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Recipes by Type

Salmon Rice Bowl

East Meets West

I love salmon rice bowls! On my most recent trip to Japan I paid extra attention to the food. From the restaurants, cafes, street foods, and even on the ANA Airline flight home I took mental notes of Japanese cuisine at its best. Japanese food is significantly healthier than American food overall. On the flight back from Tokyo to Chicago at lunch I noticed the calorie difference in our two choices of entree. The American style lunch featured braised beef with sides, and the Japanese style lunch featured grilled fish on rice with sides. The American lunch came in at about 1,250 calories while the Japanese lunch came in around 670.

IMG_0342I’ve been to Japan many times and have seen few fat people. They do have more incidences of stomach cancer, but overall their health is better than Americans. They eat less meat and fat than we do and get more exercise. I decided I would come up with some Japanese American fusion type recipes to share with those of you looking to eat lighter, or those who would like to explore Japanese foods.

Example at hotel free breakfast of the day's offering

Example at hotel free breakfast of the day.

In my first two or three trips to Japan I had a hard time eating the breakfast that typical locals ate. We usually stayed at hotels, hot springs resorts, and with my wife’s family there. The typical breakfast offered steamed rice, grilled or baked fish, steamed dumplings, shredded cabbage, several types of Japanese pickles, undercooked eggs(yuk!), miso soup, some sort of bread, and fruit.

I started taking granola on trips to Japan so I knew I’d have something I could eat for breakfast. On this trip something strange happened. We ate at restaurants or hotel buffets and I found I liked quite a few of the foods on the breakfast buffets unlike previous trips. Especially the fish and rice with strange vegetable side dishes. Remember the song “I think I’m turning Japanese”? I wondered after eating and liking so many of the dishes I usually wouldn’t have eaten at breakfast if I was. After eating fish on rice at three different places I decided to conjure up my own fish and rice bowl to share with you, my dear readers. This would be a lunch bowl, not breakfast. I’ve been cooking Asian dishes for over forty years. Some authentic, some blended East meets West style. Today I share with you my love of salmon, and brown rice. This simple, and very healthy dish takes no more than ten minutes to make, and uses ingredients that are easily found. If you have a rice maker get your rice cooking an hour or more before lunch time as this is one fast dish, but rice is not. Unless you do the microwave rice thing. Does anyone really buy that crap?

Three simple ingredients

Three simple ingredients

With the holidays upon us why not try this healthy salmon rice bowl before the new year resolution period? This salmon bowl is good hot or cold. If you have access to a good Asian grocery store, you can buy Bonito flakes, and rice sprinkles to enhance the flavor of the rice. If you can find unagi sauce(eel sauce) all the better. I tested it with Kikkoman BBQ Sauce brushed on, which worked well. I was  figuring it is easy to find, but have used unagi sauce for years on salmon with better results. If you have the time you can even marinate the salmon in my recipe:http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/teryaki-salmon-skewers-on-brown-rice/, for about forty-five minutes. This rice bowl goes well with a side of Asian style salad, or green salad with Asian sesame dressing. So here’s to eating better and healthier before and after the New Year.

slice the salmon like this

slice the salmon like this

Salmon Rice Bowl

1 pound salmon filet, preferably Alaska salmon

1/4 cup thin sliced green onion rings, the green part

1/4 cup unagi sauce or Kikkoman BBQ sauce

Preheat oven to 350

Sliced the salmon horizontally at an angle in 1/2 inch pieces

Rub with oil, or use a spray oil to prevent sticking

Place on rack near the top of oven and change heat to broil.

Cook for three minutes then remove from oven to brush topside with sauce.

Broil two to three more minutes.

Remove from oven and brush both sides.

Arrange salmon on top of rice and sprinkle with green onions.

I like to have soy sauce at the table ready to add as needed.

Serves four.

broil on rack

broil on rack

Note:

There are several type of rice toppings available in most grocery store Asian sections. I like several of them including bonito flakes, seaweed and sesame seed combinations, and Nori Komi Furikake.

