Lemon Pasta from John Alberti

It doesn’t get any easier than this. Lemon Pasta is inexpensive to make, easy and quick to prepare, and is a delicious lemony, cheesy pasta delight. Lemon Pasta is a perfect main dish or as a side dish served alongside any lightly grilled protein.

I discovered this recipe watching Hoda and Kathie Lee while I was getting a mani/pedi. Devine intervention. I love lemon, in whatever form it comes. Lemon has such a pleasing and uplifting scent. Any lemon carcasses are put through the garbage disposal for a lingering, fresh-smelling aroma. Take a look at a lemon-sour cherry coffee cake I love to bake: Macrina Bakery Lemon Sour Cherry Coffee CakeSeriously delicious.

The ladies were cooking up dishes made with lemons and the Alberti twins, John & Tony. While downing shots of Limoncello between bites of pasta and Limoncello cake. Looked like a very happy show! Then, Huda and Kathie Lee always have a happy show.

Anyway, I can’t take credit for Lemon Pasta. John Alberti gets all the credit. (As well as the photo.) It’s such an easy and basic recipe. I’m certain every Italian nonna around the world has made something very similar, if not the exact recipe. Don’t leave out the fresh basil. In addition to lemon, I love the flavor and smell of basil – a refreshing and sensory herb. A girlfriend of mine sent me home with a hunk from her garden that I used here. Thanks, Cindy!

I prepared half the recipe for us served with a leftover salmon filet and a big green salad. No garlic bread, unless you love your carbs. There are plenty of carbs in the pasta. (I love carbs, but we need to watch our dietary intake.  Garlic bread is now on our “I have to have now it or I’ll die” list.)  Or it can be made with low-carb pasta or pasta made from quinoa or whole wheat. There are so many options available now.

Get out the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, basil, and linguine. Buon appetito!

at mimi's table signature

Lemon Pasta from John Alberti
It doesn't get any easier than this. Lemon Pasta is inexpensive to make, easy and quick to prepare, and is a delicious lemony, cheesy pasta delight. Lemon Pasta is a perfect main dish with a big green salad, or as a side dish served alongside any lightly grilled protein.
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 4-6 servings
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 1 pound linguini
  • ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • Salt & Pepper as needed
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook linguini according to package directions to slightly less than "al dente."
  2. While the pasta is cooking, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and basil in a large saute pan. Heat over medium heat.
  3. With tongs, lift the cooked pasta out of the pot and into the saute pan with the lemon sauce. Use tongs to integrate the sauce and pasta. Remove the saute pan from the heat.
  4. Add grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Lift with tongs until incorporated. Add the fresh basil, and toss again to incorporate.
  5. Serve with extra grated Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh basil.
Notes
Lemon Pasta may be served as a main dish with a big green salad, or as a side dish for lightly grilled fish or meat.
Substitute any pasta alternative for linguine: quinoa, bean, gluten-free, whole wheat. Cook according to package directions.

 

 

Patriotic Red, White and Blue Jello Bars

When my kids were growing up, we always made this fun dessert for 4th of July. I hadn’t made it for a while. But, now that I have a whole gaggle of new boys to spoil, it was time to retrieve my tried and true recipe.

There’s a sweet and crunchy graham cracker crust topped and layered with red, white and blue jello that’s mixed with canned fruit pie filling and a yummy lemony cream cheese layer in the middle. Patriotic Red, White, and Blue Jello Bars are an easy treat that’s quickly assembled. Cold and creamy, it’s the perfect end to any summer barbeque. I assemble the crust and jello layers in a 9″x13″ pan. This feeds a lot of folks – perfect for a family and friends get together.

I like to slice the jello into squares so everyone can see the layers. But, this year, my son-in-law scooped it up and served the dessert in old-fashioned soda glasses topped with whipped cream. Awesome! And the boys LOVED it! Don’t wait for another 4th of July holiday. Whip this up anytime you’re in the mood for a quick, cool, no-bake dessert.

Let’s make up a panful, shall we? 

Patriotic Red, White, and Blue Jello Bars
Patriotic Red, White, and Blue Jello Bars is a scrumptious, crunchy sweet dessert suitable for any summer treat. No baking required. It's quickly assembled, feeds plenty, and is a sure hit for any summertime gathering.
Author:
Cuisine: American
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 12-16 servings
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 1 sleeve graham crackers made into crumbs in a Cuisinart, or substitute 2 cups of ground graham crackers
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Blue Layer:
  • 1 3oz package of blueberry or blackberry jello
  • 1 can blueberry pie filling
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • White Layer:
  • 1 8oz brick of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup whipped cream or Cool Whip
  • 1 3oz package lemon jello
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Red Layer:
  • 1 3oz package cherry jello
  • 1 can cherry pie filling
  • 1 cup boiling water
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, crumble one sleeve graham crackers. Add 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar. Whirl until combined. Add 6 Tablespoons melted butter. Whirl until combined. Pat graham cracker crust into the bottom of a 9"x13" baking dish. Chill in refrigerator while making the next layer.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, add the package of blueberry or blackberry jello. Pour in one cup of boiling water. Stir until gelatin is dissolved. Add one can blueberry or blackberry pie filling. Mix until combined. Remove graham cracker crust from refrigerator. Pour the blue mixture evenly over the top of the crust. Return to refrigerator until set - 15-20 minutes.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, cream softened cream cheese with a hand mixer until soft. Add package of lemon jello and one cup boiling water. Whisk or use hand mixer to completely incorporate. Add one cup whipped cream or Cool Whip. Mix until combined. Pour over the cold and set blueberry/blackberry layer. Return to the refrigerator until set - 15-20 minutes.
  4. In a medium sized bowl, add the package of cherry jello. Add one cup boiling water. Whisk until gelatin is dissolved. Add canned cherry pie filling and stir until combined. Remove the pan from the refrigerator and pour the cherry mixture evenly over the lemon layer. Cover with plastic wrap and return to refrigerator for 1-2 hours until all layers are set.
  5. At service, spread whipped cream or Cool Whip over the entire surface. Cut into squares or bars.
Notes
The jello dessert can be scooped up into a bowl or glass and topped with whipped cream or Cool Whip.

 

Macrina Bakery Lemon Sour Cherry Coffee Cake

at mimi's table macrina bakery logo seattle washington

Macrina Bakery’s Lemon Sour Cherry Coffee Cake is one of the best cake recipes in my arsenal. The Macrina Bakery is in Seattle. I’ve not been there, but it is a well-loved bakery in the area. You know, like the Magnolia Bakery in New York. I’ve never been there either, but have their cookbook.

The original Macrina cake was presented upside down. The round edges of the bundt were hitting the plate, which made for a flat top. The glaze was poured over and pooled on top and dripped down the sides. Then garnished with rehydrated dried sour cherries on top. Lovely, very lovely.

