Monday, March 4, 2013

Pot Roast A L'Orange in Crock Pot

One of my favorite kitchen tools is my crock pot. I plan a crock pot mean for when I know for sure I'll be too busy to cook after picking up the girls from school.

That's every Monday.

My girls have piano lessons immediately after school every week, which means by the time we arrive home, there's not much time before I have to get dinner on the table. Enter: my crock pot to save the day! [insert halleluiah chorus sound effect here!]

Today I posted my love for my crock pot on Facebook:

Several of those comments came from friends asking for the recipe and where I come up with my recipes, so I thought I'd share both here.

I have a few crock pot/ slow cooker cookbooks in my library, however, I haven't consulted them in a while because many of the recipes call for cream of mushroom or chicken or whatever soup and I just don't buy those. As I explained to one commenter I try to limit my processed food purchases to those with 5 or fewer ingredients on the label and all must be ingredients I could easily find to use in my own kitchen or at least identify, such as added vitamin C for example.

So where do I get my recipes? Good ol' Google Search is where I get my inspiration. I check out a few recipes of something I might want to try, make my own tweaks - or more changes - and then give it a whirl. Tonight's Pot Roast a l'Orange was originally inspired by a recipe my Dad makes out of his old Betty Crocker cookbook. Basically he uses orange juice concentrate as a base for the sauce and sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes in the pot with the roast. So that's where I began.

And here's where I ended up:

Pot Roast a l'Orange in Crock Pot

3-5 lb. bottom round or lean chuck roast (or other beef pot roast of your choice); bone in is best, but I had boneless today

salt & pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground ginger
3 Tbls olive oil
zest of 1 orange, then remove skin
1 whole orange, skin removed (from above)
2 C vegetable or chicken broth, homemade is best; I always have some in my freezer
1/4 C maple syrup
1 C cranberry pomegranate juice (read the label and only get 100% juice)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large sweet sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-2" chunks
3 ribs celery, cut into 2" chunks
3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-2" chunks
1 bay leaf
1/4 C corn starch dissolved in about 1/3 C water (called a slurry)

  1. Heat oil in large, heavy skillet. Season all sides of roast with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and ginger. Brown all sides of meat. Meanwhile, put zest through cranberry pomegranate juice into a Vitamix or other high power blender and blend until orange is completely incorporated.
  2. Add onion and sweet potatoes to the crock pot. Nestle meat on top. Add celery and parsnips on top and around meat. 
  3. Deglaze pan by adding about half the orange mixture and scraping up the browned bits from the pan (those bits are called "fond" in case it ever comes up in a game of Trivial Pursuit, and they are full of rich flavor). Pour sauce from pan as well as all remaining sauce over meat to come up to the top of the meat. I needed a little water to get to the level I wanted. Tuck bay leaf into liquid and season with salt and pepper. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-7 hours.
  4. About 20 minutes before serving time, remove lid and stir in corn starch slurry. Cover and allow mixture to come to a boil. 
  5. Carve meat, it will be falling apart deliciously, and serve with veg on the bottom, meat on top, covered generously with sauce. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pantry Pasta

There HAS to be a better name for it.

Today is Ash Wednesday. I always plan ahead for Mardi Gras and make my Holy Trinity Jambalaya the night before. The next day when we fast, I don't think much about food. But because I didn't eat anything other than an apple with a schmear of peanut butter all day, by the time I picked up the girls from school, they wanted snacks (kids don't fast) and I was ravenous.

So I started cooking dinner at 3:30 PM. We were eating by 4. Yes, like a senior citizen; don't judge. And I hadn't planned a thing.

As I was running out the door to pick up the girls, I checked to see if I had my ingredients for linguini with clam sauce. Everything but linguini. Three boxes of fettuccine, yes; a box of mini penne perfect for mac -n- cheese, check; and a box of farfalle (bow ties), but no linguini. I have this odd belief that certain pastas just go with certain sauces and if I can't do it right, then I'm not going to bother. Linguini just goes with clam sauce. But without linguini, the bottle of clam juice and can of clams I have in the pantry will just have to wait. I didn't want to stop at the grocery store - we all know what happens when you go to the grocery store hungry. So after a quick mental scan of my pantry, I knew tonight's dinner would be my Pantry Pasta.

I'm taking nominations for a better name in the comments below.

Basically, it's a quick, easy, and tasty one-pot meal that requires exactly zero planning because I always have the ingredients in my pantry. In a perfect world, I'd have fresh mushrooms, but I always keep a can just in case. I hope you'll give it a try!

Pantry Pasta (or whatever...)