Serve with an Asian salad like my Asian Broccoli and Bell Pepper Salad:

http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/asian-broccoli-salad/

Unagi sauce is the better choice if you can find it.

Unagi sauce is the better choice if you can find it.

Turkey and Butternut Squash Soup

Thanksgiving

 

 

Of all the holidays Thanksgiving is my favorite. It not the only holiday that brings people together in a happy food filled day. Christmas and Fourth of July do that pretty well. Thanksgiving is about gratitude, not just food. It is a very healthy thing to celebrate gratitude all year long, not just one day a year. Sometimes Thanksgiving Day is there to help us realize that.

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I have many things to be grateful for and I bet you do too. I have excellent health, a wonderful wife, amazing siblings, my father is still alive after ninety-one years of circling the sun, my dog Tucker entertains and protects us, our cat Boots is a champion purring machine, we live in a nice house, and I have the best friends a guy could ever want. There was a time I didn’t think much about gratitude, and I’m glad that is in my past. Since surviving two near death events in 1986, and remember traveling down the white kaleidoscope tunnel of no return that obviously I did return from I’ve been changed by that. Little things that used to set me off in anger aren’t triggers anymore. Smiles from a friend or stranger are more special now. A good walk in nature with friends or family can be priceless.

 

I am especially grateful for my ability to cook and share good food with friends and family. From the cooking classes and demos in Kennett Square to visiting Colorado I cook where ever I go whenever I can to share the love. At the table the outside world disappears and life slows. This special time allows us all to focus on the food and the pleasure being with each other. Thanksgiving is a time when we take that to a higher level. A super bowl of good eating is what it seems. We cook up the traditional foods and sometimes go with creative new ways to cook our turkey, potatoes, green beans, squash, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. If we are lucky we are given another shot at out doing ourselves again next year. This year when you are having your feast with friends and family try taking that gratitude into everyday of your life. It shouldn’t take a near death experience like I had to own that level of gratitude!

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I’d like to share a recipe for turkey and butternut squash soup that you can make with  the yummy turkey stock made from Thanksgiving leftovers. With  turkey stock you can make a lovely seasonal soup in minutes for this cold weather that has come down from up north. Please feel free to share this with friends and family, or on social media of your choice.

saute in turkey stock not oil!

saute in turkey stock not oil!

Turkey and Butternut Squash Soup

1/2 pound diced turkey meat, about two cups

1/2 gallon turkey stock, see note

2 cups butternut  squash cut into bite sized pieces

1/4 cup onion minced

3 ribs of celery sliced thin

12 oz package of frozen mixed vegetables,corn, green beans, carrots and peas

2 cups pasta, bow tie or shell pasta will do

2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley, optional

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 tablespoon fresh sage minced, or 1 teaspoon dried sage

Sauté onions and celery in one quarter inch of the stock on medium high heat in a 4-5 quart soup pot. Cook for 5-7 minutes stirring often.

Add rest of stock and cook on high for 5 minutes.

Add butternut squash and bring to a boil.

When it comes to a boil add turkey and mixed vegetables.

Bring to a boil again and add pasta cooking on high heat and stirring often during the next two minutes to keep pasta from sticking together.

Cook until pasta is tender then add parsley and sage, cooking at a simmer for 2 more minutes.

Serves 4-6

Note:

If you don’t have turkey stock you can use chicken stock.

Even when I have turkey stock I put a little bit of Better Than Bouillon chicken base in it.

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Asian Broccoli Salad

Last local broccoli of the year

Even though it is soup season there is still time to check out this Asian broccoli salad recipe. Since my Maryland gardening adventure began three years ago I’ve become much more knowledgeable about the growing seasons for vegetables. Before my gardening education  I didn’t realize how well broccoli grew in the fall. It thrives in the cooler weather and lack of bugs. If the weather is cool enough, broccoli planted in August and September grows fast and full. Big thick crowns of this healthy vegetable flourish in cold weather and can even withstand a bit a frost without damage.

