Monday, September 17, 2012

Scot's Granola

Are you a cereal person?  Scot is.  Before we met, cereal might have been 50% of his diet.  His favorite is Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  And after we met, I started eating cereal for breakfast too.  It is easy.  And Cinnamon Toast Crunch is unfortunately really delicious.

We weren't allowed to eat that growing up.  My dad only bought Raisin Bran, Off brand Cherrios (not honey nut), Corn Flakes, or even Grape Nuts.  We would beg my dad to let us get things with marshmallows in it and he always claimed that it was just sugar.  Now, I think:  "Go Dad!"  Then, I was just jealous of all the kids on TV who looked so happy eating Cocoa Krispies.  Or do you remember that one cereal which was basically a box of mini chocolate chip cookies?

Anyways, Cinnamon Toast Crunch is delicious.  And even after transitioning to shopping at Whole Foods only, they have their own "Organic, All Natural, Secretly exactly the same as CTC" version.  And it is just as good.  And I was not convincing myself that it was somehow better for me, they just sold it (they don't sell any regular grocery store cereals at WF) of course, I bought it.

About a year ago, Scot and I decided to remove all processed foods from our diet.  I am not crazy.  I am not going to refuse processed foods as a guest in someone's house or make my own yogurt.  But we did want to make sure to cut out foods that we regularly eat.  For us, the only thing left to cut out was cereal.  

I remember a while back, I wrote about how I was trying to eat savory breakfasts, instead of sweet.  And I still prefer that.  However, I never jumped on the breakfast soup train.  I still haven't been able to eat leftover dinner food for breakfast.  The only savory option that has stuck with me is eggs and toast.  And I probably eat that over 50% of the time.  Other than that, I either eat oatmeal or granola.

Scot is more like 95% of the time, he eats granola.  And he goes all out.  He starts with the granola, adds milk, then drinks all the milk right away.  He tops it with greek yogurt, a banana and usually some berries (often blueberry).  I usually just do milk and yogurt.

And this recipe is the granola I make him, approximately every two weeks.  Except for the times I am too lazy and we have to buy granola in bulk from WF (which is honestly about 20% as good as this).  It is "his" because it is all the things he really likes:  maple syrup, pecans, and coconut.  And lots of fiber (oats and flax).  We haven't been adding the dried fruit lately because we always put fresh fruit in it.  But it is good both ways.

Lastly, I have to admit that this is the best way to make granola.  But this isn't the only way I make granola.  I do get lazy and skip steps.  Sometimes, I just don't feel like pre toasting everything, so I skip that step (and leave out the amaranth completely).  Sometimes I completely leave out the oil, to make it a little healthier (still tastes great).  Sometimes I throw it in with whatever else is in the oven at the time (I have baked this at 400° and it turned out just fine).  But I love this version the best.  Don't let it overwhelm you though, you can just throw everything into a mixing bowl, roughly measure, pour on a baking sheet and bake until toasty.  Still real good.

PS:  If you are curious about "my" version.  I like only honey, only almonds, and no coconut.  I also really like to add dried currants to mine.  But in general, you can swap out any nuts, sweetener, and/or dried fruits.  And add any extras like coconut and spices.

Scot’s Granola

2 tbsp amaranth
2 cups pecans (whole)
1 cup almonds (whole)
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
½ cup light cooking oil
6 cups oats (not instant or 1 minute)
¼ cup flax seeds
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup agave nectar
1-2 cups of dried fruit (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325°.

Preheat a dry, stainless steel skillet (with lid) to medium/medium-high heat.  Add 1 tbsp of amaranth, cover with lid and give it a shimmy shake.  Continue until most of the amaranth has popped.  Now, throw that popped amaranth away because you probably burnt it.  Repeat twice until you successfully pop and do not burn 2 tbsp of amaranth.  Transfer popped amaranth to a large mixing bowl. 

Toast nuts in the same skillet.  Once toasted, finely chop and add to mixing bowl.  Toast coconut in same skillet.  Once toasted, add to mixing bowl.  In same skillet, add the oats and the oil.  Cook until fragrant and lightly toasted, then transfer to the large mixing bowl.  Add flax seeds, salt and cinnamon to the mixing bowl and mix to combine all the dry ingredients.

Using the same half-cup measuring cup that you used to measure the oil (because then the syrup won’t stick), measure out the maple syrup and agave nectar (just eye ball it) and add to the mixing bowl.  Mix to combine and then transfer the mixture onto a large baking sheet.  Bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes or until desired crunchiness. 

Once the granola has cooled, mix in dried fruit (if desired) and place in sealed container to store. 

(Servings:  10, Prep time:  45 min., Cook time:  45 min., Difficulty:  Easy) 

Printable Version

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  9/10
Scot (taste):  10/10
Effort:  3/5
Dishwashing Effort:  3/5

Always protecting us from danger.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower sometimes doesn't get any respect.  And even though it has never been my favorite thing on the crudite platter, I still eat it.  I guess I have skipped it.  But I don't have hatred towards cauliflower.  I just love the cucumber more.

BUT, lately, we have been eating it a lot.  Two reasons.  Mark Bittman uses a lot of cauliflower and I have made all the recipes in his book (not true).  Also it is in a lot of Indian dishes that I have made.  And I really love it with Indian flavors.

