Thursday, June 30, 2011

CEIMB: Chicken Pepian

This week's Craving Ellie in My Belly was another one of my picks! That's one cool thing about being in a blogging group that is a bit on the smaller side; you get to pick the recipe a whole lot more often! I chose to make Chicken Pepian, which I have seen Ellie make at least twice or three times now on her cooking show. I have drooled over this one for far too long; it was time to finally prepare it myself!

These beautiful green gems above are fresh tomatillos, which I absolutely love working with. They are a descendant of the gooseberry (or so I am told by Rachael Ray!), and they kinda sorta taste like a cross between a tomato and a citrus fruit. It's hard to explain, so if you've never tried them and are intrigued, I definitely suggest that you give them a try. We really love them! The tomatillos are used as the base for a yummy green sauce that is first prepared and then used to top boneless, skinless chicken breasts in this dish.

I do have to apologize to my fellow CEIMB-istas for this one, because I didn't realize just how many steps were involved with this recipe until I read through it just before prepping my grocery list. Though the steps are all pretty simple, there are a lot of them and they do take a bit of time. I am happy to say that I think it was worth it, though!

For the actual preparation, I decided to deviate from Ellie's method a bit. Call it laziness, or call it creativity; it was really a little bit of both! I broiled my onions and garlic along with my tomatillos and poblano pepper; it saved me a step in which you sauteed the onion and garlic in a pan. Then, instead of pounding out chicken breasts, I used chicken tenderloins, which of course are much smaller cuts. I put my tenderloins in a Dutch oven, poured all the pepian sauce over top of them, and then baked the whole dish in the oven for about an hour at 350 degrees. I thought the low and slow method would keep the meat moist, and would also ensure that the sauce was bubbly and simmered enough (especially since I had prepared the sauce one day ahead and it was cold from the fridge).

Then, in one final burst of ingenuity, I decided to serve them up two different ways. The first night we ate this, I placed a pile of stone ground tortilla chips beside the chicken and let everyone choose whether they wanted to just eat the chicken straight up, or use the chips to scoop it all up. Either way, you couldn't lose, because this was very, very scrumptious! The second night, I used the chicken and the sauce as a filling for some wraps, and that was super delicious as well.

This sauce was reminiscent of a pesto, since it utilized leafy green herbs, roasted veggies, and pumpkin seeds. However, the flavor was decidedly Southwestern, and there was the barest hint of heat from the poblano and jalapeno. It was nice and zesty, but not overpowering. I'd love to see how this would taste tossed with some pasta, though!

I've provided the full recipe, the way Ellie intended it. You can try it her way or mine; I can only vouch for my method. I'm glad I chose this; it got some very enthusiastic thumbs-up at my house! If you'd like to check out the CEIMB blogroll, click here. Thanks to everybody who cooked with me this week!

Chicken Pepian
adapted from Food Network
makes 4-6 servings

1 lb. fresh tomatillos
1 large poblano pepper (2.5-3 oz.), seeded and chopped into four pieces
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/2 cup raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds
5 whole peppercorns
2 whole allspice
1/2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped, fresh cilantro leaves (plus 1/4 cup more for garnish)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 medium (2-inch) jalapeno pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
Lime wedges

1. Preheat the broiler. Remove papery outer skins from tomatillos, then rinse with warm water to remove some of their natural stickiness. Pat dry, then cut into quarters. Toss tomatillos and the poblano with 2 tsp. of the oil, place on a baking sheet, and broil until charred, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

2. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add pumpkin seeds, peppercorns, allspice, and cumin, and toast until pumpkin seeds are fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside.

3. In the same saute pan, heat 2 tsp. of the oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

4. Place the tomatillos, the poblano, the onions, garlic, 1 cup cilantro, chicken broth, jalapeno pepper, pumpkin seeds, spices, and the salt in a food processor (or blender) and process on high until totally smooth, about 30 seconds.

5. Heat the remaining 2 tsp. oil in a skillet and cook the chicken until browned on both sides and nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Add pepian sauce to the skillet, covering the chicken pieces. Bring to a simmer and cook for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Serve chicken topped with the sauce and garnished with cilantro and lime wedges.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Malted Buttercream Filling

Now that I've become familiar with malted milk powder as an ingredient in my baking (thanks to the Baked cookbooks!), I decided it was time to test it out in some whoopie pies. Why not, right? So I toyed with several different ideas, such as whether or not I should put the malt flavor into just the cookie shells themselves, the filling, or both. Finally, I settled on doing a basic chocolate whoopie pie shell with malted buttercream filling.

