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!