A post Valentine’s Day sister friend recipe

Easy Lemon and Parsley Panko Salmon served here with Mac and Cheese and and seasoned string beans.

I’ve had my share of loves and lovers.

I have no regrets.

The gift of Valentine’s Day

There is something about Valentine’s Day that makes me focus less on the love I’ve lost, but more on the love that I have.

It hasn’t always been that way.

Yet experience is the best teacher and gratitude keeps a heart humble.

My friendships with my sister friends have been a great source of strength, comfort and beauty in my life. God only knows the value they bring to my life , and to be honest I haven’t been the best in letting them know.

Left: My Bestie Anne Dunn. Right: Me, Veronica Hendrix

A sister friend for life

Anne Dunn is one of those sister friends. I’ve known her for nearly 30 years. I started out working for her at the Los Angeles City Commission of the Status of Women where we used our legislative bully pulpit to advocate for fair and equitable treatment of women and girls in all aspects of their lives.

Those were the days for sure. We made a difference and played an integral role in shaping the policies and laws that affect the treatment of women and girls not just in the city of Los Angeles, but the state and nation.

Today our lives have taken different paths, but the friendship and bond we forged has been unbreakable and enduring over the years. She is my bestie and thank goodness the best sounding board I have, not to mention her wise wit and thought provoking wisdom I so appreciate. We all need an “Anne” in our lives.

A sister friend recipe

Recently Anne and I hung out in my kitchen. Our task was to create a quick and tasty entrée that could be served “sister style.”

Meyer lemons from Anne’s bountiful, backyard tree. The best lemons ever.

We didn’t tinker around too much because when you start with salmon and the most amazing Meyer lemons from her backyard tree, you better believe deliciousness will be the result.

The salmon recipe we created is moist and flavorful. The grated lemon zest in the Panko bread crumb topping is subtle and the lemon marinade that is basted on the salmon before the Panko is pressed on the surface elevates the lemony flavor to delectable heights. Plated, this recipe serves about six sister friends.

Close up of Easy Lemon and Parsley Panko Salmon. So moist and delicious.

So here’s something you can consider. After you enjoy your Valentine’s Day with your sweetie, children and others that you love, perhaps you can gather a few of your sister friends and invite them over for a post Valentine’s Day sister friend meal. I bet they will not only jump at the opportunity, but a few of them would probably be willing to be your sous chef.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and all your beautiful and amazing sister friends. Drop me an email and let me know about your gathering. And lastly, if you would like the recipe for the Mac and Cheese and seasoned green beans, let me know. It was an absolutely delicious and soul satisfying meal.

Easy Lemon and Parsley Panko Salmon

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Very easy
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An easy and delicious salmon recipe with a lemony twist.

Ingredients

Salmon
2 to 2 ½ pound salmon filet (skinless featured in this recipe)
baking sheet
parchment paper

Panko coating
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon chopped curly leaf parsley
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest (firmly packed)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil

Vinaigrette marinade
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard (Trader Joes brand featured in this recipe)

Directions

    1. Gather all your ingredients.
    2. Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit.
    3. In a mixing bowl add and stir together Panko bread crumbs, chopped parsley,grated lemon zest, salt, garlic powder and sugar.
    4. Drill olive oil over mixture and blend thoroughly with a fork. Set mixture aside.
    5. In  a separate small mixing bowl, make vinaigrette by adding lemon juice, olive oil, salt, honey and Dijon mustard.
    6. Whisk with a fork or wire whisk until blended.
    7. Place salmon filet on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Generously brush salmon filet with vinaigrette.

      Salmon filet oven ready.

    8. Spread the Panko mixture evenly over salmon filet covering the entire surface, and lightly press the Panko mixture on to the surface to make sure it stays on.
    9. Place baking sheet in oven and bake at 375 Fahrenheit  for 25 minute until lightly brown.
    10. Remove and serve “sister style” (family style) with lemon wedges.

Love is a happy, healthy heart

Chicken breasts cooking on stove top grill pan.

I have no trepidation about Valentine’s Day.

While the arrow wielding, chubby little cherub has struck me with a few arrows that didn’t exactly stick, I am not jaded about love, nor do I have a myopic view of it either.

Love makes the heart happy

Me and my grandson. He makes my heart happy.

I have had the good fortune of experiencing deep, passionate love.

I’ve also been blessed with the honor and privilege of experiencing maternal love.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the sisterly love that remains wrapped around my life like a snug cocoon.

Love, oh love

The range of love I’ve experienced has led me to believe this one thing: the reciprocity of love is the essence of what makes love that splendid thing I do not want to live without.

I no longer  think of Valentine’s Day in term of flowers, cards or candy.  But I won’t turn them down.

I think of Valentine’s Day in terms of recognizing the people who continue to surround me with pillars of love.

Gee, I’m getting a little misty eyed.