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The weather forecasters are really loving this big winter storm coming down on the bulk of the US earlier than usual. Almost everyone has heard of winter storm Astro by now. It has dumped up to sixteen inches of snow in parts of Minnesota and is just getting started. While us lucky folks in Maryland won’t get that type of winter weather, it is going to bring a hard freeze. Therefore it is time to get out to your local veggie farms and buy the last of the fresh broccoli, cauliflower, kale and other fall vegetables before it turns into frozen veggies!

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I went off to Wilbur’s Farm yesterday in Kingsville, MD, just up the road from my home to buy what was left of their fresh veggies. I bought great looking broccoli that was just cut, and a sack full of various peppers. Knowing that it will be many months before I can buy fresh locally grown vegetables I made it a priority to get what I could before the big freeze comes on Thursday and Friday nights.

Mix it up

Mix it up

With the broccoli and peppers safely  back home in my kitchen I knew what I wanted to do with them. If you have not made a home made broccoli and bell pepper salad with an Asian vinaigrette you are missing out on one tasty salad. I usually make my own dressing but I had a bottle of Annie’s shitake vinaigrette salad dressing and put it to work. This is one of the easiest and healthiest salads out there. It shouldn’t take more than ten minutes to make, and can be eaten right away or chilled for 1-4 hours for optimum flavor. So before we get all the way into soup and hot foods season I hope you try this simple and delicious recipe. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter if you haven’t already, and please share this with friends and family.

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Asian Broccoli and Bell Pepper Salad

2 cups of broccoli florets, cut into bite size pieces

1 1/2 cups red bell pepper diced large, about the size of a nickel

1/3-1/2 cup Annies shitake vinaigrette salad dressing, see note

1/4 to 1/2 cup thin sliced red onion

1-3 jalapeños sliced thin, optional

Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Serve right away or chill up to four hours for best flavor. Roasted seaweed goes well with this as an edible garnish. Try the wasabi flavored seaweed for some added spice!

Serves six to eight

Note:

Try an Italian vinaigrette salad dressing for a nice variation and grate some parmesan cheese into it if you like.

Cauliflower goes well with this too. Try adding a cup of bite sized florets and reduce the broccoli to one cup.

Sweet Potato Hash

One person’s idea of fast meal preparation is different from another’s. Many of you use your microwave oven often and I use mine about once a year. Without the use  of a  microwave to speed things up fast meal prep is a bit more difficult but doable. For example, take the humble crockpot. Many recipes for a crockpot meal take less than ten minutes to prep and when you get home just like magic you have a house that smells like mom has been in the kitchen cooking all day and it is ready to eat!

 

Stir fried meals are quick and easy if you buy your veggies and meats already cut up and ready for the wok. You would also have to have leftover rice to make this method fast or, god forbid use microwaved heat-and-eat rice. Overall a stir fry meal is healthy and fast.

 

bi-colored sweet potato hash

bi-colored sweet potato hash

 

You can take a steak or chicken breast that has been pounded out real thin and it cooks in five to six minutes on the grill or in a frying pan. With some steamed fresh or frozen veggies and a salad you have a winning combination that if seasoned right should taste great. Blackened catfish, salmon or tilapia also cook very fast due to the high heat used in the blackening method.

All of these should take about ten minutes which I believe most of us would consider a fast meal.

 

With all these types of fast cooking I believe you can eat well without going to the aid of frozen dinners, or eating too many canned foods. Life is too short to eat crap food! With that in mind I’ll share a fairly quick breakfast meal that even though it takes about twenty minutes it’s delicious and healthy. No recipe needed on this one that I’ll call Southwestern Sweet Potato Hash.

the humble sweet potato

the humble sweet potato

Just get about one sweet potato per two persons peeling and cutting it into bite sized bits. Put it into a pot and cover with water. Add a bit of salt and bring to a boil. Simmer until just about tender. While it’s simmering cut up bell peppers(or jalapeños if you like it hot), and onions. Sauté them in a bit of olive oil on low while the spuds are cooking.

