Monday, December 23, 2013

Last minute Food gifts

Every year, I make a food gift for the holidays to give to my friends at work as well as it is nice to give as a hostess gift for parties this time of year.  This year I made 2 different things and they both ended up being delicious!  There is something delightfully decadent about chocolate and I often make chocolate goodies for the holidays.  This year I decided that I would make chocolate truffles and vegan chocolate coconut fudge.

The chocolate truffles are so easy and people are usually very happy to receive them.  A chocolate ganache, chocolate and cream with or without flavoring and rolled in cocoa.  It's candy making made easy.

The vegan chocolate coconut fudge was a bit more involved but mostly it was just measuring and melting the coconut oil in a pot.  I reduced the amount of maple syrup in the recipe in half and I found that it was still very sweet fudge.  Perhaps, it's because I often find regular fudge to be cloyingly sweet that I reduced it so much.  The strange thing about this recipe is that it said to pour the mixture in a dish but it did not specify what size.  From looking at the mixture in the pan, I decided that a small loaf pan, 3 by 5 by 3 inch was the perfect size for fudge that was a great size for cutting into cubes.  The original recipe called for walnuts, but I wanted to keep my fudge unadulterated.  If you prefer, add nuts or she suggested that you may also like to try dried fruit.   I found that when I started to cut the fudge it crumbled fairly easily.  I think a little more time in the fridge might have helped keep it more firm.

Chocolate Truffles adapted from Ina Garten's Chocolate Truffles recipe
1 cup Heavy cream
1 pound Bittersweet chocolate
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

Chop chocolate finely with a sharp knife and place in a bowl.

Heat cream in a small saucepan until it just boils.  Pour cream through a strainer into the bowl of chocolate.  Whisk mixture together until the chocolate is completely melted.  Whisk in vanilla extract.  Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.

Scoop out teaspoonsful of the chocolate mixture into a bowl full of cocoa and shake the bowl until the truffles are coated in a fine layer with the cocoa.
The gifts all wrapped up!

Vegan Coconut Chocolate Fudge  adapted from the Culinary Life blog
1/2 cup Coconut Oil
1/2 cup Cocoa Powder
1/4 cup Maple syrup
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Melt ingredients gently in a pan and pour into plastic lined small loaf pan and allow to cool.

The results:
The chocolate truffles were intensely chocolately.  A few truffles for a gift is enough, as it is quite rich.  I would definitely make these again!  Maybe next time I'll add frangelico and roll in chopped hazelnuts, which I saw Ina make the other day.

The fudge was surprisingly sweeter than I expected considering my reduction in maple syrup.  I think there is something about the coconut oil which inherently tastes sweet as is.  The fudge was delightful, but I might even go further and reduce the maple syrup.

Link to the original Ina Garten Chocolate Truffle recipe:

Link to the original Vegan Fudge recipe:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Recipes I've Tried But Haven't posted

I made these Chicken Drumsticks a while ago from a Nigella Lawson recipe Buttermilk chicken.  I dipped them in crushed corn flakes after marinating the chicken and baked it.  It was delicious.  The subtle sweet maple syrup flavor and the spices were wonderful.

 Here is the link to the recipe:

I watched Giada de Laurentis make a calamari salad for one of her family's Christmas dinners.  It has tomatoes, garlic, and a lemon caper sauce that goes on top.  Calamari didn't look good when I went to the store the other day so I ended up with snapper.  I added some baby spinach, baby kale and baby chard to the mix for more nutrition.  It was very good.  I kind of flew by the seat of my pants on this one.  Just from watching the show.  Giada's was more of a salad.  My dish was a hot entree.  I served it over whole wheat spaghetti.

Here is the link to the official recipe:  Again I did this from memory when I actually made it.

How did I do?

Well, I survived the Thanksgiving meal.  Everything was delicious, but there were a few meltdowns from me.  :)  Oh well.  Only a few people saw those moments.  Thankfully.

I was not able to make everything.  I needed some help and help was given.

Here is a photo of the feast!
Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Garlic-y Greens, Cranberry Pecan Stuffing (Dressing), Roasted Pearl Onions, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Cranberry Sauce and Homemade Rolls.

Two Pumpkin Pies and an Apple Pie

I went kind of above and beyond my usual tree that I put on the apple pie and made a beautiful tree this time.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving Recipes

I made a pinterest page with the links if this helps.

Otherwise, here are the links to the recipes that I will be using:

Alton Brown's Brined Turkey & Gravy:

America's Test Kitchen Brussels sprouts (I am adding slices of red onion):

Martha Stewart's Classic Stuffing:
It's from her Martha Stewart Living book

Sweet Potatoes (just roasted)
1. Peel sweet potatoes.  Cut into bite sized pieces
2.  Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast until done.  35 to 40 minutes.  Temperature?   I'll get back to you.

Green Beans:
1. Blanch green beans after cleaned and ends removed.
 Cook in boiling salted water until crisp tender. Plunge into ice water to stop cooking and maintain green color.
2. Saute finely minced red onion (or shallot) in olive oil with a little salt until soft.  Throw in green beans and toss or stir until green beans are heated through.

Better Homes and Garden Overnight Refrigerator Rolls
This recipe has too much sugar.  I am going to reduce the amount when I make them.

Sunset Magazines Overnight Soft Herb Rolls:
I use 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt.  I use 1 3/4 cup white all purpose flour and 1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour

Better Homes and Garden Best Pumpkin Pie:
I reduce sugar to 1/4 cup.  As for the spices, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground ginger, 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg and 1/4 tsp. ground cloves.  I don't make the caramel pecan topper, but it sounds good.

Apple Pie: I make a huge 12 inch pie per my husband's request.  
Modified from 2 recipes:

Pastry dough:
Martha Stewart's Pate Brisee
I use kosher salt as that is what the recipe states in my Martha Stewart's Living Cookbook.

Apple Pie Filling: From my husband's Mom's cookbook
9 Granny smith apples
1/3 cup sugar
Juice of 3 lemons
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/3 c. flour

Cover top with foil and then remove to allow brown for last 30 minutes.
Bake at 425 F for 1 1/2 hours or until the filling is bubbling.  

Thanksgiving Planning

It's been a while since I posted last.  Life has sure been busy and I just haven't had the time.  :(

My husband and I are hosting Thanksgiving this year for his family only 11 of us, not the usual 24 people.  We haven't hosted in 7 years and I remember the last time.  I said that I was never going to do it again.. Well, they say never to say never.  

