Tuesday, December 9, 2014

DINNER WITH DEBBIE

Last month I was invited, along with 11 other women, to a fun little dinner party at my friend Reg's house. The delicious Mediterranean meal was prepared by her mother in law, Debbie. It wasn't just any old meal though. There is a bit of a back story why we all got together for this special dinner and I have asked Reg to tell it...




Why would anyone want to do something for nothing? (written by Reg)

It’s not often in life when you meet a person that wants to do something for….NOTHING! In a world where we are all out to find the perfect way to “get rich quick” (myself included), it’s not often that you meet a person that gets the most out of knowing she is making a difference in people’s lives. Enter my mother-in-law, Debbie. She's a fabulous cook, retired dietician, butt kicker of breast cancer and the epitome of the "average jane"! She can make a mean piece of chocolate cake and cooks steak like she’s the star of Hell’s Kitchen, but these days her decadent desserts are saved for special occasions, her slices are a bit smaller and her “meat and potato” meals are not quite as regular in her meal rotation. Debbie has always been known for her fabulous and fairly healthy meals, however, the day she learned she had breast cancer was the day that everything in her world (and kitchen) changed! Debbie dove head first into finding out what had possibly fed her cancer, how she could provide her body with the very best chance to keep the cancer away, and how to help anyone and everyone she could along the way. (In the most humble, loving, and YUMMY way possible!)

After sharing Debbie’s journey with my wonderful co-workers, they were all interested in what she was discovering, in addition to being curious if this could really be done in a fairly quick and “tasteful” way! So 12 woman (along with too many kids to count) piled into my kitchen for a night of learning, tasting, sharing, and most importantly, taking that first step towards supporting each other in the often times confusing journey towards healthy (and somewhat easy) cooking.

So after we had tasted a variety of different Mediterranean dishes, shared tips, talked about weight issues, taste issues, and picky kids/husband issues. We ended the night with a promise to meet back around the table in the near future for more support, ideas, and updates. When the last person had left the table I looked at my mother-in-law, who now had a little bit of dark chocolate on her cheek and big grin on her face, and asked her what she thought of the evening, she just beamed from ear to ear. This made me realize that in the end, making a difference in someone’s life is pretty far from doing “something for nothing”!

And of course, here are all the delicious recipes we got to try:






HUMMUS

1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans (rinsed & drained)
¼ cup tahini (sesame paste)
¼ cup lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

1. Process all of the ingredients in a food processer or blender until smooth.
2. Transfer to a serving bowl and chill until the flavors have blended. About 30 minutes.
Serve with veggies such as sliced peppers, cucumbers, carrots, etc.





KALE CHIPS
2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil, plus a little more for the baking sheets
2 bunches of kale or collards, washed and thoroughly dried, ribs removed, and leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
A sprinkle of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat 2 or 3 large baking sheets with oil.
2. Combine the kale and 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl and massage the oil into leaves, making sure every bit is covered.
3. Arrange the kale in a single layer on the baking sheets and bake for 15-25 minutes flipping the kale now and then with tongs and turning the baking sheets or switching racks if the kale starts to brown too quickly in spots. The kale will go dark green and crispy; do not let it brown.
4. Sprinkle with seas salt. (You can do this either before or after baking)





TABOULI

2 cups cracked wheat (bulgur)
2 cups very hot water
1 cucumber, chopped
4 small tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch green onions, sliced
½ cup mint, chopped
2 cups parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

Dressing:
½ cup lemon juice
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

1. Soak the cracked wheat in the hot water until the water is absorbed – about 20 minutes.
2. Drain any excess water.
3. Combine the salad ingredients, including wheat, mix the dressing ingredients together and stir into mixture. Chill.





TUSCAN CHICKEN

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
8 chicken thighs, with skin and bones
2 large shallots, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
1 1/2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 package frozen artichoke hearts
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 cup pitted green olives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, divided

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Heat olive oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat.
3. Salt and pepper both sides of chicken thighs. Transfer chicken to skillet and brown for five minutes on each side. Remove chicken and set aside.
4. Add shallots and garlic and saute for three to four minutes. Deglaze pan with wine, scraping to loosen the brown bits. Add tomatoes, artichokes, olives, one teaspoon salt, one half teaspoon pepper, and one tablespoon of oregano. Saute for two to three minutes.
5. Nestle chicken in tomato mixture. Transfer skillet to oven and bake for 30 minutes. Use a large casserole dish if your skillet is not big enough to accommodate the chicken,
6. Garnish with one tablespoon oregano and serve immediately.





CHOCOLATE NUT BARK

1 cup(s) walnuts (or almonds, etc.)
1 pound(s) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup(s) pistachios, coarsely chopped (or pumpkins seeds)
1/4 cup(s) dried cranberries
Cracked sea salt
Unsweetened coconut (optional)

1. Heat oven to 400ºF.
2. Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and roast, tossing once, until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop.
3. Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil. Melt chocolate in microwavable bowl on high 2 minutes. Let stand 1 minute, then stir until completely smooth.
4. Scrape melted chocolate onto the prepared pan and spread into a rectangle (about 14 x 10 in.).
5. Scatter walnuts, pistachios, cranberries and coconut evenly over chocolate. Crack some sea salt over the top. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Break into pieces.

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