Cuban Black Beans Done Quickly

We all need shortcuts in our busy lives and this easy recipe for Cuban Black Beans is perfect for one of your weeknight meals. When you don’t have time to soak dried beans and cook them for several hours, try this quick recipe using a few simple ingredients from your pantry. You can transform canned black beans into a delicious, healthy and inexpensive side dish that you and your family will enjoy.

cuban black beans

Cuban Black Beans Served With Roast Pork And White Rice

Years ago, a friend who was originally from Cuba, shared her recipes with me for slow roasted lechon asado (roast pork) and frijoles negros (black beans). Over the years, I have made a few changes to the quantities listed in the recipes she gave me but they are still true to her original. I’ve shared my version of Cuban roast pork but never the recipe for Cuban black beans.

If you have a big family, cooking a large pot of beans is a wonderful way to serve a healthy, satisfying and economical meal BUT if you are cooking for just one or two, you might be more inclined to cook a smaller amount and that is where using can beans is a good alternative. In fact, many canned beans today match the quality of dried beans so I make no apologies for using shortcuts when I want a meal on the table in less than an hour.

cuban black beans

Cuban Black Beans

Quick Cuban Black Beans

Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly.

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper*, diced (while most recipes call for green, I often use red bell pepper for added color and flavor)
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1  15 oz. can of black beans
  • 1/2 c., more if needed, chicken stock, vegetable broth or water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • cilantro for garnish (optional)
  • wedges of lime and finely chopped onion (optional)

Heat 1 Tbsp. of oil in a pot over medium heat, add the onion and pepper then sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the beans, stock, bay leaf, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the liquid thickens and the flavors meld, adding a little extra liquid if necessary. Add the remaining oil and the vinegar, stir then taste for any additional seasoning, if needed. To serve, remove the bay leaf then garnish with the cilantro, if desired. Lime wedges and  finely chopped onion, as a side for the beans, can be served at the table.

Notes:

  • There is a question among cooks and food experts on whether you should drain and rinse canned beans. If you do rinse canned beans, add some water, stock or broth to make up for the drained liquid as the beans will thicken as they cook.
  • A sofrito of onion, green pepper and garlic is traditionally used in Cuban cooking. Some people find that green bell peppers are hard to digest and if so, red or yellow bell peppers can be substituted. If you like spicy dishes, you could use a hot chili pepper as well.
  • If you are serving 4 to 6 people, I suggest using 3 cans of beans and double the other ingredients. I would also suggest the same if you want to make the recipe using dried black beans, cook as directed on the packaging…double the vegetables and seasonings.
  • The beans can be prepared ahead of time, just add a little water when reheating.
  • The added bonus of the Cuban black beans is that they are high in fiber, low in fat, vegetarian and vegan (if using water instead of chicken stock) as well as gluten free.

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I grew up having a bowl of beans, usually navy or pintos, as a main course about once a month when my mother had a leftover ham bone. However, it wasn’t until I moved to Miami, that I tried black beans at a local Cuban restaurant. I was thrilled when my friend gave me her recipe and have been cooking Cuban style black beans ever since. While I love beans cooked from scratch, you need to plan ahead. There is the long soak, usually over night, before simmering the beans for several hours. When you are like me and don’t have the time yet want a healthy and quick side dish, try this recipe using canned black beans.

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Traditional Italian Sunday Dinner, Four Cheese Stuffed Shells

A Traditional Italian Sunday Dinner where extended family and friends gather around a large dining room table for platters of pasta, meats and delicious pastries may be starting to wane as older generations pass away and today’s young families seem to be too busy to sit down together for a meal and conversation. If you experienced one of those memorable meals, I’m sure you hope, as I do, that someone will step up and keep the wonderful tradition alive.

four cheese stuffed shells

Four Cheese Stuffed Shells With Meatballs

The traditional meal usually started around two in the afternoon when everyone was home from church and the “Sunday Gravy or Sauce” was ready. The slow simmered sauce, not a typical marinara sauce, was prepared with a variety of meats such as meatballs, sausages, braciola, pork ribs or other chunks of meat that gave the sauce a rich taste.