1 14.5 oz box Barilla Plus brand (in the yellow box) farfalle (bowtie) pasta
1/4 c olive oil
3 Tbls butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves (I always have a bag on hand for my morning green smoothies)
1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts, liquid reserved
1 small can mushrooms stems and pieces, drained
1 small can tuna (I buy the kind packed in oil; it has way better flavor), drained
1 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
fresh grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Fill large pot with water and bring to boil. Generously salt the boiling water and add the pasta. Cook the pasta according to your taste. From putting it into the pot, to my taste, farfalle usually takes an extra minute beyond the recommendation on the box.
  2. Meanwhile, chop onions and garlic and open cans and drain mushrooms and tuna. 
  3. When pasta is done cooking to al dente or to your preference, drain in colander. Return cooking pot to the heat and lower to medium high. Melt butter and add olive oil. Saute onions until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and stir for about 20 seconds. Add spinach leaves and saute for about 2 minutes until just wilted.
  4. Add artichoke hearts and their marinating liquid, mushrooms, tuna, basil, salt and pepper. As you stir, slightly break apart artichoke hearts. Stir until combined and warmed through.
  5. Return pasta to the pot and toss to combine. Drizzle with additional olive oil if sauce isn't saucy enough for you (this will depend on how much liquid you had from the marinated artichoke hearts). Serve in pasta bowls and top with grated Parmesan cheese.
So there it is. It was so good, both girls asked for seconds and cleaned their plates both times. Any suggestions for a better name? I'm open - please share in the comments!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mardi Gras Holy Trinity Jambalaya

I love how food transports us to other places and introduces us to other cultures, even those in our own country!

I've never been to 'Nawlins, NOLA, The Big Easy, or however you prefer to refer to the city below sea level that was devastated in 2005's Hurricane Katrina. I'm not even a fan of spicy hot (and painful) food, so Cajun cooking doesn't usually make an appearance in my kitchen.

But once a year, when the beads are flying through the air to parade revelers greedy hands, and the sounds of Zydeco music fills the streets, I make a Holy Trinity Jambalaya.

The "holy trinity" of course is a take on the religious theme, but in Cajun kitchens the holy trinity means a mirepoix of 3 veggies: onion, bell pepper, and celery, in roughly the same amounts.

This recipe I've developed over the years takes that trinity to yet another layer, where I use 3 meats. Mardi Gras translates to "Fat Tuesday" and it's the day before the beginning of lent, the Catholic time of prayers, fasting, and almsgiving in the 40 days leading to Easter Sunday. Mardi Gras is traditionally a day of excess in the culinary world, so that where the bounty of ingredients in this recipe gets it's inspiration.

But it doesn't need to be Mardi Gras to enjoy a big, hearty one pot meal. Make it to enjoy any night!

Holy Trinity Jambalaya Recipe

2 Tbls olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
Ready to cook!
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbls chili powder
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp thyme
few grinds of fresh cracked black pepper
1 package (4 pieces) Andouille sausage (I get Aidells all-natural brand with no MSG, gluten-free, no nitrites, and no hormones), sliced into 1/2 rounds
1 1/2 Cups brown rice
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can (or 2 C homemade) chicken broth
1 tomato can full of water
2 bay leaves
1 pound 41-60 shrimp (I buy frozen, shells removed, tail off, deveined)
1/2 tsp hot sauce (or to taste)
2 Tbls fresh chopped flat leaf parsley

  1. Heat oil in dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, green pepper and celery and saute until veggies are tender and onions are translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and saute until just fragrant, about 30 more seconds. Using a slotted spoon, remove veggies to a bowl, leaving some oil in the pot.
  2. Add chicken and salt, chili powder, paprika, thyme, and black pepper to the pot and brown for 3-5 minutes. A nice fond will begin to form on the bottom of the pan (meaning the spices and outside bits of the chicken will start to stick ever so slightly -- this is a good thing!).
  3. Add Andouille and stir to begin browning, about 2 more minutes.
  4. Add rice and stir well. Then add tomatoes, broth, water and bay leaves. Scrape bottom of the pan well to remove the fond and distribute flavors throughout. Return cooked veggies to the pot.
  5. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover and lower heat to simmer for 50 minutes. Walk away to check Facebook, work on your blog, or read a book. Or you could clean up your mess, but that's nowhere near as much fun as the alternatives.
  6. After 50 minutes, the liquid will be mostly absorbed by the rice. Remove lid and stir well, being sure to scrape the bottom, or the rice will tend to stick. Add shrimp and hot sauce and stir to combine. Cover and cook 5-6 minutes more, until shrimp have turned opaque and slightly pink, meaning they are fully cooked (hard to tell color in the tomatoes and seasonings, but you can). Remove lid, stir in parsley and season with more salt and pepper to taste and serve!
Both my kids' bowls were empty, even though this had a slight kick to it. I hope you enjoy and as they say on Mardi Gras, "Laissez les bons temps rouler!" (Let the good times roll!)

