Nicci Morris

Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

Time to slow it down…

In Entertaining, Food, Recipes on September 30, 2009 at 11:32 pm
Photo by Susan Boyer

Photo by Susan Boyer

As I look out of the kitchen window, I’m amazed at the beauty of the changing leaves. What was once supple and green is now crisp, red and orange. The tree tops contrast sharply with the gray, cloudy sky, as if they have been set ablaze by Mother Nature.

It’s time to fire up my slow cooker.

I feel the need for serious comfort food as the temperature outside drops. One of my favorite slow-cooker meals is country ribs and beans. I start by seasoning and searing the meat in a super-hot cast iron skillet to get nice color and flavor and then put it in the slow cooker with the beans, a little hot sauce (for the salt and the heat), more spices, water and some chicken stock. By dinner, it is falling-off the bone perfection. I also serve a big salad and cornbread to round out the meal.

Are you ready to turn on your slow cooker? Do you have an old-school version, or is yours a newfangled, stainless steel one, replete with the digital settings? More importantly, what are you putting in yours? Try my recipe for white chicken chili. It’s sure to warm your belly and satisfy your comfort-food craving. I often serve this on big game days. I love to put a line of bowls filled with garnish near the slow cooker so people can top their chili with their favorite add-ins.

White Chik’n Chili

1 package Morningstar Meal Starters Chik’n Strips

2 large onions, medium chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

Three 15 oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (one can reserved)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Three 15 oz cans low-sodium chicken broth

Hot sauce to taste (I use lots! About 1/4 cup)

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Two 4 oz cans green chilies, chopped

Garnish (optional):

Grated cheese

Sour cream

Green onions, sliced

pickled jalapeno pepper slices

Tortilla chips

A spicy, cheesy jalapeño cornbread (I’ll share my low-fat recipe for this soon…)

Using a stick blender, blend one can of the beans and add mashed beans to thicken the chili. Place all ingredients into the crock of your slow cooker, about 2-5 hours depending on your slow cooker. Ladle into bowls and add desired garnish and serve hot.



What’s your manna?

In Food, Lifestyle, Recipes on September 25, 2009 at 2:57 pm
Main Entry: man·na
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English, from Late Latin, from Greek, from Hebrew mān
Date: before 12th century
1 a: food miraculously supplied to the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness b: divinely supplied spiritual nourishment c: a usually sudden and unexpected source of gratification, pleasure, or gain (
from was talking to a friend recently about manna, not in the literal sense, but the concept. I have been in search of it (literally and figuratively) for sometime now. I was hoping to discover it in a new restaurant, but I ended up going where I knew for a fact that I would find it: Empress Taytu, an Ethiopian Restaurant in Cleveland.

What’s my manna when it comes to eating? Soul food. Injera (seen above) wrapped around just about anything edible (and spicy) in an Ethiopian restaurant. Thai food. Indian food. And (wait for it) sauerkraut mixed with mashed potatoes. What can I say… This is what happens when you love food and your family is a hodgepodge.

I am still in search of that spiritual nourishment and the unexpected pleasure, but I’m working on it.

What foods (cuisines or specific dishes) bring you pure pleasure? If you haven’t tried Ethiopian, see if it brings you joy. Here are two fundamental parts of Ethiopian cuisine: Injera, the bread that also serves as a utensil in this communal dining experience, and niter kebbeh, a clarified butter, rich with spice and flavor.  Don’t be scared of the injera recipe. It’s just like making pancakes. And teff is more widely available than ever before. Try Bob’s Red Mill which is carried by many major retailers.


3/4 cup teff, ground

3 1/2 cups water


sunflower or other vegetable oil

Mix teff with water and let stand in a bowl covered with a dish towel, at room temperature unti it sours. This may take 2-3 days. Once fermented, the teff mixture be the consistency of pancake batter.

Stir in salt. Lightly oil a griddle or a large skillet. Using medium-high heat, proceed as you would with a normal pancake or crepe. Pour in just enough batter to cover the bottom of the skillet. Use more batter than you would for a crepe, less than you would for a pancake. Cook until holes form in the injera and the edges lift from the pan. Remove and let cool. Makes 10 to 12 8-inch pieces of injera.

Niter Kibbeh

2 cups butter
1/4 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
4 whole cardamom seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried basil

Melt butter in a small saucepan over very low heat until bubbling. Add onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and basil, and simmer for 45 minutes. Butter will be translucent and solids will be at the bottom of the pan. Strain through cheesecloth into a heat-resistant container. Discard spices and butter solids.

Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 2-3 months. Use this spiced butter as you would cooking oil to saute and season vegetables and meat.

What’s for dessert? Simply Thee Best Peach Cobbler

In Love/Relationships, Nic's Picks, Recipes on September 23, 2009 at 2:47 am

Photo by Suat Eman

Photo by Suat Eman

Some of my favorite childhood memories are linked to my maternal grandmother and the time we spent together in her kitchen. Dear, as my cousins and I call her, did lots of little things in the kitchen that meant the world to me, leaving an indelible impression on my budding little foodie mind. Like the time when she baked sweet potato pies for church, only to find (right as she was about to pack them up to leave) that the crusts on each one had been systematically pinched off. I didn’t even get in trouble. She just laughed her throaty laugh, kissed my crumb-covered face and playfully swatted me on my rear. But my favorite memories from her kitchen are the times when she would bake cobblers, fruit pies or tarts and use the leftover dough, filling and a miniature pie tin to make an individual version of the same thing just for me. I don’t think a child can feel more special than I did back then with my “Nicci pie” and tiny fork in tow.

My grandmother instilled within me a love for family and food and the many ways the two go hand in hand. Tonight I made a peach cobbler, inspired by the scores of deliciously simple recipes (and lessons in love) she’s given me over the years.

Fresh peaches are wonderful in this, but if that’s not an option, Margaret Holmes Osage Peaches are the perfect alternative. They are definitely one of Nic’s Picks. Once you have tasted a raggedy freestone Georgia peach, I doubt you’ll ever want a California cling peach again. This recipe falls squarely in the indulgent category and should be enjoyed sparingly. You cannot eat this all the time and live in Zaftig Zen.

I took pictures of it, but it is beyond difficult to make peach cobbler look good without professional lighting. Trust me when I tell you the pictures do it no justice, so I’ll spare you.

I feel very lucky that my grandmother passed the good-cook gene on to me and that I can share it with you. And I consider myself exceedingly blessed because I can still call her and thank her for it. In fact I think I’ll do that right now…

Simply Thee Best Peach Cobbler


2-29 ounce cans of Margaret Holmes Osage Raggedy Ripe Peaches, drained and sliced

1/2 cup peach juice, reserved

1 cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon good vanilla extract (it makes a world of difference)

¼ teaspoon lemon extract

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into tiny cubes


2 cups flour

2 tablespoons sugar

Pinch of salt

½ cup shortening

4 tablespoons ice water (temperature matters)

1/3 cup melted butter

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except for butter. Mix gently and set aside.

For the crust:

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut shortening into the flour mixture. When you see it has a mealy texture, gradually add ice water, stirring, just until the dough holds its shape. Roll out on a floured board. Cut half of it and tear it into two large pieces.

Pour the filling mixture into the prepared baking pan. Dot the filling with the remaining butter. Tear one of the halves of the dough into 8-10 smaller pieces and tuck them into the filling. Take the other half of the dough and tear it into 4-5 large pieces and lay on top of the filling. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

*Yes, you could cheat and use a prepared pastry dough… I’ve done it. The filling is so good no one will care.


What’s for dinner? Curry Parsnip and Apple Soup

In Food, Lifestyle, Recipes on September 18, 2009 at 1:09 am

I eat according to the seasons. Food is never more delicious — or more affordable — then when it’s in season. As the days grow shorter and cooler, I crave hearty, spicy foods that warm the soul and the belly. This soup does just that. And it’s incredibly affordable, using simple and inexpensive ingredients to create bold flavors in this nutrient-packed recipe.

You can make this delicious soup even more luxurious by adding a splash of cream at the end. Or you can make it fat-free by leaving out the oil and the butter and using vegetable stock. Remember: It’s all about moderation.

Parsnip soup 1

Photos by Nicci Morris

Tonight, I served it with buttery grilled cheese sandwiches, stuffed with Havarti and thick-cut bacon.

Parsnip soup 2

Curry Parsnip and Apple Soup

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large sweet onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 pound parsnips, chopped

2 medium Granny Smith apples, chopped

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 heaping tablespoon curry powder

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons butter

5 cups chicken stock (vegetable stock can be used)

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Optional garnishes:


Apple chips

Sour cream

In a deep pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, parsnip and apple. Sauté mixture until everything is soft and slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add spices and honey. Pour in stock and cover. Simmer until parsnips are tender, about 10-12 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add your garnish of choice. Serve with crusty bread or a sandwich and a salad for a complete meal.


What’s for dinner? A farewell to summer

In Food, Recipes on September 17, 2009 at 2:57 am

Tonight, I wanted to use up what is likely my last bunch of flavorful summer tomatoes. Although I look forward to fall, a part of me hates to see summer go. But this was a delicious farewell… Make it with tofu and delight vegetarians, too.

By Nicci Morris

By Nicci Morris

Tilapia with Tomato Cream Sauce

For the fish:

2 pounds tilapia filets

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Juice of ½ lemon

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more if desired)

For the cream sauce:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped (about 2 ½ cups)

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning salt

½ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons butter

½ cup white wine (something you would actually drink, not swill)

3 green onions, sliced plus some reserved for garnish.

Whole wheat pasta, prepared(optional)

Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the filets in a glass baking dish. Put the olive oil and the lemon juice on the filets. Season both sides of each filet with garlic powder, lemon pepper and cayenne pepper. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake until the fish is opaque and flakes with a fork, about 30 minutes. While the fish cooks, prepare the cream sauce.

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, add oil and garlic. When the garlic is fragrant, gently stir in tomatoes and green onions. Add lemon pepper seasoning salt and butter. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, until tomatoes start to break down a bit. Reduce heat and stir in wine and cream. Serve over fish (and pasta with Parmesan if desired) and garnish with green onion.


Nic’s Picks: Heaven on a spoon…

In Food, Nic's Picks on September 16, 2009 at 3:54 pm

I love pomegranate. I love Greek yogurt. So (follow along with my logic for a second here) that means the good people at Chobani Greek Yogurt must love me. Why else would they make Greek yogurt and flavor it with pomegranate?


I adore this product because Chobani stirs actual pomegranate arils and puree, not some sort of artificial taste or color, into the dense, rich, non-fat yogurt. The juicy little seeds were an unexpected but most appreciated boost of antioxidants. You can chalk my shock up to the scores of fruit-flavored products (many of which manage to not contain fruit at all) that fill the store shelves all over this country full of sugar addicts. At just 140 calories, this yogurt is great for a quick breakfast (alongside a slice of whole grain toast or with a spoonful of high-fiber cereal stirred in) or as a snack anytime. And it packs a whopping 14 grams of protein! Let me go over that again, in case you missed it…

140 calories

0 grams of fat

14 grams of protein

Not too shabby (unless, of course, you’re vegan)… Click here for information about where to buy Chobani Greek Yogurt.

Greek yogurt has become extremely popular as word has spread about this delicious way to get protein and cut the fat. And the beauty of it is the dense, rich texture and wonderful flavor tells your palate into thinking you’re indulging even though you’re not.

Chobani threatens to steal my heart with the pomegranate flavor, but my love for Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt still burns bright. I have yet to find another brand that can beat Oikos’ texture. Velvety and beyond creamy, it’s easy to love.  And I can’t get enough of their simple, straightforward flavors, especially the vanilla. A serving has just 110 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 15 grams of protein. Nice…  Click here for information about where to buy Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt.

What’s for dinner? Stuffed zucchini

In Food, Recipes on September 15, 2009 at 3:55 pm


This is one of those recipes that disappeared before I even had a chance to snap a photo! From now on, I promise to take a picture before I announce, “Dinner’s ready.” This is a must-try dish, especially if you love simple and delicious meals that take next-to-no prep time.

Stuffed Zucchini

1 pound Gimme Lean

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 large onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 large zucchini

1 jar spaghetti sauce (I love, love, love Barilla’s Mushroom & Garlic)

½ cup mozzarella cheese

Parmesan cheese (optional)

Fresh basil (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, cook Gimme Lean over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Add Italian seasoning, salt and pepper as it browns. Add onion and garlic and cook until the onions are soft and the garlic is fragrant.

Slice the ends off the zucchini and in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out the center of each half. Chop the removed zucchini flesh and add into the Gimme Lean mixture and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Arrange the zucchini shells in an ovensafe baking dish and stuff them with the mixture. Top with spaghetti sauce and mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake until the dish is bubbly and the cheese is melted, 25 minutes. Garnish with Parmesan and basil if desired.


Speaking it forth…

In Lifestyle on September 8, 2009 at 3:34 am

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” – Paulo Coelho

That quote never ceases to amaze me because it is so true. That law of attraction is real and I see more evidence of it everyday as I evolve into a better Nicci and increase my enlightenment and understanding of the universe and my place and purpose within it.

Last week, I blogged about my foodie crushes and I wrote of my love for celebrity chef G. Garvin‘s work. Would you believe that I had the opportunity to meet him on Saturday at the Taste of Cleveland? It was unexpected and I was ill-prepared… I didn’t have any business cards with me and I was wearing a baseball cap and little-to-no makeup. *Note to self: Add a section to the book about why a woman should always be prepared, no matter where she’s going, because you never know who you’ll run into. The picture below is a classic example of what can happen if you don’t do that.

By Terron D. Austin

By Terron D. Austin

I didn’t talk with Mr. Garvin for very long, but it was nice to have a moment with him.

So, while I have the universe’s ear, I also love the prescriptive guide and the cookbook I’m about to publish and how they will become bestsellers. I love the wonderful man who has been created just for me, the children we will have, and the beach-side villa that is our residence. I love the many opportunities I have to use my creative gifts to touch people and help them connect with one another through a passion for each other and for good food.

Thanks, universe, for listening to and looking out for me.

The universe is listening to you, too. My advice is that you are wise about what you ask of it…

Stir fabulous into your frittata…

In Entertaining, Food, Recipes on September 8, 2009 at 3:24 am

I’ve always said baking is a science but cooking is an art. By that I simply mean you don’t have to pull out the measuring cups and spoons to cook something amazing. You can get in the kitchen, be adventurous and design deliciousness. And the morning is the perfect time to get cooking and creative than in the morning? Whether I’m making breakfast for two or a group of people, I love to wake up my family and friends with a frittata.

A frittata is an Italian omelette and they can be simple or quite decadent. It’s essentially a crustless quiche. It’s all up to you and the ingredients you decide to add into the mix. Like a French omelette, a frittata is prepared in a frying pan. Be sure to use one that is oven-safe as a frittata is only partially-cooked on the stovetop. It goes under the broiler to finish. That is where the magic happens, where the eggs are transformed into something golden-brown and heavenly…

Frittatas are pleasing to the palate and the eye, making for a wonderful way to start the day. They are also perfect for a lazy Sunday brunch. Another beautiful thing about this egg dish is how economical it can be. Eggs are one of the least expensive protein sources you can buy. And you can use just about whatever ingredients you have in your refrigerator, taking that leftover chicken, potatoes and broccoli, for instance, from ho-hum to mmm-mmm.

I made a frittata over the weekend and it was delicious. My secret to fluffier results is a splash of cold water into the eggs right before I whisk them. You can, of course, use heavy cream in the eggs for an even more velvety texture. But, as I’ve said, moderation is the key. I’ve found that with the right amount of whipping, the eggs will still be creamy and delicious without the added fat, which means you have room for more calories later. That’s always a good thing…

Photos By Nicci Morris

Photos By Nicci Morris

Mushroom frittata 2

Mushroom Frittata

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

12 small cremini mushrooms, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

6 eggs

2 Tablespoons cold water

1 ½ cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded and ½ cup reserved

¼ teaspoon dried basil

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Hot sauce, to taste

Optional garnish:

Sour cream

Green onions

Tomato slices

Preheat broiler.

Place oven-safe pan over medium heat. When hot, add oil and onion. Sauté until onions are caramelized, turning down the heat if necessary to prevent the natural sugar in the onion from burning. Add in mushrooms and garlic, sautéing until the mushrooms have softened and the garlic is fragrant.

While vegetables are sautéing, break eggs into a bowl. Pierce yolk to ease whisking and add water. Whisk eggs well to ensure a fluffy result. Add cheese, basil, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Whisk again. Stir in cheese. Pour egg mixture into the pan, over the onion, mushroom and garlic mixture. Tilt pan as necessary to ensure the mixture is even. Top with reserved cheese. Cook over medium heat until the sides are firm. Center will still be wet. Put pan into the oven, under the broiler and cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown. Remove from oven and slice into wedges. Top with sour cream, green onion and tomato if desired. Serves 4-6.


Striking a balance…

In Food, Recipes on September 4, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Balance is at the center of my lifestyle. That, of course, includes my diet. I belive everything in moderation (even moderation) is the most enjoyable and healthful way to live and to eat. Eating a wide variety of foods, both raw and cooked in many different ways, keeps you satisfied. And when you are satisfied, you are less to overindulge or skip meals, both of which can lead to poor food choices and take a toll on your overall health.

As I outline in my cookbook (the release date is coming!), eating insanely delicious food and good health go hand in hand. There are times when you want to indulge, when you want to eat light, and when you want something that falls in the middle of the road. Striking a balance between these three will help you feel and look amazing, inside and out. It truly is a no-guilt way to live and to eat. I’ll show you how to enjoy all manners of deliciousness while keeping your curves and your wits about you along the way.

Here is one of my favorite recipes from the lighter section of my cookbook. It’s full of flavor and crunch and packed with nutrients and fiber. If you’re feeling adventurous or have other goodies on hand, you can add any combination of fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds that you enjoy. I’ve also made it without the olive oil and the fat-free version is also delicious. I like to keep a bowl of this in my refrigerator at all times. You will be amazed at how just a small bowl of it curbs even the worst craving for sweets.

By Nicci Morris

By Nicci Morris

Sweet and Sour Broccoli Slaw

1 bag broccoli slaw (find it in the pre-washed salad section)

¾ cup dried, unsweetened cranberries

1 Granny smith apple, cored and cut into matchsticks

For the dressing:

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup vinegar (either rice wine or apple cider works well)

1 teaspoon of organic agave nectar

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine salad ingredients. (Cut the apple just before adding the dressing to prevent it from browning.)

In a separate bowl or measuring cup, mix ingredients for dressing. Blend well with a whisk or fork. Pour over salad and toss well. Best if chilled for at least an hour before serving.