March 31, 2011

The Mess, from Maine

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Paul and I were able to get away from the CT winter weather and escape to an even heavier winter up in Jefferson, Maine in late February. I live for weekends away where all you have to worry about is relaxing, what movies to watch by the fire and of course... what are we going to eat. We drove up here in a blizzard of bad weather but once we arrived it was all worth it. Looking out the large bay windows in the back of the house was Lake Damariscotta's wide open iced lake. The weekend was a combination of ice fishing, late night hot tubbing, beers and good eats.

When you're a healthy eater or watch what you eat, weekends away like this are the little excuses we give ourselves to really indulge in good food with good friends. My girlfriends husband Todd was talking about "his breakfast" all day and not only was I gaining more curiosity but I absolutely wanted to see how he was going to be pulling this all together. This is when I found out about 'The Mess'.

'The Mess'
Recipe and photos by A Healthy Jalapeno
Original recipe from my friend Todd

(All varied depending on how many people you are serving)
Shredded potato hash
4 large eggs
Shredded pulled pork
Mushrooms, diced
Onions, diced
Shredded cheese

In large pan skillet, cook up the shredded hash potatoes. 

Add in diced onions, pulled pork, eggs and diced mushrooms. Mix the ingredients together.

Top the blended 'mess' with the cheese. We used a sharp cheddar which I think really adds a nice mild taste.  

Toss well and you are ready to serve. 

This can be eaten as a side dish to a full menu'ed brunch or could be breakfast all in one dish. This was devoured and gone before you knew it. Hungry and hungover appetites were very full and happy.

'The Mess' with bar-b-q sauce for Jared

'The Mess' with hot sauce for Paul
Everyone enjoy!

March 30, 2011

Eat, Play and Love Maine

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Eat, Play and Love Maine 
Photos by A Healthy Jalapeno

We had never been to Maine, however, it was always discussed as that’s where Paul and I would retire. The large lakes, miles from neighbors and all the snow a winter-lover could imagine was more than enough to dream about as a peaceful retirement far away from the city life. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the snow… but when they tell you Maine gets heavy snow storms they aren’t kidding.
My best friend Alyssa and her husband Todd invited us and a few other couples up to their Maine house for the weekend back in February. It’s a 5 ½ hour drive to Jefferson, Maine but all worth the trip. We ended up driving up in a winter storm that dropped about 13 inches of snow, not to mention the freezing rain and hail, but made it there in good time with of course a stop at a local pizza place not too far away for a quick slice and tasting of their amazing garlic knots. They have an adorable cottage house on Lake Daramuskatta, top to bottom made of all wood with 6 bedrooms so there was more than enough room for everyone to bunk comfortably and put you right in the cottage cozy mood.
When we arrived around 4pm the boys were out back ice fishing on the lake and the girls inside by the fireplace… I mean really, how perfect are we talking here. It was just the right time to crack open a beer and immediately relax.
 (Paul and I on the lake)

(Me...freezing, lol)

(Alyssa and I)

(us being cheesy again)
As the weekend continued on there was so much NOT to do… and it was amazing. We hung out by the fire, we went outside in the jacuzzi as the snow fell on us, made snow angel, drank beers, went ice fishing, made “Nessy” the Lockness Monster out of snow on the lake, went shopping miles away “in town” and of course ate lots and lots of good tasty food.

On the girls trip into town they had some of the cutest shops imaginable. I took some pictures of the quaint market store and was so comforted with all the homemade treats, spiced olive oils, wines and the overall woodwork that went into all things kitchen.  It reminded me of what you dream up when trying to design and create your own future market shop in some back country rustic town.
 (some of the freshly-made tartlets and bread pizzas, yum)

 (All hand crafted kitchen tools, rolling pins, juice squeezers... it was like a crafted cooks haven) 

 (Cook books, mustards, sauces and jams that had blends like you would imagine, I wanted to sneak crackers and dip into each one and try them)

(And boy do they know how to pick and pair wine)

 (Handmade caramels and chocolate almond biscotti)

(Jellies, jams, sauces, oils... they had everything and it was all brought in from local farmers or handmade businesses)
One of our last stops in town was at a "local" bar, and by local, again, I mean its about 25 min from the house. Apparently their trademark is a special waiting list to be put on from the bar to eventually be able to receive your own bar mug. People wait year upon years to be picked and get their own mug and the unique part about it all is that once you have a mug it gets hung from the ceiling of the bar with your number on it and anytime that you come to the bar you receive half price on all your drinks. Pretty smart deal and one that apparently people caught on to because the ceiling was practically covered wall to wall. Very cute idea.

