So…sometimes you’re stuck, it happens

There you are in your kitchen staring longingly into the refrigerator half trying to cool off and half wondering what that “science experiment” is still doing in the vegetable drawer.  It is HOT outside, muggy enough that you can see birds swimming from tree to tree instead of flying and you have changed your shirt for the third time because of the heat. You may not be motivated enough to head to the grocery store so, what in the world can you do for dinner?  I always say, “work with what you got!”

I was in this situation a couple of weeks ago  and had to kind of wing it.  Avoiding the “science experiment”, and actually throwing it away (To this day, I cannot figure out what it was.) I saw that I had a half bag of fresh spinach leaves, romaine lettuce leaves, a broccoli crown, two small red/yellow bell peppers, half a green bell pepper, a quarter bag of shredded carrots, 3 Roma tomatoes, and about 4 ounces of fresh mushrooms. From my freezer, 1.05 pounds of chicken tenders and, from the pantry, the magic elixir that pulled everything together, Brianna’s Special Request Lively Lemon Tarragon salad dressing.  The result of this list of ingredients was a good dinner, using up some things that would not have been enough for a different recipe and avoiding another trip into the hot muggy South Carolina summer.

Super B Salad

Lemon Taragon Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

1 lb – Chicken tenders

1 bottle – Brianna’s Lemon Tarragon salad dressing

1/2 bag – Fresh spinach leaves

1 – Broccoli crown large, separated into florets

1/4 bag – Shredded carrots

2 – Small red or yellow bell peppers cut into thin rings

3 – Roma tomatoes, cut into thin wedges

4 oz – fresh mushroom slices

Dry aged red wine vinegar (to be used as a dressing in splashes to compliment the chicken)

Construction Instruction:

Take chicken and marinate in a full bottle of the Brianna’s salad dressing for an hour. In a non-stick skillet sprayed with Pam or other non caloric non-stick spray, bring your heat up to just under half way or low medium heat.  Trying to keep as much of the marinade on the chicken, place the tenders in the skillet and begin to cook them. Make sure you are turning the chicken tenders often so that the dressing caramelizes on the outside of the chicken.  This process will take about 15 to 20 minutes.

Since the chicken is going to cook fairly slow, arrange the vegetable ingredients on large plates to await the crowning achievement, the chicken.

This was a simple, easy meal that turned out great.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

Gary Bechard

 

 

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Things that go “Bumpily” into the night…

I know it has been a while, for those of you that follow this blog, and I apologize for not being more diligent in my writing endeavors. However, today I have a couple of things that I have been researching which are now ready for “prime time” that I would like to share. The first thing, and I will state this up front, no, the featured picture is not of Martian pyramids discovered by the NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover nor are they sound proofing material or a sadistic mattress pad. The picture is of a silicon baking sheet which is dishwasher safe and helps create a nice crispy outer layer on those items which could be fried (chicken wings, breadcrumb coated chicken breasts, etc.) only without the oil and related slipperiness associated with deep-frying stuff. The sheet also works for items such as zucchini strips or eggplant cubes you may want to serve as appetizers for your next big shindig. The sheet fits in the bottom of a regular cookie sheet or can be trimmed to fit smaller cookie sheets. I got this one at Bed, Bath and Beyond for not a whole lot of cash.

Next, have you ever wondered what in the world you can do with the grocery store rotisserie chickens after the regular meal? Well, we had some leftover chicken I had deboned  from a previous meal and was getting hungry for lunch when I was trying to figure out what to do with the cup and a half of shredded leftover chicken. Not wanting to go down the traditional chicken salad route, I decided to do a taziki sauce to mix with the chicken to make the chicken salad.  Doing taziki sauce instead of mayonnaise helps eliminate the “I’ve got a bowling ball in my stomach” feeling especially during warmer weather. Below is the recipe for a simple taziki sauce which does not have the traditional garlic (you could add a couple of minced cloves if you want to or even a hint of mint) which worked great for this recipe.

I started with 1 1/2 cups of shredded chicken then…

Simple Taziki Sauce

Ingredients:

1/2 – Medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and very fine diced (you can also use an ½ an English cucumber if you are not in a seeding kind of mood)

8 oz (1 cup) – Cold plain Greek yogurt (either full fat or fat free will work)

1 tbsp – chopped dill, fresh

1 tbsp – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 1/2 Tbsp – freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon) in case you are thinking otherwise, please squeeze a real lemon, you’ll thank me for it)

1/2 tsp – salt, or to taste (some of us are saltier than others)

1/8 tsp – Coarse ground black pepper

A pinch – Red pepper flakes

Construction Instruction:

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and whisk together until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Cover the mixture and place in the refrigerator to chill before use.

