Monday, April 4, 2011

The Vivacious Chef Has a New Home

I am very excited to announce that after 4 glorious years, the Vivacious Chef has achieved a little slice of Internet real estate she can call her very own! The beautiful new blog design is still in progress, including a new logo, but the site is up and running. I am also pleased to let you all know that all 4 years of recipes have been transferred to the new site so there is no lost content. 

The current Vivacious Chef header probably looks familiar to my long-time visitors - it is my Grandmother's handwriting from her egg salad recipe! I think it's a wonderful placeholder and always makes me smile. 

All of the credit for this stunning work in progress is courtesy of my hugely talented sister, Samantha Riccio. Thank you Samantha for all of your hard work!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

CAUTION: Green beer gives you a green tongue.

Also, please be aware that green beer makes you as drunk as every other kind. In the spirit of safety, here's a friendly reminder to take a cab home this evening. As for me, I will be in the sober comfort of my own home participating in a cleanse that forbids alcohol consumption. 

In appreciation of your taking my advice not to drive, here's a joke to brighten your day:

Six Irishmen were playing poker in O'Leary's apartment when Paddy Murphy loses $500 on a single hand, clutches his chest and drops dead at the table.
Sean O'Conner looks around and asks, "Oh, me boys, someone got's to tell Paddy's wife. Who will it be?"   They draw straws. Paul Gallagher picks the short one. They tell him to be discreet and gentle; don't make a bad situation any worse.
"Discreet??? I'm the most discreet Irishmen you'll ever meet. Discretion is me middle name. Leave it to me."   Gallagher goes over to Murphy's house and knocks on the door. Mrs. Murphy answers and asks what he wants. Gallagher declares: "Your husband just lost $500 and is afraid to come home."
"Tell him to drop dead!", says Murphy's wife.
"I'll go tell him." says Gallagher

--Happy St. Patty's Day!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Conejito's Place

THE best enchiladas ever!!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Breakfast at Fleur de Lis

Nothing tastes as good as a fresh biscuit sandwich with ham, egg and cheese with a side of hash downs smothered in sausage gravy. After a late night on Bourbon Street this was amazing!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dinner in New Orleans

Commander's Palace - 4 courses with a beautiful view, shortbreads, salad, trout, and bananas foster. I'm in love.
Sent from my iPhone

Monday, February 14, 2011

Be My Valentine?

So, I'm not entirely sold on the concept of Valentine's Day. The origins seem strange, I usually conjure up images of the St. Valentine's Day massacre in Chicago, and I generally believe it is a Hallmark holiday. 

On that note, whether you're making food for one person or two, here's a delightful English dessert: Eaton Mess

1 c. sliced strawberries
1 c. raspberries
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar (25-year aged)
1/2 c. whipping cream
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
lots of vanilla meringue cookies  

Macerate 1/2 cup each of sliced strawberries and raspberries in about 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of aged balsamic vinegar for at least 30 minutes. (That just means mix the berries, sugar, and vinegar together; by the way you can omit the vinegar if you don't have it or like it.) Meanwhile, whip about 1/2 cup of heavy cream with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Gently fold the berries into the whipped cream, plus an additional 1/2 cup each of sliced strawberries and raspberries. 

In a glass, crush vanilla meringue cookies into the bottom, top with the berry and cream mixture, and then more crushed meringue cookies. I promise that you'll love this easy and amazing dessert - particularly on Valentine's Day.

{I promise to add a picture later}

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Weekend Adventure in Two Rivers, WI

Here's the best bloody mary in Wisconsin - the Clamdigger at The Blue Goose in Two Rivers. There's beef jerky, string cheese, a pickle, pickled asparagus, pickled mushrooms, pickled brussel sprouts, olives, and celery. When you stop in to have one, say hello to Lynn and Goose, the owners. Oh, and plan on staying a while - Lynn makes great burgers!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chicken Puebla Stew

I honestly know what kills my husband about my eating habits: when he asks what I want to eat, my answer is always the same - "something healthy, cheap, and delicious." Really, Leah? Yes, really. Even when cooking at home, that is a tough request. Following the decadence of the holiday season, this healthy and flavorful soup satisfies the part of you that wants to continue eating everything in sight, and the other part of you that swore to eat better/workout/fill-in-the-blank.

Don't be intimidated by the unique cooking style of this soup - charing the onions and garlic before pureeing. I promise that anyone can do it. Top the soup with some diced avocado (healthy fat), cilantro, sour cream (low fat, please), and a couple tortilla chips, and enjoy.