However, I like my bundt cakes right side up. It’s easier to cut that way, right, but a fabulous presentation is theirs. I’ve also baked the cake in two large loaf pans, so we can eat one and freeze the other. I’ve taken this cake in its various forms everywhere. Ladies bridge (lame, but that’s the kind of Mimi I am), church pitch-ins, family gatherings – it’s perfect – loads of compliments!

at mimi's table macrina bakery lemon sour cherry coffee cake 1 seattle washington

This recipe makes a large batter. It fit perfectly in my 10-cup bundt pan but would work in a 12-cup pan, too. And little mini bundts or mini loaves – another idea for individual service – so cute!

at mimi's table 10 cup nordic ware party bundt cake pan

Talk about CUTE! Take a look at this Nordic Ware Party Bundt pan. My lovely friend Beth and I talked about how much I coveted this bundt pan. Perfect slices. No more straddling between peaks and valleys in a traditional bundt. Then, for crying out loud, she gifted it to me at Christmas. It is perfect. Thanks, Beth!

Why do I love this recipe? It has lots of lemony flavor. Anything with sour cherries and lemon is a win-win in my book. And Greek yogurt is used in the recipe instead of sour cream. Yogurt can be used as a substitute for any recipe that calls for sour cream. Did you know that? I do substitute often to help cut down on fat in lots of different recipes, sweet and savory. But, I mean, it’s cake. The recipe calls for a cup of butter in addition to yogurt. Why am I cutting down on fat? I don’t know. It makes me feel righteous, I guess, and somehow health conscious. Whatever …

at mimi's table macrina bakery lemon sour cherry coffee cake 3

Isn’t this beautiful out of the pan? If you try this cake recipe, I’d love to hear your comments.

Shall we make a beautiful lemony-cherry cake?
I think so.

Macrina Bakery Lemon Sour Cherry Coffee Cake
Macrina Bakery's Lemon Sour Cherry Coffee Cake is one of the best cake recipes in my arsenal. Perfectly moist with a balanced taste of lemon and sour cherry, this cake will become one of your favorites.
Cuisine: American
Recipe type: Cake
Serves: 24 slices
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • For the Cake
  • 1½ cups dried tart cherries. I used dried Montmorency cherries from Trader Joe's.
  • 4 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 5 eggs
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • For the Glaze
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Instructions
  1. DIRECTIONS
  2. Preheat oven to 325F.
  3. Spray a 10-12-cup bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  4. Place the dried cherries in a medium bowl and cover with hot tap water.
  5. Let the cherries soak for 10 minutes, then drain thoroughly and pat dry between two
  6. sheets of paper toweling; set aside.
  7. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl; whisk and set aside.
  8. Combine the butter, sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  9. Using the paddle attachment, mix on medium speed for 5 to 8 minutes, until the mixture
  10. becomes smooth and pale in color.
  11. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding
  12. another.
  13. After all the eggs have been incorporated into the batter, slowly add the lemon juice, and mix for 1 more minute.
  14. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and mix for 30 more seconds.
  15. Remove the bowl from the mixer and alternately add small amounts of the flour mixture and the yogurt to the batter, mixing with a wooden spoon or spatula until all dry ingredients are incorporated.
  16. Set aside 10 – 12 cherries for garnish, then gently fold the remaining cherries into the batter. be careful not to overmix.
  17. Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, filling two-thirds of the pan.
  18. Bake on center rack of the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown.
  19. Check the center of the cake with a skewer; if it comes out clean, the cake is done.
  20. Cool the cake on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes.
  21. Invert the pan to remove the cake, and let it cool completely.
  22. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl; add the lemon zest and lemon juice.
  23. Mix with a spoon until smooth, then drizzle over the cooled coffee cake.
  24. Top with the reserved plump cherries.
Notes
Macrina Bakery gets all the credit for this recipe. I added 1 teaspoon lemon extract, but the rest is theirs. Please read about the Macrina Bakery and visit their website. Enjoy!

 

Shrimp Tacos

at mimi's table mexican shrimp tacos

Simply put: This is one of the most delicious taco recipes ever! Jessica and I made this for “Cinco de Mayo.” Marinated and grilled shrimp offers up the perfect shrimpy bite. And I mean PERFECT! These shrimp tacos are an amazing combination of flavors and textures. They’re refreshing, too. Do I sound excited? Oh, my mouth is watering!

And a Negra Modelo. Doesn’t get any better. Truly! My son-in-law introduced me to Negra Modelo a long time ago when he and my daughter went to a late lunch. So good and flavorful – it’s the perfect beverage with good Mexican food.

When Richard and I vacationed in Mexico a few years ago, I ordered Negra Modelo. The beer was delivered in a tumbler-sized glass filled with ice. Lime juice freshly squeezed over the ice, and a healthy portion or lime juice. The Modelo was served alongside to pour over the ice and lime juice. Oh, so refreshing!

The cooked shrimp are placed in warmed corn tortillas, doubled, so two tortillas for each ta top. Then a layer of finely shredded cabbage for a nice crunch topped with this amazing sauce from Indian chef Aarti Sequeira at the Food Network. I didn’t have banana peppers, but if you like a tangy bite with a little heat, I’d put a few of those on, too, before digging in.

at mimi's table shrimp tacos grilling shrimp

In fact, this is Arati’s Fish Taco recipe. I substituted shrimp and added the guac. I’ve made this dish with fish, too, and it’s equally delicious. Thanks, Arati!

at mimi's table shrimp tacos zachy endorsed

Zachy Endorsed

If you try your hand at Shrimp Tacos, I’d love to know what you think!

Let’s make up a batch, shall we?  

Shrimp Tacos
These Shrimp Tacos are a delicious bite of heaven. Quick and satisfying. Serve with a chilled Negra Modelo for a perfect meal.
Author:
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 3-4 servings
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • For The Shrimp
  • 2 lbs raw large shrimp (21-25/pound count), peeled and deveined
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For The Sauce
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 lime, juiced, plus extra if necessary
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • At Service
  • 24-6" corn tortillas, wrapped in foil and warmed in the oven at 225 degrees for 10-15 minutes
  • Finely shredded cabbage or angel hair coleslaw mix
  • Pickled banana peppers
  • 1-2 fresh limes cut into wedges
Instructions
  1. Rinse shrimp in a colander under cool running water. Line a baking sheet with a double thickness of paper towels. Put the shrimp on top and cover with another layer of double paper toweling. Pat dry.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the marinade ingredients. Add shrimp and toss until it's well coated. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the sauce ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator to let the flavors blend.
  4. If you're serving homemade guacamole, now's the time to put that together. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  5. Divide tortillas into two stacks. Wrap tortillas with aluminum foil and set inside a 225F degree oven to warm.
  6. On the stove, heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Begin to grill the shrimp in batches making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Grill for two minutes on each side, or until the shrimp turn pink. Be sure not to overcook the shrimp, because they will become tough.
  7. As the shrimp cook, remove them to a bowl covered with aluminum foil.
  8. To Serve
  9. Set out warm tortillas, cooked shrimp, shredded cabbage, guacamole, sauce, and banana peppers buffet-style. Let everyone assemble their own tacos with whatever they like.
Notes
Shrimp Tacos may be served with refried beans, Mexican rice, or a salad. I've never cooked seafood on an outdoor grill, so I can't comment, but they certainly could be grilled. Enjoy!

