Cinco De Mayo

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See those things?  Right up there?  They scared me. Seriously, what are they?  Fruit?  Vegetable? Starch?  Don’t make the mistake of thinking they are tomatoes.  They are not.  No.  Just no.  They aren’t just wrapped green tomatoes.  I think these are the one item I may avoid 2nd only to yeast in a recipe.  Tomatillos are just so unfamiliar and alien.  But then Cinco De Mayo came up and I thought I would conquer my fear of these things and try a simple recipe that called for them.

The recipe was a really big hit with everyone but my picky girl.  Green sauce?  Pass.  But those willing to try a sauce with a very different green color were rewarded with a very bold blast of flavor.

I made a classic Mexican recipe that I found on the Epicurious Website: Soft Fried Tortillas with Tomatillo Salsa and Chicken.   I made some changes, however.  Cooked chicken?  That’s all?  No.  We need a nice acidic marinade for chicken going into this dish.  So, I came up with one.

Soft Fried Tortillas with Tomatillo Salsa and Grilled Marinated Chicken. It may look like a lot of steps, but there’s not much to any of the steps, if that makes sense.

For Marinated Chicken

1/2 cup Fresh Lime Juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts, if you prefer)

For Tomatillo Salsa

1/2 lb fresh tomatillos, husks discarded and tomatillos rinsed and quartered
2-3 fresh green serrano chiles, coarsely chopped (including seeds, may use less if you don’t want it particularly spicy)
1/4 cup chopped white onion
3 garlic cloves, quartered
3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons lard, vegetable oil or any other high temperature fat
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

For Chalupas

1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, lard or clarified butter
12 (4-inch) organic corn tortillas
2 to 3 tablespoons
crema or crème fraîche
1/3 cup finely chopped white onion
1/3 cup finely crumbled queso fresco (Mexican fresh cheese)

For the marinaded chicken: combine all of the ingredients,except the chicken, in a gallon plastic storage bag. Close the bag and shake until combined. Add the chicken, close the bag, and massage the marinade on the chicken. Marinate for at least 2 hours. Grill over medium high heat, about 4-5 minutes per side or until cooked through to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the tomatillo salsa: Combine the tomatillos, chiles, onions, garlic, salt and water in a blender or food processor. Pulse until relatively smooth. Heat the oil in a medium-large skillet over medium high heat. Add the salsa to the pan, taking care because the liquid will cause the oil to splatter. Bring the salsa to a simmer and cook until thickened, around 8-10 minutes. Stir in cilantro, cook for another minute and remove from heat. Cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve. May be made up to 2 days in advance.

For the Chalupas: Melt the oil over medium high heat in a heavy, large skillet. Place the tortillas in the heated oil (as many as will fit), and lightly fry for about 10 seconds on each side. The intent is to soften the tortillas, not really fry them. Remove the tortilla and drain on a paper towel. If not being used immediately, keep warm on a tray in the oven. When ready, spread with the salsa and top with the grilled chicken, crema and queso fresco.

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Cheesy Cauliflower Patties

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The low carb craze has made superstars out of some vegetables that at best were used to torture children in a previous life.  Kale.  Seriously.  Kale.  The only way kale is good is when it is cooked for a very long time in a ham hock gravy or in Kale and Andouille Soup.  There, I said it.  Kale becomes tolerable when cooked within an inch of its life and paired with a smoked pork product.

The next vegetable up for abuse is the poor man’s broccoli, cauliflower.  Cauliflower is tolerable when you add a signficant amount of dairy products to the mix.  I’ve made cauliflower puree, which can double as a quasi mashed potato substitute.   Cheesy cauliflower patties are now starting to trend, which would be the logical progression.  When I was a kid, my mom would make potato pancakes out of left over mashed potatoes.  After fending off dinosaur attacks, of course.  So, why not try to make fried patties out of cauliflower?  Well, cauliflower has no starch.  It also contains a lot of water.  You need a lot of help to make these suckers stick together.  This “help” likely defeats the purpose of choosing cauliflower, because it either adds carbs or gluten.  On the plus side, it’s probably far more healthy than what you were going to eat, even with the add-ins.

I saw purple cauliflower in the store and thought that maybe such a cool color would inspire the kids to give the dish a try.  My daughter did try it and didn’t really like it. Son and husband really liked it, as long as I didn’t try to say it was something that it wasn’t.  In other words, these were very good cheesy cauliflower patties.

