Monday, August 31, 2009

Panzanella Salad

adapted from Stacey Snacks

My family has always been of the "waste not, want not" philosophy, and I had a loaf of stale bread that I felt bad throwing out. So I made a panzanella salad instead. Panzanella is an Italian salad made from bread and tomatoes, tossed in a light vinaigrette. The bread soaks up the juices from the tomatoes and dressing, resulting in a delicious flavorful dish.

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

1 stale baguette (or other bread) torn into bite sized chunks
4-5 tomatoes
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese

Mix your salad ingredients and place them in a large bowl. Whisk your dressing and pour over the bread and tomato mixture until the bread cubes absorb the dressing. You don't have to use all of the dressing, just use as much as you deem appropriate. Let it sit in the bowl for about an hour to let the flavors mingle together and allow the bread to absorb the juices.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Adapted from Savour Fare

Tomatoes at the grocery store are so cheap right now they beg to be taken home. Luckily Ben and I love them so it is easy to work them into meals, but today I had a huge abundance of very ripe tomatoes so I decided to try out this method of roasting them to bring out different flavors and have the whole batch as a part of our dinner.

6 plum sized tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
spices - you can use what you wish, here are some combinations:
basil/lemon pepper/oregano

Preheat the oven to 200 (93 C). Cut tomatoes in half if they are small (I had large ones, so I cut them into quarters) and drizzle them with olive oil mixture. Roast on a baking sheet cut side up (baking paper underneath for easy cleanup) for 4-6 hours. The longer the better really. The tomatoes will slowly wrinkle and become caramelized and the flavor is just amazing.

These can be stored in the fridge (covered) for up to three days. They are beautiful in pasta, on salads or just eaten right off of the baking sheet!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Black Bean and Feta Quesadillas

Quesadillas were a staple at my house growing up. They are so quick and easy to make, plus the variations are endless so you can really just make do with whatever you have on hand. I loved this unique combination of the spicy beans and creamy goat cheese.

1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 can (about 1 1/2 cups) black beans
1 cup corn
1 large tomato, diced
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
12 oz goat cheese (about 300 grams) I used Feta
1 bunch of fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

8-10 tortillas
sour cream

Heat the oil and saute garlic and onions until soft - about 5 minutes. Then add beans along with spices and stir. Then add corn and tomatoes and cook mixture for 6-8 minutes. (Add water if necessary) Remove from heat, stir in the cilantro and set aside.

In a frying pan on medium heat, place one tortilla at the bottom, add a thin layer of beans and sprinkle the top with the goat cheese, leaving about 1/2 inch from the edge clear. Then sandwich it between another tortillas. Brown each side for about 2 minutes. Cut the quesadillas into wedges and serve with guacamole or sour cream and a side of lettuce.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Basic French Bread

Bread can be so tricky. There are so many techniques to achieve different textures and densities and then there are the many variables with all the kinds of flours, gluten content and temperatures. So many ways to screw it up! And I am definitely a novice. I can bake basic bread, but if it needs any special treatment I definitely need more practice.

Anyway, today I tried out a basic French Bread. It is cheap to make, versatile and can be used with so many different meals. This time I did some research and tried out some new techniques and these loaves came out better than ever. I still have a ways to go to perfecting it, but am happy to see improvements.

I watched this great how-to video on youtube and it really helped a lot.

Makes 3-4 loaves

2 Tbsp yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water
7 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt

Dissolve yeast in water, add sugar and let it sit for 10 minutes or so (until foamy). Then add salt and 2 cups of water. Beat until well mixed. Add the rest of the flour and knead on a floured board (or in your mixer) for about 5 minutes (longer if you are using whole wheat). Cover and let rise for 30-45 minutes (until doubled in size).

Grease a couple of baking sheets (or use baking paper) and sprinkle lightly with corn meal. Take the bread and punch it down, kneading for 1 minute. Cut the dough ball in to 3 or 4 pieces and let the dough rest for about 10 minutes.

Turn on the oven to 450 (232 C) to preheat. Roll each dough piece into a rope not quite as long as the baking sheet. Place on the baking tray and make sure there is ample space between loaves. Using a sharp knife, cut diagonal cuts (about 1/2 inch) on the top of each loaf; then you can brush with an egg wash for shine or spray a little water and add sesame seeds or whatever else you want to put on top. Let the loaves raise until double (30-45 minutes).

While the bread is raising for the final time, you want to prepare a "steam oven" which will create the breads crunchy crust. To do this place an oven safe pan on the lowest rack or floor over your oven with several cups of hot water. When you put your bread in, the steam will be circulating in the oven and that will help make the crust nice and crunchy while keeping the inside soft.

Bake at 450 (232 C) for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 (176 C) for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown. The bread should make a hollow sound when tapped. Remove from pans and cool.