 

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part Four: What a Difference!

at mimi's table mimi's kitchen remodel part 4 cabinets 1

WOW! What a difference a week makes. All the flooring is installed. All the wall and island cabinets are in place. This picture is misleading. The wall cabinets are all the same color, Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray.

at mimi's table mimi's kitchen remodel part 4 flooring 1

I’ve received a lot of compliments on the flooring. It’s Cortec’s “Sherwood Rustic Pine.” It’s a laminate approved for installation in wet areas and is guaranteed not to swell if wet. It is beautiful! Here’s more info from the US Floors website about Cortec Plus HD™ Collection:

This collection employs Embossed In Register (E.I.R.) technology along with a 4 side painted micro bevel edge for a realistic visual unlike any other LVP or WPC product available today. The COREtec Plus HD™ Collection represents the latest innovation in WPC flooring as a superior alternative to glue-down LVP, locking LVP and Laminate flooring.  The patented construction features an innovative extruded core made from recycled wood and bamboo dust, limestone and virgin PVC. COREtec Plus HD™ is 100% waterproof, can be installed in wet areas and will never swell when exposed to water. The product does not require acclimation and can be floated over most any existing floor surfaces or substrates without telegraphing that you see from other locking or glue-down LVP products. COREtec Plus HD is GREENGUARD GOLD Certified for Indoor Air Quality to help keep your home healthy and happy.

Yes, it is a beautiful floor! Not too dark. Not too light. This laminate is advertised as pet and kid friendly – theoretically no scratches. It has a gorgeous texture and simulates real wood flooring with an even distribution of color and contrast. I chose “Sherwood Rustic Pine” because it has a hint of rust. The color not only matches up well with my cabinet/island/wall color but will compliment my dining room furniture. (Ethan Allen Country French in Fruitwood finish #236.)

at mimi's table mimi's kitchen remodel part 4 flooring 2

The flooring continues through the kitchen/dining room/living room area including a small under the steps closet, powder room and a small hallway to my laundry room threshold and door entry into the garage.

I also had the Cortec flooring installed over a set of steps that leads to the upstairs stairwell. Previously white carpet was placed in this area and up the stairway, not a clean look or happy transition. These small stairs, a passway between the kitchen and family rooms, are heavily trafficked, not only by humans but the four-legged kind as well. (I have a dog. You know what I mean.) The threshold was ugly. Even after carpet cleaning, it was only days before the threshold looked as awful as it did before. Look at the lovely step threshold! Another WOW! And much easier to keep clean.

at mimi's table mimi's kitchen remodel part 4 kitchen island 1

To add some interest, I selected Sherwin Williams “Sandy Ridge” for the island cabinet color. I wanted some contrast from the wall cabinet. “Sandy Ridge” completes the look. Trash and recycle bins are in the cabinet on the far left. Next are cabinets for cutlery and frequently used dishes in drawers. Next, the dishwasher that will have a front panel matching the island cabinets. The 36″ standard sink cabinet and then a 24″ storage unit with rollout drawers in the bottom third. The island is 126 inches. The room allows for plenty of movement from the left and right of the island.

at mimi's table mimi's kitchen remodel part 4 outside island view

Here’s a look at the beaded board kitchen island from the dining room area.

Most of all, this entire area is bright. I have a southern exposure through the living room. There’s a window bank with a northern exposure through the kitchen window overlooking the backyard and golf course. The natural lighting, I believe, will be much welcomed. This space has become so open and big and compliments the really high vaulted ceilings in our home.

No, I won’t store my ironing board in front of the kitchen window. Ha, ha!

Closer and closer. Stay tuned for Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part 5.

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Disclaimer: My opinions are my own. I am not affiliated with any sponsors or suppliers mentioned in this post.

 

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part One

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part Two

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part Three

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part Four

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part Three: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

at mimi's table richard in the pryor mountains husbandism

I’ve read and watched enough about remodeling projects over the years that I knew the entire condo was going to be a real mess. In anticipation of what lay ahead, I sent Richard to Montana. Don’t feel sorry for him – he has business there and has lots to do. But he’s gone for three weeks. This is a good thing for him during the razing.

Here he is where he most loves to be, although he’d like to be there with him. He’s in Montana, surrounded by mountains and big blue skies in the spring just as the landscape is beginning to green up, sandwich in hand. This man loves a picnic. Richard has a few health issues that make it safer for him to be away for a bit. Besides, there’s nowhere for him to sit in the family room or at his desk. He will be happy he missed this part. Good. Very good.

Another Good

at mimi's table mimi's kitchen remodel part three cabinets and flooring arrive

Cabinets and Flooring Arrive!

at mimi's table mimi's kitchen remodel part 3 oven wall

These are Decora cabinets finished in Sherwin Williams’ “Agreeable Gray.” Love this color. It’s a little lighter than my wall color. Not as stark a contrast as white cabinets, my first choice. It will be fabulous! These cabinets are about 2″ deeper than my old ones – didn’t expect that. The cabinet at the far end of the photo is baking sheet/cooling rack storage. I can’t get over the size of the upper storage cabinet. It’s separated into four healthy slots divided front to back by wooden dividers. Good. Very good.

at mimi's table mimi's kitchen remodel part 3 island beaded board

I decided to use beaded board around three sides of the island. The color is Sherwin Williams’ “Sandy Ridge.” It’s just dark enough from the wall and cabinet color to stand out as a focal point for the room. Good. Very good.

The Bad

Our condo was built sometime in the mid to late 1980’s. During his evaluation, the flooring rep felt there was a noticeable dip in the floor between the dining room and living room. When the plumber went into the crawl space, he noticed the living room floor had been raised. Sure enough, looking at the original blueprints we learned the living room was originally a sunken living room.

The floor was raised utilizing a number of 2×4’s, and not so successfully so, at least not for installing a new floor. The carpet in the room effectively hid imperfections in floor height, but because I’m having a laminate floor installed, it is imperative the floor be as level as possible. Bad. Very bad.

at mimi's table mimi's kitchen remodel part three level flooring

A new plywood subfloor is being installed to level the flooring between the dining room and living room. The plywood areas definitely feel substantial compared with the old subfloor.

We also learned that the former owner made subtle adjustments as they installed the tile floor to keep the entire floor on the west side of the condo and into the kitchen and powder room even. Read: Not level. Obvious to all once the carpet and tile were removed. Some of the subfloor was in good shape. On the entryway-powder room side, however, the tile was glued differently onto the subfloor. Bad. Very bad.

at mimi's table mimi's kitchen remodel part 3 moartared floor

The gray glue will have to be scraped or sanded down before the new plywood subfloor is installed. The idea is to keep everything as level as possible and to keep the dried glue from breaking off under the new floor as traffic will cause it to break down. Over time, the new floor would become uneven with noticeable high and low points. It’s just like wallpaper. If you think eventually you or someone will wish to easily remove it, install according to manufacturer’s directions. This is an obvious do-it-yourselfer mistake that makes the process more expensive and time-consuming.

at mimi's table mimi's kitchen remodel part 3 flooring glue

The Ugly

Reader Caution: What you’re about to see is not for the weak of heart. Avert the eyes of small children. Avert the eyes of wives or husbands or partners who assert, “You want to do what?” No explanation needed. The photos speak for themselves.

at mimi's table mimi's kitchen remodel part 3 kitchen floor

Okay. Maybe this one needs explanation. Remember our “do-it-yourselfers?”

