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Monday, July 29, 2013

Blueberry Spelt Muffins

Adrienne picked us a whole bag of blueberries yesterday.  Her Grammy and Auntie took her blueberry picking and she took in a real haul.  So this is what I decided to do with some of them.  If you've never tried baking with spelt flour but really like whole grain baking, you should give spelt a try.  It has way more flavor than whole wheat flour - a little bit me.

This recipe caught my eye because not only does it use spelt flour, but it had orange juice (instead of the typical milk) and orange zest.  How could that be bad???  It wasn't.  Quite the opposite.  These taste healthy and delicious.  They actually taste deliciously healthy.  In other words...These muffins taste like muffins - not cake.  If I wanted a cupcake, I would make a cupcake.  Adrienne, Jim, and I can eat these easily on the go for breakfast and not feel guilty about it.

Blueberry Spelt Muffins
Whole Foods recipe
makes 12 muffins

4 Tbsp butter or canola oil, softened (I used butter)
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp orange zest
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 cups blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease or place cupcake liners in a muffin tin.  In a large bowl, beat together the butter (or oil) and sugar.  Then add the eggs, applesauce, orange juice, and vanilla and blend until incorporated.  In another large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, orange zest, and salt.  Add this dry mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.  Add the blueberries and incorporate carefully.  Distribute the batter evenly among the muffin tines and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into their center comes out clean.


Cheddar Jalapeño Chicken Burgers

I (at least I used to) really dislike chicken burgers.  My friend Michelle inspired me to try them out again.  She gave me a recipe that incorporated onions and curry powder into the chicken.  I immediately knew I was going to try grilling chicken burgers, though as you can tell by the title, I added some cheese and jalapeños to the mix, a little garlic, and swapped out some of the curry powder for smoked paprika (because I love smoked paprika.)  The result was so, so good.  My husband said he would rather eat these over a regular hamburger any day.  I was really just crossing my fingers and holding my breath with this meal, but it ended up turning out so good that I can't wait to make it again.

Since this post, I have made these burgers more times than I can count and they continue to be a go-to recipe for us.  It's easy to put together, healthy, and Adrienne actually eats it enthusiastically which makes the meal even more enjoyable for me.  (I separate a serving of the raw chicken mixture before I add the jalapenos, curry, and cilantro.)  I updated the picture (finally) this last time.  I think it does the burger more justice.

Try these out with lots of fixins.  Tonight we made an avocado spread that I must share with everyone some time soon.  Or top it with the most amazing pickles in the universe, hot sauce, greens, etc...

Cheddar Jalapeño Chicken Burgers
makes 6 patties

1-1/2 lbs ground chicken
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp hot curry powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/3 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
1/4 cup minced parsley or cilantro (optional)
juice of half a lime

In a small pan over medium-low heat, saute the onion with a little bit of olive oil for about 5 minutes until softened.  Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds.  Set aside to cool.  Place the chicken in a large bowl with all the other ingredients.  Add the onions and garlic and mix everything together just until all the ingredients are distributed well (I use my hands.)  Form 6 patties.  Heat your grill to medium heat.  Cook the burgers about 5 minutes on each side.  Serve on a bun with the condiments of your choosing.  

Hyper Smash

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Jim actually got the store-bought blue cheese vinaigrette from the fridge as I was whipping this up in the blender and I berated at him.  How can you be thinking of using that when I'm actually making salad dressing?!?!?!  I was in disbelief.  As he tried to justify his stupidity, I made him taste my dressing.  He said he wanted to make another salad so he could have both dressings.  So then I grabbed the store-bought bottle out of his hands and read the ingredient list out loud - water, sugar, sodium benzoate, xantham gum, etc.  Enough said.  So he made the correct choice and "mmm mmm'd" like three times.  (That's how I really know he likes something.)

How can something so simple change your life?!  Well this salad dressing is the perfect example of how that's possible.  I may never buy a bottle of salad dressing ever again and I will forever look forward to eating even the simplest salad now that I have this dressing in my fridge.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
from Barbells and Bellinis
makes about 1 cup

1/2 cup of good balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp Dijon or whole grain mustard
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of mayonnaise (I used vegannaise)**
1 tablespoon of honey
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste

Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth, about 1 minute.  Store in fridge for up to one week.

**I hate mayo so much I don't understand how people eat it.  So for the other mayonnaise haters out there, you can omit the mayonnaise; however, according to the blog I got this recipe from, it aids in the emulsifying process (which is what makes this dressing a little bit creamy) and prevents the dressing from separating when you store it in fridge.  I used vegannaise because I hate the idea of mayonnaise so much that I can't even bring myself to purchase it.  You can use whatever you like because it does not affect the taste of the dressing at all.  (When my husband asked about the ingredients, I wouldn't even tell him it's in here because you can't taste it anyway and he hates mayo as much as me and wouldn't want to eat it if he knew.) HyperSmash

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Mediterranean Pepper Salad

When most people think of summer, barbecues, and side dishes, I would bet anything they think of potato salad and pasta salad.  Well, nothing against those kids (except mayo - I HATE mayo - I do have something against mayo...Find my winning mayoless potato salad here), but this is now the very first salad that comes to my mind when I think of a summer barbecue.  I made this salad almost once every week two summers ago.  I would come up with excuses to make this salad.  If you don't like any of the ingredients on the list, omit them and increase some of the things you do like.  This is a very flexible salad.  Whatever you do, don't omit the pickled red onions.  As much as I love red onion, sometimes I'll order items that have it and then ask for it to be left off because it can be too much for me.  The pickling step makes the onion a little bit sweet and much less harsh.  That (thank you again, Deb Perelman) is in fact the best thing about this salad.    It's what takes this salad from ordinary to extraordinary and is the reason it ends up on my table so very much - I just can't get enough of it and neither can the friend's that I've served it to.

Mediterranean Pepper Salad
from Smitten Kitchen

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 a red onion, cut into a 1/2-inch dice (use less if your onion is huge)
3 bell peppers, your choice of colors (but I don't ever use green for this salad)
1 kirby cucumber
1/4-pound firm feta cheese (I use reduced fat)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes (although I completely forgot to put them in this time)
1/2 cup pitted kalmata olives
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Swish together the red wine vinegar, water, kosher salt and sugar in a small bowl until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add the red onion and set it aside.

Meanwhile, core and seed the bell peppers and chop them into 1/2-inch pieces. Chop the cucumber and feta into similarly-sized chunks. Put your peppers, cucumber, feta and olives in a large bowl.

By now, your onions will have lightly pickled.  Drain them, reserving the vinegar mixture, and add them to the other vegetables in the large bowl. Pour a quarter cup of the vinegar mixture over the salad, then drizzle with olive oil. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper, or to taste. Toss evenly and serve, or let the flavors muddle together in the fridge for a few hours.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Chicken Piccata with Sauteed Spinach Pasta

This dish was a happy accident.  It was one of those nights where I looked in my fridge and took an inventory.  Some leftover chicken breasts, capers, obviously a piccata was calling to be made.  I completely wung this tonight and it came out amaaaaazing.  I love those dishes where I feel like Jim's Italian Grammy or my own Bubby, just throwing things into a pan with little regard for measurements or timers.  I did my best to recreate what I did for you below because this was so good - I even wanted to have a record of it for myself!  I hope I did it justice.  The measurements may be a itsy bit off, but just taste as you go and adjust as necessary.  This is a great recipe for you to try out that practice.  As a cook and a math person, I have a difficult time straying from ratios and the "numbers" of a recipe in general.  I always strive to get better at the "little of this, little of that" method of intuitive cooking so that I can develop more of my very own recipes.  When I do successfully manage it, the meal always tastes even better - yummy success!

Chicken Piccata
serves 3-4

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1 lb thinly sliced chicken breasts
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp grated romano cheese
pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp capers, drained and chopped
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Before you begin, get a pot of water on the stove to boil for your pasta.

In a bowl, combine the flour, romano cheese, and pepper.  Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture until they are covered, shaking off any excess.  In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of your butter over medium heat.  When hot and beginning to sizzle, add the chicken.  Cook until your chicken is beginning to brown around its edges - about 6 minutes.  Try not to move the chicken too much so that it can sear nicely - just lift one end up occasionally to check on how it is looking.  Flip the chicken over and do the same - about another 6 minutes.  You don't want to eat raw chicken, but you don't want to eat dry and chewy chicken either.  I always let the chicken rest for five minutes after removing from the pan and then make a small incision into my fattest piece to make sure it is perfectly white inside.  After you remove the chicken to a plate, lower the heat and add your garlic and capers.  Stir constantly for about 2 minutes and then add your chicken broth a little bit at a time, stirring up the browned bits on the bottom of your pan.  Add the lemon juice and bring the sauce back to a simmer.  Let reduce for about 15 minutes or so on medium-low heat (the key is you want there to be enough sauce left for your pasta, but you don't want it to taste just like the chicken broth - taste it occasionally and it is ready when all the flavors taste balanced to you.)  Then add the remaining tablespoon of butter and incorporate it into your sauce.  Bring the heat down to low so the sauce is at a low simmer and return your chicken back to the pan with any juices that accumulated on the plate.  Allow to simmer for another 5 minutes.

Sauteed Spinach Pasta

1 14 oz box of your favorite pasta
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium shallot or 1/2 a large one, diced
10 oz. baby spinach
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup grated romano cheese plus more to taste after serving

Cook your pasta as directed.  Meanwhile, put the olive oil, garlic, and shallots in a medium pot over medium-low heat.  Saute for 5 to 10 minutes until the onions are translucent.  Add the spinach with a healthy pinch of salt and a few cranks of a pepper mill and stir until the spinach is wilted.  Remove from the heat.  When the pasta is done cooking, drain and add to the pot with the spinach along with the butter.  Stir together until the butter is melted, and then add the piccata sauce (reserving enough for spooning over your chicken after plating) as well as the romano cheese.  Combine well and serve with your chicken,

Hyper Smash