I can't really explain the deliciousness of these cookies to you. I think you just need to try it for yourself! The chocolate cookie part is pure comfort food, all soft and pillowy with a dark, not too sweet chocolate taste. Then, the malted buttercream offsets the dark chocolate with its sweet, unique flavor and perfect smoothness. It was love at first bite! The crowning touch was rolling the sides of the pies in crushed Whoppers candy. Heaven! I know it has been a while since I've made whoopie pies, but I plan on turning that around. I'm gonna be making them way more often from here on out. It's a tragedy, I tell ya, that I almost forgot just how great they could be!

Chocolate Whoopie Pies
adapted from Whoopie Pies
makes 48 cookies (24 sandwich cookies)

Nonstick cooking spray
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup natural, unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
4 Tbsp. vegetable shortening
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
Malted Buttercream Filling (see below)
Whoppers candy, crushed (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper (or spray a whoopie pie pan with nonstick cooking spray). In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and shortening until uniform and creamy. Add in the brown sugar and beat well for another 3 minutes on medium, until everything is well-incorporated and the mixture is fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat for another 2 minutes.

3. To the mixer, add half the flour mixture and half the milk; beat on low until incorporated. Repeat with the remaining flour and remaining milk and beat until combined.

4. Using a tablespoon (or a small ice cream or cookie scoop), drop batter onto cookie sheet, spacing drops two inches apart. Bake each sheet for about 10 minutes, rotating them halfway through. They are done when each pie springs back when touched lightly in the center. Cool the pies on baking sheets for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. Fill whoopie pies with Malted Buttercream Filling; recipe is below. Roll the sides of the filled pies in crushed Whoppers candy, if desired.

Malted Buttercream Filling
adapted from Whoopie Pies
makes enough to fill 24 small whoopie pies

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
3 Tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 Tbsp. malted milk powder (or you can use Ovaltine)

1. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the milk, vanilla, and malted milk powder. Continue to beat on medium speed for another 3-4 minutes. Use to fill chocolate whoopie pie shells; yum!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Meatless Mondays: Veggie Burgers with Jalapeno Coleslaw and Malt Vinegar Potato Salad

Last week, I found myself suddenly craving outdoor barbeque food. I guess it's because we have the Fourth of July coming up soon, and all over the place I am seeing recipes for burgers and salads. Still, I have been cooking so many meat-free dishes lately, I thought it would be fun to make an entire picnic-style meal without any meat involved. Plus, I had just found out that Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook included a recipe for a supposedly delicious veggie burger, and I was just intrigued enough to want to test it out.

I first made a Malt Vinegar Potato Salad to go along with my meal. I just love that special tang that malt vinegar has; it's the perfect pairing with those soft potatoes. It reminds me of summer evenings on the boardwalk in New Jersey when I was growing up. My mom would order a huge bucket of fresh-cut french fries, and we would eat the fries dipped in malt vinegar. Huge yum! In fact, it has been way too long since I've been to the Jersey Shore; now I'm craving boardwalk fries!

I made up this recipe for the potato salad on the fly; it really couldn't be simpler. If you like German-style potato salads, which are quite tart, you should like this a lot. If I'd had some grainy mustard on hand, I would have added that in, too. Feel free to do that if you have some!

The coleslaw is an interpretation of a Cooking Light recipe I found recently. I only had lemons on hand, but the original recipe was actually a Jalapeno-Lime Coleslaw. However, I just made a few simple tweaks, and came up with this Jalapeno-Lemon Coleslaw. It was great, but I can't wait to make it again with the lime. I do love the jalapeno/lime pairing.

Finally, I made Gwyneth's Veggie Burgers, and they were every bit as delicious as I'd hoped (but secretly doubted) they would be. The black beans and rice give the burgers a nice firm texture, and there's a generous addition of cumin that I thought gave it a nice Mexican flair. Onion and garlic keep things zesty, and the whole meal can be whipped up fairly quickly. There is a period where you can rest the burgers in the fridge before cooking them up, but I don't think you absolutely have to do that if you're strapped for time. One small note about this recipe: she says to dust the burgers in flour before frying them up, and I understand that this probably helps bind everything together better and gives the burger a nice, crispy crust. However, I believe that the instructions indicate more flour than is actually needed, so I put the amount I think is sufficient down below.

Gwyneth's Veggie Burgers
adapted from Savor Flavor Dining
makes 4 burger patties

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 (14-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed well
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/2-1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
Oil or nonstick cooking spray, for cooking the patties
Burger buns, condiments, etc.

1. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions, garlic, and cumin and cook until softened and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, beans, and rice; cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often. Add the cilantro and mash the mixture with a potato masher; you want to make the mixture cohesive and combined, but don't mash completely. You still want some texture.

