Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dinner Notes: Chicken Tacos

This really isn't much of a recipe, but rather an idea.

Corn Tortillas
Refried beans with Jalapenos, warmed in pan
Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs, cut into bite sized chunks
Taco Seasoning, a teaspoon?
Finely chopped yellow onions
Small diced red bell pepper
Shredded monterey jack cheese

Warm the corn tortillas and top with warmed refried beans.

I sauteed the chicken thighs in a pan and sprinkled over taco seasoning.  It seemed like it needed salt and so I added a bit.

Place chicken pieces over refried beans then top with cilantro, onion, bell pepper and finally cheese.  If you would like a good salsa on top is nice.  I like Frontera Salsa Tomatillo Chipotle Salsa.  Delicioso!

Experiment #15: Sweet Potato Hash and a Fried Egg

I was watching the Food Network the other day and saw Anne Burrell make sweet potato hash.  It was an interesting idea and I had some sweet potatoes lying around so I thought I would do a version of it.  She used bacon in her recipe and although I didn't have any, I don't think it needed it.

The sweet potatoes were delicious on their own with onions and sweet red bell pepper.  It was breakfast time so I enjoyed it with a fried egg on top over medium. 

Sweet Potato Hash
1/2 yellow onion chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped 

To begin with, I steamed the sweet potatoes until cooked. Try to pierce it with a knife to make sure they are soft.

Then I sauteed the onion until slightly softened in olive oil, about 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat.  

I added the red bell pepper and the cooked sweet potato and cooked the mixture until the sweet potatoes developed a little bit of a firm crisp exterior, about 5 minutes.  

Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

I really liked this dish.  It featured the natural sweetness of the sweet potato.  I will definitely make this again.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Experiment #14: Banana Peanut Butter Cookies

I am on a bit of a cookie kick.  I think I'll stop after this one.  I don't want to get too crazy with the baked goods.  I want to eat a bit more healthy.  I have had a bit of sweet tooth since my pregnancy.  I need to wean off sugar for sure. :)

So I was looking in the Cookies! book by Pippa Cuthbert and Lindsay Cameron Wilson and found an interesting recipe.  The recipe Soft banana-blueberry cookies caught my eye because I had a ripe banana around and it had a substitution of peanut butter for the butter that sounded interesting to me.

I completely took out the brown sugar, because I thought the banana and the apple juice had enough sugar and I added chocolate instead of the blueberries that the recipe called for.  I did my usual substitution for the all purpose flour which is half white whole wheat and half white flour for the flour.

Soft Banana-blueberry cookies Adapted from Cookies! by Pippa Cuthbert and Lindsay Cameron Wilson

1 ripe medium banana, mashed
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup apple juice
1 jumbo egg (It's what I had in the house.  The original did not specify egg size although I assume it was large)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup dry quick oatmeal
1/4 cup chopped chocolate (I used 70% cocoa chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a small bowl mix the flours with the baking soda.

In a large bowl, combine the mashed banana and peanut butter.  Add the apple juice, egge and vanilla and stir until smooth.  Add flour along with the oats into the banana mixture.  Fold in the chopped chocolate.

Drop the batter by the spoonful onto baking sheet about 2 inches apart. (The batter is very wet and the cookies do not spread very much.)  Bake for 10 minutes, until set and allow to cool on the cookie sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes.

The results were definitely interesting, something to work with but not perfected yet.  The cookies taste like banana bread cookies, soft and cakey with little to no peanut butter flavor, but I think the chocolate overpowered the peanut butter.  They definitely need some more sugar and some salt which was missing from the recipe.  I will try this recipe again, but next time, I will use some of the brown sugar and maybe soak the oatmeal in some of the liquid ingredients.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Experiment #13: Honey Coconut Oat Cookies

I have a secret longing for cookies.  I think about cookies for a few weeks and then I may break down and buy one at a local bakery or supermarket.  The problem with these cookies are they are often ladened with too much sugar, too much fat, and little to no whole wheat.