The back storm door in the kitchen is one-half inch shorter than standard. To get a standard storm door to fit and to avoid spending hundreds of dollars more for a custom storm, my friends cut off the outside threshold so it would fit. There was nothing for the storm to rest on and seal. Over time, the storm began to fail. Water from rain and melting snow seeped through into the subfloor causing this damage. Richard and I replaced the storm a year ago when our unit was repainted. Yes, we spent the hundreds of dollars to get the threshold rebuilt and for a proper fitting storm. But we did not know the subfloor was damaged. Ugly. Really ugly.

at mimi's table mimi's kitchen remodel part 3 appliance wall

Sledgehammer damage. It happens.

From now on it’s “Beautiful. Really beautiful.” There’s so much to look forward to.

Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.
Brian Tracy

at mimi's table 2017 christmas wreath

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part Four

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part Three

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part Two

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part One

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part Two

Let’s take a look at my rooms being remodeled during the first phase.

at mimi's table kitchen remodel part two move contents

We had to move the contents of the living room, dining room, and kitchen into the family room and office. We’re keeping the old fridge in the garage. Don’t worry. It looks much worse now. Emptied the contents of the laundry room, too, that also served as a pantry.

My daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren helped empty contents of the pantry in the kitchen, all the cabinets, china hutches. Yeah, that’s plural. In all, we moved four sets of dishes, and that does not include the three other sets I have in the garage. Good grief. I have a problem.

Then we hired professional movers to move all the furniture and other heavy stuff. I found a fantastic moving company, Colt MovingIf you live in the Indy area or in Lexington, Kentucky (Wildcat Moving), you can’t go wrong. Colt Moving is great to work with. Reasonably priced, friendly, accommodating, and patient. This is a group of extremely motivated entrepreneurs. I highly recommend their services.

Moving along . . .

at mimi's table mimi's kitchen remodel part two kitchen wall

On the other side of that wall on the left is the kitchen getting a facelift.

at mimi's table mimi's kitchen remodel part two kitchen 1

Carpet, walls, tile, fixtures, and appliances are going. Bye, bye pantry. The whole shebang. I’m saving the old kitchen cabinets to repurpose in the laundry room. We were able to do the cabinet wall demo because it was a half-wall and not a support wall. Lucky, lucky, lucky.

at mimi's table mimi's kitchen remodel part two kitchen wall

 

And Auggie wants to help! She’s staying with Jessica for a couple of weeks until it’s safe to bring her home.

 

 

 

 

How does it look at the end of Phase 2?

at mimi's table mimi's kitchen remodel part two at the beginning

At The Beginning

Living Room to Kitchen

at mimi's table mimi's kitchen remodel phase 2 c

Kitchen to Living Room

All Tile Removed, Frame for Kitchen Island

I’m exhausted! Stay tuned for Phase 3. The laundry room is stripped and drywalled. My cabinets and flooring arrived today. Cabinet install begins tomorrow! Hooray!!!

at mimi's table signature

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part One

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part Two

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part Three

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part Four

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part One

I do admire folks who have the courage and vision for a total kitchen remodel. It’s no project for the weak of heart or wallet. Read: I have no courage. I have a weak heart. I found my wallet at Goodwill. Ugh!

And this is not just a kitchen remodel. It’s a transformation of my kitchen/dining room/living room configuration. Oh, did I mention we’re reconfiguring the laundry room? Yeah, I’m over the top.

Over 40 years of home ownership across several states, I have lived with kitchens designed by former owners. Of course, when I selected a house, the kitchen was the most important element. My selections were thoughtful. But, you know, there’s always something you wish you could change.

When we moved back home to Indiana in 2014, I enjoyed the kitchen in our condo, but it was serious time for an update. Not that the existing kitchen didn’t work for me. I wanted something different. I wanted our common areas to work for me, my family, and guests, especially my husband. Our kitchen was galley-style. Whenever I worked in the kitchen, Richard would come to visit, always standing in front of any drawer, appliance, sink I was in the process of using. I was constantly shooing him away, sometimes with little compassion.

What have I learned so far?

Find people you trust.
This is a big deal. This is an expensive deal. The project will inconvenience everyone for many weeks.
I am blessed with some very special experienced professionals here in the Indy area helping me through the project. It can be an overwhelming undertaking without the right people on your team. I hired a kitchen designer to draw plans, Kate Horton, because I’m not an abstract thinker. Bought my cabinets from ADS in Whitestown from Bob Drollinger who is gentle and patient. Cabinets are freaking expensive – make sure you get the best quality you can afford.
My general contractor, Rick Parks, Rosewood Construction, LLC, is phenomenal. He transformed my master bath, so I have some history with Rick. He is experienced and patient. He listens and answers all my questions without coming across as a “know-it-all.” He gives good advice. He’s installing my cabinets, appliances, and flooring in addition to all the demo work, plumbing, and electricity. A one-stop-shop for me, which makes my project manageable with someone I trust to do the right thing.
Get the vibe. Trust your people instincts. If a contractor makes you feel uncomfortable, keep looking.
Noticed I mention “patience” a lot. I’m a newbie to all this remodel stuff, so patience is a quality I look for.

Have courage and ask for discounts.
I’ve saved thousands of dollars simply asking “Is that the best you can do?” Even going so far as saying “I can find this cheaper online and I don’t pay for shipping or sales tax.” This is a big motivator. Big Box Stores aren’t always the solution – it may be convenient but not always the bargain you’d expect. Hiring an independent local contractor may be cheaper and you’re supporting businesses in your community.

Anxiety – Be prepared
Did I make the right decisions? Are the cabinets properly configured? What about lighting – what is too much or not enough? The biggest concern of mine was to have proper flow through the kitchen/dining room for my very helpful accommodating family. I’m doing an open concept so the entire space will be kitchen/dining room/living room in one continuous design. My plan also includes room for Richard to sit at the island side of the kitchen to allow him to keep me company without getting in my way. YES! However, mine is an expensive transition – am I making the right decisions?

Self-doubt is inherent in an undertaking this size. Have faith. Be open to suggestions. Don’t be afraid to mix up the plan if you have second thoughts. Ask questions. Work with your professionals – good ones sincerely want you to be happy with the end product.

I’ve mulled over my transition since 2014. I’ve researched online and with consultants. With my sister and friends who are experienced remodelers. With my husband who ultimately has to live with my vision and won’t complain – he’s a good man.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Here’s a blast from the 2014 past. This is the area we’re redesigning.at mimis table indiana moving in ugly gold paint

Holy cow! All that gold paint had to go! This side of the condo houses our kitchen, dining room, and living room. It’s one HUGE room, 35′ x 18′ at least, with tall vaulted ceilings. It’s one reason I fell in love with this property. The kitchen is on the other side of the half wall with a 24″x24″ passthrough above the kitchen sink. Well, okay. Let’s open up this space!