2. Allow the mixture to cool until it is easy to handle. Form the mixture into 4 patties. You can now allow the burgers to rest in the fridge for several hours before cooking.

3. When you are ready to cook the burgers, preheat a nonstick skillet, griddle, or grill pan to medium-high. Dust both sides of each burger patty lightly with the flour. Add the oil or nonstick cooking spray to your pan or griddle to heat it up. Cook the burgers until browned on both sides; it should take about 3-4 minutes per side. Top burgers with whatever you like, and serve on the bun of your choice.

Jalapeno-Lemon Coleslaw
adapted from Cooking Light
makes about 5-6 cups

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
4-5 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1 (10 ounce) package angel hair coleslaw
3 jalapeno peppers, halved crosswise

1. Combine the lemon juice, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Slowly stream in the olive oil, continually stirring with the whisk. Add scallion and coleslaw.

2. Thinly slice 1 jalapeno half crosswise (keeping seeds), and remove seeds from remaining jalapeno halves. Cut the remaining halves into thin crosswise slices. Add the jalapenos to scallion mixture and toss well to coat. Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving.

Malt Vinegar Potato Salad
recipe by Bri
makes about 2 pounds

2 lbs. small red potatoes, quartered
4-5 scallions, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp. malt vinegar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil

1. Place the quartered potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Set the pot on the stove, allow it to come up to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer the potatoes for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender but still hold their shape. Drain the potatoes when they are finished cooking.

2. While the potatoes cook, combine the scallions in a large bowl with the malt vinegar, salt, pepper, and rosemary, stirring with a whisk. Slowly stream in the olive oil, continually whisking the mixture. Dump in the hot potatoes and combine well with a large spoon, allowing the dressing the absorb into the potatoes. Cover loosely and chill potato salad for several hours before serving.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Jamaican Pork Chops with Snow Pea Succotash

I decided to make this recipe because of one tiny, little pepper. I was experiencing a craving for something Caribbean-flavored, and I just so happened to have a beautiful habanero pepper that needed using. Suddenly, inspiration struck and I knew I was destined to make Jamaican Pork Chops. It's been a while since I've used those flavors, and we love them so much. Plus, these pork chops were hanging around in my freezer and could stand to be cooked already.

I gathered the ingredients for my marinade based on several different recipes, ones that I can't even quite remember just now. The flavors were fantastic, I thought. There was some great sweet/tangy/fiery marriage going on there. Unfortunately, I kinda overcooked my meat. I took it out of the oven just as it was nearly done, but then I threw it back in for another minute or two, and sort of forgot about it. Five or six minutes later, I took the meat out again, only to find that it was a bit crispy around the edges. Oh, well. It was still good! It was just a bit dry, but as I said, the flavors were enough to salvage the whole thing.

To serve with the chops, I made a simple pot of Israeli couscous, along with a quick Snow Pea Succotash that I found in one of my Rachael Ray cookbooks. I took a couple of liberties with her master recipe, and I really liked it. It is also a clever way to use up the other half of the lime you use for the pork chops! Waste not, want not!

Boneless Jamaican Pork Chops
adapted from various recipes
makes 4 chops

4 (6-7 ounce) boneless pork chops, trimmed of excess fat
1 medium habanero pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1/2 lime, zest and juice
2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground thyme
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. onion powder

1. In a large, resealable Ziploc bag, place the pork chops. In a medium bowl, stir together all the remaining ingredients, then pour the marinade into the bag. Close the bag and shake it up so the marinade coats the chops. Stick the bag in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before broiling.

2. Once you are done marinading, preheat the broiler. On a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil, place a cooling rack. Using tongs, extract each pork chop from the marinade bag, allowing the liquid to drip off. Place the chops on the cooling rack-covered baking sheet.

3. Broil the pork chops for 5 minutes per side, then allow them to cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until the juices run clear. Rest the meat for 5 minutes before serving.

Snow Pea Succotash
adapted from Rachael Ray
makes 4 servings

8 oz. (about 2 1/2 cups) snow peas, trimmed and chopped into bite-size pieces
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 ears corn on the cob, kernels removed (you can also use thawed frozen corn)
1/2 yellow onion, sliced thinly
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1/2 lime, juice and zest
2 tsp. hot sauce, such as Sriracha
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a medium skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the snow peas and cook for about 2 minutes, tossing frequently. Add the bell pepper, corn, and onion, and cook for another 7 minutes or so, until the veggies are crisp-tender. Remove from the heat.

