Monthly Archives: June 2015

Two EASY Quesadillas: Goat cheese and grilled peppers; Chicken and Bacon. The choice is yours

I get on kicks. My latest is quesadillas.

A month ago, I made a wonderful black bean, Ranch, rotisserie chicken quesadilla, then a Mediterranean inspired quesadilla and I have several more in the works.

L1060906 (2)

The charm of the quesadilla is it’s quick, easy, versatile and delicious.

It’s portable so you can eat it on the go as a snack, but also filling enough to enjoy it for dinner.

If you’re watching your carb intake, you can substitute a high protein, low carb wrap for the tortilla shell.

A classic quesadilla is common street fare all over in Mexico. You can fill it with any variety of cheeses, meats, vegetables and use corn, black corn, white or wheat flour tortillas.  There are tremendous possibilities.

It’s a great way to use leftover barbecue meats, too. I nestle shredded barbecue pork in a tortilla, top it with cheese, cilantro, chopped red onion, and grill it. Then I serve it with barbecue sauce and sour cream. It’s delightful.

And you don’t have to know much about cooking to create a delicious quesadilla.

My biggest tip is when making a quesadilla that is stuffed with other ingredients, cook it cheese side down first so it has a chance to melt and the cheese doesn’t fall out when you flip it.

Use a nonstick pan or a skillet to make quesadillas. If you’re feeding a crowd, a pancake griddle works beautifully to cook several at the same time (if you have a family, a griddle is a great choice).

Here are two AMAZING and easy recipes:

The goat cheese quesadilla is tossed with green salsa and cuddles up to bell peppers and chicken. It’s L1070005 (2) one of my favorites as the creamy, tangy goat cheese contrast beautifully with a trio of bell peppers. Goat cheese is also less fattening and I like the fact that my recipe includes veggies. This is a single serving recipe, so perfect for a snack or someone who lives solo.

My bacon and chicken is about as easy as it gets and takes less than 10 minutes from start to finish. This is basic qubaconqesadilla with rotisserie chicken, bacon pieces, cheese and a dash of cumin. I grill it and serve it with salsa and guacamole.

I hope you enjoy these.

Goat Cheese, Chicken and Tri-Pepper Quesadilla

Serves 1

1 medium size tortilla

Cooking spray

1/3 cup of assorted sliced bell peppers, red, green and yellow or orange

¼ cup of soft goat cheese

1 1/2 tablespoons green salsa

Dash of ground cumin

1/3 cup sliced or chopped rotisserie chicken breast

Guacamole or green salsa for serving

First, slice assorted bell peppers and heat a nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. When hot, add the bell peppers and cook 3-5 minutes until they reach desired tenderness. Salt the peppers and remove from heat.

In a bowl, stir together the goat cheese and green salsa until combined. Then spread the mixture over half of a tortilla. Top with chicken and bell peppers. Then sprinkle a dash of ground cumin on the other side of the tortilla and fold over to make a half moon.

Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat it over medium heat. Add the folded tortilla and cook about 2-3 minutes per side, until slightly crisp. Slice and serve with green salsa or guacamole.

goat cheese quesadilla

Chicken and Bacon Quesadilla

Makes 2 snacks or 1 meal size

2 medium size flour tortillas

1 chicken breast

½ cup shredded Mexican style cheese

2 heaping teaspoons real bacon pieces

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin or cumin seed

Cooking spray

Guacamole for serving

Salsa for serving

Cilantro to garnish

Cut the chicken breast off the rotisserie chicken, discard and skin and slice the breast. Then divide those pieces in half.

Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat.

Place half the cheese on half of each tortilla. Top with chicken, bacon and cumin. Fold the other half of the tortilla over to make a half moon. Then place in skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes per side.

Serve with salsa and guacamole.

L1060984 (2)

Southwest Quinoa Salad with Cumin-Lime Dressing

This is now my favorite Go To Summer dish. I am so in love with this quinoa salad.  It’s healthy, refreshing, low fat, high in fiber, high in protein and loaded with vitamins. And did I mention it’s delicious!

quinoasw

First, I cook the quinoa with chicken broth to give it more flavor. Then I chilled it and tossed it with chicken, cilantro, red bell peppers, corn, avocado and a lime-cumin vinaigrette. Sliced grape tomatoes are a nice addition and so are black beans. I actually thought I had black beans when I made this and when I realized I didn’t, was too busy to go to the store, so I made it without.

Anyway, this is perfect for lunch as a main course; as a side dish at a picnic; or as a light dinner.

