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Zoominations Lowry Park Zoo Tampa

We take a break from our regular scheduled food posts to go OUT & ABOUT on a little field trip to…

ZOOMINATIONS!

Zoominations is an Illuminated Chinese Lantern Festival currently taking place at Tampa’s own Lowry Park Zoo.

The lanterns and displays are up at the zoo during the daytime hours but the real magic happens at night!

For example, the Pagoda pictured below is impressive in the daylight. Made up entirely of porcelain plates, cups, and spoons, this lantern represents the famous Manfeilong Pagoda in southeast China.

Zoominations Pagoda of Dishes

The 68,000 dishes that make up this pagoda are hand tied (no glue gun allowed) and it soars an impressive 52 feet high, the same size as the original.

So, it’s really neat during the day…

But at night…Wowza!

Add a few thousand lights and dinnerware has never looked so cool!

Zoominations Pagoda of Dishes Illuminated

Click HERE, there’s more! Trust me, click on through…

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Sesame Chicken

sesamechicken

Sesame Chicken, how I love you!

Ever since I had to become one of the dreaded Gluten Free People, I thought my days of decadent Chinese carry-out were over.

Well, they sort of are over but they’ve happily been replaced with decadent but healthy (and easily Gluten Free) Chinese carry-out favorites at cooked at home.

Behold…homemade Sesame Chicken.

And here’s the interesting part, even if you’re not gluten free, you make this dish almost the same way. Rather than breading the chicken with flour, this Sesame Chicken uses corn starch for the coating.

I can tell you that this has quickly become a favorite around here.

Here’s what you need:

Sesame Chicken Ingredients

Chicken Thighs, Egg, Corn Starch, Vegetable Oil, Garlic, Ginger, Brown Sugar, Tamari or Soy Sauce, Rice Vinegar (not pictured), Sesame Oil, Sesame Seeds, Green Onions, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Sesame Chicken Shopping List

Timing Note:  If you want to serve this with rice, be sure to start cooking the rice FIRST so it will be ready when your quick and easy Sesame Chicken is done.

As I mentioned, rather than a thick flour breading, our Sesame Chicken uses a corn starch based batter. This is similar to what you would make for Japanese tempura or batter fried veggies.

In a medium bowl, combine 1 egg with 2 Tablespoons of corn starch.

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Add a pinch of salt if you like (I don’t) and some freshly ground black pepper.

Use a whisk to combine until liquid and very smooth. This will take just a minute to get going and be a gloppy mess until the corn starch starts to dissolve in the egg.

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Click HERE, there’s more!

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Slow Cooker White Bean & Ham Soup

If you had ham for Easter and still have that ham bone sitting around, this post is for you!

If you threw out your ham bone, don’t tell me. I’m not sure we can still be friends.

Well, we can still be friends if you promise to never throw away another ham bone.

If you aren’t going to use yours, you can give it to me!

That’s what my awesome neighbors did! They invited us for Easter dinner (which was fabulous), sent us home with leftovers (thank you for my lunches this week), AND gave me the ham bone.

These are friends worth keeping!

I made Slow Cooker White Bean & Ham Soup last week with a ham bone I already had in the freezer. I’ve mentioned before that even if you don’t do the whole ham, you can go to Honey Baked Ham and buy just the meaty ham bone. I always get 2 and pop one in the freezer.

Sorry there is no ingredient photo but this is an easy one. You need:  Onion, Carrots, Celery, Dried White Beans, Ham Bone, Bay Leaves, Thyme, Rosemary, Salt & Pepper. OR whatever you have in the fridge/pantry that you think would be good in soup.

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Out comes the trusty crockpot because even though opera season is over, life is still crazy & busy.

(Busy with things like being locked out of one’s own website by rude, rude hackers.)

You already know that I have confessed to being a lazy crockpotter.

You can’t get much easier than this soup. This is definitely a Dump & Run Recipe…

Up top I have 1 medium onion, 2 ribs of celery, and 3-4 carrots all chopped up and dumped in the pot.

Then I added 1 pound of dried white beans (I think these are either white kidney beans or great northern beans…I didn’t have the package because I used these to blind bake a pie crust).

No need to soak the beans. Pick through them to be sure there are no rocks or non-bean objects and give them a quick rinse. In they go.

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Nestle your meaty ham bone right in there.

For better flavor, I usually take a minute to cut some of the good ham bits off of the bone before adding it to the pot.

You can make a sandwich with them, or save them and toss them into the soup at the end. That way you have ham that has cooked all day and ham that is fresher tasting.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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As they say in Minnesota, UFF DA!