Our little toddler will finally have his first turkey this year and I wanted it to be delicious!  That is why I wanted to host and sometimes I just want Thanksgiving my way at least once in a while.  So, I've made a plan and I've tested a recipe so far.  Cross my fingers that it will be a success.

Here's the plan so far. It's a work in progress:

Week before:
1. Buy all pantry items: broths, dried cranberries, nuts, onions,

1. Pick up turkey
2. Shop for Cranberries, baguettes, apples, green beans, brussels sprouts, potatoes
3. Make cranberry sauce
4. Make pie dough (this can be done the week before and I might do that and stick it in the freezer.)

1. Prep green beans: clean, remove ends, blanch green onions and mince a red onion
2. Clean and prep brussels sprouts: Remove ends, cut into half or quarters depending on how big the brussels sprouts are
3. Steam Sweet Potatoes
4. Prep potatoes and leave in water in the fridge
5. Buy ice and brine turkey.
6. Make pumpkin pie and put in fridge
7. Stuffing: Cut up baguette for stuffing and allow to stale overnight. Cut up onion and celery.
8. Make dough for rolls and put in fridge overnight

Thursday (I'm still working on this.. 
1. Remove turkey from brine and roast
2. Make apple Pie
3. Finish sweet potatoes
4. Cook mashed potatoes
5.  Make gravy
6.  Cook green beans

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Experiment #42: Curry Chicken

A lost recipe from July 31st, 2012:

I have been feeling like having some curry chicken recently and so I went onto my family's website and checked out my Aunt's recipe for her curry chicken.  She has made it on several family gatherings and it is delicious!

One thing of note is that my family, i.e. my mom, aunt's and grandmother swear by this particular brand of curry powder.  Sun Brand Madras Curry powder.  It is the best curry powder they say so, I was happy to purchase some and have that on hand to make this curry chicken.

Photo of the Curry Powder tin:

I modified my Aunt's recipe a bit when I made it and did more measuring, since measurements are not written into her recipe.

She uses red and green bell peppers, and I am not especially fond of green bell peppers so I used orange and yellow this time, although I've made this curry recipe with red and yellow.  Any combination of red, yellow, and orange is fine.  My Aunt uses chicken base, and I replaced it with chicken broth.  She adds potatoes, and I omitted them.  She also uses chicken wings in her recipe, but my husband is not too fond of those so I used boneless skinless chicken thighs.   I mixed up the method of cooking a bit so that everything cooks in one pan.  Less mess, less time and hopefully still delicious.

Chicken Curry adapted from my Aunt's recipe.  I'm not sure where she got the recipe from.
vegetable oil (I use sunflower or peanut oil)
1 Yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
2 tbsp. Sun Brand Madras Curry powder
1 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into rough 1 inch cube like pieces (bite sized pieces)
2 Bell peppers, diced (I used orange and yellow this time, but red bell peppers are nice as well.)
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Kosher Salt, to taste

In a pan or wok, heat vegetable oil over medium heat.  Add diced onion, and garlic and sauté until softened.  Add curry powder and mix with onions and garlic until the curry powder is fragrant.

Add cubed chicken and sauté until the chicken is browned on all sides.  Add diced bell peppers and chicken broth.  Cover and simmer curry until chicken is cooked through.

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch with 2 teaspoons cold water.  Add cornstarch mixture to curry and cook until the liquid boils and thickens to desired consistency.

Serve over hot cooked rice!

The results:
The curry chicken turned out very good.  I would definitely make this again and again.  The family loved it.

Lost recipes

You might have noticed that I am missing some experiments.  Well, I am backlogged on recipes and I do have the recipes with my notes.  They are just not typed up in a readable fashion. I will get to writing them soon. I promise. :)

Experiment #50: Pumpkin Muffins

When the weather turns from summer to fall and there is a slight crisp chill to the air, I think of 2 things: pumpkins and apples.  Seasonal pumpkin baking for me usually consists of pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie, but today I felt like making pumpkin muffins.

Last year, I picked up a copy of Better Homes and Gardens Fall Baking Magazine 2012.  It is filled with delightful photos and appetizing recipes for almost everything you could possibly want for your Fall Baking.  Apparently it was exactly like Fall Baking 2011 so if you have that then you would have the same recipes.

Last year, I made the Pumpkin Bars with modifications.  My notes from last year indicated a replacement of half the all purpose flour with white whole wheat flour, a reduction of the sugar to 6 tablespoons, replacing half of the oil with applesauce and an addition of water.

From what I remember when I made these pumpkin bars last year was that I added too much water to the batter, and the pumpkin bars were very tall, because I didn't have the 15X10X1-inch baking pan they called for in the recipe.  I just had a 11X13X2 inch baking pan.

So, I reduced the water and I didn't have the baking pan issue since I decided to make muffins today.

Pumpkin Muffins adapted from Pumpkin Bars from Better Homes and Gardens Fall Baking 2012
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
6 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 eggs
1 15-ounce can pumpkin (plain, not seasoned or sweetened)
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup applesauce
2 tablespoons water

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Place cupcake liners in a standard 12-cup muffin pan.  (This recipe makes 19 muffins, so if you have 2 muffin tins you can place 7 more liners in the second muffin pan.)

In a large bowl, stir together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves.

In a smaller bowl, combine eggs, pumpkin, oil, applesauce and water.

Pour wet ingredients (pumpkin, etc.) into the dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Remove to a cooling rack and enjoy.

These muffins are delicious warm or at room temperature.

The Results:
The muffins came out perfect!  Lightly spiced and perfectly pumpkin!

I would definitely make these again! I might try a variation on this recipe later, with additions of chopped pecans or dried cranberries.

Update: This recipe makes 48 mini muffins if you prefer. Check the muffins around 15 minutes. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Experiment #49: Maple Pecan Muffins

I was looking for some new breakfast foods to feed the family and I found what looked to be a quick muffin recipe from Nigella Lawson's Feast.

Of course I have to make my usual adjustments.  I replaced half of the all purpose flour with white whole wheat flour for more fiber.  I thought 4 teaspoons of baking powder looked like way too much baking powder, so I cut it in half.  I looked at other recipes and 2 teaspoons seemed to be a more reasonable amount of baking powder.  I reduced the maple syrup in half.  I also replaced half the oil with applesauce.  Don't ask me why this works, but it does!  In other recipes that I replaced some of the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour. I have found the batter is often too dense when I do this substitution and I figured out that an addition of water really helps the batter become more manageable, so I added water to the recipe.