The meal would begin with an antipasto of deli meats, cheeses and marinated vegetables.

This would be followed by pasta where the sauce would be used in lasagna, stuffed shells, ravioli or other pastas such as pappardelle.

Afterwards, the meat that had been simmered in the sauce, might be served along with a simple lettuce and tomato salad dressed with olive oil and vinegar. Some families chose to eat the salad after the meat course.

To finish the meal, coffee, Italian pastries and other desserts would be placed on the table for everyone to enjoy while the conversations continued. My husband fondly remembers those Sunday meals with his family as a day of laughter and delicious food.

A traditional Italian dinner may be a distant memory for many but not in our home. Once or twice a year, my husband and I will invite a group of friends to our house for one of these traditional meals. At our latest dinner, we shared antipasto, four cheese and spinach stuffed shells, meatballs, both sweet and hot Italian sausages and coffee panna cotta and cookies to finish off our Italian dinner.

four cheese stuffed shells

Four Cheese Stuffed Shells

The stuffed shells were a lightened version of a recipe I created several years ago. They turned out excellent and I want to share the new recipe with you. What I like is that any leftovers are just as good a day or two later reheated so you can make a large platter.

Four Cheese And Spinach Stuffed Shells

Serves 8 – 10 generously.

  • 4 Tbsp. Wondra flour (quick dissolving flour) or all-purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 1/2 c. milk, warmed (more if needed)
  • 1/2 c. Locatelli Romano or Parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 12 oz. box Jumbo pasta shells (contains about 40)*
  • 5 oz. fresh baby spinach
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 lb. ricotta cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 1 c. shredded fresh Mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 c. grated Locatelli Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten

*Figure about 3 shells per person for a typical serving but boil a few more as some may break while cooking or stuffing.

  • 4 – 6 c. more or less, homemade “Sunday Gravy” or marinara sauce (depending on quantity of shells you are preparing and if you want some to serve on the side)
  • 3 plum tomatoes, skinned, seeded and cut into dice (optional)
  • fresh basil leaves, torn for garnish

Prepare a light Alfredo sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan then whisk in the flour, stirring constantly for about two minutes. Slowly add the warmed milk and continue to stir until the sauce is thickened and smooth. Add the cheese, salt and pepper and cook for about three minutes more. Let cool, then place in a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate. (Can be made a day in advance).

Prepare the cheese filling: Sauté the garlic in the olive oil until soft then add the spinach and cook until wilted. Let cool, squeeze out excess moisture and chop fine. Place in a bowl and mix in half of the mozzarella and all the other cheeses, nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary, then add the beaten egg and mix well. Place in a resealable plastic bag. (Can be made a day in advance).

Prepare the shells: Boil the shells for 9 minutes, drain, run under cold water then place on a sheet pan to drain and cool. Pour about a cup or more (depending on size of dish and the number of shells you are preparing) of sauce into the bottom 9 x 13 glass baking dish or a large rimmed sheet pan (if preparing a whole box as I did). Cut a tip off the plastic bag of cheese mixture and pipe some into each shell then line (open side up) on the sheet pan. Place about a tablespoon of sauce on each shell and sprinkle on the remaining mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and uncover. Cut a small tip off the Alfredo sauce and pipe across the center of the shells, return to the oven uncovered and bake an additional 10 minutes until bubbly and just starting to brown. Remove from the oven and let rest for five minutes before serving.

Serve this meal family style right out of the baking dish or plate with a little extra sauce on the bottom of each plate, top with the shells, add a dollop of Alfredo sauce and then garnish with chopped fresh tomatoes and basil for an elegant presentation. Serve any remaining sauces at the table, if desired.

****

While not Italian myself, I have an Italian husband who loves the Italian dishes that I have learned to prepare over the years. In our many travels to Italy, we have had some outstanding and memorable meals prepared by famous chefs but when it comes to my husband’s favorite, give him a typical Sunday traditional dinner and he will be happy.

 

 

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Here Is To The New Decade

Here Is To The New Decade

happy new year

Here Is To The New Decade

 

As 2019 comes to a close

and we begin not only a new year but a new decade as well

join me in celebrating both the passing year

and all that we found good in it

and welcoming 2020 with eager anticipation.

I hope the New Year will bring renewed hope,

peace, happiness and good health into your life.

Happy New Year!

Thank you for taking time out of your busy days throughout the past years to stop by and read Back Road Journal. I always appreciate when you leave comments to let me know that you have enjoyed the time spent here reading about our travels or learning about a new recipe I have created for you to try.

Karen

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The Joys Of Christmas

The Simple Joys Of Christmas

the simple joys of Christmas

The Simple Joys Of Christmas

 

May the simple joys of Christmas

bring you and your loved ones

peace and happiness now and throughout the new year.

I wish you all the best during this joyous season

no matter how your celebrate.

May your home always be filled with happiness, laughter and good friends.

With warm wishes from my home to yours,

Merry Christmas, Karen

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Panna Cotta With Luxardo Maraschino Cherries

Creamy and velvety smooth Almond Panna Cotta turns into a decadently delicious finale for your holiday meal when topped with Luxardo Maraschino Cherries. The amazing marasca sour cherries from the Veneto region of Italy are candied and then steeped in a syrup made from cherry juice and sugar. The panna cotta, which means “cooked cream” in Italian, is a special treat your guests will enjoy but they will never imagine how easy and quick this chilled dessert is to prepare…there is only about five minutes of cooking involved in the recipe.

almond panna cotta with cherries

Almond Panna Cotta With Luxardo Maraschino Cherries

Even if you aren’t familiar with their name, you may have had the Luxardo maraschino cherries if you have been to an upscale bar or restaurant and ordered a Manhattan, Rob Roy or Old Fashioned. The delicious dark burgundy, almost black, cherries were probably stuck on the swizzle stick in your cocktail.

My husband discovered the cherries when he ordered a special “New Old Fashioned” at the bar in the Pillars Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. Needless to say he loved them and went in search of the cherries when we returned home. I must confess that we were surprised that the imported cherries were pricy but considering that they are not the artificially colored neon red supermarket cherries, my husband decided to splurge. You only need one or two to top each almond panna cotta so I knew my husband wouldn’t mind sharing his special cocktail cherries for this wonderful chilled dessert that we served to our friends.

almond panna cotta with cherries

Almond Panna Cotta With Luxardo Maraschino Cherries

Almond Panna Cotta Topped With Luxardo Maraschino Cherries

Serves 4 – 6, depending on the size of the molds.

  • 1 packet (1/4oz.) of Knox unflavored gelatin powder*
  • 2 Tbsp. milk or cold water
  • 2 c. (1 pint) heavy cream
  • 1 c. half and half
  • 1/3 – 1/2 c. powdered (icing) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • Luxardo Maraschino Cherries, 1 or 2 cherries and a little syrup to drizzle on each individual serving

*If you are using bulk powdered gelatin, a packet is slightly less than 2 1/2 tsp.

Place milk into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over it and let sit (do not stir) until the gelatin becomes soft and spongy. Place the cream, half and half and sugar into a pot over medium low heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Taste for sweetness. Simmer over low heat until small bubbles appear around the edge. Add the gelatin and stir until it dissolves. (Do not let the cream boil.) Remove from heat and strain through a fine sieve into a container with a pouring spout. Stir in the vanilla and almond extract and let cool.

Pour into serving containers or molds and refrigerate for 4 – 5 hours, depending on their size. (If making the day before, once the mixture has gotten firm, place a piece of plastic wrap  on top of each panna cotta so that a thick skin doesn’t form.)