Give it a try.

quinoa4

Southwest Quinoa Salad with Cumin-Lime Dressing

1 cup uncooked quinoa

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken (breast is preferred in this recipe)

Half a large red bell pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons red onion

½ cup of chopped cilantro

Half a can of corn, drained

½ cup black beans, drained (optional)

1 avocado

Dressing:

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon canola oil

2 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon ground cumin

For the quinoa: Bring quinoa and chicken broth to a boil in a medium pot with a tight fitting lid. Let it boil 3 minutes, cover with lid and cook another 15 minutes. Quinoa is done when a hook is released from the grain. Chill for later.

To prepare: Chop chicken, red bell pepper, onion and cilantro and place in a medium to large bowl. Fluff the quinoa and add it to the mix.

Drain corn and black beans (if you’re using those) and toss with quinoa. Then pit your avocado and chop.

Whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour over quinoa. Toss to coat and serve.

If you are making this ahead of time, leave the avocado off until the last minute.

Note: This recipe is also good with about ½ cup halved grape tomatoes, too.

quinoavo

Is a classic New Orleans restaurant worth it?

I recently celebrated my third anniversary with my husband with a traditional jazz brunch in New Orleans at Arnaud’s.

New Orleans is one of the top five food cities in the world. I say this being a foodie and eating my way across 57 countries on this planet. New Orleans continues to WOW me. BUT, there are also a lot of tourist traps and restaurants that rest on their laurels.  We’ve tried several of the famous restaurants and been disappointed by a few.

So I thought I’d share my thoughts before you drop $100-$200 on a meal.

Arnaud’s did not disappoint. It was the perfect jazz brunch experience.

menu

Located in the French Quarter, this historic restaurant honors dining the way it used to be with white linens on the tables, an incredibly attentive and polite wait staff, real fresh baked bread, and attention to detail. You will see staff making an array of desserts and drinks tableside, which is always fun.

makecrepes

And of course, there’s live jazz.

The restaurant is adorned with historic black and white photos. There’s a lot of natural light. It was exactly what I wanted.

We enjoyed a four course brunch. The price of the brunch is determined by the entrée you order and can range from $32.50 to $45 but choices also range from eggs to crab cakes to filet mignon.

We started with shrimp Arnaud’s, which was fresh shrimp heavily coated in remoulade sauce. I enjoyed it.

shrinp

Next, we ordered the chicken and andouille gumbo and it was excellent. My husband has to try the gumbo at every restaurant because he makes exceptional gumbo and likes to compare his gumbo to others (and feel superior knowing his is usually better). Having said this, we eat  A LOT OF GUMBO, so we are good judges and this one ranked in the top 3.

gumbo

For the second course, we had the house salad, which was just ok.

For the main courses, my husband had Grillades and Grits, which was flash-seared baby veal scaloppine braised in a rich vegetable sauce and seared cheese grits cakes. I normally don’t like grits, but searing them added a lot of texture. The Grillades were fantastic.

grits

I ordered Eggs Houssard, which was poached eggs, Canadian bacon and  and tomato on French Bread crostini with Hollandaise and Marchand de Vin Sauces, and it was good, too.

eggs

The highlight of the meal was the Crepes Suzette made tableside. So few places serve this anymore and it’s one of my favorite desserts. It was excellent.

crpes

And the drinks were not outlandish.   We enjoyed a Sauvignon Blanc for less than $40. Mimosas were about $7.50.

mimosa

If you’re looking for a wonderful brunch, try it:

https://www.arnaudsrestaurant.com/

Now, as for some of the other places we’ve tried in the past few years. Our most expensive meal and biggest disappointment was Commander’s Palace, which is an historic giant in this city.

Frankly, it’s been over hyped. I hate criticizing restaurants because sometimes it’s just a bad night, but I feel fair in doing so here because we ordered an assortment of food and were not impressed with anything other than the dessert soufflé. Plus, we spent more than $200 on the meal. Ouch.

You need a suitcoat to eat dinner here, so we bought one on vacation which was another expense.

Although Arnaud’s is fancy, I never felt like it was stuffy and I felt like Commander’s Palace was very stuffy.

When we pulled up, there were tour buses out front which immediately turned me off

The meal was mediocre. We had mach choux and we make much better mach choux than that. I had red dish and that wasn’t memorable at all. The gumbo was mediocre. The foie gras was the worst I’ve ever had. It was a seriously disappointing meal.

Another classic restaurant we’ve visited is Court of Two Sisters and I had mixed feelings about it (although it’s highly acclaimed).

It boasts a classic jazz brunch but it’s a buffet and I don’t care for buffets, so I was disappointed.

I will say the atmosphere was wonderful. It was bright, had a beautiful courtyard, and the selection of food was enormous.

