A tasty, home-style, Mothers’ Day “gift experience”

Spinach and Turkey Sausage Lasagne served with fresh, oven-roasted broccoli.

Social activist Anna Jarvis is credited with creating Mother’s Day back in 1908 as a way of honoring the passing of her mother and the sacrifices that all mothers make for their children. History records that Jarvis later denounced the holiday because it became so commercialized. She subsequently spent the later years of her life trying to undo her efforts which led to it being recognized as a national holiday.

Mother’s Day spending

Her efforts failed and the commercialization of Mother’s’ Day grew exponentially year after year. Fast forward to 2018, Mother’s Day spending is expected to total “a near-record $23.1 billion this year,” according to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation (NRF), with Americans spending an average of $180 on mom to celebrate her.

The NRF survey also revealed another interesting fact: 29% or 3 out of 10 moms would love to receive a “gift of experience” such as a gym membership, spa day, paint and sip outing, gourmet cooking class – you get the ideal.

A heartfelt gift of experience

About 70% of us will book a reservation at a restaurant and take mom out to eat.  That is a lovely experience. While I absolutely appreciate the ritual of dining out on Mother’s Day, I have to admit I equally appreciate the effort of having a lovely home cooked meal thoughtfully prepared, beautifully plated and cheerfully served to me.  And sometimes, avoiding the crowds, long wait times and skipping the hustle and bustle at restaurants is just what I need.

What is more loving and nurturing than having someone you love make dinner as way of honoring you? That is a not only a wonderful experience, it is a most memorable one.

A Mother’s Day recipe

A Mother’s Day recipe she will not forget.

If you are thinking about dining home this Mother’s Day and you are searching for a recipe to wow and honor your mom or the woman who has played a significant role in nurturing you, look no further.

My Mother’s Day Spinach and Turkey Sausage Lasagne recipe is  hearty, satisfying, scrumptious and beautiful. It uses fresh spinach and a homemade sauce made with fire roasted tomatoes. One word of caution: this recipe takes time to prepare, so carve out some time and take your time. It is not to be rushed. And after you taste that first bite, it will be your favorite lasagne, rivaling any restaurant recipe.

I hope you and your family enjoy this recipe and that you have a beautiful Mother’s Day.

Oh, and the gifts of experience the NRF mentioned that moms would love to have for Mother’s Day,  add at least one of them too – in addition to making her dinner. After all,  she deserves it.

Cooks note: I did sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over each layer of mozzarella cheese to boost the flavor. This is completely optional.  

Mother’s Day Spinach and Turkey Sausage Lasagne

  • Servings: 8 to 12
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

This will be your favorite lasagne, rivaling any restaurant recipe.

Ingredients


1 immersion blender (or blender if you must)
2 pounds Italian sausage, casings removed
3 cups grated Mozzarella cheese
1 box no boil lasagne noodles (Barilla featured here)
4 cans simple truth fire roasted tomatoes
1 medium bell pepper
½  cup chopped red onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 tablespoon dry Italian seasoning
3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup chopped Kalamata olives
1~ 5 ounce package fresh spinach
16 ounces ricotta cheese
Salt, pepper

Directions

  1. To a large mixing bowl, add 4 cans of fire roasted tomatoes.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a skillet set on medium heat. Add chopped bell pepper and cook for two minutes, stirring frequently. Add chopped onion and stirring another two 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add chopped garlic and stir another 30 seconds, until garlic is fragrant.
  3. Add sauté vegetables to bowl of tomatoes.  With an immersion blender, blend until semi smooth, about 40 to 50 pulses.( If you don’t have an immersion blender, and you should, place contents into a stand up blender, and pulse until semi smooth.)
  4. Add blended tomatoes and sautéed vegetables to a large sauce pan. Add 1 tablespoon Italian season, 3 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Blend well. Set heat at medium, once sauce is heated, turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat once done and set aside.
  5. While sauce is simmering, to that same skillet set on medium heat add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Once heated, add 5 ounce package of fresh spinach. Sprinkle with a little salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until all the spinach is wilted.  Remove spinach from the skillet and scoop into heat resistant dish. Once cooled, you will chop it.
  6. To that same skillet, add Italian sausage (casing removed). Break up the meat with a wooden spoon once in pan. Cook on medium to medium high heat until lightly browned. Drain off excess fat.
  7. To a large bowl, add ricotta cheese, ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/3 cup chopped Kalamata olives, chopped spinach. Blend well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Make sure to taste it to ensure it has enough flavor.