To serve, let the molds sit out about 5 to 10 minutes. Wipe the dessert plates with a damp paper towel. This makes it easier to reposition the panna cotta if you haven’t placed it in the right spot on the plate. Loosen the top edge of the molds with the tip of a thin knife then warm each mold in your hands or dip into warm water for just a second or two. Place a dessert plate on top, turn over and gently tap to unmold.

Tips:

  • Sweetness level of the panna cotta can be adjusted depending on your tastes and whether or not you are adding a sweet topping.
  • If you plan to unmold the panna cotta, you can run cold water on the inside of the molds, then pour out but do not dry before filling.
  • A thin film of non flavored oil can be lightly wiped on the inside of the molds instead of using water, which will also help when unmolding.
  • It is important that the mixture should never boil or the panna cotta will not set properly.
  • If you plan to not unmold the panna cotta, you can serve when firm, about 2 hours. If umolding, refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  • To unmold, dip the container into hot water for a few seconds and run a knife around the edge.
  • If you don’t have molds, you can use small disposable Dixie bathroom cups, they are flexible for easy removal.
  • If you are worried about having problems unmolding the panna cotta, you can pour the cream mixture into pretty small glasses or cups, chill until firm and serve in the glasses.

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Luxardo cherries imported from Italy are quite a bit more expensive than their American counterparts but they will add a special touch to your holiday meal. The panna cotta is easy to make and looks beautiful when presented with its topping of the deep burgundy colored cherries. I’m sure you will get raves from your guests when they have had a taste of this luscious, remarkably creamy dessert.

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Green Beans And Pecans With A Tart Cherry Vinaigrette

Green Beans And Pecans Tossed With A Tart Cherry Vinaigrette is a sweet and savory side dish that can be prepared in under thirty minutes. The recipe is as delicious as it is easy and goes well with most main courses. I believe your guests, especially your vegan and vegetarian family members and friends, will really enjoy these green beans.

Green Beans With Pecans And Tart Cherry Vinaigrette

Green Beans With Pecans And Tart Cherry Vinaigrette

Pecans are my favorite nut and add nice texture and flavor to this dish but can be substituted with other nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts or even pine nuts. If you can’t find the sweet tart dried cherries, the green beans are equally good made with dried cranberries…I’ve prepared the recipe both ways and love it.

Green Beans With Pecans And A Tart Cherry Vinaigrette 

Serves 4 – 6, adjust the recipe accordingly.

Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 c. Sherry wine vinegar
  • 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 shallot, minced (about 2 Tbsp.)
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 c. or more, dried tart cherries

Whisk the first eight ingredients together in a small bowl. Mix in dried cherries, set aside for at least 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. (The vinaigrette can be made a day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Before using, bring it to room temperature and whisk).

Green Beans

  • 1 lb. small green beans (haricots verts, if available), stems trimmed off
  • vinaigrette to taste
  • 1/4 c. or more pecans, toasted and broken into large pieces

Fill a large bowl with ice and water and set aside. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water (enough water to cover the beans) to a boil. Add the green beans and cook until tender crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on their size. Drain in a colander and immediately put in the bowl of ice water. When cool, drain well and put on a towel lined baking sheet. Pat dry so that the dressing will cling to the beans. (The recipe can be prepared up to this point one a day in advance. Wrap the beans in paper towels and place in a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate. Let the green beans come to room temperature before tossing with the other ingredients and serving).

Place the green beans in a large bowl and gradually pour in enough vinaigrette to coat, then toss. You may not need all of the vinaigrette, if not, spoon out any remaining cherries and add to the beans. Taste for additional seasoning, if necessary. Add the toasted pecans and give one final toss. Transfer to a platter and serve. (The recipe can be prepared 2 hours in advance and kept at room temperature.)

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I love the green beans and toasted pecans tossed with the delicious cherry vinaigrette. This colorful dish with its flavorful combination of sweet, savory and crunchy tastes is special enough to serve during the holidays but is easy enough to serve at a weeknight meal.

Besides the green beans being a great side dish, they can be served as part of a salad. Top sturdy greens, such as romaine, with the green bean recipe then sprinkle on goat or blue cheese crumbles for protein to create a simple, light and delicious lunch. If you would like a more filling main course salad for your evening meal, you could add another vegetable such as colorful golden beets and sliced chicken or turkey. I do hope you give the green bean recipe a try and let me know how you liked it.

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Spiced Cranberry Chutney

 Spiced Cranberry Chutney, a tangy sweet condiment, will fill your kitchen with the aromas of the holidays.  Aromatic spices are cooked with fresh and dried fruits along with orange juice, cider vinegar and rum to create a bright and chunky chutney that pairs  wonderfully with turkey and other poultry, goes well with roast pork or ham, it is great on sandwiches and is also a delicious accompaniment to go with your favorite cheese board when entertaining.

Spiced Cranberry Chutney

Spiced Cranberry Chutney

This recipe can be doubled or tripled if you want to put it into canning jars and process or it can be frozen so that you can enjoy the flavorful condiment throughout the year. Experiment with your own combination of fresh and dried fruits such as apricots, cherries, figs or dates. You can use pineapple juice instead of orange and lemon zest instead of orange zest. Want to change the flavor profile even more, use pineapple juice instead of orange juice. If you don’t care for candied pineapple, try candied orange or candied lemon peel. Perhaps you like a spicy chutney, if so add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes to the chutney. Want a little crunch, add some toasted pecans or walnuts. This recipe is very easy to adapt to your own taste and that of your family and friends.

Cranberry Chutney

  • 1 12oz. bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8 oz. container candied (aka glace or crystallized) pineapple chunks, chopped
  • 1 – 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 orange, jested plus its juice (1/2 c.)
  • 1/2 c. cider vinegar
  • 1 c. light brown sugar, packed (additional for a sweeter taste)
  • 1 c. golden raisins
  • 1/4 – 1/2 c. water
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  •  1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/4 c. dark rum such as Captain Morgan or Meyers (optional)

Combine the cranberries, onions, pineapple, garlic, orange zest, orange juice and vinegar in a stainless steel pot. Bring to a boil over medium hight heat, reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the cranberries burst and soften, about 10 minutes. Take off the heat, add the rest of the ingredients, stir well. Return to the heat and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. The chutney will be slightly runny but thickens when cool. Place into a serving dish and refrigerate until ready to serve. Making it a couple of days ahead, will let the flavors meld.

The chutney will keep stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a month or frozen for about 6 months.

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You are going to love this cranberry chutney. It is so easy to prepare as you only have to chop a few ingredients and put everything into one pot to  slowly simmer. Give it a few quick stirs and it quickly comes together. It is a great dish to add to your holiday table as it can be prepared a day of two in advance, as a matter of fact the flavors will improve. Once you have tasted the sweet tart goodness of this spiced cranberry chutney, you will want to serve it often. Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Moroccan Spiced Chicken Stew

If you are tired of serving the same meals over and over, try Moroccan Spiced Chicken Stew. This exotic sounding but simple one pot meal from North Africa can be prepared in under an hour. Your family and friends will love this delicious dish filled with tender chicken, chickpeas and vegetables simmered in a broth seasoned with warming spices.

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Stew

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Stew With Sweet Potatoes, Chickpeas And Vegetables

Served with a side of fluffy couscous to absorb the  flavorful and aromatic sauce, the stew is light yet filling. It is perfectly seasoned but if you want something spicy hot, you can serve the stew with a small bowl of harissa, a spicy Moroccan chili pepper paste, on the side for added heat and flavor.

This Moroccan chicken stew recipe is easily adapted to your own taste and preferences. Leave out the chicken and substitute the chicken stock with vegetable broth and you will have a wonderful vegetarian meal. Other vegetables such a pumpkin, carrots, parsnips or turnips could also be used.

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Stew

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Stew Is Perfect When Entertaining Friends

If you will be preparing this dish for an evening with friends, I suggest serving the chicken stew with a condiment tray of dried fruits such as apricots, prunes, raisins, figs, dates, cashews and pistachios. Pitted olives, chopped preserved lemons, fresh mint and cilantro are also good toppings for the stew.

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Stew

Serves 2 to 4, adjust the recipe accordingly.

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (figure 2 thighs a person), cut into bite size pieces
  • Flour for dredging the chicken
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. peeled, grated fresh ginger (about a 1 inch piece) or 1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • salt to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. Ras El Hanout* a traditional North African spice mix available from ethnic markets and some grocery stores
  • 2 tsp. harissa, a Moroccan chili pepper paste that comes in a can or tube (adjust to your preference for heat)
  • 3 plum tomatoes, cut into bite size pieces
  • 3 – 4 c. chicken stock, homemade if possible
  • l large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 15.5 oz. can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 zucchini, cubed
  • 1 yellow squash, cubed
  • chopped cilantro, garnish (optional)
  • 1 c. dried couscous, prepared according to package directions.

*Ras El Hanout is a Moroccan blend of spices such as cardamom, cayenne, coriander, cumin, paprika, peppercorns and turmeric with a little sweetness from spices such as cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. If you can’t find the blend at your local market, you can find a recipe at the link I’ve underlined in blue above. You can also just add a little extra of the other spices I’ve listed for this recipe.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper then dredge in flour, shaking off the excess. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium and when hot, add the chicken. Cook until just browned, about 1 – 2 minutes per side then transfer to a plate. Add the onion and cook until it starts to soften. Add the garlic, ginger, all the spices and the harissa and stir to mix well then cook, stirring for a minute. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Add the sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and reserved chicken, reduce the heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes until the sweet potatoes are just getting tender. Taste the broth and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Add in the zucchini and squash and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

While the stew is simmering, prepare the couscous according to the package directions. Fluff and keep warm. To serve the stew, place a little couscous in individual bowls then ladle in some stew and garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Notes:

  • Try to cut the vegetables into equal sizes so that they will cook evenly.

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Moroccan chicken stew is perfect for entertaining a group. If you are planning to serve the stew to guests, you can have it prepared an hour ahead of time. To do so, only cook the squash until barely tender crisp, cover the pot and place in a 200 degree oven until your guests arrive. The ingredients will continue to cook and the flavors will meld. When your friends step in your kitchen, they will be greeted by the wonderful aromas of this flavorful dish. Serve the chicken stew with warmed pitas or flatbreads and a condiment tray of dried fruits, nuts, herbs and harissa, for those who like it hot, and your guests will be very happy.

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Italian Lentil, Sausage and Pasta Soup

When soup season rolls around, make a pot of Italian Lentil, Sausage, And Pasta Soup. It is a flavorful and hearty soup, nourishing and quick cooking, so it makes a delicious a weekday meal for you and your family.

Italian Sausage And Pasta Soup

Italian Lentil, Sausage And Pasta Soup

I try to cook healthy meals and lentils are highly nutritious. They have a low caloric content, are high in protein and fiber and support good heart health.  But, and it is a big BUT, if I told my husband that dinner was going to be a bowl of lentils he would probably mumble and grumble but would eat and probably enjoy them. Now if I take those same lentils and add some Italian hot sausage and just a little pasta, he is all smiles. I didn’t tell him that this high fiber, antioxidant filled soup is good for him. Keeping our loved ones healthy sometimes takes a little bit of strategy, don’t you think.

This is a versatile soup in that you can use either chicken or pork sausage, vegetable or chicken stock. You can use as much or as little pasta as you like or leave it out entirely. Want more vegetables, add tomatoes, spinach or kale. Prepare this flavorful soup according to your family’s tastes and I think there will be smiles all around the table.

Italian Sausage And Pasta Soup

Italian Lentil, Sausage And Pasta Soup

Italian Lentil, Sausage and Pasta Soup

Serves 2 – 4 as a main course, adjust the recipe accordingly.

