Cool as a Cucumber Gazpacho – Easy No-Cook Recipe

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Cucumber Gazpacho

Cucumber Gazpacho

Copyright 2016, Jacqueline Peppard, all rights reserved.

Stay cool as a cucumber on warm summer days with this easy no-cook soup. Gazpacho, for those unfamiliar with the dish, is Spanish in origin and served cold. Traditionally, tomatoes are used to create the soup base, but the below recipe flips around the ingredients and uses cucumber as the soup’s base with tomatoes added as a topping.

Cucumbers Are Amazingly Healthy!

Really they are. Who would have guessed they can do so much more than de-puff your eyes after a night of too much fun.

They are made predominately of water, so they are super hydrating yet rich in fiber. They get you going in more ways than one.

Did you know they protect your brain and are great for relieving stress? Gosh, sign me up!

Dr. Mercola has published an article “9 Health Benefits of Cucumbers” Check it out and learn more about the super powers of the vegetable that seems oh so boring.

Here is the super delicious recipe:

Serves 4

Tools:
Food Processor
or Blender

Ingredients:

Tomato:
1 lb cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (depends on size)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro or dill sliced fine
1 minced garlic clove
Salt and coarse ground pepper to taste

Cucumbers:
1 lb cucumber chopped
3/4 cup sour cream or full cream yogurt
4 large scallions chopped
2 TBS fresh lime or lemon juice
1 cup chicken broth

Directions:

Prepare the tomatoes first so they have time to soak up the herb and garlic flavors. Add cut tomatoes, minced garlic, sliced cilantro or dill, salt and coarse ground pepper to taste, to a large bowl; toss lightly to combine and set aside.

Place 1/4 TSP salt, cucumber, scallions, 2 TBS lemon or lime juice, 3/4 cup sour cream in blender or processor; process until smooth. Slowly drizzle in 1 cup chicken broth until well blended. Divide among four bowls.

Top with prepared tomato (and optional shrimp) evenly divided among bowls.

Variations:

Add 1 cup pre-cooked baby shrimp to tomato topping.

Don’t like the herbs cilantro or dill? Try basil or mint instead.

Cook’s Notes:

Taste your cucumber to make sure they are sweet and not bitter before preparing soup. While any variety of cucumber works, Lemon or English cucumber are reliably sweet.

While I have made it with yogurt a few times, using sour cream produces a far richer and satisfying meal. The organic Wallaby brand in particular is made with live cultures and full cream. No milk or additives. It is AWESOME!

For those that cannot tolerate dairy, substitute a gelatin rich chicken broth for the sour cream (you know the kind that actually sets up and shakes). This will help with thickening and provides a filling yet savory experience.

Try serving with grilled salmon.

The cucumber soup pairs so well with something grilled. Have you seen my grilled salmon recipe? This is another simple recipe, but it will still impress your friends with it’s gourmet taste and presentation. Check out the recipe here.

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How to Butterfly & Cook Chicken in 1 Hour or Less

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Butterflied Grilled Chicken

Butterflied Grilled Chicken

Copyright by Jacqueline Peppard, all rights reserved.

OMG!!! You can cook a butterflied chicken in the time it takes to put your groceries away?

Well, almost. Seriously though, once you master the butterfly technique, it’s effortless. Grilling or roasting a chicken this way is also known as “spatchcock” – who thought up that ridiculous word, it sounds perfectly obscene.

The meat cooks evenly and faster than other methods, and is a short cut to creating the most delicious chicken ever. The process may seem a little daunting to some (maybe your butcher will remove the spine and breastbone for you faint of heart), but honestly, it’s SO easy to do.

Learning the art of butterflied chicken is like learning a life skill, well, kind of like learning to swim. You never know when you will need it.

Family and friends will think you absolutely brilliant.

Barbecuing becomes a snap. You don’t have to mess around strategically moving each individual piece like in a chess game to ensure all is cooking perfectly. One flip of the bird and you are done – ha, take that you sad past forays into the roast chicken realms!

The end result is crispy skin, moist and juicy chicken that presents beautifully on the plate and is simply scrumptious.