The cost of Love

Valentine’s Day is just one of countless moments in our lives we pause to celebrate or proclaim those we love, those who bring value and beauty our lives.

That calendar celebration and proclamation is far too often a pricey exploit.

According to the National Retail Federation,” U.S. consumers are expected to spend an average $143.56 on Valentine’s Day. Total spending is expected to reach $19.6 billion, up from $18.2 billion last year.”

That’s a lot of clams, lavish dinners, sparkling jewels and premium roses.

I say go for it. Participate. Partake. Celebrate – responsibly of course.

But after the flowers have wilted and died, the box of Godiva chocolates is empty, the lavish dinner is forgotten,  the heart stirring card is tucked into a cabinet or deposited in the round file, why not make a proclamation to give an enduring gift of love – the gift a healthy heart.

Healthy Heart Month

Valentine’s Day is just a day, albeit a somewhat significant one.  But the entire month of February is observed as American Heart Month which seems to get completely overshadowed.

Since 1964, a Presidential proclamation has been issued to commemorate American Heart Month. Why? Because cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of deaths in America.  The National Heart Association says that every 38 seconds a person dies of cardiovascular disease (stroke, coronary artery disease, heart attack). That’s about 2,300 people a day, and 2,300 families who lives have abruptly shifted and changed. My family experienced the untimely death of a beloved and cherished member due to heart disease.

There is good news Dear Heart

Knowing your family history and making lifestyle changes (managing stress, losing weight, getting physically active, making healthy choices in what you eat, and cutting back on alcoholic beverages) can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease significantly, as much as 80%.

Healthy heart recipe – start here

Pan Grilled Chicken Breast with Chick Pea Sauce

Your assignment during American Heart Month is to eat more heart healthy meals as a declaration of the love you have for yourself, and as a declaration of the love you have for those you cherish.

My Pan Grilled Chicken Breast with Chick Pea Sauce is a heart healthy gift I give to you. The chicken is moist, tender and flavorful. The Chick Pea Sauce, made with fresh thyme and lemon juice, is savory and soul satisfying.  An option is to finish the plating with pan grilled corn cut from the cob. This is a meal that will make your heart happy and your lips part with a smile.

I’d like to thanks the great folks at Goya Foods for providing some of the ingredients used in making this recipe.

Talk about it

Have a heart to heart chat with yourself Dear Heart. There is no time like the present, and no better time than during American Heart Month to give yourself and those you love the gift of a healthy heart.

Now that’s real love my foodie friends. Time for you to get cooking!

Pan Grilled Chicken Breast with Chick Pea Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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A delicious, hearty healthy meal

Ingredients

2 boneless chicken breasts (Simple Truth Organic Chicken Breast featured here)
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice for chicken marinade
½ teaspoon lemon juice for Chickpea Sauce
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1~ 15.5 ounce Goya Chick Peas, drained
2/3 cup chicken stock
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ear of corn, husk and silk removed

Directions

  1. Wash and pat dry chicken breasts. Place chicken breasts on a cutting board and slice each one in half to yield four pieces. Generously season chicken breast slice with salt and cracked pepper.
  2. To a small bowl add 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon chopped thyme leaves, and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder. Mix well and pour into a plastic zipper storage bag.  Add seasoned chicken breast slices to marinade, seal the bag and marinade 15 minutes. Massage and turn the bag a few times.
  3. While chicken is marinating, to a skillet or stove top grill pan set at medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of Grapeseed or corn oil and pan grill the ear of corn. Rotate the corn in pan until it is lightly browned on all sides. Remove from heat, set aside and let cool.
  4. Remove chicken breast from marinade after 15 minutes and place them in the same skillet or grill pan. Cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes until medium brown in color.
  5. When done, remove chicken breast from skillet or grill pan and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Place in a 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes.
  6. While chicken is in the oven, to a blender add drained Chick Peas, ¼ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, cracked pepper, 2/3 cup of chicken stock.
  7. Use the liquidfy setting and blend until creamy.
  8. Pour sauce into a small sauce pan. Place sauce pan on stove top and bring to a gentle boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. When done, remove from heat, keep warm.
  9. Remove chicken from oven after 10 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes. While chicken is resting, cut the corn from the cob (video here).
  10. Place a chicken breast on a plate, spoon Chick Pea sauce over breast, top with grilled corn and fresh chopped thyme. (Note: as featured here, chicken breasts are sliced at a diagonal before plating. See “Happy New Year, happy new food,” for example.

 

Be a fearless Valentine

Love can be scary.croxetti-pasta-heart

Now that I have your attention, I’ll repeat it again – love can be scary.

It has frightened me many a time because it requires such vulnerability, compromise and dare I say surrender.

But to find love and experience love requires a bit of fearlessness not only in your pursuit of love but in your expression of love when you think you have found “the one.”

Why am I, a food blogger, talking about love?

Valentine’s Day has a way of making me think about the pursuit of love and more importantly, the preservation of love.

