Mama Love’s Crock Pot Chili

Baby it’s cold 59 degrees outside (shut up, don’t laugh.)  And tonight it’s supposed to RAIN!  Woohoo!  Break out the Uggs & the earmuffs, kiddos, cuz I’ve been stalking the weather guy all week for these cloudy skies.

Before we get to the good stuff, I need to just bitch about the weather some more, ok?  I know, I know, you’re snowed & you want to reach through your computer and smack my little suntanned, California girl face with your mittens.  I’m sorry, but even though I’m a Cali girl, I like my seasons – I mean, all 4 of them, not just “summer” and “more summer.”

Anyway, I’ve been waiting until it was cool enough to make my neighborhood-famous Mama Love’s Crock Pot Chili.  Chili just screams football season & crisp fall evenings to me, and I love the way the house smells while this delicious chili simmers in the crockpot all day long.  So, tonight’s the night: Thursday Night Football, baby!

This is some kick-ass chili right here!

This is some kick-ass chili right here!

Now, this one morphed out of a family recipe, and I’m sure you remember my lecture on the subject of sharing secret family recipes last year, right?  Just remember, if my mom asks, we don’t know each other, ok?  This originally started as a “Quick Chili” recipe handed down from my Great Aunt Margie, (cute, little, old lady who could kick back a lot of gin & tonics.) I got my hands on it about 15 years ago, and made some tweaks after I met the love of my life, my first CrockPot. It’s still super easy & super yummy.  Oh, and some people call me Mama Love.  Why?  Well, “The Fairly Good Mother” is a mouthful!  No, I’ve actually had this little nickname since before I was a real mom, and I guess it’s because I’m so motherly & adorable, and I make all my delicious food with love … Love is the secret ingredient.

The Line-Up!  (diced green chilis not pictured :))

The Line-Up! (diced green chilis not pictured :))

MAMA LOVE’S CROCKPOT CHILI
(serves 6)

Ingredients:
1-1/2 lbs ground beef (85%/15%)
1 green bell pepper – chopped
2 cloves garlic – pressed
1 onion – chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 small can diced green chilis
salt & pepper (not a lot, just a dash of each)
16 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce
1 can Ranch Style Beans* – regular flavor
1 can Ranch Style Beans* – with jalepenos

Ranch Style Beans : Essential!

Ranch Style Beans : Essential!

*Now – before I get to the method, I need to school you a little bit.  Do NOT mess around with the beans here, ok?!  Ranch Style Beans are a brand of beans & it is a big deal to use these specific beans if you want to be a chili master.  You do want to be a chili master, right?  Ok, so you’re going to have to go on the hunt for them, (I put an Amazon link in there for you folks out in the sticks,) and if you have to resort to using some inferior type of bean, well, don’t expect your chili to kick ass like Mama Loves.  

Method:
Brown ground beef, garlic, onion & green pepper over medium-high heat.  Drain fat, return to burner.
Add cumin, chili powder, diced chills & salt & pepper. (Season your meat first, don’t just dump everything in.)
Add tomatoes and tomato sauce & simmer 1/2 hour uncovered.
Pour in crockpot, & add beans.
Simmer all day on low.
And don’t forget the love 🙂

Variations:
Let’s say you don’t have all day, no biggie, I’ve dumped that meat concoction in the crockpot right away & everything was hunky dory.
Or what if you don’t have a crockpot.  No worries!  After you simmer the meat & tomatoes for 1/2 hour uncovered, just add the beans to your pot & cover, then simmer for 2 hours or as long as you like.  (I think it tastes better when it simmers all day, but that’s just me.)
You can add more beans if you like a bean-y chili, or more meat if you like a meatier chili.
This is even good without meat if you’re a vegetarian. (I was a vegetarian for almost 12 years, but that’s another story for another day.)
Also, good with turkey meat if you’re looking for a slightly healthier chili.
And, I’ve made it with steak and roast too, if you prefer chunks of meat in your chili.

I serve warm tortillas with butter on them as an accompaniment to this chili – I roll them up and you can just shovel chili into the tortilla if you want.  I don’t like cornbread very much, so I don’t serve it as a side, but feel free to do that if cornbread’s your jam.  And to make it a little fancier, (like if I’m serving this to dinner guests,) I will put out some toppings for people: shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream & diced green onions.

