are interested in purchasing fresh-ground seasoning blends.

I’m still cooking and have many draft posts just waiting to be published. I can’t wait to share them with YOU!! 🙂

Grandma’s Social Graces
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photo courtesy of emilypost.com

With the holidays approaching, I have been thinking a lot about traditions, and about how the social expectations we are raised with shape us. For instance, I know how to set a table appropriately. This is a skill I am proud to possess. My grandmother was responsible for ensuring that I knew that the fork goes on the left, typically on top of the napkin, and the the knife faces toward the plate. She was also responsible for my need to use at least two forks during a meal, frustrating as it may be for the person responsible for doing the dishes at our house. Of course, these rules of etiquette were perpetuated by my mother who had also learned from her mother and grandmother. Though at our own home, in the early 70’s things became a bit more casual day to day, but if needed, my mom could take it up a notch for entertaining. I have made it my mission, often to the dismay of the children in my life, to be sure that they can set a table, and they know which fork to use. If I had a dollar for every time I have hollered from the kitchen, “fork on the left!” I’d be a wealthy woman. Regardless of whether Thanksgiving dinner is served buffet style in a garage on paper plates or seated in a dining room with fine china, they will be comfortable. And, hopefully, they aren’t going to think “dinner out” means that fast food joint with the golden arches hovering over forever.

I always loved eating at my grandmother’s. She wasn’t so much eccentric as she was classy. She had beautiful dishes and glassware, and enough silverware to set a table for 30 people, easily. And, she had neat pieces like a little crock teapot and mugs we always used for hot cocoa, a creamer shaped like a cow, and colorful egg cups for soft boiled eggs. The best part was the cloth napkins. Not that there weren’t paper napkins around, but for dinner, they were cloth…see, classy.

It wasn’t just the value of a perfect place setting that was passed on to me. My love for nifty kitchen tools came from my grandmother and mother too! Now, here is where I become a bit fuzzy in my memories. I can’t tell you if it was my grandmother or my father who developed my love of poached eggs. However, I can tell you that it was my dad who taught me to poach an egg in a pot of water (the “real” way), but my grandmother who had the nifty egg poaching pan. The pan ensured perfectly poached eggs every time. I have that pan, and I have yet to find anything to replace it. It is old in pan years, probably at least 35, and has a ring around it that shows where the water line is. It’s not fancy, it has no teflon coating or glass lid, but it makes perfect eggs. I can simmer water in a big pot just right with a little vinegar and roll the egg with the spoon as it poaches, but I don’t have to.

The other gadget from my grandmother’s kitchen that I posses, a potato masher. No electric mixer used here, and definitely NO boxed potatoes. Seriously, if you do nothing else different after ready this post, please, for the love of food, never make mashed potatoes from flakes ever again. You can set the table any way you want and use the salad fork to eat your entree, but take the extra few minutes to peel and mash your own potatoes. You will be a much happier person because of it. Okay, rant over…back to the gadgets. The final gadget that was passed on to me is a cheese grater set. Nothing fancy, but they are still super sharp (trust me and the missing chunks of my knuckles). The irony in my kitchen gadget journey through the years that has led to me needing more storage space, is that those items I inherited from my grandmother are considered antiquated now. They have been replaced with electric versions twice over, but they are still my favorites.

So, as you are enjoying time with family over the holidays, take a few moments to think about the things that have been passed down to you. Whether it be a tradition, a value, or a really cool gadget, those are the things that make you, you. What will you be passing on to your family??

October was National Cookbook Month! (but, it’s not just about the recipes…)

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October was National Cookbook Month! This was very exciting (at least to a cookbook junkie like myself!)!! There are several ways I chose to celebrate this momentous occasion…

Early in the month, I presented my young niece and my new granddaughter with their very first cookbooks. Princess cookbooks, of course! I’m still a little unsettled by the implied main ingredient of the 7 Dwarf Stew, but overall the dishes sounded fun and tasty. Cooking with my great grandmother, grandmother, aunts, sister and mother is probably my very favorite childhood memory. It spawned a passion that has continued into my adulthood and I have made every effort to pass on to my own children, and now my grandchild (which is odd for me to type…I am still getting used to the title though I am certain I will master it eventually. I had amazing role models!). I learned how to read recipes, adapt them, substitute ingredients, and fix mistakes. I learned that a palmful is about a tablespoon and a good pour is about a 1/4 C. I learned that it’s not a good idea to lift the mixer out of the bowl while it’s turned on. The remnants of many dishes graced the underneath of cabinets and the kitchen ceilings for awhile so this lesson took a bit longer to learn apparently. Most importantly, I learned that a good cook tastes as they cook and that eating raw cookie dough probably isn’t going to kill me but it can contribute to quite the belly ache! All of these great life lessons will be passed on for generations to come!

During the month, I also downloaded several new e-cookbooks to my tablet: Salads to Go, Yummy Cast Iron Cookbook and The Grilled Cheese Recipe Showdown. And, I cleaned and organized my cookbook collection. Yes, collection. I collect cookbooks like many women collect shoes. I love them, especially if they include beautiful photos of the dishes. I have hundreds of cookbooks, and I use them. Do I follow the recipes step by step? Rarely. They are more of an inspiration. They are riddled with post-its and have scribbles in the margins adapting recipes and making notes. Even I sometimes have trouble deciding what to fix for dinner, so I head to the cookbooks and flip through until I find something that looks good and I have the primary ingredients for because I can always adapt the recipe, of course. So, I bet you are wondering which book is my favorite!?! The Encyclopedia of Vegetarian Cooking. No, I am not a vegetarian. This particular book is a true encyclopedia of every vegetable in the world. It describes how to store them, clean them and cook them. And, in this cookbook is the very best hollandaise sauce recipe ever. It ruined me for ever eating hollandaise at a restaurant, and is so good that I will lick the inside of the blender to get every last drop. Sometimes, I try to think of a dish I can prepare that includes hollandaise just because I am craving the sauce!

