Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ugly Duckling Chiles Rellenos

No, they're not beautiful, but the peppers came fresh from the farmers market and they're organic. Yes, the batter was a bit too thin, causing some of it to slip off the peppers while cooking. So they're not so pretty.

But the taste. Ah, the taste. Puffy and crispy with a taste only a very fresh pepper can give, then runny and cheesey on the inside with the contrast of chewy rice and tender chicken. It was delicious. A bit hot, but delicious.
Did I make these? Nope. Mr CC did,all by his very own self. Clever guy. All I had to do was eat and enjoy. My idea of a perfect meal.

Mr CC's Chiles Rellenos
4 poblano chiles
3 eggs, separated
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour, more if needed
1 cup good beer
salt and pepper to taste
cooked, shredded chicken
rice (we like Trader Joe's Rice Medley, a combination of brown rice, black barley and daikon radish seeds)
Monterey jack cheese, shredded
oil for the pan
Have all your ingredients at hand when you begin.
The rice was cooked in advance. Ours was cooked in chicken broth with cumin, corriander and ancho chile powder. We keep shredded, home-rotisseried chicken in small packages in the freezer for times such as this.
Char, peel and de-seed the peppers, keeping the stem ends intact. Allow to cool. I wish I'd taken photos of the process, but I wasn't in the kitchen at the time.
Stuff each pepper with rice, chicken and cheese. Close the peppers up as best you can. Not always easy to do, but do your best.
Whisk the egg yolks, flour, salt, pepper and beer until well blended. Add more flour if the batter isn't the consistency of pancake batter.
Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks then gently fold into the batter.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add about 1/3 cup of oil, such as canola.
Gently dip a stuffed pepper into the batter mixture, coating it all over.
Ever so gently, drop it into the hot skillet.
Repeat with the remaining peppers.
Using tongs, rotate the peppers in the skillet until they are tender and golden brown on all sides.
Remove to paper towels to drain.
Serve with a cooling cucumber and tomato salad.

Cook's Notes:
Although these were labeled poblanos at the farmers market, which I've always found to be a mild chile, a few of them had turned red and were quite hot to the tongue (and the rest of the mouth), which was a surprise to me. I would suggest you ask your vendor about the heat scale of the chiles before buying.
You can read about charring and peeling peppers, plus see a recipe for a sauce that would go well with this dish by clicking here.
Sorry about the lighting in these photos, it was night time.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Homemade Applesauce

Easy as pie!

You pick your apples, sweet ones please, Golden Delicious and Gala are what grow in our garden, wash them, cut them into quarters, put them into a pot with a bit of water, add sugar, a cinnamon stick, bring to a boil, simmer until fall-apart tender, drain, put through a chinois and voilà! - applesauce.

This is for Paz, who really liked the photo of the applesauce I posted here.

Christine's Homemade Applesauce
Apples, as many or as few as you wish, I had about 5 pounds (see Cook's Notes)
sugar (I used Splenda Sugar Blend), about 1/4 cup (or less to none) per pound of apples (ditto)
1 cinnamon stick
juice of 1 lemon
water to just cover the apples

Wash, cut up the apples and place them in a large pot. No need to peel or core them, the chinois does that for you.
Sprinkle the lemon juice and sugar over the apples and toss to coat.
Pour in just enough water to cover the apples, toss in the cinnamon stick and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring awhile to dissolve the sugar.
Adjust the flame so the apples just simmer and leave until they become very soft and tender and that wonderful apple-cinnamony perfume permeates the kitchen. Add more water if needed to keep the apples from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Remove the pot from the heat and allow the apples to cool just a bit.
Using a slotted spoon, first fish out the cinnamon stick and discard, then scoop the apples into the chinois, which has been placed over a large bowl, and stir with the pestle until the applesauce is in the bowl and nothing is left in the chinois except the seeds and peels. You may have to do this in several batches.
And what have you got? Applesauce. Magic.

Cook's Notes:
Please use sweet apples for this, not Granny Smith.
The sweeter the apples the less sugar is needed, possibly no sugar. It all depends on your tastebuds.
Want it chunky? Then you have to peel, core and dice the apples before cooking them. Omit the chinois step. When the apples are tender and saucy to your liking, they're applesauce.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Monday, October 22, 2007

What I Did Last Week

It rained all last week. All the days long and most of the nights. And me laid out flat with the flu. I still had to slog my way outside each day to feed the horse and dogs, letting them know they were still loved. Slogging in the rain with the flu - that was fun. No cooking, little eating, just me wrapped in a blanket with a cup of herbal tea, feeling sorry for myself.