You can add more chili power if you want to kick it up a notch, but let me tell you what you should NOT do … You should not open up someone’s crockpot after they got up early to make this chili before going out to ski for the day, and then proceed to screw around with it by adding things like sliced olives, coffee, bay leaves, and crap like that.  First of all, it’s not cool to mess around with someone else’s recipe, especially when she’s hormonal & PMS’d, (true story!)  Also, I gave you the gold here – don’t mess with perfection.  It’s simple for a reason.  Not everything amazing needs to be complicated & time consuming.

And now, a challenge to my sweet bestie & amazing food blogger, The Kitchen Snob.  I challenge her to make this chili & take prettier pictures with her professional camera.  I know she has made this chili before, but they don’t have Ranch Style Beans in Pennsyltucky, so I am sending her the proper beans.  Let’s see if we can get her to make this again & if she has any wonderful insight on kick-ass chili making.

The California Salad

California Salad

Light & Healthy

So light, so healthy & sooooooo delicious!  I concocted this simple, yet elegant side salad after messing around with a few different ideas.  It’s even VEGAN, and it goes with just about anything you can think of …

What’s In It?  All my favorite things!

Arugula and/or Baby Spinach – My go-to choice is Arugula, but if I’m feeling frisky, I’ll pick up some Baby Spinach instead.  OR, if you’re feeling totally rebellious, mix them together as you throw your head back and laugh manically!

Sunburst Tomatoes – For most of my life I turned my nose up at cherry tomatoes or anything that slightly resembled them.  WHAT WAS I THINKING?  Holy mother of Solanum Lycopersicum, these little golden treats pack a sweet & delectable punch!  They add a unique compliment to the tangy, slightly bitter flavors of this salad.

Avocado – I mean, really, how can you go wrong with avocado?  It’s the best and most, er, one of the most versatile fruits.  (I sat here for a good 6 minutes and argued with myself about whether an avocado or a lemon is the most versatile fruit – I’m torn!)  I could eat avocado on ANYTHING & it lends some creaminess to this salad.  Growing up in Northern & Southern California, we had avocado trees & come to think of it – why don’t I have one now?  Ok, I just decided I’m going to propagate the next pit of an avocado.

Lemon – I love lemons, too.  And I do squeeze them on just about everything, so one day when I was sick of making dressing & just wanted something light & simple, I squeezed lemon all over the salad.  Hello!?  Why had I never thought of this before?  Lightbulb!

Garlic – Yep, another one of my faves … pressed & as much (or as little) as you like!  Me?  Two big, fat cloves!  (p.s. the garlic press is nice because it gets a little garlic juice in there, but if you don’t have one, just mince the garlic.)

Olive Oil – Just a little so that it all melds together nicely.

So like I was saying … You can eat this alone, or with your best buddy if you are nice enough to share.  Kidding, I mean, you can eat this as a stand alone salad, or it accompanies pretty much anything from chicken, to turkey chili, to white bean vegan soup, to grilled salmon or even barbecue!

You’re welcome … 🙂

Garden Delights!

Have you ever seen a zucchini this big?

the fairly good zuke!

the fairly good zuke!

THIRTEEN INCHES OF DELICIOUSNESS!

It was just the perfect size for stuffing … So I got some garlic, onion, red bell pepper, some chicken sausage (if you’re a veggie, you can leave this out or opt for rice instead – I will try that next time.)  I grilled up the sausage and set that aside, halved the zucchini & scooped out the insides, then put a little oil in the pan and browned up some diced onion & garlic, added in the zucchini innards, then added in the bell pepper, added back in the sausage & cooked for a few more minutes.

Meanwhile, I dunked the halved zucchini hallows into a boiling pot of water to get them a little softer than just raw.  I poured some marinara sauce in the bottom of a cooking dish, then placed the zucchini halves in there, and stuffed them with my mixture.  Then, I topped mine with mozzarella cheese & parmesan cheese, (skipped that on The Husband’s zuke,) and baked them for about 30 minutes or so.  Voila!  Easy peasy din din.

The World's Biggest Stuffed Zucchini!

The World’s Biggest Stuffed Zucchini!

