I Love a Good Jerk: Jamaican Jerk Chicken and Pigeon Peas with Rice

We recently took a little trip down to Boca Raton, Fl and happened upon a cute little Jamaican bistro called Rock Steady Jamaican Bistro. The food and service was excellent. I love a good jerk and the spicy, sweet, fresh flavors of Caribbean cuisine, luckily so do my kids. I realized I don’t make enough of this at home, time to change that. I have used the dry jerk seasoning from the spice aisle at the grocery store but it just doesn’t cut it. Time to try my hand a a real, wet, jerk, marinade. I think it was a hit, it had all the flavors I was looking for. Unfortunately neither my local grocery or produce stand had scotch bonnet peppers so I used fresh jalapenos from my garden. I think it still tasted fine but if you are going for authentic switch out the jalapenos for scotch bonnets, just remember they are much spicier so use half the amount.

Jerk Marinade

Combine the following ingredients in a food processor:

1 T allspice powder

1/3 c brown sugar

2T minced garlic

2-4 jalapenos (depending on your spice preference)

1T fresh Thyme

1 bunch scallions

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t nutmeg

2 T soy sauce

Pour marinade over 1 1/2 pounds of pork, shrimp or chicken. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

I used chicken cutlets and grilled them over high heat for about 4 minutes per side.

A traditional side in Jamaica is Rice and pigeon peas. Pigeon peas come in red and green and can be found in the ethnic food section of the grocery store. They are not sweet like english peas but more like a legume, or small red bean. This easy recipe is made in a rice cooker.

Rice and Pigeon Peas

2 1/2 c jasmine rice rinsed until water runs clear

2 1/2 c water

8 oz canned pigeon peas (red or green)

1 t fresh thyme

1 t minced jalapeno

1/4 c sliced scallions/green onions

1 t salt

Place all ingredients into a rice cooker, and cook until done.

Serve with a sweet fruit salad to balance out the heat of the Jerk and enjoy a little taste of the islands without leaving home.

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Raspberry Tequila Sangria

A delicious and refreshing drink for summer parties

Raspberry Tequila Sangria

3 c frozen raspberries

2 oranges

2 limes

1 liter lemon lime soda

1 bottle rose champagne or sparkling wine

Cut 1 orange and 1 lime into thin slices, add to a large pitcher. Add  raspberries, 1 cup tequila, juice from 1 orange, juice from 1 lime, champagne and soda, stir with a wooden spoon serve over ice.

Olympics, That Sounds Like a Reason to Party

I will find any excuse to dress up or have a party, but this was a good one. My favorite band, Duran Duran was doing an Olympic concert, my birthday was a couple of days away and the opening ceremonies were on TV. Unfortunately the concert was not televised but that didn’t stop me.

First the decorations, I decided to go international, I made some easy flag centerpieces from styrofoam and dollar flags from the party store.Cover 2 rectangular styrofoam blocks with colored paper. I cut the paper and used tape at the joints so it would bend around the styrofoam so I could reuse them for another party.

I also painted the olympic rings onto the paper using a top to a pill bottle and paint and then stamping it onto the paper.

Paint around or dip the bottle top into paint and then use like a stamp.

insert your flags into the styrofoam and then you could pour colored glass or pebbles over the top of the styrofoam to cover it ( I forgot to do this step on mine). Paper crinkles would also work.

Use paper flag toothpicks for appetizers or sandwiches

Spell out your favorite team (or band) with vegetables.

Serve Olympic themed desserts, My friend used mini M&M’s to make the olympic rings on her coconut cake

or try the Olympic Fruit Tart

We played lots of silly games, like Olympic Themed Pictionary (divide into 2 teams and draw different events, countries, athletes, or London landmarks or traditions), Minute to Win It’s “How’s it Hanging“, and Diving for Cherries ( put a maraschino cherry in a bowl cover with whipped cream and using only your mouth try to get the cherry, whoever gets it first wins)

and of course there were costumes and medals. Buy some at the dollar store or make your own with paper circles, glitter and ribbon.

Dress as your favorite athlete, event or country and have fun!

Going for the Gold: Olympic Fruit Tart

Hosting an Olympic themed party, try this cute and festive dessert, you may take home the gold.

Olympic Fruit Tart

2 packages of dry sugar cookie mix

1 80z tub Cool Whip

12 oz cream cheese softened

1 t vanilla extract

2 T sugar

1 cup apple jelly

about 1/2 c each of:

Raspberries, Blackberries, Pineapple, Blueberries, and Green Grapes

Mix up sugar cookie dough according to package directions, spread into a large rectangular cookie sheet sprayed with non stick spray. Cook for about 15 minutes or until cookie is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Flip cookie onto a large flat board or platter (you can leave in pan if desired). To make frosting, combine cool whip, cream cheese, vanilla and sugar in a large bowl, I used my kitchen aid mixer with the paddle attachment, you could use a hand mixer or food processor. Beat about 4 minutes on high or until no longer lumpy. Spread on cooled cookie.

To make olympic rings use a small bowl and make circular indentations onto the frosting.

Use the fruit to make rings, Chop black berries and grapes in half, and pineapple into small pieces

Melt apple jelly in a small sauce pan over med/low heat and brush over tart with a silicone brush.

Put in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Calabacitas: Simple, Healthy, and Delicious

This is one of my favorite things to eat. I first had them at a small hole in the wall restaurant in Tarpon Springs, FL. It was called El Jalapeno, their decor was not the finest but the food was delicious, homemade mexican with clean and simple flavors. I would eat there at least once a week and in fact had my first date with my husband there over 20 years ago. Sadly it closed, but I continue to make this dish at home. Calabacita means “little squash” and zucchini is the star here. It is buttery and delicious, highlighted by the sweetness of the tomatoes and the slight crunch of the red onions. Back in the lean years this was dinner, we served it over some black beans or in a tortilla with some cheese. It also make a great side dish on taco night.Don’t underestimate the flavor in this dish because of it’s simplicity, try it tonight.

Calabacitas

2 T canola oil

3 medium sized zucchini quartered and chopped into 1 inch pieces

1 carton grape tomatoes chopped in half

1/2 large red onion chopped into 1 inch pieces (about 1 cup)

1 t salt

1/2 t pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet, add vegetables, saute over med heat for about 5-7 min, stirring occasionally. Vegetables should still be slightly al dente, toss with salt and pepper. Serve as a side, over black beans, or in tortillas.

Beer Makes it Better: Beer Macaroni and Cheese

Beer makes everything better and that holds true in this recipe. Give your mac and cheese new life and depth of flavor with this little twist on a classic.

Beer Macaroni and Cheese

1 lb elbow macaroni cooked and drained

4 T butter

1 tsp chopped garlic

1/4 c flour

2 t hot sauce

1/2 c beer

4 c milk

1 t smoked paprika

3 cups of shredded cheese

1/2 t pepper

1 t salt

Melt butter over low heat in a large oven safe pan, add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add flour and stir, cook 2-3 minutes over low heat. Add beer, paprika and hot sauce. cook 1 minute. Will become a thick paste like consistency.

Slowly add milk and hot sauce while whisking, bring up temperature to almost boiling and heat until thickened (so it coats a spoon). Add salt and pepper.

Whisk in cheese. I used Sharp Cheddar, Parmesan and Monterey Jack. This is a good recipe to clean out the cheese drawer in the fridge, try your favorite combo, the good thing is beer goes with all types of cheese.

Add Macaroni to pan, stir until macaroni is evenly coated.

Place in a 300 degree preheated oven for 15 minutes. Sauce will thicken and crust will form on top, add grated cheese and herbs if desired.

Serve as a main dish or as a side to your favorite meal, like Raspberry Chipotle Pork Chops

Happy National Tequila Day !

Hold the phone, I had no idea such a day existed. Yet another reason to celebrate, responsibly of course. Happy National Tequila day to everyone!

Try these recipes to reach your Tequila requirement for the day…

Beer Ritas

Spicy Tequila Pulled Pork

 

Raspberry Tequila Sangria

Raspberry Chipotle Pork Chops

 

Sweet, smokey and a little spicy, try this with chicken too. Simple enough for a weeknight dinner, elegant enough for company, and romantic enough for date night.

Raspberry Chipotle Pork Chops

2 pounds boneless pork loin chops ( although this would work on any pork or chicken cut)

2 T veg oil

For the rub

1 t salt

1 t lemon pepper

1 t garlic powder

1/2 t cumin

1/2 t chipotle chili powder ( I used Mc Cormick’s)

For the sauce

6 0z fresh raspberries

2 T red wine vinegar

1 t chipotle chili powder

2 t sugar

Mix together the ingredients for the rub in a small bowl (Salt, lemon pepper, garlic powder, cumin, and 1/2 t of chipotle chili powder) Sprinkle on both sides of the chops.

 

Heat oil in a large pan, add chops and cook for approximately 5 min per side on med heat, depending on thickness.(use a meat thermometer to check doneness)

Remove chops to a plate. There will be juice left in your pan.

 

Add red wine vinegar, sugar and raspberries to pan, cook over low heat about 3 minutes of until raspberries fall apart and sauce thickens slightly. Break up raspberries with the back of a spoon until smooth. (You may add water if you did not have enough pan juices)

 

Spoon sauce over chops and serve.

Formula for a Perfect Salad: Grilled Salmon and Goat Cheese Salad

 

I am very particular about my salads. They need to contain what I like to call my perfect salad formula, which is something crunchy, something sweet, something sour or acidic and something unexpected. Balance is also key, sweet and savory, creamy and crunchy, warm and cold, everything has to have the right ratio. Oh and did I mention  it has to be visually appealing as well so make sure there are contrasting colors and textures. One of my favorite salads to eat out is Bonefish’s Grilled Salmon and Asparagus Salad. It meets all my criteria and it is delicious. I made my own little version of it at home minus the asparagus.

For 2

2 fillets wild sockeye salmon

2 T olive oil

1/4 cup orange juice

1/2 t salt

1/4 t lemon pepper

1/4 t chili powder

4 c mixed field greens, washed and dried

1/2 c french green beans, steamed until crisp tender ( I used a microwave steamer bag)

1/3 c chopped fennel

4 T goat cheese

1/2 c cherry tomatoes

1/2 c citrus or mango vinaigrette (I used Bolthouse Farms Tropical Mango, I normally don’t buy bottled dressings, but this one is good and all natural)

Place fish in a shallow dish, top with orange juice and olive oil and put in refrigerator for 15 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with salt pepper and chili powder. Grill until cooked to your liking, I did mine about 4 min per side. Assemble greens, fennel, goat cheese, green beans and tomatoes on each plate, top with grilled fish and dressing.

Goat Cheese and Marinara Dip

I first tried this dip when my best friend made it for book club. It is a true crowd pleaser and couldn’t be any easier. It’s a perfect go to appetizer when invited to a last minute cocktail party or when unexpected guests come over.

Goat Cheese and Marinara Dip

4 oz goat cheese log

12 oz of your favorite marinara, I like to use spicy (or make your own)

1 T chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 350. Pour marinara in to a small baking dish, slice goat cheese and arrange on top of sauce.

 

 

Heat for about 15-20 minutes or until goat cheese is slightly melted. Top with basil and serve with sliced Italian or French bread.