'Round about Friday afternoon, as I began to feel better, I made applesauce. Which was fun.

On Saturday I made some really delicious beans then yesterday I roasted several butternut squashes and stuffed them with the beans. Fun and very good but not very photogenic.

Right now there's lamb stew on the stove.

The mojo returneth. Recipes to follow.

Oh, and the sun came out.

Oh, dear. I really meant to include the photos the first time.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Friday, October 19, 2007

Vegan Chocolate Banana Brownies for HotM 8

Hmmm. . .

Bake something sweet but not fat . . .

Something satisfyingly gooey but good for you . . .

Something heart healthy, with no eggs or butter.

This is what Ilva and Joanna are asking for in this month's HotM theme: Baking.
Heart of the Matter, Ilva's and Joanna's brainchild, is the blog devoted to the development of heart healthy recipes from food bloggers around the world. I love this monthly event because it makes me think and it gets me into a healthier cooking frame of mind.

This recipe was truly an experiment. The only guideline I had was from my daughter-in-law, Amy, who told me that 1 banana may be substituted for 1 egg in most baked vegan recipes. Well, not using eggs and butter is one of the parameters of this event, so I went with the bananas. Then I thought of chocolate - one of the world's highest anti-oxidant foods. Now there's a theme - chocolate and bananas. What's not to like?

According to the web site World's Healthiest Foods, "bananas are one of our best sources of potassium, an essential mineral for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function. Since the average banana contains a whopping 467 mg of potassium and only 1 mg of sodium, a banana a day may help to prevent high blood pressure and protect against atherosclerosis."

Chocolate, the darker the better, is not only packed with anti-oxidants that help fight free radicals, it has been proven to lower blood pressure in a number of studies.

Because I was heading in a vegan kind of direction with the ingredients I'd settled on, I decided to use
agave instead of honey for the liquid needed here. This turned out to be a very sweet idea. Walnuts add fiber and the benefits of linolenic acids.

So, here we go - brownies with very low fat, no eggs, no cholesterol, plus they're vegan!

Vegan Chocolate Banana Brownies
Christine's Original Recipe
1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces very dark, bitter sweet chocolate
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
4-6 tablespoons agave syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped toasted nuts, I used walnuts

Spray an 8"x 8" or 9"x 7" pan with a Pam-like spray.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center of the oven.
Mix the dry ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Melt the chocolate in a small saucepan.
In a medium bowl, mash the bananas then add the agave syrup, vanilla and melted chocolate and stir well.
Stir the dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture, followed by the chopped nuts.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly to the edges and bake in the oven for about 23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out crumb free. If using the 8-inch square pan, you may have to bake them several minutes longer.
The sides of the brownie batter may pull away from the edge of the pan when done; be sure that the edges don't burn.
Remove from the oven and allow the brownies to cool in the pan on a rack.
Cut into 1-inch squares and serve with afternoon tea.

Cook's Notes:
Although these were good right out of the pan, they are better the day after baking for some strange reason.
If I were to make these again I might substitute whole wheat flour for one half of the flour measurement.

Be sure to check out the HotM roundup at the end of this month. Want to join in the fun? Send your post link to Joanna at joannacary AT ukonline DOT co DOT uk before October 23rd.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

World Bread Day 2007: Ten Grain Whole Wheat Bread

Today, October 16th, is World Bread Day and also marks the second anniversary of this blogging event, hosted by Zorra of Kochtopf .

What is the World Bread Day? It's an annual day initiated by the International Union of Bakers in celebration of bread: a food staple so ubiquitous that it unites all peoples of this earth through it's myriad ways of baking and partaking. This is the quote taken from their web site:

"All over the world bread bears a highly symbolic power: It stands for solidarity as well as the ability to share. As a universal product, found in every civilisation, made out of various types of grain, characterised by the manifold fermentation processes and the different ways of baking, bread - even now in the third millennium - accompanies every meal.

Staple food for some, luxury or modern dietary food for others - bread in itself means so much that it deserves a World Day in its honour! The World Bread Day wants to provide an opportunity to talk about bread and bakers, to find out about their history, their importance as well as their future."