Then, today I made little caprese bites – they were so good!  Look how cute they are:

Everything came from my garden, except the mozzarella ... and the toothpicks :)

Everything came from my garden, except the mozzarella … and the toothpicks 🙂

These little delicious cherry poppers are the only tomatoes the pests have not destroyed.  I am in a battle & I will prevail!  I could have eaten every last one of these, but I was nice and shared them with my Fairly Good Father In Law 🙂

Where does the time go? And how does my fairly good garden grow?

I cannot believe it’s been over 30 days since my last blog entry! That’s simply unacceptable. It’s a good thing I’m not getting paid to do this 🙂

Seriously, June was a busy month, (and that’s a good thing!) I started working again … freelance & from home for the most part.  I make my own hours and can still make certain that my family is the NUMBER ONE priority. So far, it’s been really great, very lucrative & exciting.  The Husband is super supportive & that is really the secret to my success.

Why did I get a job?  Because I have home improvement projects that I want to get done & I don’t want to put a burden on our household finances.  Next up: A fence between us and the neighbors to the east.  Fences make good neighbors.  I hope they get on the ball with us & get this accomplished before the end of summer.  I’ve already had 2 conversations with this guy & he strikes me as a “Guy’s Guy.”  Translation: He doesn’t want to discuss fences with the Fairly Good Mother.  He wants to talk fences with The MAN of the HOUSE. ~Insert EyeRoll Here~

So, I’m busy & making money for fences and gardens and drapes and entertainment centers … but at what cost?  No cost to the family – they’re good, well fed with delicious organic treats from my garden, but you know something’s got to give.  Well then, what suffers? Writing. Blogging. Cooking. I’m seeking to find that balance. It took me a minute to work back in the exercise, but that is a necessary thing!  I can’t deal with myself if I’m feeling bloated and creaky.  Pilates is my savior.  I love it.  And thankfully, it feels like July will be less hectic and so I’m glad that I have a chance to catch up.

When you last saw my fledgling little fairly good garden, it looked like this:

the fairly good garden

the fairly good garden

Here’s what it looked like just 3 weeks ago when I fully intended to write a blog post updating you as to the condition of this garden:

the fairly good garden | June 2013

the fairly good garden | June 2013

Seriously – that was taken ONE MONTH after I planted the dang thing!  I’ve reaped the LARGEST zucchini I have ever seen from this beautiful bountiful garden.  I’ve eaten the sweetest strawberries, I’ve made pesto with my basil, I’ve made salad with my salad mix … and I just clipped off a brand spankin’ ruby red Habanero Chili and I cultivated a little baby artichoke, but I feel like it was the runt of the ‘choke family & so it did not get eaten.

prolly should have cut this guy when it looked like this, but I wanted to see if it would get bigger ... (that's what she said.)

prolly should have cut this guy when it looked like this, but I wanted to see if it would get bigger … (that’s what she said.)

and these weren't even the largest of the zucchinis!

and these weren’t even the largest of the zucchinis!

gardening is fun!

gardening is fun!

Things that are not going so well in the garden (*PLEASE, Tips, Tricks & Suggestions are ENCOURAGED!)

  • I have a Very Hungry Caterpillar roaming around the garden … Or perhaps there are two.  I’ve met two of them and moved them to another area of the yard.  They have wreaked havoc though!  I used something that was non-toxic, all organic & totally safe – it was literally like pepper and $h!t or something … I cannot remember the name. It was a powder and I used it all in two applications.
  • HOLY Zucchini & Squash Leaves, People!  I know for sure that Adam & Eve must have used these leaves as primitive undergarments.  These are the LARGEST Freaking Leaves I’ve ever seen!  And they’re prickly as f^ck.  Seriously, get your damn gloves on before you go trimming them up!  They crowd all the other veggies in my garden.  I trimmed about 20% of the leaves back with no clear repercussions.  Still got a massive zuke off that thing.
  • Cilantro is gone.  It took off when the temperatures soared here last month & I’m sad because I was planning on making a kick-ass salsa with my tomatillos, tomatoes, chili peppers & cilantro.  It went to flower, I cut it back (probably stupidly.) and 1 out of 2 of my plants is straight up dead.
  • Arugula went to seed.  Also a victim of the 100+ temps here & I read that I should stop watering it and let the seed pods dry out then cultivate them for next season.  Sound right?
  • Basil is stunted & I don’t know why.  I snap off the tops when it starts to flower.  Again, I think that the heat + the Very Hungry Caterpillar has something to do with it.
  • The strawberries aren’t producing as much as I thought.  Same with my cucumber plant.
  • I think I over-planted … Oops!  Live and Learn.