This bread is best fresh and does not age well, so keep it wrapped in plastic overnight or it will get stale. If you aren't going to use it within 2 days, wrap in plastic and freeze until you are ready to use it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Oven Fried Chicken

adapted from Weight Watcher Recipes

I had a hankering for fried chicken, but I am trying to avoid all fried foods on this blog so I found this pseudo-fried baked chicken and gave it a whirl. I was a little skeptical about using bran flakes, but it turned out great and was so easy that I can't wait to try it again.

Tip: I put this on the top rack and the legs in the back cooked pretty fast and almost burned so maybe put it one the middle rack or lower to prevent this from happening.

6 medium bone-in, skinless drumsticks (I used 3 legs)
2 1/2 cups bran flakes (corn flakes would also work well)
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
4 Tbsp light mayonnaise
3 tsp mustard

Preheat oven to 400 (204 C), line a baking sheet with foil and place beneath a wire rack to catch the drippings. Spray the rack with a little oil.

Crush the bran flakes into a grainy powder. In a bowl mix crushed cereal with salt, paprika, garlic powder, and peppers. In another bowl, combine mayonnaise and mustard. Using a cooking brush, brush the mayonnaise lightly on the chicken and then coat the chicken with the crushed cereal mixture. Place the chicken on the rack and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the juices of the chicken run clear.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cranberry White Chocolate Muffins

adapted from Playing House

1/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cup yogurt
2 eggs
3 cups + 1 Tbsp flour (I used 1/2 white, 1/2 whole wheat)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup cranberries (I used lingon berries)

Preheat oven to 375 (190 C) and prepare a muffing tin. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar, then add applesauce, yogurt and eggs. In another bowl, whisk together dry ingredients and then add them to the wet mixture, mixing until just combined. In a little bowl, place the berries and 1 Tbsp of flour, coat the berries with the flour so they don't sink to the bottom of your muffins. Then gently fold in chocolate chips and berries.

Fill the prepared muffin cups 3/4 of the way full and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when you poke it in the center.

Let cool for 5 minutes in the tin and then remove and allow to cool on the counter.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hawaiian Haystacks

This is one of those dinners that goes by many names (Chinese sundays, chicken sundays) and is made differently in every house. I love it because it is so versatile and you can add or subtract ingredients according to your tastes. I have eaten this meal with green onions, diced peppers, diced celery, water chestnuts, different cheeses, chow mein noodles, slivered almonds, shredded carrots and soy sauce. So experiment to find the best combination for your family. This is our favorite:

Usually there is lettuce in there too, but I forgot to buy it at the store...

Serves 3-4

3-4 baked white fish filets (or 3 cups of cubed cooked chicken, or in a pinch two cans of drained tuna)
4 cups cooked rice
2 large onions
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
shredded coconut (I lightly toasted ours with salt and sugar)
3 large tomatoes, diced and seeds removed
2 cups pineapple, cut into chunks
1 head lettuce, torn into small pieces
1 can (about 2 cups) of cream of chicken soup

Cook rice, set aside.

Chop onions into rings and place them in a hot frying pan with 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp sugar and 1 tsp salt. Turn the heat down to medium and saute, stirring frequently until the onions are soft, and caramelized (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.
Prepare tomatoes, chop lettuce and those and the coconut, pineapple, and onions in separate small serving bowls. Heat 1 can of cream of chicken soup in a pot and once it is warm, begin to serve.

Use rice as the base, and add heaping spoonful of each of the ingredients, topping with the fish or chicken. Pour a few tablespoons of soup on top, and serve.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Corn Chowder

from Mom

This soup is hearty and perfect for a rainy, cold day. The ingredients are all very inexpensive so it is a perfect way to feed a lot of people on a budget.

Serves 6

2 lbs potatoes, diced
1 onion, roughly chopped
4-5 pieces of bacon (about 1 small package)
1/2 cup butter (about 112 grams)
6 heaping Tbsp flour
4 cups milk
3-4 cups corn
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1/2 Tbsp lemon pepper
salt to taste

Dice potatoes into bite sized chunks and chop up onions. Put the potatoes and onions in enough water just to cover them and boil until slightly soft and set aside.
In a large frying pan create a white sauce by melting butter and adding the 6 Tbsp flour, stirring constantly. Add in milk, one cup at a time and stir until thickened and smooth, then pour into the soup pot and mix well. In a frying pan, cook the bacon until crispy and drain grease. Allow bacon to cool and then crumble and add to the soup mix along with the corn. Add lemon pepper, parsley and salt and bring pot to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans Salad

adapted from Stacey Snacks

I love roasted vegetables, there is so much flavor released and it is so easy to do. This is a simple salad that would taste great as a side dish or a light lunch.

1 lb of potatoes, with skins on
2 onions, roughly chopped
1 lb green beans (would also taste great with chunks of Zucchini)

1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp parsley
3 tsp sugar

salt and pepper to taste

Whisk dressing and set aside. Quarter the potatoes and place them in a bowl. Chop the onions into thin strips, and place them into the bowl with the potatoes. Drizzle the mixture with salt and olive oil and toss to coat evenly. Place on a baking sheet and roast at 400 (204 C) for about 25-35 minutes, or until crispy.