I hadn't a clue about this event until I saw the offering that Paz made for it -- her first ever loaf of bread, a beautiful challah. And because I baked two loaves of bread this Sunday, I'm happy to be in time to take part. Zorra will be posting her roundup later in the week so be sure to check it out for lots of bread baking recipes from around the world.

I'm glad I decided to make a toothsome, grainy bread that lends itself to hearty sandwiches or dunking in soups and stews, as well as toasting -- dripping with butter and jam. To me it's in keeping with the idea of bread-making bringing people together. When I envision that, the words comfort and homey come to mind, as well as the reverent and symbolic holding of hands in a circle before sitting down to break bread together.

This whole wheat bread, made with all organic ingredients including ten-grain cereal, is dense, thick and chewy with lots of protein and fiber. A pleasantly peasant loaf if ever there was one.

Ten-Grain, Whole Wheat Bread
Process adapted from the Joy of Cooking
1 cup Bob's Red Mill ten-grain cereal
3 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sugar
2 heaping tablesoons molasses
2 teaspoons sea salt, or up to 1 tablespoon if desired
3/4 cup milk
2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
3 cups Giusto's Organic High Protein Fine 100% Whole Wheat Flour
3 cups Arrowhead Mills Organic Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour

Begin by bringing the 3 cups of water to a boil and stirring in the ten-grain cereal. Lower the heat and whisk occassionally until the cereal has absorbed all the water, about 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter, sugar, molassas, salt and milk. Set aside to cool.
In a glass measuring cup, combine the yeast and 1/4 cup warm water and let sit until the yeast softens.
When the cereal mixture has cooled down to a lukewarm temperature, no more than 110 degrees, add the yeast and 2 cups of the flour and mix until well combined.
This is when I begin to use my large stand mixer. With the dough hook attached and running on the number 2 speed, begin adding in the flours, 1 cup at a time, until it's all incorporated. The dough will be stiff but still a bit sticky.
Remove dough to a clean surface to begin kneading. Knead the dough, adding flour by the tablespoon or so, until it no longer sticks to the surface and takes on a satiny sheen, about 12 minutes. If you have an industrial sized stand mixer, it will do this for you.
Butter or spray a large ceramic bowl.
Shape the dough into a ball and place in the bowl, turning it over to coat with the oil.
Cover with a towel and place in a warm place, such as the back of the stove, and allow to rise until doubled in bulk.
After it has risen sufficiently, gently punch the dough down, remove from the bowl, knead a few times and reshape into a ball.
Using a sharp knife or pastry scraper, cut the ball into two equal halves.
Butter or spray two 9"x5" loaf pans.
To shape the loaves, using your hands, flatten each piece into a rectangle slightly longer than the length of the bread pan and 2 or 3 times the width. Beginning with a long side, roll the dough into a cylinder. Pinch the seam closed then tuck each end under and pinch those closed also. When you're finished it should fit nicely, seam side down, into the pan. Cover the pans with the towel and allow to rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size.
Bake in a 350-degree oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown and hollow sounding when rapped with a knuckle.
Immediately turn out onto cooling racks and allow to cool completely.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Monday, October 15, 2007

Roasted Eggplant, Tomato, Chicken, and Smoked Mozzarella Stack

As I've said recently, Mr CC and I have been trying to be more mindful of what we buy that may sit in the fridge and turn to mush if not used in a timely manner, and to use up what we purchase before buying more. This has turned out to be very successful, in several ways: I get to stretch my mind a bit figuring out how to turn produce into dinner, we don't shop as much (which is a good thing as we have to get into a car every time we go shopping - rural living and all that), and the grocery bill has gone down a bit.

This open-face sandwich is a good example of using up what we had at hand: farmers market eggplant and tomatoes, local walnut bread, leftover chicken from a rotisserie dinner. The only thing I purchased to round out the recipe was the cheese. We paired it with a simple salad of mixed greens drizzled with a hearty vinaigrette and sighed in total satisfaction.

