Monthly Archives: April 2015

Celery Leaves have many uses. And what do you do when you over salt soup? Hump Day Hacks and Tips

It’s Wednesday, which I am calling  “Hump Day Hacks and Tips!” I am excited about this new feature on my blog that will appear every Wednesday.

Sometimes I share content I find, sometimes I share my own. Today, I share my own and I have two tips for you.

My parents used to live in the Dominican Republic and when I visited them (back in college), I discovered the beauty of celery leaves.

Most American cooks cut the leaves off and toss them– I used to do that–  but it’s a mistake. First, I am advocate of using as much of every food as possible. And second, the leaves are intensely flavorful and nutritious.

Celery leaves are high in iron, magnesium, and vitamins A and C.

In the Dominican, they used the leaves in marinades and that is a wonderful use, especially with chicken.

But I have lots of other ideas, too.

Celery leaves are great in stocks and broth. Because I have a ton of rotisserie chicken carcasses each week, I make my own stock. But on that rare occasion that I don’t, I still drop celery leaves, onions and bay leaves in commercial stock and boil for 10 minutes before I use the stock. I adds a lot of flavor. The more celery leaves, the better.

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Slice the leaves and use as substitute for parsley.

Toss chopped leaves into a salad to impart a celery flavor. It’s excellent. You can also add some to tuna salad or chicken salad. It adds extra flavor and nutrition. Mayo helps mellow out the celery leaf flavor.

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The leaves are excellent in homemade beans, both in the cooking process and sliced on top as a garnish.

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You can use them to garnish risotto or in rice pilaf or quinoa salad.

Use the leaves and a few stalks to infuse vodka for a fantastic Bloody Mary. Let’s see, it’s Wednesday, so go home tonight and add the leaves and stalks to vodka and Sunday morning, strain the vodka and enjoy a flavorful Bloody Mary. You can also add jalapenos if you like it hot.

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And save back a stem with some leaves on the top to garnish that Bloody Mary with olives. A thincelery stalk with leaves on top makes a great olive skewer.

Ok, I hope you never throw away celery leaves. There are too many reasons not to.

My second tip is a lot quicker.

I was at a friend’s house about a month ago and she over-salted her soup. I told her next time she does that, to place a few small potatoes or slice up a large potato, and put it in the broth as it cooks and the potato will extract some of the salt. You should peel the potato before you add them.

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You don’t want to cook the potato through and you may have to repeat the process, but it will help reduce the salt. Just think about how much salt potatoes need. It’s a great solution for over-salted stock.

That’s it for today. Join me all week for rotisserie chicken recipes and Hump Day Hacks and Tips on Wednesday.

I will start adding a weekly travel feature, too. I am thinking about Travel Tuesday or Travel Thursday. I have visited 57 countries, every continent and 45 states, so I have LOTS of travel tips and advice.

Thank you for reading today.

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Barbecue Ranch Chicken Salad- my brother-in-law says It’s the bomb.

Does this salad look good, or what? It’s fabulous.

This restaurant quality salad is amazing and serves two as a main course or up to six as a side dish.

I call it restaurant quality because it’s really a restaurant rip off. The Cheesecake Factory serves an amazing salad like this, which was my inspiration for this recipe. That is one of my favorite things on the menu.

Salads don’t often “wow” people, but this one usually does.

Directions:

1 head of romaine lettuce

2/3 cup of canned corn, drained

2/3 cup black beans, drained

1 1/4 cups chopped chicken

2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

3 slices of bacon or 1/3 cup real bacon pieces

1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

French’s Fried Onion rings (like you use for the green bean casserole at Thanksgiving)

 

 

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Dressing:

1/2 cup Ranch dressing

1 1/2 tablespoons barbecue sauce

1 tablespoon salsa

Get a large serving bowl for this recipe. For the photo, I made this look pretty by stacking the ingredients, but you will need to toss this together with the dressing before you serve it.

Chop lettuce and place in bowl. Add corn, black beans, chicken, tomatoes, bacon and cheese,

Mix ingredients for the dressing together then pour dressing over salad and thoroughly toss to distribute ingredients and the dressing. Allow to rest for 5 minutes and then serve.

The Biltmore Estate is incredible

I wrote this story last month for The Joplin Globe, but somehow forgot to share it here. If you have never been, The Biltmore Estate is incredible. I’ve visited many times and will continue to go back. It’s the equivalent of visiting an amazing European castle, but you don’t have to leave the United States. This castle is SPECTACULAR at Christmas. And imagine, this was someone’s personal home?