2. Transfer the veggies to a serving dish. Sprinkle in the lime zest and juice, the hot sauce, and salt and pepper. Toss well before serving.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

CEIMB: Tuscan Roasted Chicken with Vegetables

Okay, I am really sorry about these bad pictures. I don't know why, but for some reason it was darn near impossible to get good shots of this meal. And that is quite a shame; the pictures do not do the food justice!

For this week's Craving Ellie in My Belly dish, Margaret of Tea and Scones selected Tuscan Roasted Chicken with Vegetables. I was looking forward to this; I just recently have come to love roasted tomatoes and roasted zucchini, and this recipe includes both. Plus, there's roasted fennel (love fennel!) and lots of fresh lemon flavor and sprigs of rosemary. All the makings of a fabulous meal were there.

For some reason, this one kinda disappointed me. I can't exactly put my finger on why. For starters, I did use a whole 4.5 pound chicken rather than the bone-in chicken breasts that Ellie used. I added onions to the veggies; we just love roasted onions. Because the chicken took about 2 hours to roast, I set it in the roasting dish and cooked it for an entire hour before adding the veggies. The veggies still ended up a little overdone, I thought. The zucchini virtually fell apart when I used tongs to lift it out, so much that I couldn't get many full pieces of zucchini to serve. Same with the tomatoes; they were just a mushy mess.

The onions and fennel held together well, though! And the flavor of the chicken was very good. Lots of fresh rosemary, garlic, and lemon was stuffed into the cavity of the bird, so Ellie's flavors were definitely reflected there. I don't know; I just think in the future I will try roasting different veggies with the chicken, ones that are sturdier. Or, I could roast them for an even shorter time.

It was still great to try this, because I have wanted to for a while now. Thank you for that, Margaret! Be sure to check out the full, unedited version of Ellie's recipe over on Food Network's website, here. And to see the CEIMB blogroll, click here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Greek Panzanella Salad

I don't make the Barefoot Contessa's recipes very often, but it has very little to do with how I feel about her. I actually like her very much; she's such a soothing television host, and her food always looks accessible and drool-worthy. Therein lies the problem; her food isn't exactly fat-free! It usually has a high calorie content, although I wouldn't call her an unhealthy cook. So, I think the best thing I can do when I'm craving one of Ina's recipes is to go for it, but alter it to better fit my calorie needs. As Ina herself might say, "How easy is that?"

So I embarked upon the task of making her Greek Panzanella Salad, because it looked insanely delicious, and quite frankly I was craving bread. This seemed like the perfect way to turn bread into a one-dish meal that is also packed full of fresh vegetables, feta cheese, and a scrumptious dressing. I've made panzanella once before, and it was Ellie Krieger's recipe. That one was wonderful, too; this one is just a different spin on the formula.

This one has spinach, onions, bell peppers, cucumbers, kalamata olives, grape tomatoes (which I roasted first so they would get all soft and concentrated in flavor), and feta cheese. I used a five-grain bread for my toasted bread cubes, which added a nice nutty dimension to the salad. The dressing is a pretty simple red wine vinaigrette; I just used a lot less oil than Ina did. I also decreased my feta to about 2 oz., and used a reduced-fat variety. That said, I think it could have used a bit more feta, so I wrote the recipe below with the option of using 3 or 4 oz. of cheese. Use the amount you feel comfortable with. Even with all my changes, this salad was absolutely wonderful! I didn't feel like I was depriving myself of anything; all the flavors were there, and a serving was definitely filling enough to pass for an entree. Now that I've made this recipe with such rousing success, I can hardly wait to get my hands on some more of Ina's recipes!

Greek Panzanella Salad
adapted from
makes 6-8 servings

Nonstick cooking spray
1 (12-0z.) loaf whole grain, crusty bread, cut into cubes
1/4-1/3 cup kalamata olives, chopped
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved (or roasted, like I did)
1/2 a cucumber, seeded and chopped into cubes
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 a red onion, sliced into thin strips
3 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves
3/4-1 cup reduced-fat feta cheese, cubed
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar (I use a pomegranate red wine vinegar; yum!)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Arrange the bread cubes on a large baking sheet and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray. Bake the cubes in the oven for about 10 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking. Check for doneness; they should feel stale, like croutons. Adjust cooking time if they need a bit longer.

2. Toss the olives and the next 7 ingredients (through feta cheese) together in a large salad bowl. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the red wine vinegar, the mustard, salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano. Slowly stream in the olive oil, whisking constantly.