This sauce is good for a wide variety of uses from dips to garnish even making chicken salad.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

Gary Bechard

Experimenting with Roasty Toasty Goodness…

“Y’all know me, know how I make a livin'” or so said Quint in the movie “Jaws” (at the town meeting before he gets eaten by the shark) but some folks out there reading this may not know that this blog is just my creative outlet and not my livin’. I would not mind doing this for a living but it is a way to express myself through food. If you are a first time reader, welcome! and if you are a returning reader, welcome back! Ah, enough of this sappy talk and on with today’s recipes. Yes, I said recipes, plural!

To give you some background, I was walking through the neighborhood store one day and “eye grazing” (it’s a thing) spices when Roasted Ground Ginger caught my eye. Knowing I had Toasted Sesame seeds at the house it started me thinking that I HAD to get these two together somehow. I was originally at a loss as to which protein I wanted to use for this experiment. The problem was that the Roasty combined with the Toasty were kind of sultry, sexy and deep flavors and I knew that doing something like a steak would muddle them and create palate confusion.  Nobody wants palate confusion because the next thing you know you are scoring a corn dog on some side street and calling it a gourmet meal. I knew I wanted something a bit sweet and light so the first thing that came to mind was crab but not being hyper motivated to make crab burgers or something of the like I decided on some type of fish. A trip to my favorite fish market “Mr. Fish” here in Myrtle Beach helped me decide on what kind.  I used Corvina which is a light sweet flakey fish along the same lines as grouper but a bit more tender. Please note that if you are ever in the Myrtle Beach area Mr. Fish is a tremendous place to buy seafood. Their knowledge of their inventory is expansive and are always willing to help you find exactly what you want.  There is also a Mr. Fish restaurant next door which has some great food and the chef has it “goin’ on” with different types of sauces. Also, their crab cakes are to die for.  So, Corvina was the choice and I decided to serve this with a Daikon radish and zucchini salad (recipe below) and jasmine rice. Without further delay here are the recipes.

Roasty Toasty Corvina

The Well Fed Cyclist – Gary Bechard

Ingredients:

1 lb – Corvina filets (2, 8 ounce servings) (You could substitute Grouper or any other mild, sweet, flakey, fish)

1/2 cup – Panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup – Whole, wheat flour, unbleached (I find that this type of flour brings out the smoky flavors in the seasonings)

2 tbs – Toasted sesame seeds

1 ½ tsps. – Roasted ground ginger

2 tsps – Coarse ground black pepper

1 tbs – Dried parsley

2 tbs – Soy Sauce (I use Kikoman lite soy sauce to cut down on sodium)

Construction Instruction:

In a one gallon sealable plastic bag or medium bowl combine breadcrumbs, wheat flour, sesame seeds, ginger, coarse ground black pepper and parsley. When you have done this either seal (yes that is important) and shake the bag to thoroughly mix the ingredients or whisk them together in the bowl to do the same thing. Next, take the mixture and place on a plate or a shallow dish. Then dip the filets in water and press into the mixture and coat each side evenly. Place the filets in a ceramic or glass baking dish which has been sprayed with some cooking spray and a small amount of water. (Note: the water should not be very deep and should only barely cover the bottom of the dish) Before baking, drizzle 1 tablespoon of soy sauce down the center of each filet. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes (time will depend on how thick the filets are) until fish flakes easily.

Spiralize This! (Daikon Radish and Zucchini Salad)

The Well Fed Cyclist – Gary Bechard

Ingredients:

1 – Medium zucchini, either run through a “spiralizer” or very finely sliced (julienned)

1 – Small Daikon radish, either run through a “spiralizer” or very finely sliced (julienned)

1/4 – Medium sweet onion, very thinly sliced

1/2 cup – Shredded carrots

1/2 – Red bell pepper, very thinly sliced

1/2 – Yellow bell pepper, very thinly sliced

1/3 cup – White mushrooms, diced (You could also use a mixture of mushrooms like shitake, or others which may give it a bit more flavor)

10 to 15 – Small grape tomatoes, halved

Ginger salad dressing

Construction Instruction:

I will tell you that the easiest way to go here is to get a “Spiralizer”, which is not too expensive, and run the daikon radish and zucchini through it and put in a medium bowl. After slicing the onion and peppers, add these along with the shredded carrots into the same bowl. Note: I used shredded carrots because although I could have run large carrots through the “Spiralizer”, this saved some preparation time. Once all the long ingredients and the mushrooms are in the bowl, lightly toss to get all of these items evenly distributed. When this is done add the tomatoes and lightly season the salad with the ginger dressing or you can serve and allow your guests to season their own salads.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

Key West is Best…

Well I promised this post yesterday, but I have to admit I got sidetracked taking pictures at Huntington Beach State Park here in South Carolina.  The pictures came out really good but at the end of the day I was not motivated enough to reverse engineer the quantities for the marinade ingredients. (As most of you know, I “eyeball” many of my ingredient quantities for a first run on a recipe, hence, the reverse engineering technique) Before I started this recipe I looked on line and saw that there are quite a few “Cilantro – Lime” chicken recipes. Because I did not want this to get lost in the crowd, I decided to use Key Lime juice instead of regular limes to give the flavor a bit more depth (less acidic and more flavor) and some Spanish smoked paprika to add that special touch (soft smokey goodness). The only salt component is the soy sauce and even that is on the light side because I wanted each of the marinade ingredients to shine in the finished product.

The real reason that I wanted to do this type of chicken is because I needed something to go with my inaugural run for fried plantains as a side. I originally had plantains at a Cuban restaurant in Miami’s South Beach and have always wanted to try to make them.  They are super easy and came out perfect but I did melt a spatula in the process so nylon and plastic should not be used to get them out of the pan.  OOps!

Because I did not deliver on my promise to write yesterday,  I am putting all of the recipes for this meal in this entry.  I hope you try them and enjoy!

Key West is Best

Key Lime – Cilantro Chicken

Gary Bechard –The Well Fed Cyclist

Protein:

2 – Boneless skinless chicken breasts (large, about 1.3 lbs, trimmed of fat)

Marinade

Ingredients:

3/4 cup – Key Lime juice (I used Nellie & Joe’s brand, which you can find in the juice aisle or you can squeeze the juice from an entire bag of Key limes)

1/4 cup – Peanut oil (canola or vegetable would also work)

2 tsps – Cumin

1 ½ tsps – Spanish smoked paprika

3/4 cup – Fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tsp – Soy sauce (I used the Kikoman Lite sodium version)

2 tsp – Coarse ground black pepper

1 tsp – Red pepper flakes

Construction Instruction:

In a large bowl combine all of the marinade ingredients and whisk together until all ingredients are evenly distributed. Place chicken in a large sealable plastic bag or a deep baking dish and cover the chicken with the marinade. Then seal the container and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours (more for deeper flavor). Make sure to turn the meat in the marinade occasionally so that all sides get a turn soaking up the goodness.

When the chicken is done marinating, heat your grill to around 350 to 400 degrees. Place chicken on the heat and grill for about 5 minutes, turn over, another 5 minutes, turn over to get good grill marks. Keep turning the chicken every 5 minutes until done. The chicken will take around 25 to 30 minutes overall and will be a bit firm when you press down on them with your fork or tongs and should have clear juices if you put them on a plate.

It’s the B.B.C! (salad that is)

(Black Bean and Corn Salad)

1 – Can of golden sweet corn (I like the yellow and white because it makes the salad more colorful) (regular size can, 15 oz))

1 – Can of black beans (regular size can., 15 oz)

½ – Red bell pepper (fine diced)

½ – Green bell pepper (fine diced)

¼ – Sweet onion (fine diced) (more if you like that sort of thing)

1 – Handful of fresh parsley (chopped fine) (dried works but you do not get the full flavor)

1 – Tablespoon coarse ground black pepper

1 1/2 – Turns around the bowl of extra virgin olive oil (a little less than ¼ cup, you do not want to drown the salad)

3 to 4 – Splashes of white balsamic vinegar

In a large colander, pour in can of beans and rinse with water. Then, take can of corn and pour over the beans and drain well. Add these items to a large bowl and lightly mix together. Next add red bell pepper, green bell pepper and onion. Mix these items together until all ingredients are evenly disbursed. Add parsley, black pepper and do the rounds with the olive oil, splash with balsamic vinegar and mix well making sure all of the ingredients are coated well. Chill in the refrigerator for about 2 hours and serve.