So there you have it, my dear friends … That’s what’s happening right now.  I will snap more pics.  I’m waiting for my tomatoes.  Patiently.  And the only one I saw had a nice little caterpillar hole in the bottom which made me want to put on my magnifying glasses & go on a Caterpillar hunt!

Oh, one last thing … what was for dinner tonight?  Well, I have to share because it was so good … Another awesome find from Oh She Glows!  Veggie Spring Rolls (vegan-dish.) It was light, it was easy & it was so delicious!  I licked the last of the peanut sauce off the blades of my food processor & no, I’m not joking.  My dear friend had made this during her visit in April & I have been meaning to make it ever since then.  So good.  And perfect for not wanting to cook in 100 degree weather.  And yes, I used my basil … but no, sadly, I had to purchase the cilantro.

This Week’s Box: Red Potatoes, Zucchini & Green Bean Challenge

This week’s box is EASY PEASY! These are very well known veggies in our house & when I saw the red potatoes and green beans, I knew EXACTLY what I was making for dinner last night.

Get ready for TMI ….. I’m bleeding. Again. Isn’t it funny how that happens every 28 days???  Well, the point of me telling you this is that I have low iron, and at the beginning of my cycle it dips super low which makes me tired & crave stuff with iron. Which translates into me craving filet mignon.

So last night I made filet mignon with garlic herb butter, smashed rosemary roasted potatoes & steamed green beans. (Tonight’s dinner will include the zucchini.) I would’ve done my filets on the cast iron skillet & then finished them in the oven, but the weather is warm here & I didn’t feel like sweating for some steak, so I grilled.  And, ok, I’ll be honest, the housekeepers came Thursday & I didn’t really want to mess up my super clean range – haha.  Oh, the OCD in me is always in high gear the day after cleaning day.

Grilled Filet Mignon | The Fairly Good Mother

The Husband thinks it’s cute that I love grilling so much.  People say grilling is really a man’s job (eye roll) I love grilling. About 12 years ago I read this book: Grilling For Dummies.  I was hooked. Very helpful tips with some great grilling recipes.

Anyway … this dinner is easy.  The only thing you need to do in advance is take 1/2 a stick of unsalted butter and get it softened at room temp.  To that, add 1 clove of pressed garlic & 1/8 teaspoon of finely chopped basil & 1/8 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary or thyme.  Mix together form that into a little log and place on a small piece of wax paper and place in the fridge to harden up.

We want to focus on the grill, so prep your green beans & get your potatoes started first.  While you’re doing this, let your filets stand at room temp (20 mins & then put a little bit of olive oil on both sides with some freshly ground pepper – don’t over-do the seasonings with filets.) Wash and trim the green beans, pop them in the steamer with some sliced garlic, a little pepper & some Kosher salt in there & turn on the timer for 15 minutes when you’re ready.

The potatoes: scrub & cut out the eyes, cover with water in a covered pot & bring to boil, cook for about 10 mins or until fork tender.  Place on a baking sheet (covered with no-stick tin foil for easy clean up,) smash gently with a fork, and drizzle with olive oil, sea salt, fresh ground pepper & fresh rosemary (about 1-2 tsp.)  They will take about 20-30 minutes in an oven at 350*.

So what I do is get the grill started, put the potatoes in the oven, turn on the steamer for the beans, and then head outside to oil the grill, (pour a generous amount of olive oil on a couple of folded up paper towels & use your oven mit to wipe that on the grill.)  Over medium high heat, place your filets & a slice of the herb butter on top of each filet.  For medium rare (which is honestly how you’re supposed to be eating a filet mignon,) cook for 5-7 minutes, turn and place the rest of the butter on top of the filets.  Cook for 5-7 minutes & voila!  You can see from my picture that I also grilled up some little summer onions (just put a little olive oil, kosher salt & pepper on those, too!)