3. Pour the dressing over the vegetables; toss well to combine. Add in your reserved, cooled bread cubes and toss again to coat the cubes with dressing. Serve in shallow bowls.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings: Rosemary Apricot Squares

This week's Baked Sunday Mornings project was to make these Rosemary Apricot Squares, a pleasant surprise if ever there was one. Why? Well, I guess I just didn't think I'd like these bars very much; they don't sound quite as exciting as most of the other Baked recipes do. I'll be honest with you; I don't eat apricots. I don't buy fresh apricots, and I don't buy dried apricots. I've also never turned a dried fruit into a jam filling, so this recipe marked a couple firsts for me. I'm glad I took the plunge, because these bars were simply delightful.

You start out with a pretty simple shortbread crust. The addition of fresh, minced rosemary lends specks of color to this otherwise blond layer, and gives it a nice, floral dimension that I really liked.

The next layer is a fruit filling layer, and it actually couldn't have been much easier to make. I cooked a bunch of dried apricots down in a mixture of water, honey, brandy, sugar, and a pinch of salt. They did take forever to get to what I considered the "ready" stage, but it was all worth the time spent on the stove. The mixture is transferred to a food processor and pureed until smooth. I tasted it, and I was surprised at how good it was. Maybe apricots deserve another try, I thought.

This fruit filling is then spread over the cooled shortbread crust and evened out. A final layer of delicious topping is sprinkled over the top of the fruit. It's just flour, dark brown sugar, flour, a bit of salt, some butter, and chopped pecans. It tastes like crumb cake topping, but mine was a lot sandier and less chunky than crumb cake topping. Plus, I patted mine down so that the top layer looks more smooth and uniform, with just the lumps of pecan visible.

The squares were so fragrant while they were in the oven; my curiosity was officially piqued. Before making these, I didn't even know if I was going to try them. I figured the whole batch would be sent off to work with Andy, never to be seen again. But now I wanted to eat one!

When it came time to cut these into squares, I trimmed the edges from the outer sides of the block. The apricot had seeped out a bit and burned on the sides, and it just wasn't as attractive as the rest of the bars were. So I snacked. I tried those edges, and I loved them. The shortbread is tender (maybe a bit too tender and crumbly, but still delicious!), the apricot layer is sweet and smooth and wonderful, and the topping is the perfect nutty, salty foil to the rest of the bar. This cookbook has done it again; it's taken flavors that are an odd pairing, and transformed them into an amazing, cohesive dessert that seems to work on every level. I am very impressed with the Rosemary Apricot Squares. Now I think I better make sure the rest of them do make it to work with Andy, because they are dangerous to keep around!

Find out if everybody else in the group was impressed with these bars, too. The blogroll can be found right here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Shrimp Korma over White Rice

It seems that anytime I see a recipe these days for an Indian or Mediterranean dish, it immediately catches my eye. I don't know what it is that makes me gravitate towards the food of these two regions, but I am constantly craving it. I have yet to tire of nice, spicy curries, served on a bed of steaming hot rice; similarly, a plate of warm pita bread and hummus always sounds like heaven, day or night.

This dish is one that I read through briefly and then pretty much went straight to the kitchen to see if I had all the ingredients on hand to make. Turns out, I didn't have everything, but I gave you my variation on the dish below. My differences were slight; I put in ground ginger instead of fresh, and I omitted fresh tomato in favor of a bag of frozen veggies. In my opinion, this dish turned out wonderfully. It was comfort food at its spicy best. The shrimp and veggies absorb the brightly flavorful curry broth so nicely, and the rice is the perfect base layer to ground the dish. Best of all, the whole meal takes less than a half hour to put together. You could allow the pot to simmer longer to meld the flavors even more, but even with the quick prep I found it all very tasty. I love it when something so exotic is ridiculously easy, too!

Shrimp Korma over White Rice
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 6 servings

1/2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp. hot curry powder
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
2 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1 (16-oz.) frozen vegetables (I used broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower)
1 lb. peeled and deveined large shrimp
4 cups hot, cooked white rice
fat-free plain yogurt, optional

1. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and onion to pan; saute 2 minutes. Add flour and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add curry powder, ginger, garam masala, and 1/4 tsp. salt; cook 30 seconds, stirring.

2. Stir in broth and 1/3 cup water; bring to a boil. Stir in coconut milk and reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add peas, frozen veggies, shrimp, and the remaining salt; cook 5 minutes or until shrimp are done.

3. Spoon about 2/3 cup rice into each of 6 bowls. Top each serving with about 1 cup shrimp mixture and, if desired, 2 tsp. yogurt.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

MSC: Father's Day Tee-Time Cupcakes

This month's Martha Stewart's Cupcakes Club pick was the Father's Day Tee-Time Cupcakes, chosen by Julie of Little Bit of Everything. I was eager to try my hand at something a bit different for this group: a project that focused on the cupcake's appearance, rather than the cupcake's taste or fun flavor. I knew my kids would be on board with this one, too!

