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Seasonal Recipe: Homemade Salsa

20 Jul

Snack of champions: chips and homemade salsa.

Grace’s hippie sister, Emily, here, surfacing for the first time in months to share a recipe that should come in handy for anybody who has a vegetable garden (or a neighbor with a garden).

That’s right, kids: It’s salsa time.

Use an entire head of garlic. Seriously.

Start by throwing a big handful of cilantro (one bunch from the grocery store or whatever you have in your garden will do) into a food processor and pulsing it until it’s nice and fine and feathery. Next, take a head of garlic, separate and peel the cloves, cut off the ends, and throw ’em into the food processor. Give ’em a good whirl to mince them, then add hot peppers to taste. Four serranos will give you a nice medium-hot salsa; adjust the quantity to suit your taste, and feel free to substitute whatever peppers you prefer (or need to use up).

I like red onions, but red or yellow will work as well.

Next, add three cored, quartered bell peppers in any color and a peeled, quartered onion, processing after each addition. Add the juice of two or three small limes — proportions aren’t critical, but you want to get a little extra acid in there for canning purposes — and process to mix.

Tomatillos look like little green tomatoes with husks.

If you can put your hands on some tomatillos, peel and core about five of them and add them to the mix at this point. If you can’t, don’t worry about it; they aren’t absolutely necessary, but they do add a nice flavor if you happen to have them. Process, then dump the mixture into a large bowl to make room in the food processor for your tomatoes.

Core and quarter about three pounds of tomatoes (Romas are ideal, but any kind will do; just be aware that the juicier varieties will make a finished product that’s more like picante sauce than salsa) and chop them in the food processor.

Now, here is a neat trick: If you have extra cucumbers that you need to use up, you can add a couple to your salsa at this point, and nobody will be any the wiser. Just chop them finely and stir them in. You’ll never notice them by the time they’ve absorbed the other flavors. You could probably do this with zucchini, too, although I wouldn’t use too much, lest it compromise the texture.

Unless your food processor is huge, you'll have to do half the tomatoes at a time.

Stir everything together in a huge bowl. At this stage, the salsa will probably look kind of bubbly and unappealing. Remedy this by stirring in ground cumin until the froth goes away, then stirring in chili powder until the color looks nice and red.

Salsa cans well in a boiling-water bath.

You can either eat the salsa now or pack it into clean pint jars with an inch of headspace and process in a boiling-water bath for 15 minutes. Serve nice and cold with plenty of tortilla chips or fresh vegetables for dipping. Makes about three quarts.

I like to bring this salsa to office parties. It always impresses people, and it’s safe for vegetarians, diabetics, and various other dieters, especially if you bring celery sticks and cucumber slices for low-carb dipping.

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Low-Carb Recipe: Slow-Cooker Olive Turkey

13 Jan

For a text-only version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

Plain turkey drumsticks get a saucy makeover in this easy dish.

Note: I see James Ramsden also has a poultry-and-olive combo on his own blog this week, albeit Morrocan-style in his case. I guess great minds think alike!

Turkey drumsticks are a great sale find at our local grocery store, and I love thinking up new ways to present them. I also love using my Crock Pot as much as possible when I’m restricting carbs. It keeps meal preparation fun and gives me something to look forward to all day, instead of staring at yet another bunless hamburger when I get home. 🙂

The combination of dark meat and slow-cooking keeps this version moist and tender, and the Mexican ingredients are a perfect match for stronger-flavored game poultry. Continue reading

Healthy Recipe: Chicken Fiesta Salad

25 Oct
Note: Gracie is up to her eyeballs in work, so Emily is sharing her own family’s version of Fast Salsa-Ranch Chicken Salad below.

This colorful salad is as tasty as it is pretty.

Gracie’s hippie sister strikes again.

My husband likes taco salad. I’m not usually a big fan, but this particular version is so protein-packed and easy to make that it’s hard to go wrong with it. Continue reading

Easy Recipe: Bistecca Caprese alla Griglia (Grilled Capri Steak)

25 Aug

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

Go ahead. Tell me your mouth isn’t watering. I Double-Dog-Dare you.

So…our oven is broken. (In case you were scratching your head at the sporadic nature of recent posts, now you know.)

Today I called Hubby from work and asked him to defrost some meat and light the grill before I got home with the kids for the evening. As I spent my day thinking about the barbecue, however, I just couldn’t seem to get myself in the mood for a big old charcoal-grilled steak.