An easy summer dinner made mostly on your grill.  You can do the potatoes on the grill – I’ve done it before, but they didn’t get as crispy as they do in the oven.  Pair with a nice red.  We drank a Zaca Mesa Syrah.

This Week’s Box: Snap Pea & Mint Challenge

My bi-weekly box of organic produce arrived & inside I found snap peas & mint, (among other things …. need to remember to ask them to stop bringing me mitiake mushrooms, I’m not a fan.)  I scoured the interwebs looking for recipes that incorporated both & settled on Pasta with Prosciutto, Snap Peas, Mint & Cream by Food 52.

Photo Credit: Food52.com

Photo Credit: Food52.com

It was really good, HOWEVER, 2 things of note for this dish: The recipe calls for 1 pint of cream and that sounded like a lot, (and truth be told, I only had 1 cup of cream on hand,) so I used just 8 oz of cream and it was the perfect amount.  Also, I wasn’t crazy about the mint part of the recipe & felt like it was unnecessary, so when I make this next time, I’ll either use just a dusting or none at all.

Spring Pasta Dish: Linguine with Arugula, Tear Drop Tomatoes and Bacon … mmm, Bacon!

In Southern California, we have two seasons: Spring & Summer. They are almost indecipherable & you will hear me start to really complain about the heat come September.

Well, it’s only April and already 80 degrees! When it gets hot, I don’t want to be slaving over the stove or messing around in the oven. I want something light, easy and (of course) delish to eat for dinner.  And we’ve established (via the brussels sprouts post) that bacon makes everything awesome!

And since The Husband’s work days are getting later and later, it has to be something that I can whip together & not too heavy because we’re eating at 8pm or so.

Lots of variations on this simple dish

Lots of variations on this simple dish

This dish is in my rotation during the spring & summer months (aka March – November.)  I short cut it by purchasing the refrigerated pasta, (you can use linguine, fettucini or paparedelle -which is tough to find around here, but it’s my favorite pasta for this dish.)  And, depending on what tomatoes they have in the store, I use yellow tear drops, grape tomatoes or both!

Spring Pasta with Arugula, Tear Drop Tomatoes & Bacon

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz pasta (refrigerated or uncooked) Pappardelle, Linguini, Fettucini
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup halved yellow tear-drop tomatoes (and/or)
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 cups loosely packed chopped arugula
  • 4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled (OPTIONAL, if you don’t eat meat)
  • Parmesan cheese (grated, shaved or shredded & OPTIONAL if you don’t eat cheese)

Method:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; keep warm.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and garlic to skillet; cook 1 minute or until garlic is fragrant. Add tomatoes; cook 1 minute, stirring gently. Remove the skillet from heat; stir in lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of salt & a few twists of fresh ground pepper. Combine the hot pasta, arugula, and warm tomato mixture in a large bowl, tossing to coat. Top with cheese and bacon

This Week’s Box: The Brussels Sprout & Mitiake Mushroom Challenge …

As you may recall, I receive a box of organic produce delivered to my doorstep twice a month.  And it’s almost like being on a cooking challenge show because you never know what you’re going to get!  (I suppose I forgot to check off brussels sprouts and Mitiake mushrooms from my list of things I don’t want. Womp womp.)  Honestly, I’ve never heard of Mitiake mushrooms before meeting them on Wednesday morn when they appeared on my front porch.

And truth be told, I haven’t eaten a brussels sprout since I was a 3rd grader & spent the night at a friend’s house where, much to my dismay, I was served brussels sprouts.  My eyes widened and I cringed, they smelled terrible & the polite little girl in me gracefully pushed them around on my plate after trying one bite and nearly gagging.  My friend’s parents were not very understanding and made me eat 5 more bites!  I thought I was going to throw up, and then considered calling my mom to come and rescue me from this veritable house of horrors.

So when the brussels sprouts showed up on my door this week, I was thinking oh man, I really have to go online and scrutinize my “preferences” list!  Then I scoured my mind for friends who might want 9 oz of brussels sprouts.  And then I remembered my declaration (here on this blog) that I wanted to conquer new culinary frontiers & THIS was a challenge!

So I searched for brussels sprouts recipes & voila: Bacon + Brussels Sprouts = right up my alley! I mean, how can you go wrong with bacon?  Answer: you can’t.  Hell, I could eat cardboard with bacon on top of it. So, kudos to Katerina & her kick-ass recipe.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon ~ Diethood.com

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon ~ Photo by Diethood.com

So then on to the Mitiake mushrooms … I knew that a skirt steak would be a good start & it would be easy to make a nice mushroom sauce, so again, off to the web to find a recipe.  Even though I love to riff off a recipe, I pretty much followed it to the tee, only because I was too tired to mess around with it.   Next time I would add in garlic and instead of using chicken broth, use beef broth, and instead of butter, use cream.

I served it up with some wild rice & The Husband loved it all!  And even though he told me “I’m not that hungry tonight,” homie cleaned his plate!  The entire meal from prep to table only took me a little over an hour.  Score!

Taco Salad – Easy Weeknight Meal

I know it’s not technically a “week-night,” but I’ve been so busy!  I actually made this on Monday or Tuesday … hell, I can’t remember.  Silly Mommy Brain.  I swear that once I got pregnant my memory got worse.  It was already on shaky ground, but The Boy’s term in my belly set it on full-tilt & then after he was born I couldn’t just blame it on “pregnancy brain”, no, now it was called “mommy brain.”

The Husband has a new gig & that means late nights again. And not to mention the fact that I’m on my own for the end-of-the-day routine.  So, I need quick, easy, healthy + light meals that will satisfy a hungry husband.

easy weeknight meal

taco salad

This is my Grandmother’s recipe tweaked just a little bit.  I follow in her footsteps in many regards, but one in particular is that I go to the grocery store pretty much every day for one thing or another.  I never understood why she did that until I became a mom.  And I’ll never forget the time (my brother was 4 and I was 7,) we were running late & she was speeding and we got pulled over, and my brother cried because we got busted by the po-po & he was scared, poor baby.

Grandma didn’t meal plan & that’s why she went to the store daily: to get the stuff we needed for dinner, whatever she decided at 3:39pm.  Me, I meal plan, (most of the time anyway,)  and still have to run to the store for something … which turns into 3 things, which turns into 5 things, which turns into $20.  Anyway … On with the easy recipe.

Texas Taco Salad

Ingredients:
1 lb ground lean ground beef (you can omit if you are a vegetarian & just quickly sautee the garlic in a little olive oil then toss in the tomatoes and beans & the rest of the ingredients.)
1 15 oz can of kidney beans, drained
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 16 0z can of tomatoes, undrained
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp salt & 1/8 tsp pepper
4 cups bite-sized / torn salad cuttings of green leaf & romaine lettuces
1 cup grated cheddar cheese, sharp (optional)
1 6-8 oz package of corn chips
1 cup chopped green onions
1 medium avocado, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
1 small can of sliced or chopped olives (optional)
1 dollop of sour cream (optional)

Method:
Sautee meat & garlic in a saute pan (that has a lid) for 10 minutes or until cooked.  Drain fat.  Add chili powder & cumin powder.  Then add the kidney beans, chiles, tomatoes, salt, and pepper.  Mix.  Cook over medium heat uncovered, 30 minutes.  You can make this mixture ahead of time to make it even easier, just heat before serving.  Scatter your corn chips on the plates, top with the lettuce, then the meat/bean mixture, then the cheese, (if using,) then the onion, the diced avocado & the diced tomatoes.

Top with sour cream, the sprinkle some sliced black olives on top.  Add the hot sauce of your choice, (mine is old school:  Crystal, The Husband likes to put his favorite pineapple salsa on all things Mexican.) Delish.  Cap with an ice cold Corona Light or other light beer, or a crisp Sauv Blanc, like Franciscan Sauvignon Blanc 2010.

Every Day is Valentines Day Dinner

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach … an old proverb, but a true one at that.  Which is why, as a (self-proclaimed,) pretty good wifey, I enjoy the journey to the Husband’s heart, and cook for him pretty much every night.  What was extra special about this particular dinner, is that I normally don’t make cocktails before hand & I normally don’t make dessert after.