Maple Pecan Muffins adapted from Nigella Lawson's Feast
1 cup whole pecans
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 400F.  Fill a 12-cup muffin tray with paper liners.

Roughly chop pecans and reserve 1/4 cup for topping.

Mix together the remaining pecans with the flours, salt, wheat germ, and baking powder.

In another bowl, whisk together milk, maple syrup, oil, applesauce, egg, vanilla, and water.

Pour the liquids into the dry mixture and gently fold to mix.  The batter can have some lumps.   Do not overmix, because these muffins can get tough. Spoon the batter into muffin cups.

Chop the reserved pecans more finely and top the batter.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  I would check around 16 minutes and see how they are looking.  The nuts will turn golden, but the muffins will be somewhat pale.  Remove muffins to a cooling rack.

The results: 
These muffins were amazing!  Easy and delicious.  My little one went crazy for them and shoved a quarter of a muffin in his mouth.  Impressive for a 15 month old! He ate it up and so did my husband and I.  I would definitely make these again.

I did think that maybe I should have done the original topping which was mixing in a tablespoon of brown sugar with the finely chopped pecans and topping the muffin.  The muffins were barely sweet.  It might have been nice to have a bit more sweetness.

Link to the book:
Nigella Lawson's Feast

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Experiment #48: Whole Grain Blueberry Muffins

Recently my challenge has been to make breakfast in the wee hours of the morning for my little one.  He's been waking up at 6am pretty consistently.  Sigh...

Anyway, it has been difficult in my groggy state to make a good breakfast for my 15 month old, so I have been searching high and low, internet and my cookbooks for an easy recipe for breakfast.

I stumbled upon this Real Simple Recipe for Whole Grain Blueberry Muffins.  I really appreciate that when it says whole grain, the recipe really is whole grain and not partially whole grain.

I read the reviews and some people said that they did not process the oatmeal, so I didn't in an attempt to make this recipe easier and I chopped the pecans by hand and not in a food processor.

Of course, I still had my adjustments.  I reduced the sugar.  I used nonfat plain yogurt (the original recipe calls for lowfat), because that is what I had on hand.  I replaced the butter with oil to reduce the saturated fat in the recipe.

Unfortunately, I didn't have enough blueberries for the recipe, but I went ahead and made this recipe.  The recipe has 2 cups of fresh blueberries or 8 oz. of frozen blueberries and I didn't have any backup blueberries in my freezer.  I figured out too late... the morning of baking.  Ahh...

I did measure the dry ingredients in a bowl and left it on the counter covered and mixed the wet ingredients in a liquid measuring cup and placed it in the refrigerator the night before and then mixed the rest in the morning.

Whole grain blueberry muffins adapted from a Real Simple Recipe
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour, spooned and leveled
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups fresh blueberries (the original recipe)

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Line a standar 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.  In a bowl, mix together the flour, oats, flaxseed meal, pecans, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil, orange zest, orange juice, egg, and vanilla.  Add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated (do not overmix.) Fold in the blueberries.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.

The muffins were pretty good, but the best bites of them were the bites with blueberries.  They really add needed moisture in the muffins.

I found the muffin batter to be very very dense and the muffins neither spread or rose at all.  They pretty much looked the same as they went into the oven.

These muffins have potential and were delicious for a whole grain muffin with very little fat, but I felt there needs to be more tweaking to my recipe.

The oatmeal was dry in the muffins, because I didn't process them, and so next time I would place them in the milk and have it sit for 15 minutes so they are hydrated in the final muffin.  I learned this from a blueberry muffin recipe I made off the New York Times Web site.

I think I might have reduced the sugar too much and I would add a bit more next time.

I will definitely revisit this experiment in the future.

As a side note, the recipe says that the muffins will keep at room temperature for 3 days or in the freezer for 1 month.  Warm in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes.

Link to the original recipe on Real Simple web-site:

Friday, August 23, 2013

A note about Kosher Salt

I wanted to say that I used Diamond Kosher salt for my recipes.  I tried Morton's Kosher salt once and it totally ruined my recipe, it was pizza.  :(

It is much more concentrated than Diamond Kosher salt and will mess up the measurements in recipes that call for kosher salt.

My mother made the bagel recipe from the blog and it was too salty.  It reminded me that what brand of kosher salt makes a difference in my recipes.

Experiment #47: Tabbouleh

My husband just love tabbouleh so he is my taste tester for the perfect tabbouleh.  He likes it with lots of parsley and very lemony and this recipe is from several iterations for the perfect balance of flavor.

I had not made tabbouleh in a while, so at the beginning of the week I started with a recipe from the back of a Trader Joe's Organic Bulgur Wheat box that I have had for many many years.  While making the recipe, I realized that the amount of bulgur wheat was twice as much as we wanted.  I only used half the bulgur for the recipe and then there was not enough dressing for the tabbouleh.

Tonight I started with half the bulgur and the same amount of dressing and the results were just perfect.

Tabbouleh adapted from Trader Joe's recipe off organic bulgur wheat box
1/2 cup bulgur wheat
3/4 cup boiling water
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 garlic cloves minced
2 bunches of curley parsley, chopped
4 green onions, minced
1/2 english cucumber, sliced and roughly diced

Place bulgur wheat and salt in a bowl and cover with boiling water and allow to sit for 30 minutes.  Pour over lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic over the bulgur and then allow to rest for 2 to 3 hours.

Pick the leaves off of 2 bunches of parsley and chop.  I used a food processor for this process as chopping that much parsley by hand is tedious.

Add parsley, green onions and cucumber to bulgur wheat and serve.

I would definitely make this recipe again.  The fresh taste, light oniony flavor, bright lemony tartness and crisp cucumber is a winning combination.  Yum!

Update 8/30/13:
I made this recipe with an addition of 1 cup of chopped tomatoes from our garden.  They added a delicious sweetness, because they were perfectly ripe and I would definitely make it again with tomatoes if I have them next time.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Experiment #46: Chickpea Brown Rice Patties with Lemon Tahini Sauce

I have been on the look out for an easy delicious veggie burger since my husband challenged me to cook more vegetarian.

I found a recipe on the whole living website for a Chickpea Brown Rice Veggie Burger.  I used this as a base for my veggie burger, but of course I needed to tweak it a bit.  I read from the reviews on the website that the instructions for mashing the beans and the brown rice together was not terribly easy, so I used a food processor to mix it up.  From this start, I added green onions, garlic, chopped baby greens, cumin and a pinch of cayenne.

