Friday, January 21, 2011

Mocha Java Smoothie

Hello!  It's been a while.  We went on vacation to Atlantis in the Bahamas, with a stop at Universal Studios, FL.  It was a lot of fun, but I'm really sick of restaurant food!  There were some amazing things I would love to recreate... notably, the coconut french toast I ate for breakfast every day, a "super high fibre" muesli, and Bobby Flay's blue and yellow corn muffins with flecks of red jalapeno from Mesa Grill.  But by the end of the trip, I was craving homemade food and dying to cook for myself.  So I'm glad to be back home in my own kitchen.  Things will be a bit busier now that school has started, but I've whipped up a few easy things so far; everything else has come from the freezer (for which I am very grateful).  For one lunch I made Greek Salad Pitas with Feta Spread and Turkey from Ellie Krieger's book So Easy.  I don't have a photo or anything, but they were tasty and easy and I'm fairly certain I'll make them again.

The focus of this post, however, is the Mocha Java Smoothie from the same book.  As you can see from the photo, it is creamy and delicious and was a fabulous breakfast.  As the recipe notes, it's your morning coffee AND a filling breakfast.  The banana gives it substance while remaining in the background flavor-wise.  The coffee and chocolate are more prominent, but next time I'd love to do a double shot instead.  Best of all, this is one of those recipes you can prep for the night before.  You can put all the ingredients in the blender, sans frozen banana and ice, and have breakfast in mere minutes.  I love to make smoothies and take them in a to-go cup - I have one with a lid where you can fit a straw perfectly through the drinking hole.  When I'm done I can toss the straw and close the cup, if need be.  My smoothies in the past always focused on the fruit, with little in the way of protein, but I'm really liking Ellie Krieger's smoothies with milk and yogurt.  This one is my favorite so far (and probably will be overall), but I look forward to making up a few of my own as well.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Beef Bourguignon

When I was sick not too long ago, I spent about 4 days on the couch.  All I could do was watch TV.  Of course, I watched a ton of Food Network shows, including one episode of Tyler's Ultimate where he made Beef Bourguignon.  I think it was snowing out, and it just looked soooo good.  I love the Mushroom Bourguignon, but I thought it might be nice to share the beef version with our families, so we invited them over for dinner and that's what I made.  (Thanks to my sister Haley for the photo.  I was too busy rushing around to take any myself.)

After seeing the show on Food Network, I went to the FN website for the recipe.  Lucky for me, I read the comments.  A lot of people had no success with it, and those who did made several adjustments.  One commenter recommended going to Tyler Florence's website and getting the recipe from there, so I checked it out and found that it was similar enough to be the same recipe, but with some BIG differences.  I decided to go with Tyler's website version instead as it seemed to address many of the commenters' failures.

Fortunately, everything worked out well.  Everyone seemed to like the food.  Some of the pieces of meat turned out too tough, I think they were too big, but that's my fault for not cutting them smaller.  One thing I want to make note of is that I did not feel great after eating this.  It just felt really heavy and not very nourishing.  I'm probably going to move toward some healthier and possibly vegetarian choices very soon.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Orange, Coconut and Currant "Grain-ola"

I've been meaning to make granola lately.  I wanted to make some to give as a holiday gift, but finals and my infinite illness cancelled those plans.  Since I'm going on vacation next week and need to bring some snacks, I decided to do a test run of a new (to me) granola recipe from Super Natural Cooking.

The recipe gives you a few options, so for this (half) batch I went with walnuts and currants.  It came out very tasty.  I've eaten some plain and also with plain yogurt.  I look forward to trying other variations as well, particularly what's suggested in the recipe (I didn't have some of the suggested ingredients).  I like that the recipe uses coconut oil because I have a lot of that and it's set to expire next month.  It seems like it would travel well, too.  I thought it was a little strange roasting dried fruit, but it worked out fine.  You can do that or add it in after.  A perfect granola recipe requires many tries to find, so I'll be experimenting in the near future.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Roast chicken with sumac, onions and pine nuts AND Hassan's cracked potatoes with coriander

Sam and Sam Clark's Moro East is the featured cookbook for January and February over on the 101 Cookbooks library.  These are the first of (hopefully) many recipes from Moro East that I'll be posting about!  The book is gorgeous and the recipes are inspiring.  I look forward to learning a little bit more about some of the unfamiliar ingredients used in the recipes.