One reason was that steaks always make me crave coffee with dinner, and let’s face it — the weather’s not that cool yet. Continue reading

Quickie Low-Carb Recipe: “Porcupine” Chicken Drumsticks

25 Aug

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

This is another quick & yummy weeknight recipe for when you’re low-carbing it and the rest of the family isn’t.

Some of you may recall my “Thyme Out” post a couple of months ago about how tired I was of ten million chicken recipes that all taste like thyme and rosemary.

Today I offer a different flavor-packed, herbed variation on the weeknight chicken dinner theme, this time involving bold cumin seed, a $2 package of drumsticks and less than 5 minutes’ worth of prep time. Pair it with an easy oil & vinegar Caprese salad for a beautifully simple, low-carb dinner that gets you in and out of the kitchen in half an hour. (I did throw some Rice-a-Roni alongside ours to ride shotgun for the carb-addicts in the house.) Continue reading

Cheap Recipe: Never-Dry Roasted Clementine Chicken

29 Jul

***CONTEST UPDATE: There’s still time to enter the Red Kitchen Project’s Misto Gourmet Giveaway! Drawing is Friday (7-30-10) at noon, so click here to enter  by leaving a comment on the Misto post before it’s too late!)

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

chicken with citrus & cinnamon
Cinnamon & mild citrus flavor round out the perfect roasted chicken recipe.

I’ve always wondered why most Americans stuff roaster chickens full of dry ingredients like bread crumbs that are designed to absorb the moisture from within the bird?

Now, if you were cooking something oily, like, say…a duck, I could understand that. Those things can use all the grease-sopping help they can get. But chickens? Notoriously dry, temperamental chickee-doodles? I don’t get it. You may as well shove a carton of Q-tips in there while you’re at it.

That’s why, rather than fill my bird with spongey, moisture-sucking stuffing that locks away a chicken’s natural juices faster than you can say “Foghorn Leghorn,” I’ve developed a fool-proof, alternative method to roasting chicken that acutally infuses the chicken (particularly the drier white meat areas) with additional liquid and moisture from the inside out.

Peeled Clementines.

Now that I have your attention, let’s jump right in. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Peel several small room temperature clementines (or regular tangerines) and leave each intact as a sphere. Clementines work best of all citrus fruits not only because of their size but also due to their mildness of flavor. Clementines will not overpower your dish with a bold citrus flavor. You will need enough fruit to fill the bird plus one extra. I used six for my 3.5-lb chicken, so plan accordingly.

Clementines.

Make gourges in the fruit's flesh to allow juice to release.

Take a sharp knife and gouge slits about 1/4″ deep and 1″ long, perpendicular to vertical segment divisions, all over each fruit. (Think “equator” and not “prime meridian” when you’re cutting if that helps.) The reason for this is to help additional juice be released over time while chicken is in the oven.

Crossing segment lines with scoring will allow for maximum juice release.

You don’t want it all to drip out quickly at the beginning or it will just stream out the chicken and into the bottom of the pan, which is why you’re not squeezing/juicing them all, but the combination of room temperature fruit and slices across the segments will help it release a constant amount of liquid into the meat over time.

Remove a 3.5 – 4lb. raw chicken from packaging, being sure to clean out any gizzards/bag inside and empty excess liquid into sink or receptacle. Place in casserole dish or roaster pan.

Raw, cleaned chicken.

One by one, begin pushing the whole clementines inside the chicken, apply just enough “smush” pressure to fit several in tightly without any large open areas inside. Again, I fit five comfortably inside my small roaster.

Abbsolutely NO ping-pong-ball jokes now, y'hear?

Take the last remaining clementine and squeeze juice over the entire outside of the chicken, rubbing juice into raw chicken where possible.

Citrus helps skin to separate from the meat upon roasting. (You want the skin to stay on during the oven time to hold in moisture, but some folks may prefer to pull the skin off of the cooked chicken before eating it.)

Sprinkle/rub spices onto outside of the chicken.

Sprinkle meat with 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon paprika and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Rub spices into meat only if desired.

Half-baked; remove from oven to baste and cover.

Place uncovered chicken in 375-degree oven for half of the cooking time (poultry cooks at 20 minutes per pound).