First, in case for some strange reason you have not heard of or tried roasted cauliflower, I am here to tell it.  It tastes like chicken nuggets.  

Second, in case you missed Copper, here he is.  I am not exaggerating to say that I think about how he is the greatest dog in the whole world at least twice a day.  It is not bragging.  It is just true.  I also tell him as often as possible because I read somewhere that it is important for our relationship.

Third, I just wanted to give you some inspiration to use roasted cauliflower.  You can just eat it as a side.  In the photo above I made a spinach/coconut milk soup to dip the cauliflower in.  I put quite a bit of grainy mustard in the soup.

Below, I made a warm salad with roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, zucchini and spinach.  It is seasoned with a very grainy mustard vinaigrette and some Indian spices.  It was really good too.  But I think roasted cauliflower would make a good addition to any salad.

Roasted Cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Toss cauliflower florets in some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Roast in the oven until golden brown.

(Servings:  2, Prep time:  5 min., Cook time:  25 min., Difficulty:  Easy)

Roasted Cauliflower, Chickpeas, Spinach and Zucchini Salad

roasted cauliflower, see recipe above
1 onion, diced
1 zucchini, diced
2 14.5 oz. cans of chickpeas, drains and rinsed
½ tsp of cumin
1 tsp of coriander
¼ tsp of turmeric
1.5 tsp of whole grain mustard (with seeds)
1-2 tbsp of white wine vinegar
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 box of baby spinach (5-6 oz)

In a large skillet over medium high heat, sauté onions until translucent (about 5 min.).  Add zucchini and cook until soft (3-5 min.).  Add chickpeas, cumin, coriander, turmeric, salt and pepper and cook until chickpeas are warmed through (3-5 min.).

Make vinaigrette for spinach:  In a large bowl, add mustard, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper.  Whisk to combine and slowly add olive oil until desired balance of vinegar and oil is achieved.  Add to spinach and toss to coat.

Combine everything.  Eat warm or room temp!

(ServingsL  4-6, Prep time:  15 min., Cook time:  25 min., Difficulty:  Easy) 

Printable Version

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste): 8/10
Scot (taste):  8/10
Effort:  2/5
Dishwashing Effort:  2/5

Friday, June 29, 2012

Greek Veggie Wrap

I am going to tell you a story about my journey with food.

Let's start with my parents.  Growing up, especially when I was young, my mom did a lot of cooking.  She made all the 80s and early 90s favorites like beef stroganoff, tuna casserole, swiss steak, tuna salad, cream chipped beef, meatloaf, roasts, goulash, etc.  But my mom is also 50% Italian, so she also made family recipes like huge vats of homemade marinara with ribs, meatballs, and sausage, stuffed artichokes, salads, sausage and peppers, stuffed peppers, stuffed squash, etc.  Like most families at that time, mine was influenced by popular food culture and marketing.  I think we were all brainwashed into thinking that buying fresh produce was somewhat of a luxury.  Therefore, we ate plenty of canned veggies.  Did the cream of mushroom soup thing.  Plenty of velveeta.  Margarine happened (it is healthier, duh!)

But my mom's core food knowledge was real food.  My family definitely followed the pre-made, packaged, canned food trend, but didn't stray too far and for too long from the real stuff.

My dad also did a lot of cooking.  I remember him making things like drip beef sandwiches, chicken and dumplings, stir fry, etc.  Also, I think for a good 5 years of my life, my dad ate a large, fully loaded salad for dinner.  Every night.  And I share many of my dad's taste buds.  We both like spicy food and now that I am an adult, I realize I share my dad's lack of a sweet tooth.

As a result of mostly positive food influences, I was never in too bad of shape with my general food knowledge.  Especially since my extended family and friends have taught me a lot too.

However...I, too, fell for much of the crap (aka "food") out there at your typical large supermarket.  When I went off to college and started 100% feeding myself, I started with what I knew.  Diet drinks and Sweet N' Low were a part of my regular diet.  Thought it was healthy.  Once I came to my senses and stopped (it was easy), I started noticing it was in EVERYTHING.  Anything labelled "light", which at the time, I thought meant "light on the sugar".  For example, light yogurt, I thought just had less sugar...but no, it just had fake sugar.  I was so mad.  Furious.

And probably my saddest realization was "coffee creamer".  I bought it thinking it was just cream.  Like what comes from a cow.  At one point I was looking at my Coffeemate bottle and noticed it said non-dairy.  WHAT!?!?  Non-dairy?!?!  That is when I decided to start seriously looking at labels and not be tricked again.  This was about 10 years ago.

As I have been continuing to grow my food knowledge and trying more and more types of foods and recipes, I (like so many others) have come a long way.  I never thought I would eat homemade granola for breakfast (and not be able to buy it from the store...)  I never thought I would prefer whole grain wraps to white wraps.  I never thought I would eat a pound of beans each week and only eat meat on occasion.  I never thought I love kale and other dark greens.  I never thought I would be such a...hippie.

Ok, that is a lie.  I always hoped I would.

The point is...I started out with a good relationship to food.  With reasonable knowledge.  With a decent diet.  But it wasn't easy to sort through all the crap that is thrown at us at the grocery store.  You almost have to have a PhD in Food to understand what food trends to follow and what marketing is actually true.

