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Thursday, September 9, 2021

And with just a little more effort ...

And with just a little more effort …

I’m all for “easy” recipes and quick weeknight meals. Even simple weekend meals tend to make a cook’s life easier. Anyone who does a fair amount of cooking can relate to the value of a good selection of easy prep healthy meals. It would be nice to have all day to prepare the evening meal, but most people aren’t so blessed. I try to encourage readers and people I associate with to explore the possibilities with good, fresh, food creations for their everyday meals, and to not resort to frozen, canned, or packaged fare. In my humble opinion, the bulk of the food products that are shoved down our throats (yes, of course the pun is intended) is simply not fit for human consumption.


So, this was a special Sunday night meal that required “just a little more effort,” as the title suggests. Took me several hours, spread over the course of a rainy dreary Sunday. A day when I’d be home anyway, as it turned out. I’d invited my friend Howie (grammar school buddy), and three of our massage school friends. Good diversified, group, lots of food possibilities.


Constraints and considerations included a couple of the people being on something resembling a diet (calorie type, not necessarily a food constraint), one person doesn’t eat seafood of any kind (although one guest’s phenomenal ceviche provided a notable exception to this), plus I’d decided I wanted to make cupcakes for dessert. This is odd, as loyal readers have undoubtedly noticed a dearth of sweets recipes … I bake very little, and rarely to my own satisfaction. I also needed to keep the dishes on the semi-spicy, vs. “use the habaneros” spicy that the chicken recipe usually entails.


As I mentioned, one guest brought a ceviche appetizer, as well as an amazing crab dip. I was off the hook for appetizers!  For the main meal, I opted for a “real” Jamaican jerk chicken recipe, a pesto with a slight twist, my cole slaw, which has evolved for years, and the afore-mentioned cupcakes for dessert.


The jerk chicken was started early in the morning. The recipe recommends overnight marinating, but I never marinate chicken or fish for more than a few hours. I let this batch marinate for about 6 hours, which was perfect. Next time (and if you decide to attempt the recipe), put some of the marinade aside for topping the chicken after it’s cooked. You obviously shouldn’t use the same sauce you’ve been soaking uncooked chicken in, which curiously, is what the recipe said to do.


For the pesto, I used an entire bunch of fresh basil, a half cup of toasted pine nuts (makes a big difference if you toast them briefly), parmesan and dry jack cheeses, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, and a handful of arugula, which added just the flavor I was looking for.  I served it over whole wheat angel hair pasta, and it was awesome.

The cole slaw has been modified over the years to the way I like it. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in both Atlanta and North Carolina, and once you’ve had real cole slaw, there’s no turning back. Mayo and sour cream in the dressing, along with celery seed, white vinegar, brown sugar, a pinch of cayenne and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Two kinds of cabbage add color and taste variety, diced carrots and celery, half a white onion, and a handful of peanuts complete this great slaw.


The lemon cupcakes came from a recipe I saw posted, and they turned out very tasty, although a little heavier than they should have been, because I didn’t sift the flour. I told you … I don’t bake (but need to do more of it). The frosting was to die for, and I served them with two scoops of different kinds of Haagen-Dazs gelato and sprinkled a few Scharffenberger chocolate espresso bits on the top. Even your “non sweets eater” author enjoyed this decadent little dessert.

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