 

If the onions and peppers are soft before the potatoes remove them to a plate. When the spuds are done drain them and add to the pan the onions and peppers were in with a bit more oil. Cook for about eight minutes stirring/flipping every three or so minutes. About five minutes into this add back to the pan the onion and green peppers. If you like add a few tablespoons of cooked and drained black beans. At this time add some ground cumin, paprika, and Lawrey’s Seasoning salt. Just before serving adjust salt and pepper if needed.

 

Your breakfast is just about ready now and if you want you can cook up some over easy or scrambled eggs to go with it. You might even want to add some grated cheese on top of the hash. Serve with a side of avocado slices and salsa. This filling and healthy breakfast was made from scratch by you in less than twenty minutes and is better than just about any breakfast joint’s food. Give it a try and let me know how your version turned out in the comments section. If I get more than ten comments on this one I’ll give away a $50 Whole Foods gift card to a winner chosen at random. If you don’t have a Whole Foods nearby I’ll change it to a local grocery store gift card.

Delicata Squash and Kale Soup

October Harvest

 

With the cooler weather some of the remaining veggies in my garden are rebounding from the summer heat. The kale crop is growing like crazy after just pluggin’ along the last two months. With so much kale coming out of my garden I felt the need to create a new soup using it. My friends at Wilbur’s Farm have not had much luck selling their gorgeous Delicata Squash and gifted me about fifteen pounds of it recently. With these two ingredients abundantly crowding my storage facilities I set out to make a healthy, great tasting soup that most people would love, not counting picky kids of course.

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Back when I was a kid I wanted nothing to do with any kind of squash. I think there was an unspoken rule to be cool you had to hate all squash as a kid. It was one of the few rules I had no problem adhering to. However I eventually started to eat squash when as a twenty something year old cook one of the restaurants I worked at served acorn squash, and later on zucchini sautéed with onions and mushrooms. Both of these veggie dishes met with my discriminating approval and opened the doors to more squash appreciation and experimenting.

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Delicata squash was not on my radar until I tasted it at a Whole Foods produce section about ten years ago. They were sampling it to stimulate sales of this relatively unknown squash. My wife and I tasted it and pronounced it excellent. I’ve cooked to for many people since then with rave reviews. It has been only recently that I started putting it in soups. Delicata works well in soups as long as you don’t put it in too soon. It can turn to mush if overcooked, just like most vegetables. When cooked properly it adds color, flavor and texture that is quite good in many a soup and veggie dish.

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October is a great time to buy winter squash and you will find Delicata in many grocery stores. To pick a good one select a firm squash with no big wart like blemishes. When you are ready to cook it run it under cool water with a veggie brush to clean off any dirt clinging to it. Dry it, cut off a half inch on both ends and then cut it lengthwise for seed removal. A soup spoon usually is best for scraping out the seeds which can be cleaned and roasted for a great tasting snack.

cut it up

cut it up

At this point your Delicata is ready for what ever recipe you want to try on it. So get out and buy some of this great little squash as I think you will find it to be one of your favorites due to its taste and ease of preparation.

Delicata Squash and Kale Soup

 

1 delicata squash cut into bite size pieces, about 2 cups

1 cup yellow onion, diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1-2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons oregano

1 can kidney beans, 15.5 oz size

1 can diced tomatoes, 14.5 oz size

5 cups water

1 vegetable cube or chicken bullion

2 cups chopped fresh kale, if buying whole leaf kale instead of chopped, cut out the tough spine.

salt and pepper to taste

yum!

yum!

In a 3-4 quart pot sauté onion for three minutes in olive oil on medium heat stirring often.

Add garlic and cook stirring two more minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil.

When it reaches a boil reduce heat to a simmer and cover.

Cook for fifteen to twenty minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Add salt and pepper to taste

delicata squash soup

delicata squash soup

Variations:

Chili variation:

2 tablespoons of chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper, optional

use four cups of water instead of five

reduce oregano to 1 teaspoon

 

Super veggie variation:

1 cup of cut green beans

1/2 cup sliced carrots

1/2 cup frozen peas, added towards the end

1 teaspoon basil

add all of the above, except peas, after the onion and garlic have been sautéed

 

 

Meat variation:

By adding meat this can become a main dish. Use 1 pound Italian sausage, or ground beef. Start by browning the meat  in oil for five minutes, then add onion and garlic cooking on medium heat stirring for five more minutes.

Add rest of ingredients and cook as directed in original recipe.

Simple Butternut Squash Soup

IMG_6425I love fall in North America! The weather is great and all sorts of seasonal veggies and fruits crowd farm stands across our nation. Butternut squash is abundant now and is getting almost as popular as kale.  Butternut squash is versatile as well as delicious. It’s weird looking back on my life as a confirmed squash hater. That is until just about ten years ago. Part of that affliction was from not finding or trying many a tasty recipe for this wonderful food. There are so many recipes available for this funny looking squash variety. With butternut squash you can make a lovely salad with walnuts and kale, mash it like mashed potatoes, or make many great tasting soups with it.

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Peeling a butternut squash is not for just anyone. It’s about as easy as giving a cat a bath and just as dangerous. Luckily most grocery stores sell peeled and cubed butternut squash. This no doubt will save many a home cook a visit to the emergency room. When you buy it already peeled and cubed you can make a soup like this one in minutes! You can also tweak it in many ways to suit your taste. You can add carrots, chili powder, garlic, turmeric, or your choice of herbs to make this personalized. You could also make it with the simple healthy ingredients listed here and have a great soup made from scratch.

 

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Give this fall soup a try soon and see if you agree with me that it’s a keeper. To celebrate fall harvest I am giving a way to two lucky readers some of my heirloom Strawberry Popcorn. This yummy little corn was grown organically with no chemicals or sprays of any kind and produced over a hundred cute little red ears. I have already tested a batch on my stove and pronounce it yummy. To enter this giveaway leave a comment on what your favorite way to season popcorn is and good luck to all who enter.

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Simply Delicious Butternut Squash Soup

 

4 cups butternut squash cut into about one inch cubes, about 19 ounces

1 teaspoon better than bouillon chicken base, see note

1 cup milk, either coconut or cows milk

salt and pepper to taste

 

Cover squash with water in a 2 quart pot and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and add chicken base.

Cook for ten minutes or until soft.

Drain off about one cup of the liquid and reserve it.

Add the milk and blend with either a table top blender or immersion blender until smooth.

Add some of the reserved cooking liquid if needed for a thinner soup.

Season with salt and pepper and serve with a sprinkle of sweet Hungarian paprika.

Serves four

 

 

Note:

If you want a vegan style soup use a vegetable bullion cube in place of the chicken base.

Curry powder( one teaspoon) is a nice spice blend to add to this soup for an exotic flavor.

 

What’s a Parsnip?

I recently bought a copy of the White House Cookbook to replace the one I had back in the 1970’s and 80’s. This one seems the same except instead that Ida Saxon-McKinley is replaced by an inset photo of Edith Boling-Wilson. The recipes crack me up with the less-than-specific directions, but it still proves useful in searching out ideas for farm fresh foods. Back in the 1880’s when it was originally written I suspect all food was either fresh, dried or canned as freezers were not in common use until around 1913, and even then only a few owned such a luxury.

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While flipping carefully through the brown and easily cracked pages I found several parsnip recipes. Parsnips are not a vegetable most of us know well, or eat often. They are related to carrots and have the same shape, but are white. Unlike carrots parsnips are not eaten raw often. Parsnips have a wonderful flavor similar to a turnip but milder and sweeter. Parsnips cook fairly quick and are versatile. You can add them to soups, roasts, mash them, sauté them, or stew them like in The White House Cookbook. Here is what the recipe from over a hundred years ago looks like:

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Stewed Parsnips

After washing and scraping the parsnips slice them about half of an inch thick. Put them in a saucepan of just enough water to barely cook them; add a tablespoonful of butter, season with salt and pepper, the cover closely. Stew them until the water has cooked away, watching carefully and stirring often to prevent burning, until they are soft. When they are done they will be of a creamy light straw color and deliciously sweet, retaining all the goodness of the vegetable.

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Curious about this recipe I proceeded to sort of follow it finding that if I would have cooked it until most of the liquid had evaporated I would have had very overcooked parsnips. It’s tough to cook out that much water with a pot that is covered! I also opted out on scraping my lovely organic parsnips wanting the nutritious skin to be intact. I found that the pound of sliced parsnips took less than 15 minutes from cleaning to serving which is pretty quick. I started them in cool water to cover with a bit of salt, pepper, and half the butter with a pot tightly covered and within eight or nine minutes they were soft. I poured off the water, then added 1 teaspoon butter and one tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley for color. I was pleased with the result and think you will be too. If you want some more color try cooking with sliced carrots(equal in amount to parsnips) in the pot and cut the carrots smaller then the parsnips so they cook in about the same amount of time. Parsnips go very well with just about any chicken, or pork dish as a side.

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Give it a try and let me know what you think of parsnips, and this recipe. As always feel free to share and comment.

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Chicken w/Shallots Under 20 Minutes

I’ve been a known hater of microwave ovens for years. Why you might ask? It’s because I have seen many a food item destroyed in the microwave, and they are over used in many homes and some restaurants. As for the argument they change the molecular properties of foods and make those foods harmful to our bodies, I’m not a scientist so who really knows? What I do know is I may not be quite as fast in preparing meals without a microwave, but I’m sure the quality and health benefits are better with my conventional way of cooking. If you can’t part with your microwave that’s fine with me, but consider other fast options here on my blog because I believe your food will taste better if spared the micro-zapping torture.

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I’m a busy guy at home with many responsibilities like most of you. It’s very important to me that we eat well, and that I spend as little time in the kitchen as possible. It helps that I worked in over thirty restaurants in my chef career where I learned many ways of preparing foods in an environment where time is of the essence. It wasn’t until I walked away from professional cooking that I truly started to develop ways to speed things up in my home kitchen to share with you. My idea of a quick dinner is total prep/cooking time of twenty minutes or less. Almost all of the meals I cook at home are twenty to thirty minutes or less and I use very few convenience items.

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Today I want to give an example of a meal you can do in about twenty minutes that tastes great and uses whole natural foods. This chicken recipe cooks quick due to the thickness of the chicken breast and if you time things right the other two items will be done at the same time. Here are the dishes and how it flows:

succotash (lima beans and corn)
sautéed mushrooms
chicken breast with shallots

Start the lima beans cooking in enough salted water to cover plus an inch more. If you don’t like lima beans go with steamed green beans and toss them with a few cherry tomatoes cut in half during the last minute of cooking.

Start the sliced mushrooms sautéing on medium heat, if using onions start them first and add mushrooms two minutes later. If these get done way before the rest just turn off the heat until the other dishes catch up, then reheat for a minute or two.

Follow the recipe in this post for the chicken breast starting it after the mushrooms and lima beans are cooking.

Twelve minutes or so after the lima beans have been cooking add as much corn as lima beans to the pot. At this point it only takes two-three minutes to finish cooking and it can wait up to five minutes for the other two dishes to be done without hurting it a bit.

By now the chicken breast has been flipped and is almost done.

Get your platters if serving family style ready, or get dinner plates ready for dishing up.

Plate up the finished items and garnish with sliced fresh tomatoes.