Here’s what my kitchen/dining room/living room looked like in 2014  after painting.

at mimi's table 2014 painting

What a dramatic difference, eh? I choose Benjamin Moore’s “Revere Pewter,” because it is one color Candace Olson loves as a great neutral/greige. A little on the green-taupe side, I love this wall color.

Okay. I’ve got lots more pictures. Follow our progress with the links below.
at mimi's table 2017 christmas wreath

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part 1

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part 2

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part 3

Mimi’s Kitchen Remodel Part 4

Creamy Crunchy Bacon Pea Salad

This is one delicious salad. My Grandma Smith was fond of these kinds of salads like carrot salad, roasted beet salad, and sauerkraut salad. These are folksy homey old-timey country salads with bright colors and flavors. They’re easy-peasy to put together. And they’ll go with almost anything like ham, any manner of chicken, pork chops, ribs, or grilled burgers. One batch will feed a crowd of 12 – sounds like picnic time to me!

Pea salad was made in the good old days with canned peas – yuck! Bags of frozen peas are the way to go. Their color is better. The peas themselves have a subtle crunch. Frozen peas taste so much better, too, ten times better than canned. And you don’t have to worry about sodium, which we do in our family.

Here’s a Tip or Two:

#1  I’m using more and more frozen vegetables nowadays. In a 12-ounce bag, you get all vegetables, no water. Frozen vegetables like peas & carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, diced or hash brown potatoes, and onions are prepared, meaning the only work you have to do is thaw them out. Or just add them frozen into your recipe. As an example, I dump a bag of frozen peas & carrots to the sauce for a tuna-noodle casserole. Or dump a bag or two of frozen broccoli florets into broccoli-cheese soup. Sometimes I’ll even use frozen chopped onions to start a mirepoix. You get the gist. Sometimes it’s just easier.

#2  I’m as big a mayonnaise fan as anyone. I’m beginning to substitute full-fat Greek yogurt for some of the mayo in recipes like this one. Yogurt lightens up the mix a bit and adds a nice tang. I like to make homemade salad dressings and Greek yogurt plays well swapped out for some of the mayonnaise. See Healthy Thousand Island Dressing for an example.

at mimi's table peasWanna learn how to make this awesome pea salad?
Follow me!

 

P.S. I didn’t mean to take the picture for this post with lemons and avocados in the background. Avocadoes were on the counter when I decided to be creative. They are not in the recipe, but they are beautiful. Oops. Ha!

 

Creamy Crunchy Bacon Pea Salad
We love this pea salad.Creamy Crunchy Bacon Pea Salad is quick, economical, made tasty with a secret ingredient and the addition of toasted pecans. Swap out some greek yogurt for the mayo and it's healthier, too. If you love peas, you'll love this salad alongside ham, any kind of chicken, pork chops, burgers, etc.
Author:
Cuisine: American
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 10-12 servings
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 2-12oz. bags of frozen peas, thawed and patted with paper towels to remove moisture
  • ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup red onion, diced
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • ⅓ cup full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 oz. bacon, cooked to crispy and drained on paper towels, broken or chopped into pieces
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries, lightly chopped
  • ⅓ cup pecans, toasted and lightly chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, mix dressing ingredients. mayo, Greek yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Stir or whisk dressing ingredients.
  2. Add peas, cranberries, pecans, and cheese. Lightly toss.
  3. Add bacon and lightly toss until combined.
  4. Chill salad in the refrigerator for one hour.
  5. Serve.
  6. Note: Can make salad night before. But add the pecans, cheese, and bacon immediately before serving.

 

Pan Seared Cod with Tomatoes, Onions & Capers

at mimi's table pan seared cod with tomatoes onions capers

We’re attempting to eat healthier around our house. Oh, Richard and I still revisit old-fashioned family meals like fried chicken and meatloaf, especially when our grandsons come for a weekend supper, but we don’t eat like we used to. We don’t sit down to big evening meals anymore. That’s okay.

So now, I look for recipes that include fish and chicken cooked with lots of fresh vegetables seasoned with lemon, garlic, fresh herbs, and the like. Tons of flavor in our dishes help us from missing the good old days.

Pan Seared Cod with Tomatoes, Onions, & Capers is the perfect evening meal. It’s light, and extremely well flavored with capers, lemon, garlic, and white wine.

I like to use thicker pieces of cod rather than the flat filets I’d use for fish and chips. (Yeah, sometimes we cheat and eat fried fish. It’s fish, right?) Or you could substitute haddock, pollack, striped bass, hake, mahi-mahi, or grouper. Any firm and flaky white fish will work. When you open the fish from the market, be sure to pat it dry. You want as much moisture removed so the filets sear and brown nicely and don’t steam.

I usually throw in 4-6 ounces of cook pasta into the finished sauce, preferably linguine, just to round out the meal. I like the flavor of capers, but you could substitute pitted kalamata olives cut in half. Fresh cherry tomatoes sliced in half or a can of drained petite cut tomatoes, either one will work in the sauce.

Besides being on the lighter side, this dish is quick, quick, quick. 30 minutes and supper is on the table. Can’t beat that.

Here’s a Tip!

Whenever you cook a quick meal like this one, have all your ingredients ready to go before you begin. I pat the fish dry, spray the fillets with cooking spray, season the fish with salt and pepper, and set aside while you get everything else ready. I used cooked leftover pasta I had in the fridge. My lemon zest was ready. The canned tomatoes were drained. The onion was sliced and the garlic was minced. I heated the pan. Delicious in no time at all. Most importantly, nothing was overcooked.

 

Let’s get cookin’, shall we?

 

 

Pan Seared Cod with Tomatoes, Onions & Capers
Flavorful and light, pan-seared cod dinner is a no-brainer for a quick protein packed weeknight fare. Cod filets or any flaky fish would be a perfect substitute. Add some cooked pasta to the finished sauce, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese just before serving. White wine and a salad flesh out a perfect meal.
Author:
Cuisine: Italian-American
Recipe type: Main Dish - Seafood
Serves: 2
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 1 pound fresh cod. May substitute any firm, flaky white fish.
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium sweet yellow onion, halved and cut into slices
  • 1 15oz. can of petite diced tomatoes, drained. Or substitute one cup fresh cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 2 Tablespoons capers. May substitute ⅓ cup pitted kalamata olives sliced in half
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 4-6 ounces of cooked pasta, preferably linguine
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, zest of one lemon, chopped flat-leafed parsley as garnish.
Instructions
  1. Pat fish dry with paper towel. Lightly spray with cooking spray. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add fish to skillet and cook until one side of the fish is golden brown. 5 minutes. Gently flip fish and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove fish from skillet to a plate. Cover with aluminum foil. Set aside in 200F oven to keep warm.
  3. Add sliced onion to skillet and cook over medium heat until translucent and lightly browned. Add minced garlic. Stir and continue to cook until garlic is fragrant. 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  4. Add white wine and simmer until slightly reduced.
  5. Add tomatoes, lemon juice, and capers. Cook until sauce has slightly thickened.
  6. Add pasta. Using tongs, toss the pasta until it is covered with the sauce.
  7. To serve, remove pasta from sauce to serving plate reserving the sauce in the skillet. Place fish on another or same serving plate. Top fish with remaining sauce in skillet. Sprinkle with freshly grated lemon zest, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and chopped fresh parsley or basil, if desired.
Notes
Serve with fresh green salad and glass of dry white wine.


