Sunday, October 11, 2015

Chicken and Apricot Enchiladas

They take a bit of time to prepare, but enchiladas give you warmth and comfort on a cool fall day. As always, I use refrigerator and pantry staples and leftover bits of vegetables. Here's a post on enchiladas from a few years ago, and I see that my comments about always using black beans is actually not true. 

For last night's enchildas, I used a chicken breast (poached and shredded), goat cheese, leftover cooked spinach and 3 dried apricots for each enchilada. You could of course substitute Mexican cheese or Monterey Jack for the goat cheese and add black, pinto or Great Northern beans in addition to the chicken. Sometimes I also add a tablespoon of chipolte chiles in adobo sauce for smoky heat.

My sauce consists of a roux with 3 tablespoons of flour and about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of chicken stock along with a canned of chopped green chilies and a few tablespoons of salsa. When I use flour tortillas, as I did last night, I don't bother to warm the tortillas or dip them in the sauce because they are plenty pliable as is.

Once I have all the ingredients on hand, I create a mini assembly line, placing the fillings on one side of the tortilla. Assembling the enchiladas all at the same time before rolling them up allows me to adjust the fillings so each tortilla contains the same amount. 

Before rolling up the enchiladas, spoon a few large tablespoons of sauce onto the bottom and sides of the baking dish to help keep the enchiladas from sticking to the pan. Begin rolling from the side containing the filling; When you get to the end of the tortilla, pull the remaining flap of tortilla up to the top of the roll so you can lift it easily and place it flap-side-down in the baking dish. The tortillas bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes -- covered for soft tops and uncovered about 1/2 way through for a more crispy top.

Last night, the enchiladas rested on a bed of chopped kale and spinach salad mix, topped with sour cream (low fat of course!) and guacamole with pomegranate seeds. Roasted sweet potatoes rounded out the meal.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Pizza and a Salad -- A Perennial Favorite

The Pizza

I've posted about making pizza before but I have a few changes/improvements in my method--not earth-shattering new techniques, but things I need to remember to do that really improve the outcome:

1.  Drizzle olive oil directly on the pizza before putting it in the oven.

2. Always add salt and pepper in generous amounts.

3. Put the pizza pan on the lowest oven shelf to cook. This way, the pizza cooks with a perfectly crisp bottom in about 20 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. I stopped using my pizza stone and actually gave it away on one of my newest obsessions, the Buy Nothing Project website for my town. (Having to put the pizza stone in the oven way ahead of time to heat for 30 minutes was something I couldn't be bothered to do!)

The Salad

Sometimes I like a perfectly plain lettuce salad with pizza, dressed only with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. But tonight I had some extra ingredients on hand and had a salad as interesting and varied as the pizza. If you look closely, you'll see fresh kaleRomaine lettuce, olives stuffed with garlic cloves (delish!!), roasted red pepper, red onion slices and toasted sunflower seeds.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Omelet

An omelet -- my go-to dinner when we return from a road trip, need a quick meal when we have plans for later in the evening or just can't think of anything else to cook.

Eggs, mushrooms and some sort of cheese (frequently goat cheese, as pictured here) are always on my twice-a month large shopping list, but I'll toss in any left-over vegetable (broccoli or spinach in particular work especially well), and if I'm ambitious, I'll roast a red pepper to add too. Chopped parsley, cilantro or chives give the omelet a fresh contrast with the creamy mushrooms and cheese. 

Don't forget salt and pepper!

Over the years, I've perfected my technique. Here's my plan for about 6 eggs to serve 2 people:

1. Cook the sliced mushrooms. About 4 to 5 large mushrooms work for a 2-person omelet.

2. Stir the eggs with a few tablespoons of milk (I use soy because I like its creaminess).

3. Pour the eggs in a large (12-inch) skillet, with a tablespoon or two of oil, preheated to medium.

4. Let the eggs slightly set for a minute or two, then start tilting and shaking the pan to spread out the egg mixture.

5. In a few more minutes, use a silicon spatula that is OK with high heat to lift the edges of the omelet all around the pan, one edge at a time, and tilt the pan so the runny mixture fills in the gap where you've lifted.

6. Once all the runny part of the mix is underneath continuing to cook, sprinkle your toppings on half of the omelet

7. I then use the spatula or a knife to cut through the untopped half of the omelet into 2 sections (one can be larger than the other to account for different appetites. This procedure allows me to fold over only half of the omelet at a time, helping to ensure that my folding goes smoothly.

8. Fold each piece of the untopped omelet over its topping, turn off the heat and let the omelet sit for a minute or two so the fillings warm up.

9. To serve the eggs from the pan, finish cutting through the omelet where your top cut was and serve each portion separately.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Eating Alone -- The Pleasures of Eggs

I'm lucky not to eat alone most nights, but when Don is off sailing or visiting his brother or some-such errand, I relish the opportunity . . . to have hard boiled eggs for dinner.

The eggs, cold toast (so the butter doesn't melt don't you know), and a hodge-podge of miscellaneous foods scrounged from the fridge or cupboard make the perfect dining alone meal. Sometimes the add-ons include a few carrot sticks or a salad. Dessert might be a handful of gorp made with chocolate chips and toasted nuts, a few dates stashed away in a cupboard, a bowl of Cheerios (with or without milk), a tortilla topped with peanut butter, or a bowl of popcorn; Or, if I'm feeling particularly hungry, I'll have an assortment consisting of all of the above.

I also love to have a glass of wine in a small juice glass instead of a wine glass -- it reminds me of eating at my Portuguese grandmother's house where we drank from little glasses with pictures of horses on them.

Ever since I came upon the recipe for hard boiled eggs from Cook's Illustrated, my eggs come out perfectly every single time. It works this way:

1. Put the eggs in a pot with cold water.
2. Once the water boils,remove the eggs from the heat, and set your timer for 12 minutes. 
3. Plunge the eggs in a bowl filled with water and ice cubes for a minutes or two. 

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone

There are some wonderful books about eating alone. Check out  "Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone," by Jenni Ferrari-Adler and "What We Eat When We Eat Alone: Stories and 100 Recipes,"  by Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin.

Cauliflower Soup and Spinach Salad

Cauliflower soup transforms ordinary -- and let's admit, sometimes strong-tasting cauliflower -- into a silky delicious fall or winter soup. This soup gets it's luscious buttery color from a few carrots cooked along with the cauliflower and a dash or two of curry powder.

As you can see, I'm a fan of using an abundance of cilantro  as garnish.

I'm also a fan of adding virtually any left over fruit or vegetable into salads, and spaghetti squash works surprisingly well with spinach. Warm croissants or crusty bread of any sort round out the meal.

Cauliflower Soup for 2 people

Cook a small onion in a tablespoon of oil until it's soft.

Add 2 cups of chicken broth, half a head of cauliflower and a few carrots, cut into chunks.

Simmer the soup until the vegetables are soft. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes before adding it to a blender and pureeing it until it's completely smooth. Fill the blender only 2/3 of the way full and keep a tight grip on the lid with a dishtowel or pot holder so the hot liquid doesn't explode.

Pour  the mixture back to the pot, add 1 cup of soy milk (for creaminess) or whatever mix of milk and cream you prefer, and reheat the soup just until hot. Cream helps keep the soup with milk from curdling if you over heat it.

Don't forget salt and pepper and a dash of curry powder it you would like. Garnish with either chopped cilantro, parsley or a few fresh thyme leaves.

Spinach Salad With Spaghetti Squash

Perfect for fall, spaghetti squash has lots going for it. High in nutrition and low in calories, spaghetti squash isn't as heavy as other winter squashes, and it's just fun to scrape out the bright yellow flesh with a fork after the squash is cooked and cooled.

I had a bit of squash that hadn't fit in my pan when I recently cooked spaghetti squash hash, so I cooked the remaining piece (about 7 minutes in the microwave) and tossed it into the salad -- it tends to clump slightly, but that's OK.

I particularly like thin slices of red onion and toasted walnuts (whole or in large pieces) in spinach salads, as well as a bit of crumbled feta or goat cheese if I have it on hand.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Ground Turkey Lettuce Cups

I don't make this very often, but it's so fresh-tasting -- especially when the weather's warm -- that I really should make it more.

Leftover turkey was in the fridge (but not enough for turkey burgers); I wanted to finish up a jar of peanuts so I could use the jar for something else; and I had a head of butter lettuce from a recent shopping trip. Voila -- turkey lettuce cups.

Shredded cabbage, grated carrots, some pickled ginger and a bit of parsley (wish it had been cilantro) filled out the mixture. I seasoned it with lime juice, soy sauce and a splash of fish sauce. ( I recommend that you buy a small bottle of fish sauce instead of the large, economical size, because a little goes a long way!) I think you could also put in a few garbanzo beans, or make it vegetarian by just using whole and smashed garbanzos.

The trickiest part for me is making sure that the lettuce leaves dry out completely after I wash them--patting again and again with a paper towel does the trick.

And the second trickiest part is eating -- best to use only the largest leaves from the head and to fold the cups burrito-style by folding the bottom up and then wrap the leaves around. They are on the messy side if you're not careful, but it's a small price to pay for the treat.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pomegranate Seeds—A Wintertime Treat


 A few years ago I learned about the almost magical method of getting the seeds from pomegranates by conducting the entire process with the pomegranate immersed in water. And now, I buy them from the first time I see them in grocery stores in the late fall until the last ones disappear from the shelves in January -- store them in the fridge, or, like pineapples, they'll go bad quickly at room temp.
The seeds are a wonderful addition to guacamole.  (Trust me, it’s true!) When I make a chocolate pudding cake, I like to sprinkle them alongside for a great contrast in flavor and texture. Occasionally I also add them to brown rice pilaf along with chopped apricots and toasted almonds or pecans, butter, salt and pepper.

I know that many cooks add pomegranate seeds to green salads, but I find it annoying that they fall off my fork so easily.  Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, authors of “The Flavor Bible,” recommend a long list of parings, to include: almonds, beets, chicken, cinnamon, fish, ginger, grapefruit, hummus, lamb, roasted meats, parsley, vinegar and walnuts.
My favorite and most frequent use for pomegranate seeds is as part of dessert. Mostly I simply toss them on top of fruit and add a dollop of yogurt (or ice cream if we’re being decadent). And when I haven't gone to the grocery store to get  fresh fruit, we simply have a bowlful of pomegranate seeds along with the yogurt.  I occasionally finish the dessert with a sprinkling of either toasted coconut, granola, brown sugar or honey. (Toast coconut in a 350 degree oven for 6 minutes or so to intensify its flavor and give it a crunchy texture.
Here’s my listing of fruit at goes well with pomegranate seeds. Note that the pairing works well with just about any fruit.
Fresh or baked apples
Sliced bananas
Cooked bananas (Don’t forget the chocolate chips.)
Diced oranges
Fresh or baked pears (I microwave pears for just 2 minutes when I’ve forgotten to put them in the oven.)
How to Seed a Pomegranate:
1.   Fill your largest mixing bowl or your salad spinning bowl with lukewarm water (lukewarm only so your hands don’t get cold). I like to place the bowl in the sink so I can easily discard the peel next to the bowl.
2.   Cut the fuzzy top off the pomegranate but not so deeply so as to cut into the fruit.
3.    Score the pomegranate into quarters.

4.    Pull the quarters apart under water to keep any juice from splattering, working on small segments at a time and discarding the rind into the sink.  Don’t worry too much about getting all the white pith off the each seed; you can do that later.

5.    Swirl the water around, letting the pith float to the top, then scoop up handfuls of seeds and remove large chunks of pith.

6.    Repeat step 5 until you have most of the pith removed. Drain the seeds on a clean dishtowel. They will keep well in the refrigerator for up to a week.