Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Chicken Chili... Just in time for Fall

One of my pet peeves is recipes that say they will take 30 minutes to cook but not only would it be impossible for a Top Chef to walk into the kitchen and get it done in 30 minutes, it gets every pot and gadget in the kitchen dirty. This makes you feel like a failure when it ends up taking over an hour to cook (not to mention another 1/2 hour to do the dishes). When you dissect the cooking times from even respected recipe sources, it's clear that the clock does not start when you walk into the kitchen; it starts after the ingredient list is assembled:  the onion is diced, garlic minced and chicken shredded.  Even then, there is sometimes fantasy timing. A couple of weeks ago there was a soup recipe in the Wall Street Journal "Slow Food Fast" column that claimed total time was 50 minutes.  When you added up just the cooking times, it was 56 minutes, not including the time to warm up pans or reheat the soup after after pureeing. You might not expect the WSJ to be experts on cooking, but you would at least think they could do the math.  

So enough of my rant.  How do I get dinner on the the table fast?  And without any many dishes?  One of my secrets is to use the freezer.  I freeze soups, stews, and the like in serving size amounts in 1 quart freezer zip bags.  I lay them flat to freeze, then they will stack pretty efficiently. To get dinner on the table in less than 15 minutes, I put the frozen bag into a large bowl of hot water until thawed (this takes maybe 10 minutes.. and you don't really get the bowl dirty), then empty the bag into a serving bowl and reheat a couple of minutes in the microwave.  Add some garnish (like avocado or sliced green onions) and it even seems special.  

Some things do freeze better than others.  I almost always have Lentil Soup in the freezer. Most vegetable soups are good (like Chicken Noodle or Minestrone), but some vegetables freeze better than others (carrots, winter squash, peppers, green beans, mushrooms, greens, onions are good, but broccoli, zucchini, and potatoes have texture issues).  Another trick is that if I am making something to just go into the freezer (as opposed to just freezing the last couple of servings of Beans and Greens when you realize that another day of eating beans will not improve your social standing) is to quickly cool down the pot of soup by putting it into the sink that is half filled with cold water and some ice.

Chicken Chili

The recipe that I adapted from Fine Cooking magazine called for store-bought rotisserie chicken, which I am sure would work just fine (but maybe not fine cooking when you learn what they inject the chickens with).  I usually start by boiling a cut up raw chicken with onions and carrots, essentially making broth, pulling out the chicken pieces as they get done, pulling the chicken off the bones, then put the bones back into the broth pot and cooking a while longer for broth. You could also start with left-over roasted chicken (maybe do a half recipe), or some left-over turkey.

Makes about 6 servings.

2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, diced
4 - 5 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons oregano or Italian herb mix
1-2 jalapeno or other hot chiles, minced (optional, to taste)
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups shredded cooked chicken (chicken from ~ 4 pound chicken)
1 4 oz can green chiles
1 quart lower salt chicken broth
2 cans (15.5 oz) white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups frozen corn
Salt to taste

Garnish (optional):  Shredded sharp cheddar cheese, avocado slices, sliced green onions, cilantro, lime wedges, sour cream or Greek or plain yogurt.

Heat oil in a large pot (5-6 quart).  Add the onion and cook until translucent (don’t brown). Add cumin, herbs, hot chiles, and garlic and cook until fragrant (just a minute or so).  Add the chicken, green chiles, broth, and 1 can of beans.  Bring to a low simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mash the second can of beans – place in a small bowl and mash with a potato masher or fork. Add the mashed beans and corn to the chili.  As soon as it's back to a boil, it’s done.    Ladle into bowls and garnish as desired.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


Summer is supposed to be coming to an end, but the last week has been the hottest so far this summer... Not that hot compared to where lots of my friends live, but hot when you don't have air conditioning.  But I can't complain, because the ocean is not very far away and the water there is always cool.

