Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Greek Chicken Skewers with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

I just got back from Las Vegas and I am pooped!  In my opinion, you didn't do Vegas right if you have even an ounce of energy when you get back.  I had to sleep an extra 8 hours just to get myself to the point where I could consciously walk around my house without looking like a zombie. Needless to say, dinner last night had to be clean and simple. I needed a detox from all of the incredible food, and just a few drinks if I remember right, that are definitely not allowed on the usual healthy eating wagon. I won't eat just plain old tasteless healthy food though, it has to be delicious. I love the flavors in Greek food so I decided to spice up some chicken and throw them on the barbie (I am aware that barbie is an Australian term, If you know the Greek equivalent...then you get a gold star smarty pants) These Greek chicken skewers were the perfect meal loaded with protein, low in carbohydrates and absolutely delectable. They would be perfect as a meal served with a Greek salad, as a snack, or even an appetizer. 

The Skewers:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approx 5 oz each)
8 bamboo skewers, soaked for at least 30 minutes in water.
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp each: oregano, onion powder, coriander, tarragon, turmeric, curry, thyme, pepper

The Sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt (plain, non-fat)
1 cucumber
3/4 tsp dill
1/2 tsp garlic paste
salt and pepper to taste
**You can also find this sauce used on my Greek Burgers

Preheat grill to 375 degrees. Slice each chicken breast into 4 slices, cutting at an angle to make wider, thinner strips. Weave 2 slices of chicken onto each skewer. Spray the front and back side of each skewer with olive oil then sprinkle seasoning blend on both sides. Set aside.

To make the sauce: start by peeling and rough chopping the cucumber. Put it in a blender and blend to a chunky pulp. Remove from blender and pour into a cheese cloth or paper towel. Press out majority of the liquid reserving only the pulp. In a bowl, combine the yogurt, 1/2 cup of cucumber pulp, garlic, dill, salt and pepper. Mix well. Set aside

Place skewers on the grill for about 3 minutes on each side or until chicken is cooked thoroughly*. Remove from the grill and serve along side cucumber sauce.

*Chicken must reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees in order to be considered safe to consume.

Serves 4
Serving Size: 2 skewers with 1/4 cup yogurt sauce
Per Serving: 190 cals / 2g fat / 3g carbs / 39g protein

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tortilla Soup

This incredible tortilla soup is a recipe I got from a cooking class on my honeymoon. We honeymooned at the Four Seasons Resort in Costa Rica and they offered a cooking class with an executive chef. For me this was the best activity the resort offered. For my hubby, not so much. Luckily my new groom was willing to tag along to make the experience even more special. We got into the kitchen and were handed white aprons ::shriek of excitement:: and then handed all of our prepped ingredients. The finished product was so smooth and delicious that I made him go back two days later to learn another dish. The coolest thing that I learned about the Four Seasons Resorts while on this trip is that any dish you eat while staying there (or any Four Seasons Resort), you can ask for a recipe and they gladly offer it up! I don't often stay at the Four Seasons (Because I'm cheap and I like a good Hampton Inn) but for special occasions like a honeymoon, we'll spring for the luxury. I thought this concept was too cool. While lounging poolside, I had the chance to speak with the Executive Chef who was the brains behind the idea of sharing the recipes as well as the cooking classes with guests. He said that he thought that it would be interesting for guests to be able to take a little piece of their trip home with them and it would be a great experience for those of us that love to cook, to cook alongside the talented chef's that were creating the dishes we were enjoying during our stay. So today, I am sharing a little piece of my honeymoon trip to Costa Rice with y'all. I hope that it warms you from the inside out during these winter months of snow, ice and arctic temperatures. 

14 oz whole tomatoes
1 1/3 cup white onions, large diced
1/2 cup celery, large diced
1 Tbsp crushed garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups tomato juice
1 tsp whole cumin seed*
3 handfuls, fried corn tortillas (tortilla chips)

1 1/3 cups ripe avocado, chopped into squares
2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (The cheese thief helped himself to my mozzarella so I used cheddar)
1 1/3 cups cooked, shredded chicken breast**
1 bunch fresh coriander, coarsely chopped

Spread the tomatoes with oil and salt and grill them until they become soft (you could also bake and broil them). Saute the onions, celery and garlic in a large pot over medium-high heat. When the vegetables are caramelized incorporate the cumin seeds then the chicken stock and tomato juice. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Add the tortillas to the soup and cook for another 20 minutes or until tortillas are tender. Let the soup cool then add to a blender and puree it until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot with the avocado, cheese, shredded chicken and fresh coriander.

*Note: You can find whole cumin seed at Whole Foods or a similar store. If you can't find them, feel free to use ground cumin. Leaving them whole to puree in the blender brings out more flavor than the pre-ground kind therefore you may use a dash or two extra if using the ground kind.
**Note: You can boil chicken breast in salted water, salt and pepper it when done and then use your stand-mixer with blade attachment to shred the chicken. This is my favorite technique to use. 

Enjoy! XOXO~

Friday, December 6, 2013

Easy Fridge Pickles

I am friends with an amazing little farm girl named Kristi that I met a few years back when I was working in the oil industry. She has this incredible garden (that ultimately inspired my own garden) and always brought us big brown bags full of the most incredible veggies. We called it "The Kristi Yamaguchi Farmer's Market." I was the pickiest of eaters growing up, apparently I only grew up 4 years ago because that is when I started finally eating veggies. She is why I am so in love with tomatoes now and she is also the reason I shake my hand at the gardening gods every year because my cantaloupe do not get bigger than a softball and they can't even come close to the big ole boy, blue ribbon worthy, incredibly sweet and fleshy cantaloupe that she spoiled me on. Anyway...She mentioned in passing that she makes fridge pickles all the time and I, who has always had a curiosity of canning and pickling but never attempted it, was intrigued. She gave me a basic run-down of what she does and how long hers last and that very first batch of homemade fridge pickles was born. Over the years I have tweaked and played and the below recipe is one of my go-to favorite blends but the possibilities are endless. Try different spices, veggies and herbs, change up the vinegar or the amount of salt and sugar. This is just a starting point for you. Just play around figure out what you love. 

4 dark green pickling cucumbers
3 green onions (3 stalks)  
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 Tbsp pickling salt (table salt will work well enough)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp whole cumin seed
Optional: Any veggie you have on hand and want to pickle

Wash cucumbers and either slice into 1/4 inch slices or spear them. Wash and trim the roots and bulb from green onion. Remove any loose layers. Cut the green onion, including the white and light green part, into 2 inch pieces. Place in a 1-qt container with a secure lid. If you have any other vegetables such as green or white onion, bell pepper or okra you will prep by cleaning and then cutting peppers and onions or adding whole okra (keep in mind you will need fewer cucumbers if you are using other veggies as well). In a small sauce pan combine the water, both vinegars, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil. Stir until salt and sugar have dissolved (5 minutes). Add in the peppercorns, garlic and cumin. Pour over the cucumber and veggies. Close lid tightly and place in the back of your fridge. Let the pickle concoction sit for a minimum of one week! Don't feel bad if you don't make it the whole husband usually doesn't. If you want an even easier route, skip the boiling, just dissolve the salt and sugar is warm water add your vinegar and spices and let sit overnight. They won't be near as full of flavor but they will satisfy the urge. Please remember that these must be stored in the fridge. And the best part is: You can enjoy them for up to a month.

Enjoy! XOXO~

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Skinny Mashed Potatoes

OK, Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is around the corner. It is time to turn up the workouts and turn down the calories, you know, just for the time in between the 2 feast-full holidays. This is one of my favorite healthy swaps and I know you will love it too. I actually brought this to Thanksgiving last year for anyone that was trying to be semi-healthy and most of my family members were hesitant to try it. I got every excuse from "I hate cauliflower" and "I don't like veggies" to "I'll be able to taste the cauliflower". I didn't push, I just left it there and slowly but started to disappear. I brought it this year, and they were asking for it before I even had a chance to get it on the table and that doesn't count the 3 phone calls I got making sure I was making it again and the phone calls throughout the year I got asking how to make it. If you can boil, blend and can make this. This is a dish that feels naughty because you're eating mashed potatoes and that is a no-no in the world of health and fitness (or so I'm told) but this is not naughty at all! It is light and airy and yummy. Trust me, you won't be sorry, just look at the nutrition content I put at the bottom of the post!