 

 

Skillet Lemon Butter Chicken with Spinach & Orzo

at mimi's table half baked harvest skillet lemon butter chicken & orzo

Quick and amazingly delicious, try this spin on one of Tieghan Gerard’s skillet meals One Skillet Lemon Butter Chicken and Orzo. Please visit the link to Tieghan’s recipe to read her post and to ogle her beautiful photographs. Read about her here in “I Love Your Blog.” (In September, Tieghan published her first cookbook which is filled with delicious variations and stunning photos. Yep, I bought a copy!)

In only 45 minutes with simple ingredients, whoever you feed will be delighted with the fresh mix of flavors. I love, love, love the flavor of fresh lemon. It just brightens up a dish whether it’s juice, zest, or cut into slices. And in this recipe, you’ll use the lemon all three ways! Okay, maybe I overcooked the lemons, but they were still delicious.

I followed all Tieghan’s directions but substituted boneless, skinless chicken thighs because we like dark meat. And I added fresh spinach instead of kale because it was marked down at the grocery. Her recipe says it serves six – hmmm – I guess Richard and I are heartier eaters – I would have guessed four. So, I increased the chicken to two pounds.

This is one recipe I had to try. Rich in flavor without being heavy, Skillet Lemon Butter Chicken with Orzo and Spinach is a winner, winner chicken dinner. (I know – cliche, but certainly true!)

AMT Here's a tip iconHere’s a Tip!

Get yourself a garlic press.  I’ve minced and minced. I’ve ruined more than one manicure grading the little fragrant bulbs on a Microplane, which a famous Food Network chef says she uses. Apparently her in-laws like the flavor of garlic, but not the minced little bits they find in her recipes. What is that? Really?

at mimi's table oxo garlic press

Anyway, a garlic press makes life a lot easier. No more cut fingers. Beautiful manicures stay intact. My daughter bought me this OXO for Christmas a few years ago. It’s heavy but easy to grip and does a fabulous job pulverizing garlic the way it should be. Pressed garlic is great to use to make garlic butter spread for, what else? Garlic bread.

Many thanks to Tieghan Gerard for her constant inspiration!

Grab your skillet and let’s get to work!

 

 

Skillet Lemon Butter Chicken with Spinach & Orzo
In only 45 minutes with simple ingredients, whoever you feed will be delighted with the fresh mix of flavors. I love, love, love the flavor of fresh lemon. It just brightens up a dish whether it's juice, zest, or cut into slices. And in this recipe, you'll use the lemon all three ways! Gently adapted from Half-Baked Harvest's One Skillet Lemon Butter Chicken and Orzo.
Author:
Cuisine: American
Recipe type: One-skillet Dinner
Serves: 4-6 servings
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 large lemon, sliced with seeds removed
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced, grated, or pressed with a garlic press
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • ⅓ cup white wine
  • 2½ cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 10 oz fresh spinach
  • zest and juice of one lemon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Heat olive oil in large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat
  3. Sprinkle chicken thighs with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  4. When the oil is shimmering, add chicken thighs. Sear on both sides until golden brown, 3-5 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a plate and set aside
  5. Add butter and lemon slices to the skillet. Sear until the lemon is golden on both sides, 1 minute or so. Place cooked lemon slices on top of browned chicken
  6. Add orzo and stir to evenly coat the pasta. Add garlic. Stir and cook until garlic is fragrant, no more than 1 minute
  7. Add white wine to skillet to deglaze. Add chicken broth, spinach, lemon juice. Bring to a boil and stir.
  8. Add the chicken and lemon slices and any juices accumulated on the plate
  9. Transfer skillet to the oven and roast for 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
  10. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and lemon zest, and serve.

 

Rice Pilaf with Pignoli, Peas & Cheese

at mimi's table side dish rice pilaf 2

This is a side dish with a perfect bite. Savory basmati rice, orzo, and pignoli (pine nuts) married with onion, peas, and Parmesan cheese. Rice Pilaf with Pignoli, Peas, and Cheese is a homogenous bite of savory, crunchy, cheesy, and fresh.

You can serve this side with almost anything: pork, chicken, fish; proteins on the lighter side, I would advise. This side is a most welcome variation from traditional rice or potatoes or noodles. I can’t emphasize enough the phenomenal addition of pine nuts. Walnuts, pecans, especially slivered almonds are respectful substitutes. Whatever you decide, don’t exclude toasted nutmeats. I have not made this recipe with brown basmati or another brown rice, because the cooking time may be off.

at mimi's table retro woman4Rice Cooking Tip:  Don’t over boil the rice. The initial heat should be to boiling without the lid, and then immediately to a gentle simmer with the lid on for 12-15 minutes. I don’t know what your stove considers a “gentle simmer.” You must understand your equipment: gas or electric or induction. I love you, but you should figure it out. Otherwise, everything with perfect rice is bad, very bad.

When cooking any type of rice, once the cooking time has expired, take the pot off the heat, fluff the rice with a fork, put the lid back on, and let the rice sit for 10 minutes before serving. If the rice is undercooked, letting it rest cures a multitude of sins.

I put a pat of butter, a Tablespoon, into the cooking liquid as the rice comes to a boil, regardless of the type of rice. You will not imagine the different flavor ordinary rice takes on with a simple bit of fat.

Let’s cook some, shall we?

Rice Pilaf with Pignoli, Peas & Cheese
This is a side dish with a perfect bite. Savory basmati rice, orzo, and pignoli (pine nuts) married with onion, peas, and Parmesan cheese. Rice Pilaf with Pignoli, Peas, and Cheese is a homogenous bite of savory, crunchy, cheesy, and fresh.
Author:
Cuisine: American
Recipe type: Side dish
Serves: 4 servings
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup sweet yellow onion, sliced in strips
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • ¾ cup basmati rice, uncooked
  • ½ cup orzo, uncooked
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Additions:
  • ¼ cup pignoli (pinenuts), toasted, substitute slivered raw almonds, or raw walnuts, pecans, also toasted
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • ¼ - ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Instructions
  1. I like to use my favorite Guardian Ware pot for this or you may use any 2.5 - 3-quart heavy bottomed pot with a lid.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and saute until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally so the onion browns but not burns.
  3. Add garlic. Cook for less than 1 minute, or until you can smell the garlic fragrance.
  4. Add rice and orzo. Cook for 2 minutes, making sure all the grains are coated in oil.
  5. Add broth and salt.
  6. Heat until boiling. Immediately reduce heat to medium-low.
  7. Cook for 12-15 minutes, until all the liquid, is absorbed.
  8. Remove the pan from heat. Let sit covered for 10 minutes.
  9. Add pignoli, cheese, and peas. Stir lightly until combined. Cover and let steep for an additional 10 minutes.
Notes
Before serving, feel free to add a couple Tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley or fresh chopped basil, if that's your flavor choice.