In my cookbook library, I have a book dedicated to cookies.  In fact it is called Cookies! by Pippa Cuthbert and Lindsay Cameron Wilson.  I was looking through this book the other day and landed on a cookie that seemed simple enough and quick enough to fit in to my busy life with my family.

These cookies are called Anzac cookies. The authors write that these cookies are based on an old recipe for scottish oatcakes, that were made by soldiers' wives and children and sent to their men during the First World War to keep them well nourished.

Per my usual protocol on baked goods, I immediately changed the recipe to half whole wheat and half all purpose flour.  Also, I greatly reduced the sugar.  I replaced the butter with a combination of oil and applesauce, because I heard this works, and I also replaced the corn syrup with honey.

If you would like, you can make these vegan as well, since there are no eggs in the recipe.  Just replace the honey with some agave nectar.

I suppose these cookies are not Anzac cookies any longer, but well, they taste good so who cares. :) Lightly sweetened and crumbly, these cookies were what I was looking for today.

Anzac cookies adapted from Cookies! by Pippa Cuthbert and Linday Cameron Wilson
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (the original calls for sweetened)
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 cup dry quick oatmeal, I pulsed in a food processor 3 times for a rough chop
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tbsp. boiling water

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Place flour, coconut, sugar, and oats in a large bowl and mix well.

In another bowl place the oil, applesauce and honey.

Put the baking soda in a small bowl and pour over the boiling water and stir to combine.

Add baking soda mixture to the oil, applesauce and honey.  Then pour this mixture over the dry ingredients.  The mix was very very dry, so I had to mix with my hands to incorporate the small amount of liquid into all of the dry ingredients.

Use a tablespoon to form balls of dough and place on cookie sheet. Flatten with your hand or a fork. This part is kind of tedious and time consuming since the mixture does not want to stay together.  Get out your aggression and squish it together.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Allow to cool slightly and enjoy.

I would try this again with something for more moisture.  More applesauce as they were difficult to form.

Beware!  These cookies are extremely crumbly.  You'll need a napkin or plate to catch all those delicious crumbs.  I can see eating the crumbled bits like a granola with milk.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Experiment #10,11 &12: An Indian Curry, Pilaf and Apple Hand Pies

Today was my husband's birthday and every year I try to make a special dinner.  This year I made things that I never made before, but I have been eyeing these recipes for a while and thought what the heck I should try them out since my husband loves Indian food.

The first two recipes are Indian inspired recipes from Nigella Lawson's book, Feast.  The last recipe is a hybrid, the crust of the hand pies is from Martha Stewart's Living cookbook and the filling is from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

Mughlai Chicken adapted from Nigella Lawson's book Feast
1 inch fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. dried chili
4 tbsp. ground almonds
1/2 cup water
5 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 bay leaves
4 cloves
2 tbsp. sunflower oil
3 lbs. deboned, skinned chicken thighs, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
1 cup Greek Yogurt
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup raisins
1 tsp. kosher salt

Put ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander and chili into a food processor and blend to a paste.

Add the ground almonds and water, then blend again, and set aside.

Put the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and cloves into a small bowl.

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the chicken pieces in batches.  Cook long enough to seal on both sides, then remove to a dish.

Add bowl of spices and turn them in the oil.  Add to the pan of spices, and cook until softened and lightly browned, but keep the heat gentle and stir frequently.  Pour in blended paste, and cook everything until begins to color.  Add the yogurt, 1/2 at a time, stirring it in to make a sauce, then stir in the stock and raisins.

Add browned chicken back into the pan along with any juices that have collected them, and sprinkle garam masala and salt.  Cover and cook on a gentle heat for 20 minutes, testing to make sure the chicken meat is cooked through.