Succotash is supposed to have lima beans in it (and they certainly could be added to the below recipe), but this mix of vegetables that has been serving me (and my house guests) well all summer.  And I'm still getting corn and zucchini farmers market.  It seems that often I have a nice mix of vegetables around, but not enough of any one thing to make a nice vegetable side.  So I just put them all together, and its the perfect accompaniment to whatever is coming off the grill.


Don’t fret about the quantities, use whatever you have around.
This will feed about 4, scale as desired.

1 - 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
2 – 3 ears of corn, cut from the cob
2 – 3 small zucchini, cubed
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ an onion, diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried) or other herbs as desired
Salt, pepper to taste

Green beans (1 inch pieces)
Broccoli florets
Jalapeno or other hot pepper, minced
Kale or other greens

Melt butter (or heat oil) in a sauté pan.  Add all of the vegetables (except greens if using) and cook over medium heat until just cooked, 7 – 10 minutes.  Add greens (if using) the last minute of cooking.  Add thyme, salt, and pepper.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Green Bean Salad with Mustard - Soy Dressing

When you live 10 minutes (walking) from the beach, family and friends are much  more likely to visit you.  Fortunately, I have the kind of family that you like to have come visit, and friends that are like family.  My dad gave me a great compliment when he was here ... "you make it look so easy".

And for me, cooking for family doesn't seem that hard.  In part because I like to do it, but I know a more than a few people that have decent cooking skills, but really struggle to be comfortable cooking for a crowd. Here are a few tips..

How much?  When you are used to cooking for 1 or 2, having 4 or 6 or more active people to feed (for days)  will take a lot more food than usual.   But don't go overboard, cooking way too much food is just extra work and makes it harder to cook because you can't find anything in the refrigerator.  Some rough guides on what's enough (so everyone is full, and maybe a few leftovers):

  • Lean meat or fish: around 1/2 pound per person.  
  • Fattier meat (like ribs or steaks) or whole birds (like turkey): about 1 pound per person.  
  • Pasta: I generally figure that 1 lb will make 4 to maybe 5 servings, depending on appetite and what else is being served.
  • Most grains (like rice): each cup (uncooked) will serve 2 - 3.  
  • Potatoes: For my side of the family, it's about 1/2 lb + per person.  It's less for other families. 
  • Veggies, like green beans or broccoli: This is a tough one for me, because I normally eat about 1/2 pound (or more) on my own.  But more normal people will eat much less.  Generally a "bunch" of broccoli or kale, or a pound of beans or squash will serve about 3 people if you are steaming or sauteing. Asparagus is about 2 people per bunch.  If you are roasting or grilling, people will eat more. 
  • Pizza: For my recipe (12 ounce ball of dough) I figure 1 pizza for two people.
What?  First of all, cook food you are comfortable cooking.   If you want to try a new recipe, fine, but make sure it's just a riff on what you know how to do, not a shot in the dark.  I like things that don't generate a ton of dishes, like things off the grill.  Or pizza. Burritos or taco's.  Roast veggies. Salads.   Sometimes its handy to make things that you can do ahead, but it needs to be way ahead.. I'm at the beach too.  

  • Anything that you do make ahead, put in baggies when ever possible to minimize dishes. Marinate meats in baggies.  Store blanched vegetables in baggies. Put any pre-sliced or chopped things in baggies. 
  • Put something simple out for people to munch on... cheese, nuts, olives, hummus, cut-up veggies, chips and guacamole.  Generally just 2 or 3 things. 
  • Get help... think ahead of things for people to do when they ask "is anything I can do".  Salads are a good choice for help - just get out everything you want to go into in, or peeling potatoes, or anything you happen to know the person is good at (again, this works with family and good friends).    Roy (who gets no credit) is my secret weapon.  He takes care of getting wine out, setting the table, does the grilling.  

Here is an example of side that works well for a crowd and can be mostly be done ahead.  And if you don't have green beans, it works equally well on asparagus or broccoli.  The dressing is also excellent on salads.