Of course, I have a story to go with this.  The recipe calls for a whole chicken cut into 8 pieces.  I've never cooked like this before, so I asked the guy at the meat counter at Whole Foods for a whole chicken that was already cut into the pieces.  I even confirmed what I was asking for.  And of course he sent me home with a whole chicken, cut into NO pieces.  I hid in the bathroom while Ken cut it up.  It was gross :(  However, now I know from experience that this is totally unnecessary.  If I wanted to use all chicken breasts or thighs or whatever, it would have turned out fine.

The Roasted Chicken with Sumac, Onions and Pine Nuts was delicious.  You brown the chicken, take it out of the pan and dump the extra fat, drop in some onions and sumac, put the chicken back, sprinkle with more sumac and pine nuts, and pop it in the oven.  Super easy.  I look forward to seasoning chicken with sumac in the future.  It has a slightly lemony, not-too-strong flavor.  I used frozen pearl onions, but next time I'll probably use small onions cut into 8ths for a stronger flavor and because the layers will come apart - I just think it'll be better.  I'll also use fewer pine nuts.  They are so expensive now!

Hassan's Cracked Potatoes with Coriander went nicely with the chicken.  My favorite part of the recipe was cracking the potatoes.  I got to smash them with the flat side of a meat tenderizer.  Not too much, just enough to make some cracks.  I love the orange-y fragrance of coriander.  The wine was a fantastic addition that I was skeptical about at first, but after it was cooked, it added a great flavor to the potatoes.  I should have halved the recipe, because it didn't all fit well in the pot, but it worked out alright in the end.

One thing I did NOT like about these recipes was that I could feel how high in fat they were.  I'd like to use some of these flavors in more healthy dishes.  Now I know to trust my instincts with these recipes and cut down on some of the less healthy parts of them.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Confetti Chili

So I have never had chili before.  (I know, I am totally weird.)  I have been thinking about it for a few weeks (kinda like my soup thing) and it finally culminated in this Confetti Chili from Ellie Krieger's book The Food You Crave.  I didn't plan for it to be so appropriate for New Years (confetti, get it?) and I was skeptical about it being a healthier recipe but I think it hit all the important components.  My friend Hilary mentioned a few essential things that could not possibly be left out of a good chili recipe.  I don't remember them all but cumin was one that stuck with me and I looove cumin so I was happy to see quite a bit of that in here.  Another plus was that this used up a bunch of stuff from my freezer, although it also caused a bit to be added - but this chili was delicious, so I'm sure it won't be staying long!  In fact, I already defrosted one container for my lunch today!

The one departure I made from the recipe was in regards to the chipotles in adobo sauce.  The recipe called for one chipotle chili to be seeded and minced, plus two teaspoons of the sauce to be added.  Instead, we used two chipotles and did not attempt to seed them, plus the sauce as well.  I think the level of heat was appropriate, but I think we could probably go a little hotter next time.  I also got some delicious (and local, yay!) cheese from Cherry Grove Organic Farm at the indoor market a few weekends back.  It's called Cuminjack and the guy told Hilary and me that it would be perfect for chili, right after we were talking about chili, so naturally I had to get some.  I tried it there and it was delicious.  I already mentioned I love cumin.  So tasty!  Anyway, when I first made the chili and had a big bowl of it, I totally forgot all about the cheese.  It was delicious on its own.  I tried it with the cheese for lunch today and it was OK.  I feel that the outstanding flavor of the cheese gets lost in the chili, though.

I made some cornbread to go along with the chili too.  Ken's boss asked (out of nowhere) if I was going to make chili and cornbread this weekend.  I swear, he had no way to know that!  Ken said actually, yes, but probably not cornbread.  Actually, I love cornbread.  It reminds me of when I was little and we had Jiffy corn muffins all the time.  So I whipped some up according to the directions on the package of cornmeal I have in my fridge.  I was happy to use up some of that too.  I added a bit of extra sugar, bumping it up from 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup, mainly because I couldn't find my 1/4 cup, but I thought it was the perfect sweetness to go with chili.  I froze two pieces per serving of chili that I froze, because you wouldn't want to go without it.

I look forward to making more chili in the near future.  I'd like to try a white chicken chili in particular - I have a microwave version from Pampered Chef done in the Deep Covered Baker, I've heard good things about that one.  I'd also like to try Heidi's Pierce Street Chili on 101 Cookbooks, a vegetarian chili that looks like it's going in a different direction.  Lentils, barley, bulgur, chickpeas, etc.  That would be fun to play around with.  Plus Georgie's vegetarian black bean chili - I'm going to give that one a shot too!  So many options!