If I’ve learned anything from the recent recent lock downs due to the deadly virus it’s to make family meals using whatever is on hand.
For many of us lock downs are soon to be a thing of the past if your state hasn’t reopened already. But the treat of more lock downs may still loom in our future. Such is our new normal, at least until a vaccine or a cure can be found. In my opinion that’s a big reason to not forget the lessons we learned thus far.
I’m fortunate enough to live in Hawaii, a state which hasn’t seen the devastation COVID-19 has wielded across the other 48 states that we refer to as the mainland. I’m not sure if it was our politicians’ prompt stay at home order which began on March 23, our health department’s mandatory 14 day quarantine of incoming travelers, our small population with less high density areas, or our isolated location which kept us from the widespread suffering experienced by the other states. I’m prone to think it was a combination of all these factors. But whatever the case maybe the virus was no more real or frightening for us on the islands as it was for our fellow citizens on the mainland.
Our fears heightened by 24/7 news reports and social media posts spurred many citizens to stand in long lines in search of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and disinfectants just like our mainland counter parts. Fortunately for our family we didn’t wait in long lines searching for basic necessities. My daughter whose family lives in Northern Italy had been in lock down since February, she had urged us to stock up on food and other necessities weeks before US cases and deaths piled up. She had warned that it was only a matter of time before we faced the same issues they faced in Europe. Luckily we listened. We had shopped in early March, doubling and sometimes tripling what we normally purchased. Another plus was having an extra freezer and pantry.
Before the lock down began and we were stocking up our homes and kitchens we had decided that the plan was to have enough of everything so that during the lock down we just had to replenish a few things such as fresh fruits and veggies. During the lock down we’d have lists of what we ran out of which made our grocery trips faster and more efficient; we’d also wait until the list was pretty long before heading to the store.
Because we shopped less frequently and when we did shop not everything on the list was always available, we did run short of a few things. Which is why some of our favorite dishes had to be altered to make use of what we had on hand.
One of the easiest dishes to adapt to ingredients you have on hand is stew. I never really had to plan on making stew, I’ve pretty much use ingredients I found in my fridge and pantry. And in a pandemic stews are one of the best comfort foods to serve.
So during the lock down I made Hunters’ Stew. I call it that because I basically “hunt” for ingredients in my kitchen and toss them together to make my stew. So here’s my hunters’ stew “recipe”, feel free to substitute ingredients based on your tastes and what’s on hand.
Meat – beef, chicken, lamb, or no meat at all – cut meat into large chunks
Veggies – any combination of veggies such as potatoes, carrots, celery, okra, etc.
Flour for dredging
Salt & Pepper
2 Tbs. Oil
Garlic – fresh or powder
Oregano, basil, thyme, bay leaf, or Italian seasoning
Stock or broth – use the same broth as your meat – if you’re making beef stew then use beef broth, etc.
2 Cans tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes (you can even use tomato paste if that’s all you have – if you use paste you may have to use more liquid)
Heat oil in a large pot.
Mix salt, pepper, flour together.
Coat meat in flour mixture, shake off excess flour and place in pot.
Cook until all sides of meat are browned.
Add garlic and other spices.
Add broth and veggies and stir well.
Lower heat to simmer.
Cook covered until potatoes are cooked.
Add tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes.
Cover and simmer until meat is tender.
Store leftovers in the fridge.
Reheated left over stew is usually tastier than fresh stew!
Looking for something easy and delicious to make for dinner tonight? How about this one skillet Chicken and Spinach in Creamy Tomato Basil Sauce?
It’s very simple to make using ingredients you probably have in your kitchen. It has meat, veggies, and dairy and when served with a whole wheat pasta your grains are covered too!
I use fresh Basil leaves from my Kitchen Garden and I use chicken thighs because I believe the thighs tend to be juicier, but if you want less fat then use chicken breasts, but pound them into thin pieces so they will cook faster and not get dry. I can whip this up in less than a half hour and my family loves it.
Chicken & Spinach in Creamy Tomato Basil Sauce
2 Lbs. Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
1 Cup Tomato Sauce
1 Tbs. Fresh Garlic, minced
1/2 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 Cup Fresh Spinach Leaves
5-6 Fresh Sweet Basil Leaves (try to use Sweet Basil, Thai Basil has a stronger flavor)
Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese for Topping
Pasta or your preferred starch
Pat chicken dry with paper towel and sprinkle both sides with salt & pepper
Heat Olive Oil in a large skillet
When oil is hot add chicken and cook until both sides are seared about 5 minutes per side
Remove chicken to a plate and set aside
In your now empty skillet add tomato sauce, garlic, and cream
Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low to simmer sauce
Stir in Spinach and cook until wilted
Stir in Basil leaves
Return chicken to skillet and raise heat to medium
Cook chicken in the sauce until it is fully cooked, make sure there is no more pink in the thickest part of the thigh
Remove from heat and sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese. Serve with a side of pasta or your starch of choice.