Anyway, here is the story:

The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, has something special to offer in every season.

In the spring, a sea of more than 100,000 vibrant tulips and daffodils sweep across the landscape during the Festival of Flowers.  The Biltmore is America’s largest privately owned home and the original gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in New York and the grounds around the U.S Capitol. A visit to the gardens is a must for any flower lover.

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In summer, visitors can soak up the beauty of more than 250 varieties of roses in the rose garden; take one of several gardening classes offered; or enjoy float trips, hiking, horseback riding, carriage rides, kayaking and other outdoor activities around the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is the backdrop for this mansion. There are sporadic concerts on the lawn in the summer, too.

Fall is a feast for the eyes and taste buds. There are wine and food-centered festivals and events (particularly in September), and the gardens glow with orange and gold mums. Plus, there’s the golden blush and amber kiss of autumn on the trees.

Fly fishing, Segway tours and horseback riding are all popular attractions this time of year. Cooler temperature means it’s a perfect time to explore the 8,000 acres that make up this estate.

In winter, the Biltmore house, a 250-room French Renaissance chateau, is decked out in Christmas glory and is a must for any holiday enthusiast. There are 50 Christmas trees in the home, including a 35-foot tree in the banquet hall.

The 65 fireplaces in this castle are adorned with garlands, wreaths and give the mansion a warm glow.   Antique ornaments, twinkling lights, Christmas carolers and many more Christmas trees decorate the surrounding estate.  There are candlelight night tours of the mansion showcasing its holiday beauty.

In every season, you can enjoy estate wines, wine tasting classes, a selection of fabulous food from a variety of restaurants on the property, outdoor activities, and shopping,

But no matter what the season, a tour of the Biltmore House is the main attraction.

It is 175,000 square feet of magnificence—to put that in perspective, the White House is only 55,000.

The extravagant mansion features original paintings by Renoir and a library stocked with more than 10,000 books.

Construction on the “chateau” began in 1889 and was the vision of George Vanderbilt. He was the grandson of the famous shipping tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, who was one of the richest families in that time period.

It took six years to complete the Biltmore and nearly 10 million pounds of limestone was used in the construction. The limestone was harvested in Indiana and shipped to North Carolina.

When George Vanderbilt opened the doors of his mansion, it showcased four acres of floor space, 43 bathrooms, an indoor pool, and a bowling alley (keep in mind, this was built in the late 1800s).

The banquet hall is stunning and boasts a 70-foot ceiling. When you tour this house, it feels like you’re in Europe. The opulence is jaw dropping. I’ve visited several times and I am continuously blown away, especially when I consider how long ago this mansion was constructed.

Vanderbilt was a bachelor when he built this, but he married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser shortly after in 1898. Many of their original artifacts are still in the home.

The couple welcomed for their only child, Cornelia, in 1900.

Vanderbilt died in 1914. He was 51.

Cornelia went on to marry a British diplomat John Francis Amherst Cecil, and they had two sons together.

In 1930, she opened the house to the public, hoping that this would lure tourists in during the Great Depression and help the surrounding city of Asheville.

Both sons grew up and helped preserve and manage the estate.

Their son William Cecil planted the first vineyards on the property in 1971. Today, the Biltmore is knowns for its wine and the website claims it’s the most visited winery in America.

There is so much to do, see, taste, and experience here; the Biltmore is a banquet for the senses and a wonderful getaway.

If you go:
A tour of the house will take an entire day, especially if you opt for an audio tour.  People with limited mobility may want to split it up over two days because the house alone stretches over four acres.

Depending on when you visit, you could safely plan three to four days at the Biltmore Estate, especially if you enjoy gardening or the outdoors. If all you want to do is tour the home and take a few classes or eat and shop, two days is sufficient.

There are many restaurants, seminars, classes, shops and outdoor activities on the estate. Some are free and some have a fee. Aside from spectacular gardens, there are gardening classes, wine tasting seminars, a plethora of outdoor activities.

The Biltmore has several inns and hotels, but they are pricier options than staying in Asheville and driving in to the estate.

Depending on the season, there are discounts online (there are often discounts in the fall). Visit www.biltmore.com for more information.

Photos courtesy of the Biltmore Company

Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich

I’ve been on a sandwich kick lately. I love revamping traditional recipes and transforming them into portable sandwiches. Chicken Cordon Bleu is one of my favorite dishes but it’s so fattening and time consuming to make. For this sandwich version, I simply add white wine to mayonnaise to create a sauce and dress it with paprika and white pepper, which are traditional.