As you can see above, I subbed the patties out for English muffins in Eggs Benedict.  These were really good.  A savory, cheesy bottom that you didn’t have to fight with, complimented the poached egg and Canadian bacon really well.  As a bonus, no need for asparagus, there was already plenty of veg on the plate!

The other time I used it, it was a vegetable for dinner.

 

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The patty served as a very nice compliment for my steak dish! I liked it and would make it again.  Definitely a different take and something to shake up the veggie routine in our house.  As a bonus, very easy to make!

Cheesy Cauliflower Patties
Makes about 6-8 Patties

6 cups roasted cauliflower florets (approximately)
1/2 cup easily meltable cheese (I used Monterrey Jack)
1/4 cup panko or bread crumbs
1 egg
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter or coconut oil (or vegetable oil)

Place all ingredients, except the butter, into food processor. Pulse until the cauliflower is coarsely ground. Remove mixture from processor and form into patties. The smaller and thinner the patties, the more likely they are to maintain their shape.

In a heavy bottomed skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter. When the butter just starts to foam, add the patties, careful not to crowd. When the patties are browned, carefully flip and cook until the other side is browned as well. About 3 minutes each side. Serve as desired.

Note:  I roasted the florets at 375 degrees fahrenheit in olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper for about 25 minutes, turning once.

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Chocolate Chocolate Chip Waffles

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I’m on quite a tear.  Chocolate everywhere.  I am supposed to be eating healthier.  The whole point of this blog was to eat simply.  Here I am pimping out muffins, fancy waffles and shortbread.

On the other hand, as I have reviewed my blog progress over the course of the last year my biggest view-getting posts were:  Pizza Fondue, Waffles, and Maryland Fried Chicken.   My readers want what they want!  Also, these items are so much easier to photograph well.

I have tried Chocolate Chocolate Chip Waffle recipes and all promised that they weren’t “too sweet”.  Indeed, they weren’t.  They were terrible.  Like when you sneak a bit of unsweetened chocolate for the first time.  Ick.  Chocolate needs sugar.  It just does.  Also, it’s breakfast.  People eat doughnuts, French toast, pancakes, crepes, muffins, pastries and all sorts of sweet things for breakfast.  It won’t kill people to put a touch of sugar in chocolate waffles.  Plus, Chocolate is virtually a health food anymore.

I borrowed parts of this recipe from epicurious.com.  I altered it quite a bit to add more sugar and swap out the olive oil for butter. Olive oil in waffles? Just no.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Waffles

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
powder
¼ cup (packed) brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2  teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk (or 2 cups milk with 1 tablespoon vinegar)
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Preheat waffle iron.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Combine eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.

Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Spray the waffle iron with the oil spray and cook the waffles according to your iron’s instructions.

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Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

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My kids were getting tired of waffles for breakfast on school mornings.  Really, really tired.  But they are so easy.  You make them on the weekend, freeze them, pop them in the toaster and serve with “breakfast meats” you reheated because the hubs made them the night before and BAM! breakfast complete.  A seriously 5 star breakfast complete, if I do say so myself.  But, repetition has a price.  Boredom.

So, I tried pancakes.  They were fine, but didn’t store particularly well.  Couldn’t really separate them as nicely as the waffles.  The kids then came to a bit of an impasse.  They could agree on nothing, until I came across a recipe for Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Muffins. Well, what’s not to like?  To quote Cosby, it has wheat, eggs and milk!  Must be good for you! The recipe was originally from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours. She is one of my favorite cookbook authors.  I found it on the Brown Eyed Baker’s blog.  I made a very few changes because Dorie Greenspan’s command of baking is just extraordinary.  Just reading the ingredients was a joy because you could see how they all fit together and their purpose.

I have one little change.  For whatever reason, buttermilk recipes are never quite right for me.  The batter is always too dry.  When I substitute milk and vinegar, it seems to work quite well.  I’ve tried all brands of buttermilk and find that I have to add more liquid.  Plus, buttermilk comes in quarts and I always need 1 1/4 cups or something like that.  What do you do with the rest?  Make the recipe again?  Milk is just more versatile and I don’t throw it away like I do buttermilk.

Ok, I lied. I have two changes. I’m not breaking up some fancy, expensive chocolate for this recipe. Bittersweet chocolate chips are just fine!