Roasted Eggplant, Tomato, Chicken, and Smoked Mozzarella Stack
Christine's original recipe
6 slices good whole wheat walnut bread, I use our local Brio, which is my favorite
Gulden's Spicy Brown Mustard
1/2 pound (about) smoked mozzarella cheese, sliced (I used Rumiano)
3 small to medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise, 1/2" thick, roasted
3 medium organically grown, ripe, red tomatoes, sliced crosswise (heirlooms would be great)
thinly sliced chicken breast from a rotisseried chicken
4-5 basil leaves, thinly sliced crosswise
walnut oil

Place the eggplant slices on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with olive oil. Spray more olive oil over the slices and sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt.
Roast in a 375 oven for about 15 minutes, flipping them over halfway in the baking. Set aside.
In the same oven, place the walnut bread slices directly on an oven rack and toast for about 5 minutes.
Have your assembly ingredients ready on a work surface.
Beginning with the toasted bread on the bottom (duh), spread each slice with mustard, add a slice of the cheese, a slice of eggplant, more cheese, several slices of tomato followed by a few slices of chicken, more cheese, a bit of the basil, then top it all off with a drizzle of roasted walnut oil.

Assemble the rest of the sandwiches and place them on a baking sheet.

Place in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until the cheese melts deliciously over and through the sandwich.

Eat with a knife and fork, or serve with lots of napkins and use your fingers. It's finger-licking good no matter how you eat it.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Friday, October 12, 2007

Quick And Easy Turkey Meat Loaf

Although I derive great pleasure from making my own sauces and condiments, I also love seeking out quality products that save time and serve to enhance a dish to my standards.

Tender and juicy, this turkey meat loaf was prepped and out of the oven in just one hour - a blessing to be sure on a busy weeknight. Its flavor and moistness I attribute to the marinade-slash-sauce that I discovered a while back and used here. It's called Narsai's Assyrian Pomegranate Marinade. The promo says ". . . it's not only fabulous with lamb but goes equally well with beef and pork." Well, add turkey to that list because this meat loaf tasted fabulous. The marinade ingredients are red wine, pomegranate concentrate, herbs, spices and garlic. No catsup needed. And no beef or pork needed to moisten up the turkey and raise the fat content.

This recipe will yield a large amount of meatloaf - enough for dinner, several lunches, plus leftovers in the middle of the week. If you have a small family, cut the finished loaf in half and freeze for another time.

Quick and Easy Turkey Meatloaf
Christine's Original Recipe
2 1/2 pounds ground turkey (I think I used closer to 3 lbs.)
3 eggs
1 cup sweet onion, such as Walla Walla, chopped fine
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 cup finely ground bread crumbs
2 teaspoons Spike seasoning
2/3 cup Narsai's Assyrian Marinade
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorns
olive oil spray
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Spray an oblong, 9"x11" baking pan (glass preferred) with the olive oil spray.
Place the rest of the ingredients into a large bowl and, using your clean hands, mix thoroughly.
Plop the meat mixture into the prepared pan and pat it evenly to the edges.
Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until the meat has pulled away from the edges of the pan and the juices are bubbling wildly.
Out of the oven, allow it to settle down for about 15 minutes then slice and serve.

Cook's Notes:
Unless you're a die-hard catsup user, you can skip it here. The meat loaf is that good on its own.
If you really can't do without the catsup, here's another recipe that employs lots of it.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Corn And Thyme Soup With Seared Chicken Thighs And Roasted Asparagus

The last of the season's corn and some wonderfully earthy, spicy fresh thyme from my garden were the culprits that got me thinking, during last night's chilly evening, that I would make soup.

I love thyme. It's the herb I will reach for or go pick when I want a deeply satisfying, down home flavor that speaks of cold nights, blissful blue-sky days, and the shortening of those days that makes us want to snuggle up with a comforter (be it down or significant other) in the evening. The scent of thyme in my kitchen is comfort in and of itself. Pair it with a simple soup and I'm just comfy all over.

Then there's corn. Such a versatile vegetable: it shines in fritters to savory flans then delights in making taste buds dance in sweet puddings; from stuffings to soups and stews, on the cob dripping with butter or sliced off the cob paired with grilled prawns, corn satisfies. It humbly plays second fiddle to so many things I make yet without it the dish would seem incomplete.

I've thrown many good things into this soup, but the crisp corn kernels and the pungent thyme are the ingredients being showcased for Kalyn's second anniversary celebration of Weekend Herb Blogging. WHB has got to be the longest running food event in the blogosphere and I'm happy and proud to be a part of it. Click here to read about how it all got started. Click here to read about this month's anniversary event. Join in the fun - vote for what you think will be the most favorite vegetable and the most favorite herb of 2007, then submit a recipe using one of your faves of each between now and October 14th.