Of all of the cookbooks I have, about 20 are my children’s. And, yes, they use them too! My son, who is now 11, will say, “hey mom, let’s fix something new!” and he will search through to find something he wants to try. Believe me, this is a much better option than when he was younger and wanted to develop his own recipes. He would mix together the strangest of concoctions and I would have to sample them. Putting some of his “special” dishes in my mouth was truly a sign of a mother’s love for her child. I’m happy to announce that none of his recipes actually killed me, though there were several that I disposed of discreetly. I was recently reminded of his style of cooking when one of the teachers at the child care center I direct had the preschool age children write their own recipes for their favorite foods. I am certain that no one wants to try any of these dishes!

kids recipes

Tonight, my son surprised me by fixing dinner himself with me helping as his sous chef. I had very limited duties. His meal of hot dogs with macaroni and cheese and peas doesn’t seem very impressive until you hear that the macaroni and cheese was made from scratch. It was very good (a little stringy, but tasty!). Next cooking lesson for him: béchamel sauce.

These days we have amazing technology at our fingertips! We can Google recipes on our phones, find the instructions for absolutely anything on Pinterest, and can have hundreds of cookbooks downloaded that fit in the space a single e-reader occupies. But, it’s not about the recipes. It’s about cooking and the connections it makes. And truly, nothing will ever replace the feeling of an actual cookbook in my hands with the cover sticky from food spilling, the pages wrinkled and creased from use and the spine having to be taped from being opened and closed over and over again.

Parmesan Lemon Chicken Cutlets with Angel Hair Pasta

parmesan chicken and pasta
This is an easy go-to recipe that can be the center piece of many dishes. A healthier version of fried chicken. It is very economical and flexible enough to be totally casual or part of an elegant meal. Toss the cutlet on a bun for a tasty sandwich, serve with waffles and a lemon syrup, top with mozzarella and serve with spaghetti for chicken Parmesan, or serve as I did with a side of garlic and parmesan angel hair pasta and steamed asparagus.

parsley-001 This recipe uses the herb, parsley. I have had many people comment about parsley not really having any flavor, and how it’s only supposed to be a plate garnish. So untrue! Parsley, especially fresh, is very flavorful. There are two types of parsley that you commonly see in cooking: flat leaf and curly. Flat leaf has a good flavor and is used in many traditional flavor blends. Curly parsley is often used as a garnish. Fresh parsley is typically added toward the end of cooking to maintain the flavor. You can use either dry or fresh parsley for this recipe. Just remember when using dry spices, use about 1 teaspoon of dry in place of 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs because the dry spices will have a stronger flavor. Also, when using dry spices, give them a quick grind with your hand or even a mortar and pestle to release the flavor.

 

Okay, back to the chicken. This dish uses boneless, skinless breasts that are pounded thin, so a little goes a long way, making it an economical meal. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs could also be used.

Parmesan Lemon Chicken Cutlets

1/2 C all-purpose flour
4 chicken breasts
3 eggs
1/3 C Parmesan cheese, grated
1 T Dried Parsley, plus extra for garnish
2-3 T Olive Oil
1-2 T butter
Juice of 1 lemon, reserve lemon for garnish
Salt and Pepper to taste

raw chicken

Pound the chicken breasts until they are about 1/4 inch thick. Place flour in a bowl and coat chicken pieces in flour. Shake off excess. Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet.

 

 

egg mixture

Beat the eggs, cheese, parsley, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Dip the chicken in the egg mixture. Gently shake off the excess.

 

 

parmesan chicken 2

Place in the skillet. Cook until browned, about 3-4 minutes per side. Squeeze some lemon juice over the chicken while it is cooking.

 

 

parmesan chicken 3

Remove from the skillet. Squeeze on more lemon juice. Garnish with a sprinkle of parsley and some lemon slices. Serve immediately.

 

I served these cutlets angel hair pastawith angel hair pasta tossed with olive oil, butter, Parmesan cheese, garlic and parsley, and steamed asparagus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

parmesan chicken and pasta

Once you have made these easy cutlets, you will find many dishes to use them with! Feel free to change the herb used (try cilantro or basil) and leave out the lemon, use lime or even orange instead. The combinations are endless. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parmesan Lemon Chicken Cutlets with Angel Hair Pasta
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: American, French
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
 
Ingredients
  • ½ C all-purpose flour
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 eggs (use just whites if desired)
  • ⅓ C grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 T dried parsley (fresh works fine too, have a bit extra for garnish)
  • ½ t kosher or sea salt
  • ¼ t ground pepper
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • Juice of 1 lemon (zest & slice the remaining lemon for additional garnish)
Instructions
  1. Depending upon the size of the breasts, slice and pound to ¼-in thick.
  2. Place the flour in a shallow bowl and season with salt & pepper.
  3. Coat the chicken pieces with the seasoned flour.
  4. Beat the eggs in a small bowl, add the Parmesan, parsley and half the lemon juice.
  5. Heat the olive oil and butter over medium high heat in a large skillet.
  6. Dip the chicken pieces in the egg mixture, allowing excess to drip off.
  7. Place in the skillet and cooked until lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes per side.
  8. Squeeze additional lemon over cooking pieces.
  9. Remove to a warm platter and serve immediately to avoid pieces getting soggy.
  10. Garnish with lemon slices and additional parsley.