Once I was done googling over the ceiling, the menu finally hit me because as most woman know... shopping, even window shopping, can leave you tired and hungry. Again being the cute little bar that it was, there was a simple yet AWESOME appetizer on the menu that us girls decided to split. It was a soft salted pretzel that came served with warm brie and blue cheese dip...ummm wow. Every time I even look back at the picture my mouth starts to water. This is something that I will be definitely trying for my next get together or even an at home movie night. 
(Soft salted pretzel that came served with warm brie and blue cheese dip. I am lucky I even had enough time to snap this picture it was so good)
All in all it was a great trip, just the little getaway that we needed for the weekend and with the food, the fun and of course... the friends, it was a great time.


March 28, 2011

Grilled Portobello & Goat Cheese Sandwiches

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Sandwiches... I love sandwiches. And nothing says comfort food like a grilled or toasted warm sandwich with each crunchy bite oozing with cheese. I was able to come home for lunch today from work and I KNEW exactly what I wanted to have. 

I have a lot of friends these days that have become vegetarians and although I completely respect them for it and follow closely along with my diet, I still love my meat. Now with that being said, I don't eat meat every since day because I do understand that too much meat is also not a well balanced diet so in between my bison burgers, shrimp scampi and chicken tacos I try to add the basics to meals... fruits, vegetables and nuts. Portobellos are just one of those amazing veggies that have such a meaty consistency to it which makes them perfect for burgers and sandwiches. When I am pretending to be a vegetarian I keep in mind that my food needs to have bold flavors and good crunchy bites because that is where you can really put a vegetarian dishes above the rest.

There are certain ingredients that you want to put on everything, mine being the obvious goat cheese and my other closet ingredient being pesto... I mean how can you go wrong they are just so good. This rustic-style sandwich puts together the the meaty portobellos, mild goat cheese and salty cheesy robust green-olive pesto, your taste buds will be dancing. (I actually snuck to the store for more portobellos to make this for lunch again tomorrow...ya, that good).

Grilled Portobello & Goat Cheese Sandwiches
Recipe and photos by A Healthy Jalapeno

Pesto sauce
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium portobello mushrooms, stemmed, gills removed, and wiped clean
sm country hearth bread loaf
4 oz. fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Slice on an angle nice the hearty country bread. Brush the mushrooms with 2 olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put them on the grill or in the toaster oven on the grill setting, and cook until softened and browned, 3 to 5 minutes (or cook in the grill pan, flipping once). Transfer to a plate and let cool slightly.

Spread the pesto on the bottom halves of the rustic bread. Put 2 mushrooms on each and then top the sandwich with the other piece of bread smeared with the goat cheese. 

Put the sandwiches on the grill/ toaster oven and cook until browned and crisp and the cheese is melted, 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how hot your machine is. (If using a grill pan, put a heavy pan on top of the sandwiches and cook, turning the sandwiches over once.) 

Carefully remove from the grill, cut the sandwich in half and serve.


March 26, 2011

Sauteed Garlic Kale

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Kale? Never tried, always curious. "Eat your greens" I was told every night growing up and the more I grew up the closer I listened. Greens are such a healthy part of a balanced diet and greens like my sauteed kale make veggie time a treat. There is so much you can do with kale, I added garlic but you could toss in pine nuts or even crispy bacon. This veggie is so versatile and flavorful and really holds it's own with a main dish. Add garlic to your kale and how can you go wrong. Go Greens!

Sauteed Garlic Kale
Recipe and photos by A Healthy Jalapeno

1 1/2 lb. young kale, stems and leaves coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 c organic chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until soft but not colored or cooked through.

Raise heat to high, add the stock and kale and toss to combine. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. 
*Kale, as I found out, does not cook like it's look-alike spinach, so it make look wilted and done but trust the recipe and leave it in the pan. 

Remove cover and continue to cook, stirring until all the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


March 25, 2011

Citrus-Garlic Roasted Chicken

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Chicken, the main ingredient to my childhood. As I cook more and more and truly start to grow into my foodie epicurean self the more I am realizing how simple recipes and tasty food can be. I actually have to watch a tv show or read a recipe right now to clarify to myself that certain ingredients not only blend but create such mouth watering flavors.
In another one of my date nights with the couch and food network, Claire from 5 Ingredient Fix was working on one of her 5 ingredients or less recipes and the light bulb went off. No kidding chicken would be delicious if you just left the skins on and marinaded it in garlic and citrus juices. How simple yet how tasty. Again, the healthy voice in my head was chirping because this chicken not only has such a tangy taste but there are no bread crumbs, butter, heavy frying oils... this chicken is healthy end of story.