5 lbs russet potatoes
3 heads cauliflower
1 Tbsp teaspoons salt
2 tsp pepper
2 tsp garlic
2 tsp onion powder
2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese (If desired) 

This recipe is super simple...but has a few moving parts so I did a step-by-step for you:

Peel and chop potatoes then boil until fork tender. Drain water and mash potatoes with a masher. They do not need to be completely mashed at this point so lets call this a "rough mash"

Remove stem and leaves from heads of cauliflower. Break or chop into about 2 inch pieces (this doesn't have to be an exact size just fairly uniform). Bring a pot of water and 1 Tbsp salt to a boil (I forgot the salt so I added it late - oh well!) Add in the cauliflower and boil for about 20-30 minutes. Boil until fork tender (I used a 6.75qt Le Creuset dutch oven and I do it in 3 batches). Strain out the cauliflower leaving the water for another batch if needed, if only doing one batch, reserve 1 cup of the boiling water.


At this point, if adding cheese, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Fill your blenders container with 2/3 of the boiled cauliflower, in batches if needed, and add 1/3 cup of the boiling water per batch to help give it enough liquid to blend well. Blend until smooth or pureed. (You will use the other 1/3 of the boiled cauliflower later on)

Add the pureed cauliflower to the potatoes. Add 2 teaspoons of the salt as well as the pepper, garlic and onion powder. Mix well.

Add the remaining cauliflower to the potato mixture without pureeing and mash into potato mixture. This will help keep a thick mashed potato like consistency. If you prefer a smoother consistency then you will just puree all of the cauliflower and ignore this step.

Give the mashed potato mixture one last good mix. At this point, you can eat them and they are delicious. For large family gatherings I like to add a little cheese. If you want to add a little you can smooth out the top with a rubber spatula or the back of a large serving spoon and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Place uncovered in the oven and bake 5-8 minutes or until cheese on top is melted and starting to bubble and brown a bit. Serve and enjoy!

This recipe size is for a large gathering and will serve approximately 20-22 people with 1 cup servings. To convert this recipe for a smaller family meal boil 1 medium russet potato per 3 cups of raw cauliflower you boil or 1.5lbs of potato per head of cauliflower.

Per Serving (1 Cup): 94 cals / 2g fat / 17g carbs / 4g protein
Traditional Home-Made Mashed Potatoes: 237 cals / 9g fat / 35g carbs / 4g protein

Enjoy! XOXO~

Friday, November 29, 2013

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Bacon by Give Thanks Giveaway Winner Jaci Gordon

Congratulations to Jaci Gordon of San Diego, CA for being the lucky winner of the Give Thanks Giveaway! She will receive an autographed copy of my debut album Whiskey & Lace before it is available in stores. Jaci submitted her recipe for Sweet Potatoes with Bacon which was included in the Keith Family Thanksgiving Feast this year. The dish is a yummy and healthier alternative to the traditional candied sweet potatoes. Delicious healthy ways to prepare sweet potatoes always catch my eye. Jaci's recipe along with the other photos of the dish, as it appeared on our dinner table, are below. Thank you all so much for your submissions, there were so many amazing dishes to choose from and believe was NOT an easy task to decide on only one. I hope you guys had an amazing Thanksgiving and had the opportunity to give thought to all the things you have to be thankful for.

Prep Time: 25 Minutes  Total Time 1 Hour 45 Minutes
Makes 10 servings (1/2 cup each)

3 lb dark-orange sweet potatoes (about 4 potatoes)
6 slices bacon
1 large onion, chopped (3/4 cup)
1/4 cup fat-free half-and-half, warmed
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Fresh thyme sprigs, if desired

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Pierce sweet potatoes all over with fork; place on cookie sheet with sides. Bake about 1 hour 15 minutes or until tender when pierced with fork. Let stand 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle.
  2. Meanwhile, in 10-inch skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat 4 minutes, turning occasionally, until brown. Remove bacon from skillet; place on paper towels to drain. Reserve 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet; discard remaining drippings. Add onion to skillet; cook over medium heat 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.
  3. Peel sweet potatoes; place in large bowl. Mash until no lumps remain. Add warm half-and-half, thyme, salt and pepper; mash until very smooth.
  4. Add onion to sweet potatoes. Crumble bacon; reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish. Add remaining bacon to potatoes; stir until blended. Garnish with reserved bacon and thyme sprigs.


Enjoy! XOXO~

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Leftover Quiche

This week is all about Turkey Day. But have you planned what you'll do with the leftovers? I figured I would share an idea or two with you. This is the gourmet girl coming out in me...We have a French bistro in my hometown (Norman, OK) called La Baguette and it has been around for decades. They have the most decadent pastries, warm fresh-baked loaves of bread, soups, sandwiches and quiche...oh the quiche. It rocks my world. I used to think quiche was a hard dish to make because it sounded so foreign and fancy, and tasted so delicious that it had to take hours to create the perfection that is the French quiche. WRONG...It is super simple. I started playing around with different ingredients and figured out that quiche is not only simple to make,  the filling combinations are endless too. I'll list some other combinations at the bottom incase you decide that all you want to eat is quiche until Christmas! With all the leftovers I'll have from our Thanksgiving feast for 30 (yes...30!) I wanted to play a little off of my favorite ham and swiss quiche from La Baguette and put a little Thanksgiving twist on it. I would love to hear some filling combo ideas from you guys too! Just post them in the comments section below.
1 unbaked store-bought pie crust (do not prick holes)
4 eggs
3/4 cup half and half (I used fat free H&H but some of you prefer the regular - up to you!)
1 1/2 cups shredded gruyere cheese
3/4 cups shredded leftover turkey
3/4 cups diced leftover ham
1 Tbsp green onions
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Press the pie crust into a pie dish or tart pan. Cover crust with 2 pieces of foil and bake for 8 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 5 minutes. Spread turkey, ham, cheese and green onions over pie crust. In a bowl, whip eggs, half and half, salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over the turkey, ham, cheese and green onions. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until the tip of a knife inserted in center comes out clean. This time is for a tart dish which is much more shallow (about 1 inch deep) than a pie plate. If you are using a pie plate you will need to add approximately 10 minutes. After removing from the oven, allow the quiche to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Other Combinations:

Ham and Swiss

Chicken, Green Chile and Mozzarella (part skim)

Ham and Cheddar (white or yellow cheddar)

Southwest - onion, green and red peppers, mushrooms, white cheddar

Broccoli and Cheddar

Spinach and Artichoke

Ham, caramelized Onion and Muenster Cheese

Sun Dried Tomato, Spinach, Feta

Italian Sausage and Mozzarella

Spinach and Bacon

Bacon and Leek



You can even make it into mini quiche for parties!


Enjoy! XOXO~

Monday, November 25, 2013

Grannie's Thanksgiving Stuffing

Just in case you're living under a rock, or are deprived of a calendar....Thanksgiving is almost here! I'm freakin' out over only having 2 more days to prepare for all the cooking and then inevitable food coma that leads to me falling asleep while watching a football game. There are 5 or 6 staples to our thanksgiving feast, Dad's turkey, Mom's Ham, Grannie's stuffing, Nannie's candied sweet potatoes and Aunt Hooey's apple pie   You guys are getting a family gem right here. There was a few years that my Grannie was out of town for Thanksgiving and my sister and I got to compete to see who could get closer to the original neither of us got it just right the first year, the second and third attempts were much closer. Something about my Grannie making it, makes it just that much more perfect though. There has been a debate for years over the "right" way to make stuffing. My husband grew up on bread stuffing but I grew up on cornbread stuffing. His mom cuts up loaves of bread and let's the cubes of bread harden a bit before adding the stock and seasonings. My Grannie bakes a couple pans of cornbread and crumbles that up to add stock and seasoning to. Our first year to do Thanksgiving together, the hubs was disappointed that we were not having bread stuffing that he was used to having on Turkey Day...We won him over though, and he thought ours was delicious (He may not have made it into the fam if he rejected Gran's stuffing!). You simply cannot compare the two, they are entirely different. But since I'm the one sharing the get Grannie's version. Maybe next year I'll share my sweet Mother-in-Law's recipe with y'all and you can be the deciding vote.
2- 9x13" pans of Shawnee's Best or Aunt Jamima White Cornbread mix, prepared as directed
3 large white onions, chopped
2 clusters celery chopped
1 whole bottle rubbed sage
1 Tbsp oil
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 tsp salt
4 sleeves saltine crackers
5 cups Turkey Broth (from cooked turkey or store-bought)
salt and pepper
Sauté oil, water, onion, celery and salt. Cover and cook on low until tender but not mushy. Strain turkey broth (to keep bones out of stuffing). Crumble both crackers and cornbread and combine in a large pan. Add turkey broth, onion mixture and 1/2 bottle sage. Use potato masher and mash as if you were making mashed potatoes. If needed, add more chicken or turkey broth to get the consistency you need. Add the other 1/2 bottle of sage and salt and pepper to taste. Be aware that the crackers are salted so make sure you taste it as you add it so not to over-salt. Pour mixture into 9x13 pans (should make 3 pans) Bake at 425 for 1 hour. After 30 minutes rotate pans in the oven (move top rack pans to bottom rack and bottom rack pans to the top rack), continue the remaining 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the feast begin!

Enjoy! XOXO~
P.S. Here are a few extra photos just for fun!


Cheers to all of you having a Happy Thanksgiving Day!
(You guys didn't think I cooked sober, right?!)


Thursday, November 21, 2013

A "Giving Thanks" Give-Away

With Thanksgiving only 1 week away, I have started to think ahead to all the things I have to be thankful for. I am so thankful for a number of new reasons this year. My usual list of appreciation includes being thankful for being happy and healthy and having amazing, loving family and friends to share life with. This year however, I have had a lot of firsts to be thankful for:

  • First EP release
  • First music video
  • First video to hit 1 million views!
  • First cut as a songwriter X3 (Daddy Dance With Me, Get Your Redneck On and Whiskey and Lace)
  • First official single release
  • First album release
  • There are SOOO many more including launching The Barnyard Bistro
I have had such an incredible year living out my dreams and sharing all of it with you guys, my incredible fans. Without you, I would have no reason to do what it is that I get to do everyday. You are the reason I write songs and even more, the reason I sing them, so thank you for being you!

I wanted to share this great holiday with you guys and "give" back in my own little way. One lucky fan will win an autographed copy of my album Whiskey & Lace  before it's available in stores! Just send your favorite Thanksgiving side dish along with a photo of you and/or the dish to and I will select one dish to make for my own Thanksgiving dinner next week. That winner will receive an early copy of Whiskey & Lace. 

May the best dish win!
Enjoy! XOXO~

Monday, November 18, 2013

Quick Fried Rice

Who doesn't say "fried rice" when give the option? So much flavor and happiness. This was the bain of my existence until recently. After years of trying every variety of rice combined with every possible ingredient to get the right combo to make the perfect fried rice, I finally landed on a quick and easy combo that even the hubs was high-fiving me for (He has watched me slave and sulk for years trying to get this right). His exact words were "Whoa, I think you nailed it this time ::high five::" He didn't mention seeing the fireworks that went off as the marching band and baton twirlers danced through my kitchen in celebration, but I'm sure he noticed them too. You are 10 minutes from bliss....

1 1/2 cups white minute rice
2 cups water
1/4 cup fresh diced onion
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup diced carrots
2 Tbsp pecan oil (or vegetable oil), divided
1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp butter or margarine
1 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
2 eggs
salt and ground black pepper

In a large skillet, over medium heat, combine the rice and water. Once the water is absorbed, add the pecan oil, sesame oil, onions and carrots. Toss for 3-4 minutes. Add salt, pepper, soy sauce and butter; Mix well. Push all of the rice to one side of the skillet. Crack the eggs and place them in the empty side of the skillet. Break the yolk and allow the eggs to cook about half-way before chopping and turning over to finish cooking. Once the egg is done, mix it into the rice. Toss rice for 2-3 more minutes. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. 

Note** If you want to serve it in a mound like they do at some of the Japanese steakhouses (like the image above), just pack the rice into a small prep bowl or side dish bowl and lay the plate on top. Hold the bowl and plate tightly in place and flip over, laying the plate on a flat surface. Wiggle the bowl gently and carefully lift the bowl away leaving a perfect mound of Fried Rice. This side-dish pairs perfectly with my Broiled Hoisin Salmon from last week.

Enjoy! XOXO~