For the cupcakes themselves, I tried a recipe that I've really been wanting to make for a long time. I found it a couple years ago in an issue of Cooking Light. It's a Coconut Cupcake with Lime Buttercream; yum! I just thought that sounded so summery and refreshing; plus, anything with lime automatically catches my eye. I tinted the lime buttercream frosting green, and decided to use that shade as my putting green surface, rather than covering the frosting in green sprinkles. I guess I figured my kids and I didn't really need a mouthful of sanding sugar in every bite!

My five year-old actually is frosting-averse, so he opted to decorate his with just some ground-up graham cracker crumbs (for the sand traps), some mini M&Ms (for the golf balls), and just a bit of green sanding sugar (to make some grass). I made my little flags by affixing some trimmed, bright orange Post-It notes to toothpicks; I thought it worked pretty well, although I did have to apply a bit of transparent tape to each to secure it.

This was a great way for me to spend an afternoon with my boys; they enjoyed the decorating, and eating the leftover decorations! As for the cupcakes themselves, it was a mixed bag. My husband and I thought they were delicious; I was so impressed with the texture of the cupcakes in particular. These are a lower fat version of a dessert, but they really don't taste like it. I think my substitution of coconut milk for skim milk in the recipe made the cakes a bit fluffier and lighter. Considering that some of the recipes from Martha's cupcake book have turned out denser and drier than I would have liked, this was a very nice surprise. If you like the lime/coconut flavor combination, I highly recommend these cupcakes. And I recommend the decorating idea if you need a tasty, fun way to spend an afternoon with kids! Thanks, Julie!

Coconut Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream Frosting
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 12 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
Cooking spray
4.5 oz. all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
3 Tbsp. potato starch (not potato flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 large egg white
2/3 cup light, unsweetened coconut milk
2 Tbsp. sweetened, flaked coconut
1/2 tsp. coconut extract

For the frosting:
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp. fresh lime zest
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. light, unsweetened coconut milk
4.75 oz. confectioners' sugar, sifted (about 1 1/3 cups)

Make the cupcakes: 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with muffin liners, then spray the liners with nonstick cooking spray. Set tin aside. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine the flour and the next 3 ingredients (through salt) in a small bowl; stir with a whisk.

2. Combine the 2/3 sugar and the 2 Tbsp. butter in a large bowl; mix at medium speed until well-blended; mixture should be the consistency of damp sand. Add egg and egg white, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture and the coconut milk in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Fold in coconut and coconut extract.

3. Spoon batter evenly into prepared muffin cups. Bake at 350 for 18 minutes, or until cupcakes spring back when lightly touched in the center. Cool in pan for 5 minutes; remove from tins onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the frosting: 1. Combine the 3 Tbsp. butter, the lime zest and juice, and the coconut milk in a medium bowl; mix until well-blended and smooth. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar, beating just until smooth. Frost each cupcake with about 2 1/2 tsp. frosting.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Meatless Mondays: Slow-Roasted Tomato Pasta

Here's a meal that takes quite a bit of time to prepare, with hardly any effort put forth. The hardest thing required of you to do is wait around while you smell the slow-roasting tomatoes and wonder how much more you can stand! I found the recipe for Slow-Roasted Tomato Pasta in Cooking Light and knew it would be on my dinner table eventually; it just looked too good, and too easy, to pass up.

To roast the tomatoes, you simply cut them in half (or quarters), seed them, and let them roast in the oven at a lower temperature for 4 hours. The tomatoes get unbelievably sweet and tender; the flavors become intense and concentrated and wonderful. I highly recommend cooking tomatoes this way sometime; it's worth all that time in the oven.

To finish the meal, you saute some garlic in a skillet, then add crushed red pepper and the reserved tomatoes. A splash of pasta cooking liquid is added, then the mixture reduces slightly before being combined with the pasta noodles. Toss well, add a sprinkle of basil and Parmesan cheese, and you've got delicious simplicity at its finest! All that, and it's vegetarian!

Slow-Roasted Tomato Pasta
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 6 servings

3 lbs. plum tomatoes, cored and halved lengthwise
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1/4 tsp. black pepper
6 whole peeled garlic cloves
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
12 oz. uncooked long-cut pasta
dried basil, to taste
shredded or shaved Parmesan cheese, optional

1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees F. Place tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with nonstick aluminum foil. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. oil, 3/4 tsp. salt, and the black pepper. Bake for 4 hours.

2. Heat a large skillet over low heat. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp. oil and the garlic; cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove garlic, and chop. Combine garlic, tomatoes, and crushed red pepper in pan.

3. Cook pasta in boiling water with 1 1/2 tsp. salt until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 3/4 cup cooking liquid. Increase heat to medium-high under the tomato mixture, and stir in the reserved cooking liquid. Bring to a boil; cook 3 minutes. Add pasta; cook for 1 minute, tossing to combine. Remove from heat; transfer to serving dishes and sprinkle basil and cheese on top, if desired.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

CEIMB: Apple Pecan Muffins

Wow, I almost completely spaced on this week's Craving Ellie in My Belly this week! I must really still be on vacation or something! But I managed to pull it together long enough to snap some photos of this week's recipe, Apple Pecan Muffins, chosen by Joanne of Apple Crumbles.

If you're wondering how I could have produced muffins to photograph when I could barely even manage to remember to post about them, the answer is very simple. I always, always have these muffins on hand in my house. Out of all of Ellie Krieger's recipes that I have tried (and I've probably tried over a hundred by now), this one is the hands-down household fave. In fact, my husband eats two every single work day! I freeze single and double batches of these muffins, so that he can easily thaw and tote some to work each and every day. I've even tried varying the basic formula, but he just likes the muffins the way Ellie intended them; no bells and whistles are needed here! It's probably the first recipe I've ever committed to memory; I could crank these puppies out in my sleep by now. One quick note: I can usually get at least 15 muffins per batch, rather than the yield of 12 listed in the book.

It's been about 3 years now since the first time I have made the Apple Pecan Muffins, and I still have not been able to bake my husband a muffin that he prefers over these. So I probably would have eventually chosen these as my weekly pick, but Joanne beat me to it! I'm so glad the group is finally making these, because in my opinion the whole world should know about these! Thanks to these muffins, I am no longer afraid to eat apple in baked goods. Not only that, but they've taught me how to transform any old muffin recipe into a lower-fat version, and for that I will always be grateful to Ellie.

If you made these muffins this week, I'm dying to hear how you liked them! Everybody's results can be found by heading over to the blogroll, here. And for the full, glorious recipe, you can go to Food Network's website and find it here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Spinach Pistachio Pesto

This pesto was another brain child of my week prior to vacation, when I had to get rid of some fridge staples and didn't want to grocery shop. I happened to purchase a pretty big ol' bag of pistachios not that long ago, and for some reason I was in the mood to make a pesto. Since I had some fresh cilantro and fresh spinach to use up, I decided to see what would happen if I combined all of these ingredients in my food processor!

I have to say, this was a pretty great idea! I generally make my pesto on the coarser side, because I like it to be less oily and caloric. I will drizzle a bit of olive oil into the pesto, and then I will use my hot, reserved pasta liquid in the pasta to compensate for the lack of moisture in the pesto. Normally, about 1/2 cup of the water will do the trick, but you can always add more if necessary. One final thing: I was all out of Parmesan cheese that day, which was a shame because it would have been so good in there. You can definitely add it into the pesto if you'd like, but I really liked the simplicity of this pesto without it. Either way, I don't really think you can lose with this one!

Spinach Pistachio Pesto
recipe by Bri
makes enough to cover 1 lb. pasta

4 cups spinach, loosely packed
1/2 cup cilantro (can use stems and leaves), loosely packed
1/2 cup raw, shelled pistachios, toasted
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2-1 tsp. salt
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Parmesan cheese, optional

1. Combine the pistachios and garlic cloves in the work bowl of a food processor; pulse to chop them finely. Add the spinach and cilantro; run the food processor long enough to make a coarse paste.

2. With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil and about 1/2 cup to 1 cup warm water (reserved pasta water works very well for this). The pesto will still be similar to paste, but will be looser and almost creamy looking. Add salt to taste.

3. Toss with your choice of pasta shape; add Parmesan cheese before serving if desired.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Meatless Mondays: Spinach and Parmesan Souffles

The week before we left town on vacation, I was trying my hardest to use up my pantry and refrigerator staples without having to buy more ingredients that may go bad before I had a chance to use them. The meals of that week, as a result, were some surprisingly tasty and innovative dishes, which I am proudly going to be sharing with you in coming days. First up is these Spinach and Parmesan Souffles.

My latest copy of Cooking Light featured several different types of souffle, most of them sweet souffles. While they all sound delicious, and are on my list of things to try, I zeroed in right away on the one savory offering. This one sounded so good, and I had all the ingredients in my house, so I decided to make it for dinner one evening. I figured a side salad and some bread would round out this meal nicely.