The way to the heart

We’ve all heard the adage that the way to the heart is through the stomach, right? Well actually you heard it this way; the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. But I submit that this phase should be gender neutral because my heart has been enraptured a time or two by a gentleman whose  fearless culinary skills took my breath away with each bite of  a  wonderfully prepared meal he made for me.

Valentine’s Day is approaching and perhaps you had a fleeting thought of making a romantic meal then that thought vanished as quickly as it appeared. I say be a fearless Valentine and make that romantic meal.

My Roasted Yellow Bell Pepper Alfredo Pasta with Pan Grilled Shrimp is a fearless choice and Valentine’s Day worthy.

The pan roasted yellow bell peppers and the hint of nutmeg makes this creamy sauce warm and cozy. The grilled shrimp makes it decedent and satisfying. If you can find Croxetti pasta,  you will certainly elicit a “wow what an interesting pasta” response.  If you can’t get your hands on a bag of Croxetti, use Farfalle or Bow Tie pasta. Yes, this dish arouses the palate and the senses as well.

Here’s a suggested menu for your Valentine:

Starters

Salad featuring your favorite garden greens. Be adventurous and add some thinly sliced Asian pears or Honeycrisp apples brushed with a little lemon juice, walnuts, cranberries and a little roughly chopped fresh mint. Toss the salad with a delicate champagne vinaigrette you can purchase from most grocery stores or specialty markets.

Entrée

Yellow Roasted Bell Pepper Alfredo Pasta with Pan Grill Shrimp – recipe below.

Dessert

Pound cake (store bought or homemade) with vanilla ice cream drizzled with a Limoncello liquor and shaved white chocolate if you dare.

If you decide to pass on making this meal for Valentine’s Day, by all means plan some time to make it at a later date. The love shown in making a meal for someone who puts a sparkle in your eyes shouldn’t be limited to Valentine’s Day. Preparing a meal for that special  someone is definitely a way to their heart all year long.

Roasted Yellow Bell Pepper Alfredo Pasta with Pan Grilled Shrimp

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Ingredients
1 large yellow bell pepper
1/3  cup chopped red onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 tablespoon butter
16 ounces half and half
3 cup Croxetti  or bow tie pasta (uncooked)
½ fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 pinch of nutmeg
½ – 1  teaspoon salt to taste
1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
Oil (canola, corn, grapeseed)
3 tablespoon pine nuts
cracked pepper
parsley, roughly chopped

Method
To a non-stick skillet set on medium heat, add pine nuts and stir until lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside in a separate dish.

Rinse shelled and deveined shrimp and pat dry. Add a little cooking oil (about 1 tablespoon) to a non-stick skillet set on medium heat. Add half of the shrimp, lightly sprinkle with salt and cook until medium brown on both sides. (Remember over crowding the pan will cause the shrimp to steam instead of cook and get a nice, brown color.) This may take approximately 2-3 minutes for each side until they are done.

Remove shrimp from pan into another dish and keep warm. Add more oil if needed and repeat with the remainder of the shrimp. When done, remove and cover with foil to keep warm.

picmonkey-collage-pine-nuts-shrimp
Cut bell pepper into strips. (Note: for best results, steam bell pepper strips 3-4 minutes in a steamer basket before browning in skillet.)

Lightly coat a non-stick skillet with cooking spray.  Heat pan on medium heat. Add bell pepper strips and brown on both sides. Color should be slightly charred. Remove from heat and cool.  Place bell pepper on a cutting board surface and chop into pieces. Set aside.

picmonkey-collage-bellpepper
Begin cooking Croxetti or bow tie pasta accord to al dente directions.

croxetti-pasta

In the same skillet used for the bell pepper, add butter. When melted, add chopped onion and sauté  on medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute.

Add half and half, a pinch of nutmeg, salt and Parmesan cheese to pan with the onion and garlic mixture.  Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently about 2-3 minutes until sauce is thickened.

Remove pan the from heat and carefully pour sauce into a blender. Add chopped bell pepper to the blender. Place a towel over the blender top and hold it down securely. Blend the mixture until smooth.

picmonkey-collage-croxetti-in-sauce-shrimp
Pour mixture back into a skillet. Add a little cracked pepper.  Heat about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add cooked pasta and lightly toss pasta until it is completely covered with the sauce.  Add pan grilled shrimp to pan and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.

Serve with fresh chopped parsley and addition grated Parmesan cheese if you like.

A story and a cupcake aiming straight at your heart

Valentines dayHe reached out his hand and slowly grasped the cup of iced Café Americano from her hand.

His strong fingers lightly caressed her delicate hand as she demurely released the cup from her grasp. He paused a minute. His eyes danced as he searched her effervescent face. She smiled coyly and said, “Thank you.” He winked at the charming young Barista, then gently pressed his business card into the palm of her hand, and left the coffee house with a swaggering gait and a heart filled with excitement about the possibilities. Continue reading