It’s a good sandwich, not my best, but good.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich

Serves 1

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1 teaspoon dry white wine

Dash of each paprika and pepper (white pepper is preferred, but black will do)

1 crusty bread roll or large dinner roll from a bakery

4 slices of good quality deli ham or proscuitto

1 thick slice of Gruyere cheese (you can substitute Swiss)

Half a rotisserie chicken breast

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
First, stir together mayonnaise, wine and paprika and pepper. Set aside.

When the oven is preheated, slice your roll in half. Smear mayonnaise mixture, which will be thin, on both insides of the bread. Layer the ham, cheese and chicken and close the sandwich. Bake for 5 minutes and then enjoy.

Awesome, Chicken and Artichoke Sandwich

Awesome Chicken, Artichoke Sandwich

This chicken sandwich is crusty on the outside, gooey on the inside and packed with flavor. If you love artichoke dip at parties, you will LOVE this.

This recipe can easily be doubled and you will want to once you taste it. It’s one of my favorites.

2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken breast

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoon your favorite olive tapenade (I like green olive for this)

1 cup chopped artichoke hearts

1 cup shredded, fresh parmesan cheese

1/8 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Half a loaf of French or Italian bread (not baguette)

Preheat oven to 375.

Stir together chicken, cream cheese, mayonnaise, olive tapenade, artichoke hearts, Parmesan and Italian seasoning. Set aside.

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Cut the bread in half and then cut it horizontally. Fill the bread with chicken mixture. If desired, add a tiny sprinkle of more Italian seasoning.

Wrap the loaf in aluminum foil and pop in the oven for 18-20 minutes. When it’s done, cut into four servings.

Yes, it’s THAT EASY!!

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Serve with a salad.

Asian Chicken Salad (three ways)

I love, love, love chicken salad and am constantly creating different versions.

My top three recipes are this one, my rosemary chicken salad and my curried chicken salad.

My Asian version always wows people and I think it’s because it’s so unique. I love it because it’s easy, delicious and I can serve it three ways.

. I have served this on Ritz crackers at parties and it’s a huge hit;

I have piled it in the middle of a salad and devoured it for lunch (pictured here).\;

And I have served it on French bread as a sandwich and that’s pretty fantastic, too. I recommend topping the sandwich with thinly sliced cucumbers.

Every version is fantastic. In my recipe, I recommend using celery OR water chestnuts. I prefer celery but have made it both ways.

They key to this salad is you must have Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce. If you’ve never used that sauce, you should. It’s one of my favorite kitchen condiments.

It’s AMAZING on stir fried vegetables, soba noodles, on chicken. The great thing is, it’s a complete sauce so you don’t need to add other sauces.  I have used it for dipping sauce, as a marinade, etc, etc. It’s so versatile. Once you try it, you will ask that bottle: “Where have you been all my life?”

If you can’t find it on your local store, you can order it online: https://www.soyvay.com

You can search stores in your area on the website to see if they carry it.

This salad is perfect for entertaining or enjoying at home. Take it on a picnic or out on the boat. It’s lovely. Enjoy.

Asian Chicken Salad

3 1/2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken, skin removed

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki

2 stalks of celery OR 5 ounces water chestnuts, minced

3 green onions, sliced

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Pepper to taste (you don’t need salt)

2 tablespoons shredded carrot (optional) I add carrots when serving as a salad

Ritz crackers to serve, or bread, or a bed of lettuce

Dark meat is great in this dish, so if you’re not crazy about legs and thighs, try adding the meat to this. It makes a wonderful appetizer. A buttery Ritz is a wonderful complement, or serve it on a slice of cucumber when it’s hot outside for a refreshing appetizer.

While I am not an iceberg lettuce fan, if you are serving this on lettuce, iceberg is the way to go. It’s so crisp and light and is a beautiful compliment to the salad.

Directions:

In a large bow, mix mayonnaise and Soy Vay sauce together. Then add chicken, celery or water chestnuts, onion and cilantro. Stir until thoroughly combined. Add pepper to taste.

If serving as a salad, serve it over lettuce with cucumbers and topped with carrots.

In serving for a party, you an sit it out surrounded by crackers or plate each individual cracker. Cucumber slices are a nice addition if it’s self serve. You an also use cucumber slices to serve the salad if you are avoiding extra carbs. You can garnish with extra cilantro, if desired. I did it more for aesthetics for the photo.

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Or serve on bread.