Pilaf for a Curry Banquet from Nigella Lawson's book Feast 
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped (I would have used a whole yellow onion, but I only had 1/2 a yellow onion)
2 tbsp. sunflower oil
2 cloves
3 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick, broken in 3
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 1/2 cups basmati rice
4 cups chicken broth ( I used Trader Joe's Organic Free Range broth)

Cook the onion, cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, and cumin seeds in the oil in a deep saucepan until the onion is slightly browned and soft.  Keep the heat medium to low and stir frequently, this should take about 10 minutes.

Add the rice and stir until the rice is coated with oil.  Pour in chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Cover the pan with a lid and cook over low heat for 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat, take the lid off, cover with a dish towel and clamp the lid back on the saucepan.  You can leave the rice to rest like this for a least 10 minutes, and up to about 1 hour.

On New Year's eve, this past year, I made apple turnovers from the America's test kitchen Family Cookbook.  They were delicious, but using store bought puff pastry left something to be desired.  I thought that I could perhaps make the same filling and use my favorite pastry dough and get a delicious hand pie.

Apple Hand Pies adapted from 2 recipes Pate Brisee and Apple Turnover 

Pastry dough (Perfect Pate Brisee) from Martha Stewart Living Cookbook (Available on web-site)
2 1/2 cups All purpose flour, plus more for rolling out
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled Butter, cut into pieces (I used salted but the original is unsalted)
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

1. Place flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor and pulse to combine.

2.  Add butter to food processor.  Pulse the butter and flour until it is resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds.  It should have little globs of butter wrapped in flour.

3.  Slowly add ice water to the food processor while it is running, until the dough comes together.  I start with 1/4 cup and see if the dough holds together.  Stop the machine and pinch the dough.  If it sticks together and doesn't crumble, then the dough is done.

4. Divide the dough into 2 pieces (I shape them into rectangles this time, but normally I shape the dough into round disks.)  Wrap the dough individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour before using.  (The reason is that the butter needs to be cold when it gets in the oven to allow for perfect flaky crust.  If it is too soft, your dough will weep and make a horrible mess.)

While the dough chills you can make the filling below.
Apple Filling adapted from Apple Turnover Recipe from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
2 Granny Smith Apples, cored and chopped (I kept the skin on but the original recipe calls for peeled apples)
2 tbsp. sugar (this is greatly reduced from the 3/4 cup in the original)
1 tbsp. fresh Lemon juice
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup Applesauce
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

Place the apples in the food processor with lemon juice and sugar. Pulse 5 times for a coarsely ground mixture.  Let apple mixture sit 5 minutes and then drain through a strainer.

The Apple Hand Pies (Where it all comes together) 
*If at any time the kitchen is too warm, and the dough is too soft, place in the freezer.  I place it on a cookie sheet and stick it in the freezer until it is more firm, which is easier to handle.  
1. Roll out dough until 1/8 inch thick. Cut with pie maker cutter.  Flour the press and place the dough on one side.  Place 2 tablespoons of the filling on top of the dough.

Beat an egg with  1 tsp. of water.  Brush edge of dough with egg wash.  Place second piece of pastry dough on top, and press to close.
I placed the hand pies in the freezer on a cookie sheet because my dough was getting too hot.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Pierced the top of the hand pies with a fork 5 times to allow steam to escape while being baked.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.

The finished pies!
They were delicious, but we think they needed more filling.  The ratio of crust to filling was too large.  Next time, I'll try to make the dough thinner and add more filling.  

Update February 24, 2013: I baked a hand pie that was frozen and it turned out great!  While preheating the oven, I let the hand pie sit at room temperature on a cookie sheet and then I baked it at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  It took 20 minutes to cook.  Just make sure it is golden brown.

Link to Nigella Lawson's Mughlai Chicken:

Link to Nigella Lawson's Indian Pilaf:

Link to Martha Stewart's Pate Brisee (There are some good tips on making pastry dough):

Link to the Apple Turnover Recipe: