Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Let's Talk About Eggs...

I'll be the first to admit, I am very fond of deviled eggs. I'm not quite sure where the fondness developed considering that eggs are the turkey to my breakfast - it's only socially acceptable to eat all the sides as long as the protein is there.

That said, I decided to make one of my client's a deviled eggs recipe. Haters, before you start with your judge-mental stares at your computer screen, let me explain. This client is an elderly woman who has an strong-liking with picnic food. She loves foods that are easy to eat and can be served chilled. She also eats like a bird. I kid you not, her appetite for the entire day amounts to a mid-afternoon snack for myself. That said, I need to be mindful of serving small amounts of food that will not overwhelm her. In this case, deviled eggs are a royal flush.

Although I enjoy an occasional mustard/mayonnaise/relish delight, I have to switch things up a bit. Let's be real for a second, the 'dressing' for a typical deviled egg is the exact same of the generic potato salad. It can only go so far. Last week, I made an Eggs Benedict Style Deviled Egg.

'How is that possible? How do you make a deviled egg with hollandaise sauce?', you say? I've got one answer for you - You don't. It's an incredibly simple recipe that creates a richness that ever so slightly resembles the flavors of eggs benedict...and it's awesome. 

Here's how it's done...

Ingredients

4 hard boiled eggs
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 pieces Canadian bacon
panko breadcrumbs
2 scallions, chopped finely
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1 tbs mayonnaise
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Steps

Boil the eggs by placing them in a small pot with cold water (enough to skim the top of the eggs) and vinegar. Bring water to a boil then cook for 2 minutes before turning the off the heat. Let the eggs sit in the pot covered for at least 10-15 minutes.  While the eggs are sitting in the hot water, cook then chop the Canadian bacon for one minute turning over once.  Rinse with cold water then lightly crack eggs on a flat surface to easily peel off the shell.

Place into a bowl then mix in all the ingredients except for the panko breadcrumbs. Once the eggs are peeled, slice them in half lengthwise  and use your thumb to apply just enough pressure to release the yolk into the bowl. Toast the panko breadcrumbs in a shallow skillet over low heat. Toss until they are golden brown.

Use a small fork to mash the ingredients in the bowl. Use a small spoon to scoop a generous amount into the eggs. Toss a pinch of the toasted breadcrumbs over each egg.

Bon Appetite!


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Gluten-Free Coconut Crusted Chicken Strips

I have a client who has several food allergies that prevent her from eating dairy and gluten.  In all honesty, when I took on this (10-week) challenge I was a bit nervous that I would be limited in dishes to prepare. I thought it would be boring, and incredibly difficult to make foods that originally contain gluten/dairy to be delicious and diverse.

Example- for the egg substitute I use is a ground flaxseed and hot water combo. I basically whisk the two ingredients into a frenzy until it has a gooey and thick consistency. I tried a small taste and thought 'Ew, this tastes like a combination of fertilizer and sand'. That said, I continued through my recipe and realized that while the egg-substitute was lacking in delight on it's own, it really brought the entire dish together! My entire experience (now multiplied into 30-weeks and counting) of cooking for this client has been a wonderful experience of triumph and thinking outside the box.

All this to say,  I've realized that in the 1.5 years I've had my business, I've expanded my cooking repertoire 10-fold, and that's only because of the client's requests. By starting off with the determination to create 'completely customized meal plans' for my clients, I've subconsciously expanded my efforts and abilities to places I never thought I'd be.

If you have a serious food allergy, I'm aware that it's less than ideal. It's incredibly troublesome to have to avoid certain foods at all costs! I'm so eternally thankful that I don't have to avoid any types of food (quite honestly I'd be horrible at that). I bet you think to yourself 'what did I do with the time before I found out about this allergy?' now that you spend most of it researching and reading labels. Even-so, how awesome is it when you do figure out a food that is delicious that you CAN eat?!

I'm grateful to be part of that process for a few people. It's such a magnificent thing when a client raves about a dish that was created from start to finish with their needs in mind.  This week, I made a few gluten/dairy-free dishes that have been requested on multiple occasions. Check them out and let me know if you have any questions on cooking meals that require substitutions!

Coconut-Crusted Chicken Strips

Ingredients
2 tbs ground flax seed
4 tbs hot water
2 cups dried-unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried sage
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1 pound chicken breast tenders (I used Kroger's Simple Truth)
Olive oil cooking spray (any cooking spray will do as long as it's not intended for baking)

Steps
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a shallow plate, whisk the flaxseed and water together until it becomes thick and gooey. In another plate, combine the next 8 ingredients and toss so that it's mixed completely.  Lightly season chicken strips then use your hands to press the egg-substitute on the chicken.  You don't need to drench it, just make sure the chicken is sticky.  Place chicken in coconut mixture and toss some flakes on-top, then press and make sure the chicken is covered completely in coconut.  Place on a non-stick baking sheet, or a pan coated with cooking spray.  Once you've done this with all the chicken, place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, flipping the tenders over halfway through. The coconut should be golden and crispy.