Green Beans with Mustard-Soy Dressing

Serves 6

2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed
1 teaspoon salt

Blanch the beans:  bring a pot of water to boil over high heat, and fill a bowl with ice and water.   Add the salt and beans to the boiling water.  Cook for about 4 minutes.  Pull one bean out, swish in the ice water and taste for doneness.  Do this every minute or so until the beans are just done.  Using tongs, quickly pull the green beans out of the boiling water and into the ice water (the ice water part is important to keep the bright green color).    When cold, drain the beans.  Can be done up to 1 day ahead, store in plastic bag in the refrigerator.

3 ounces lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce
5 ounces olive oil

Mix lemon juice, mustard, and soy sauce in graduated container with immersion blender.  Slowly add oil with blender running, add enough oil to have a nice thick dressing.   Can be done a few days ahead and refrigerated, let come to room temperature to use (the olive oil will get thick... or use a more neutral oil like grapeseed that does not get hard in the refrigerator).

Garnish (take your choice):
Roasted almond slivers or slices
Thin strips of red or sweet onion  (soak in cold water to take some heat out if needed)
Thin strips of red pepper
Thin slices of radish

To assemble:  Toss the beans with dressing (it might not take all of the dressing.. start with half or so).  If the beans are in a baggie, just add the dressing to the baggie and squish around.  Place on a serving dish and garnish. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Summer is here!!!!

I'm not sure how, but summer kind of snuck up on me.  May was quite gray (and thankfully wet) this year, then I had some time away..  

a few days in Austin (in between floods), including a visit to the Zilker Botanical Garden

then a spectacular week on Lake Powell (which was uncharacteristically cool),

which included grilling pizza on the houseboat one night

then ... wham!  A couple of hot days in Tucson, 

and back to Coronado.  It's not hot, but there are people everywhere! Summer tourist season is in full swing, and the Villa will be busy.  It's going to be a fun one.

Here's a easy recipe for those busy summer day's: refried beans.  Serve with chip's as an appetizer, or with taco's as a side, or to help fill a burrito.  So much better than the refries from a can.  And, if you are more ambitious, you can use beans you have cooked yourself ... they will even be better. 

Refried Beans

Serves 4

1 teaspoon oil
1 strip bacon, thinly sliced
½ onion, minced
Pinch of chipotle or red pepper flakes or diced hot pepper (optional)
Pinch of salt
(15 oz) cans  black or pinto beans, one rinsed and drained, one with liquid.

Cheddar or Jack cheese for serving (optional)

In a medium sauce pan or skillet, cook bacon in oil over medium high heat.  When a nice bit of fat has rendered from the bacon, add the onion and pepper or pepper flakes, and a bit of salt.  Cook until onion is soft.  Add the can of beans with the liquid, and the one without. Heat the beans until boiling, then mash with a potato masher.  I like them a little chunky, but keep mashing if you like them smooth (and if you like them really smooth, get out the immersion blender).  If needed, add a bit of water if too thick, or boil a bit more if too thin. Beans will get thicker when they cool, so target on the thin side.

Serve sprinkled with cheese.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Cooking lesson: Chicken and Kale Stew

My 80+ year old father-in-law is working on learning to cook.  We have collaborated on one dish (Ken's Chicken Dinner) that I consider a winner.  I'm defining a winner as something that you are willing to make (and eat) every week or so.  I'm hoping we have a second winner.

But I think that an important part of learning to cook is to make the same thing over and over.  To get a feel of how hot, how brown, what is enough (or too much), how to season.taste.   To be able to make it without reading step by step through a recipe.  To know what substitutes work.

I think that I'm also getting a better idea of the ideal type of dish that he likes to make:

1. One pot
2. Tasty but not too spicy
3. Not too much chopping
4. It should not make too much
5. It should have some meat in it, preferably chicken
6. Gluten free

Of course, I then add my constraints, like it should have a lot of vegetables and not have any full-of-crap shortcuts (like condensed mushroom soup).

Chicken and Kale Stew

Olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ onion, chopped
1 lb chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite size (about 1/2 - 1") cubes
8 ounces brown mushrooms, quartered if large
½ cup sun dried tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 bunch kale, stems removed and cut in large pieces
¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed under cold water
¼ cup lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
¼ cup (½ stick) cold butter, cut into 6 pieces

Coat a large sauté pan in olive oil (about a tablespoon) and heat over medium high heat.  When hot, add garlic and onions, sauté until onions are starting to brown.