The crunchiness of the chicken skins and the marinade made the meat so juicy and flavorful yet light enough to throw back a few pieces without feeling overstuffed. You could probably even have these as finger foods or appetizers if you used only chicken wings. Yep, winner in my book and again, so simple.
Citrus-Garlic Roasted Chicken
Adopted recipe and photos by A Healthy Jalapeno
Original recipe by 5 Ingredient Fix 


8 bone-in, skin on chicken wings, about 2 pounds
4 large whole chicken thighs, about 2 pounds
1/2 navel orange, zested, plus the juice of 1 whole orange
2 limes, 1 zested, both juiced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
Freshly cracked black pepper

Put the chicken in a large non-metalic bowl. Put the orange and limezests in a small bowl and add the fruit juices.
Whisk in the olive oil, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and a generous grind of black pepper. Pour the marinade over the chicken and toss until well coated. Marinatefor 20 to 30 minutes but no longer than 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Put a rack on a rimmed baking sheet. With tongs, remove the chicken pieces from the marinadeand arrange them on the rack leaving space between each piece.Drizzle a small spoonful of the marinade over the top of each chicken piece; season well with salt and pepper, to taste. 
Roast until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear when meat is pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Cool slightly before serving or let stand until room temperature before refrigerating for later use.
Great pairings for this dish would be: Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Sauteed Garlic Kale, Fried Rice.


March 24, 2011

Roasted Broccoli and Feta Salad

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It was just one of those days. It started with very little sleep last night so just being awake made me grouchy and heading in to work was not on the top of my list of things to turn my frown upside down. By lunchtime I had already pigged out on a doughnut someone brought in to share and did the casual dove chocolate square pop, or 3, which helped push my unhealthy day over the edge so when I finally got home to relax and cook my worries away I wanted something fresh and healthy to sort of balance out my unhealthy eating for the day.

Normally when I get home and don't know what I am going to cook yet I watch the Food Network for inspiration because I know I have a refrigerator stocked with goodies and I just need the right idea and taste spark to my dinner ideas. Well what a great night I picked to become a blob to the tv because Down Home With The Neelys was one, one of my favorite shows, and Gina and Pat were cooking up the brightest dish. They made this as a side but with just little grumpy me eating tonight this was going to be perfect to cook up for myself and it looked like just the right amount of healthy flavor to balance my day.

This salad was outrageous. The roasted tomatoes popped in your mouth when you bit down and paired so nicely with the crunch fresh arugula. So tasty, fresh and light on my waist. My mood was defiantly lightened and even better...very little clean up. My night was relaxing and tasty, I was a happy girl.

Roasted Broccoli and Feta Salad
Photos by A Healthy Jalapeno
Recipe b
Pat and Gina Neely

2 heads broccoli, cut into florets
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 ounces baby arugula (about 3 large handfuls)
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Add the broccoli florets and cherry tomatoes to a rimmed sheet tray. Drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat completely. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until the broccoli is tender and lightly golden brown.

Toss with arugula and crumbled feta cheese. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Serve immediately.


March 23, 2011

Not Your Average Spicy Spinach and Artichoke Dip

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Once a classic, always a classic...but don't let the spice scare you. Spinach and Artichoke dips are just one of those things that are normally at all get togethers, prepackaged or homemade and lets face it, it's also one of the simplest recipes to throw together in a hurry... but what if you heated it up a bit, and I don't mean in the oven? 

Always wanting to kick things up a notch, I created this spicy spin on the traditional Spinach and Artichoke dip that we devoured. The original flavors of the veggies and cheese are still there but their tastes are heightened with the jalapenos. This actually isn't too spicy of a dish (unless you go above and beyond the recipe doubling the jalapenos... to which, I salute you), but instead the jalapenos add a little more heat to each bite. For us, this is the only way to have this dip anymore, all others just fail in taste comparison. 

So as I said, don't let the spicy scare you... this is a must try for your next party.

Warm and Spicy Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Recipe and photos by A Healthy Jalapeno


1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (10 ounce) package fresh spinach, chopped

2 jalapenos, finely chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Salt and pepper to taste
Small Country Hearth bread bowl 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 1 quart baking dish.
In a medium bowl, mix together artichoke hearts, spinach, jalapenos, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese and 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish, and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of Monterey Jack cheese.

Bake in the center of the preheated oven until the cheese is melted, about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, I took a small Country Hearth bread bowl and cut the loaf into squared off pieces and threw it them on a baking sheet directly after the dip comes out out of the oven and toast until they start to brown. 

Now you have nice crunchy warm bread to scoop your Spinach and Artichoke dip up with. Genius, I know lol.