To assemble

  1. Spray the bottom of a large 9 x 13 casserole dish with non-stick spray.  Spread 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.
  2. Using 4 sheet of pasta, form two rows across the length of the dish. The noodles will overlap in the center. Leave a little space between the rolls as the pasta will cook and expand.
  3. Take half of the ricotta cheese mixture and spread over both rolls of pasta.
  4. Take half of the cooked Italian sausage and spread it evenly over the casserole dish.
  5. Scoop out 2 generous cups of sauce and spread over the meat in the casserole dish.
  6. Cover sauce with 1 cup of cheese.
  7. Repeat, using 4 more pasta sheets to form second layer.
  8. For the final layer, top with 4 more pasta sheets. Add remaining sauce and spread evenly over sheet pasta. Spread 1 cup of cheese over the top.
  9. Tightly cover with foil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
  10. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes until browned and bubbly.
  11. Let stand 30 minutes before serving.

Happy New Year, happy new food

Resolute.

You just gotta be in 2018.

I am not talking about your list of practical and lofty resolutions.

In all honesty, you probably need to anchor your resolve to straighten up your act in a myriad of areas.  Skip the resolutions. You know what you need to do, so get busy and handle your business, be your best self and live your best life as a 2018 commitment to yourself (in my Oprah voice).

That pot of black-eyed peas is certainly an obligatory tradition  some believe is a lucky charm for each shiny new year. I would never, ever advocate that you toss tradition to the wind. That would be unthinkable. In fact, I subscribe to this annual rite of passage into the New Year and trust me, I did partake and they were – in a word – so good. Ok, that’s two words.  Get my recipe here.

Lucky black-eyed peas

No luck needed

Luck is great,  but it abdicates your participation. I want you to be more resolute about your food choices this year.

Yes its cliché – you are what you eat. And the often unspoken part of that adage is you are how much you eat too. (Ok I made that up, but the point has to be driven home).

If you don’t set your intentions to make better food choices in 2018, when will you?

I love food anthologist, activist and journalist Michael Pollan. In The Pollan Table Family Cookbook, Pollan makes many salient points in the introduction of this beautiful cookbook.

Pollan connects the increase in obesity to the advent and rise of the fast food industry. Pollan also reminds us that humans cook food; corporations manufacture it.

That’s worth a pause. Take a moment to digest that.

Let me cut to the quick and bottom line my intentions for you:

  • You need to take control of your food choices.
  • You need to be mindful about the food you allow in your everyday life and the life of your family.
  • You need to reduce your portion sizes; they are overall just too large.
  • You need to cut back on the number of meals you get passed to you from a drive through window and pick-up counter – yeah you do.

For heavens sake, for your own sake, get back to cooking your own food. I know it sounds so complex, time consuming and mind bending. But it doesn’t have to be. You can do it. Your health and the health of your family depends on this.

Keep it simple dear heart and:

  1. Use fresh ingredients when possible; they provide more nutrients.
  2. Bake, broil, and grill more often than not; take a break from fried foods.
  3. Add flavor with spices and herbs; cut back on added salt and fat.
  4. Read labels and understand typical serving sizes; portion control is not a myth.
  5. Cut back on carbs; you don’t have to have them every meal.
  6. Learn a few easy food preparation techniques and get inspired.

Follow me

If you follow me on Instagram @collardgreenscaviar (and you really should), you will quickly learn that I am a big home cooking advocate. I have put in a lot of sweat equity over a stove top, about 35 years contiguous if I dare do the math.

I am a journalist and food writer first and foremost. Writing about the significant role and value food plays in our lives has been my focus and my passion.

However, I do  post a lot of food pictures on Instagram,  many of which I prepare and actually eat at home. I am not perfect when it comes to what I eat, but I know perfectly well that I when I prepare my own meals more often than not, I make better choices.

Pan grilled chicken and roasted Brussels sprouts

In this post I feature one of my most requested Instagram recipes, well its not really a recipe but a method I use to prepare chicken breast. I make this often, especially after a workout. Its fast and easy to make, in just under 30 minutes. Its delicious, healthy and beautiful to look at.

The chicken breast is seasoned with a spice rub, then pan grilled and finished in the oven. And you probably noticed there are no carbs. Yup. I often skip them at dinner time and opt for pan roasted vegetables like Brussels sprouts or brocolli. But if you need or want carbs, I suggest serving this with a baked yam or confetti brown rice chalk full of your favorite sautéed vegetables.

Happy New Year! Bon Appétit.  Chin-chin. Salud.

I predict new food is in your future. Now get cooking.

Chicken so most, tender and flavorful.


