Monday, March 19, 2012

Kale Chips

David has been busy this weekend, tearing out the old, winter plants from the garden, tilling the soil, and planting new vegetables for the spring.  I told not to touch the 3 huge kale plants until yesterday, because I wanted to make some kale chips.  

I'd made one batch of kale chips a few weeks ago, but I didn't take any was late when I finished, and my lighting would have been terrible.  This time, I had plenty of good light, and lots of time to take good pictures so you all could see for yourself.  
Kale chips have been growing in popularity lately.  They're easy to make, healthy, and kids love them.  Not all my kids like them, but Rebecca and Theresa can't get enough of them!  David ate up the whole first batch I made in less than 2 days.  So I made sure to make 5 batches this time! 

Kale Chips

1-2 large bunches of kale
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
Brown sugar (about 1/4 cup total)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. 

Wash and dry the kale leaves.  It's very important to dry the leaves thoroughly.  Otherwise, the kale will steam in the oven instead of crisping up into chips.  

Can you believe this kale that came out of our backyard?  It covered half of the kitchen island!

Pull the green leafy sides away from the rib in the middle of each leaf.  It will take a bit of time, but I've found the tough, middle rib doesn't bake up well in the oven, so it's best to remove it. 

Now tear the leafy parts into bite-sized pieces.  Continue until you have a bowlful.  

In the bowl, toss the kale with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Be careful not to use too much.  Start with a tablespoon of oil, and add a bit more if necessary.  The leaves should be lightly coated with oil and not saturated.  

Spread the kale pieces out on 2 baking sheets lined with aluminum foil.  They shouldn't be overlapping by much...try to keep them in a single layer.  This will ensure each piece bakes up properly.  (Don't be like me.  The first time, I didn't use foil, and even though I spraying the baking sheets with cooking spray, some of the chips stuck, and they couldn't be salvaged.  Trust me, use some foil, parchment, or silpat sheets!)

Sprinkle each piece with a bit of salt and brown sugar.  You will love the salty-sweet taste in the end!

Bake the kale at 300 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the chips are dry and crispy.  It might take a bit less time in your oven (mind were done in 18 minutes), so watch the first batch carefully.  

Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to an airtight container.  The chips will keep for about a week...but I seriously doubt they will last that long!  

I was lucky to have so much kale to use up from the garden.  You may not find much for kale at the grocery store now, since it's a cold weather vegetable.  Nevertheless, I hope you get a chance to make these chips before it gets hot and summery!  

Happy snacking, and God bless your table tonight! 

Friday, March 16, 2012

And the Winner Is...


Congratulations my friend!  I'll contact you via email so I can mail your prize to you. 

Happy Lent everyone, and thanks for the comments...I enjoyed reading them!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Happy 200th Post to Me--and a GIVEAWAY!

200 Posts...WOW!  I can't believe it.  I never thought I would ever get to that number.  Sure, a 100...maybe, but not 200.  I have been tempted to call it quits a few times over the past 3 years, in between the hubby/kids getting sick, a hurricane that left us powerless for over 2 weeks, and a new baby.  But I recently decided to try to keep my cooking blog going...if not for me, then for my kids later on.  Wouldn't it be cool to publish my blog one day, and give a copy to each of my children when they get married?  Am I thinking too far into the future?  Probably! ;-) honor of my 200th post, I thought, "Hey, I should have a giveaway"!

Up for grabs is this SUPER CUTE Easter Cupcake Kit and a Spring Toile Tea Towel.  Both items are from Sur La Table, one of my very favorite stores.  I nearly bought a set for myself. ;-)

Need a close up?  Little baskets, bunnies, chicks, and eggs...what's not to love?  I can just picture it...24 precious cupcakes on a pretty tray, lined with that blue toile towel...lovely!

To enter, just leave a comment below, and tell me, what are your Easter plans?  Staying home or celebrating elsewhere?  Going potluck or going solo?  Cooking a big meal, or letting Grandma feed you?  Let me know!  

*This giveaway is eligible only for those living in the continental United States.  Comments will be accepted until Friday noon, Texas time (that's Central Standard Time in case you were wondering ;-).  I will be sure to  ship the winner their prize 2-day priority mail to ensure you get it well before Easter. 

Good luck everyone, and HAPPY 200TH POST TO ME!  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Roasted Fennel with Tomatoes and Chickpeas (and a bonus "recipe")

I saw this recipe on Aarti Sequeira's blog, and immediately bookmarked it for Lent.  I loved the combination of ingredients, and it looked a cinch to prepare.  

I was right.  Just a few swishes with my big knife, 8 ingredients,and 45 minutes...I had a pot of healthy, roasted vegetables, perfect for a cold, rainy night, especially since the weather thwarted my attempt to walk 2x around the lake. :-)  Ah well.  Still, I really loved this dish.'s healthy too!

And...a bonus for's what I made for David's lunch yesterday.  Remember when I told ya'll I was trying to make sure he had lunch to take to work every day?  I haven't been 100% successful, but I'm doing fairly well.  I went to the store, and bought a pound of 21-25 shrimp, and made David a nice salad.  I put the poached shrimp on a bed of freshly harvested lettuce from the garden, added in some lemon, tomato, and a container of cocktail sauce.  That's how he eats shrimp...he'll dip 'em all up first, and then eat the rest of the meal like a salad. ;-)'s the recipe I promised you first.  If you're not sure about the strong, licorice-like taste of raw fennel...have no fear.  A aggressive roasting in the oven mellows this root vegetable into sublime submissiveness...and you'll just be amazed, I promise!

Roasted Fennel with Tomatoes and Chickpeas 
adapted from aartipaarit

1/3 cup olive oil
2 large or 3 medium fennel bulbs, washed well (save the fronds!)
5 large roma tomatoes (or 2 pints grape/cherry tomatoes, left whole)
salt and black pepper to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 lemon
Crusty, toasted bread (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425. 

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, oven-proof skillet.  I used my big, trusty, Dutch oven, since I didn't have anything worked great.  *You cannot use a non-stick skillet for this recipe, because the coating isn't safe to go into the oven.  A well-seasoned, cast iron skillet is fine, but keep in mind the tomatoes will draw some iron into the dish...not the worst thing in the world, but it may alter the taste of your finished dish.  I decided to play it safe.

Trim the tops of the fennel, but keep the root end intact.  Cut each bulb into quarters (mine were pretty big, so I cut them into sixths).  Chop up a handful of the fennel fronds and set aside. 

When the oil is hot, lay in the fennel, and let them sit for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned on both sides.  

Cut the roma tomatoes into quarters, and add to the pot.  Gently stir once or twice.  Season with salt and pepper, and then place the pot into the oven for 30 minutes.   

Now is a good time to grill/toast up some crusty bread, brushed with a bit of olive oil.  

After 30 minutes, throw in the chickpeas, red pepper flakes, and cumin.  Stir very gently one more time, taking care not to break up the tomatoes too much.  

Put back in the oven for 5 more minutes (honestly, I just finished it on the stove :-). 

Zest the lemon, and squeeze the juice out.  When the pot comes back out of the oven, add in the juice and zest, the reserved fennel fronds, and a bit more salt if you'd like.  

Once again, I forgot to take a picture of the finished tugging on my know how that goes...thanks for understanding. ;-)

Serve immediately in bowls to take advantage of the delicious tomato juices.  I highly recommend some grilled bread to sop up those juices, they're SO GOOD.  

Ah...this was delicious...I know it doesn't look impressive, but simple homey food tastes the best, don't you agree?  

So there's not one, but 2 ideas for you for a meatless Friday.  God bless your table tonight!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Coconut Rice and Beans

 I've made this several's really tasty, and perfect for Fridays during Lent.  I usually make this version of rice and beans (minus the sausage), but as it's 82 degrees today, and the forecast is expected to be the same tomorrow, it just seems too heavy for my liking.  This tropical version is lighter, and may be perfect for people with certain food allergies, as it contains coconut milk instead of cow's milk.  

I love anything with coconut and mango, and I don't feel guilty having 2 bowls of this lovely concoction.  However, I will try to limit myself to one.  I've been lazy over the past 2 weeks, but I'm going to force myself to get back on my exercise regimen. ;-)

Coconut Rice and Beans

1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
34 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 1/4 cups basmati rice (uncooked)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 small onion, diced
1 green or red pepper, diced
1 (15 ounces) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounces) can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed*
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 lime
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced 
1 ripe mango, diced for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Spread the coconut out in a single layer.  Toast for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown.  Watch it carefully, it can burn on you in half a second!  

In a medium pot, bring the chicken broth, water, coconut milk, 1 tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper to a boil.  Stir in the rice, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed. 

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter in a large saute pan.  Toss in the onions and peppers, and cook for 5-6 minutes or until tender. 

Add the black beans, black eyed peas*, (for whatever reason, my grocery store doesn't carry canned black eyed peas, but they were in the frozen vegetable aisle) chili powder, cumin, and 3/4 cup of water.  Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  I got sidetracked and forgot to take a picture of the finished beans...sorry.  Just use your imagination. :-)

Zest the lime and squeeze out the juice into a small bowl.  

When the rice is done, stir in the toasted coconut, lime zest, lime juice, cilantro, and green onions.  And I forgot to take a picture of the finished rice too...sorry again!

To serve, mound the rice on a plate, and top with a portion of the beans.  Garnish with diced mango, and additional chopped cilantro and green onions if desired.  I like to reserve a bit of the toasted coconut and sprinkle that on too.  

It's not summer here yet,'s not even spring, but this is a taste of the tropics.  Take a bite, close your eyes, and imagine yourself on a beach in the Caribbean..  Okay, maybe that's a bit much, but I think you may agree once you try it!  

Happy Lent, and God bless your table tonight!