Duh…you will ask yourself why you haven’t thought of this before. Throw on some veggies coated with olive oil to grill or roast along side chicken for a one pan dish.

Cheap too – Waste Not Want Not.

Purchasing a whole chicken is the most cost effective way to eat organic pasture raised meat. You will get more meals out of a whole organic chicken than a package of Tyson breasts and for less money pound per pound. A whole chicken can create at least 4 meals, if not more (think chicken enchiladas). You can freeze the backbone, breast bone, neck, gizzard and other bones for later (which will still have some meat and cartilage on them) and make nutritious chicken broth. Don’t throw away the bones as you eat the meat, but toss them in with the other parts already frozen.

Oh yeah, and with the money you save, you can buy yourself a bottle of wine – awesome!

Be Prepared – Kitchen Tools

Investing in a good pair of kitchen shears will make your life much easier and safer too, not only for this project, but for a multitude of others. If using a knife, make it a sharp (I do mean sharp) 8 inch chef knife. You will need a paring knife to release the breast bone. A large nine inch spatula is perfect for turning the butterflied chicken and fish fillets. Having the precise tools necessary for the task will keep the frustration level down and keep you happily cooking. Purchase quality, so you can keep using into perpetuity, for example, some of mine date back 40 years, yes, no kidding.

Okay, so here’s how it is done:

The recipe serves 4 but forget about leftovers. Maybe cook two, just in case you can’t stop yourself.

Ingredients:

4-5 pound chicken

Olive oil

Dried whole leaf thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage

Garlic powder

Salt and pepper

Debone: Cutting with shears: Begin by placing chicken on its breast with backbone facing you. Start by holding tail and cut up the side of backbone (not through center but to side of backbone) working your way up to the neck. Stay as close to the backbone as you can, and exert enough pressure to cut through the rib bones. Repeat on other side and lift out backbone; open up chicken to lay flat with cavity side up.

Cutting with a knife: Begin by sitting the chicken on its butt, with backbone facing you. Starting with neck, cut down the side of the backbone and work down to tail. Stay as close to the backbone as you can, and exert enough pressure to cut through the rib bones. Repeat on other side and lift out backbone; open up chicken to lay flat with cavity side up.

To remove breast bone: Removing the breast bone will help it cook faster and more evenly. At the top of the rib cage, at bottom of where neck would attach, is a white spot composed of cartilage. With a paring knife, slice through the whitish mass down to breast bone underneath; using both hands on either side of breast bone, splay the two sides of the breast back and twist to expose the top of the breast bone. Now run your finger down the left and right sides of the breast bone to release it from flesh, and at very end of bone, use one finger to get under and pop the tip away. Breast bone should now lift out easily in a single piece.

Here is a great step by step video showing how to butterfly chicken – the best I have seen and in particular, shows you how to pop that breastbone out.

To Cook: Preheat grill to medium low (350 degrees).

Generously coat all surfaces of chicken with olive oil. Don’t get stingy here, generously rub both sides with dried thyme, marjoram, and rosemary or sage leaves (optional), garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Re-apply if necessary to thoroughly cover with herbs. Rotate legs in for a knock-kneed look. Fold chicken wing tips behind back.

Place chicken cavity or bone side down on heated grill. Close lid and cook 25 to 30 minutes (depends upon weight). Flip chicken over and cook another 25 to 30 minutes. For perfect timing, use a meat thermometer inserted into meat of thigh, but do not touch bone; cook until it registers 170 degrees.

Let rest 20 minutes before cutting. Chicken will keep cooking as it cools, and the juices will remain in the meat.

To Roast: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place on a broiler pan lined with aluminum foil bone side down, skin up, and cook for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 375 thereafter. Cook for 30 minutes additional time for a 4 pounder and up to an hour for a 5 pounder. Let rest 20 minutes before carving. If you have a meat thermometer, breast should register 150 degrees or leg 170 degrees before removing from oven.

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Roasted Bell Peppers – Go Ahead & Burn Them!