 

at mimi's table 2017 christmas wreath

 

Chili 101: Mimi’s Favorite Chili

at mimi's table mimi's favorite chili 101 #1

It’s that time of year! Here in central Indiana, we’re having the coldest winter of any I remember here in quite a long time. In fact, it’s been warmer in Billings, Montana, my former home. Temps reached -16°F last night. No weather for man nor beast. But a perfect time to warm up with a steaming bowl of Mimi’s Favorite Chili.

(Uh, don’t be put off by the green stuff mixed in with the sour cream in the above picture. I served Mexican dinner on Christmas Day and my husband mixed the guacamole and sour cream together. It looks questionable, but was delicious!)


I’ve made this chili recipe for as long as I can remember, seriously forty years or more. Sometimes we eat as pictured. Sometimes I’d make up some macaroni and serve the chili over that. A friend of mine used to serve her chili over cooked rice – another option.

Funny. Richard and I were in Costco the day before I made the chili pot. A customer overheard us talking about making chili, and immediately invited himself over. Our conversation wandered to the topic of what to serve with chili. This fella said he insists that his chili is served with a peanut butter sandwich. “Well, of course!” I said. Our new friend and chili connoisseur told us he was having a difficult time winning over his wife to the idea.

In the mid-century olden days, the school cafeteria always served chili with peanut butter/honey sandwiches and carrot and celery sticks. We settled it must be an Indiana thing.

Any way you like it, a hot bowl of chili, mild or spicy, is a surefire way to warm up your bones!

Let’s make some!

at mimi's table mimi's favorite chili 101 #2

First, brown your meat in a heavy 6-qt dutch oven or other heavy pot. Oh, and don’t forget to add a Tablespoon or so of cooking oil to the pot, bring up to medium-high heat, then add the meat. Even though there’s fat in the meat, the oil helps the process along. You may use ground beef or ground turkey, as long as it’s pretty lean. I normally use 90% lean ground beef, but don’t be afraid to use turkey. It’s delicious and we really can’t tell the difference once the chili is finished.

While the meat is browning, dice up a nice large yellow sweet onion, set aside. Mince 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic, set aside. Measure the chili powder, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, and paprika into a small bowl, set aside. Open up your cans of tomatoes and beans. The goal is to have everything at the ready so the dish comes together quickly.


Chili 101

AMT Here's a tip iconNow’s the time to have a discussion about heat – like hot peppery heat. Not everyone shares the same enthusiasm for peppery spicy food. I, myself, like the heat from peppers or Tobasco sauce or ground cayenne, but enjoy the flavors in moderation. I like the simple spike of heat, but not so hot that’s it’s uncomfortable to eat.

If you like the flavor of pepper but not the heat, add one diced green pepper, or throw in a stalk of diced celery, or both.

Need to add a little extra heat? Add 1-2  finely diced jalapenos or 1-2 finely diced serranos, which are hotter than jalapenos. Set them aside with the minced garlic.

What I do is add a finely diced jalapeno, a finely diced serrano, and add dry ground cayenne to the dry spices. A couple shakes of red pepper chili flakes goes in there, too. And a couple shakes of Tobasco sauce as the chili cooks.

You can always add more hot peppers to the mix if you like spicier chili or include the pepper membranes and seeds into the dice, which adds another level of heat. Remember, however, to add peppers to the browned meat when you dump in the diced onions. If you decide to ladle the chili into serving bowls over macaroni or rice, keep in mind that will lower the heat level, too.

If you’re serving children, look out. In my experience, they don’t tolerate peppery heat at all – enter macaroni or rice and lots of cheese.


at mimi's table mimi's favorite chili 101 #3

Now the meat is nicely browned. Add the onion and peppers (hot or mild). Stir over medium-high heat until the onions begin to soften. Add diced celery, if you’re using.

Add the garlic. Continue to cook until you smell the aroma of garlic, about one minute.

at mimi's table mimi's favorite chili 101 #4

Add the dry spices: chili powder, cumin, Mexican oregano, cayenne, crushed red chili peppers, and cinnamon. Stir all the spices together and heat until you can smell the spices, 1-2 minutes max. (Adding the spices this way intensifies their flavors.)

at mimi's table mimi's favorite chili 101 #5

Dump everything else into the pot: diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes, dark red kidney beans. Add 2-3 cups of liquid:  beef or chicken stock or just plain water if you don’t have stock in the pantry. Stir and bring to a simmer. Turn down the heat to continue the simmer. Cover with the lid not quite covering the pot so steam is able to escape.

at mimi's table mimi's favorite chili 101 #6 at mimi's table mimi's favorite chili 101 #7

After 45-60 minutes, your chili is ready! See how much liquid was evaporated?

Ladle generous portions into deep bowls and add your toppings: Monterey jack or cheddar cheese, sour cream, guacamole, additional finely diced hot peppers, finely diced sweet yellow onion.

On this particular night, I had some leftover tostada shells and we used them to break into our bowls instead of crackers.


at mimi's table mexican food iconChili Thoughts

  • I think chili is one of the first dishes beginning cooks learn to make. It’s easy. The ingredients are inexpensive. Everyone enjoys a hearty bowl.
  • Serve with peanut butter sandwiches or cornbread.
  • Don’t be afraid to mix up the ingredients. You can add corn. Use canned pinto beans, light red kidney beans, or black beans.
  • Try a can of beer in place of some of the stock/water. If so, you’ll want to add the beer to meat/spice mixture before you add tomatoes, beans, etc. Let it cook a bit after adding to burn off some of the alcohol.
  • Cinnamon is uncommonly used in chili unless you’re in Cincinnati. Just 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon is all you’ll need. Cinnamon evens out the flavors.
  • If you need to thicken your chili, add a Tablespoon of cornmeal stirred into 1/4 cup of water. Add to the chili after the cooking is finished and stir to incorporate.

at mimi's table signature 2 fallI would love to know how you make your chili special! What tips and tricks do you have up your sleeve?

 

Chili 101: Mimi's Favorite Chili
It's that time of year when a steaming bowl of Mimi's Favorite Chili warms us to the very core. Learn Chili 101 and how to make my easy and satisfying recipe along with a couple of hints.
Author:
Cuisine: American
Recipe type: Chili
Serves: 6-8 servings
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1-15oz can of dark red kidney beans drained, or pinto, light red, or black beans, drained
  • 2-14oz cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes.
  • 1-28oz can whole tomatoes
  • 2-3 cups of beef or chicken stock, or water, or a combination
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers, finely diced or 1-2 serrano peppers, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Options to replace jalapenos and/or serranos
  • 1 green or red pepper, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
Instructions
  1. Over medium-high heat, add 1 Tablespoon cooking oil into a heavy 6-quart dutch oven
  2. Add ground meat. Brown until there is no pink visible.
  3. While the meat is cooking, chop onion, mince garlic, dice peppers. Set aside.
  4. Measure dry spices into a small bowl. Set aside.
  5. When the meat is ready, add chopped onion and hot peppers. (Add green or red pepper and celery if using.) Stir and continue to cook until the vegetables are softened.
  6. Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant, one minute.
  7. Add dry spices, stir to distribute and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes max.
  8. Add all the tomatoes, beans and stock &/or water. Stir to distribute.
  9. Bring the chili to a simmer. Cover the pot, but not completely so steam escapes and thickens the chili.
  10. Turn down the heat. Simmer for 45-60 minutes.
  11. Check for seasoning. Add 1-2 shakes of Tobasco sauce, if using.
  12. Serve with peanut butter sandwiches or cornbread.
  13. This chili can also be served over cooked macaroni or cooked rice.
Notes
1. You can substitute one can of beer to replace an equal volume of stock/water. Add the beer to the meat mixture before adding tomatoes. Let the mixture cook for a bit to allow the alcohol to cook off.
2. To thicken chili, if needed, add 1 Tablespoon cornmeal to ¼ cup of water, mix. Add the slurry to the chili while stirring.