Also, and I’ve mentioned this before, I scoff at melting chocolate over the double boiler.  ESPECIALLY when I’m melting it with butter.  Put a dishwasher and microwave safe plate in the microwave and nuke for a few minutes on low power.  Done.  Stir, use mixture, and place in dishwasher.  No messy cleanup of several bowls and pans.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 12
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (divided)
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cups sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line muffin pan with liners. Set aside.

Place 2 ounces of the chocolate and all of the butter in a microwave safe bowl. Over low power (50% or less), microwave the chocolate and butter in small increments until just melted. For my microwave, I started with 60 seconds on 50% power. Stirred the items, then another 30 seconds on 50% power and the mixture was melted. Stir between each increment, as chips can retain their shape not appear “melted”. Set aside. Or, feel free to use the double boiler method.

Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large mixing bowl. In a large liquid measuring cup, combine milk and vinegar. Let sit for 5 minutes. Stir. Add egg and vanilla extract.

Pour the melted chocolate mixture and the buttermilk mixtured into the flour mixture. Gently stir together until just blended. I found the mixture to have a mousse-like quality, much more so than a batter quality. Add the remaining chocolate and stir gently. Divide equally among the muffin cups. Bake for 15-20 minutes until a tester inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in a baking rack for at least 5 minutes.
 

 

Einkorn Flour

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When I started this blog, I decided to steer clear of most food controversies.  I try to eat whole foods that are sourced from responsible producers in the USA or other countries with high food standards.  I choose organic, where possible.  I also will look for pastured, grass fed or wild caught meats.  I avoid GMO foods and don’t eat processed soy.  Notice that I don’t say “never”.   I can’t.  If I eat out, I violate at least one of these tenets.

I can’t have a diet that is primarily carbohydrates, because I am prone to diabetes.  Also, I will gain a ton of weight on such a diet, regardless of whether the carbs are “whole” or not.  My diet is mostly protein, vegetables and fruits.  I don’t cut carbs out altogether, just don’t make it the focus of any meals.  Which brings me to Einkorn Flour.   Apparently, over thousands of years, humans have been selectively breeding wheat to grow better with good disease resistance.  Sounds great, right?  Well, this selective breeding is now being examined in light of a sharp increase in people with gluten sensitivities.  Some people are trying to bring back “ancient grains” like Einkorn, Spelt, and Kamut to find a flour product that will be less harmful and more healthful.

Einkorn contains gluten and is not recommended for people with Celiac Disease.  Let me state that upfront.  All wheat contains gluten, there’s no escaping it.  What I can say is that using Einkorn did not lead to blood sugar surges that are as bad as using just plain ol’ flour.  Also, it tasted better and, rather shockingly, I felt fuller faster.  Normally, if I’m splurging on a wheat product, I want to eat a bunch of it.  One cookie? Nope.  One pancake?  Nope.  Can’t each just one.  Here, I made pancakes and was quite happy to push away from the table.  So were the kids.  We actually ate less than our usual haul of weekend pancakes.  It has a more hearty taste, but is actually has a taste and it’s good.  Unlike the other flour that’s more of a building block instead of a taste determiner.  Does this mean I’m eating a bunch more carbs? No.  But a splurge once in a while with this isn’t terrible.

If you google “einkorn flour”, you’ll find claims that it’s more nutritious and better for you than regular flour.  You’ll also see where people believe that all wheat is evil and should be avoided, ancient or not.  I pass no judgment on these claims. I’m not a food scientist.  But I can tell you that if you are interested in trying Einkorn, it behaves very much like regular flour.  You may need a bit more liquid, but it was brilliant for our morning pancakes.  So much so, that I bought more!

For this recipe, I used James Beard’s recipe for “Basic Griddle Cakes” as a base.  I choose this recipe because Einkorn was rumored to lean towards a denser final product and Beard uses a whopping 4 teaspoons of baking powder in his 2 cups of flour recipe.  These pancakes were very light and airy and could in no way be described as dense.

Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Serves: A crowd

2 cups sifted Einkorn Flour (or all purpose flour)
1 tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips (I use bittersweet)

Combing the first four ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whisk together well. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the liquid ingredients. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir gently until most of the larger lumps are dissolved and the dry ingredients are completely wet. Gently stir in the chocolate chips. If the mixture is too “dry”, add a bit more milk to loosen it up.

Pour the batter onto a hot, lightly greased griddle or large pan. Turn the pancakes over when bubbles form and the edges appear dry. Turn and cook until the other side is lightly browned. Serve with your favorite accompaniment.