I goes great with Poor Man’s Pasta – that’s a simple dish of spaghetti or any type of pasta that’s tossed in butter and garlic. Sprinkled with parmesan it’s very tasty!
Filipino cuisine is a melting pot of several different types of cuisine, but it is said that 80% of Filipino dishes have been influenced by Spanish cuisine. The Philippines was a Spanish colony from 1521 to 1898. Almost 400 years of Spanish rule certainly left its mark, many Filipino specialties are local adaptations of Spanish dishes.
One of our family favorites is Escabeche, or a Sweet & Sour Fish dish. Escabeche is a common Spanish dish that is popular in Mediterranean and Latin American cuisine. Typically it refers to a dish of poached or fried fish that has been marinated in an acidic sauce before serving. It can also composed of other meats including chicken and pork, or vegetables. The Filipino version of Fish Escabeche is fried fish in a Sweet & Sour sauce. It is a favorite Filipino party food, specially when it’s made with a whole fish that’s artfully arranged on a platter and topped with colorful veggies and sauce.
I’ve made it the traditional way using whole fish, but my grandsons have difficulty with the small fish bones. To make it easier for them to eat I have started making Escabeche using fish fillets than have no bones. Any kind of white fish will work. We have used Tilapia, Flounder, Orange Roughy, and other white fish we find in the market.
Like many Filipino dishes Escabeche isn’t difficult to make, but it is “fussy” meaning its preparation requires several steps; in this case dredging, frying, chopping, and making the sauce. It takes about an hour or so tho cook so it’s not something I make very often, but when I do my family loves it!
6 – 8 Fish Fillets (any white fish: Tilapia, Flounder, Halibut, etc.)
1 Large egg – slightly beaten
1 Cup Flour
1 Tsp. Garlic Powder
1 Tsp. Ground Black Pepper
1 Tsp. Sea Salt
1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup White Vinegar
1 1/2 + 1/2 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Ketchup
2 Tbls. Corn Starch
1 Large Onion Sliced into strips
2 Medium Green Peppers Sliced into large chunks
4 Cloves Garlic roughly chopped
Mix flour and spices in a shallow bowl
Place egg in another shallow bowl
Pat fish fillets dry with a paper towel
Heat oil in frying pan
Dip fish fillet in egg, then dip in flour mixture, shake off excess flour
Fry in hot oil until both sides are cooked
Remove from pan and place on paper towel to drain oil
Repeat with the rest of the fish
Keep fried fish warm by placing it in the oven at about 200 degrees
Dissolve cornstarch in 1/2 cup water and set aside
Place sugar, vinegar, water, and ketchup in a medium pot and bring to boil
Stir in garlic, peppers, and onions
Make sure cornstarch solution is still dissolved, if not stir until it is
Slowly stir in cornstarch solution until you get desired thickness. Sauce should be the consistency of gravy.
Place fish fillets on serving dish and pour sauce over it
Serve right away. It goes great with steamed white rice.
Escabeche - Filipino Sweet & Sour Fish
Popular Filipino dish featuring fried white fish in sweet & sour sauce.
Combine flour, garlic powder, salt & pepper and place in a shallow dish.
Heat oil over medium - medium high stove.
Rinse fish fillets and pat dry with paper towel.
Dredge fillets in flour mixture and place in heated oil.
Fry fish until cooked and turns golden brown - about 4 - 5 minutes per side depending on the thickness
Remove from pan and place on a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb some of the oil. Set aside.
Combine sugar, vinegar, ketchup, and 1 1/2 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. About 10 minutes.
Mix 1/4 cup water with corn starch until smooth.
Slowly stir corn starch liquid into the boiling vinegar mixture to thicken. Reduce heat to low and let sauce gently simmer. Keep an eye on it, you don't want it to get too thick. If it gets too thick add a bit of water to thin.
Saute onions in the oil you fried the fish in until it starts to turn a bit soft.
Add garlic, saute until cooked.
Add green peppers and cook until peppers turn slightly soft.
Return fried fish fillets to pan with veggies.
Gently stir fish mixture for about 3 - 4 minutes.
Arrange fish and veggies in a platter.
Pour sauce over all.
The most efficient way to make this dish is to start making the sauce while the fish is frying. Keep the sauce simmering over low heat while you finish sauteing the veggies. Stir the sauce periodically to keep a skin from forming on the top.
When you drain the fried fish and set it aside keep it warm by placing it in a warmer or on the stove top. Don't cover the fried fish, it will get soggy.
When you replace the fish in the pan gently stir it so that the fillets warm up a bit. Transfer fish and veggies on to your serving dish (or you can keep it in the frying pan) and pour the hot sauce over all.
This dish is perfect served with steamed white rice.