This is good as a salad but it also makes GREAT quesadillas. For this you will need some burrito size tortillas (I use whole wheat but white is fine. Whatever turns your crank) and about 2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar or mixed Mexican cheese.   Take a large cookie sheet and spray with non-stick cooking spray and place one tortilla down, layer some of the salad at about “one bean’s depth” making sure that there is one layer. (Note: on a normal size cookie sheet you can usually fit one large and a half and that is about it.) Take cheese and spread evenly over the top of the salad mixture. Make sure that the cheese in not overly thick. Add the next tortilla(s) to the top and place in a 350 degree pre-heated oven. Heat until you can see the cheese melting on the inside and serve.

As a side note, I have also been known to add shredded cooked chicken to make black bean and chicken quesadillas for your meat eating friends or serve as a warm entrée without the tortillas.

Plantains – Find 3 to 4 ripe plantains (they will be the green ones with some black spots on them), cut them into 1/4 inch slices.  In a deep pan, put about an inch of peanut or canola oil in the bottom and bring the oil to about 300 degrees. (If you do not have a thermometer, you will see a shimmer on the oil when it is ready). Place the plantain slices in the oil and remove when they are a golden brown. Put the finished plantains on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper and sprinkle lightly with coarse ground sea salt and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

Finally! (I was able to get off my keester and write something)

I have been wondering when I would be able to have enough time to cook and then write something worth reading. In my defense, I can say that I have been pretty busy teaching courses at the local community college and learning Spanish (the most fun I have had learning a language,  thank you DuoLingo) and have finally made the time to cook and write something new. However, if you have been following the previous posts, I, unfortunately, have not completed my cabbage stuffing quest (stuffing every kind of cabbage I know) and still have red cabbage left on the agenda.  I have the recipe in mind but have not committed myself to doing the cooking as most of the cabbage recipes can be a bit labor intensive.  Today’s recipe is a twist on a comfort food from my youth. The recipe is easy and makes enough to feed an army. Well, maybe not a whole army but I know it did pretty well for me and my 3 brothers and sister growing up.  The dish has many different names, beef goulash, beef and macaroni casserole, American goulash but we always knew it as American Chop Suey. I wanted to twist the recipe without breaking its simplicity and keep it as an homage to my and probably everyone else’s past.  Without further delay, here is the recipe.

New Twist ACS  – (American “Chop Suey”)

Gary Bechard – The Well Fed Cyclist

Ingredients:

1 lb – Cavatapi (macaroni or any short pasta that suits your fancy, I use Barilla)

2 – 23 ounce jars of smooth spaghetti sauce (a nice marinara or tomato and basil) or you can use some homemade sauce you may have already made.

1 ½ lbs – Ground beef (I use 90/10 ground sirloin)

3 – Cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 – Yellow bell pepper, chopped

1/2 – Green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 – Medium, sweet onion, chopped

2 oz – Sliced black olives (one small can of pre-sliced)

3/4 tsp – Sea Salt

1 tsp – Coarse ground black pepper

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Just enough to do a couple of turns around the skillet

Construction Instruction – In a very large skillet, one that has a lid, do a couple of turns around the pan with the extra virgin olive oil and bring to medium heat. Next, add the minced garlic and sauté until tender while making sure it does not turn brown as that would cause it to become bitter. After the garlic is done, add the ground beef. Brown the beef and season it with the sea salt and black pepper. When the ground beef is fully browned, move to the outside of the skillet (kind of like a doughnut look), put the peppers and onions in the center and sauté until soft then fold them in with the ground beef making sure everything is mixed evenly. Once that is done add the sliced olives and thoroughly mix again. After completing the mixture, add the 2 jars of sauce, stirring the sauce through the mixture, lower the heat to low and cover. Make sure to stir occasionally to keep the temperature even.

In a large pot, prepare the pasta according to the directions on the box being sure to cook only to “al dente” (nobody likes mushy pasta). Drain the pasta thoroughly and put back into the pot, take the sauce mixture and add to the pasta and fold everything together until ingredients are evenly distributed. At this point you can keep this on the stove on low, stirring occasionally until you are ready to eat or serve it right away.

Serve this with some good Parmesan or Romano cheese, or go wild and have both! I served this along side fresh sliced cucumbers.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

The year in review…

I believe I have been a poor host for this blog over the past few months but let me just say this in my defense, 2016 has not been very good to me.  I was laid off/ downsized/right sized/ sold/merged/became a redundancy for the 5th time in as many companies and I am getting to the point where it seems I am too old to hire and too young to retire. (any company that tells you they do not practice “age discrimination” is full of it by the way) This has kind of put the “kibosh” on my cooking creativity as I devote most of my days, 7 days a week to finding a new position.  Working with food would be great but the start up costs are a bit prohibitive and I do not have a formal culinary degree so working in a local kitchen is unlikely unless I become the dishwasher extraordinaire.  My promise to any readers I have are that I will do better in 2017 because if nothing else, I am proud of what I do here and hope people enjoy reading the posts even if they do not try the recipes.  Coming up in 2017 will be the last of my cabbage stuffing exploits where chorizo and spanish rice become the mixture and red cabbage the vessel.  (I am kind of looking forward to that one).  Once again, thank you all for reading and for being patient with me.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

Does its size really matter…

One would have to wonder about the above question as it has been debated for years and I guess it all depends on what “it” is. I know for a fact that I would have a difficult time  using giant size utensils to eat my regular meals or, to use a contra example, very, very small ones for the same purpose. I guess we will have to answer this question with, “it all depends on what and the situation”,of course.

Sorry, I have not posted in a while but job searching, fleeing the homestead and hurricane Matthew clean up and repair took precedence.  Most of that silliness is done except for the finding of a job part.  However, on a positive note, it has given me more time to dream about food and think of different flavor combinations and recipes. This particular recipe was one I thought of while cruising the vegetable aisle at my local food store and noticing that the zucchini from the local farmers were HUGE!  Wow! I thought, one of these could feed a small country. Deciding against the idea of feeding a small country because the zucchini would most likely not still be fresh when it arrived , I wanted to do a stuffed version as a dinner. (saves on vegetable pans and clean up you know) I know what you are thinking, “this has been done a million times” but for me it was less about being original and more about doing a great dinner and maybe coming up with a stuffing that could be used in different ways.  This stuffing mixture has already led me to a new idea of stuffing yet another type of cabbage, red. (the final frontier of cabbages for me) Details on this idea are still in the works but will coming shortly to a computer near you.

Without further adieu, the stuffing did turn out, as Borat says, “Very Nice” and I will most likely use it in home-made ravioli or possibly add it to my marinara sauce to make a sort of bolognese for fresh pasta noodles. For now tough, here is the recipe.

Z-Size Matters

(Sausage stuffed zucchini) (Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

4 – Zucchini, large, washed and halved on the long axis with the seeds scooped out (kind of zucchini canoes, if you will)

1 lb – Ground Italian sausage, (you would also use the ones with the casing but you would have to take that off before cooking) mild, (to spice it up you could also use hot sausage)

1/3 cup – Sweet onion, chopped

1/3 cup – Mushrooms, fine chopped, I used Baby Bella mushrooms (baby portabellas)

1/3 cup – Green Bell pepper, finely chopped

1/3 cup – Red Bell pepper, finely chopped

3 oz – Chopped black olives

1/2 tsp – Kosher salt

1 tsp – Coarse ground black pepper

1 tsp – Red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp – Dried Oregano

1 tbsp – Dried Basil

2 cloves – Garlic, fine chopped

2 tbs (more or less) – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 to 6 ozs – mixed shaved Italian cheeses (this becomes the topping)

Preparation – First, take the sausage and brown in a large skillet over medium heat. When the sausage is done, remove with a slotted spoon and place on the side in a large bowl. Using the rendered fat from the sausage and a little bit of olive oil, bring the skillet back up to low medium temperature and first sauté the garlic (make sure that this does not turn dark brown because it will become bitter), onions, green and red bell peppers. Next, lower the heat and add in the chopped mushrooms, black olives and season the entire mixture with salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano and basil. Keep the mixture on the heat until the mushrooms soften and the onions are translucent. Remove from the heat and add this to the cooked sausage in the bowl and mix until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Construction Instruction – Arrange your zucchini “boats” in a 9 X 12 baking dish (or one that fits the zucchini so they will not fall over during baking) with the scooped side up. Using a large spoon, stuff each of the zucchini with the mixture. Note: It is okay to mound the mixture, as it does not need to be level with the top of the opening. Once all of the stuffing is in the zucchinis, take the mixed cheeses and lightly cover the top of each. Place in a pre-heated, 350 degree oven and bake uncovered for 35 to 45 minutes where the cheese will slightly brown.

This was served with slices of rosemary/olive oil Italian bread.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

Gary Bechard