Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Love and The Heart - Turkey Sliders with Okra Fries and Remoulade Sauce

I have been blessed to know some really wonderful people in my lifetime, and I should have known that it was only the foreshadowing to meeting my husband. I love him with all of my heart and am amazed every single day at the beauty of a life where we both work at loving each other better. Even though I used the word "work" there, it is more like a hobby where the joy derived makes it never feel like work.
We both come from families with history of heart issues, and in our 40s have decided to make a conscious effort to eat healthier and, true to our own selves as a couple, we are making it fun!
I didn't really intend to put this on the blog, so I only took a few photos before we enjoyed them, but WOW - these were really good, and felt like amazing gourmet pub fare, and not anything like sacrificing taste for health benefits.
Our local grocery sends out some pretty great coupons. Don't get me wrong, I only wish I were organized enough to be a big "couponer," but $10 off is worth the trip and I started off going mainly for some high end toilet paper.
The produce section had some really healthy-looking okra, and here in the south, okra is usually best purchased from the local farmers market - but this looked great and made me think of summertime. Which in the cold and dreary dark of winter is a great thought to cling to.
By slicing the okra in half, tossing it with olive oil and sea salt and putting it under the broiler - it gets light, crispy, and amazing. Dipped in a little Remoulade Sauce, you will be shocked.
I found some fresh-baked rolls that still had a bit of steam in the package where they had been packed still warm, and knew that there had to be some little sandwiches of some sort to be made with these. Having had a good bit of beef lately, I was hesitant to buy ground beef, even the leanest, but saw the ground turkey and it is a great option for balancing out your meat selections for the week. We try to alternate chicken, fish, turkey, beef, and even a little lean pork, so that we don't overuse any of them.  I get really tired of chicken and even though it is healthy, sometimes you find yourself eating chicken 10 times a week. Bock bock.  We have found the secret to a wonderfully moist turkey burger that will save you a good bit of fat and calories.  I might have to look up the calorie difference and post it here, because the last time I looked at it, I was amazed. But, you didn't come here for that - you came for the YUM factor, so here goes;

Turkey Sliders
1 lb Ground Turkey
1 Egg
seasonings to taste - I used smoked paprika, salt, pepper

This one is just so easy and can be customized with whatever seasoning you like.  
Put the ground turkey into a mixing bowl and add the egg and seasonings.
You can mix it with a spoon, but the best and easiest way is just to combine it with your hands until it is well mixed.  
Make small patties just larger than your buns and about 1/2 inch thick
In a large non stick skillet, cook the patties over medium heat until they are done all the way through. You will feel the texture change if you poke them a bit with the spatula from "spongy" to firm and that is a great indicator of doneness.  

Slice the rolls and wrap them in aluminum foil and place in the oven to warm.  
Top each slider with some good cheese, some sautéed onions, tomato, lettuce or spinach leaves, maybe a good pickle or two and a dab of the remoulade sauce. We "might" have used a tiny bit of bacon on each one for fun!

Okra Fries
Fresh Okra, Sliced length wise
Olive Oil
Sea Salt

Slice the fresh okra length wise and put in a mixing bowl
Toss it with a tiny bit of olive oil or spray with a "mister" until lightly coated
Cover a sheet pan with aluminum foil
Spread okra on prepared pan
Sprinkle with salt

Place under preheated broiler and cook until lightly brown and crispy 
I actually took it out half way through cooking and  tossed the pieces around
Serve with Remoulade Sauce for dipping.

Remoulade Sauce
2 T Mayonaise
2 t Spicy Mustard
2 t Ketchup
Dash of hot sauce

There are too many recipes for this one to even count, everyone has their own idea as to what it should taste like - I think it should taste like what YOU like.  So - mix it up, taste it, and add whatever makes you happy.  I usually add whatever kind of fun relish is in our fridge - this time it was pear relish, a lovely homemade gift from my Mother-in-Law.  Once you taste this on the burger, and the okra fries, you will find lots of excuses to use it on everything!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Work less, eat better...Chicken Quesadillas with Fresh Spinach (Bonus, Salsa and Guacamole!)

The new year is upon us and as always, we have all made a few new year's resolutions to improve life.  Do you find that in resolving to improve your life, your quality of life is worse because there is NO POSSIBLE WAY to fit all of the things that you want to do into the waking hours of the day?

Welcome to the real world.

Here's a suggestion - instead of the truckload of normal resolutions for this year, resolve just this one thing...


Think about it - it encompasses (almost) everything that you might have resolved to change, in a way that is much kinder to YOU.  Grant yourself the same compassion that you give to others and you might just find that the rest falls into place. Take everyday one moment at a time, and with each choice you make ask yourself, is this good for me, for my health, for my goals?  By being kinder to yourself, you can allow the small stuff to slide right by and focus on the importance of having a meaningful life, without working yourself to death trying to achieve it.

That being said, if you've read my blog at all, you know how much I love the entire experience of a roasted chicken - the freshness, the fragrance, and the experience of being involved with the meal from start to finish. I can't say that I am giving that up forever, but today I am making a new decision based upon a new set of circumstances. I bought a fresh roasted chicken at a "big box" retailer for $5. Ok,  I bought 2.  They were gorgeous, juicy, and amazingly aromatic. I bought them partly because the smell intoxicated me and watching them pull them out of the roasters and place them into the containers was a little bit mesmerizing.  That, coupled with having just looked at some very tiny EXPENSIVE little organic chickens that were 3 times the price helped to make my decision. Right now, meat is expensive. I am going to look for ways to make the best recipe options using the least expensive cuts of meat - I really like a challenge.  I will add another level to my challenge and that is this;  I will continue to focus my recipes on using what is at hand.  Usually at the end of my posts, I give some hints as to what to do with leftover ingredients.  If you are ever at a loss for what to do with what is in your fridge, post a comment on the Spoon of Hearts Facebook page and I'd love to play "What's for dinner with what's in your fridge!"

So, let's get on with the business of these two beautiful and inexpensive roasted chickens...

My sweet hubs finds great peace in the chopping of vegetables and deboning of chickens, which makes us a great team. Leftover from the delicious chili that we had was a good bit of chopped onion, half of a fresh jalapeño, shredded cheese and sour cream - great makings for some Quesadillas. It was time for the quarterly "stock up" at the big box store, and I found some great things (in addition to the pretty chickens) a big box of fresh spinach, some fresh flour tortillas (they are pressed but not cooked) and some great Roma tomatoes!

One of our favorite Mexican restaurants has a vegetarian "Spinach and Red Onion Quesadilla" that is delicious and light, and often I will order it with chicken or steak to add a little protein.  So, as my husband deboned the chicken, I put together a quick version of a very healthy quesadilla.  (Pssst! This is also a great way to work some fresh green vegetables into your meal!)  There are so many ways to vary this, and you could make it with almost anything you have on hand!


Flour Tortillas
Shredded Cheese (Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or whatever makes you happy)
Rotisserie Chicken, cut up and deboned
Fresh spinach

Heat a non stick skillet to medium heat
Place the flour tortilla in the skillet
Top 1/2 of it with fresh spinach, chicken, and cheese

Fold over and let it cook for about 2 minutes
Flip it over with a spatula and let it cook for another minute until the cheese has melted and spinach has wilted. 
Remove to a platter and continue making as many quesadillas as you need (they are also delicious leftover, see note below)
KITHEN SCISSORS work like a charm to cut the quesadillas into triangles for serving, or use a pizza cutter.  
Serve with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole for topping. Want a more complete meal? Warm a can of seasoned black beans and some spanish rice for a healthy mexican dinner at a very low cost!

Do you have one of those cute little drink blenders? How about a mini chopper?  Or one of the vegetable box choppers? Get it out, blow the dust off of it - and get ready to be amazed.  If not, just a knife and a cutting board will do.  

For the salsa - add tomato (seeded and chopped), onion (chopped), 1/2 jalapeño (seeded and chopped), 1 clove of garlic, salt, and a splash of lime juice or vinegar to your little drink blender or mini chopper and pulse it until it makes a chunky salsa. I also like to add a little cilantro if I have it on hand.  If you don't have one of the little blenders or choppers, just cut everything up very small and in a bowl use a fork to crush and combine everything.  

Now for the guacamole - you are going to be shocked at how easy this is!
Take one avocado, cut it in half and remove the pit. Use your knife to score the flesh of the avocado by cutting into it in a # pattern but not all of the way through the peel. Scoop the flesh out of the avocado with a spoon into a bowl.  Add 2 Tablespoons of the salsa and mash with a fork until well combined. You may want to add a little salt to taste.  

(Pssst...this salsa is really Pico De Gallo. Real salsa is cooked and doesn't have the fresh taste that this one does.  Go ahead and make way more than you need, because you will find great uses for the leftover - it is great on eggs or with chips!)

But wait...there's more!  You probably have left over flour tortillas, chicken, salsa, and spinach. There's always the option to make them again, but why not change it up and have some great fun meals. Here are a few options;
Breakfast Burritos - Fill the flour tortillas with scrambled eggs, cheese, bacon or sausage. Roll them up and serve with salsa. Add a little spinach for a healthy kick!
Chicken Nachos - Arrange crispy corn chips on a baking dish. Top with chopped chicken, and other things like pickled jalapeños, sliced olives, chopped tomato, chopped onion, black beans - whatever you like or have on hand. Sprinkle liberally with shredded cheese and place in oven preheated to 400.  Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly, serve with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole. (Do you have corn chips that are a little bit stale? Put them in the oven for a few minutes and they will crisp right up!)
Wrap Sandwiches - Spread your favorite sandwich condiments on the flour tortilla (mayo, mustard, honey mustard, cream cheese, hot sauce, etc.) top with fresh spinach, chicken (or sandwich meat slices like ham, turkey, or even roast beef), and cheese.  Roll up and you have the perfect lunch on the go. Sandwiches for dinner? "Grill" them a bit in a heated non stick skillet and serve with soup!
Spinach Salad - Use the leftover spinach to make a traditional spinach salad with boiled egg, bacon, cheese and even some of the rotisserie chicken.  
We used the leftovers to have Strawberry Spinach Salads for lunch today - Top the spinach with sliced strawberries, toasted nuts, goat cheese, and chicken. Add your favorite vinaigrette and celebrate a new year of living well, and being kind to yourself!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sometimes love looks like CHILI & CORNBREAD CROUTONS

I am growing pretty certain that there are times where the craziness of the world reaches a peak. The past couple of weeks have been good, but have also had a heavy sprinkling of sadness. I was able to dedicate my time to a friend in need, and although exhausted, am grateful to be able to support the ones I love.  My husband has been amazingly understanding, and one night, as I headed home, he sent me a picture of a pot of chili that he had made as it simmered on the stove.  Instead of using ground beef, he used a sirloin steak, thinly sliced and it was the best chili I've ever tasted. I didn't think it was possible to love him any more than I already did, but I was wrong.  My heart skipped a beat as I walked into our home smelling richly of onion, garlic, beef, and spices.  I love him and know for certain that he loves me too - he made me chili.  Did I mention that he is a cornbread genius? I almost forgot - he is one of "those people" that can just throw the ingredients into an iron skillet and the cornbread is perfect every time.  I really wasn't fond of cornbread before - and then I met my match!
Needless to say I am not writing this on the first eating of the chili - we warmed up the leftovers tonight and made "CORNBREAD CROUTONS" from the leftover cornbread and I am finally fed and rested enough to share it with y'all.  Just remember this, I was so exhausted, that my husband's simple act of cooking dinner made me feel so incredibly loved. I hope that you get the chance to show someone how much you love them today - and I hope that it involves a beautiful pot of chili!

2 T Olive Oil
1 Red Onion - Chopped
1/2 Jalepeño - Finely chopped
2 Cloves Garlic - Minced
3/4 Pound Sirloin, thinly sliced into bite sized pieces
2 T Tomato Paste
4 t  Chili Powder
1 t  Ground Cumin
1 Can Diced Tomatoes (28 oz)
2 Cans Kidney Beans (15 oz)
1 oz Semisweet Chocolate, Chopped
1 T Red Wine Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium high.
Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeño and cook, stirring occasionally until tender.
Add the sirloin and cook until no longer pink.
Add the tomato paste, chili powder, and cumin - stir just until combined.
Add the tomatoes (and the juice), beans, chocolate, and 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil - stirring occasionally.

Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes.  Add Vinegar and Salt/Pepper to taste.

This is a great way to use up leftover cornbread - and would be great as a "taco salad" topping as well!
It is best if your cornbread has been refrigerated which makes it a bit firmer.
Cut the cornbread into cubes and put in a large mixing bowl.
Using an olive oil "air sprayer" (we use a Misto) spray the cubes with olive oil and toss them to coat, spraying them several times for an even coating. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and spread on a baking sheet.

Bake at 400 for 10 minutes, toss them around a bit and then return them to the oven to bake for an additional 10 minutes.  They should be a bit browned and crispy on the outside.

Ladle the chili into bowls, and top with the cornbread croutons, chopped onion/scallion, shredded cheese, sliced avocado, sour cream.  It is pretty enough for a dinner with company, but the best way to enjoy it is with someone you love on a cold winter's night.

Beautiful Chili - BEFORE and...

Pssst...if you are a fan of "Taco Salad", just top a nice bed of lettuce with the chili, toppings, and croutons.  The sirloin is a great lean protein source!

Hey...are you still reading? Cooking for just one or two people? This freezes really well.  Fill a "zippered" freezer bag and press out as much air as possible.  Lay flat in the freezer until frozen, and then it can be stored upright for more efficient space utilization.  (Don't forget to label with dates and contents...we have had "mystery" dinner a few times, and even though it tastes good, it is a bit of a surprise to have spaghetti sauce when you are expecting chili).