Add chicken and sear until chicken is brown on one side.  Turn cubes, then add mushrooms.  Cook until the mushrooms are starting to release moisture, stirring occasionally.

Add the sundried tomatoes and broth.  Stir to loosen any brown bits in the pan.  Bring to a simmer, then add kale, olives and beans and stir until the kale softens into the liquid. Bring back to a simmer.

Add the lemon juice, then add cold butter one piece at a time stirring constantly until the butter is dissolved and the sauce is thickened.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dinner for one: Chickpeas and Vegetable

This is a recipe I'm not sure that everyone will like.  But the beauty of cooking for one is that you are the only one that needs to like it.

This is also a recipe that can be customized to your taste, and what you happen to have on hand.  I am showing this with zucchini, but it works equally well with broccoli or kale.  I'm guessing it would be great with eggplant (especially the long Japanese kind). I have used curry powder for seasoning, and I have used my southwest rub (equal parts chile powder, cumin, and coriander).  I'm guessing it would work with that jar of spice mix you got for Christmas that smells great but you are sure how to use.   Or skip the spice and use some fresh herbs and maybe some olives, like this version from Chocolate and Zucchini, which was my inspiration.  But I have to tell you, my favorite part is the cashews...  I keep a bag in the refrigerator special for this.

And don't worry much about measuring.  Put in about how much of each ingredient that you would like to eat.  Remember the vegetables will shrink, so put in plenty.  Taste as you go when you add spices and lemon juice.    If you want to gild the lily,  add some avocado or some fresh herbs on top.

Sautéed Chickpeas and Vegetable

Serves 1

Olive oil (enough to nicely coat the pan)
½ a small onion, chopped
A good size serving of zucchini, broccoli, kale, or other vegetable (about 2-3 cup) chopped
½ can chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans).  Rinse and drain.
A handful of raw cashews (maybe a ¼ cup or so)
Salt  (skip if your seasoning mix has salt in it)

Spice – curry powder, chili rub, etc.  to taste  (for my curry powder, I use about a teaspoon)
Herbs -- cilantro, parsley, basil

Lemon or lime juice

In a 10 or 11 inch pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the onion, vegetables, chickpeas, and cashews. Add a bit of salt.  Cook, stirring frequently.  When the vegetables are starting to cook, add the spice and stir to mix.  Taste a chickpea to see if there is enough spice and salt.  Continue to cook until the vegetable is just done.   Add a good squeeze of lemon or lime juice.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Happy New Year... Are you Doing a Cleanse?

It seems a very trendy thing to do this year..  the "1 Week Cleanses" run from the lemon juice/cayenne pepper/maple syrup regimen to only having juice for a week or so, to a "clean eating" diet (no booze, coffee, and about 1200 calories of day of real food).   Since the liver is what does most the cleansing in your body, I think the best thing you can do is consume less toxins for the liver to cleanse... not just for a week, but always. And I just can't fathom starving myself for a week!

I have an alternative suggestion... how about cleansing your kitchen instead?  I'm not talking about getting out the oven cleaner.  I'm thinking of getting rid of the the toxic food in your kitchen, plus any old foods that might be cluttering your freezer or pantry,

The goal is to reduce the temptation to eat less than optimum foods, plus have a kitchen that is easy to work in and a pleasant place to be.

Day 1:  Get rid of any Christmas cookies, candies, etc.  Put away the Christmas mugs while you're at it.

Day 2:  Clean out the fridge.  Beyond the obvious (anything fuzzy, squishy veggies, old dairy), take a look at condiments.  Any mustard or salad dressing that you have not used up in a year or so you probably won't.  Look at labels... seriously consider getting rid of anything full of crap*.

