Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oats

Now that the mornings are chilly, I've been craving something warm and comforting to keep me warm through my morning commute. On Sundays I always make Bill a large pot of steal cut oatmeal. Steel cut oats stand up well to being stored all week, and usually he pairs reheated oatmeal with fresh berries. For a new twist I decided to bake up our own apple cinnamon toppping. I was able to cook this up in a snap on Sunday afternoon, and the two of us had healthy & filling breakfast for the week!
  • 4 Hubbarstein apples (other good baking varieties include: Cortland, Gala, Honeycrisp, McIntosh)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tbsp raw turbinado sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup John McCann's steel cut Irish oatmeal

First, make the steel cut oatmeal as according to directions. A double batch (2 cups) will give you enough breakfast servings for a week. For 1 cup of oatmeal, put two cups of water to boil. Add the oatmeal and stir. I recommend keeping the heat on medium/high for a few minutes while stirring the oats occasionally. Lower the heat to a simmer.

Cook for an additional 20-25 minutes, taking care to stir the oatmeal every 5 minutes or so to prevent any from sticking to the bottom of the pot. For the last few minutes (usually it takes 30 to cook completely), stay by the stove side as the thicker oats will stick & burn more easily. Remove from heat and let cool to store in a large Tupperware container.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel the apples.

Chop into dice-sized pieces. Toss with lemon juice, turbinado, cinnamon and vanilla. Add contents to a bread pan or other small baking pan greased with cooking spray.

Bake for fifteen minutes. Stir up the apple mixture. Bake for an additional 30 minutes, stirring the contents every ten minutes. Remove and let cool completely before storing.

To reheat simply add a serving of oatmeal in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 45 seconds. Add a couple of tablespoons of the apple mixture and heat for another 45 seconds – 1 minute until hot. Delish.

Brands I Like

I use John McCann’s steel cut oatmeal because it’s got a great texture. Opt for the one that takes some time to cook – not the instant 3 minute variety. The original oats will hold up better when you’re storing it in the fridge. If you want to make the 3 minute variety fresh each morning, awesome, but pre-packing your breakfast in a to-go container is as easy as grab & go.

Turbinado sugar is also known as cane sugar or raw sugar. Turbinado sugar is a healthier alternative to white, refined sugar. It is lower in calories since it tends to hold more moisture. Turbinado sugar isn't processed as much as white sugar, so it is naturally healthier for your body. This is an easy substitution to make for any baking recipe for healthier results!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dulce de Leche Brownie Bites

After a stressful week, I picked up a a can of condensed milk with the intention to make dulce de leche. After a little internetz research, I discovered the old-school candy making technique was more advanced than I was prepared for. I opted instead to boil down the condensed milk over the stove top. Yes, it's simple in the way that there is only one step, but a sacrifice in the way that you cannot leave its side. But I promise these little puppies are even better than the mouth-watering pictures.
    (adapted Martha recipe)
  • 1, 14oz can condensed milk (see Brands I Like)
  • 2 cups flour (King Arthur Brand is my fav)
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon Ghirardelli cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 + 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

NOTE: The first time I made these, I tried making thumbprint cookies as pictured below. However, when the cookies baked they flatten out more than I liked, so the next batch I put the cookie dough balls into a muffin pan. This worked like a charm. Fuss free, plus you can make even bigger cookie like the pic above!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the dulce de leche first, so it can cool and be easily malleable when you're ready to fill the brownie bites. In a small sauce pan, or better yet, a double boiler if you have one, add the can of condensed milk. Put heat on low and slowly stir the milk until it starts to heat up. Once hot, raise the temperate to a medium heat. Stir constantly and get comfortable.

Keep stirring! This process will take approximately 25 - 30 minutes. You need to stay by that stove side the entire time. Stay attuned to the condensed milk. If you catch sight or scent of any hint that the milk is burning, lower heat immediately. Adjust heat as needed and after about 15 minutes, and you're feeling nothing as happened, the milk will finally start to thicken. Between 20-30 minutes you'll feel the milk turn to a caramel thickness. I removed mine from heat after 25 minutes, when at the consistency shown above. Set aside.

Sift flour, cocoa powder, and salt into a small bowl.

Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium, and add yolks, cream, and vanilla. Scrape sides of bowl. Beat in cocoa flour mixture until just combined.

TO MAKE COOKIES: Roll balls using 2 teaspoons dough for cookies. Place cookies 1 inch apart on greased baking sheets. With chapstick or handle of a wooden spoon, press gently in the center of each to create an indentation. Bake until cookies are just set, about 6 minutes.

TO MAKE BROWNIE BITES: (Recommended Method) Roll balls using 2 tablespoons dough for brownie bites. Place cookie dough balls into greased muffin tins. Bake until cookies are just set, about 8 minutes.