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil plus extra for drizzling
  • 8 oz (about 2 links) Italian sausage, pork, turkey or chicken, casings removed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 2 – 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 c. lentils (I used French green because they hold their shape) sorted and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 1 c. water (if needed)
  • 4 c. stock, chicken or vegetable
  • 2 – 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 c. small tube pasta such as ditalini*
  • a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Sauté the sausage in 1 tablespoon of oil in a pot over medium heat, breaking up the meat into pieces, until brown. Add the carrots, celery and onions and cook until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, herbs, bay leaf and tomato paste, stir well and cook about 1 minute. Add the lentils and mix to coat. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Add in the stock and bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer covered, with the lid slightly ajar, until lentils are almost tender, about 20 minutes. Season with the salt, pepper and crushed red pepper, if using. Stir in the pasta and continue to cook until the pasta is done, about 10 minutes. The pasta will absorb some of the stock so ff the soup gets too thick, you can add some water. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs before serving. Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, if desired. Serve with freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese.

*If you plan to eat the soup over several days, cook the pasta separately. Add the pasta before serving so that it doesn’t overcook.

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This is a complete meal in a bowl but if you want, a green salad and a piece of crusty bread would be a nice addition. A good glass of Tuscan red wine would be great as well. The next time you think about making soup for dinner, try this hearty Italian lentil, sausage and pasta soup. I know your family will enjoy it even if they may not realize that it is also a meal that is good for them.

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Pork Cordon Bleu

Pork Cordon Bleu, a golden panfried pork cutlet filled with flavorful smoked ham and melting cheese may sound fancy but it is really just a stuffed and rolled schnitzel, perfect to serve your family during the week or your friends for an Octoberfest party.

Pork Cordon Bleu

Pork Cordon Bleu With Lingonberry Preserves And Roasted Asparagus

While the original Cordon Bleu may call for veal, pork seems to be equally popular, especially in Europe. I saw it on menus in all three countries that my husband and I visited this year…France, Germany and Austria. If you follow Back Road Journal, you know that my husband enjoys cooking as much as I do and this is one of his specialties that I’m sharing with you.

Pork Cordon Bleu

Serves two, adjust the recipe according

  • 2 thin boneless pork loin chops
  • 2 slices Black Forest ham
  • 3 slices Münster, Gruyère or Emmentaler cheese  (I personally like Münster as it melts well but doesn’t seep out during the cooking process)
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten well
  • 3 – 4 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 c. Panko breadcrumbs, more or less*
  • 1/2 c. fine dry breadcrumbs, more or less*
  • 1/4 c. olive oil, depending on the size of the sauté pan
  • 3 Tbsp. butter

Lingonberry (European cranberry) preserves to serve on the side, (optional)

*I like the crunch that the Panko breadcrumbs add to the recipe but you can just use one cup of fine dry breadcrumbs if you wish.

Cover the pork with plastic wrap and gently pound to 1/4 inch thick. Unwrap and season one side with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder then spread with a light coating of mustard. Place a slice of ham on top of the mustard coating and top with cheese (it will take about 1 and 1/2 slices to cover each) and then roll up tightly.

Place the flour, beaten egg and the mixed breadcrumbs in three separate bowls. Dredge the pork rolls in the flour, shaking off the excess. Dip into the beaten egg then roll in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing the crumbs so they stick.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a sauté pan over moderate heat. The oil should be hot enough to brown the meat in about 3 minutes but not so hot that it burns the crust. Sauté the rolls, starting seam side down, on all sides until lightly browned (about a minute on each side). Place on a rack in a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving so the cheese doesn’t run out when sliced. Lingonberry preserves are a nice accomplishment to serve with the pork Cordon Bleu.

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The pork schnitzel Cordon Bleu is a quick and easy meal to prepare and one that my husband and I enjoy often. We suggest you serve this juicy, tender and delicious pork recipe as a weekday meal as well as for your friends. A nice Grüner Veltliner or Riesling wine from Germany or Austria would be a good choice to go along with the crispy pork.

 

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