Day 3:  Clean out the freezer.  Get rid of anything that is icy and/or freezer burnt.  I also recommend getting rid of anything that is over a year old as it has likely significantly degraded in texture and flavor (although well wrapped or vacuum packed items are better longer if in a chest type freezer that doesn't have a defrost cycle).  Get rid of (or give away) anything that you don't like (even if its free range organic no sugar added).  Look at labels... seriously consider getting rid of anything full of crap*.   Get things that need to be eaten in the next month or two to the top and front, and make a plan to eat them.

Day 5: Clean out the panty.  Same rules here.. even if its still good, if you haven't used in year, will you ever eat it?  Give it to the food bank before it expires. Look at labels... seriously consider getting rid of anything full of crap*. Also take a look at inventory. Do you really need 8 cans of tuna?  If you at most eat 2 cans a week of tuna and shop most every week, then 3 cans is probably plenty.

Day 6:  De-clutter... maybe not tackle the whole kitchen, but take on one or two things that bug you - that drawer that won't open because it's too full, the corner that is full of who knows what. Plus make a trip to the food bank if you excess canned or packaged food.  

Day 7: Make a meal using foods that are lingering in the fridge, freezer, and pantry, and a list of things to make and eat over the next few weeks.  Soups and stews can use up various meats and frozen veggies (in addition to broth that might be lingering in the freezer waiting for a rainy day), odd bits of pasta or bags of beans.

One of the things that seems to clog my freezer is broth.  Making your own broth is something that is considered to be essential for a serious cook, and most recipes seems to talk about making it a gallon at a time... using a big stock pot. And "bone broth" is trending as a super healthy food among the paleo crowd, it is supposed to be very good for healing the gut, restoring electrolytes, boosting the immune system, even getting rid of cellulite. There are even broth bars popping up where you get a cup of broth instead of coffee. I'm not sure that there have been any definitive scientific studies done, but can millions of grandmothers and their chicken soup be wrong?  

But I have come to the conclusion that making big batches of stock is just not worth the effort. Cooking it is not a problem... but straining, cooling, and storing a gallon of stock is just not easy in the standard home kitchen. And more often than not, when I go to make a soup, I end up reaching for the 1 liter box of broth in the cupboard because either 1) I don't want to spend an extra 15 minutes thawing the broth 2) the soup is so loaded with other highly flavorful ingredients that I don't want to "waste" good broth, or 3) I forgot there was broth in the bottom of the freezer.  But I do still make broth... but in small batches, once in a while.  A quart or two at a time, and usually use most of it the day or day after I make it.  I save chicken backs and innards from when I cut up chickens, plus chicken carcases from roast chicken. It all goes into zip lock baggies and stored in the freezer until I'm ready to make broth.  One thing I have learned (after doing a freezer clean-out, where there were a bunch of chicken bags) is that you need a lot of chicken parts relative to water to make good broth.

Chicken Broth

Chicken Backs, necks, giblets (from 1 or 2 chickens)...  optional: include the skin (I do)
and/or  Roast chicken carcass (Again, 1 - 2 chickens worth)
1 or 2 carrots, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced (optional)
A sprig or two of parsley (optional)
1 to 2 quarts of water
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Put everything in a medium pot (no need to thaw chicken parts if they are frozen).  Add just enough water to cover.  Bring to a very low simmer (just a few bubbles) and cook for 3-4 hours.  Using tongs, pull out the big chunks and discard.  Strain the remainder into a large bowl.   You can either use the broth right away (and I don't bother to skim the fat), or chill.  The best way to rapidly cool is to put the bowl in a sink of cold water (adding ice makes it quicker).  When down to room temperature, cover the bowl and into the fridge. After its cold, skim the fat (which can be used to to saute some vegetables or fry eggs). It's best to strain again before using (and leave behind the sediment at the bottom). Store up to 3 days in the fridge, or to freeze, put broth (in 2-4 cup quantities) in 1 quart freezer ziploc's.

Now make some risotto or awesome chicken soup.  Or just have a cup of bone broth.


C: Carbonated drinks
R: Refined sugars
A: Artificial sweeteners and colours
P: Processed foods