While brownie bites/cookies bake, shape dulce de leche into chickpea sized balls for cookies - or mable sized balls for brownie bites. You can flatten these slightly to make more of a button shaped candy. After specified time above, remove brownie bites/cookies and add one dulce de leche candy to the center of each. If cookies have lost indent, press indents again. If making brownie bites in muffin tins, just push the dulce de leche buttons into the center of each. Rotate the brownie bites/cookies when putting back into oven. Bake for an additional 6 minutes.

Let cool completely and enjoy! These decadent treats were a hit will Bill :)

Brands I Use

You can find condensed milk in grocery stores usually with the latin american foods. Here's the random brand that I grabbed at my local store. One small can will be plenty, and you can always roll the extra into buttons and enjoy as homemade candies!

If you have ANY recipe that calls for cocoa powder - this is what to use. Bill's mother bought us a container once to make her frosting recipe, and I've been using nothing else since.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Eating Local: Fried Eggplant + Farmers Market Pasta

Nothing brightens up a long day of work like hitting up a local farmer's market on the way home. Sometimes the produce section of a supermarket can seem a little anemic; it can be difficult to navigate what's in season and what's been shipped across the country. Use this recipe as inspiration to hit up your own local farmers market for local & seasonal finds. I just picked up anything that seemed interesting, like purple Italian basil. You can sub out ingredients as you like for the pasta sauce - get creative!
    Ingredients for Eggplant
  • 3 small white eggplants (or 1 full size purple eggplant)
  • olive oil
  • fresh ground salt & pepper

    Ingredients for Farmers Market Pasta
  • 1 package of your choice of pasta
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • handful purple Italian basil
  • handful fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 jar basic pasta sauce
  • olive oil
  • oregano
  • salt & pepper
  • crushed red pepper

First get all your veggies chopped to easily prepare your pasta sauce. Cut all veggies (except eggplant) into small cubes, as pictures above. Peel the skin off the eggplant - but DO NOT slice until you're ready to cook. Put a large pot of salted water to boil so you can toss the pasta in when you're finishing up the sauce.

In a large sauce pan, saute the garlic and tomatoes in approx 2 tbsp of olive oil. Cook at medium heat until tomatoes soften and start to release juice, about 5 minutes.

Add zucchini, onion, bell peppers. Season with freshly ground salt & pepper, oregano and crushed red pepper to taste. Stir ingredients together so all veggies are coated in tomato juices. Cook covered at a medium heat for 5-7 minutes to join flavors, stirring occasionally until zucchini should have softened up a bit. Add jar of pasta sauce, lower heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Get that pasta going in the water and cook according to directions. I used CAPUAOID pasta -- I usually just let Bill pick out whatever kind strikes him when we're at the supermarket. Keep it extra healthy by choosing something whole wheat. If cooking fresh pasta you might want to wait until you start cooking the eggplant so that the timing works out better. As a general rule, getting the pasta going at this time should have most pasta types finishing up by the time your dish is done.

Slice the eggplant, lengthwise if smaller (pictured above). If using a large purple eggplant, slice into round disks. Season with freshly ground salt & pepper.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. If you don't have a non-stick skillet, I would also spray the eggplant with cooking spray to help prevent from sticking. Add eggplant in a single layer without crowding too much. Fry eggplant on each side 2-3 minutes until golden brown. You may have to add a little more olive oil as you go to cook up the eggplant because they will absorb a lot of the oil. Again, this is why using a little cooking spray to grease things up can help eggplant from sticking without drowning everything in oil.

Lay eggplant slices on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil before serving.

At this point, your pasta sauce should be finished. Check the largest veggie pieces to make sure they are tender. Remove and drain pasta. Serve eggplant slices along side (or on top of) Farmers Market Pasta. Garnish with a generous pinch of chopped purple basil and fresh parsley. Feel free to add some freshly grated cheese, I think a sprinkle of a nice goat cheese chevre is a perfect complement.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chile Verde Chicken + Red Quinoa Mexican Pilaf

My Aunt Grace makes the best chile verde chicken around. When I asked the secret to her delicious recipe, I was surprised to find much of the magic came out of a can. That's why I'm happy to share this easy weekday meal that has been winning me rave reviews from dinner guests for the past decade. If you haven't tried one of my recipes yet - this one is a sure hit. The red quinoa pilaf was something I threw together on the fly, and makes a fit and filling accompaniment!
    Ingredients for Chile Verde Chicken
  • 6-8 chicken thighs, bone-in
  • 3, 7 oz. cans Embasa green tomatillo sauce
    (see Brands I Like below)
  • 1 small can diced mild green chilies
  • 2 limes
  • 1/2 spanish onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • handful of cilantro leaves
  • oregano
  • garlic salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil

    Ingredients for Quinoa Pilaf
  • 1, 12 oz. box red quinoa
    (see Brands I Like below)
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 small green bell pepper
  • 1/3 spanish onion
  • 1 packet/cube of chicken bullion
    (or substitute cooking water for chicken broth)
  • 1 cup of black beans
  • 1 cup of frozen corn
  • olive oil
  • cilantro for garnish

First, get that chicken marinading. Remove skin from chicken and place thighs in a large bowl. Season with garlic salt, pepper and oregano. Drizzle generously with olive oil and the juice of 1 lime. Toss to coat completely. Cover and set aside for 15 minutes.

While chicken marinates, get chopping for your quinoa pilaf. Dice the tomato, onion and green pepper. Set aside so you're prepared and the meal is timed together.

Add 2 tbsp of olive oil to a large, deep skillet with a lid. On medium heat saute the chopped onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly to keep garlic from burning. Lay chicken pieces face-down over the onion mix in a single layer. Brown chicken for 2-3 minutes, flip pieces and brown for additional 2-3 minutes until a nice color as pictured above.

Add cans of Embasa sauce and diced green chilies. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook covered for 10 minutes. Flip chicken pieces, cover and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

While chicken is cooking, in a separate pot add 2 tbsp of olive oil and saute the quinoa chopped veggies, chicken bullion packet and saute for 5 minutes.

Add water as according to quinoa package, MINUS 1/2 cup liquid since the veggies & other additions will create their own juices. Stir until combined then add quinoa. I made 1 cup of quinoa and added 1 1/2 cups water. Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook according to package directions, I cooked for 15 minutes.

While quinoa is cooking rinse 1 cup of cooked black beans. Once quinoa is cooked (you will see a little white ring around the red grain), add black beans and frozen corn, stir over low heat for 3-4 minutes. Turn off heat and keep covered until ready to serve. Garnish with cilantro.

Once the green chili chicken has finished cooking, turn off heat and stir in a handful of chopped cilantro and the juice of 1 lime.
Brands I Like

This Embasa sauce has the perfect balance of spiciness. I've made my own tomatillo sauces in the past, but popping this can open is way easier than blanching tomatillos and busting out a food processor. Can't find the Embasa sauce at your local grocer? You can buy it online by clicking here!

I got this Ancient Harvest red heirloom variety of quinoa at Whole Foods. I've also seen it at Trader Joes, but if you still can't find it locally, you can order single boxes online by clicking here.

Sweet Treats: Pumpkin Empanadas

Empanadas can be sweet or savory stuffed treats, but layers of puff pastry and deep frying can weigh down the classic recipe. My grandmother used to take a quick shortcut by using wonton wrappers for the dough; pre-cut to the perfect size and at only 20 calories per wrapper, this treat is guilt free. To see the healthier brands I used for this recipe scroll to the bottom of the recipe.
  • 1 package wonton wrappers
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 can pumpkin pie filling
  • 2 tbsp organic raw sugar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • cinnamon
  • cooking spray
  • basting brush

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix pumpkin pie mix (if you only have canned pumpkin you can add your own ground clove, cinnamon & nutmeg to flavor), sugars & an extra sprinkle of cinnamon until combined.

Set up a little assembly workspace. Lay a small stack of wontons on a plate with the bowl of pumpkin mix and a small bowl of a beaten egg white next to the plate. Grease a cookie sheet with cooking spray and set nearby.

Assembly: Peel one wonton wrapper from the stack and lay in the center of the plate so one of the points are facing you, so wrapper is a diamond instead of a square. Using a small basting brush (dipping your finger works well, too), moisten the two edges that are further away. In the center of the wonton add a full teaspoon of the pumpkin mixture. Fold the corner of the wonton up and over the mixture and seal onto the egg white brushed ends. Press down gently from each side, and distribute the mixture evenly in the pocket you create.

Secure your seal by pressing the edge of a fork around the sealed ends, creating a crimped seal. This will keep the empanada from opening up in the oven. Take care not to overstuff, not only because it's trickier to seal the empanada, but also because the filling might leak out during baking.

Using a spatula, transfer the empanada to the greased baking sheet. Repeat until you've made the desired amount of empanadas. Once all the empanadas are formed, brush the tops of each with egg whites. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Bake for 8 minutes.

Remove from oven and flip each empanada. Brush opposite sides of empanadas with egg whites and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for an additional 6-8 minutes until edges are golden brown.

Let empanadas cool for a few minutes before serving. I used granulated raw sugar to finish these, but if I was taking them to a party, I would use powdered sugar for a more festive appearance. Also, both the pumpkin mix and the wrappers can last up to a week in the fridge if well sealed. To curb Bill's and my ravenous sweet tooths, I opt to make these a dozen at a time, so we don't eat too many at once!

Brands I Like

This pumpkin pie mix from Whole Foods has the perfect balance of spices.

These wonton wrappers are readily found in most super markets. If you're having trouble locating them, they are often found with the tofu products.