I used a 3 inch ring mold that I had in my kitchen baking drawer and pressed the mixture into patties.  The first time, I pressed a little too lightly.  I was afraid of making dense brick like veggie burgers, but the burgers fell apart a bit in the pan.

The second time, I made the patties a little bigger and pressed a bit firmer and the veggie burgers were perfect.

I have made this recipe twice so far.  The first time our family enjoyed it with tzatziki sauce and the second time, I wanted a vegan option and had the idea that a tahini lemon dressing or sauce would be delicious.

There is a restaurant in town, Santa Cruz that serves their lamb burger with shredded carrots.  I really enjoyed it and thought that shredded carrots would really add delicious sweetness and beautiful color.

Keep an eye out for my tabbouleh recipe, coming soon which goes excellent with these veggie burgers.

Chickpea Brown Rice Veggie Burger adapted from Whole Living website
1 - 15oz. can drained and rinsed garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas)
1 cup cooked brown rice
2 green onions, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped baby greens (kale, spinach, chard)
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of Cayenne pepper
Olive oil

In a food processor, add garbanzo beans and brown rice and pulse the mixture until it is coarsely chopped.  You should still see bits of garbanzo beans and rice.  It should not be mashed beans.

Place the garbanzo bean and rice mixture a large bowl and add green onions, garlic, baby greens, cumin, kosher salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper.  Gently mix the ingredients together until thoroughly combined.

Press the mixture into patties firmly but not too hard.  I used a 3 inch ring mold.  It made 5.

Heat olive oil over medium low heat in a large frying pan.  Place patties in the pan and cook until the first side is lightly browned about 4 minutes.  Flip patties over and cook on the second side until browned.  For the last minute, cover the pan so that the burgers are heated through.

Enjoy topped with shredded carrots and your choice of sauce. It's great with lemon tahini sauce and also delicious with tzatziki sauce.

Lemon Tahini sauce adapted from Mollie Katzen's The New Moosewood Cookbook
6 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove minced
6 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix all sauce ingredients together.  I used a fork.  She says you can adjust to your desired thickness by adding more water.

Ok. This recipe is not vegan if you make the tzatziki sauce.  Obviously. :)
Tzatziki sauce: (from my memory) [from a past food experiment]
1 cup greek yogurt or plain yogurt
2 garlic, minced (I used a garlic press)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 cup cucumber, finely diced
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
salt and pepper, to taste

I made tzatziki sauce a while back and this is what I remembered.
For tzatziki sauce, it is pretty simple, but I wanted to try something my Mom had told me once a while ago. She makes her own yogurt and she makes greek yogurt from her homemade yogurt by straining it, and so this morning I decided to give it a try. I had some Whole Milk Organic Plain Yogurt from Trader Joe's and I left it in a coffee filter in the fridge covered with plastic wrap for a few hours, and it worked!  Who knew greek style yogurt could me made so easy?  I love the thick creaminess of Greek yogurt, but my favorite greek yogurt brand, Fage is not organic.  Now I can make it myself!
(For pictures of how to strain the yogurt, follow the link below.)

Link to original recipe:

Link to original Tahini Lemon sauce:

Link to tzaziki sauce:

Friday, August 9, 2013

Experiment #45: Tandoori Chicken

I was in need of another chicken recipe in my regular dinner rotation and was thinking of making tandoori chicken.  I searched for recipes online and found two recipes that looked interesting.

Tandoori chicken is marinated in yogurt and spices and than traditionally cooked in a tandoor oven.  These recipes have options to either grill or bake the chicken in the oven, which is more accessible for the home cook.

The recipe is mostly based on the recipe from the Home Cooking website, with some additions for Aarti Sequiera's recipe on the Food Network.

I used boneless skinless chicken thighs for great flavor and fast easy cooking.  The Home Cooking recipe had a lot of salt in the marinade and I thought that it might be due to that fact they use a whole chicken cut up into pieces.  So, I reduced the salt in the recipe.  The marinade from the Home Cooking looked kind of pale in color, so I added smoked paprika and turmeric which was in Aarti Sequiera's recipe.

I had some lime yogurt sauce left over from last night and I thought I would enjoy it on this chicken.

Tandoori Chicken 
1/2 cup whole fat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 or 2 lemons depending how juicy your lemons are)
1 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander (I crushed whole coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (I crushed cardamom seeds in a mortar and pestle)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
I used 2 packages of boneless skinless chicken thighs about 3 lbs.
Fresh cilantro for garnish
Slices of cucumber, red onion, tomato and lemon for garnish

Yogurt Lime Sauce:
1 cup plain yogurt, strained or greek yogurt
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 lime

Prick the flesh of the chicken all over with a knife to allow the marinade the marinade to penetrate.  Place the chicken in a nonreactive large shallow dish.

In a nonreactive bowl (I used the pyrex measuring cup that I measured the yogurt in), combine the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, cardamom, cloves, smoked paprika, turmeric, black pepper and salt. Stir until well mixed and then pour the mixture over the chicken and rub into the flesh, turning the chicken several times.  Cover and refrigerate the chicken for 8 hours or overnight.  (Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking.

Heat the grill to medium for 5 to 10 minutes. Make sure that grill is clean so that the chicken does not stick.

Place chicken on the grill and cook with the lid down for 10 minutes.  Flip the chicken over and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes until the chicken registers 160 F on an instant read thermometer.

Remove the chicken to a platter and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes.

Mix together yogurt, lime zest, and lime juice.

Serve with slices of cucumber, red onion, tomato, lemon, chopped cilantro and lime yogurt sauce.

The Tandoori chicken was tender and succulent and very flavorful. The color of the paprika and turmeric made the chicken look very appealing.  We enjoyed this chicken with brown rice and some warm naan bread.  I was a bit afraid that it might be too spicy for my little one, from the cayenne pepper, but he really enjoyed it.  I would definitely make this recipe again.

Need to strain your yogurt:
Check out the following link to my recipe for Lamb with Tzatziki in Flatbread

Link to original recipes:
Home Cooking Tandoori Chicken

Aarti Sequeira Tandoori Chicken Recipe

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dinner Notes: Fish Tacos

I thought I would give you an easy dinner idea if you are in need like I was of a fresh idea.

I made fish tacos with lime yogurt sauce.  Here's how it stacked up:

I started with a warmed corn tortilla and topped with Panko breaded Tilapia from Trader Joe's frozen section.  Instead of the usual cabbage slaw on tacos, I used chiffonade of kale. This year's summer tomatoes are delightful and I used a beautiful Brandywine heirloom tomato chopped up.  A bit of chopped cilantro and then a lime yogurt dipping sauce I made up.

