Southern Hospitality (Chicken Enchiladas)

My friend Brooke invited me to guest post today on her blog A Life in Need of Change. Visit me at Brooke’s for an easy and delicious enchilada recipe. Hopefully, you’ll be inspired to double the recipe and share.

Join us!


The Best Granola

I’ve posted this recipe for homemade granola before, but it’s just so good I had to share it again! We’ve updated our original recipe since going gluten-free and are very grateful for Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Old-Fashioned Oats.  With our without gluten, this granola is simply delicious.

Maple Vanilla Granola

5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup honey

1 Tbs vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl mix the oats, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.

In another small bowl, mix the oil, maple syrup, honey and vanilla.  Pour the honey mixture over the oat mixture and mix with your hands until well combined.  This is messy!

Spread the granola on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool completely and crumble granola into big chunks and small bits.  Store in an airtight container.

Don’t just take my word for it – make this granola for yourselves and let me know what you think! But, with thumbs up from all four Littles and Husband, the title of  Best Granola is secure at The Schell Cafe.

Penn Cove Mussels

Guess what’s in the bowl?

More importantly, guess what was in the bowl?

Before Husband and I devoured them, a steamy pile of Penn Cove mussels graced our sea side supper tonight. What you see up there, my friends, is just a bowl of shells.

Speaking of Schells, la famille spent the day chasing whales in Puget Sound. The scenery through the San Juan Islands was truly breathtaking and even Littlest spied spectacular wildlife. We saw minke whales, harbor seals, porpoises, and a majestic Bald Eagle soaring close to its nesting eaglet.

Back on land, and nearing supper time we were hankering for more surf. We stopped by Penn Cove and picked up 2 lbs of fresh mussels. Located in Coupeville, WA, Penn Cove is a gorgeous body of water made famous for its abundance of outstanding mussels. They did not disappoint!

Mussels require little effort for tasty results. There are infinite ways to dress up the shellfish, but I like them in a simple wine and garlic sauce. Most likely because the first bowl of mussels I ever tasted was presented in a delicious wine sauce with ample bread for mopping. I was fifteen years old and traveling to France for the first time. I had no idea what mussels, or moules, were at the time, but I’ve been a fan since that very first bite.

I’ve made mussels twice since we’ve been on Whidbey Island and both times I varied up the sauce depending on the ingredients I had on hand. For example, the first night I had a full bottle of Washington white wine so I used two cups to steam the mussels. For some reason, the second time I only had a scant quarter cup of wine!??! So, I took the cooks liberty of drinking the wine and used water with a generous amount of Old Bay Seasoning to steam the mussels. Both evenings produced a delicious bowl of steamy mussels.

I’ve tweeted with my pals @WholeFoodsATX to see if they source Penn Cove mussels. My fingers are crossed and I’ll keep you posted. You must try these sweet and simple mussels. Here’s a recipe I loosely followed from a post several years ago.

Penn Cove Mussels

2 lbs mussels, de-bearded and rinsed

2-3 TBS extra virgin olive oil

2-3 cloves garlic, minced (I use about 6 cloves, but we really like garlic!)

2-3 TBS shallots, minced (I didn’t measure, but feel certain I used more!)

2 TBS Old Bay Seasoning (optional)

2 cups white wine, or water

2 TBS butter

fresh herbs, I like parsley, chives or tarragon

Salt & pepper

Rinse the mussels in cold water. De-beard if necessary. Discard mussels that are opened. Sometimes fresh mussels will slightly open, if you have one of these gently tap and the mussel should close. If not, toss.

Heat the olive oil in a big pot with a fitted lid. Add the garlic and shallots and saute until soft. Add Old Bay Seasoning, if using, and wine (or water). Stir to combine and bring to a boil.

Add mussels to boiling liquid, cover and steam for about 6 minutes. Mussels will open when fully cooked.

Remove pot from heat, stir in butter, herbs and seasonings. Pour into a big bowl and serve with wine and crusty bread!

Salmon 101

Raise your hand if the fish counter intimidates you? At least once a week I find myself standing in front of the massive fish selection at Whole Foods challenged. Farmed? Wild? King? Alaskan? Atlantic? Pacific? Coho? And that’s just the salmon. Daunted by the unfamiliar, I ask the monger for the freshest catch for the best price and continue on my way.

The Schell Cafe is on-location this week in the Pacific Northwest. Early yesterday morning I strolled Pike Place Market in awe of the bounty. At one of the fish stalls I decided to put an end to my lack of salmon know-how and asked the monger for a quick course in salmon.

There are two types of salmon, Atlantic and Pacific. Atlantic salmon is usually farmed. Salmon from the Pacific is most often wild, but can also be farmed. What does farmed mean? Exactly what it sounds like, fish are bred and raised in cages or large net pens to meet the growing demand for seafood. Fish farms produce almost 20 percent of worldwide seafood. Most fish farms are located in Asia, primarily China and the majority of salmon farms are in Norway and Chile. Thirty percent of all seafood in the United States comes from fish farms. The debate over farmed fish is heated with primary concerns for environmental impact at the forefront. The more I learn, the more I appreciate the nutritional and environmental benefits of wild salmon.

In addition to my crash course at the market, I bought a local cookbook Pure Flavor written by the owner of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. Read how author Kurt Beecher Dammeier explains salmon.

There are five kinds (species) of Pacific salmon:

Chinook, also called king salmon, the largest and fattiest fish, has firm, red fish

Chum, also called keta or dog salmon, is a lower-fat fish with firm, pale flesh and a very mild flavor.

Coho, or silver salmon, is a small fish with medium-red, less fatty flesh

Pink, or humpback, is the leanest salmon.  It has soft, pink flesh.

Sockeye, also called red or blueback, has deep red meat, a firm texture, and the second highest fat content. It has the highest levels of omega-3s of all the types of salmon.

After exploring the city, we left Seattle behind and are currently tucked away in a small corner of Puget Sound. Husband brought along his fishing paraphernalia in hopes of scoring the biggest catch this week. He was sorely disappointed to find that the salmon season doesn’t officially open until the 16th. So, I’m headed to the local fish stand to see what wild, freshly caught salmon I can find.

In the meantime the Littles just brought in a feisty Dungeness crab they found on the beach. It’s almost time for lunch and if I can get my wits about me, perhaps I’ll boil my first live crab.

Stay tuned as our adventures continue…

Dos Equis Chicken: The Most Interesting Bird in the World

Beer can chicken is hands down (and bottoms up!) our favorite way to grill a bird. Like most of America, we’ll fire up the coals on the 4th of July and I thought I’d share our Dos Equis Chicken recipe.

Beer can chicken has been around for ages and is more of a method than a recipe. Simply put, you pop a top on your favorite beer, take a few good swigs to empty the can a bit, nestle a whole chicken (giblets removed) on the beer can and grill ’til done.

Not to get all highbrow on you, but I purchased a vertical chicken roaster from Williams-Sonoma. Actually I purchased two, because everyone knows two beer can chickens are better than one.

Here’s the roaster(s) I purchased.

My roasters are so well loved they wouldn’t recognize this photo! Like a beer can, the roaster holds liquid and keeps the chicken in a vertical position allowing for a tender perfect roast every time.

Beer Can Chicken

1 whole chicken (4-5 lbs), giblets removed

1/2 cup olive oil + more for vegetables

Seasoning or rub of choice – I like hot Spanish paprika

4-5 cloves garlic, slightly crushed but intact

coarse sea salt


Mixed vegetables – this time I used mixed bell peppers, green onions, red onions, and garlic. But corn, squash and jalapenos are favorites too.

Beer – Dos Equis, of course *

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Mix Spanish paprika, or your chosen seasoning/rub, into olive oil.

Place the roaster on a baking sheet (for transporting and collecting spills only).  Pour beer into the center container of the roaster. Add the garlic cloves. Gently nestle the chicken, legs pointing down, onto the roaster. Brush the seasoning & oil mixture generously over the chicken. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt & pepper.

Set the roaster on the grill away from direct heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes.

While the chicken is roasting chop the veggies and place in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil to coat the vegetables and toss with salt & pepper.

After 30 minutes, add the vegetables to the base of the roaster. Continue cooking, brushing the chicken with the seasoning and olive oil mixture every 15 minutes for a total of 1 1/2 hours. Cooking times will vary depending on your grill, so check with a meat thermometer. Chicken will be done when the thermometer registers 170 degrees fahrenheit.

Transfer to a carving board or serving platter. Cover the chicken loosely with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

* For my gluten-free friends, I realize Dos Equis is NOT a good choice of beverages no matter how thirsty you are. My friend Jess @ATXglutenfree was kind to inform me of gluten-free beer options, specifically Green’s which I spied with my little eye at Whole Foods. Truthfully, you don’t have to use beer at all. Wine, chicken stock, even water would work. Just don’t go callin’ it Beer Can Chicken if it ain’t.

Happy 4th!