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Roasted Red Bell Peppers

Roasted Red Bell Peppers

Copyright by Jacqueline Peppard, all rights reserved.

When you see deals on bell peppers or chilies, stock up and buy 12-24 of them. Roasting your own peppers is an easy, economical way to add gourmet flair to your recipes. They keep well when packed in olive oil or frozen. Great for making sauces, on cheese, sandwiches, salads, or meat.

The sauces you can make from them offer a welcomed change from the usual tomato based sauces and pair well with spiralized vegetables (perfect for zucchini) or pasta, and as a bed for or drizzled over chicken and fish.

Yes, burn them!

Here is an instance where you want to burn them, go ahead and char until mostly black or blackish brown! Unless blackened and blistered, the skin will not remove easily.

How do I do this without setting them on fire? Easy.

Broiler: Preheat broiler on high. Line pans with foil for easy clean up, and place whole bell peppers on a shallow rimmed baking or broiler pan; position under the broiler about five to six inches away from heat or in the upper third of oven. Some like to quarter, de-seed and stem before broiling, and while perhaps easier, I feel flavor is lost in the process. Cook time 20-25 minutes

Grill: The grill is my favorite way and seems to produce the best flavor. Place whole bell peppers directly on the grill top preheated to 400-425 degrees and roast with cover on or down. Check every 5 minutes and rotate. Cook time about 20-25 minutes.

Gas Stove Top: Place directly over open gas burner and turn with tongs. Should be above flame, but not in flame. This method is best used when needing one or two bell peppers and definitely not recommended when processing large quantities. Cook time about 15 minutes for each pepper.

How do I know they are done?

Check the peppers after about three to five minutes. Rotate your pepper as needed until the skin has blistered and charred black on all sides.

I know, it seems just wrong!

Yes, you must almost entirely blacken the pepper’s surface.

Can I char them too much?

Well, yes you can. Stop when the most of the pepper’s surface is blistered and charred and only bits of color are showing through. The front middle pepper in the photo is a perfect example.

When the entire pepper skin has charred on all sides, remove the pepper (or peppers) from the grill and place in a baking dish or large bowl, bottoms down.

Seal tightly with plastic wrap, a lid, or a dish to prevent moisture from escaping. Hey, a cookie sheet works fine too as a cover.

Let the roasted peppers rest covered for 15-20 minutes. This process releases the skin from the pepper meat as it cools. Don’t let them cool too long or the skins will re-attach to the flesh.

Peel the peppers; the bell pepper skin should slide off easily and don’t worry if bits of char or skin remain. Remove seeds and stems.

If not using immediately, toss and coat generously with olive oil, a tablespoon vinegar, and salt. Pack into clean small canning jars and cover with additional olive oil. These will keep up to a couple months in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before use.

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Broccoli Puree or Mash Recipe – Rich, Colorful & Flavor Packed!

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Short Ribs with Broccoli Puree & Squash Puree

Short Ribs with Broccoli Puree and Squash Puree

Copyright by Jacqueline Peppard, all rights reserved.

Is it puree or is it a mash? The two terms are used interchangeably as if the same. Puree, known more recently as mash, is an easy way to dress up just about any vegetable or rescue ones that have resided in the fridge a bit too long escaping notice. It is a process where food has been finely mashed or strained to achieve a thick pulp like consistency. While I may be accused of splitting hairs, a mash usually retains large irregular chucks and lacks a smooth texture. In most cases, you will need a food processor, blender or food mill. For those on a budget, stainless steel food mills can be purchased for as little as $50.00. If you can afford it, a food processor will be the most versatile, easy to use, and will last you a lifetime – well worth the extra bucks.

Broccoli puree first crossed my radar in the late seventies and remains my favorite today. There is something about the bright green that says happy, plus it pairs so well with any meat dish. While I could devote a whole chapter to puree recipes alone, the following broccoli puree recipe provides a solid template for future forays with other vegetables such as the ubiquitous cauliflower mash, or for more exotic concoctions such as spiced butternut squash and apple, carrot and chestnut, beet and apple, celery root and potato. You are limited only by your imagination. Continue reading

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