How to build the taco (Bottom up):
Corn Tortilla
A few slices of Panko Breaded Tilapia
Chiffonade of Kale
Diced tomato
Chopped Cilantro
Avocado slices
Lime Yogurt sauce

Lime Yogurt sauce 
1 cup of Organic Whole fat Yogurt (strained or use greek yogurt instead)
1 teaspoon Lime Zest
Juice of 1/2 lime

Mix together..  It's delicious!

Need to Strain your Yogurt?
Click on the following link. It's in my grilled lamb with tzatziki sauce recipe:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Experiment #44: Coconut Oatmeal Pecan Cookies

I have been having more of my cookie cravings.  It's been a week since I really wanted a cookie and so I decided that I wanted to attempt to make my dream cookie.

While I was pregnant with my little one, I ate this oatmeal pecan cookie at a local coffee shop.  I loved it.  It was delicious and really hit the spot for my sweet tooth.  I don't often get back to that coffee shop since my LO was born, so I am missing my cookies.

I wanted to make an oatmeal pecan cookie with coconut oil and decided to try to search for one online.  I stumbled upon a blog with a coconut oatmeal cookie.  Intrigued, I read further.  The cookies look great and of course I needed to work my magic and add more whole grains, reduce the sugar, replaced quick oats with regular oats that were processed in the food processor and this time I left out the baking powder and baking soda.

This last adaptation came from a mistake on my part while making cornbread waffles a few months ago.  I was busy taking care of my LO that I completely forgot to put in the baking soda and baking powder.  The resulting waffles were delightfully chewy and the family loved them better than the waffles I make the normal way.  How's that for stumbling onto a recipe.  A busy mind makes mistakes worth repeating?  :)

Anyway, here is my recipe for Oatmeal Coconut Pecan Cookies adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod blog

Oatmeal Coconut Pecan Cookies
1 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup coconut oil (measured solid), melted and slightly cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup pulsed old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, coconut oil and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.  Switch to mixing with a spoon and then slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.  The mixture gets pretty thick at this point and you might want to get in there and mix with clean hands.  Stir in oatmeal, coconut and pecans.

Press the dough into balls and flatten slightly and place on prepared baking sheet.  The dough is rather crumbly and difficult.  (I think this is from my adaptations, but c'est la vie.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes or until the cookies are set and slightly brown.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

Fresh out of the oven!

The results:
The cookies were delicious and crumbly and we loved them.  It was not exactly what I was searching for in my dream cookie.  I will have to work on it to get it to where I want it, but this attempt was an excellent start.  I would definitely make these cookies again.  

I was surprised at how sweet these cookies were considering that I used less than half the original recipe's sugar.  I am wondering if the coconut oil is sweet and this sent my cookies a bit overly sweet for my taste.  I would reduce the sugar slightly and they would be perfect for me, but of course I like most of my treats less sweet than most.

Link to the original recipe:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Experiment #43: Apricot Mustard Glazed Pork Tenderloin

I had every intention of cooking fish today, but the guy at the meat counter said it didn't smell good and thankfully he let me know.  So my plans changed to some other protein that is fast cooking, pork tenderloin.

I was planning on making some sort of pork medallions, but then I thought it might be a bit too fussy for a weekday.  I have previously made a recipe from Martha Stewart which is Pork tenderloin with apricots and brandy and thought that I would be making this recipe, but I totally forgot to purchase shallots.. Oops..

I stumbled upon a recipe on the Martha Stewart website that is supposed to be ready in under 30 minutes and off I went.

The recipe looked easy enough.  It only has 5 ingredients.

The recipe calls for spicy brown mustard, and I substituted what I had on hand, which was Chablis Dijon mustard.  The recipe also called for apricot jam, but I had organic reduced sugar apricot preserves on hand.

Apricot Mustard Glazed Pork Tenderloin adapted from Apricot glazed Pork tenderloin from Martha Stewart web-site
2 pork tenderloins
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1 cup apricot preserves
1/4 cup chablis dijon mustard

Heat broiler, set rack 6 inches away from the broiler. Place pork tenderloins in a baking dish and rub pork with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place the pork under the broiler for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, whisk together apricot preserves and mustard.  Cook over medium heat until the jam melts, 3 to 4 minutes.  Transfer half to a bowl for brushing and leave the rest of the sauce on low to keep warm.

I flipped the pork tenderloins over and brushed the reserved sauce from a bowl all over the pork tenderloin.

Place back under the broiler and cook until the pork is blackened in spots and it registers 150 degrees on an instant read thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes more.
Cover pork loosely with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.  Serve with warmed sauce.

The results:
I served the pork with quinoa and steamed rainbow chard.  It was really a delicious meal!  I would definitely make this recipe again.  The whole meal came together quite fast.  I love it!

The chablis dijon mustard might have made this recipe over the top.  As the sauce was heating, I almost felt that I was getting drunk off the wine fumes coming off the mustard.  It could have been my imagination, but if you don't have this special dijon mustard, I think a splash of white wine would make a good substitute.

Link to original recipe:

Friday, July 26, 2013

Experiment #40: Peach Blueberry Crumble

I was looking at making some sort of a summery dessert for my husband's uncle and cousins for dinner.  I stumbled upon an Ina Garten recipe on the Food Network site.

I love Ina Garten, but my husband and I joke that she uses at least a cup of butter and 1 1/2 cups of sugar in each of her recipes, which is not exactly what we enjoy.

I reduced the sugar and replaced 1/2 of the white all purpose flour with white whole wheat flour.  I read some of the reviews and found out that some people added oats to the crumble topping which I love so I added that to the recipe as well.

I cooked it in one pan not in the ramekins like the original recipe.

Peach Blueberry Crumble adapted from Ina Garten's Peach Blueberry Crumbles
For the fruit:
2 pound firm ripe peaches (6 to 8 peaches; I used 7 peaches)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 heaping cup of fresh blueberries (1/2 pint)

Crumble topping:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup oatmeal

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Fruit filling:
Immerse peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until their skins peel off easily.  Place them immediately in cold water.  Peel the peaches, slice them into thick wedges, and place them in a large bowl.
Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, granulated sugar, and flour.  Toss well.  Gently mix in the blueberries.  Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes.  Spoon into baking dish.

Crumble Topping:
Combine the flours, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and butter in a mixer or if you want to make this manually use a pastry blender and cut into the butter and flour until the butter is the size of peas.  Rub the mixture together with your fingers until its in big crumbles.  Gently mix in oats, then sprinkle evenly over the fruit.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until the top is browned and crisp and the juices are bubbling.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

An interesting note at the bottom of this recipe:  If you want to make the crumble early, store the unbaked crumbles in the refrigerator and bake before dinner.  This idea sounds great for a make ahead dessert.

The results:
The crumble was a hit!  The sweetness of the peaches with the sweet tartness of the blueberries was perfect.  I would make this again with a bit of modification.  I would definitely make this crumble again with a few modifications.

I thought there was too much flour in the fruit portion.  I might increase the fruit portion and keep the same amount of crumble topping.

Link to the original recipe:

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Experiment #39: Lemon Cheesecake with Blueberries

My sister in law and her daughter were coming to visit and we were hosting a big party for their visit and I was trying to decide what kind of dessert to make.  I am on kind of a lemon kick since our tree is still overflowing with lemons, so I decided to make lemon cheesecake.

I have used this Martha Stewart recipe before, but I have never made a double recipe, which was a definite requirement for the 15 person party at our house.

I replaced her graham crackers with these Speculoos cookies from Trader Joe's and omitted the sugar from the crust since these cookies are sweet enough.  For those who are searching for a cookie like them, they are crisp caramelized cinnamon spiced Belgian cookies (that's from the box.)  I hope that helps with substitutions or if you can't find something like it, you can substitute back in those graham crackers that were in the original recipe.

I also reduced the sugar in the cream cheese mixture and added more lemon, because I love lemon.  As a final thought, I tumbled fresh blueberries over the cheesecake to finish it off.

Lemon Cheesecake with Blueberries adapted from a double recipe of Martha Stewart's Lemon Cheesecake squares
11 oz. Speculoos cookies
6 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup sugar
4 - (8 oz.) bars of cream cheese (32 oz. total)
4 large eggs
Finely grated lemon zest and juice of 3 lemons
Fresh blueberries

Make the crust:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a food processor, blend cookies until finely ground; add butter and pulse until moistened.

Press the crumb mixture into 9 X 13 inches and pat in gently.  Bake until beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes.  Wipe out the food processor to get rid of crumbs.  While the crust is baking, make the filling.

Make the filling:
Place cream cheese in food processor with sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice; blend until smooth.

Pour mixture into pan; smooth top.  Return to oven, and bake until set (filling should jiggle only slightly when pan is gently shaken), 30 to 45 minutes.  (I would check around 30 minutes. Just take a peak and jiggle the pan.)

Martha instructed to have the cheesecake completely cool and wrap with plastic wrap and chill until firm at least 2 hours.   I didn't have too hours so.. The cheesecake was warm and not firm.

Tumble fresh blueberries over this lemon cheesecake if you like, which I did.

Sorry for the out of focus photo... The cheesecake was going fast and I almost forgot to take a photo before it was all gone.  :)

Everyone loved the cheesecake. This cheesecake is a favorite recipe of mine and I was glad that a double recipe came out so well.  I would definitely make this again. Yum!

Update August 24, 2013:
I made this recipe with 16 oz. regular cream cheese and 16 oz. of reduced fat cream cheese and it was still rich and creamy.  Next time, I might even go with all reduced fat cream cheese.  I also made the recipe the day before I served it, and it was cool and still had a delightful smooth creamy texture.

Link to the Original recipe:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Experiment #37: Broccoli Cheese Calzone

I was looking to do something different for dinner again and I remembered at the store that I wanted to try a broccoli calzone that I had seen on Martha Stewart's web-site.  I forgot it had ricotta when I went to the store and when I looked it up I realized I had to change the recipe a bit.

I had purchased premade almost whole wheat pizza dough from Trader Joe's as well as a 4 cheese blend they call Quattro Formaggio, which I love.  The cheese blend has parmesan, asiago, mild provolone and fontina cheese. I use this cheese blend quite a bit for various recipes, including my lasagna recipe which I use the cheese instead of mozzarella.  Anyway, sorry to get off topic, I searched the web for a broccoli cheese calzone that didn't include ricotta and stumbled upon a blog called "My Life on a Plate."  The broccoli cheese calzone recipe was easy enough and so I came up with this hybrid recipe between the Martha recipe and Keeley Powell's recipe.

Broccoli Cheese Calzone adapted from Martha Stewart's website and My Life on a Plate
Purchased whole wheat pizza dough (2 - 16oz packages)
2 1/2 cups cooked broccoli
1 cup Quattro Formaggio cheese blend (Parmesan, Asiago, Provolone, & Fontina cheese blend)
1/2 sauteed chopped yellow onion

Mix broccoli, cheese and onion.

I cut each package of dough into thirds.  Rolled them out until about 8 inch circles.  Place a heaping 1/2 cup broccoli filling on the middle.  Fold dough over the filling and fold the edges to seal the calzone.
Cut 2 slits in the top of the calzone.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

I thought this recipe was a success.  The flavor was great and I was able to freeze some for a later meal.  Easy meals ahead!  Yes... One note though, I thought there the ratio of filling to dough was a bit off.  I would definitely fill them more, maybe 3/4 cup of filling next time.   I would also undercook the broccoli a bit as it got a bit overcooked for my taste.  I would definitely make this again.  This recipe was tasty and quick and left me with a make ahead meal.

Link to the original recipes
Martha Stewart's recipe:

My Life on a Plate Blog:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Experiment #35: Lemon Bars

Back in college I bought this book on sale at the local bookstore called The Bed & Breakfast Cookbook by Martha W. Murphy.  The recipes include all your favorite brunch recipes like eggs, pancakes, waffles, muffins, etc.  I made a few recipes from the book, a Cinnamon Coffeecake and lemon bars.  Back in college, I used to use a lot of sugar and no whole wheat.

Now I reduce the sugar in all of the recipes that I make and I think it helps the flavor of the other ingredients to shine.  Lemon is one of my favorite flavors and our lemon tree is still producing a large amount of lemons so I decided that it was time to make a batch of lemon bars.

I decided that I would try to make the crust with half white whole wheat replacing half of the all purpose flour.  I also ran out of regular sugar for the filling and had to use some powdered sugar.  Somehow I ended up with 2 unopened bags of powdered sugar and no regular sugar.  Ha!