For openers, a blood-orange cocktail with raspberries was a welcome hello to The Husband who had just gotten home from a long day at a new job.  blood orange cocktail | The Fairly Good Mother

blood orange cocktail w/ raspberries
Serves 2

Ingredients

    • 2 oz blood orange juice
    • 4 oz Vodka
    • 3 oz Cointreau
    • 1 oz lime juice
    • raspberries

Method:
Place 3-4 raspberries in the bottom of each chilled martini glass.  Add all other ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well, strainer into glasses. Garnish with raspberries.

For the main course, I actually made very simple lightly breaded pork chops with a warm goat cheese salad, but I didn’t feel like writing up the recipe right now – I’ll do it later & update the post here.  So, you’re getting a recipe for a dish I make quite often & is elegant enough for a special occasion, but easy enough for a weeknight meal … sorry, I can’t believe in the many years I’ve been making this dish, that I have never once taken a picture!

lemon-artichoke chicken with steamed chokes & jasmine rice 

Prep & cook time – 45 mins to an hour
You can either use 2 or 4 chicken breasts – I make the same amount of sauce for both.

Ingredients
2 or 4 boneless / skinless chicken breasts (you can pound them or not pound them, I usually don’t go to the trouble unless they’re really thick.

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 jar (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained
  • 2 tbsps dry cooking sherry
  • 2 tbsps grated lemon peel (i love my microplane)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 c whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup parmesean cheese (optional)

Method:
Preheat oven to 350, Salt & pepper them, use some lemon pepper seasoning if you desire it a little more “lemony”… melt butter in frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add chicken and cook, turning once, until browned (about 4-5 mins on each side) Transfer chicken to a 9×11 cooking dish and put chopped artichoke hearts on top of chicken.

Add sherry, lemon peel & lemon juice to remaining butter in frying pan; stir over medium heat until well blended & hot – about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add cream & stir, let thicken a bit until bubbling.  Remove from heat, pour sauce over chicken & artichokes, then sprinkle with cheese if desired.

Bake until sauce is bubbling & golden brown on top – about 20-25 mins.

free happy snoopy.jpgBecause Valentine’s Day isn’t a government holiday & 5 times out of 7 falls on a weeknight, let’s make this easy.  I love the Trader Joe’s frozen organic jasmine rice – just pop it in the microwave for 3 minutes & then serve it as a side to this flavorful dish.

And you might say it’s artichoke ovrekill, but around these parts we love our chokes …what can I say, I’m a California girl born and bred – artichokes & avocados every day!  And steamed artichokes go along well with this dinner.  Some of my friends say they’ve never steamed an artichoke – I say, CRAZY!

artichoke

They’re easy to make, you trim the pokers off the tops of the leaves, cut the stem off so the artichoke can sit upright, rinse them out, (best way to do that is to let them sit in a sink – or a bowl – of cool water for an hour,) drain them, and then put them in a large pot with a little bit of salted water – covering them 1/4 of the way or so.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to steam … they take about 45 mins – an hour, you can tell when they’re done b/c a fork will go in and out of the stem with ease!

We love dipping the leaves in drawn butter infused with lemon & garlic, and then scraping the meat off the leaves with our teeth.  When you make the heart, let it cool all the way down & be sure to scrape the “chokers” off before dicing up the heart.  It’s so apropos for Valentine’s day ❤  One of these days I’ll get around to making a video about artichokes.

If you’re not into chicken, how about grilled swordfish and a cilantro-lime cream sauce.  you can still do the steamed chokes, or you could do a sauteed zucchini squash as a side-dish.  Swordfish is a great fish to serve to non-fish lovers because it’s the ‘steak of the sea’ & very mild. And the jasmine rice is a great companion to this dish as well.

2011-Chenin-Blanc,-Mendocino---280px2Some wines that would rock these dishes are:  2009 Rouseanne from Zaca Mesa, 2011 Sauvignon Blanc from Morgan Winery, or 2011 Chenin Blanc from Elizabeth Spencer.

Dessert is so easy … or hard, depending on what you’re looking to do after dinner?  Cook some more in the kitchen or in the bedroom?  Or both?  I vote for these mini cheesecakes with raspberry sauce from Annie’s Eats , or dark chocolate walnut-chunk brownies, from Martha, (I add walnuts.)  Both you can make ahead of time and serve in the bedroom if you desire.

Happy Valentines Day!