Serve with any variety of toppings: shredded Monterey Jack &/or cheddar cheese, sour cream, guacamole, diced sweet yellow onion, diced jalapeno or serrano peppers.

 

Joe Carson’s Ginger Cookies

at mimi's table Christmas cookies joe carson's ginger cookies

Here’s another good choice for a holiday treat for your cookie plate, to take to a cookie swap, or to give as gifts. Joe Carson’s Ginger Cookie recipe was first published in Midwest Living magazine in 1999. I’ve been making them every Christmas since.

My husband loves the chewy texture. The cookie dough is made with vegetable shortening instead of butter. I normally follow the recipe to the letter, but this year I decided to use 1/2 cup of shortening and 1/4 cup of butter.

I like this recipe, too, because it calls for a couple Tablespoons of molasses. Molasses gives the cookie a rich flavor. They hold well, so if you decided to bake them a couple of days in advance, it’s no problem.

The recipe is easy. This is a family favorite, so I whip up a double batch with my electric mixer. If I don’t bake all the dough, I cover it with plastic wrap and store the leftover in the refrigerator in a container with a tight-fitting lid. That way I can bake up another batch in no time at all.

Joe’s recipe instructs bakers to roll the dough into balls, roll them in sugar, dip them in water, and roll again in sugar before baking. The result is a nicely cracked sugary cookie top. It’s fabulous, but I didn’t like the way the water clumped up the sugar. So, I decided to form the balls, roll all of them in sugar and put them on a cutting board until all the balls got their first coating. Before I put them in the oven, I roll them again for a second sugary coating. They don’t come out as spectacular looking as Joe’s, but it’s quicker and less messy, and the cookies are as delicious.

You may want to try a couple of my other holiday cookie favorites. Cranberry Orange Cookies and Orange Sablé Cookies. Joe Carson’s cookies and these other two make their way onto my cookie plate every Christmas.

Let’s whip up a batch! at mimi's table 2017 christmas wreath

Joe Carson's Ginger Cookies
This chewy ginger cookie recipe is from Joe Carson at the Silver Dollar City theme park in Branson, Missouri. It's the best ginger cookie I've ever eaten. Fantastic taste, texture and easy to make.
Author:
Cuisine: American
Recipe type: Cookies
Serves: 30 cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¾ cup vegetable shortening, or ½ cup shortening and ¼ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • 1 egg, room temperature
Instructions
  1. In a stand mixer, beat the shortening (or shortening & butter) for 30 seconds.
  2. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. 1-2 minutes
  3. Add molasses and egg. Beat on medium speed until combined.
  4. Add the baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt into the bowl. Mix on low speed just until the spices are incorporated.
  5. Add flour. Mix on slow speed until the dough is well combined.
  6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
  7. Use a one-Tablespoon cookie scoop and begin to form the dough into balls. As each one is made, set them on a cutting board until all the dough is gone.
  8. Put ½ cup of granulated sugar in a bowl, and roll the balls, one-by-one, in the sugar, and place them back on the cutting board.
  9. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line two half-sheet baking pans with parchment paper. Roll the balls a second time in sugar and place them on the baking pans.
  10. Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes until they're light brown on the bottoms. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.
Notes
Once cooled, you can store the baked cookies in a container with a tight-fitting lid. You can also make a double batch of cookie dough, bake one-half, and save the rest wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator.

 

Cranberry Orange Cookies

at mimi's table Christmas cookies cranberry orange cookies

I’ve made these cookies for five consecutive Christmas cookie plates. They’re a big hit! Cranberry Orange Cookies are so easy to put together. You mix everything in a food processor.

These cookies have an interesting mix of dried cranberries, orange zest, allspice, and cloves. Very festive flavors rolled into one or two bites.

They’re pretty, too, which always makes for an attractive plate nestled among the other cookie bounty.

A batch is quick and easy. I usually make two batches and store one in an airtight container in the refrigerator for baking later over the holidays. They don’t spread a lot, either, so you can fit more than 12 on a half-sheet pan. I got 18 cookies on each sheet pan this year.

Rolling the cookie dough in red sugar sprinkles before baking gives the cookie a crunchy exterior and a little sparkle. Cranberry Orange Cookies stay moist and keep well.

at mimi's table frustrated womanAnd buy red sugar sprinkles early in the season. Egads! I went to six grocery stores until I found four little bottles. And it was ten days before Christmas! Every store had plenty of green. I left two red bottles on the shelf knowing some needy baker would run into the same dilemma as I did. Maybe I should come up with a green sprinkle recipe? Next year, I’m ordering mine online immediately after Thanksgiving.

Happy Baking!        at mimi's table 2017 christmas wreath

Cranberry Orange Cookies
These are ideal cookies for the holidays - read quick, easy, no fuss. The dough is mixed completely in a food processor. Bright red sugar sprinkles give a little sparkle. Dried cranberries, orange zest, allspice, and clove give the cookies a bright festive flavor. And they keep well, too!
Author:
Cuisine: American
Recipe type: Cookies
Serves: 48 cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 stick cold, unsalted butter, but into small pieces
  • ¼ cup cranberry juice cocktail
  • ½ teaspoon red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • Red sugar sprinkles for rolling
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, pulse the dried cranberries and granulated sugar until the cranberries are finely ground and the sugar turns red.
  2. Add the flour, baking powder, orange zest, salt, allspice, and cloves. Pulse until combined.
  3. Add the butter, and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal.
  4. In a 1-2 cup measuring cup, combine the cranberry juice, food coloring, and vanilla. Stir with a fork. Break an egg into the measuring cup, and lightly beat the egg.
  5. Pulse the liquid into the other ingredients until a dough forms.
  6. Put the dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about an hour.
  7. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat to 350F degrees.
  8. Line two half-sheet pans or cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  9. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into balls and place them on a cutting board. Once all the balls are made, roll them into the red sugar sprinkles and onto the sheet pan.
  10. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Remove cookies from the oven onto cooling racks. Let stand for 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.
  11. Store in container with a tight-fitting lid in a cool dry place until ready to serve.
Notes
I usually make two batches of cookie dough, mixed one at a time in the food processor. One batch I bake, and the second batch of dough is wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator until I need another round. These are fabulous holiday cookies. They stay moist, keep well, and are so pretty!

 

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at mimi's table 2017 christmas wreath

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