Lemon Bars adapted from Bed and Breakfast Cookbook by Martha W. Murphy
Shortbread crust:
1 cup butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar), sifted
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour

4 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar)
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the crust: 
Combine the flour, sugar and butter together thoroughly.  You can use a fork.  I used a pastry cutter.  It helps if the butter is very soft, at room temperature.  Pat into greased 9" X 13" pan.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 to 25 minutes or until golden.

To make the filling:
Combine eggs, sugar and lemon juice and beat well.  In a separate bowl mix other ingredients; add to egg mixture and combine well.

Pour over the baked crust.  Return to oven and bake at 350 degree F for an additional 15 to 25 minutes.

Cool thoroughly on a rack, then cut into bars. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar if you want.

The lemon bars were delicious!  I thought the half whole wheat crust was tasty.  The bars were good, but I would make more filling as I thought the ratio of filling to crust was a bit off.  I might try to do twice the filling.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Experiment #34: Glazed Lemon Bundt Cakes

It was a birthday of a friend at work who like lemon.  Lucky for her, her birthday coincides with the largest cache of lemons in the history of our lemon tree at home.  We have so many lemons that unfortunately one of the branches broke.  :( C'est la vie!

Anyways, I remember looking at lemon cake recipes on Martha Stewart and finding a reasonably easy looking lemon pound cake.  I decided that I would make it into a mini bundt cake so that it would be a little cute cake.  Food is ever so much cuter when it's little right?  I also knew that she probably would already have a cake coming so a personal sized cake was in order.

Although I generally automatically change 1/2 of the white flour with whole wheat flour, I do believe that some occasions it just won't be a good idea.  This recipe is one of those times.  I wanted the yellow of the lemon to shine through the cake and not be muddied by the slight brownish quality of white whole wheat.  I love lemon as well so I wanted to increase the lemon juice and zest for an added punch of flavor.

The original recipe calls for mixing this cake with a mixer, but I just mixed it with hand using very very soft butter.  I left it out at room temperature for a while before I even started this cake.

Per my usual MO, I decreased the sugar.

Since I was trying to make a smaller cake, I halved the recipe.  This change caused a bit of trouble since I would need 1/2 an egg, so I decided to just increase the egg.

Glazed Lemon Bundt Cake adapted from Martha Stewart Glazed Lemon Pound Cake
Cake ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk
zest of 3 lemons
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup organic sugar
3 large eggs

Lemon glaze ingredients:
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup powdered sugar

I did the math if you want to do a full sized bundt cake

3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
zest of 6 lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 sticks of butter, softened
1 cup organic sugar
6 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour 4 mini bundt cake pans.

In a liquid measuring cup, combine buttermilk with lemon zest and juice.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  You can do this with a mixer if you want, but I did it will extremely soft butter and a bowl and spoon.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add flour mixture in three parts alternating with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Beat just until smooth.  Do not overmix.  (What this means is: add 1/3 of Flour mixture, then 1/2 the buttermilk mixture, 1/3 of the flour mixture, 1/2 of the buttermilk mixture, and finally 1/3 of flour mixture.  There is no need to be super accurate with this, but a rough estimate is good.)

Divid batter evenly between pans and smooth tops.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in comes our clean. These cakes took about 18 minutes in my oven, but as with all recipes, check the cakes early so that you don't overbake them and they become overdone and dry.

Cool 15 minutes and turn out cakes onto a rack.  Cool completely before glazing.

Dust with powdered sugar if you want or mix together glaze ingredients and pour over the cakes.

These cakes were delicious and very lemony. I would definitely make them again.

Link to original recipe on Martha Stewart's website:

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Experiment #33: Carrot Cake Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting

Although I liked the vegan carrot cake muffins, I ended up thinking I should be a little more traditional for the actual party.  This cupcake recipe comes from Martha Stewart's web-site. She made mini cupcakes and I decided to make regular sized muffins.

I reduced the sugar and made the recipe 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 white flour for the white flour called for in the recipe.  I also eliminated the raisins, because I like carrot cake without raisins, but if you like them then put them back in the recipe.  I liked the brown sugar in the vegan carrot cake muffins so I used that instead of regular sugar.

Carrot Cake Muffins adapted from Martha Stewarts Carrot-Cake Mini Cupcake recipe
Makes 12 muffins
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups grated carrot

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In another bowl, mix together the wet ingredients: sugar, eggs, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla until combined.

Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients until combined.  Stir in the grated carrot just until combined.

Place muffin liners in muffin pan and add batter to each muffin cup.  I used an ice cream scoop so that they would be uniform.

Bake until a cake tester comes out clean.  It took my oven about 18 to 20 minutes, but always make sure not to overbake your cakes.  Check them around 18 minutes.  Overbaked cakes are dry and not delicious!

I made cream cheese frosting for these cupcakes using organic cream cheese, organic powdered sugar and a splash of vanilla extract. (8 oz. cream cheese, 2 tablespoons powdered sugar and a splash of vanilla). I finely grated orange zest over the cupcakes with a microplane.

The cupcakes turned out perfect. Slightly sweet and very moist.  I would definitely make these again.

Link to the original recipe:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Experiment #32: Ginger Coconut Chicken with Coconut Rice

I was kind of in a rut with making food for my family.  We are still learning what our little one likes to eat and so far, we found he loves salmon, the bok choy shiitake with tofu dish I make, tortillas with beans and cheese and tomatoes and eggs.

I have been making some times the same dishes over and over again and I was feeling pretty uninspired.  I decided that I needed some inspiration and that I really should use a cookbook that I had purchased recently which was Tyler Florence's infant, baby, toddler cookbook called Start Fresh. I really enjoyed Tyler Florence's recipes in general and I have his Real Kitchen book.

After looking through the recipes I landed on his Ginger Chicken with Coconut.  It looked easy and was one dish meal so I thought I would try it.  Tyler said that many children are partial to the mild sweet/sour accents of coconut, ginger and lime that you find in many Thai dishes.  I didn't know if my little one would like it but I thought I would try.

My modifications were that I forgot the cilantro and the lime, by accident really, but I am sure they would taste good in the recipe and I added more onion, because my onion was medium sized and not small like Tyler called for in the recipe.  Tyler calls this recipe Ginger Chicken with Coconut, but I didn't feel that it described the recipe enough.  It is so much more than this, because it has a lovely rice pilaf.

Ginger Coconut Chicken with Coconut Rice adapted from Start Fresh by Tyler Florence
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I used organic, free range)
Salt and Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 can (13.5 oz.) coconut milk (I used a light organic coconut milk)
1 1/2 cups organic chicken broth (Tyler calls for organic chicken stock)
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice (I used organic basmati)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a heavy roasting pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown lightly on both sides, 5 to 7 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.

I wiped the pan with a paper towel to take some of the oil and fat from the pan before proceeding.

Add the onion and ginger to the pan and cook until the onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.  Pour the coconut milk and broth and bring to a boil.

Add the rice and cook until some of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice 5 to 7 minutes. (I assumed he meant to write to lower the heat a bit during this step.  I didn't think it should be boiling here.)  Arrange the chicken on top of the rice and sprinkle with coconut.

Bake until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165F and the rice is tender.  Tyler said 20 to 25 minutes, but I ended up cooking it for 15 minutes and the chicken and rice were done.  Just remember that everyone's oven is different and check earlier so you don't overcook the chicken.

Tyler does say that there should be some liquid left in the pan.

Tyler said that this recipe makes 4 adult servings or 6 to 8 kid servings.  I really didn't feel that it made 4 adult servings.  1 boneless skinless chicken thigh is not very much chicken for an adult.  I would say 2 1/2 adult servings maybe.

The recipe was a smashing success.  This recipe was delicious and flavorful.  Tyler was right, kids do like this!  Thanks Tyler for a wonderful recipe.  I would definitely make this again.  Yum!

Modifications for next time:
I would add more boneless skinless chicken thighs.  There was more than enough rice to supplement more chicken.  I would say the ratio of chicken to rice was off.  There was too much rice per serving, and I love rice.  Other than that.  I would do nothing different, but I suppose I should try it with the cilantro and lime as in the original recipe sometime.

Link to purchase the book Start Fresh:

Experiment #31: Vegan Tangerine Carrot Cake Muffins

I was testing recipes for my little one's birthday party which is coming up this weekend.  I have always loved carrot cake but never made it before and so I wanted to test the recipes for the birthday so I didn't mess up.

The recipe comes from the book Party Vegan by Robin Robertson.  It is under her section for a Halloween party. The recipe was interesting because it was a carrot cake with dark chocolate frosting.  Perfect for Halloween.  Being that it is not Halloween, I was hoping to do a more traditional take on cream cheese frosting, but since I have already made a lot of cream cheese frosting, I didn't think I needed to test that out.

Per my usual, I reduced the sugar and replaced half of the all purpose flour with white whole wheat flour.  I eliminated the maple syrup since the recipe already had sugar in it.  I also used tangerine juice instead of orange, because I like tangerine juice.  While making the recipe I found the batter seemed stiff, which sometimes happens when you substitute whole wheat flour for all purpose flour so I added some water.  Oh, I forgot to say that I made the recipe into muffins instead of a 9 inch square cake.

Tangerine Carrot Cake Muffins adapted from Party Vegan's Orange Carrot Cake by Robin Robertson
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup tangerine juice
1/2 cup sunflower oil (I used organic spectrum brand)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup water (too much)
2 1/4 cups finely shredded carrot (about 3/4 of a pound)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Add cupcake liners to cupcake pan. (You'll need 18.)

In a large bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, juice, oil, vanilla, and water.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.  Stir in carrots until just mixed.

Place by the scoop into cupcake liners (I used an ice cream scoop to make them even.)  Bake about 18 minutes.

The Results:
The flavor of the muffins was good, but I was worried when I took them out and tasted the first one.  It was kind of gummy.  I might have over-mixed the batter because I added the water after everything was mixed in.  Another problem might have been that I added too much water.

I found though after they sat and cooled the muffins tasted a lot better.  They might have dried out a bit.

I think I might try this recipe again, but I need to modify the recipe.  I would use less water and maybe replace some of the oil with applesauce as I think they seemed a bit oily to me.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Experiment #29 & 30: Grilled Lamb with Tzatziki in Flatbread Sandwiches

I was feeling like having lamb today and so I went to the store to see what looked good.  I cannot believe how expensive lamb can be.  $11.49 per pound later, I arrived home with New Zealand Lamb Loin chops from Atkins Ranch.

I enjoy lamb gyros and this recipe is inspired by it.  The idea is delicious grilled lamb slathered creamy delicious tzatziki sauce, with lettuce and tomato.  Ok.  I'm ready.  When do we get to eat..

I seasoned the lamb with kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder, which is what I season most every meat that comes into my house.

This recipe comes from the book Grill! from Pippa Cuthebert & Lindsay Cameron Wilson. I did not buy lamb steaks like the recipe calls for and purchased lamb loin chops instead.  Also, the original recipe calls for homemade flatbread, which I did not have the time to make so I purchased it.  If you can't find flatbread, I might use pita bread cut in half to make a sandwich or if you have access to some  Naan bread.

Gyros: Lamb and Tzatziki in Flatbread
4 New Zealand lamb loin chops
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Garlic powder

I generously seasoned the lamb with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and garlic powder and let it sit overnight.

Take the lamb out to come to room temperature for at least 20 minutes before grilling over medium 3-5 minutes on each side or to your taste.

Let the lamb rest before you slice it to make your sandwiches.

Tzatziki sauce: (from my memory)
1 cup greek yogurt or plain yogurt
2 garlic, minced (I used a garlic press)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 cup cucumber, finely diced
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
salt and pepper, to taste

I made tzatziki sauce a while back and this is what I remembered.
For tzatziki sauce, it is pretty simple, but I wanted to try something my Mom had told me once a while ago. She makes her own yogurt and she makes greek yogurt from her homemade yogurt by straining it, and so this morning I decided to give it a try. I had some Whole Milk Organic Plain Yogurt from Trader Joe's and I left it in a coffee filter in the fridge covered with plastic wrap for a few hours, and it worked!  Who knew greek style yogurt could me made so easy?  I love the thick creaminess of Greek yogurt, but my favorite greek yogurt brand, Fage is not organic.  Now I can make it myself!

Plain Organic Yogurt before straining:

After allowing to sit and strain:

My chopped ingredients:
Mix all the ingredients together and you are done!
Chopped tomatoes, lettuce

Middle eastern flatbreads (I purchased whole wheat flatbreads from Trader Joe's)

I warmed the flatbread in a cast iron pan and topped them with slices of lamb, a slathering of tzatziki sauce and tomatoes and lettuce.

I thought the lamb loin chops were delicious but a bit difficult to slice up nicely.  I should have purchased the lamb leg steaks.

The tzatziki sauce was very very garlicky.  I think it was too much, and I love garlic!  I would definitely reduce the garlic next time, maybe just to one clove.

The sandwiches were great and we really enjoyed them.  I would definitely make this recipe again.