This is the reason that you should never let any package tell you what is good for you.  If food needs to convince you to eat it, they are probably lying.  Have you ever picked up a head of broccoli and pondered whether or not it will do your body any good?  No.  Broccoli has dignity.

Everyone has a journey with food.  I just thought I'd share mine.  Maybe you are at a different stage in your journey.  And I hope you are enjoying it!  :)  My journey is partly being recorded on this the archives hold my deepest and darkest secrets.  Don't get too excited though.

Now, here is another "burrito" for you.  This time, I went with a Greek-ish filling.  We have baby spinach, a warm chickpea mixture, a greek salsa and some feta cheese all wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla.  It is summer in your hand.  I will remind you one last time (ha...), buy the feta that comes packed in a liquid.  It is about 7 times better.

Greek Veggie Wrap

2 14.5 oz. cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ tsp of coriander (heaping)
a pinch (or more) of cayenne
½ of an English cucumber, diced
1 large tomato, seeded and diced
¼ of a medium red onion, finely minced
handful of kalamata olives, chopped
2-3 tbsp of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1-2 tbsp of white/red wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
1-2 tbsp of olive oil
2 burrito-sized whole wheat tortillas
feta cheese, crumbled
several big handfuls of baby spinach
salt and pepper

Prepare the bean mixture:  put the chickpeas, coriander, cayenne, salt and pepper, and a good splash of water in a skillet.  Cook over medium high heat until water evaporates.  Taste, adjust seasonings and repeat process (add more water, cook until evaporated, taste), until desired texture is reached.  I usually do the process twice.

Prepare the Greek salsa:  combine cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, olives, parsley, vinegar, and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Prepare wraps:  warm a tortilla over an open flame, the microwave or in the oven.  Put a healthy layer of baby spinach down.  Top with bean mixture, feta cheese and salsa.  Wrap, burrito-style. 

(Servings:  2, Prep time:  20 min., Cook time:  20 min., Difficulty:  Easy) 

Printable Version

foodforscot Ratings:  

Shanon (taste):  8/10
Scot (taste):  7/10
Effort:  2/5
Dishwashing Effort:  1/5

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Arepas with Black Beans and Guasacaca

In case you were wondering, I am not an edible arrangement kind of person.  If you did gift me one, I wouldn't be mad.  I would probably think  you read this and were playing a joke on me.  But then there is a chance that you were being serious, in which case, I probably would just pretend I liked it.  But honestly, I think that is the most ridiculous successful business out there.  I don't like my food to be shaped into objects.  Plus, those arrangements are weird.

Speaking of gifts, this was Scot's birthday dinner this year.  After returning from a trip to Puerto Rico, we were inspired to have a latin-ish meal.  Yes, I know arepas and tamales are not Puerto Rican.  But the whole time we were in Puerto Rico, Scot kept expressing his desire for corn based goodies.

I don't recommend this particular menu unless you want to be in the kitchen for 10 hours and eat dinner at 11 pm.  But it was delicious.  In addition, I made some cupcakes:

They were ridiculously good.  I used this recipe from smitten kitchen.  I did 1/3 of the cake recipe, and halved the marshmallow filling and chocolate ganache.  It was the perfect amount for 12 cupcakes.  These photos were taken right after I filled and frosted them.  But they taste best if they are refrigerated and the ganache hardens.  I should say: they taste AMAZING after that happens.  The best way to fill is to cut out a little piece out of the top and put in some of the marshmallow filling (or even better, use a piping bag).  Then spoon over some ganache, chill and serve.  I also tried filling with ganache and topping with the marshmallow frosting, but I prefer the opposite way.  The last change I made was I used all bittersweet chocolate.  This was for Scot after all.

Yes, these are basically hostess cupcakes that take two hours to make.

Back to the arepas.  Scot did say, "this is my favorite thing I have ever eaten".  I am pretty sure that isn't the first time he has said that.  If you have never gotten the opportunity to try arepas at a Venezuelan/Colombian restaurant or in SA, you must make these at home.  They really aren't hard to make.  The arepa itself is incredibly straight forward and simple.  With the sauce and the filling, it is a lot of different things going on, but each component individually is very easy.  Also, the guasacaca sauce can be made ahead of time.  And arepas can be filled with whatever you want: meat (shredded, cubed), any cheese, seafood, beans, a chicken salad type thing, chiles, sweet potatoes, plantains, etc.

Arepas with Black Beans and Guasacaca
adapted from use real butter

2 cups harina PAN
2 1/2 cups warm water

1 tsp salt

2-3 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
more oil for cooking
avocado, sliced

14.5 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp of pureed chipotles in adobo
Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

guasacaca (see below)

Place the harina in a large bowl and add the warm water, salt, and vegetable oil (we used 3 tablespoons). Gently fold the mixture together until the moisture is roughly evenly distributed. Set the dough aside for at least ten minutes. The longer, the better. Meanwhile you can make the guasacaca (see below). When the dough has sat long enough, mix it together with your hands and moosh out any lumps between your fingers. Make sure it is uniformly mixed. Begin to form patties approximately 1/2-inch thick and 4-5 inches in diameter. You want them to have a uniform surface (avoid cracks) and to be relatively even in thickness. Using a paper towel or brush, apply a thin layer of vegetable oil on a flat pan like a cast iron skillet or something flat (NOT a non-stick pan). Set over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, place a few patties (like 3 or however many will fit without crowding) on the surface. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes (depending on your heat and pan) until the bottoms begin to crackle and pop. Check the bottoms for doneness – when they are lightly golden, flip them over. After another 5 to 10 minutes, check the bottoms for doneness. They should be lightly golden and when you tap the arepa, it should be slightly springy. Remove from heat. If you are making a lot, you can keep the cooked arepas in a baking dish in a low oven (like 250°F) until you are ready to serve.   This recipe makes 6 five-inch arepas. 

In the mean time, place the black beans, pureed chipotles in adobo, salt, pepper and some water in a wide skillet over medium high heat.  Cook until all the water evaporates and until beans reach desired texture.  Add water and repeat as need.  Taste and adjust seasonings. 

Slice the top half of an arepa open along the seam with a butter knife. Carefully scrape out some of the moist filling from the entire interior (you can save it to eat later with butter). When the arepa is hollowed out, fill it with avocado, black beans, cheese, and guasacaca.

(Servings: 6, Prep time: 45 min., Cook time: 45 min., Difficulty: Easy)

Guasacaca (guacamole salsa)

1 onion, peeled, topped, and cut into eighths

1 avocado, peeled and pitted

2-3 tablespoons of white or rice wine vinegar (more if necessary)

1 cloves of garlic
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and cored

2 cups fresh parsley

2 cups fresh cilantro
salt to taste

3 tbsp vegetable oil

Place the onion, avocado, vinegar, garlic, and jalapeño in a blender (or food processor) and purée until smooth. Add the parsley and cilantro and purée until smooth. If it is too dry and won’t blend, add more vinegar and push it toward the blade with a spoon or a spatula between pulses. Add salt to taste and then add the oil last.

Printable Version

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  9/10
Scot (taste):  10/10
Effort:  5/5
Dishwashing Effort:  5/5

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Black Bean and Guacamole Burritos

Burritos in the daylight.  

I make guacamole a lot.  Especially lately.  And every single time I make it, I profess my love for it.  It might be my current answer for, "What is your favorite food?"  And when we eat it with chips, we have been buying these black bean tortilla chips.  I don't get them because they are healthy, I just love those chips.  And they come in a reasonable sized bag.  

Also, we have been cooking up a batch of beans and eating them throughout the week in various ways.  It is a nice thing to have around.  And it is a really easy ingredient to make various dinners from.  Still haven't perfected the bean making process, but you can't really mess it up.  

This burrito is a combination of black beans, brown rice, queso fresco, lightly dressed greens and guacamole.  I rated it a 10/10 of because it is everything it needs to be.  And we have had it three times in the past week.  

Try brown jasmine is very good.

Try this brand of whole wheat tortillas.  Not all whole wheat tortillas are created equally.  Whole Foods Boulder makes some amazing burrito sized whole wheat tortillas (in house).  But don't get the 365 brand or the generic whole foods brand...not good.  

Also, queso fresco is amazing and I love it in these.  But with the guac, you could easily leave the cheese out.

Someday I should consider shooting in such a away that avoids AC units and cords in general.  It's art guys.  

Black Bean and Guacamole Burritos

2 cups cooked black beans (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
1 tbsp pureed chipotles in adobe sauce
2 cups of cooked brown rice
2-3 ounces of queso fresco
1 avocado, seed and skin removed
1 lime
1 small tomato, squeezed lightly to remove some juice and diced
¼ of a small red onion, minced
handful of cilantro, chopped
1 tsp of light oil
4 large handfuls of spring mix or baby spinach
2 burrito sized whole wheat tortillas
salt and pepper

Prepare guacamole by mashing the avocado together with some salt and the juice of half the lime.  Add the diced tomatoes, minced red onion and cilantro and mix to combine.  Taste, adjust seasonings and set aside.

In a skillet over medium high heat, add black beans, pureed chipotles in adobo, and enough water to allow the beans enough liquid to simmer in.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to boil and simmer until all the water has evaporated.  Taste, adjust seasonings, and repeat process of adding water and simmering off until you reach the desired texture.  Add brown rice, mix and set aside over low heat until ready to assemble burritos.

Combine the juice of the other half of the lime, salt, pepper and 1 tsp of light oil.  Add in the spring mix or spinach and toss to coat.

Assemble the burrito:  Start by warming one tortilla to make it more pliable (either over an open flame or in the microwave wrapped in a damp towel).  Mound up half the spring mix or spinach, top with half the rice and bean mixture, crumble on half the queso fresco and top with half the guacamole.  Wrap it up burrito style.  Repeat with remaining ingredients to make a second burrito. 

(Servings: 2, Prep time:  25 min., Cook time:  20 min., Difficulty:  Easy)

Printable Version

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  10/10
Scot (taste):  9/10
Effort:  3/5
Dishwashing Effort:  2/5

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lemony Chicken with Cilantro and Kale

And welcome back to foodforscot's Indian kitchen.

This is a delicious chicken dish.  Packed full of lemon, ginger and cilantro.  I added a bunch of kale and it was wonderful.

Also, have you ever tried brown Basmati rice?  Do.  It is my favorite.  I even prefer it to white rice.  I get mine in the bulk section at Whole Foods, so I don't have a brand to recommend.

NOTE:  With these saucy chicken dishes, bone-in skinless chicken will be most delicious, however, you can really use whatever chicken cut you want.  This time I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cut into smallish pieces) and it was still real good.

Lemony Chicken with Cilantro and Kale
by Madhur Jaffrey, “Indian Cooking” with modifications by foodforscot

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup water
6 tbsp vegetable oil
2 ½ lbs of chicken pieces, skinned (bone in or not)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
1 bunch of cilantro, very finely chopped
½-1 fresh, hot green chili, very finely chopped
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 bunch of kale, roughly chopped

Put the ginger and 4 tbsp water in the container of an electric blender.  Blend until you have a paste

Put the oil in a wide, heavy, preferably nonstick pan over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, put in as many chicken pieces as pan will hold in a single layer, and brown on both sides. Remove the chicken pieces with a slotted spoon and put them in a bowl. Brown all the chicken pieces this way.

Add the garlic to the hot oil. As soon as the pieces turn a medium-brown color, turn heat to medium and pour in the ginger paste. Stir-fry it for a minute. Now add the fresh coriander, jalapeno, cayenne, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and salt. Stir and cook for a minute.

Put in all the chicken pieces as well as any liquid that might have accumulated in the chicken bowl. Add 2/3 c. water and the lemon juice. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover tightly, turn heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes.

Turn the chicken pieces over and add the kale. Cover again and cook another 10 to 15 minutes or until the chicken is tender and kale has wilted. If the sauce is too thin, uncover the pan and boil some of it away over a slightly higher heat.  Serve with Spiced Brown Basmati Rice (recipe below).

(Servings:  6, Prep time;  20 min., Cook time:  40 min., Difficulty:  Easy) 

Spiced Brown Basmati Rice
by Madhur Jaffrey, “Indian Cooking” with modifications by foodforscot

2 cups brown basmati rice
5 cups water
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 fresh, hot green chili, minced
1/2 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
2 2/3 cups chicken stock

Put the rice in a bowl. Wash it in several changes of water.  Drain.  Pour 5 cups of water over the rice and let it soak for 30 minutes. Let it drain in a strainer for 20 minutes.

Put the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and set over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and fry, stirring often, until the onion has browned lightly. Add the rice, chili, garlic, garam masala and salt. Stir gently for about 4 minutes. If the rice begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, turn down the heat slightly. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, turn the heat to very low and cook for 25 minutes.

Printable Version

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  9/10
Scot (taste):  8/10
Effort:  3/5
Dishwashing Effort:  3/5

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Royal Chicken Cooked in Yogurt

I made this twice.  The first time...I was SO confused.  This dish is bone in chicken cooked in yogurt, lots of spices with nuts and golden raisins.  It was back in curling season.  I made it while Scot was at curling.  I put the yogurt in and then I thought my life was over.  It seems like it curdled.  And I was so sad.  But I just forged ahead.  In other words, I finished adding everything and let it simmer on the stove for about 2 hours until Scot got home.  I just couldn't bear to look at it again.

He got home.  I served him his dinner like any house wife would do (at probably 11:30 pm).  Didn't mention my concerns (not that he would EVER notice...he doesn't hold much food judgement, fortunately and unfortunately).  And he loved it.  I guess that is judgement.  He does hold a lot of positive judgement.

So, I googled, "royal chicken does yogurt curdle?"  Because I did what she said.  And it seems like the yogurt separated.  But the thing was still completely delicious and not weird at all.  Especially after the sauce reduces a bit.

After some recovery time, I tried making it again.  Paying special attention to the yogurt curdling step.  Still seemed to curdle. Less bad this time.  It was still totally delicious and deserves to be called royal.  I served it with some Indian spiced roasted potatoes and sautéed kale.  I think I will officially announce that kale is my favorite winter (or non-summer) vegetable.

PS:  The most fun part of eating this is finding the many whole spices as you eat it.  And to not eat them.

Royal Chicken Cooked in Yogurt
by Madhur Jaffrey from Quick and Easy Indian Cooking

1 cup plain yogurt 
1 teaspoon salt 
Freshly ground black pepper 
1 teaspoon ground cumin 
1 teaspoon ground coriander 
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste 
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (Chinese parsley, fresh green coriander) 
3-1/2 pounds chicken, cut into serving portions 
1/4 cup vegetable oil 
8 cardamom pods 
6 whole cloves 
2-inch stick cinnamon 
3 bay leaves 
2-1/2 tablespoons blanched, slivered almonds 
2-1/2 tablespoons golden raisins

Put the yogurt into a bowl. Beat it lightly until it is smooth and creamy. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, some black pepper, the ground cumin, ground coriander, cayenne, and cilantro. Mix and set aside.

Using the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, season the chicken pieces on both sides and sprinkle on some freshly ground black pepper.

Put the oil in a wide, preferably nonstick pan and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaves. Stir once and put in some of the chicken pieces, only as many as the pan will hold easily in a single layer. Brown on both sides and remove to a large bowl. Brown all the chicken pieces this way and transfer them to the bowl. Put the almonds and raisins into the same hot oil. Stir quickly. The almonds should turn golden and the raisins should plump up, which will happen very fast. Then put the chicken and its accumulated juices back into the pan. Add the seasoned yogurt. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn the heat to low, and simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice during this time. Remove the cover, turn the heat up a bit, and reduce the sauce until it is thick and just clings to the chicken pieces. Turn the chicken pieces over gently as you do this.

Note: The large, whole spices, cardamom pods, whole cloves, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves are not meant to be eaten.

(Servings:  4, Prep time:  15 min., Cook time:  1 hr., Difficulty:  Easy)  

Printable Version

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  9/10
Scot (taste):  10/10
Effort: 3/5
Dishwashing Effort:  3/5

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Broiled Fish over Warm Olive Tabbouleh


I am wondering if anyone else has been wondering about something.  The thing is: reusable baggage discounts.  I mean, thanks, grocery store, for giving me such a generous discount.  Every week I spend $150 on food and receive 40 cents back for bringing in my own bags.  Sometimes I wonder if they reallllly think I bring in those bags to receive this discount and not because if I don't bring in those bags, they force me to go home with 15 paper or plastic bags that are hardly sturdy enough  to carry more than three apples and a bag of spinach.

Yeah, it is definitely for the 40 cents.

In which case, is it really necessary to religiously count the number of bags?  From the produce bags, to the grain bags, to the grocery gets complicated.  But the worst for me, is my grocery store actually asks the bagger once they are done many bags they actually USED.  i.e. if I brought five bags and he only put food in 4, I only get 40 cents...not 50 cents.  IT IS A BIG DEAL!

It is just one more thing I miss about my Boulder Whole Foods.  They never even would mention the bags.  Once in a while, they would thank me for bringing bags.  But they just weren't so stingy.  And they repeatedly gave me free chocolate at the register.

This is by far the most interesting post I have ever written.  Honestly, the grocery store is a big part of my life.

This is another great recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.  Warm olive tabbouleh was probably originally part of my soul in a previous life.  I have openly admitted on this blog that I am on the fence about mint in my food.  However, I continue to eat it and try it in different combinations.  There has never been an ingredient that I truly do not like in anything.  So, I figure if I keep eating it, I will eventually come around to it.  And it always works.  I particularly like mint in savory dishes when it is used in combination with another fresh herb like cilantro or parsley.

Also, the original recipe here was for grilled fish kebabs.  I made this under the broiler, but either would work fine.

Broiled Fish over Warm Olive Tabbouleh
adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook

½ cup bulgur
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
½ black olives, pitted and chopped (I used kalamata)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup chopped fresh mint
3 lemons:  1 juiced and 2 cut into wedges
Black pepper
12 ounces of firm white fish, cut into 4 chunks
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 small red onion, finely chopped

Preheat the broiler on high.  Place the rack about 4-6 inches from the heat source.

Put the bulgur in a small pot with a pinch of salt and water to cover by about 1 inch (no more).  Bring to a gentle boil and cook, without stirring, until the water boils off and the bulgur is tender, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the grind.

On a large baking sheet covered with foil, toss the fish, tomatoes and red onions in some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Put under the broiler and cook for about 10 minutes until fish is cooked through and tomatoes and red onions have some color.  (Alternatively, you can skewer tomatoes, onions and fish and grill kebabs). 

Put 2 tablespoons oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat.  A minute later, add the olives and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic beings to color, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add bulgur and mix to combine.  Take off heat and add the cucumber, parsley, mint, and lemon juice.  Toss to combine adding lots of pepper and enough oil to moisten everything.  Taste and adjust seasoning. 

Serve warm olive tabbouleh with fish and veggies.  Put bowl of lemon slices on table and use liberally. 

(Servings:  4, Prep time:  20 min., Cook time:  20 min., Difficulty:  Easy)

Printable Version

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (tastte):  8/10
Scot (taste):  8/10
Effort:  3/5
Dishwashing Effort:  2/5

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Black Bean and Shrimp Quesadilla with Edamame Guacamole

I think I have made this three times.  Often times if there is shrimp in a dish, I consider it optional.  But here, the shrimp is omega necessary.  The quesadilla is a combo of black beans, shrimp and cheese in a whole wheat tortilla.

Normally I am a seafood-and-cheese-never-together snob.  But I think shrimp tastes great with cheese.

Normally I don't like whole wheat tortillas, but lately I have been obsessed with them.  I buy Maria and Ricardo's.  Maria and Ricardo have skills.

Normally when I make guacamole, I profess that is the best thing on this great earth.  Guac contributes to my happiness.  Adding some edamame makes it less of a condiment and gives me an excuse to eat more.  Cara's original recipe actually blends the edamame into the guacamole in the food processor, which I am sure delicious, but I wanted something easier so I just tossed it all together.  And it is wonderful.

I miss this dish already.  Give it a try.

Black Bean and Shrimp Quesadilla with Edamame Guacamole
adapted from Prevention RD

15-20 medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
a pinch cayenne pepper
¼ tsp of paprika
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1-4 tsp of chipotle in adobo puree
8 whole wheat tortillas
¼ cup cream cheese
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
olive oil
salt and pepper
Edamame Guacamole, recipe follows

Season shrimp with salt, cayenne pepper and paprika.  In a non-stick skillet, heat some olive oil over medium high heat.  Cook shrimp for 1-2 minutes on each side until just opaque.  Remove from pan and set aside.  When cool enough to handle, slice each shrimp in half as you would to butterfly it, but slice all the way through. 

In the same skillet, heat a small amount of oil over medium high heat.  Add black beans, season with salt, pepper and chipotle in adobo puree, to taste.  Add several splashes of water (or chicken stock) and simmer beans until all the water has evaporated.  Taste and repeat process with water until desired texture is reached.  Remove beans from pan, set aside, and wipe out the skillet.

Build each quesadilla by smearing cream cheese on one side of the tortilla.  Spread some of the black bean mixture on top of that.  Layer the halved shrimp and sprinkle with Monterey Jack cheese.   Top with other tortilla and fry in a small amount of olive oil in the cleaned non-stick skillet.  Cut into wedges and serve with edamame guacamole. 

(Servings:  4, Prep time;  30 min., Cook time:  15 min., Difficulty:  Easy) 

Edamame Guacamole
adapted from Cara’s Cravings

1 cup frozen, shelled edamame

2 medium avocados

1 lime

quarter of a small red onion, finely chopped

2 small tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped

Place edamame in the microwave-safe bowl with a small amount of water and microwave for 5 minutes.  Remove and rinse with cold water until chilled.

Mash avocado with lime juice and salt.  Mix in the red onion, tomato, cilantro, and edamame. 

Printable Version

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  10/10
Scot (taste):  9/10
Effort: 2/5
Dishwashing Effort:  2/5

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Creamy Cauliflower and Spinach Mac

Since I last posted, I have tried over 25 recipes.  And not posted a single one.  The main reason this happened is because I hate you.

Aw, not really.  I don't have answers here.  What I do know is:  Mark Bittman's cookbook "The Food Matters" has changed my life.  I purchased the book without any idea of what kind of cookbook it was and didn't even have any recommendations from anyone to buy this book.  Let me start by saying...if you believe in eating whole foods, whole grains, mostly vegetarian, but without weird rules like: "No carbs", "No fat", "No sugar", "No meat", buy this book immediately.  Why I like Bittman's book:

1.  His recipes are the type that I only have to read once and I know how to make the dish.  I don't have to keep going back to the recipe and reading details about timing and proportions.

2.  He believes that bacon (sausage, prosciutto, pancetta, etc.) don't really count as meat.  He never says this.  But that is what I think, they are just flavor blasters.

3.  He loves beans.  We love beans.

4.  We agree on the topic of sugar.  If you want something sweet, eat real sugar.  Whether it is honey, maple syrup, refined cane sugar, agave or even the sugar in fruit.  They all got calories.  They all are quite tasty.  But don't eat too much of it.  Or eat it too often.  And don't ever for a second believe that consuming something sweet can be free.  Sweetness comes from only one thing...sugar.  Don't believe any other nonsense. can also come from my dog, sugar plums, and unicorns.

5.  The recipes clearly have much inspiration from a variety of cultures including Mediterranean, Indian, Latin, Asian, etc., but also often just some classic American meals and ingredients.

Which is why, out of the 15 some recipes I have made from his book, I chose this one to share first.  Mac and cheese is a favorite dish of many.  I didn't grow up eating it.  And it is one of the many American dishes that makes me raging angry (go ahead, roll your eyes, sooooorrrrrrry).  So now that I got all my negativity out, I have to say that I would eat this cauliflower mac over regular mac and cheese any day.  The pureed cauliflower paired with the dijon is what does it for me.  I added a cup of sharp cheddar, but honestly, it would be delicious without cheese.  I also added an entire large bag of spinach because this actually makes a ton of sauce.  This would also be a great stove top mac because the sauce is so creamy.  And it is creamy, btw, without the addition of milk, cream or butter.

Another thing that has changed my life is that we found out our dog is half Catahoula Leopard Dog and a quarter mastiff.  According to a mail in saliva DNA test.  His personality is quite unique (yes, I know, I am biased).  That is him glaring at us outside our tent in Southern Vermont.  If you have never seen a dog give a dirty look...well, now you have!

When we were camping last summer in San Juans, this guy pulled this same badattitude.  He was cold, had been hiking all day and was tired, and it started to rain a little, so he insisted on being allowed to take a nap inside the tent.  Probably snuggling up in our sleeping bags and nesting.  Not having to lay in the dirt, you know, normal dog needs.  Well, we let him in, zipped up the tent, and went back to camp fire to finish dinner and clean up.  Five minutes later, guess who comes frolicking over to the camp fire.  He's like, "Wait where did you guys go?  You left me in the tent.  I woke up...and you were gone.  So I jumped out the top, ripped the mesh a little.  Hope that's ok."

Actually, no, that is not ok.  Because we had to sleep in that tent that night.  And it snowed.

He literally jumped through the top mesh of the tent.  He didn't tear through the side.  Or scratch open the zipper.  He just jumped up, over and through the top of the tent.  Amazingly, very little damage was done.  As if he needed to get out, but didn't want to completely demolish his sleeping quarters for the night.

Which is why on this camping trip in Vermont, little puppy dog doesn't get the luxury of napping in the tent after a long hike with his pack on.  Which is why he sat outside the tent and glared at us for a good hour.  And that is the personality you get when you cross a Catahoula with a mastiff.

Creamy Cauliflower and Spinach Mac
adapted from The Food Matters by Mark Bittman

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking dish


2 1⁄2 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water
2 bay leaves
1 cauliflower, cored and separated into large pieces
16 ounces elbow, shell, ziti, or other cut pasta, preferably whole wheat
1 cup grated cheese (like sharp cheddar, Gruyère, or Emmental or a combination)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, or to taste
1 ⁄8 teaspoon nutmeg, or to taste
Black pepper
1 bag/box of baby spinach
1 ⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 ⁄2 cup or more of whole wheat bread crumbs, optional

Heat the oven to 400°F. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish with a little oil. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put the stock with the bay leaves in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When small bubbles appear along the sides, about 5 minutes later, turn off the heat and let stand.

Cook the cauliflower in the boiling water until very tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Scoop the cauliflower out of the water with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a the pot with the vegetable stock in it. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until still somewhat chalky inside and not yet edible, about 5 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves from the stock. Carefully process the cauliflower and the stock, the 2 tablespoons oil, the cheese, mustard, nutmeg, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, using an immersion blender (or potato masher, or transfer to blender/food processor).  If the sauce seems too thick, add more stock. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Combine the sauce, spinach and pasta, toss, and spread the mixture evenly in the dish. (You can make the dish to this point, cover, and refrigerate for up to a day; return to room temperature before proceeding.)

Sprinkle the top with the Parmesan and bread crumbs if you’re using them. Bake until the pasta is bubbling and the crumbs turn brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.

(Servings:  8, Prep time:  1 hr., Cook time:  20 min., Difficulty:  Easy)  

Printable Version

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  8/10
Scot (taste):  8/10
Effort:  3/5
Dishwashing Effort:  3/5

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Saag Paneer Enchiladas

I forgot to tell you that I am a bad singer.  I don't necessarily sing all that often.  Especially not seriously.  But I have noticed that if I am singing along to a song in the car, I feel like I am pretty good.  Then I turn off the music and continue singing and it is no different than the rest of the America who tries out for American Idol.

I guess the good news is that I have really good hearing.  This allows me to be very aware of how incapable I am of maintaining the intended note.  I have reason to believe that if I learned how to sing, I might have a more promising future.  Promising in the sense that I could sing "Happy Birthday to you" with my chin up.

Oh yeah.  And I am also lyrically challenged.

Also, am I the only one who hates edible arrangements?  Come on.  Like, that idea makes no sense, right?

This is a fun twist on the Saag Paneer, a common dish served at Indian restaurants.  Saag is for a yummy spinach sauce and Paneer is for a fresh cheese.  These enchiladas are stuffed with something similar to Saag Paneer and then topped with a punchy sauce full of cilantro and mint.  I was terrified of this mint sauce, but I did it.  And it was delicious.  If you want to try something fun and different, this is wonderful.

PS:  Scot made this paneer from scratch!  He used this recipe.  We couldn't find it at Whole Foods OR at our Indian grocer (which is weird, I am not convinced it is not there).  It is pretty easy.

Saag Paneer Enchiladas
adapted from Jalapeños and Smita Chandra’s From Bengal to Punjab via homesick texan

for the filling:
1 medium yellow onion

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 10-ounce packages of frozen spinach, thawed

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup half and half

1/2 pound paneer cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

for the sauce:

2 cups cilantro, leaves and stems

1/4 cup mint leaves

1 jalapeño, seeds and stems removed, chopped

1 clove garlic

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt or sour cream

Salt to taste

for the enchiladas:

8-10 flour tortillas or roti

Chopped cilantro for garnish

In a blender or food processor, grind the onion, garlic and ginger. In a skillet, heat up the vegetable oil on medium-low heat and add the onion mixture and cook while stirring for 5 minutes. Add to the skillet the spinach, cumin, cinnamon, clove, cayenne, yogurt and buttermilk. Turn the heat down to low and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the half and half and paneer cheese and simmer for 5 more minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings and add salt.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce, in a blender, puree the cilantro, mint, jalapeño, garlic, ginger, cumin, lemon juice and buttermilk until smooth (you will probably have to press down the sides of the blender with a spoon a couple of times to make sure all the herbs are pureed.). Stir the cilantro puree into the yogurt. Add salt to taste.

Preheat the oven to 350. Wrap the tortillas in foil and place in the oven for 10 minutes while the oven is preheating.

Grease a baking dish. Remove the tortillas from the oven and open the foil (be careful as there may be hot steam). Take a tortilla and spoon 1/4 cup of the filling down the center. Roll the tortilla and place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Cover the tortillas with cilantro-mint sauce and bake uncovered for 5 minutes.

Serve topped with cilantro.

(Servings:  4-6, Prep time: 1 hr, Cook time: 10 min., Difficulty:  Easy)

Printable Version

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  7/10
Scot (taste):  7/10
Effort:  3/5
Dishwashing Effort:  4/5