Corn and Thyme Soup with Seared Chicken Thighs and Roasted Asparagus
Christine's original recipe
1 cup sweet onion, chopped kind of small (I used one small sweet onion and one cipollini)
1 large red bell pepper, seeds removed, chopped small
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, minced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
5-6 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut from cobs
1 pound asparagus, oven roasted
4-5 cups homemade chicken stock or low sodium, fat-free chicken broth if purchased (See Cook's Notes)
1 tablespoon, or more, fresh thyme, chopped fine (dried thyme works well also)
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sauteed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil (more if necessary)
1 tablespoon Earth Balance or butter
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup dry Vermouth

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the washed asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and a few sprinkles of kosher salt.
Roast asparagus in the hot oven for about 7 minutes, shaking the pan occassionally.
Remove from the oven when just beyond al dente and slightly browned. Set aside.
Meanwhile, using a deep bowl to catch the corn, with a sharp chef's knife, cut the kernels from the corn cobs. When the kernels are removed, extract the corn milk from the cobs by using the back of the knife and running it up the corn cobs. Set aside.
Have a large soup pot ready to heat and receive ingredients.
Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and earth balance.
When the oil/butter shimmers, add the chopped onions and saute for about 5 minutes or until they soften.
Add the garlic and give a quick stir. When the garlic aroma tickles your nose, add the red and jalapeno peppers to the skillet, stirring and sauteing for about 5 minutes more.
Add the thyme to the skillet and stir to coat the veggies.
Add about 1 cup stock to the skillet and stir to loosen any brown bits that may have stuck to the pan. Pour all of this into the soup pot.
Add the corn and corn milk to the soup pot along with the rest of the stock and heat gently on medium low heat. Maintain the heat under the skillet.
In the skillet, over medium-high heat, saute the chicken thighs, adding more olive oil if needed, until the thighs are golden brown all over and almost fully cooked.
Remove the thighs from the heat and let rest for a few minutes before cutting into bite size pieces.
Immediately upon removing the thighs from the skillet, deglaze the pan with the vermouth, scraping up the browned bits (fond) from the bottom of the pan. Pour the fond and vermouth into the soup pot.
Add the thigh pieces to the soup pot and keep at a simmer for about 10 minutes.
Cut the roasted asparagus into 1 to 2-inch pieces and toss into the soup pot.
Adjust the seasonings, adding more thyme, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper if desired.
Ladle into deep, warmed bowls and serve with crusty artisan bread.

Cook's Notes:
This soup may be made vegetarian or vegan with just a few small adjustments:
Omit the chicken thighs, of course.
Use Earth Balance exclusively (vegan).
Instead of using chicken stock, gently boil the de-kerneled corn cobs in 6-8 cups of water with a sprig of fresh thyme for about 25 minutes. Strain the stock (you should have about 4 cups) and continue with the recipe.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Dining Alfresco ...

... As summer wanes into autumn.

Bathe in the soft, golden light, gently warming, yet bringing with it a hint of crispness, a slight chill. The sky is blue as blue can be and the sunsets are spectacular. Put on a sweater, pull up a comfy chair. I'll pour you a glass of wine as we savor simple food and these last harvest days before we go indoors for the long winter. Eat up, it's all good for you.
Broad beans from the farmers market sautéed in olive oil with slices of Claudia's garlic, Cypress Grove's Truffle Tremor, pitted kalamata olives, so easy to pop into your mouth, heirloom tomatoes on a bed of organically grown arugula - both from the farmers market - drizzled with a basil-balsamic vinaigrette and punctuated with chunks of fresh mozzarella, Neiman Ranch incredibly delicious dry salame (not too much though, just look at those circles of fat!), small, sweet peppers, fried in olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt, black unpitted olives paired with slivers of roasted garlic (a favorite of mine from France), local whole wheat walnut bread from Brio, grilled andouille sausage with a grainy dijon mustard for dipping, line-caught smoked salmon (pair this with goat cheese on a slice of walnut bread - heaven!),

and always, always a glass of wine - sometimes rosé if it's warm out, but mostly a deep, satisfying red to ward off the approaching evening chill.

Savor the sunset as long shadows creep along the garden creating deep shade here, a pool of golden light there. The sound of honking prompts you to lift your head to the sky to watch the geese flying south in their familiar V- formations. Closer above you the last of the swallows flit about, dining on the just-hatched winged ants, so rich in the protein the swallows will need for their long flight south.

We must never take this bounty of nature for granted. We must nurture it, hold it in the hightest esteem, care for it, honor it, assure its cycle of life - as dear as our own.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved