Friday, January 30, 2015

Korean Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I'm a big fan of a crunchy lettuce wrap...those pork lettuce wraps at P.F. Chang's with the customized dipping sauce are one of my favorites.  These wraps take things in a Korean direction with delicious marinated chicken, sesame seeds, and crispy veggies.  They make for a light but filling dinner, and come together quickly as long as you remember to marinate the chicken the night before (it needs at least two hours).  The one tricky ingredient here is gochujang sauce, which I wasn't able to find.  The recipe recommends subbing in a mixture of Sriracha and white miso, but I also struck out on miso (shopping at Trader Joe's has it's benefits, but finding specific sauces is not one of them).  I ended up using a mixture of Sriracha and fish sauce for a funky element, and although it may not have been authentic, it was really tasty!  If you make this with the real deal, definitely let me know how it is!

Korean Chicken Lettuce Wraps (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 4

2-1/2 T lower-sodium soy sauce
2 T brown sugar
1-1/2 T dark sesame oil
1 T gochujang sauce (see above for substitutions)
1 T minced fresh garlic
A few grinds of black pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

To serve:
Cooked brown rice (or another whole grain - quinoa would be awesome)
Bibb lettuce, iceburg lettuce, or romaine lettuce leaves
Thinly sliced cucumber
Thinly sliced scallions

1. Combine the soy sauce, brown sugar, dark sesame oil, gochujang sauce, garlic, and pepper in a large Ziplock bag.  Mush together, and then transfer 2 T to a small bowl and set aside.
2. Add the chicken to the Ziplock back and seal.  Marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
3. When ready to cook, first get all your assembly items ready -- cook or heat up rice, separate lettuce leaves, and slice veggies.
4. Then, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a drizzle of oil to the pan and then add the chicken, shaking off excess marinade as you go.  Saute, about 4-6 minutes total, until cooked through.  Sprinkle in the sesame seeds and stir to combine.
5. Build your lettuce wraps! Start with a lettuce leaf, add a spoonful of brown rice, several cucumber slices, about 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture, and a sprinkle of scallions.  Top with a drizzle of the reserved marinade (it goes without saying, but do not reuse any of the marinade that touched the raw chicken -- you're using the bit you set aside before adding the chicken).  Fold over the edges of the lettuce and eat!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Snow Day Marble Cake

You may have heard about the giant blizzard we got in Boston this week! It was seriously epic.  With a travel ban in effect and a snow day from work, we definitely needed to cook up a little something sweet to enjoy when we weren't busy playing in the snow.  I picked this recipe because we already had all the ingredients at home, plus I wanted to try out a recipe from my new Christmas cookbook, Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi.  This little cake is perfect blizzard food: easy to whip up, perfectly delicious, and with a fun twist that makes it special.  If you don't have peppermint extract on hand, you could sub in any flavor that pairs with chocolate (Dorie suggests orange extract or a bit of powdered cardamom). The cake has a moist crumb and keeps well...I won't blame you if you sneak a piece for breakfast!

Snow Day Marble Cake (adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi)
Makes one loaf cake

Baking spray (or butter and flour)
2 cups flour
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
12 T room temperature butter
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
4 ounces melted dark chocolate, cooled slightly

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Stack two baking sheets (or use an insualted baking sheet), and place a loaf pan on top. Spray with baking spray or butter and flour.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes, until smooth and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each egg.  Add the milk and flour mixture on low speed, in alternating additions (flour-milk-flour-milk-flour), beating until just combined between each addition.
4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix briefly to make sure everything is well combined.
5. Transfer half the batter to another bowl.  Mix the peppermint extract into half the batter, and the melted chocolate into the other half.
6. Dollop alternating spoonfuls of the batter into the loaf pan, and then run a sharp knife through everything a few times.  Don't overmix -- you want distinct swirls.
7. Bake 80-90 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through and tenting the cake with foil if needed to prevent overbrowning.  A tester should come out clean when the cake is finished.
8. Let cool in the pan 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Bourbon-Kabocha Squash Soup with Candied Nuts and Blue Cheese

This is the perfect meal to make on a cold winter afternoon.  While each of the steps is pretty easy, they're spread out over a few hours and so you'll be happier if you're not trying to rush dinner to the table.  Those hours will be rewarded with a warm bowl of total comfort food.  Squash, onions, and garlic are roasted to get a fantastic caramelized flavor, and then simmered and pureed until silky smooth.  A splash of bourbon adds that je ne sais quoi element that keeps the soup from being overly sweet.  

This is one of those soups where the toppings are non-optional, although you could certainly play around with them.  But, I would argue the soup definitely needs a salty element to balance the sweetness of the squash and onions, as well as a crunchy element to keep the texture from feeling like baby food.  Here, the salty element is blue cheese, which adds a little bit of funky flavor and keeps things interesting. If you're not a fan, goat cheese or feta -- anything soft and salty -- would go well.  For crunch, I candied some pecans and walnuts that were hanging out in my freezer, and spiced them up with a little Aleppo chile.  I am kind of obsessed with Aleppo chile flakes, because they have great flavor in addition to being spicy.  Of course, red pepper flakes or even a pinch of cayenne would work here as well.  The nut mixture makes more than you need, but ir's also great on salads or just for snacking.

A salad or some homemade bread will make this soup a complete meal.  I made a batch of my favorite Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, using half whole wheat flour and adding a bit of olive oil for tenderness. Any of their recipes are great to pair with this soup, since the timing is similar (i.e. lots of little steps spread out over a few hours).  We're gearing up for a big blizzard in Boston, so I'm glad to have my fridge stocked with leftovers!

Bourbon-Kabocha Squash Soup with Candied Nuts and Blue Cheese (loosely adapted from Food52)
Serves 4

1 medium Kabocha squash, quartered and seeded (or sub in any winter squash you like)
1 red onion, peeled and quartered
3-4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
Olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
Chicken stock, as needed (I used about 6 cups)
2 T butter
A generous glug of bourbon (to taste)
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup lightly toasted chopped nuts (I used a mix of walnuts and pecans, but whatever you have on had will be great)
Generous pinch Aleppo chile flakes
Crumbled blue cheese, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with oil.
2. Arrange the squash quarters skin-side-down.  Place a garlic clove on each piece of squash, and arrange the onions around them.  Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast 45 minutes, until the squash is just tender and the onions and soft.
3. Let everything cool for a bit, then peel the squash, cut into chunks, and place in a large soup pot.  Add the onions, and squeeze the garlic out of its skins into the pot.  Add enough chicken stock to cover the veggies.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer for another 30-40 minutes, until the squash is completely tender.
4. Puree everything until very smooth (I used a stick blender, but a regular blender or a food processor would work as well -- just be very careful blending the hot liquid!).  Add the butter, along with a generous pinch of salt, and stir to melt the butter.
5. Add a generous pour of bourbon (to taste), and let simmer for another 30 minutes or so.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Depending on how thick you like your soup, you can add additional chicken stock or simmer the soup a bit longer.
6. Meanwhile, prepare the candied nuts.  Melt the sugar in a skillet and let caramelize, without stirring -- swirl the pan as needed to prevent the sugar from burning.  When the sugar is melted and golden, add the nuts and chile flakes, and stir to combine.  Tip out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and arrange in a single layer.  Sprinkle with salt and let cool.  When cool, chop into small chunks.
7. Serve the soup topped with the walnuts and crumbled blue cheese.

Note: This soup would be very easy to make vegetarian -- just replace the chicken stock with veggie stock.  For a vegan version, skip the blue cheese and add an extra sprinkle of sea salt on top.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Whole Wheat Herby Rolls

This is one of those serendipity recipes.  My mom and I were all set to make nutella swirl buns when we abruptly decided that a savory roll would go better with the meal. A few tweaks later, and these whole wheat herby rolls were born.  These yeasted rolls look super fancy, but they are actually quick and easy to make with a dough that rises in very little time and rolls out like a dream.  Get creative wih your fillings -- we used fresh parsley and sauteed onions simply becaues that's what we had on hand, but I think pretty much any fresh herb you have on hand would be fantastic, as would a little sauteed garlic, some smoked paprika, or a sprinkle of Parmesan.  Go wild!

Whole Wheat Herby Rolls (adapted quite liberally from these Nutella Swirl Buns)
Makes 12 buns

For the dough:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour (more as needed), divided
1 T insant yeast
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick melted butter
1 cup warm milk
2 T brown sugar

For the filling:
2 T butter
1 small onion, minced
Olive oil
1/4 cup (or more) minced fresh herbs (I used parsley, but use whatever you like or have on hand)

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour along with 1 cup of the all purpose flour.  Whisk in the yeast.
2. In another bowl, whisk together the salt, buttter, milk, and brown sugar.  Add to the flour mixture, and stir together. Add more flour 1/4 cup at a time until a smooth, slightly sticky dough forms.  Knead for a few minutes.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 20 minutes in a warm place.
3. Turn out the dough onto a clean, lightly floured surface.  Roll into a large rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick.
4. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and add the onion.  Saute until soft.  Spread evenly over the dough, and then drizzle everything with a little olive oil.  Sprinkle with fresh herbs.
5. Working from the long side of the dough, roll up the rectangle.  Cut into 12 equal pieces.
6. Spray a muffin tin with oil.  Place each piece of dough, swirl-side-up, into one of the wells of the muffin pan.  Cover and let rise 20 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  When the oven has preheated and the dough has risen, bake 12-14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.  The rolls should be golden brown but not burnt.  Let cool in the pan for a few minutes before turning out the rolls and serving.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Mexican Chicken Salad

Another recipe from our January healthy eating kick, this one from the lovely Heather Pierce Giannone.  I am a huge fan of Chipotle, and this salad is sort of a healthier version of a burrito bowl, with salad greens in place of rice.  In fact, I may have cheated and gotten a little container of Chipotle guacamole to top the salad, because I forgot to add an avocado to my shopping list!  The base of the salad is mixed greens dressed in a bold lime vinaigrette -- super tart and super flavorful.  On top goes a bean-corn salsa.  You could absolutely add a jalapeno or some cayenne to the mix if you'd like a spicier dish.  Then comes broiled chicken breast.  This technique from Heather is genius and is definitely going to be my go-to method for cooking chicken in the future.  It's more hands-off than sauteeing and the chicken doesn't dry out, and it's quicker than poaching (plus you get the yummy browned bits).  Finally, top off the salad with a little guacamole (cheat with Chipotle like me if you must!) or some sliced avocado to add a creamy, rich element to the salad.  This was great for dinner, and leftovers were also fantastic the next day for lunch.  So good we're having it again this week, which is saying a lot because I rarely repeat dishes!

Mexican Chicken Salad (adapted from Heather Pierce Giannone)
Serves 3-4

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to about 1/2 inch
Salt and pepper
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup frozen corn, thawed and rinsed
Olive oil
Juice of one lime
1 green onion, thinly sliced
Generous pinch of ground cumin

For the dressing:
1/4 cup plus 2 T olive oil
2 T Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
Juice of 2 limes
Pinch of salt

To serve:
1 bag mixed salad greens (a mix with arugula is nice)
Guacamole or sliced avocado, to serve

1. Preheat the broiler and line a baking sheet with foil.  Place the chicken on the baking sheet season with salt and pepper.  Broil on each side for 3-5 minutes, until nicely browned and cooked through.  Transfer to a cutting board and let rest about 5 minutes, tented with foil.  Then slice into bite-sized pieces.
2. Meanwhile, combine the beans and corn with a generous drizzle of olive oil, the lime juice, the green onion, and a generous pinch of cumin.  Season with salt.  Stir well, and then taste and adjust seasonings.  Set aside.
3. Make the dressing.  Combine the olive oil, Dijon, honey, lime juice, and salt in a jar with a tightly fitting lid.  Screw on the lid, and shake well to combine.
4. To serve, toss a few big handfuls of salad greens with about half the dressing, adding more as desired.  Divide among plates, and then top with the chicken and the bean-corn salad.  Finally, top with a small scoop of guacamole or a few slices of avocado.  If you don't have avocado on hand, sour cream would also be a good choice to add a bit of richness.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Gluten Free Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

I spent Christmas with my fiance's family this year, and it was such a fun time! Among many other new experiences, I took my first crack at baking gluten free bread.  My future mother-in-law is gluten free, so I wanted to try a bread recipe that she could eat.  Since I'm semi-obsessed with the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day folks, I figured I'd give their gluten free recipe a try.  The gluten free version does take a stand mixer plus a few more steps (such as creating your own flour blend), but I was really happy with the results! Although it didn't have quite the texture of a standard loaf, the flavor was great and the texture didn't feel too off.  And, everyone at the table, gluten-free or not, really enjoyed the bread and asked for seconds! That's definitely a win in my book.

Gluten Free Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (adapted from Artisan Bread in 5)

For the gluten free flour mixture:
24 ounces white rice flour (1 bag of Bob's Red Mill)
10.67 ounces sorghum flour
5.33 ounces tapioca flour
5.33 ounces potato starch (not flour)
.93 ounces xantham gum

For the bread (two small loaves, easily multiplied)
1 pound, 1.5 ounces gluten free flour mixture
1/2 T Red Star quick rise yeast
1/2 T kosher salt
1 T sugar or honey
2 egg white plus enough warm water to equal 1-3/4 cups plus 2 T

1. Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Blend for a few seconds.
2. With the mixer on low, add the sugar, egg whites, and water.  Turn to medium high and blend 1 minute.
3. Transfer to a large bowl, cover with plastic, and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.
4. Lay out a piece of parchment on a large baking sheet, and dust with gluten free flour mixture.  Divide the dough into two pieces, shape each into a ball, and place on the parchment. Using wet fingers, smooth the surface of the dough. Cover loosely with plastic and let rise 30 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place a large broiler tray or other tray on the bottom rack.
6. Dust the dough with flour and slash with a serrated knife.
7. Place the loaves in the oven, and pour 1 cup water into the broiler tray to create steam.
8. Bake 45 minutes, until nicely browned.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rum-Glazed Cranberry Scones

This is more of a holiday scone, but I won't blame you if you make them in January!  This would be a great way to use up any leftover cranberries lingering in your freezer.  The dough comes together easily, with a food processor doing most of the the work.  The scones bake up super-moist, and I love the combination of super-tart cranberries with fruity orange zest.  However, what really makes these scones sing is the rum glaze.  I was worried it would be too intense when I tasted it on its own, as it's very sweet and very boozy.  But, once it's drizzled over the scones, the glaze is absolutely perfect!  I glazed mine a little too soon, when the scones were still warm, so it melted into them a bit.  If you can be patient and wait for the scones to cool, you'll get a slightly prettier result.  But either way, these scones are a really delicious way to start your day!  They don't keep too well, so I'd plan to eat them within a couple of days.

Rum-Glazed Cranberry Scones (adapted from The Kitchn)
Makes about 12 scones, depending on how large you cut them

1-1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
Zest of one orange
1-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
12 T chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup milk

For the glaze:
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 T dark rum
2 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment or foil.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the cranberries, brown sugar, and orange zest until lightly chopped.  Scrape into a large bowl.
3. In the food processor (no need to rinse), combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pulse a few times, and then add the butter.  Pulse until the mixture looks like crumbs with a few larger pieces of butter.
4. Add the flour-butter mixture to the cranberries in the large bowl, and mix with a rubber spatula.  Add the milk, and stir until the dough just comes together (you may need to use your hands, but be careful not to over-mix the dough).
5. Cover your workspace with a piece of parchment, and dump the dough onto it.  Pat into a thick circle, and cut into wedges -- I made 12, but of course you can make your scones larger or smaller.
6. Bake 20-25 minutes, until browned.
7. Make the glaze. Whisk the powdered sugar, rum, and vanilla together until smooth.  Let the scones cool slightly, and then drizzle with the glaze.  Let sit until the surface of the glaze dries, and then serve.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Fish-in-a-Packet with Butternut Squash Compote

Continuing our week of healthy eating is this fantastic fish-in-a-packet recipe, also from Bon Appetit's Food Lover's Cleanse.  Mild white fish (we used tilapia) is paired with a crazy-good butternut squash compote.  I was actually pretty apprehensive about how these flavors would marry.  The squash is cooked down with raisins, dates, and warm spices, which does not scream "fish" to me.  But, once everything came together, it was really good! I love unique flavor combinations, and this is nothing I would ever have thought of myself, so I'm really happy to have discovered it.  According to Bon Appetit, the compote can also go sweet in breakfast porridge, so I'm excited to try that with the leftovers.  I think it would also be great with thinly sliced steak.  Ahhh, the possibilities!

The original recipe calls for lots of fresh thyme sprigs, which I'm sure would be amazing.  I used dried, and was very happy with the results.  So, if you can't find fresh or want to save some pennies, I think this is a good way to go.  If you want to make this on a weeknight, I recommend cooking the compote ahead.  It's easy to make -- a little chopping plus the occasional stir while it's on the stove -- but since it has to be fully cooked before the fish can go in the oven, it would drag out the dinner prep.  I made the compote alongside dinner the previous night and stashed it in the fridge.  It heated up well in the oven with the fish, no problems.

Serve a simple salad on the side -- something light and green with a tart dressing.   Mine is full of carrots, beets, and a little feta cheese.

Fish-in-a-Packet with Butternut Squash Compote (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Servings are flexible.  The butternut squash compote makes enough for 4-5 pieces of fish, but leftovers are great on oatmeal/pancakes or another protein like chicken (it can go sweet or savory)

For the compote:
2 cups cubed butternut squash (about 1/2-inch cubes)
1/2 cup golden raisins
4 dates, pitted and chopped
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Generous pinch ground cardamom
1/2 tsp salt

For the fish:
1 fillet mild white fish, such as tilapia, per serving
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Dried or fresh thyme

1. Make the compote. Combine all of the compote ingredients in a large saucepan with 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 8-10 minutes. Uncover, and cook, stirring often, until the squash is tender and glossy and the liquid is almost completely absorbed, 8-10 minutes more. Use immediately, or store in the fridge until ready to prepare the fish.
2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  For each packet you are making, lay out a large piece of foil.  Scoop a heaping 1/4 cup of the compote into the center of the foil.  Place a fish fillet on top, and then season generously with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with olive oil, and top with either a sprig of fresh thyme or a sprinkle of dried thyme.
3. Fold the edges of the packet over and pinch to seal so that the fish is completely enclosed.  Leave a little air inside for steam to expand.  Repeat for each serving you are preparing.
4. Place the packets on a heavy baking sheet.  Pop in the oven for about 15 minutes (longer if using very thick fillets).
5. Remove from the oven and very carefully open the packets.  Transfer to a plate and serve.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Lemongrass Chicken with Green Mango-Kale Salad

New year, new recipes! This week, we are trying out some recipes from the Bon Appetit Food Lover's Cleanse, as well as some other healthy recipes to reset a bit after lots of holiday indulgence.  Last night, we made delicious lemongrass chicken thighs alongside a super colorful kale salad and brown rice.  The chicken is very easy, especially if you purchase the lemongrass and ginger pre-pureed in tubes at the supermarket.  It's a little more expensive, but I love this shortcut because it encourages me to use these ingredients way more often (and there's no waste from leftovers as the purees keep in the fridge pretty much indefinitely).  After a quick soak in the marinade, the chicken is roasted and broiled until nicely browned. I love this method of making chicken thighs, as they end up full of flavor and don't dry out.

As good as the chicken was, I'd say the kale salad is the star of this plate.  Lacinato kale is ideal for this dish as it wilts down more easily, but we could only find curly kale at the market and it worked just fine -- it just takes a bit more muscle to break it down in the "massaging" step.  Green mango goes really well with the kale, although ripe mango would be great too.  Shredded carrot adds even more color and toasted cashews add a bit of crunch.  Yum! The salad is even better the next day, so don't be afraid of leftovers.

Lemongrass Chicken (adapted from Bon Appetit)

4 T lemongrass puree
1 T ginger puree
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or more -- there is plenty of marinade)

1. Whisk together the lemongrass and ginger purees, the shallot, the salt, the turmeric, and the coconut milk.  Add the chicken to the marinade and chill at least 1 hour (up to 1 day).
2.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Shake excess marinade off the chicken and arrange in a single layer on a foil-lined, oiled baking sheet. Roast 15 minutes.
3. Flip the chicken, turn on the broiler, and cook until golden brown, 2-4 minutes. Keep a close eye to make sure the chicken does not burn! Serve with kale salad (recipe below) and brown rice.

Kale Salad with Mango (adapted from Heather Pierce and Erin Stutland)

1 large bunch of kale or 2 smaller bunches of kale
4 T olive oil, divided
Sprinkle of salt
1 carrot
1 green mango, diced very small
1/2 cup toasted cashew pieces
1 lemon
1 T Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey

 1. Rinse the kale and pat dry. Tear off teh stems, and then tear or cut into small pieces. Add to a large bowl along with 1 T of the oil and the salt, and massage until tender (2-3 minutes). Curly kale will take more work, while lacinato kale will wilt down more quickly
2. Peel the carrot and grate into the salad. Add the diced mango and toasted cashews.
3. In a small jar, combine the remaining 3 T olive oil, zest and juice of the lemon, the olive oil, and the honey. Screw the lid on tightly and shake to combine.
4. Toss the dressing with the salad.