Ingredients

2 boneless chicken breasts
Spice rub mix (Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub featured here)
Grapeseed oil

Directions

  1. Wash and pat dry chicken breast.
  2. Place on cutting board and slice in half.
  3. Rub a little Grapeseed oil on both sides of sliced breast and then generally season with spice rub.
  4. Pour about two tablespoon of Grapeseed oil in a grill pan set at medium heat.
  5. Once oil is heated, place breasts  in pan and cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes until medium brown in color.
  6. Remove from pan and place on a baking sheet.
  7. Cook remaining breasts and place in 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes.
  8. Remove and let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Wash and pat dry chicken breasts.

Place on cutting board and slice each breast in half.

Rub a little Grapeseed oil on both sides of sliced breast and then generally season with spice rub.

Add chicken breast to grill pan and cook about two minutes on each side.

Remove from pan, place on a baking sheet and place in 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 10minutes.

Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Let there be potato salad

Barbecue chicken and baked beans are lonely without potato salad.

Memorial Day.  4th of July. Labor Day.  Outdoor picnics.

For these occasions,  there will be potato salad on the table.

Potato salad is just not salad.

It’s a rite of summer passage, an American tradition, the obligatory side chick, and the expected accompaniment.

And to be honest, in some circles it’s just plain sacrilegious if it’s not on the summer picnic table.

Potato salad be free

When it comes to potatoes, there are many choices.

A lot of liberty can be taken in making potato salad.

I’ve had it hot, cold, made with bacon, bleu cheese, oven roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes,  dill pickles, olive oil vinaigrette, chunky, mashed and I can go on.

The bland tators – whether white, red, russet, sweet, gold, purple, sweet or Jersey – are the perfect blank canvas to express your potato proclivities.   And frankly, there really are “no rules” when making potato salad, no matter what your Nana or Uncle Bubba might say

My potato salad

What potato salad will be on my Labor Day table?

So glad you asked.

It’s absent of eggs and pickles, because they are not my fave, and it has my beloved fresh tarragon and a lovely, smoky light dressing.

So, without any addition fanfare or narrative, the recipe is below. Thanks to the folks at Goya Foods for providing some of the ingredients used in this recipe. Have a wonderful Labor Day!

Potato Salad CGC (Collard Greens and Style)

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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No eggs or pickles here, but add them if you must!


Ingredients

2 pounds red potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch cubes
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
½ cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoon chopped Katamala olives
1 ½ cups garlic flavored mayonnaise (Best Foods or Hellmann’s)
1 heaping tablespoon mustard (Dijon, brown deli, spicy, Cajun or whatever you like)
3 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Goya Adobo All Purpose Light Seasoning
1/8 teaspoon liquid smoke flavor

Directions

  1. Place the peeled and cut potatoes and 1 tablespoon of salt in a large pot of water. Boil the potatoes in for 15 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes thoroughly, and transfer them to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
  2.  In a small bowl make the dressing by whisking together the garlic mayonnaise, mustard, olive oil, sesame seed oil, liquid smoke flavor, salt, celery seed and Goya Adobo All Purpose Light Seasoning.
  3.  Add the chopped bell pepper, red onion, chopped olives, tarragon and dill to potatoes in the mixing bowl. Add mayonnaise dressing and gently fold it in to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

A close up to make you hungry.

My croquette obsession and a recipe that celebrates it

SoCali Vegetable Croquettes made with collard greens and Jersey sweet potatoes

Oh the virtues of the croquette.

I absolutely love them.

Croquettes were a staple menu item when I was a child. I grew up eating mackerel croquettes – probably because salmon was a bit pricey. Mom often made them for Sunday breakfast before church and she served them with buttered white rice.  That is a memory I will never forget.

While most of the time mom made croquettes from canned mackerel, I learned that they could be made of anything from minced meat, rice, potatoes and vegetables. Mom would pan fry her croquettes in a little Crisco shortening or lard. Perhaps that’s the reason they tasted so good.

When I look back,  my fondest food memory is perching myself beside the stove top and anxiously waiting until Mom scooped a croquette out of her well-seasoned cast iron skillet with a dinner fork. Once she placed the tester on a paper towel to drain, I would barely let it cool before picking it up because I wanted to devour it before my siblings came into the kitchen. That first, hot, tasty bite was moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside. And for me, it was the perfect prelude to what was to come.

My Food Network Experience

Veronica Hendrix mixing up chicken croquettes on Food Network show “Clash of the Grandma’s.”

Late last year, you saw me make chicken croquettes on the Food Network show, Clash of the Grandma’s. And by the way, that recipe is featured in my latest cookbook.

The response from the viewers was amazing. A fried, crunchy, bite-size croquette made with chicken and vegetables made viewers drool. What viewers didn’t know at the time  was those croquettes were a composite of my childhood and family history. That’s why making them looked so effortless, and they were.

