Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mini Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Orange Zest

Happy Easter! We just got back from a lovely Easter morning service and young adult brunch with lots of tasty food...ham, mac and cheese, green beans, scalloped potatoes, pasta salad, bean salad, falafels, pies, mimosas, hot cross buns, corn muffins, banana bread, and more!  A great celebration!

If I hadn't had brunch with friends from church planned, I probably would have made my weekend standby, mini muffins.  They make any breakfast instantly indulgent, and they're much easier to make than many breakfast pastries.  I really like this recipe...moist, fluffy muffins with plenty of chocolate and a lovely orange flavor from lots of orange zest.  The sour cream here really makes the muffins delicious, although Greek yogurt would be a great substitute.  I made these muffins using a special mini muffin-maker that I won from She Wears Many Hats last year, which I use it all the time for quick morning muffins.  But, you can easily use a regular mini-muffin tin...just keep an eye on the muffins and check them with a toothpick when they start to get brown.

Mini Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Orange Zest (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Makes 1-1/2 dozen mini muffins

1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup + 3 T granulated sugar
5 T unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 scant cup sour cream
1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk
3/4 cup chocolate chips
Zest of 1 orange

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a mini-muffin tin or preheat a mini muffin maker.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
3. Whisk together the sugar, butter, milk, sour cream, and eggs in a medium bowl.  Add to the flour mixture and gently fold together with a rubber spatula until the ingredients are just combined.  Add the chocolate chips and orange zest and gently fold to combine.
4. Fill the muffin tin wells about 3/4 of the way full, and then bake until a tester comes out clean.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sweet and Sticky Chicken Drumsticks

I love these chicken drumsticks.  The marinade for the chicken is super easy and delicious - it's got that perfect balance of sweet and savory, and the chicken stays really moist in the oven.  My glaze never thickened up as much as I thought it would, but I spread it on the chicken anyway and it was fantastic.  I loved how crispy the chicken skin got, plus drumsticks are just so much fun! When I'm going to have pieces of chicken on the bone, drumsticks are definitely my favorite because they're easy to pick up and eat without a knife and fork.  If you have any leftovers, this chicken is also yummy cold, picnic-style!

On the side: Bitter Greens with Sweet Onions and Feta Cheese and Baguette

Sweet and Sticky Chicken Drumsticks (adapted from Giada's Kitchen: New Italian Favorites)
Serves 2-3

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 T soy sauce
3 fresh rosemary sprigs
3 garlic cloves, crushed, peeled, and halved
6 chicken drumsticks (about 1-1/2 pounds)

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, honey, brown sugar, and soy sauce.  Stir in the rosemary and garlic.  Add the chicken thighs and stir to make sure they are completely coated with the marinade.  Cover, and stash in the fridge for two hours, turning the chicken over once.
2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
3. Remove the drumsticks from the marinade, and place them in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Bake until the skin is caramelized and dark brown in spots, about 20-30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, scrape the marinade into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer over low heat until thickened, 15 minutes or so.  (Because the marinade has had raw chicken in it, be sure it comes to a full rolling boil before turning down the heat.)
5. Use a pastry brush to brush some of the cooked marinade onto the chicken, and serve.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

New York Strip Steaks with Port-Shallot Sauce

Tim requested steak for his birthday, and I ended up combining a couple of recipes I found for New York strip steak.  The steak was super tasty...perfectly seasoned, tender, and a perfect medium rare.  I was totally in love with the sauce - it comes together easily in the same skillet used to brown the steaks, and it's rich and delicious. I served the steak with these baguettes, braised carrots and asparagus, and a fruit salad.  I also made a chocolate cake, but the steaks were so giant that we ended up too full to eat it and had to save it for the next day! If you're not making these for an extra special occasion, one steak can easily serve two people.

New York Strip Steaks with Port-Shallot Sauce (adapted from Alexandra's Kitchen and Feeding Andy)
Serves 2-4

2 New York strip steaks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for the pan
1 large shallot, minced
1/4 cup port wine
1/2 cup beef stock
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed

1. Bring the steaks to room temperature for one to two hours before cooking.
2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. Season the steaks generously with salt and pepper on both sides.
4. Heat a large skillet over high heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add a couple of teaspoons of oil to the skillet, and then immediately add the steaks.  Sear two minutes per side, until nicely browned.
5. Transfer the steaks to the prepared baking sheet.  Cook 4 minutes, and then check the steaks and cook one or two minutes more until they reach your preferred doneness.
6. Remove from oven and transfer steaks to a cutting board.  Let rest 6-7 minutes before serving.
7. While the steaks are in the oven/resting, prepare the sauce.  Return the skillet with the meat drippings to the stove, over medium heat.  Add the shallots, and stir for a minute or two, adding a little extra oil if needed.  Then pour in the port and beef stock.  Season generously with freshly ground black pepper.  Let the sauce bubble and reduce for a few minutes until  there is about 1/4 cup of liquid.  Whisk in the butter a few cubes at a time. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
8. Serve the steaks topped with the sauce.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Shaved Fennel Salad with Mint and Lemon

I know fennel's anise-y flavor is not for everyone, but it's definitely one of my favorite vegetables.  Here's it's shaved super thin with a mandoline, and then dressed with mint, lemon, and olive oil.  Toasted almonds add a nutty crunch that really rounds out the dish.  This salad would be perfect next to just about anything, and it keeps well in the fridge - refresh it with a little extra lemon juice if it looks a tad dry.

Shaved Fennel Salad with Mint and Lemon (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Serves 4

2 medium fennel bulbs
Juice from 1-2 lemons
1/2 cup toasted, sliced almonds
1/2 to 1 bunch mint, leaves removed from stems and minced
Olive oil

1. Shave the fennel as thinly as possible - a mandoline works best if you have one, but of course use what you have.  This will still be delicious with slightly thicker slices from a food processor or sharp knife.
2. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the fennel.  Sprinkle with salt, and add the almonds and mint.  Toss everything to combine.  Drizzle generously with olive oil, and then toss again.
3. Taste the salad, and add more lemon juice, olive oil, or salt as needed.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mexican Pork Stew

I tend to think of stews as fairly low effort meals...cut everything up, stick it in a pot, and let it bubble away for a few hours.  So, I will admit I didn't really read through this recipe well enough before getting started!  This stew was definitely more time consuming than I thought it would be, because the cubes of pork are individually browned in multiple batches, and then the vegetables are added at different stages during the cooking, so you can't just pop the stew in the oven and walk away.  That said, the finished stew was totally delicious - super-flavorful, super-tender pork, creamy potatoes, smoky bacon, and carrots and peppers for color.  Definitely don't skip the lime juice at the end - a little acid really perks up the stew.  This stew is not particularly spicy, so feel free to add more jalapeno or some red pepper flakes if you like yours that way.  This one's a winner, but next time I will make it on a weekend rather than starting it at 5:30 pm!

Mexican Pork Stew (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Serves 5-6

3 pounds country-style boneless pork ribs
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch squares
1 T vegetable oil, as needed
Salt and pepper
1 medium red onion, minced
1 medium carrot, minced
Salt and pepper
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 T tomato paste
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp Mexican oregano
3/4 tsp ground coriander
1 cup beer
2-1/2 cups chicken broth
1-1/2 cups water
6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in one-inch dice (about 3 cups)
4 smallish carrots, cut in one-inch dice (about 1 cup)
1 large red bell pepper, cut into one-inch dice (about 1 cup)
Juice of two limes
Minced parsley, to serve

1. Cut the meat into large cubes, trimming off any large pieces of fat (don't worry about getting every bit of it).  Season with salt and pepper, and let sit out in a single layer to dry for about 10 minutes.
2. While the meat is drying, cook the bacon in a Dutch oven or other large pot over medium high heat.  Use the oil as needed to keep the bacon from sticking.  Cook until the bacon is browned but not crisp, 6-8 minutes.  Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, leaving the bacon fat in the pot.
3. Brown the pork in batches, leaving room between each piece of meat so that it browns rather than steaming.  Make sure to brown a few sides of each piece of pork, and let it get really brown - this will take longer than you think.  Be sure to protect your hands with oven mitts and use tongs to handle the meat, as the bacon fat will spatter quite a bit.
4. Remove the pot from the heat for a minute or two to let the oil cool down a bit.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
5. Pour off all but about two tablespoons of oil from the pot.  Return to medium heat, and then add the onion and carrot.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables soften, 5-6 minutes.  Add the garlic, jalapeno, and tomato paste, and cook for another minute.  Add the cumin, chili powder, oregano, and coriander.  Stir to combine, and cook for another minute.
6. Add the beer to the pot, and scrape the bottom of the pot to get up any browned bits.  Let the beer bubble for about 5 minutes, until reduced by about half. Add the chicken broth and water, and bring to a boil.
7. Mince the reserved bacon.  Add it to the stew pot along with the browned pork.  Return the pot to a boil.
8. Crumple up a large piece of parchment paper, and then uncrumple it.  Place it on the surface of the stew, making sure it makes as much contact with the stew as possible.  It's okay for the edges to come up the sides of the pot.  Cover the pot with either an oven-safe lid or a large piece of foil.
9. Place the stew in the oven.
10. After 30 minutes, add the potatoes and carrots.  Stir to combine, and then replace the parchment and lid or foil.  Return the stew to the oven.
11. After an additional 30 minutes, add the peppers.  Stir to combine, and then replace the parchment and lid or foil.  Return the stew to the oven.
12. Cook for another hour or so, until the pork is fork-tender.
13. Remove the stew from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.  Degrease by gently laying a paper towel on the surface to soak up excess fat.  Repeat with more paper towels as necessary.
14. Squeeze in the lime juice.  Stir to combine, taste, and adjust for seasoning.  Serve sprinkled with parsley.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

My grandma recently sent me some recipes in the mail, and this one definitely looked too good to pass up! I love banana bread, and adding in chocolate chips makes it even better!  This recipe literally could not be easier - you just stick everything in the same bowl and mix it up.  I was a little skeptical about whether this would really work, but it did!  The baked banana bread was moist and tender with excellent banana flavor and lots of chocolate-y goodness.  I recommend this recipe for any time you have bananas that are starting to get too brown, or any time you need a quick recipe and don't want to spend lots of time in the kitchen.  Thanks, Grandma!

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (adapted from American Profile)
Makes 2 loaves

2-1/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups well-mashed ripe bananas (3-4 bananas)
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
2 cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease two loaf pans.
2. Put all the ingredients except the chocolate chips in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat on low speed until just combined, and then increase the speed to medium and beat the batter until well combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.
3. Divide the batter among the pans.  Bake 20 minutes, and then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and cook until a tester comes out clean, about 10 minutes.  Let cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Easy Chocolate Bundt Cake

I've been following along with many of the ideas from this list of Lenten practices this year, and one of the best ones so far has been Day 25, bake a cake!  I'm not sure if baking is exactly a spiritual practice for me, but I definitely appreciated the excuse to do more of it!  Since I didn't have a ton of extra time, I turned to the 'hasty cakes' section of Vintage Cakes.  I love Julie Richardson for providing this section - it's so great for those occasions when I want to quickly find a recipe that will be simple to prepare.  This recipe is both easy and fun - you get to make a little cocoa-baking soda-boiling water volcano in your mixing bowl!  The resulting cake is super moist with a mild chocolate flavor, and the leftovers keep well.  This isn't over-the-top chocolate-y, although you could certainly add a ganache glaze if you want to take it in that direction.  It reminds me of the flavor of a Texas sheet cake, so it has an old-fashioned, nostalgic flavor, at least to me (Texas sheet cake is a favorite of my grandma's).  I definitely give it two big thumbs up!

Easy Chocolate Bundt Cake (adapted from Vintage Cakes)
Makes 1 cake, serving 8-10

1/2 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups flour
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a bundt pan and place it on a large rimmed baking sheet to make it easy to take in and out of the oven.
2. Whisk together the cocoa and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl.  Whisk in the boiling water.  Add the butter cubes, and whisk until they are melted.  Whisk in the oil.  Set aside to cool while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.
3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and salt.  Set aside.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla extract.  Whisk the egg mixture into the cocoa mixture.  Then, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Fold together with a rubber spatula, stirring to just combine - a few lumps are okay.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake until a tester comes out clean, 40-50 minutes.
6. Cool the cake in the pan for 30 minutes, and then invert onto a serving plate.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pi Day: Chocolate Cream Pie with Oreo Crust

Okay, I've got to admit - I did not bake this particular pie for Pi Day - I baked this a few months ago for a bake-off my church did to celebrate Christmas.  Making this pie was quite the adventure - while I was whipping the cream, all our power went out! I ended up finishing it with a whisk, but as you can see, the cream was a little on the liquid side.  That's still tasted fantastic!

I loved the contrast of the deep chocolate pudding with the vanilla cream on top.  I definitely recommend using ground vanilla or the seeds from whole vanilla beans, since the little specks really give the signal that the cream has vanilla in it even before you taste it.  Although my cream was too loose, the pudding set up perfectly.  It gets a little kick from whisky, and pairs perfectly with the chocolate-y Oreo crust.  If you don't want to waste your time scraping the cream out of Oreos, of course you can use any chocolate wafer cookie that you like - I just think that Oreos make the best chocolate crusts!

So, what am I doing to celebrate Pi Day other than posting this pie? I'm planning to make this lemon chess pie from King Arthur Flour - it looks amazing, and I've got plenty of citrus at home! I think I'm going to change it up a bit with part lemon juice and part tangerine...should be tasty!  I'll let you guys know how it turns out in a future post.

Chocolate Cream Pie with Oreo Crust (adapted from Baked by Matt Lewis
and Renato Poliafito)

For the crust:
6 ounces Oreo cookies, with the cream scraped out (weigh after the cream is removed)
1 T sugar
6 T unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
1/2 cup sugar
3 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
5 large egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
2 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
2 tsp whiskey
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the cream topping:
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp ground vanilla (or use the seeds from whole beans, or extract)
3 T sugar

1. Make the crust.  Put the cookies and sugar in a food processor. Process until finely ground.  Pour into a bowl, and stir in the butter until fully incorporated.  Pour into a 9-inch pie plate and press the crumbs onto the bottom and up the sides.  Place in the freezer while you prepare the filling.
2. Make the filling.  In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and cornstarch.  Whisk in the egg yolks.  Slowly pour in the milk and cream, whisking constantly.
3. Place the saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.  Once the mixture comes to a boil, boil for 30 seconds - don't stop whisking, but be careful, and the filling may splatter. Remove from the heat.
4. Immediately add the chocolates, whiskey, and vanilla.  Whisk until the chocolate is fully melted.
5. Place a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl, and pour the filling through it to get rid of any lumps.  Cover with a piece of plastic wrap, with the plastic touching the top of the filling, to prevent a
skin from forming.  Let sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to cool.
6. Remove the crust from the freezer and pour in the filling.  Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the top of the pie, with the plastic touching the top of the filling, to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 4 hours.
7. Prepare the topping.  Whisk together the cream and vanilla paste. Then beat with an electric mixer for about 1 minute.  Sprinkle the sugar over the cream, and continue to beat until soft peaks form.
8. Spread the topping over the pie, and serve.

Bring your favorite chocolate dessert to Roxana’s Home Baking#ChocolateParty and win amazing prizes from OXOCalphalonKeurigImperial SugarHoney Ridge Farms and Land O Lakes® Butter!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sugar and Spice Pear Muffins

I made these tasty muffins for the Sunday morning cafe at my church. I was a big fan of how they turned out - lightly sweet, but not so sweet that you feel like you're eating dessert.  Using half whole wheat flour makes the muffins feel heartier but not overly heavy or dense.  And, I loved the chunks of pear scattered throughout the muffins.  I tend to turn to apples for my winter fruit baking needs, and pears are a great change of pace.  Don't shy away from the spices in this recipe - it seems like a lot, but at least to my taste, these are perfectly spiced without being over-the-top.  You could also add minced crystallized ginger if you like (I'm not a big fan of it, so I skipped it).

Sugar and Spice Pear Muffins (adapted from The Kitchn, original recipe here)
Makes about 2 dozen

2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
4 tsp baking powder
4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup milk
4 medium pears, diced small (no need to peel)
Cinnamon and sugar, to top

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Spray the top of your muffin tin with non-stick coating and place muffin cups in all the wells.  (You can do this in multiple muffin tins and bake two at once, or use the same muffin tin and refill after each batch - either works fine.)
2. Add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on high for about 30 seconds, until light.  Add both sugars and cream one minute more, until light and fluffy. Mix the eggs in one at a time, until fully incorporated (about 30 seconds per egg).  Beat in the vanilla.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and nutmeg.
4. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the flour mixture and milk in alternating additions (flour-milk-flour-milk-flour).  You may want to hold a towel over the top of your mixing bowl if you don't have a cover to avoid flour flying everywhere!  Be careful not to overmix - it's ok if some of the flour isn't totally incorporated.
5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and then dump in the pears.  Fold to combine, until the pears are relatively evenly distributed throughout the batter.
6. Scoop batter into the muffin cups, filling them a little above the rim of each cup.  Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon and sugar (I used a Trader Joe's cinnamon-sugar grinder).
7. Place the muffin tin(s) in the oven and immediately turn down to 400 degrees.  Bake about 20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mexican Potato Soup

This soup is like a baked potato in a bowl, but with Mexican flavors.  In other words - amazing!  Canned green chiles add the perfect amount of heat, and diced bell peppers are a pop of color to keep your bowl from being a boring beige.  The potatoes puree into a silky texture along with cream and sour cream - not gloppy at all, as potato soups can sometimes be.  I used light sour cream here, and you can likely get away with using half-and-half or milk in place of the cream if you want to lighten up the soup a bit (admittedly, it is very rich).  Top the soup with creamy avocado for a little more color and a cool contrast to the hot soup.

A note on leftovers - I was worried this soup would not reheat well, but it actually heated up beautifully and didn't get too thick or gummy - I think the cream helped a lot with this.  Just heat over a gentle flame and add a bit more liquid if it looks like it needs it.

Mexican Potato Soup (adapted from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest)
Serves 4-6

4 medium (3-inch diameter) potatoes (Yukon Gold work well)
3 cups water
1 T olive oil
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
4-ounce can fire-roasted diced green chiles (I used Trader Joe's brand)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cream
3/4 cup sour cream
1 large avocado, diced

1. Scrub the potatoes and cut them into chunks.  Bring the water to a boil, add 1 tsp salt, and add the potatoes.  Cook until tender, about 20 minutes.  Set aside (don't dump the water).
2. Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion, and saute until softened and starting to brown.  Add the bell pepper, chiles, cumin, basil, and garlic.  Add a few grinds of black pepper.  Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the vegetables are all tender, 8-10 minutes.  Remove from heat.
3. Puree the potatoes in their cooking water - an immersion blender is easiest, but a regular blender or food processor will work as well.  Add the puree to the pot of vegetables and stir to combine.  Add the cream and sour cream and stir vigorously to combine.
4. Gently heat the soup until hot, stirring occasionally.  Taste and adjust for seasoning.  Serve hot, topped with diced avocado.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Moroccan Vegetable Soup

I found this recipe in Martha Stewart Living, and knew I wanted to give it a try since I love Israeli couscous.  If you've never tried it, you should definitely pick up a box - it takes longer to cook than normal couscous, but the bigger spheres have a fantastic texture.  Here, they're combined with a super spicy broth, vegetables, and chickpeas. The original recipe called for rutabagas, and carrots, but I used beets and butternut squash in place of the rutabaga - this is a great recipe for using up any odds and ends of veggies that you have in the fridge.  Just be sure to use harder vegetables that can stand up to some cooking without getting mushy.

I didn't find harissa paste at the store, so instead I picked up a dry harissa spice mix.  It was good, but extremely spicy - definitely start with a little and work your way up, especially if you don't love crazy spicy foods. I did find that the spice mellowed quite a bit overnight - leftovers for lunch the next day were much more manageable!

Moroccan Vegetable Soup (adapted from Martha Stewart)
Serves 6

1-1/2 to 2 pounds hard vegetables, peeled and cubed (I used carrots, golden beets, and butternut squash)
Olive oil
1/2 cup minced shallots
Kosher salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1-1/2 T dry harissa spice mix (more or less to taste)
1/3 cup white wine
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1-1/3 cups Israeli couscous, prepared according to package directions

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the vegetables and simmer 2 minutes.  Place a colander over a large bowl, and drain the veggies, reserving the cooking water.
2. Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add enough oil to generously coat the bottom.  Add the shallots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots and softened and starting to brown. Season with salt.  Add the cumin and harissa, along with a bit more oil if it looks like it needs it.  Cook, stirring constantly, one minute.  Add the wine, and simmer thirty seconds.
3. Add the veggies, chickpeas, and six cups of the reserved cooking water.  Simmer until the vegetables are tender, 8-10 minutes.  Season with 1-1/2 tsp of the salt, or more to taste.  Add the couscous, simmer for a minute or two to make sure everything is heated through, and then serve.

    Monday, March 4, 2013

    SRC: Fifteen-Minute Dinner Rolls

    My Secret Recipe Club partner for this month was Sawsan of Chef in Disguise.  Her blog is full of incredibly tempting recipes, and I was especially drawn to the variety of bread recipes she's posted.  I bookmarked her crescent dinner rolls, her sesame bread, and her Hoska braided bread.  The recipe I ended up choosing was Sawsan's fifteen-minute dinner rolls. I've actually been searching for a quick, healthy dinner roll recipe because I'd often like to add some bread to a meal but haven't planned ahead enough to make a yeast bread.  So, this was perfect!  This recipe is great because you can whip it together in minutes, and it makes the perfect amount for a meal or two.  The rolls have a nice tight crumb and a little bit of tang from the sour cream.  I love the sesame seeds on top - they add a great toasty, nutty flavor.  These rolls are the perfect way to turn a bowl of soup into dinner!

    Another thing I love about these rolls is that they're a healthy add-on to a meal.  Next time, I might experiment with using half whole wheat flour or whole-grain corn flour to make them even healthier, but even without that they are low in fat and just about a hundred calories per roll.   Note that because these rolls are low in fat, they're definitely best right out of the oven.

    Fifteen-Minute Dinner Rolls (adapted from Chef in Disguise, original recipe here)
    Makes 5-6 rolls

    1 cup self-rising flour
    1/2 cup skim milk
    2 T light sour cream (or mayonnaise)
    1 tsp Italian herb blend (or dried herb of your choice)
    Sesame seeds, to sprinkle on top

    1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and spray 6 cups of a muffin tin with oil.
    2. Stir together the flour, milk, sour cream, and Italian herbs until a sticky dough forms.  Let rest 5 minutes, and then scoop into the muffin tins, filling them about 3/4 of the way full.
    3. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
    4. Bake about 10-15 minutes, or until nicely browned and cooked through.  Watch the rolls carefully, as they brown quickly at this high temperature.     

    Friday, March 1, 2013

    Butternut Squash Gratin with Goat Cheese and Bacon

    Here's another great butternut squash recipe that we made recently (yes, I was serious about butternut squash overload in our CSA!).  Depending on how much you serve, I think this recipe works well as a side dish or a main.  Despite having a vegetable as its main ingredient, this squash gratin is definitely not light: goat cheese, cream, pecans, and bacon make this a decadent comfort food.  I was in love - roasted squash pairs beautifully with all these ingredients, and they all bring something to the table: tangy goat cheese, crunchy pecans, smoky bacon, and of course wonderful creaminess from the cream!  I wouldn't make this every week, but it's definitely a treat worth the calories once in a while.

    Butternut Squash Gratin with Goat Cheese and Bacon (adapted from Bon Appetit)
    Serves 4 as a main, more as a side

    8 cups cubed butternut squash (about 3-1/2 pounds whole)
    2 T olive oil
    Kosher salt
    Freshly ground black pepper
    3 T butter
    3 cups sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only)
    1 T minced fresh sage
    4 slices bacon, sliced into small pieces
    Spray oil
    4 ounces crumbed goat cheese
    1 cup heavy cream
    1/2 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

    1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a large baking sheet with foil.
    2. Place the squash in a large bowl and drizzle with the oil.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Toss everything to coat the squash.  Spread out the squash in one layer on the baking sheet.  Roast until just tender and starting to brown, stirring occasionally, 30-35 minutes.
    3. While the squash is roasting, melt the butter in a heavy non-stick skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the leeks and sage, and sprinkle with salt.  Saute until tender but not browned, about 15 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl, and wipe out the skillet.  Add the bacon, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until crispy.  Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain off any excess fat.
    4. Remove the squash from the oven and turn the temperature down to 375 degrees.
    5. Spray a 2 or 2-1/4 quart baking dish with oil.  Layer in the fillings: half the leeks, half the squash, and then half the goat cheese; then repeat with the remaining ingredients.
    6. Pour the cream evenly over the vegetables.  Sprinkle with the bacon and the pecans.  Bake uncovered until heated through and bubbly, about 30 minutes.