This was my first souffle, and I was extremely pleased with the results. There seem to be a few secrets to a successful souffle, which the article in the magazine detailed nicely. The first important step is to coat your individual serving dishes, or ramekins, with something that will allow the egg mixture to cling easily to the sides of the dish and to climb up. In some cases, a sprinkling of sugar may suffice, but for these savory souffles it was breadcrumbs that did the trick. It allows the mixture to rise beautifully, while adding another layer of flavor as well.

The next step is to allow the egg whites to come to room temperature before beating them. Make sure no yolk gets mixed in with the whites; they won't rise otherwise. When beating the egg whites, you want to get them to medium, not stiff, peaks. When you lift a beater straight up in the air, the egg whites should stand at a 45 degree angle, not at 90 degrees.

Finally, the incorporation of the egg whites into the rest of the mixture should be done by gently folding. You don't want to mix vigorously; this will deflate your whites and decrease the lift of your finished product. A great technique when folding ingredients is to scrape the spatula along the bottom of the bowl, then turning the bowl a quarter turn and scraping down along the botton again. Repeat this until the mixture looks uniform.

As you can see, following these steps to the letter results in a pillowy, light, airy souffle that rises high above the rim of the ramekin. You'll want to present and eat them fairly quickly once they are out of the oven; they do deflate dramatically after about 5 minutes.

Not only do these souffles look impressive, they taste wonderful. They are tangy from the Parmesan, with those delicious ribbons of spinach running throughout, and the eggs form a lovely crust on top while being almost impossibly soft inside. I was thrilled with my first souffles, and I do hope you'll give them a try, too. They are so much easier than you think they are!

Spinach and Parmesan Souffles
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 4 souffles

Cooking spray
1 1/2 Tbsp. dry breadcrumbs
1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
2/3 cup milk (I used 2%)
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 large egg yolks
4 large egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1. Place a baking sheet in the oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Coat 4 (6-ounce) ramekins with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs, tilting and turning dishes to coat sides completely.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly coat pan with cooking spray. Add spinach; cook for 2 minutes or until spinach wilts, tossing constantly. Place spinach in a colander; let stand 5 minutes. Squeeze excess liquid from spinach. Coarsely chop spinach.

3. Combine 2/3 cup milk and the next 4 ingredients (through black pepper) in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Cook for 2 minutes or until mixture is thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Spoon mixture into a large bowl, and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in spinach, cheese, and egg yolks.

4. Combine egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl, and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Beat with a mixer at high speed until medium peaks form (do not overbeat). Gently stir one-fourth of egg whites into spinach mixture, and gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Gently spoon mixture into prepared dishes. Sharply tap dishes 2 or 3 times on counter to level.

5. Place dishes on preheated baking sheet; return baking sheet to 425 degree oven. Immediately reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees; bake souffles at 350 for 21-24 minutes, or until puffy and golden brown on top. Serve immediately.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings: Orange Creamsicle Tart

This weekend's recipe for Baked Sunday Mornings is getting us back to what we know and love about this ever-expanding group: an eye-catching, complicated confection that requires many steps and hours to make. What with us making Tomato Soup Cupcakes and Cowboy Cookies most recently, I was beginning to think those Baked boys had gone soft on us! The last two treats were easy to make, it's true, but finally with this week we're back with something showy and grand!

So, it's time for me to talk about this Orange Creamsicle Tart. What a project! It's basically a tart with a sweet crust infused with lots of orange zest. Next comes the bright, citrusy curd made from, among other things, real orange juice and lemon juice, plenty of citrus zest, and orange cream soda. The cream soda really gives it a wonderful flavor that you just would not get from a regular citrus curd. It was pretty divine; eating the curd straight reminds you of eating a melted creamsicle pop.

The next step was listed in the margin of this recipe in the book, and therefore optional, but I decided to go whole hog here and add it in. They instruct you to melt some white chocolate and then brush it all over the baked, cooled tart shell before adding any curd. It's supposed to prevent the crust from becoming soggy. In my opinion, it added a whole other layer of flavor that would have been missed here. It was truly inspired, I thought. As a crowning touch, fresh whipped cream that has been sweetened with a bit of sugar and a couple tablespoons of orange cream soda is spread over the top of the tart.

Though the tart took me the better part of an entire day to complete, it was totally worth every single step. The tart is divine, unique and delicious and a real conversation piece. If I'm not going for a chocolate dessert, my default is always something citrus. I can see this dessert coming to mind plenty in the future if I ever want to make something dreamy and luscious and non-chocolate. I hope everybody who made this agreed that it was a real doozy (and I mean that as a compliment!). Make sure to check out the blogroll, here.