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Chocolate Dipped Shortbread

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One year.  My little blog is one year old!  Hard to believe.  So, for my one year anniversary, I decided to write a blog about my secret most favorite obsession.  I have never confessed this to anyone, but my favorite cookie, bar none (Ha! I see what I did there…), is shortbread.  Delightfully simple.  Crumbly, buttery, and just simply fantastic.  I tried Walker’s Scottish Shortbread years ago and was simply enchanted, despite the fact that it lacked my most favorite ingredient:  Chocolate.

Shortbread, said to be the favorite cookie of Mary, Queen of Scots, first appeared in cookbooks in 1736.  Interestingly, it started as a yeast recipe.  But the mid-1800s, it morphed into the more modern familiar butter-flour-sugar based recipe.

Finding a recipe was rather easy, but there seems to be a bit of a divide.  Some recipes are very purist:  flour, sugar, and butter.  But there is some discussion about adding either cornstarch or rice starch to the mix.  The recipe I used called for confectioner’s sugar, which is essentially sugar mixed with cornstarch.   Why cornstarch or rice starch or rice flour?  These items contribute bulk without toughness because there is no protein or gluten.  Fun fact I learned making these cookies!

“Short” in baking vernacular is not a description of the size of final product, but that something was used to shorten the gluten strands that form when you use flour.  So, shortbread will be a crumbly cookie, because it lacks long strands of gluten.  The butter playing the part of “shortening” the gluten strands.

I added the chocolate not for my own amusement, but my daughter thought the cookies would be better with chocolate.  I did not, I thought they were perfect plain.  Of course, she won out!

I found the recipe in James Beard’s American Cookery and added the chocolate!

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread

1 1/2 cups butter (some recommend 1/2 salted/1/2 unsalted)
1 cup powdered sugar (may also use plain sugar)
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon butter

Cream the butter until almost like whipped cream. Gradually cream in the sugar and continue beating until very light. Stir in the flour, then turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured board or counter and knead the mixture until it is very smooth and will break slightly when the thumb is run from the center to the edge of the ball of dough.
Side note: This is not “dough” in the traditional sense. This is a pile of crumbs. Seriously. See photo below:
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You can still kind of knead it and see that it does change consistency after several minutes. I seriously wasn’t expecting it to be a pile of sand. Now, if you omit the confectioner’s sugar and just use regular sugar, I doubt your dough would look like this.

Traditionally, this dough is pressed into shallow pie pans, the dough being about a 1/2 inch thick. The edges are fluted as on a pie crust, and the serving portions are stippled across the dough with a fork so that the shortbread can be broken easily into small pieces. Prick the dough with a fork in even the smallest pans, or it is apt to blister in the enter.

Bake in a 275-300 degree oven until the dough turns a pale brown around the edges. Time of baking depends on size of pan and thickness of the dough.

Remove from the pan, cool on a rack, and store in an airtight container.

For the chocolate dipping sauce: place chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Using 50% power, in small bursts of time, microwave the chocolate and butter until just melted through. I do this in 2 minute increments and stir between times. Slather on cookies, let dry.

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Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup

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I’ve been working on my little blog for almost a year.  It’s really unbelievable how fast time flies.  I have enjoyed every post and all of the feedback I’ve received.  Among the various forms of feedback received, I managed to wrangle a free sample of Traina’s California Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup.  I love free.  I really, really do.

But, with free comes great responsibility.  I will not tell you, dear readers, that I like something when I don’t.  I’ll do a fair review of the item and let you know what I think of the product.

This is a thick, rich and savory ketchup made by the folks at Traina using sun dried tomatoes.  For the kids, the ketchup was a disappointment because they were looking for the very sweet Heinz ketchup.   For the adults, it was just a world of possibilities.  My husband can’t wait to use this in his barbeque sauce.  I believe it will be an amazing addition to this recipe for barbeque sauce, just use it in place of the regular ketchup.   But for this post, I wanted to do something different.

This is a rich and savory ketchup and I immediately wanted to use it in a thick, tomato based sauce.  My husband was working late, and I had the kids by myself, so I took some meatballs out of the freezer, made a quick sauce using the ketchup as a base, and had meatball sandwiches.  Very easy weeknight meal!

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Making a sauce out of the sun dried tomato ketchup was a breeze.  Added a touch of water until about 2 cups of sauce was a bit loose and more of a sauce than a ketchup.  Added a bit of salt, pepper, and oregano to taste.  Super, duper easy!!!

Overall,  this is adult ketchup that is incredibly thick and savory.  A great take on a classic American condiment!