As a nod to my mom, my southern sensibilities and my love of croquettes, I developed a special croquette recipe that includes two of my favorite ingredients: collard greens and sweet potatoes. Just because it’s a vegan’s delight, completely dairy free doesn’t mean it isn’t packed with flavor and sheer satisfaction.

Carnivore, pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan? It doesn’t matter. This croquette is for you.

The croquette recipe

For this recipe, creamed corn and coconut flour are the perfect ingredients to bind it all together. The use of fresh tarragon enhances the warmth of the collard greens and Jersey sweet potato. This recipe is a tasty departure from traditional salmon, chicken or potato croquettes.  I call it “SoCali” to pay homage to my native Southern California roots and my Alabama family heritage. And one more thing –  these golden brown little beauties could be the talk of your next soirée.

Thanks to the great folks at Cut’N Clean Greens for providing the collard greens to make this recipe. I’ve said enough. The recipe is below. And as always in parting, cook fearlessly and eat well my foodie friends.

SoCali Vegetable Croquettes

  • Servings: makes 20-22 croquettes
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

A delicious vegan and dairy free croquette made with collard greens and Jersey sweet potatoes.


Ingredients

1~ 1 pound package Cut’N Clean collard greens
1 teaspoon garlic
1 1/2 cup chopped red onions
2 medium grated carrots
2 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon
2/3 cup cream corn
2 cups baked Jersey Sweet Potato mash (I used the microwave in this recipe)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black or cracked pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon white sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons coconut flour
Corn, canola, peanut or Grapeseed oil for deep frying
Panko bread crumbs

Directions

  1. Prick Jersey sweet potatoes with a fork and bake or microwave them (which are white inside) until soft when skin is pressed. When done, remove skin and scoop out a total of two cups of Jersey Sweet potato filling. Place filling in a bowl and lightly mash, leaving lots of texture.  Note: Microwave time can vary between 7 to 15 minutes depending on size and density. Baking time is approximately 45 minutes in a 400° F  oven.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to a large skillet set on medium heat. When oil is heated, add chopped onions and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly unit till translucent. Add garlic and Cut’N Clean collard greens. Season greens with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and sugar.  Mix well and stir constantly over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until greens are tender and bright green.
  3. Stir in chopped tarragon and carrots. Remove from heat and cover for 15 minutes.
  4. Once greens mixture is cooled, place on cutting board and give it a rough chop, just to break up the larger cuts of greens.
  5. Add chopped greens mixture to the  mixing bowl with the Jersey Sweet potatoes. Add 2 tablespoons of coconut flour and 2/3 cups of creamed corn. Blend until mixture comes together.
  6. Using a measuring table spoon, scoop up mixture and form into round balls. Coat each ball in Panko bread coating.

Frying croquettes

If you use an electric deep fryer, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how much oil to use. If using a sauce pan or small Dutch oven (as featured in this method) fill pan halfway with oil.

  1. Preheat your oil to somewhere between 350° F  to 375° F. Oil that’s ready for frying will bubble around the stick end of a wooden spoon when it’s inserted. If your oil begins to smoke, you know it’s too hot.
  2. With a slotted spoon or slotted spatula, carefully lower one test Panko coated croquette into the oil. Once it enters the hot oil, things happen fast.  Be sure to stir with the slotted spoon while cooking — this will fry your croquette more evenly. Use this single croquette as a test to see how much time it takes to achieve your desired brownness. Just 30 seconds may be enough or you may need up to 60 seconds.
  3. Remove the test croquette from pan when done and drain on a  plate or sheet pan lined with a paper towel.
  4. After your test croquette, lower no more than three Panko coated croquettes into the oil. Stir with the slotted spoon while frying.  After 30 seconds or more, remove from oil, drain and repeat until all are deep fried.
  5. Serve with your favorite ranch dressing. Or for a smoky and spicier dipping sauce, thoroughly blend a teaspoon of chipotle chili pepper or a tablespoon of hot sauce into a cup of ranch dressing.

TIP: Make sure to remove stems from Cut’N Clean Greens before cooking.

 

Baked Jersey Sweet potato, scooped out and ready for use.

 

Saute of red onions, garlic, collard greens seasoned with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and sugar.

 

Fresh tarragon and grated carrots are added to the greens mixture.

 

Greens mixture chopped and mixed with Jersey sweet potato, cream corn and coconut flour.

 

Croquettes formed and rolled in Panko bread coating.

 

Croquette frying in hot oil.

SoCali Vegetable Croquettes plated. Enjoy!