Cucumber Mango Salad

1 English cucumber, halved and sliced
2 mangos, cored and sliced
1 tsp dried dill
1 tbs red wine vinaigrette
1 tbs walnut oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Combine the ingredients in a small  bowl and toss to evenly distribute the dressing. Chill before serving.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Coconut Curry Shrimp and Green Beans

It's Monday. Two things are certain with Mondays - 1.  The ubiquitous complaints, comments, and flowing cups of coffee that get most of us through our mornings/days, and 2. There are still four more days until Friday.

Isn't it sad how we view the work week? I'll be the first to say, I used to HATE Mondays. Let's play a game of 'would you rather?'... In the past, I would rather walk over hot coals while listening to this than go to work on a Monday. Okay, so that was a slight exaggeration, but you get the point. I used to spend my Sundays counting down the hours before I would plod into work. Isn't that horrible?! I wasted a completely perfect day off to worry and stress about the upcoming!

That all has changed. Yes, my profession has changed drastically and I'm doing something  in which I find fulfillment and happiness, but no matter how you slice it, a Monday is still a Monday. I took myself up on a little challenge -- to view each work day as an opportunity. It sounds tough to do but once you get yourself into that mindset, you'd be surprised what you can accomplish. Once doing that, I realized that I put more effort and pride into my work. I get lost in what I'm doing to the point that I lose track of time. Cooking several meals simultaneously in a hot kitchen doesn't leave for very much 'dilly-dally', but my attitude going in makes a huge difference.

So I challenge you, if you're one of those people who absolutely dreads work, try to look at it as an opportunity -- an opportunity to prove yourself, to produce something, to grow, and at the very least make money. I promise, it works!

On that note, I made a pretty fantastic meal this evening. It is a meal that is perfect for Mondays! It's quick, easy, and incredibly healthy. Take a look, try it out, and let me know your thoughts!

Ingredients

1 lb raw shrimp, pealed and deveined
1.5 lb fresh green beans, ends trimmed
1- 14.5oz can lite coconut milk
1 tbs curry
2 tsp paprika
2 tbs all purpose flour (corn meal or tapioca meal will do)
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
dash of salt and pepper

Directions

In a small sauce pan, add 1/2 tbs olive oil, rice, a pinch of salt (amount you grasp with your index finger and thumb) and water. Stir gently, cover, and bring to a boil. Check on it after 15 minutes to make sure it doesn't overcook. Meanwhile, cook the remaining olive oil and green beans in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir consistently to ensure the green beans are cooked evenly. After about 5 minutes, add the garlic. Cook for another minute, reduce the heat to medium. Add the flour stir, then add coconut milk, and seasoning. Bring to a boil. Add the shrimp and let it cook for 4-5 more minutes. Serve the shrimp mixture alongside or on the rice.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Poached egg, squash, and goetta

As most of you know, I'm from Cincinnati and this city has praised itself for a couple food staples that some may not have heard of. There's the "Cincinnati chili" which has a bad reputation but locals swear by it. For fear of losing some readers, I'm going to leave it at that. There is also the prized German goetta. It is a concoction of steel-cut oats and pork sausage. It is flavored with onion, pepper, and I'm sure  a couple other spices. It is eaten like sausage patties and in peculiar ways during the annual goetta fest, where goetta is served on basically anything you can imagine. It's actually quite tasty!

This morning, I was making breakfast and remembered we had some goetta in the fridge! I figured I'd add this to the "breakfast of champions" and see how it goes. I tell you what, it's GENIUS! This breakfast mixes sweet, salty and savory in each bite. It's a healthier breakfast, and won't leave you A. wishing you hadn't eaten it, or B. wishing you could eat more. It's definitely a good autumn mean to start your day!

Ingredients

  • 2 slices goetta cooked in a pan and seared on both sides (follow cooking directions on the package)
  • 1-2 poached eggs (depending on how hungry you are)
  • 1/4 onion, diced thinly 
  • 1/2 yellow squash, diced in 1in pieces
  • 1/2 zucchini squash, diced in 1in pieces
  • 1/2 tsp vinegar 
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

Steps
  • In a hot pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and onion. Cook and stir until it becomes golden
  • Add the zucchini and squash to the pan, stir, and cover allowing the moisture to cook the squash faster
  • In the meantime if you have not done so, cook the goetta on a separate small pan and leave to the side
  • Boil water in a small pot and add vinegar. Once boiling, lower the heat to simmer and gently crack the egg into the pot. Allow a few seconds for it to form then use a small spoon to make a circular motion in the water. This prevents the egg white from cooking separately. After 1 1/2 - 2 minutes, take the egg out with a sifting spoon and leave off to the side
  • Once the squash is darker in color and softer in texture, it is finished. Season with salt and pepper, and place in a bowl. Place the goetta on top and finish with the poached egg.
*To make vegetarian, skip the goetta and add grilled thick tomato slices

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Louro

Friday evening, my sister and I had the pleasure of joining a couple of friends from college in a quaint, rustic yet modern restaurant -- Louro located in the West Village.  It was a no-brainer deciding on the restaurant. Our friend listed several options, but noted that she was close friends with the owner and executive chef, David Santos, therefore we could take a tour of the kitchen. YES PLEASE! I had never been to a restaurant in NYC, let alone one where I could get the grand tour. I was ecstatic and had absolutely no idea what to expect. I didn't even preview the menu prior to arriving. I wanted to be fully surprised. The minute our taxi cab pulled up to the restaurant, I noticed a sophisticated awning with a bay leaf nestled underneath the font. Louro is Portuguese for bay leaf.