I’ve been having some trouble with hackers and I was locked out of my own website. How’s that for not knowing what you’re doing?

Hopefully things are back to normal. Unfortunately it’s taken me all day to get this far so I’ll be back with a new recipe tomorrow.

In the meantime, Henry hopes you have a relaxing Monday.

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– C

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Coconut Curry Baked Cod

Coconut Curry Baked Cod is a perfect weeknight dinner.

We tend eat a lot of seafood not only because it’s a light and healthy option, but also because fish cooks quickly.

Made with only a few ingredients, you can get this in the oven and on the table in well under 30 minutes.

It never would have occurred to me to combine coconut milk & curry with fish, but its a real winner.

Here’s what you need:

Coconut Curry Baked Cod Ingredients

Cod or other White Fish, Coconut Milk, Green Curry Paste, Fresh Ginger, Cilantro, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Coconut Curry Baked Cod Shopping List

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

I buy curry paste in small cans at the Asian market where they have a gazillion different flavors & strengths. They also have several kinds of curry paste at my regular grocery store.

For this recipe I’m using green curry which is a little spicier than my usual yellow or massaman curry paste. Green curry has a very clean flavor and since we’re only using 1 teaspoon, it isn’t overly spicy or overwhelming to the flavor of the fish.

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A curry paste secret is that once the can is open, you can use what you need then put the remainder in a ziplock bag in the freezer. The oil in the curry paste keeps it from freezing solid so even straight from the freezer, you can spoon out however much you need for the next recipe.

Note:  The amounts here are for 2 people or about 1 pound of fish. You can very easily adapt this recipe for any number of servings.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup

I have a confession to make…I am a lazy Crockpotter.

I have a big cookbook full of recipes for the crockpot or slow cooker that I’ve never tried. Why? Almost all of the recipes require a fair amount of prepping the food before it goes into the crockpot.

I totally agree that most meat tastes better if you brown it before putting it into the slow cooker so I’ll happily do that for something like a pot roast.

However, most of the time when I get the crockpot out, it is because I want IT to do all the work and cook the dinner.

Dump and Run. That’s my idea of a good crockpot/slow cooker recipe.

Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup fits that description perfectly.

Here’s what you need:

Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup Ingredients

Chicken Breasts, Onion, Garlic, Black Beans, Diced Tomatoes, Corn, Diced Green Chiles, Enchilada Sauce, Chicken Broth, Cumin, Chipotle Chili Powder (not pictured), Salt & Pepper.

You’ll also want some tasty toppings like Tortilla Chips, Grated Cheese, Avocado, Sour Cream, Cilantro, etc.

Click here for a Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup Shopping List

I usually don’t cook with a ton of canned foods but beans and diced tomatoes are a big exception. I keep a few cans in the pantry so I can almost always whip together some sort of soup or stew. I had everything I needed for this recipe on hand except the chicken.

Finely chop 1 medium onion and 2-3 cloves of garlic.

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For this recipe, I have 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves…about 1 pound total.

Place the chicken in the bottom of the crock pot and then start adding the chopped onion, garlic, and other ingredients.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Corned Beef & Cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day.

St. Patrick’s Day is one of those holidays where I don’t do a lot of fussing around.

My needs are pretty simple each year:  Corned Beef, Cabbage, Potatoes, & Carrots.

Please hold the green beer.

If you’ve been around Idiot’s Kitchen a while, you’ll realize that this is one of the few re-runs that I’ve posted. I might branch out and try a new method for corned beef this year, but when you have a tried and true recipe like this that works AND is super easy, why not stick with it.

This is the way my family has always cooked Corned Beef & Cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day dinner.

Here’s what you need:

Corned Beef Brisket*, Cabbage, Onion, Red Potatoes, Carrots, Peppercorns (I have a variety but plain black peppercorns are fine), Bay Leaves & Apple Cider Vinegar (not pictured).

Click here for a Corned Beef & Cabbage Shopping List

Note:  For a 4 pound corned beef (enough to feed 4 people) you will need at about 3 hours of cooking time. Plan ahead.

*Corned Beef is basically a brisket that has been brined or salt cured. In addition to salt, there is usually a variety of spices including whole mustard seeds, pepper corns, and bay leaves. Sometimes these spices are in the brining liquid around the meat and sometimes they are in a separate small packet included with the corned beef. You can brine your own, but there are good ones available this time of year in almost every store. Look for what they call a flat brisket or flat cut corned beef and take a look at the side of the meat to try to find one that doesn’t have too much fat running through the middle of the meat. This will make slicing much easier.

Take the corned beef out of its plastic packaging. Some people like to use the brining liquid included in the package for cooking. I would do this if the spices are floating around in the brine. Otherwise, for me it is salty enough without adding the liquid from the package. Take the little packet of spices and rub them on the “good” side of the corned beef that does not have the layer of fat.

You will want to use a HUGE pot if you have one. Eventually all of the veggies will go in this pot so plan to have plenty of room to spare.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Purple Power Smoothie

Purple Power Smoothie!

Otherwise known as Blueberry Banana with a few extras thrown in.

I used to think I was having a healthy breakfast by eating a cup of store bought yogurt and a banana for breakfast. Then I actually read the ingredients on the back of my yogurt container and found that a tiny, tiny little carton of yogurt had 30 grams of sugar! Most of that in the form of added sugar.

Friends, 30 grams is about 8 teaspoons of sugar. Or 2½ Tablespoons. Or to put it another way, RIDICULOUS!

I’m sorry, but for 30 grams of sugar, I’d rather have cake.

So, until the day comes that I learn to make my own yogurt, I’ve embraced the healthier morning smoothie!

Purple Power Smoothie Ingredients

Our Purple Power Smoothie has 2 ripe bananas, 1 heaping cup (or more) of blueberries, about 3/4 cup of plain greek yogurt, 2 Tablespoons of flaxseeds, a little bit of milk, and a dollop of raw local honey.

Measurements are all approximate here. Use what you have on hand and customize to suit your own tastes.

You can use fresh or frozen fruit or a combination of the two. When my fruit is starting to look a little weary, I plop it in the freezer for future smoothies.

I’ve started including ground flaxseed for extra fiber and the good omega-3s and also just a bit of raw local honey for the allergy fighting benefits it offers.

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If you’re using a traditional blender, put just a bit of liquid – milk, almond milk, coconut water or juice in the bottom of the blender to get things going.

If you want your smoothie extra cold like I do, add 1 cup of crushed ice and give it a whirl.

Blueberry Banana Smoothie

I’m not sure this is what the good folks at Boulevard Brewing Co. had in mind but pint glasses make perfect smoothie glasses.

One blender-full shown here, makes 2 pint glasses of Purple Power Smoothie. Enough to share!

What’s in your favorite smoothie? 

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Roasted Strawberries

Roasted Strawberries!

The person who thought of this has my undying gratitude.

Strawberries are plenty good all on their own but when you roast them, magical things happen.

Just like roasting vegetables, heat from the oven brings out the sweetness and caramelizes the juices.

Sweeter and juicer strawberries? That’s perfectly fine with me!

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Just a couple of miles from our house is the area where most of the strawberries are grown in Florida. They even have a Strawberry Festival every year complete with a Strawberry Queen!

Unlike the other parts of the country that have ripe strawberries in the summer, we have strawberries in the winter. In fact, they are ripe and in abundance right now.

That big box of strawberries? Five bucks. Yes, you read that correctly.

And they were perfectly ripe, red and delicious all the way through.

Once you experience roasted strawberries, I promise you won’t need any more convincing.

Here’s what you need:

Roasted Strawberries Ingredients

Strawberries, Maple Syrup, Balsamic Reduction, Olive Oil, and Salt.

Click here for a Roasted Strawberries Shopping List

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

The original recipe calls for balsamic vinegar (a few drops) and port wine (which I was out of) so I got out my trusty bottle of Balsamic Reduction/Syrup from Trader Joe’s.

Grab a bowl big enough to accommodate your berries and add 3 Tablespoons of maple syrup, 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, and 2 Tablespoons balsamic reduction.

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Add a pinch of salt and whisk to combine.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Baked Fish with Butter & Sherry

Sometimes the title says it all…That’s certainly the case with Baked Fish with Butter & Sherry. 

We have lovely fresh fish. We’re going to bake it with butter and sherry.

Then we’re going to eat it and be SOOOOOO happy because it is so delicious and it was so easy to make!

Honestly, start to finish this meal takes 15 minutes or less. Maybe 20 if you want rice.

Here’s what you need:

Baked Fish with Butter & Sherry Ingredients

Fish (Cod), Butter, Sherry, Parsley, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Baked Fish with Butter & Sherry Shopping List

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

For the fish, choose something white and flaky and plan on 6-8 ounces of fish per person.

I have cod. The original recipe called for scrod which, even though I love fish, I’m pretty sure I’ve yet to encounter. Halibut would be good. So would snapper or sole.

Try to avoid super thin fillets of fish. If you only have something very thin like swai or tilapia, be sure to reduce the cooking time.

Butter the bottom of a baking dish just large enough to accommodate your fish. Place the fish in the dish and season lightly with salt & pepper.

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Click HERE, there’s more!

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