Remove from oven at this point and rub/glaze chicken with 2-3 tablespoons butter or margarine and baste with any broth that has already formed in bottom of pan.

Uncover and baste with juices again just before serving. (Check out this super-wide basting brush--most excellent for getting a whole chicken done quickly before it cools off. Thanks, KitchenAid!)

Cover at this point with lid or aluminum foil and replace in oven for duration of cook time. (My 3.5-lb. chicken cooked for 35 minutes uncovered and then 35 minutes covered. It was fabulous.) Remove when meat thermometer reads 170 degrees and juices run clear.

Garnish with parsley or additional citrus wedges if desired. Carve and serve immediately; refrigerate or freeze any leftover meat.

Chef’s Note: Well-packed whole Clementines will stay put as you carve easily around them, keeping the pulp out of your plates and off your meat! (Hence why they should never be separated into individual segments before stuffing–what a mess it would be!)
Now stand back and marvel at the most amazingly moist chicken you’ve ever roasted, and prepare to receive compliments.

Well-packed whole citruses will stay put, letting you carve right around them. Voila!

Happy Birthday to the Red Kitchen Project, Misto Product Review + Free Gourmet Sprayer Contest!

27 Jul

I looked at the calendar last week and thought, “How can it possibly have been a year already since I started this little project?”

Me: one year, a few grey hairs, and many new recipes later!

But come August 1st, I’ll be celebrating RKP’s first anniversary, and I’m here to tell you, I’m thankful for this website. And for all of you. 🙂 I constantly get to hear from interesting people all over the world, and it’s an inspiration to see the recipe archives grow, knowing all of these recipes are now battle plans in the eating-cheaply arsenal!

In keeping with this celebratory post, I’m announcing another kitchen giveaway! That’s right–from now through Friday (the 30th), you can enter to win your very own Misto Gourmet Olive Oil Sprayer.

And if I’m giving one away, I may as well review one myself! (Many thanks to Lisa at Lifetime Brands for providing The Red Kitchen with these cool freebie gadgets, by the way!) Here goes:

The Misto Gourmet Oil Bottle Sprayer from Lifetime Brands is a handy little doodad designed to lighten up your cooking and eating by reducing the amount of oil used in recipes and snacks into a fine spray mist, coating your food more evenly and thereby eliminating the need to “dip” or “pour” oil on items that don’t really need that much grease. And starting at $9.99, you can’t beat the price when you think about all of the empty spray cans of PAM you’ve probably thrown away. (See? Your waist will love you, and now the environment will, too!)

Photo courtesy of Lifetime Brands.

I’ve been trying to center more of my recipes these days around healthier options, so I decided to try it out on some lean steaks. For kicks and giggles, I also replaced buttered corn with grilled corn on the cob misted with olive oil–but I didn’t even get to photograph any of the vegetables before they were gobbled up! Honestly, I’m through smothering corn in butter, margarine, Parkay spread, or anything else thick and yellow! The olive oil, with a shake or two of salt, was just right–not too greasy, not too dry, not too bland–frankly, it was perfect.

Filling Misto with oil.

Easy to fill.

Getting back to the steaks, I purchased some ultra-lean but ultra-tough flank steaks on manager’s special at my local meat counter. Normally, I would soak/marinate the tough steaks during the day before firing up the grill at night. This time, I decided to see how a little bit of misting would speed up the process.

Two identical half-pound steaks.

One steak was scored with a knife and then brushed with about a Tablespoon (= 3 teaspoons) of olive oil to make sure I didn’t miss any nooks or crannies.

Score tough steaks with a serrated knife before marinating to tenderize the meat.

The other steak was scored identically, but oiled using only the Misto. (I might have used 1/2 teaspoon, tops, on the entire steak.) The sprayer, which you fill halfway with liquid and then “pump” about ten times before pressing the spray nozzle, really allowed me to get into the scored sections and marinate the center of the tough steak without the whole thing dripping with oil or making a mess.

Pump and spray.

I then sprinkled the two steaks equally with my usual beef flavorings–onion powder, salt, pepper and paprika–and set them both out there on the heated barbecue grill.

About 13-15 minutes later, I scooped them up, brought them in, sliced them up, and definitely knew which one I wanted to claim as mine!

The steak that had been brushed with oil was still dripping with grease. Two of the corners had also hardened into tough little points.

The steak that had been Misto-sprayed was juicy (but not greasy), evenly cooked (no hardened edges), and more easily sliced as a result. Just look and see for yourself:

Steak #1: Brushed with 1 Tablespoon olive oil

Steak #2: Misted with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil.

See how pasty the outside of the first steak looks? No matter how hard I attacked the scorings with a thick basting brush, I couldn’t seem to get the oil to penetrate the outside of the raw meat. When I sprayed the second steak, all I had to do was press the meat away from each incision using the knife, and then point the nozzle of the spray bottle downward into the score marks.

As if that weren’t enough proof, I of course followed with a taste-test of each steak. While both admittedly would have benefited from being marinated all day, the brushed-oil steak was much tougher and chewier than I’d expected versus the sprayed steak.

To be honest, it was actually my goal with this experiment just to find out if the sprayed steak would be AS tender as the brushed steak. I wanted to find out if my tastes would suffer by using less oil in preparation. Turns out, my tastes were suffering BEFORE I switched to the Misto. That 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil in mist form was able to get into places a whole Tablespoon of oil could never be brushed into.

Who knew?

I look forward in the coming weeks to trying out other new ways of using the Misto to reduce my daily fat/grease/oil intake. But I’m going to need your help, which is where the contest comes in.

To enter to win your very own Misto Gourmet Brushed Aluminum Oil Bottle Sprayer, leave a comment on this post telling me what recipe you’d most like to reduce the fat in using a Misto. One entry per person, please. Contest ends at 12:00 pm (noon) CST on Friday, July 30th. Winner will be announced Friday afternoon.

In the meantime, visit the Misto page on Pfaltzgraff’s website or You Tube to watch a video demonstrating the Misto.

P.S.–You can also order an engraved, personalized Misto sprayer starting at only $14.99–treat all the cooks in your life to a cool gadget and healthier cooking!

Low-Carb Recipe: Spicy Southwestern Ceviche

8 Jul

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

This is a great make-ahead seafood recipe for party dishes or long weekends around the house. If you’ve never tried ceviche before, think of it as a sort of “fish salsa.”

Chef’s Note: Because you’re using time+acid to “cook” your seafood (rather than heat), you’ll want to be sure to use nonreactive dishware and utensils during the marinating process.

Begin with about 1 lb. of boneless, raw fish or seafood.

(I used red snapper, but anything will work, including shrimp, scallops, calamari, or other items on sale at your local grocery.

I’ll warn you; thawed frozen fish will have a mushier final texture than fresh, so if you’re using frozen, be aware of that caveat up front.

Also, you may want to rinse thawed filets in cool water before beginning, depending on what sort of liquid they may have been frozen in, to help the flavor. Basically: the fresher, the better.

Cut the filets into small (3/4″) chunks and place in the bottom of a large glass or ceramic bowl.

Chop one seeded cucumber, one seeded poblano pepper (or other variety) and several green onions into small tidbits and add to the fish.

Sprinkle mixture with 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and 2 teaspoons salt.

Splash mixture with 1-2 teaspoons of your favorite hot sauce and add 1 (15-ounce) drained can of diced tomatoes. (You can always use fresh, seeded tomato chunks but I just use canned to save time.)

If desired, canned black or pinto beans are a festive addition to this dish, and also help your seafood budget stretch further!

Squeeze the juice of 4 limes and 3 lemons over the raw fish mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until evenly coated.

Cover mixture with plastic wrap or lid and refrigerate overnight, stirring at least once sometime after the first hour has passed.

Serve chilled in a large dip bowl with vegetables or chips for dipping, or spooned over a lettuce and cheese salad base. Garnish with chopped flat parsley if desired.

Low-Carb Recipe: Lime-Chicken Paprikash

6 Jul

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

Lime juice and a splash of Tobasco transform this Hungarian dish into something really special.

Today’s post was a particularly big hit at the dinner table. Hubby’s already asked when we’re having it again, and the 3-year-old cleaned his plate, which never happens unless Grimace and Mayor McCheese are involved.

Traditional Chicken Paprikash is one of the easiest suppers on the planet to make. It’s sort of like a chicken version of Stroganoff, but heavier on the onions and (obviously) paprika.

I decided to up the ante on this low-carb dish by adding a couple of new ingredients (lime juice and Tobasco sauce), and let me just say: Yee. Haw. And of course, it’s still super-easy to make.

Generously coat a large, deep-sided skillet with nonstick cooking spray and place over MEDIUM-HIGH burner heat.

Arrange 2 to 2-1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about six pieces) in a large bowl. Stab each chicken thigh with a fork in a few places to help it absorb seasoning quickly.

Microwave about 2 tablespoons butter/margarine and pour over chicken. Immediately sprinkle with 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon paprika.

(This is where I am supposed to be a snob and say to use only authentic Hungarian paprika, but the truth is that I used plain old fifty-cents-a-bottle paprika from Dollar General and it was quite wonderful.)

Next, squeeze about 2-3 tablespoons lime juice (fresh or bottled, as long as it’s not concentrate) over the chicken and throw on a splash (or four) of your favorite red hot sauce (to taste–I used about 1-1/2 tsp).

Pour a small amount of water (like 1/4 cup or so) over the chicken and swish it all around with that fork you just stabbed the chicken with.

When skillet is hot, transfer the chicken one-piece-at-a-time to the skillet and then pour the marinade over the top.

While the first sides of the chicken brown, slice a large onion into very thin rings. Make lots and lots of skinny little onion rings. After chicken has browned for 4 or 5 minutes, flip pieces and add the onions to the bottom of the pan.

Continue to skillet-fry for several minutes. When onion rings become limp, you can begin piling them on top of the chicken pieces. Flip chicken in skillet as often as necessary until cooked through (15 minutes or so).

When chicken looks done, reduce heat to MEDIUM-LOW and scoop about 1/3 cup sour cream into the sauce. Scrape sauce and sour cream together until you’ve got an even, light-orange-colored gravy.

Remove from heat and serve chicken topped with the onion “strings” and sauce. Sprinkle with chives if you like. I served this to the carb-eaters in the family over veggie-colored fettucini noodles, but it’s just as yummy by itself.

(Cheap) Low-Carb Recipe: Java Latte Mushroom Sauce

15 Jun

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

We were having flank steak for dinner last week and I wanted to try something new. I almost always cover it with onions, mozzarella and green peppers, which is one of my favorite low-carb options, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to think outside the box for one night and experiment a bit.

So glad I did, too. Hubby raved about this sauce, and asked me if I would make it again soon. It was so simple and so rich–I’ll never use condensed mushroom soup in recipes again. And what a lovely way to serve coffee with cream, don’t you think?

Itsy bitsy veggie pieces.

Heat 4 Tbs. butter or margarine in a large, deep skillet. While butter warms, chop 1 celery rib and 1 small onion into very small bits.

♥Chef’s Note: Old celery is much easier to finely sliver than new celery. About 2-3 weeks old is best for making gravy and sauces; before it turns yellow, but after it starts to lose its rigidness. You can chop it so thinly you could read a newspaper through it! 🙂

Sliced, fresh mushrooms.

Throw the chopped vegetables into the hot butter and sautee over MEDIUM heat for a couple of minutes. Add a package of sliced fresh mushrooms (about 8-12 ounces) and about 1 tsp. minced garlic (or powder).

Stir-fry mushrooms with 1 tsp. dried oregano and add a healthy dash of hot sauce, if desired. Add salt/pepper to taste. When the vegetables have softened, pour about 2 cups leftover brewed coffee over the mixture, increase burner heat and bring to a simmer for about fifteen minutes, leaving the skillet uncovered.

Don't let leftover coffee go to waste!

(This is a good point to start broiling a steak if you’re serving it that way.)

Simmer until coffee is reduced.

When at least 1/3 of the liquid has evaporated from the sauce, reduce heat back to MEDIUM and stir in 1 cup heavy cream or whole milk. Evaporated milk would probably work well, too.

Continue to simmer uncovered, stirring every few minutes to prevent scorching.

At this point the sauce should resemble a thin gravy. The longer it simmers uncovered, the thicker it will become. It will also thicken a little more after being removed from heat, so keep that in mind.

You could easily pass this off as a soup appetizer, too!

If you’re serving the gravy over a London Broil, slice beef into slivers about 1/4″ thick and ladle gravy over the top. This would also be nice paired with baked or grilled chicken. For an even less expensive meal, heat roast beef lunchmeat and arrange on a plate and pour Java Latte Mushroom Sauce over the top.

Gravy on a low-carb diet! Who’d have thunk it?

Caution: Extremely rich and awesome.