Spring and summer are definitely ideal for barbecuing. So what are you grilling? Tired of the same old same old? Why not grill some finger licking good Barbecued Chicken?
Barbecued Chicken is one of my summer favorites and it took me a while to figure out how those barbecue joints make their delicious barbecues. Was it the sauce? Or is there a marinade? Well, after much searching I found out it takes both! Yup a really good rub AND a really good sauce is what it takes for some restaurant style Barbecue. Click here for my Basic BBQ Chicken Rub you’re going to need it to make your Best Ever Barbecued Chicken this weekend!
So really there are 3 steps to making the Best Ever Barbecued Chicken:
Rub the chicken parts with my Basic BBQ Chicken Rub and let rest AT LEAST 30 minutes and not more than 24 hours in the refrigerator. (Use 1/4 of the BBQ Chicken Rub for 8-9 pieces of chicken. Drizzle 2 Tbs. Olive Oil on the chicken parts then massage the rub into each piece making sure it’s completely covered. I use boneless chicken thighs but you can use any part or parts you like. The rub works better on skinless parts so I’d advise you to remove the skin. Place chicken in ziplock bag and let rest for at least 30 minutes and no more than 24 hours. If using chicken that has been resting in the fridge for more than 30 minutes place chicken on counter 30 minutes before grilling so that temperature goes down to room temp.)
As many of you know I absolutely love Mexican food and am always on the lookout for restaurants that serve authentic Mexican cuisine. That’s not easy to find where I live in Hawaii. Although a few places have popped up that meet our family’s expectations most of the time I end up making our favorite Mexican dishes at home.
A family favorite is Carne Asada, typical for a family of carnivores I guess. In restaurants it’s sometimes used as the filling for burritos and enchiladas, or a topping for nachos; and it mostly appears on the mean as steak.
Since it’s a favorite of ours I always make it and use it to fill tacos, burritos, and my all time favorites Chimichangas and Flautas which are really just fried versions of burritos and taquitos.
I use flank or skirt steak to make my Carne Asada, and in a pinch flap meat works well too. Those cuts of meat aren’t the most tender but marinating it overnight makes it not only tender but tasty as well. I usually make a big batch of Carne Asada and freeze some to use later. I pan fry the meat and freeze half. It heats up really well.
You can also grill the Flank Steak instead of pan frying it, but to grill it don’t cut up the meat before marination. Marinate the whole slab, grill it, then cut it up to fill your tacos, burritos, or whatever.
So here’s the recipe!
2 Tbs. Soy Sauce
3 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
2 Tbs. Minced Garlic
1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro roughly chopped
2 Tsp. Chili Powder
1 Tsp. Ground Cumin
1 Tsp. Ground Oregano
2 Lbs. Flank or Skirt Steak – cut into 1/2″ strips or if you are grilling don’t cut it up marinate the whole slab
Mix all the ingredients except the meat in a bowl.
Place meat in a large ziplock bag and pour marinade over it.
Close bag and knead the meat to distribute the marinade evenly.
When you’re ready to cook it heat 1 Tbs. Olive Oil in skillet.
Place the meat into hot oil and pan fry to desired doneness.
Discard the marinade.
When meat is cooked use it to make nachos or fill your tortillas, taco shells or bowls, depending on what you are making.
Serve with garnishes such as pico de gallo, sour cream, shredded cheese, guacamole, fresh diced tomatos, lettuce, salsa, etc.
I’m always looking for new meatless recipes, I like to make at least one or two meatless dinners a week, specially now with this pandemic and “Meatless Mondays”.
This week I decided to try a new pasta recipe, sort of like a lasagna without meat. I served it with Garlic Bread and everyone loved it! It will surely be added to our family favorites, I hope your family will love it too!
8 Lasagne noodles
24 oz. frozen chopped spinach – thawed and drained
2 cups small curd cottage cheese
2 cups shredded lowfat mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 tbls. garlic powder
1 tbls. crushed red pepper (the kind you sprinkle on pizza)
1 bottle pasta sauce garlic and onion flavor (I like to use Betolli brand)
Cook lasagne noodles as directed on the box.
Drain, rinse with cool water to keep noodles from sticking together.
Separate noodles and set aside.
Drain and squeeze all the water from the spinach; place in large bowl.
Add to spinach: cottage cheese, 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, crushed red pepper
Separate spinach mixture into 8 equal parts.
Place 1 lasagne noodle on to a clean surface and spread 1 portion spinach mixture along the length of the noodle.
Roll the noodle in jelly roll fashion.
Place rolled noodle in a deep baking dish seam side down. Do the same with the remaining noodles.
Place rolls in dish close to each other to keep them from unrolling.
Cover the rolls with the pasta sauce. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella over sauce.
Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until the cheese melts and starts to brown.
Remove from oven and serve. It goes great with fresh baked garlic bread. Enjoy!