Blanch your green beans in boiling water for only about 5 minutes (so they stay crispy) and drain in a colander. You can rinse them with cold water to prevent them from cooking longer if you like.

Once potatoes/onions are done, combine them together and just before serving, pour the dressing over the whole mixture. Best served warm, but tastes great at room temperature as well.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pork and Apple Pies

Adapted from Robbing Peter

I love meat pies! These savory and sweet little babies were great and had a very interesting mingle of flavors. They are great for freezing and reheating later for lunch or light dinner.

Makes about 12 small pies (serves 3-4)

Pastry Dough
3 cups flour
1 egg
1/2 cup butter (112 grams)
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt

Pork and Apple Filling
1/2 lb pork
1 apple, grated
1 onion, roughly chopped
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (we used Edam)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger

Sweet Onion Gravy
1-2 Tbsp butter
1/2 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp thyme
1 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups stock
1/2 cup applesauce (or 1 grated apple)
salt and pepper to taste

Start by making the dough. Mix flour and salt, cut in butter. Add the yolk of the egg (set the white aside) along with milk a little at a time until mixed well. Knead until soft on a floured surface and let rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 (190 C). While the dough is resting, cook pork with spices in a frying pan until brown; drain grease and set aside. In the same pan, saute onion until soft and golden, then add grated apple and cook for 3-4 minutes. Combine pork with the onion/apple mixture and mix well. Add in the cheese, mix again and set aside.

Roll out the dough very thin (1/8 of an inch) and cut out circles using a small bowl. Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of the pork mixture onto one side of the dough circle, trying to avoid the edges. Gently wet the edge of the pie circle with a few drops of water and fold the pies into half moon shapes, keeping the filling inside. Press the edges together to seal and crimp with a fork.

Bake on a baking sheet for 40 minutes at 375 (190 C). While the pies are baking, prepare the gravy. Saute the garlic and onion in the butter. After a few minutes, add in the spices and flour, stirring constantly. Slowly add in the stock and heat until boiling before adding the apples. Let the sauce simmer on low for 2-3 minutes and remove from heat.

Serve pies warm with gravy

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mom's Sweet Corn Bread

from my Mom

This is seriously the best corn bread you will ever have. It is sweeter than typical corn breads, and it is delicious served warm with butter and honey.
Thanks Mom, for passing on this one on. It is one of my favorites.

3/4 cup butter (168 grams)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup corn meal
1 Tbsp baking powder
4 eggs
2 cups flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 (176 C) and lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add corn meal and baking powder and mix well. Separate the yolk from the eggs and add the yolks to the corn mixture. (Set aside the egg whites). Add in the flour, vanilla, milk and salt, mix until batter is smooth.
Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter gently until just combined. Pour into prepared baking dish and bake for 25 minutes or when a toothpick comes out clean when you stick it in the middle.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Bean Burritos

adapted from Martha Stewart

These turned out so great and had so much flavor that you didn't miss the meat at all. The best part about it is you can make extra and freeze them individually for a quick lunch or dinner later in the week.

This picture doesn't show off many beans, but they are in there!

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions
4 cloves garlic
1 jalapeño
1 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper
1/2 cup diced canned tomatoes (about 1/2 can)
3 cans beans (black or pinto)
1 bag (about 3 cups) corn

Mexican Rice:
3/4 cup rice
1 chicken (or vegetable) bullion (or 1 1/5 cup broth)
1/2 cup diced canned tomatoes (about 1/2 can)

1 cup cheese
1 head lettuce (or other leafy greens)
8 burrito sized tortillas
sour creme (optional, but recommended)

1. Cook rice using broth or drop a bullion cube in the water. Once done, mix in canned tomatoes and set aside.

2. Saute onions, garlic, jalapeño, chili powder and salt and pepper in a large pot until soft and golden. Add tomato paste and cook for 1-2 more minutes, then add beans and 1 1/2 cup water. Once boiling, turn heat down to low and simmer for about 10-15 minutes to reduce the liquid. Add corn to bean mixture and cook until heated through.

3. Grate cheese, chop lettuce and warm up tortillas according to package instructions (or make your own)

4. Assemble burritos: mound 1/4 cup rice, 1/2 cup bean mixture and sprinkle cheese on one side of the tortilla. Fold and hold in sides. Start from the filled end, holding sides in as you work, tightly rolling it into a bundle. Serve immediately with salsa and sour cream, or wrap individually in plastic and freeze for up to 3 months.

To reheat from frozen with a microwave:
Remove from plastic wrap and put in microwave on a plate, covered in with a microwave safe bowl. Defrost on high for 3-4 minutes, uncover and microwave on high for 3-4 more minutes

To reheat from frozen using oven:
Remove burritos from plastic wrap, and cover them with foil. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 450 (230 C) for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake to a crisp 5-10 additional minutes.

To reheat from defrosted:
remove all coverings and bake at 450 (230 C) for 10 minutes or microwave on high for 3-4 minutes.