Hemingway Royale
COCKTAIL We sat down in a spacious semi-circle booth with a great view of the restaurant. The lights, dimmed and subtle, offered an intimate and formal setting which delightfully balanced the rustic and warm ambiance of the decor. I ordered a specialty drink, the Hemingway Royale which consisted of rum, grapefruit, lime, and sparkling wine. It was so unique, delicious, and one of those drinks that make you want to just...sip. It offered a hint of tartness along with a sweet finish of a slight floral aroma.

 Prawns with julienne style jicima 
CUISINE The minute we skimmed the menu, it was clear that we could not simply order one item per person. We mutually decided to order a smorgasbord of dishes to share among ourselves. Immediately upon the server requesting our order, we all started calling out dishes from each section of the menu (bites, small dishes, grains and eggs, and large portions). You know that you are at a good restaurant when EVERYTHING sounds good. We finally agreed on several dishes, and because chef David is such a hospitable man, he sent out a couple surprises to throw into the mix. The entire dining experience consisted of -- Pri Pri Shrimp,  Market Oysters, Pumpkin Salad, Farro Salad, Escarole Salad, Prawns, Octopus Bolognese, Tempura Fried Chicken, "Smores", and Peaches and Cream. Needless to say, we were beyond satisfied and amazed with the wonderful flavors. I'm going to highlight a few of my favorites. Otherwise, I risk losing about 75% of you after the third paragraph. We started with the Pri Pri Shrimp, a dish of fresh jumbo shrimp cooked to the perfect plumpness and bold spices. If you cannot handle the heat, don't order it. I would venture to say it is for a mature palate, one who won't lose their composure after each bite. Don't get me wrong, the dish is phenomenal and quite delightful, it is just one of the more bolder options. The oysters were simply divine. They each were served with a small slice of lemon laying delicately on the shell. With a gentle squeeze of the peel, the perfect amount of lemon juice surrounded the oyster to balance out the saltiness and earthy flavor of the oyster. One bite, and it was gone.
Pumpkin Salad
One thing that stood out to me about the escarole salad was the quail eggs. That's right, poached miniature eggs that at first glance, look like small fresh mozzarella balls. They sat delicately atop the escarole leaves, stemming (no pun intended) from the endive leaf vegetable. The eggs were mild yet had a slight richness to them.My final favorite dish was the octopus bolognese. I kid you not, the minute I looked at the menu, this dish caught my eye. I had eaten octopus before, but in all honesty, it wasn't the greatest experience. It was tough and offered a thickness that made the dish tiring after only a few bites.  At Louro however, the octopus was diced into small pieces and very tender. It was engulfed in a rich and buttery bolognese tomato sauce with homemade tagliatelle pasta (a wide yet very thin pasta) underneath.

THE CREATOR AND HIS HOME
 Prior to receiving our dessert, we were invited to tour the kitchen and meet chef David. As the swinging kitchen doors opened, we were greeted with a charming and smiling face in the center of the kitchen. He looked like someone you could talk and laugh with for hours over a good bottle of wine and an imported cheese tray. Chef David stood proudly and welcomed us with such warmth. Literally, the kitchen felt as though the oven had been open for hours while operating at 450 degrees. It was petite, as you would imagine for a New York City restaurant. Quite honestly, I was intrigued and impressed with the amount and quality of food that exited such a small work space.  Chef David introduced his kitchen staff which consisted of only four or five people.  I couldn't help but think about the amount of hours spent in the hot kitchen, and match that with the look on their faces. It was priceless-- a look of fulfillment. I could tell that they too, were proud to be standing in their assigned stations and each having a roll in the toothsome food exiting the swinging doors. I asked chef David about his culinary past and how he made it this far. He attended Johnson & Wales, a reputable culinary school I too seriously considered attending after graduating from high school. He was an executive chef at Five and Diamond in Harlem, then proceeded to launch a series of supper clubs in is own home. I didn't want to overstay my welcome but had to ask one more question -- How did you come up with the name Louro? A slight glow was emitted as he began talking about cooking with his aunt and uncle in France. His uncle who at the time was struggling with a heart condition, owned a large garden abundant in herbaceous leaves. He led him to the garden and snipped off a few leaves for chef David to take home and share with his immediate family. Upon returning home, his mom planted the sprigs in her own garden and eventually they turned into plants. Sadly, his uncle has passed away but it is apparent that his spirit and love for fresh and flavorful food lives on through chef David. Dining at his restaurant was an experience that will remain with me for a very long time. It was one of those culinary experiences that made me proud to have my appreciation for food, its beauty, and people like chef David to create it.