All this should be easily done in twenty minutes, and you have an attractive healthy meal that tastes great. If you don’t want to use chicken the recipe works well with pork loin too. You could substitute beef, omit the thyme and use Lawrey’s Seasoning Salt instead with good results. The options are many, but I hope you get the picture of a quick healthy meal without taking up too much of your precious time at home. Please feel free to comment on, and share this recipe.

sautéing the shallots

sautéing the shallots

Sautéed Chicken Breast with Shallots

2 skinless, boneless chicken breast
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Using a meat tenderizing hammer pound out the chicken breast to a thickness of one half inch or less.
Sprinkle thyme, salt and pepper on the chicken then dredge in the flour.
In a sauté pan on medium heat add half the oil and cook the shallots for three minutes, stirring often.
Remove shallots from pan and set aside.
Turn the heat up to medium and add the rest of the olive oil and chicken breast.
Cook for six minutes then flip and cook for five minutes or until chicken reads 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.
Add shallots to the hot sauté pan and cook for a minute or two then top the chicken breast with them.
Serves two but is easily doubled or tripled to serve more.

Note:
Not all chicken breast are the same thickness. Modern intensive raised chicken breast are twice the size of traditionally raised chickens and require a bit more pounding with the meat tenderizing hammer. I prefer the smaller traditional chickens.

To speed things up a bit I’ll take a piece of aluminum foil and set it on top of the sauté pan loosely to reflect the heat. Don’t use a tight fitting lid as that would trap in steam and make the chicken breast tough.

This dish goes well with sautéed mushrooms and succotash for side dishes.

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Great food at 8,000 Feet

Aspen Colorado is one of the most beautiful places on the planet! What do you think when you hear about Aspen? It’s too expensive, it’s a place for millionaires/billionaires, it’s too far, it’s too cold? Aspen can be all of those things but here’s what I’ll tell you about my experiences in Aspen. It doesn’t have to be too expensive to visit or stay here. If you come in the off seasons like just after Labor Day, or early June, many decent hotels offer rooms for under $100. For $200 or so we have stayed in some of the best Aspen hotels in the off-season in the past like the Hotel Jerome, and The Limelight Hotel if you want luxury. The Limelight is our favorite with its friendly staff, comfy lounge, free breakfast buffet, and great location.

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Ceviche at Bodega Restaurant’s happy hour.

There are several restaurants we saw yesterday that had happy hour specials, the best being a pizza and two glasses of wine for under $30, and it was yummy! Ajax tavern at the Little Nell offers a double cheeseburger, fries and a pint of beer for $17 which is not a bad deal in Aspen. No doubt the are several more places that offer good deals, but I only have three days here to research the restaurant scene.

Cache-Cache Restaurant's  trout and shaved veggie salad.

Cache-Cache Restaurant’s trout and shaved veggie salad.

The Wheeler Opera House.

The Wheeler Opera House.

If you visit Aspen in June through September the daytime highs can be in the 80’s or more. Today is much like other years when I have visited in September with a daytime high expected to be in the high 70’s and sunny. Even in the winter I find Aspen warmer than many Colorado ski areas where I have worked and skied over four decades. I think most visitors sleep better in a lower altitude. Places like Breckenridge and Copper Mt are at 9,600 feet base elevation making them much colder than Aspen winter and summer.

Truffle fries at Ajax Tavern.

Truffle fries at Ajax Tavern.

As for the distance it’s only three hours and twenty eight minutes from Denver Intl. Airport, and that takes you through Glenwood Canyon, one of the most spectacular drives in the U.S! Since many of us don’t have a private jet driving is the way to go. Highway 82 south from Glenwood Springs has been improved over the years and is safe and quick now. Amtrak offers rail travel from Denver to Glenwood Springs if you are in no hurry, and from Glenwood Springs you can hop the RAFTA bus or rent a car.

The ski area from town.

The ski area from town.