Chicken Puebla Stew
2 lbs chicken thighs (boneless, skinless)
2 c broth/stock
2 t. salt
2 garlic cloves whole, not peeled
1 small onion, quartered
1 (14 oz) can whole tomatoes in juice
1 chipotle in Adobo (1 medium chilie)
1 t. dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 t. Cumin
½ t. Smoked paprika
1 (1 1/2-oz) link dried Spanish chorizo, finely diced
1  small onion, diced
1 T.  vegetable oil
1 c. corn (frozen)
1  14 oz can white hominy
1 avocado, diced
warm corn tortillas or chips
Sour cream

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and saute over medium heat until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate; set aside. Once cool, dice the chicken into bite-sized pieces or shred it. You can also use leftover chicken rather than making some - any cut of chicken will do.

In a large dutch oven, cook the chorizo and diced small onion in oil over medium heat until the fat is rendered, about 2-4 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat a small dry cast-iron skillet over high heat and brown the garlic and quartered onion on all sides, turning with tongs, about 5 minutes. Peel the garlic, and transfer it and the onion to a blender. Add the tomatoes with juice, chiles, and oregano, then purée until smooth.

Add cumin and paprika to the large pot with chorizo and onion, cooking 2-3 minutes more. Carefully add the tomato purée (it will splatter and steam) and the hominy, and simmer, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes or until thick. Add the 2 cups of broth and return the soup to a boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat to low and add the chicken and frozen corn; let simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.  

Serve with sour cream, sprinkled with diced avocado and cilantro.

Adapted from Epicurious, original recipe available at

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A little feedback, please.

Whether you've noticed or not, The Vivacious Chef got quite a makeover. I'm not convinced that this is the final product I'm looking for, but I'd like to know what you think. Particularly as compared to the cheery dots theme of yesterday. Is this color too blue to be looking at next to food? I haven't decided yet. In the meantime, I'd appreciate knowing what you think - and if you have any suggestions for themes other than what's part of the Blogger library, let me know.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Curried Quinoa Salad

In the mood for something healthy that won't leave you starving (or groaning) when you're done? You're looking for quinoa. It is an amazing grain that is loaded with protein, easy to make, delicious and satisfying. Quinoa cooks just like rice, has a soft texture when cooked, and is neutral in flavor. The USDA National Nutrient Database says that 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 8.14 grams of protein, 5.2 grams of dietary fiber, and a variety of other nutrients. 

It happens to be my humble opinion that people need to incorporate more vegetable-oriented meals into their diets. I am not advocating becoming a vegetarian - I love meat too much for that. Rather, my point is simply that protein doesn't need to be the main component of a meal, or necessarily take the form of meat. Quinoa is an easy, and typically palatable, starting point for those who are hardcore carnivores. 

To be perfectly honest, I stumbled upon this recipe tonight and hardly followed the original recipe. Turns out I wasn't able to wait for the quinoa to cool before I ate it, and it was delicious warm - I'm sure it's great as a cold salad, but I haven't tried it yet.

Curried Quinoa Salad
1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
½ tsp curry powder
pinch salt

¼ cup canola oil (or EVOO)
2 T. white wine vinegar
2 T. mango chutney, chopped if chunky
2½  tsp curry powder
1tsp prepared mustard
a sprinkle of cayenne pepper

(1 cup chopped peeled mango)
1 cup peeled and diced cucumber
1 bunch green onions, sliced

To make the quinoa, add the quinoa, curry powder, and stock base into the pot, and put over medium heat. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn, and that the stock base becomes soft, and melts into the quinoa. Once you can smell the curry, add the water and salt; give it a stir. Turn the heat to high, and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, put a lid on and turn the heat to low and set the timer for 15 minutes. This process is like cooking rice – you’re steaming the quinoa, so don’t lift the lid to peak. There may be some extra liquid at the end, but that’s ok. Just turn the heat up to medium and cook it off. (happens to me all the time)

Meanwhile, in a bowl large enough to hold all of the quinoa, add the mango chutney, vinegar, mustard, and curry powder, and whisk to combine. Whisking vigorously, add the oil slowly until the dressing is combined. When the quinoa is cooked, add it to the bowl with the dressing, and stir to combine. Add a sprinkle of cayenne and salt to taste. Let cool. Once cool, add the diced cucumber and scallions.

The quinoa is very good still warm with the cucumber and green onion on top. (Which is how I had it for dinner)

The original recipe called for adding diced mango to the salad – I didn’t try it because I couldn't find it at the store tonight. It also called for serving the quinoa on top of spinach, which I did – not great. Might be better with a yogurt dressing – like an Indian raita – over the whole salad if you use the spinach.

Adapted from on 1/3/11; available at

* Chicken stock base is a kitchen staple - you can find it in all grocery stores by the packaged stocks/broths.  The link is to the Better Than Bullion brand, which is what I use. It's great because you'll always have as much, or as little, stock as you need.
This is a test of the Mobile Food Blog Posting System (MFBPS). I am so excited I can hardly stand it!