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Rules of a Recipe Well-Written

Over the weekend, in between fighting the sniffles and having my nose feel all "stubbed ubp" I got a hankerin' for some blueberry muffins. But I didn't want to go through the trouble of making actual muffins - cleaning those individual little tins is no fun. So I thought I'd try a recipe in my cast iron skillet.

I know biscuits are often made in a cast iron skillet and muffins have similar properties, so off I went in search of a recipe that looked good.

Maybe it was the sinus medicine, but I apparently wasn't on top of my recipe analysis game when I came across a yummy-looking photo, did a quick scan of the ingredients - yep I had everything - and decided to give it a whirl.

As I started to follow the steps, I realized the recipe wasn't exactly, well... written for other people to use. I know when I write recipes for just myself, I often write using personal abbreviations. And I'll also write notes on recipes I tear out from magazines or print from the internet with things I added of my own. I think that blueberry muffin skillet cake recipe I found online was like that.

I'm certainly not one to call out anyone else on bad writing (we're all developing at our own rates and some might suggest that would be the pot calling the kettle black; so I'll leave that there). You'll see no links to the original here, but there were some things that made me think, and helped me understand that as a blogger, it's important to make sure my recipes are written for others to reproduce. Here are a few things I learned:
  1. Exact Ingredients: Some recipes I've come across online list ingredients but then also provide a number of alternatives well beyond "butter or margarine." The recipe in question suggested melted butter or coconut oil or another cooking oil the reader wanted to use. The flavors, textures, cooking temperatures and the way various fats interact with other ingredients can be vastly different. When I post a recipe I'll share exactly what I used.
  2. Order of Appearance: Also when listing ingredients, I promise to list them in order of usage in the recipe that follows. Nothing is more confusing than thinking you forgot to add something only to find it hasn't been called for yet. 
  3. Exact Amounts of Ingredients: Does the recipe call for 1 1/2 cups of blueberries or 2 cups? Oh, either will work? Really? Should I use 1/4 cup of sugar or 1/2 cup? Either is fine there, too? Not exactly. Again, the results will be different and unless there is an ingredient to your taste or used as a garnish, or I've tested the recipe both ways, I'll provide the exact amounts of everything.
  4. Description of Anything Unusual: The recipe I used called for a full TABLESPOON of baking powder. Yikes... that's a lot. I know muffin and biscuit recipes use a lot of baking powder, so I went with it. The final result provided the right rise and texture, but the flavor, almost predictably, was "tinny" and certainly off to my palate. It wasn't bad enough to trash, but it wasn't good enough to share the recipe, either. If I ever use an ingredient that has an unusual flavor or seems to be an odd amount, I'll explain it as well as I can. Or if YOU try a recipe that I post that tastes off or odd to you, I'd hope you'd please share that and what you think went awry.
It's too bad the flavor didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped. The photos look pretty good.  I even drizzled some lemon juice and confectioner's sugar glaze over the top. When I get the recipe in a condition that it's ready to share, I'll post an update. But until then, sorry... I won't break my recipe-writing rules.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pancakes and Profits: Ode to the Crepe

Most Thursday mornings since August 2006, I've attended a weekly leads group called Leading the Way. It's at The Pancake Cafe restaurant and I just love to go. Yes, it's a challenge to get up earlier and make sure the girls are taken care of for school. And truth be told, although I'm a morning person for the most part, I do NOT spring up out of bed the moment my alarm goes off. Getting to an 8:00 AM meeting on time means waking up about an hour earlier than usual for me. Yawn.

Driving in rush hour traffic is never fun either, although I've worked out a route that avoids any back-ups.  As I drive to the once-a-week meeting, I am always grateful for the other four days of the week and the usual 30-second commute to my home office or the sunny sofa in my living room. I say a prayer of thanks for that not-so-small blessing to be able to work from home each time I have to get in the car during rush hour.

Once I'm there, however, the room is always filled with an energy and air of friendliness, welcoming and anticipation. Weekly attendance is not mandatory (although there is a three strikes in a row and you're out rule), so it's never the same exact group twice. Occasionally people move away or leave the group and other times we have visitors and new members join, so sometimes there are new faces to greet.

As we all settle into our seats, Donna, our always excellent server, takes each person's breakfast order. Eggs and toast for some, oatmeal or fruit for others, and coffee or tea only for others still. Donna always remembers to bring me an extra large glass of water with a lemon in it. And she knows my favorite usual breakfast is fruit crepes.

I have a policy when I go out to restaurants: I always try to order something I wouldn't usually make at home. The fact that I've been cooking gourmet foods at home since I was about 15 years old creates a bit of a problem for that policy to be truly enforced. There aren't many foods I haven't tried making in my kitchen. I didn't say I'm great at all of them... (pie crust comes to mind and my wonderful mother-in-law will get me whipped into shape at some point), but I'll try anything! So that, and given that my sister gave me a crepe pan last year for Christmas, might normally take these off as possibilities from the menu for me. But I love them!

Crepes bring me back to the time I lived in Paris for a semester study abroad program back in college. Crepes are the warm comfort food I could pick up on my way home from class at the Sorbonne and eat as I waited for my Metro to arrive in the chilly, damp autumn air. I can still taste the crunchy edges, sweet, melted Nutella and warm banana filling. That was before you could find Nutella here in the States at every grocery store, so it was an exotic treat back in 1990. Crepes make me happy. 

And now crepes have become part of another story in my life. The story of me, the professional, meeting with colleagues, customers, and friends to talk about business and life.

Because I've traveled coast-to-coast for speaking engagements, have people all over the world attend my webinars and teleclasses, and have worked with private clients from Europe to Canada to Australia to the UK and more, people always ask me why I go to this little local meeting so faithfully. The truth is there are a lot of valid business reasons for me to attend. I've worked with a majority of the people in the group either buying their services or being a service provider to them doing communication and speech strategy. There are more business reasons I'll discuss over on my main blog. But between you and me, a big reason is the crepes.

Here's my kids' favorite crepe recipe:

4 eggs
1 1/2 C milk
2 T butter, melted
1 C A/P flour
1/4 t sea salt

Sliced bananas
Sliced strawberries
Nutella spread, about 2 T per crepe

Powdered sugar for sprinkling
Chocolate syrup for drizzling
Fresh whipped cream

  1. In medium bowl, beat eggs. Add all remaining crepe ingredients  and whisk until smooth.
  2. Heat non-stick crepe pan or 7-8" non-stick skillet over medium high heat until hot.
  3. Using 1/2 cup measuring cup, scoop and pour just under 1/2 cup of the batter into the pan. Quickly swirl the pan to spread the batter evenly in the pan. Cook about 30-60 seconds or until the edges are just starting to brown. Flip and cook about 30 seconds on the other side. Repeat until batter is gone, storing finished crepes on wax paper lined plate with a piece of wax paper between each to prevent sticking. (They likely won't stick to each other, but better safe than bummed!)
  4. To serve, using a cake frosting spreader or other flat non-sharp knife, spread about 2 T Nutella over one side of crepe (just eyeball it and be generous). Add sliced bananas and strawberries and roll into thirds (kind of burrito style without turning the ends under). Put the folds on the bottom and top with garnishes and a few extra slices of fruit.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

My First Post (and a green smoothie recipe!)

Welcome to my food blog, Speaking of Food: Felicia's Delicias (pronounced so they sort of rhyme Full-ee-sha's Delicious). Thanks to my professional speaking colleague, Rich Hopkins of Speak and Deliver blog for his creativity with the name!

I'll be changing the look of the site until I get it how I want it, which could take a while! :-) I also have to fill in the details about who I am and what I'm about and all that other jazz. But basically here's the scoop:

I'm an Amazon best-selling author of a little niche book called 21 Ways to Make Money Speaking, as well as a professional speaker, speech trainer to CEOs, celebrities, and business owners, and communication strategist for solo entrepreneurs. That's my work and I love it!

At home, I'm Mom of two brilliant and beautiful daughters, ages 10 and 8, and wife to a seriously hot hubby who runs his own personal training business. Last fall I was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer, had it surgically removed by possibly the best thoracic surgeon in the Chicago area (if not in the world as far as I'm concerned!), and am officially healthy again taking exactly zero meds of any kind. Prayers from around the world were answered and I believe I experienced my own miracle. Halleluiah!

As a result of that whole horrible ordeal, 2013 is a new start for me and I've decided to play an even bigger game of life. I have big plans for my business that will turn it into an 8-figure international empire within 5-7 years, and I've decided I'm going full-force after some of my other passions: first of all FOOD!!

I've always eaten healthy (for the most part - I love me some kettle chips, don't judge) and because I've lusted after a VitaMix blender for years, I decided now is the time. So a few weeks ago I purchased a VitaMix Creations II blender and will add a series to this blog with the recipes I make in my VitaMix every day for a year.

Later this year I'm planning a cookbook (or two!), in addition to completing my third book related to business, Kill the Elevator Speech: Stop Selling, Start Connecting. 

I hope you'll come back and comment a lot and enjoy my recipes!

Here's the smoothie I made in my VitaMix this morning:

1/2 C pineapple juice (I'm out of fresh pineapple)
1/2 C Silk vanilla almond milk
1/2 C Shaklee Physique protein powder, banana flavored
1 banana, peeled (obviously)
1 handful fresh spinach leaves
1 Meyer lemon, peeled (not so obvious)
5 frozen strawberries
1 T hemp seeds

Add to VitaMix in the order shown, slowly increase the variable speed to 10, then to high. Blend for 30 seconds. Enjoy!

This one was very tasty; the Meyer lemon gave it a bright, fresh flavor I really liked.