Aspen is a fun place for just about everyone. I’ve skied here back when I was a line cook making very little money, and have come here for other special deals that have always been affordable, and fun spanning over twenty five years. Spring skiing special abound in late March and early April for fun in the sun without the crowds of the I-70 ski areas. Beyond skiing there is so much to do with miles of bike paths, both paved and dirt, as well as world class hiking and climbing. The fishing is worth noting too with the Frying Pan River and Roaring Fork River boasting great trout fishing.

Maroon Bells from Crater Lake.

Maroon Bells from Crater Lake.

The gardens by the John Denver memorial park.

The gardens by the John Denver memorial park.

The biggest attraction I think for a summer visitor is a trip to the Maroon Bells high above Aspen. Just catch a RAFTA bus up from downtown Aspen and you will be there in less than twenty five minutes. It has been said that the Maroon Bells are the most photographed place on Earth according to Eastman Kodak. They should know as back when cameras used film and you had to get your pictures printed Kodak noted how often the Bells showed up in customers rolls of film. The Bells are drop dead gorgeous in all seasons with their majestic triangular high peaks, but to gaze upon them in fall when the aspen groves glow in the Rocky Mountain gold is to truly know stunning beauty. So if you have been putting off visiting Aspen, or never even considered it I hope I’ve changed your mind and you can visit as a regular Joe and enjoy Aspen like a millionaire.

 

Fresh Tarragon with Pasta

Summer Herbs

The leaves are turning color on the cherry trees across the street from my house and falling rapidly. It’s funny how the cherry trees are one of the first to bloom and stand out in the spring and now again in the fall they are vying for attention again ahead of the other trees. Dog and I walk under them daily and get an occasional decorative leaf or two falling on us while we walk. Soon there will be other trees and bushes joining the rush to fall season.

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For now I’m still happily maintaining my garden and picking lots of tomatoes and hot peppers even though fall approaches. Most of my tomato plants are done for the year, but there are a couple of unknown heirlooms producing well. That’s the beauty of planting many types of tomatoes, you get to pick some throughout the season.

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With this abundance of  great tasting tomatoes I’ve been coming up with new ways to eat them. I have them with breakfast some mornings, especially if I’m eating eggs, and I also slice them up just for a snack at all times of the day. I’ve made, and posted gazpacho soup, gobs of salsa for chips and dip, and canned a bunch of diced tomatoes.

 

I figure I have two or three more weeks of tomato harvesting before I have to count on the local farms for fresh tomatoes. My herbs however will produce into October and beyond. One year I had fresh herbs right through November! As a chef it’s awesome to have a great little herb garden out back. For most of my life I lived in cold climates and had to resort to grocery stores for almost all my fresh herb needs.

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With my tarragon plant starting to look just a bit old I decided to start using more fresh tarragon. I made a fresh tarragon salad dressing this week and for today’s post decided to share with you a tarragon pasta dish that takes less than 20 minutes start to finish. If you don’t like tarragon just substitute fresh basil for this side dish and enjoy just the same.

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Fresh Tarragon with Pasta

12 ounces pasta of your choice, I like fettucine for this dish

2 1/2 quarts of water

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons oil

8 ounces sliced white mushrooms

1 bell pepper diced, green, yellow, or red

1/2 yellow onion sliced

1 clove garlic minced

1 heaping tablespoon fresh tarragon minced

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Start pasta water, and salt boiling on high heat to get a head start. Cook according to directions on package.

In a sauté pan on medium heat cook onions, peppers and garlic for three to five minutes stirring often.

Add sliced mushrooms and cook for another eight to ten minutes.

If pasta is done it is time to add  most of the tarragon to the mushroom mixture and cook for just one minute on medium heat stirring. Save a bit of tarragon for a garnish.

Arrange pasta on serving platter or bowl and top with mushroom mixture.

Sprinkle a bit of the leftover tarragon on top and garnish the sides with fresh tomato wedges.

Serves four as a side and two as a main dish.

 

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