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Archive for June, 2011

Rain or shine, warm or cold outside, I enjoy starting my day with a cup of green tea.  It used to be coffee (particularly during law school and while I was working), but I managed to kick the habit while pregnant with Rice Kernel.  At this point, I’m too lazy to brew coffee at home.  With quite a bit of matcha powder left over from my tiramisu experiment, I decided matcha pancakes would be a unique way to incorporate my morning beverage onto the boys’ breakfast plates. 

The matcha powder imparted a beautiful light green hue to these pancakes and an earthy, slightly grassy flavor.  While the green tea flavor is present, it is not overwhelming.  Frankly, it was hard to get a prominent matcha flavor but the suggestive aroma was refreshing and beautiful.  If you can’t find matcha powder, steep a tea bag (green tea or otherwise) into the water called for in the recipe.  I imgine it will impart a subtle, delicate tea flavor into this morning favorite.

Matcha Pancakes, adapted slightly from Une deuxsenses

2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (you can use all regular flour)
2 tbsp agave nectar (or 3 tbsp sugar)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp matcha powder (more, for more matcha flavor)
1 1/2 cups reduced fat buttermilk
1/2 cup water or milk
4 tbsp oil or butter, melted and cooled
1/2 tsp vanilla
oil or cooking spray, for cooking

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the matcha powder with the water until well combined. 
  3. Add the buttermilk, matcha mixture, butter and vanilla to the eggs and mix well. 
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix until smooth, let sit for a few minutes.
  5. Heat pan over medium heat.  Add a teaspoon of oil or spray with cooking spray. Once pan is hot, pour two tablespoons of batter onto the pan and cook until bubbles start to form on the top, about 1 – 2 minutes.  (These brown fairly quickly.)  Flip over and cook another 1 – 2 minutes or until golden brown.

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Chicken Braised in Milk

I’ve come across this recipe a few times.  Each time, I thought to myself, “I could always use another chicken dish.  One day.”  That day arrived many days too late.

This dish smells absolutely divine.  While the chicken simmers in a pool of creamy, lemon garlic gold, it becomes incredibly tender and mouthwateringly succulent.  The meat is infused with lemon, rich roasted garlic, and deep, musky cinnamon.  The sauce is luscious and decadent.  This is the sort of dish that sings the highest praises of pedestrian ingredients and basic cooking methods. 

Serve the this chicken with the sauce along some beautiful roasted potatoes, pasta, or even rice – anything to soak up the sauce.

Chicken Braised in Milk, from Jamie Oliver

Ingredients

1 3½ lb chicken, preferably organic and pasture-raised (I used thighs tonight)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4oz butter (I substituted olive oil)
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 good handful of fresh thyme
zest of 2 lemons
10 cloves of garlic, skin left on
1 1/2 pints milk
1/2 cup half-and-half

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and find a snug-fitting pot for the chicken.
  2. Wash and pat dry the chicken.  Season it generously all over and brown the skin, turning the chicken to get an even color all over, until golden.  While your chicken browns on all sides, prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Once the chicken is brown all over, remove from the heat, and put the chicken aside on a plate. Discard remaining oil/fat in the pot.  What you’re left with, at the bottom of the pan, is what Jamie Oliver refers to as this “tasty sticky goodness”.  This “goodness” will give you amazing depth of caramelly flavor.
  4. Place the chicken back in the pot along with the rest of the ingredients, and cook in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.  Periodically, baste with cooking juice.

    Simmering in liquid gold and aromatics.

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As I’ve said before, fish cures my inevitable dinner crankies quandries.  This is another quick and flavorful recipe, drawing from pantry ingredients to pull together a respectable, healthful meal.  Here, subtle white cod is baked in a Brazilian-style sauce marrying fire-roasted tomatoes, spicy jalapeño, rich coconut milk, and beautiful purple eggplant.  After simmering in the oven, the sauce becomes mellow and smooth, absorbed by the flaky, mild fish. 

While FHE and I enjoyed the flavors and rice-soaked sauce, Rice Kernel and my Dad weren’t as enthusiastic.  I’m pretty sure Dad was thinking, “I’d rather be eating Brazilian churrasco.”  Sorry there wasn’t a fifth person to break the tie.  Have you tried this Brazilian sauce?

Brazilian-Style Fish with Tomatoes, Coconut, and Eggplant, from numerous sources

Ingredients

1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 onion
1/2 small eggplant
1 jalapeno, seeds removed
3 cloves garlic
1/2 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk
1 (15 ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 tbsp honey or agave nectar
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 pound fish (halibut, cod, mahi mahi, or tilapia.  You can also use shellfish.)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2-3 cups short-grain brown rice, cooked

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Finely chop the red bell pepper, onion, jalapeno, eggplant, and garlic by hand or in a food processor.  Drizzle the olive oil in a large saucepan and cook the chopped vegetable mixture in the oil until softened, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the coconut milk, diced tomatoes, and honey to the mixture.  Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and allow the sauce to simmer until it thickens, about 8-10 minutes.  Add lime juice to the sauce and remove from heat.
  2. Place the tilapia in a deep baking dish.  Pour the sauce over the fish, making sure it’s all well coated.  Bake in preheated oven for 25-35 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily when pulled with a fork.  Serve over brown rice.  Garnish with chopped cilantro.

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Stale baguettes and long Italian loaves always provide a welcome excuse to make savory Italian bread puddings or stratas.  I consider them to be the ideal make-ahead breakfast or brunch recipe stuffed full of garden-fresh vegetables and savory meats and cheeses.  With the summer planting season in full swing, this recipe celebrates summer’s bountiful tomato plants.  Sandwiched in layers with buttery avocado, earthy thyme and rosemary, garlic-rubbed bread, and salty (albeit scant) cheese, we’ve redesigned the savory strata in the style of a lasagne.  It is a striking and healthful start to any day. 

Savory Tomato Avocado Bread Pudding Stacks, from Rice Kernel’s kitchen

Ingredients

1/2 pound stale bread, sliced about 1/2 inch thick (white or whole grain)
1 large garlic clove, cut in half, green shoots removed
1/3 cup Gruyère cheese, grated
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 pound firm, ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 avocado, sliced thinly
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tsp basil, chopped
2 large eggs + 4 egg whites (or 4 eggs – but we try to limit cholesterol)
1/2 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups low-fat milk (I use 1%)

Optional: vegetables of your choosing (e.g. sauteed mushrooms, swiss chard, spinach, or zucchini), nuts (pine nuts or cooked chestnuts are delicious), and meats (sausages, prosciutto)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray (or grease with butter or oil) a two-quart baking dish or gratin.  If the bread is soft, toast it lightly and rub all the slices, front and back, with the cut clove of garlic.  (If it’s hard and stale, just rub with garlic.)  Mince what garlic remains.  Combine the two cheeses in a small bowl.
  2. Layer half of the bread slices in the baking dish.  Top with half of the tomato slices and half the avocado slices.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then with half the thyme and rosemary and half the remaining garlic.  Top with half the cheese.  Repeat the layers.
  3. Beat together the eggs and milk.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to your taste, then pour over the bread and tomato layers. 
  4. Place in the oven, and bake 35 to 45 minutes until puffed and browned.  Remove from the oven, and serve hot or warm with a side garden or fruit salad.

Advance preparation: This can be assembled through step 2 a few hours before beating together the eggs and milk and completing the casserole.

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When FHE and I got married, we had a “traditional” cake, with alternating layers of cheesecake and cake.  We’ve always loved carrot cake so when I decided to surprise FHE with a groom’s cake (above), the flavor was set.

At the end of every June, FHE’s birthday is followed by our wedding anniversary.  I came across the idea for a cheesecake-cake combination and decided this two-in-one cake would be the perfect cake to mark two occasions in one. 

While my humble looking cake doesn’t hold a candle to the professional ones, the combination of smooth cheese and flavorful carrot cake is undeniable.  Beneath the unpretentious appearance lies a creamy cheesecake sandwiched by layers of moist, mildly spiced cake flecked with carrots and pineapple.  As if the layers aren’t enough, the cakes are enveloped by a generous coating of marshmallow cream cheese frosting.  (Marshmallow optional, but this is an all-out recipe with granulated sugar and a generous amount of oil.  It is butter-free, if that counts.)  You could certainly interchange the carrot cake layers for flavors of your choosing; a red velvet cake would be a beautiful contrast.

Luscious Carrot Cake, from Whipped

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups canola oil
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups shelled walnuts, chopped
1 cup shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups pureed cooked carrots
1 small 8 oz. can of crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup walnuts for the top (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9 inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper. Peel and cook carrots until a fork easily can be poked in to them. One small bag of full sized carrots should yield about the right amount of pureed, cooked carrots. Drain the carrots and purree while still warm in a blender or food processor until they are smooth. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of the carrot puree and set aside.
  2. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Stir dry ingredients together with a whisk to combine well. Add oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat well for about 2 minutes. Fold in walnuts, coconut, carrots and pineapple. Pour equal amounts of batter into each pan. Set in the middle of the oven and bake for about 50 minutes or until edges have pulled away from sides and toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.
  3. Remove from oven and let sit in pans 10 minutes. Turn out onto a rack and cool completely.

 

Cheesecake Layer

2 oz. white chocolate, chopped
16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (2 packages)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsn. sugar
1 tbsp flour
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp heavy cream
 
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. Melt the white chocolate, set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl using an electronic mixer, mix the cream cheese on low speed until creamy. Add the sugar and mix slowly until smooth. On low speed, mix in the flour. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beater with a rubber spatula. Add one egg at a time, mixing well after each addition, scraping the sides of the bowl. Mix in the vanilla and cream until the mixture is smooth. Using a large spoon, stir in the melted white chocolate until incorporated.
  4. Pour the batter into a parchment paper lined 9-inch spring form pan. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the center is set when you slightly shake the pan. Allow to cool before removing from the spring form pan. Allow to cool completely before assembling the cake.
Cream Cheese Frosting

8-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups marshmallow creme (7-oz)
1 tsp vanilla extract
 
Directions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy.
 To Assemble
  1. Place your bottom layer of cake on the dish/ plate you will be serving it on with the leveled side facing up.
  2. Spread a thin layer of cream cheese frosting on top – it doesn’t matter how messy it looks since it will be covered.
  3. Transfer the cheesecake to the top of the cake, then spread another thin layer of cream cheese frosting on top of the cheesecake.
  4. Top with the remaining layer of cake – leveled side down so that you have a clean surface. Use the rest of the cream cheese frosting to frost the entire cake.
  5. Top with optional nuts or shredded coconut.

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My dad was a former corporate officer whose typical business meals included sticks of butter and the finest (fattiest) cuts of meat.  Thirty years later, now retired, Dad has developed a new set of eating idiosyncrasies: low sodium, low (or no) sugar, sparse oil, lots of vegetables and fish, egg-whites only… with the occasional plate of batter-dipped french fries and burger.  This transformation has suited me well – Dad is the perfect guinea pig for recipes using whole grains, simple ingredients, and minimal sugar. 

Made with rye and whole wheat flours, this is a nutty, barely-sweet muffin.  That’s not to say you can’t slater it with maple syrup or sweet butter, but they are full of flavor on their own and are a savory accompaniment alongside soups, stews, or breakfast eggs and sausage.  If you love the rich flavor of rye bread but balk at the long process involved in making a yeast loaf, you’ll enjoy these quick, tender muffins.  These are Dad’s new favorite request.

Note: Feel free to add any nuts or dried fruits.  Chocolate chips might not hurt either, but Dad prefers them as written.

Sunflower Caraway Rye Muffins, adapted from Bob’s Red Mill

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup dark rye flour
2 tbsp agave nectar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 cup milk (low-fat is fine)
2 egg whites
1/2 cup oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine liquids in a small bowl or measuring cup.  Mix together dry ingredients in a larger mixing bowl.  Stir liquids into dry ingredients.
  3. Spoon into greased muffins pans and bake for 12-15 minutes.

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Tangy, moist, refreshing, and aromatic chicken.  The tropical flavors of kiwi and orange are infused in a simple marinade with floral, lavender aroma.  The same marinade is later reduced and used as a vinaigrette over tossed greens.  Easy for a hot summer dinner, a weekday lunch, or a picnic at the park with Rice Kernel.

Lavender-Laced Chicken over Mixed Greens, from Herb Companion

Ingredients
 
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 tbsp fresh lavender buds
2 fresh kiwi fruit, peeled and mashed
1 cup orange juice, fresh squeezed or store-bought
4 chicken breasts
4 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cups mixed salad greens
Pecans, pine nuts, sliced almonds, for serving (optional)
 
Directions
  1. In a small skillet, heat the oil; add the onion and cook over medium-low heat until very soft, about 15 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and spoon into a large, shallow baking dish.  Stir in the lavender, kiwi, and orange juice; whisk to combine.
  3. Lay chicken breasts in marinade, cover, and set aside in refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours, turning occasionally.
  4. Lift chicken breasts from the marinade and place them in a lightly oiled baking pan. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 to 50 minutes, or until juices run clear and chicken is cooked through.
  5. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Slice into strips.
  6. To make the dressing, bring the orange-lavender-kiwi marinade to a boil in a small saucepan; reduce the heat and simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup.
  7. Strain into a small bowl, discarding solids.  Whisk in the lime juice and 1/2 cup olive oil, season with salt, and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  8. At serving time, place 1 cup salad greens in each of four salad bowls.  Top with sliced cooked chicken and drizzle with lavender dressing.  Top with nuts, if desired.

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