As the holidays approach and you're looking for fun ways to create a little magic, try a family meal serving a vegetable pie, side of sauté chicken and garden salad. It's a delicious idea and a more playful way to say 'eat your vegetables.'
When you think it doesn't get any better, it does. Getting children, and sometimes adults, to eat their vegetables can be like pulling teeth (by the way, this recipe won't send you to the dentist). With this rendition of an exquisite vegetable pie...get ready...onions, peppers, zucchini, spinach, and corn. That's a veggie party in your mouth.
The idea is to eat more vegetables, right?
Instead of feeding the family a heavy, meat-lovers, pizza from one of the delivery joints, try this simple recipe. If you want to make it a well-rounded meal, add a protein with the pie by sautéing butterfly chicken breast seasoned in rosemary, thyme, and butter. And to brighten the meal, make an easy garden salad with vinaigrette. Serve the vegetables in pizza slices and eat with your hands. So many fun ways to add nutrition to you body.
1 pie crust ( Pillsbury or any)
1 green or red pepper
2 zucchinis diced
1 cup corn
1 bag spinach (frozen or fresh)
1/2 stick cream cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup any shredded cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté onion, peppers, and zucchini. Add corn, spinach, and cheese. Then, the eggs. Cover a round baking pan with the pie crust (approx. an 11” pan). Fill with the mix, and sprinkle w parmesan and some small pieces of butter.
Place in the oven at 400F for 35 min. If you like you can cover the pie with a second crust. Paint it with an egg and then bake.
"We come from an Italian family where pasta is always part of our meals as an entrée or main dish. My mom always had this pasta ready so we could scoop it at anytime of the day or night. And traditions are to follow. I do the same and would like to share this easy recipe with you."
Everyday Pasta by chef Laura Arredondo
Boil a box of penne, elbow, or spiral pasta. When it’s ready, drain and keep a cup of water to put back in the pot with the pasta. While the burner is low, add 1/2 stick butter, 2 cups milk, 1 cup parmesan cheese, 1/3 stick cream cheese, and 1 cup shredded cheese. For fresh greens add green onions, parsley and if it's handy, basil.
Salt and pepper to taste, 2 T. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg and mix everything. You will have a creamy pasta full of flavor. You can also add green peas, broccoli or any vegetable you like.
"I keep it in a container and to heat, just put in in a bowl in the microwave. If I need a side dish for dinner I heat the pasta, put it in a Pyrex and cover it with some parmesan cheese and pieces of butter then right to the oven to broil and everybody loves it." chef Laura
Social distance dining in the open air or ordering take-out to support local restaurants is a little something most can do to 'lift up' this sector of our economy. Pictured: Max's Brick Oven
The shutdown of indoor dining across the state of Kentucky has many of us wanting to carry the torch for these beaten down businesses and pledge to do what we can by ordering meals to go. It’s a small gesture that most of us can afford to help save this sector of the economy. After all, who doesn’t love take-out?
In Kentucky, Governor Andy Beshear issued an executive order effective Friday, November 20 through December 13. 2020 that will change buying behaviors as a third wave of high infections due to the deadly coronavirus tightens its grip on our way of life. According to the governor, one of the biggest spreaders of COVID-19 happens when people take off their masks to eat, drink, and engage in conversation whether in restaurants, bars, or any indoor social gathering that involves food.
On the first night of the restaurant and bar shutdown, darkness fell over our neck of the woods before the clock ticked 5 pm CST. For many of us, the dinner bell doesn’t start ringing until 6 pm or later. Efforts to do our part with a ‘gung ho, let’s go’ attitude will happen after the skies turn pitch black.
Since starting the website, finding time to make dinner is almost impossible. I have other commitments besides my new business venture and dinner will take a backseat. If there’s time, I’ll make a Rachel Ray 30 minute meal. Otherwise, off we go into the wild ill-lit yonder.
Last night, the switch was flipped and indoor dining temporarily halted. Let’s agree, Friday nights are made for good food, good friends, and good fun. After all, it’s the weekend; time to slow down, relax, and let someone else do the cooking. The first restaurant on my ‘to go’ order plan was Flamingo Row located across the road from Kentucky Oaks Mall. Flamingo Row is known for its Caribbean flavors, colorful menu items, and unique food and drink. Oh yeah, I haven’t mentioned the ‘to go’ order plan.
In Paducah, and every small town, there are fabulous little nooks with wonderful places to eat. Some area restaurants have converted to online menu ordering, delivery options, menus devoted to carry-out only, and there’s always fast food drive-thru. As it happens, there are still dine-in ‘mostly’ places that are working on strategies to survive the next two COVID-19 cycles, the cycles the governor spoke about in one of his mid-week coronavirus updates.
The plan is to ‘spread the love’ evenly among local restaurants to feed the voracious appetite of my family of five. Traveling in the pitch black in a rural area can be ominous, especially after the shutdowns. There are few cars on the road, the restaurant parking lots are dark, and mother nature’s cloudy fall weather covers the moon leaving little glow.
As I made my way to the Flamingo Row parking lot, there were three parked cars with headlights on. The restaurant sits off the road in a secluded area. Without the parking lights, it was like wearing a blindfold. After parking the car, I made my way to the side entrance to pick-up my carry-out. At first glance, the bar seats were empty, there were two picnic style tables filled with 10 or more carry-out orders, and two restaurant staff behind the register. The first sentence out of my mouth was, “This all feels very weird.” To that end, one of the staff said, “You’re the second person to say that. It’s a restaurant apocalypse.”
The original word in Greek, apokalypsis, means an unveiling, a ‘revelation’. It helps us to see the full disclosure of what was hidden, that wasn’t there before. The pandemic could be a revelation. We’re seeing healthcare inequalities, class divisions, and Americans with otherwise ‘brushed off’ jobs now considered essential workers yet with poor pay. The unveiling has ‘opened our eyes’ to some of the injustices of the world.
It’s clear that all of the world’s problems won’t be solved by ordering take-out from local restaurants. It's clear that we all need each other to survive in this world. I was speaking with a healthcare worker yesterday about the number of people in Paducah that had COVID-19 and subsequently those on the COVID-19 floor of one of the local hospitals. She said that her position didn't require her to be on the Covid floor, however, she did hear that beds were full. She was thankful not to be around all the misery and suffering.
It's definitely a time of revelation and a time to rethink what’s important to us. If making a plan to support the local restaurants by ordering take-out is something you would like to do, I invite you to join a Facebook group WKY Table. It’s here that I post restaurant take-out specials, menus, and reminders. It’s free and uncommercialized. And I encourage you to post specials, menus, and reminders of your favorite restaurants. If you're not buying for your family, consider sending a meal to a healthcare team fighting COVID-19 on the COVID floor of the hospital. Or, there are plenty in need, maybe order take-out and donate to one of the local food kitchens. It's the little things.
Chef Laura has prepared a simple and elegant dessert using puff pastry, custard, caramel sauce, and meringue. This particular recipe may be dressed up with berries, chocolate shavings, or any topping for additional flavors and aesthetics.
Finding new recipes to add to our bag of treats will please the family, ourselves, and beat the winter blues. For this particular dessert, a little goes a long way. Serve with coffee or a port.
1 or 2 packs of puff pastry Pepperidge Farm
(depends on the desired number of layers)
Box of vanilla pudding mix
Dulce de Leche (Nestle's)
Three egg whites (room temperature)
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Begin by thawing the puff pastry. After a quick thaw, apply a rolling pin to the pastry to increase the size. Place the puff pastry on a baking sheet and bake each layer, you can also use a baking sheet with parchment paper. Make holes w a fork to the pastry so it doesn’t 'puff' too much. Cook each sheet at 400 F for 12-15 min. When ready let them cool on a rack.
Next, fill the layers with a vanilla custard that you can make or a box of vanilla pudding and alternate with Dulce de Leche (Nestle brand) .
For the topping there are several possibilities: Make a simple merengue (recipe to follow), decorate with confectioners sugar and lemon juice frosting or use a good whipped cream. Top with strawberries to finish. Cool in the fridge for 30 minutes and enjoy!
Preheat of to 425 degrees.
Beat egg whites in medium bowl with electric mixer until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar, 1 tbsp. at a time, until sugar is dissolved and there are stiff peaks.
Pipe dollops of meringue onto the pie
Bake 4 - 5 minutes until the tips are lightly brown
Shrimp ceviche with mango is a treat anytime of the year. It might be worth a try this Thanksgiving as an appetizer. Making the holiday extra special.
Does this dish look beautiful or what? Chef Laura is a master at ceviche. When she and Nestor owned the restaurant in downtown Paducah, they had the best salad bar in town. Stainless steel cool bowls on ice were filled with ceviche dishes. The flavors were so pleasing to the palette. It's true what 'they' say about tasting the food with the eyes first. The vibrant color after preparing a cool dish is like the colors of the changing fall leaves. Simply beautiful. It begins with the eyes and trickles down to the lips. Such a delight on the senses.
Classic ceviche is made by marinating raw seafood in citrus juice. The acid changes the protein structure and cooks the seafood without heat. This method could get tricky. If you have access to fresh seafood, the process is less likely to leave lingering bacteria on the raw seafood. So...
If you're uncomfortable with the acid method of cooking the meat, here's a tip...poach it in boiling hot water for 2 to 3 minutes until the shrimp turns opaque pink. Then let it soak in a bit of the lemon juice planned for the dish.
Shrimp Ceviche with Mango
1 red onion sliced very thinly
1 red pepper diced
1 green pepper diced
1 tomato diced
2 lb of shrimp ( cut them in small pieces if they are too big)
For those planning to poach the shrimp: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Turn off the heat, add the shrimp, and poach until the shrimp are opaque and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the shrimp and set aside until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.
1 mango peeled and diced (canned mangos are an option)
2 cups of lemon juice
1/2 cup orange juice ( or mango juice)
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro and stems
1/2 tsp. Salt
"If you like some heat you can add some hot pepper sauce or any fresh hot pepper. Mix altogether and cool for at least two hours. It’s important to eat it cold. You can have some corn tortilla chips to go with it. Enjoy!" chef Laura
Cornbread dressing with maple sausage...bringing back the sweet and savory classic.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner and the idea of adding more guests to the table could send you into orbit. Don't sweat it. There's always time for a quick menu change. If the guest list has expanded, go to plan B. Plan B is to make the cornbread dressing into a meal. By adding meat or additional veggies to any dish you can make a little go a long way.
Recently, I've enjoyed adding sausage to several of my dishes. It's like a one-stop shop. Whether it's sweet Italian, maple or plain sausage, sausage has that extra kick that elevates a recipe.
This recipe is a tribute to the 80s and 90s. Once upon a time, adding sausage. veggies, nuts, and dried fruits to cornbread dressing was all the rage. It was the newest, greatest thing in cooking...more is more. So, we're bringing it back.
Enjoy the recipe and read the tips throughout. Pay special attention to the dialogue at the end of the recipe between chef and myself.
Cornbread dressing w/ maple sausage (Serves 8)
1 lb. sweet maple sausage
1 1/2 c onion finely diced
3/4 c celery finely diced
5 slices dried white bread
6 c dried cornbread (about 2 lbs.)
2 plus cups of chicken broth (canned or box is fine but a small pack of leg quarters makes an easy broth that will pay dividends in the final dish)
3 eggs beaten
1/4 c butter plus drippings (from sausage)
2 tsp rubbed sage or 4 tsp fresh sage chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
"Using maple sausage lends to a minor sweetness that pairs very well with this savory dressing." chef
Make a pan of cornbread the night before & break into 1” pieces & let dry on a pan over night (be sure to season the cornbread too). This is building layers of flavor for later. Tear the white bread into pieces and let it dry with the cornbread.
To make the dressing start in a non-stick skillet by adding the sausage & break up as it browns (thoroughly). Remove to drain and poor off all but 2 tbs. of the drippings (save drippings for later use). Add the onion & celery all the while scrapping up any of the brown bits. Sauté for 3-5 minutes until translucent.
In a large bowl add both breads. When onion & celery are done, add to the bread mixture along with the sausage. Beat eggs and add the reserved drippings to combine with bread mixture. Season with salt and pepper then add sage.
Mix completely and start adding broth (just as in cornbread-for a drier dressing make a drier mix and for a moister dressing add more broth). The wetter the mix the more moist it will be in the end (This is a personal choice). Add mixture to a well buttered 9x11 baking pan and bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes.
Dialogue between me and chef Fleming:
Me: That sounds fantastic! I've got a question. I've never used homemade broth. Are you supposed to skim the fat off the top of the broth or send it through a sieve?
Chef Fleming: I used to skim mine religiously. And for a good clear broth YES. What I’ve started doing lately though is to leave it & the fat rises & sets up on the top after it cools. Using schmaltz to cook in is simply amazing. Talk about layers of flavor. So it’s a personal choice but normally, yes skim it.
Me: What is schmaltz?
Chef Fleming: Oh, chicken fat.
Chef Fleming: It’s great stuff. It’s better than bacon grease. I would not joke about this.
Me: How do you use schmaltz?
Chef Fleming: I use it to sauté veggies instead of olive oil. I also use it when I make fried potatoes. Just about anything you substitute out any oil. It’s FULL of flavor & it’s not a trans fat so it’s really not worse than canola or olive oil.
Me: Interesting. I didn't know. Thanks, chef.
Amazing cheesy enchiladas made with your choice of meat: chicken, ribs, or roast
"Here is a great recipe for enchiladas. It’s quite simple once you get thru it & you can use your meat of choice. This includes the seasonings & recipe. It’s seems drawn out but trust me after a time or 2 you’ll knock these out in no time". Chef Fleming
1/2 cup oregano ( dried whole leaf, don't use ground )
1/2 c salt
1/4 c black pepper
2 tbs each - chili powder, cumin, paprika, granulated garlic, onion powder.
Mix well & put in an airtight container. You can adjust this after you make it to your taste.
"I've been asked about dried herbs, and yes they serve a purpose. If possible, always buy whole leaf & the smallest amount you need. Stays fresh only for a short while."
Enchilada recipe: Serves 8 plus
1 large onion peeled & rough chop
1 bell pepper seeded & rough chop
5-6 garlic cloves whole peeled
2 cans (14.5 oz) Stewed tomatoes.
About 2 c broth beef or chicken depending on which meat you choose.
6-7 boneless chick breast-or-
4 lbs of pounds of country-style pork ribs -or -
my favorite is a piece of a beef chuck roast about 4 lbs cut into 1” pieces
8-10 oz of your favorite cheese (cheddar or queso fresco)
1 package of small corn tortillas. (See gluten-free!!) season the meat the night before with Mexican seasoning.
Now if you don't have an immersion blender, I highly recommend getting one.
Anyway, put all ingredients in a roasting pan sprinkle about 3-4 tbs over the ingredients & mix lightly. Preheat oven to 375-400° Pop it in the oven (covered) and let it cook between 2 & 2 1/2 hrs. Remove meat to a covered bowl & let rest.
After the rest of the ingredients have cooled a bit put into your blender or a large bowl and use your immersion blender& purée till smooth. BOOM enchilada sauce .
Check to season & add a little more (to taste ) once the meat has cooled I like to pull or shred by hand, but by all means you can just chop.
Heat a small skillet & toast your tortillas just a little before rolling the shredded meat inside. Put down a little sauce in a baking pan & add your rolled enchiladas. Top with more sauce ( save some for the table) and top with your choice of cheese.
I like queso fresco, but cheddar is equally as good. If you like a little heat put a couple of slices of jalapenos in with meat as it simmers. Serve with your favorite accouterments.