While variety is nice, you can’t keep up quality when you mass produce food so I always prefer a la carte meals. Dinner here is a la carte so I’d be willing to give it another chance. One thing I will say about this place, if you’ve never tried Cajun and Creole food then this is a good spot because of the variety of choices. The turtle soup was lovely.

If you like buffet, try it. If not, try Arnaud’s. http://www.courtoftwosisters.com/

A place I didn’t expect to be that good, but was was Emeril’s Delmonico. I expected it to be overly touristy and thought the restaurant would be successful because he’s a celebrity chef, not necessarily because the food is great, but the food was fantastic. It’s over the top and I enjoy that from time to time.

http://www.emerilsrestaurants.com/emerils-delmonico

Mediterranean Chicken Salad Sliders

This is one of those recipes that you wish would photograph better. I don’t know why, but I had a dickens of a time trying to make this look good.

Which is crazy because this is delicious! I love chicken salad and am constantly creating different versions. My niece says this is her favorite one.

My Mediterranean Chicken Salad is perfect for anyone who grows fresh herbs because the recipe calls for basil, parsley and fresh basil.

This salad is great on focaccia, on mini buns to make sliders, on a bed of lettuce, or with tortilla chips as an appetizer. I enjoy it on toasted bread, too. My favorite way to eat this is with tortilla chips.

Mediterranean Chicken Salad

1 lemon pepper rotisserie chicken

12 basil leaves

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill

2/3 cup artichoke hearts in oil

2 tablespoons chopped sundried tomatoes

½ cup chopped celery

1/3 cup chopped red onion

1/3 cup finely chopped green Spanish olives

¾ cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

*¼ cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

Pine nuts add a beautiful crunch to this salad, but are very pricey so their use is optional. It’s a great salad with or without pine nuts.

Remove skin from the rotisserie chicken and pull the meat off the bones. Chop chicken and add to a large bowl.

Thinly slices basil leaves and add to chicken. Then chop parsley, fresh dill, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, celery, onion and Spanish olives and add to the bowl. You can use a food processor, but I would chop the celery and olives by hand to keep them large enough to give the salad a little crunch. If those two items are too finely minced, they won’t add the crunch you need.

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar. Then add it to the chicken and toss to coat the salad.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours before serving.

Note: If you plan to add pine nuts, do not add them until you are about to serve the salad because those nuts will lose their crunch. So after you refrigerate the chicken salad, toss in pine nuts and serve.

Chicken Bahn Mi

Bahn Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich but it is really a fusion of French and Vietnamese cuisines. It’s usually made with pork and fairly complicated, but this is a simplified version. The mushrooms add excellent meaty flavor; the vegetables soak in a quick brine to make them sweet and sour. The chili sauce is optional, as it may be too spicy for children. I usually make this sandwich with just mayonnaise because when something is too spicy, it can ruin the entire dish. If you add chili sauce, start small and taste as you go. The nice thing about this sandwich is you assemble the whole loaf and then cut it into servings.

I LOVE the mushrooms in this recipe

Ingredients:

1 loaf of French baguette (can substitute four ciabattas)

½ cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoona sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cucumber, sliced

1/4 cup shredded carrots (I buy pre-shredded to save time)

1/3 pound Shiitake mushrooms

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1-2 tablespoons Asian chili sauce (optional)

¼ cup cilantro

2 cups sliced rotisserie chicken, skin removed

Stir together vinegar, sugar and salt until dissolved. Add sliced cucumbers and shredded carrots to the mixture and set aside. Sliced radishes are a nice addition, too.

Next, cut the stems off your mushrooms and heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add mushrooms and cook until tender. At the last minute, add soy sauce to mushrooms.

If you plan to use the chili sauce, stir it into mayonnaise. If not, slice your baguette in half horizontally and spread mayonnaise over the entire bread.

Evenly distribute mushrooms across the bread. Then layer on the sliced chicken.

Drain the cucumbers and carrots and sprinkle that over chicken. Top with fresh cilantro. Close the bread and cut into four large sandwiches. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Missouri Botanical Garden is a must for natives and travelers

The Missouri Botanical Garden is considered one of the top botanical gardens in the country.

The first time I visited I understood why.

It was spring and there was a colorful blanket of tulips: ruby, orange, peach and pink, gold, yellow tulips with a red bases that swayed in the gentle breeze.

Large water lilies floated on fountains and ponds.  Blood orange poppies and purple and gold irises were in bloom.

But aside from stunning flowers and plants, there’s an amazing collection of sculptures, incredible architecture, educational events, and history all over the gardens.

After my first visit, I couldn’t believe that I’d lived in Missouri for 10 years at that point and had never visited this gem. Since that first trip, I’ve been back several times and am planning another jaunt this summer. If you’ve never been, you should plan a trip but expect to spend several hours there because there’s so much to take in.

4370884432_fd7d65c541_z (2)

I’d also recommend a narrated tram tour of the park, which lasts about 30 minutes, costs $4, but is a good way to snake around the property, soak up the beauty and learn a little bit of the garden’s history.

Founded in 1859 by Henry Shaw, the Missouri Botanical Garden spans 79 acres and boasts 23 demonstration gardens and three conservatories.

The Climatron is the largest conservatory and it’s fascinating. The dome shaped building houses more than 2,800 plants, including 1,400 different tropical species.

I felt like I’d ducted into the tropics when I walked into the Climatron. The first thing that made me feel that way was the humidity, but then there were banana trees, cacao, spice plants, orchids, and exotic, rare plants such as the double coconut, which produces the largest seed in the plant kingdom.

4406147955_358551c682_b (2)

In 1976, the Climatron was named one of the 100 most significant architectural achievements in United States history.  It rises 70 feet in the center, buy has no columns and no interior support.

It provides a wonderful opportunity to see plants from the rainforests in Brazil to the jungles in Borneo, all without leaving Missouri. There’s so much to see, but I only lasted about an hour inside because of the humidity (it averages 85 percent humidity and 85 degrees in the day).

I also enjoyed the kaleidoscope of international gardens at the garden: Japanese (one of the most photogenic parts of the park); English (always whimsical); Chinese (whose architecture stood out more than the plants); Ottoman; Bavarian and German.

The serene, 14-acre Japanese garden was my favorite. The website says this is one of the largest Japanese gardens in North America. Photo opportunities abound here from cherry blossoms in the spring to stone features to arched bridges that are reflected on ponds below.

4406841352_10f1a675e9_z (2)

There’s also lanterns of historic significance, including a snow-viewing lantern at the entrance that is preserved from the 1904 World’s Fair.

Another beautiful area at the Missouri Botanical Garden is the Victorian district which pays homage to the Henry Shaw, the garden’s founder.  You can also tour the Tower Grove House which was built in 1849 and was Shaw’s country residence.

I was also amazed at the number of beautiful sculptures — more than 50 –  that are peppered throughout the garden, including blown glass by artist Dale Chihuly. When you come into the visitor center, you’ll see the 928-piece “Missouri Botanical Garden Blue Chandelier” suspended in the atrium.  Pieces of his blown glass can be spotted at different areas of the park.

If you have a green thumb, then one of the many demonstration gardens are a must. The botanical garden hosts a variety of classes throughout the year, so if you are an avid gardener you can check the schedule and plan your visit accordingly.

And something I’ve never done but would love to do is the Whitaker Music Festival on Wednesday nights in the summer. Every Wednesday through July 29, there’s a free outdoor concert at the garden. You can bring your own picnic supper, baskets or coolers. Picnic fare, beer, wine, soda and sno-cones are also available to buy.  After 5 p.m. on those Wednesday nights, admission to the park is free. Music begins at 7:30 p.m.
It sounds like a wonderful way to spend a summer evening.

NOTE: All photos were courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden. This story was written for a publication for The Joplin Globe.

If you go:

Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis. Admission: $8 adults (ages 13 and older): Free for ages 12 and younger. Call (314) 577-5100. For more information: http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/

Wear comfortable shoes and plan to spend several hours at the gardens.  They key is to try and go on a cool day and or head there first thing in the morning before it gets too hot.

Bring sunscreen and a camera.

The Missouri Botanical Garden features flower shows, live music and special events throughout the year. Visit the online event calendar to see what’s “growing on” at the Garden!

If you get hungry, the Sassafras Café has a surprisingly good lunch.

Special Event:

Also this summer is the “Lantern Festival: Magic Reimagined,” which is a beautiful evening Chinese lantern festival (I still recommend going in the day to see the garden).  Twenty two sets of lanterns will light up the Missouri Botanical Garden and will be constructed using traditional materials including silk, wire and porcelain.  Each set will be accompanied by interpretation detailing the design’s tradition, symbolism and meaning and some sets will incorporate recycled materials.

It is on display during select nights now through Aug. 23.  Open Thursday-Sunday evenings from May 23-July 31. Open 6 to 10 p.m. nightly from August 1-23.
Evening Admission for May 23 – July 31: $22 adults;  $10 children (ages 3-12).  Aug. 1-23: $26 adults; $10 children (ages 3-12). Discounts for Missouri Botanical Garden members.