Monday, February 21, 2011

Light Boneless Wings and Zucchini Fries

I was craving wings and fries but not only are both high fat and low flavour but neither can be properly duplicated at home without the use of a full on deep fryer (which I don't have...and not matter how much I might want one I will never get one). So instead I made a zucchini fry by breading them in some whole wheat breadcrumbs and baking. I made a quick spicy marinara sauce to dip them in.

The chicken I marinated in some franks red hot, a bunch of oregano, garlic powder, chili powder and paprika. I baked it in the oven along side the zucchini fries and when it was done I tossed it in some more franks red hot. It was just boneless, skinless breasts so it cooked in no time at all. Served it with brussel sprouts (Clutterbuck's favourite veggie).

Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pie

I borrowed this recipe from my mom. It was known as Chicken Pot Pie in my house but I added the "Vegetable" because I added so many it felt wrong to give the chicken the spotlight.

I made this on Friday night after work and was feeling a little lazy about cooking. To save time I used a frozen pie crust that I had in the freezer. I also picked up a cooked rotisserie chicken from the counter at the grocery store. I carved it up and added it all to the pie. That way the only cooking I had to do was preparing the sauce and the actual baking of the pie.

We really enjoyed this and had it for lunch on Saturday and Sunday. The rest I packed up and froze it for lunches during the week (not sure how the pastry will handle being frozen but of well).

Not all love notes are written.

Clutterbuck, became Clutterbug, which somewhere along the road was shortened to Bug.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day to All!!!

And Happy Valentines Day to my Clutterbuck! While we have agreed not to do anything for this Hallmark holiday, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge his love, support and AMAZING humour.

For those of you out in cyber-space, it should be noted that Clutterbuck does more than weigh in on the occasional dish here and there. He helps me write these posts. He's the first to help when I'm stuck on trying to describe a specific thing or can't remember the spelling of this and that.

Here's to two years! Cheers!

...ok back to food now...

Spinach Balls

Before I even made these I had requests for this recipe. Thankfully, they turned out as I imagined. This batch made about 24 golf ball size balls. I think I might make them a bit smaller next time. I made these and froze most of them in batches of 4. I plan to take them for lunch this week, but they will make fantastic appetizers or finger foods the next time I need either. I just need to figure out a dipping sauce that will go nicely with them. Here's the recipe, it definitely goes under successes in my books!
  • 2 packages of frozen spinach, thawed and drained but still moist
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 4 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 package of chicken stuffing mix (I used low sodium)
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil (I used a combo of olive oil and roasted garlic oil)
  • Salt and Pepper
I added all of the ingredients to one bowl and mixed them together.

I formed them into balls by hand and baked them in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. I then packaged them up in individual batches and froze them.

I'm not sure how I will reheat them but I'm thinking I might just thaw them overnight and then toast them for a few minutes in an oven or a toaster oven.

I've been really struggling recently with cooking. On the one hand I'm feeling bored with all the usual recipes that are in regular rotation, but on the other hand nothing new has jumped out at me and I haven't felt very adventurous. I try to cook a big batch of something on Saturday night to do double duty as lunches and dinners for the following week. These totally fit the bill and they are a great departure from the usual batch of soup, pasta or slow cooked meat casserole.

Chocolate Turtle Cookies

Would you believe these are relatively diet friendly???

Further to my "Curse of the KitchenAid Mixer Post", I've decided I need to find a way to keep up with healthy eating and still be able to bake on the regular. These cookies were quite good and only 2 points per serving/cookie. I will change up a few things next time around but let me first recap what this round contained:
  • 1 cup sifted pastry flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup margarine (not ideal for baking but a bit more diet friendly than butter)
  • 1/4 cup low fat cream cheese
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Caramel candies
  • Pecan halves
So first of all I chose the wrong caramel candies. I stood in the candy aisle for a very long time (a dangerous place for me) debating over two different types of caramel candies; Mackintosh Toffee and Kerr Caramels. I chose the Mackintosh Toffee. This was a mistake because its so hard. It did melt while baking but it just sets right back up again once it cools. The softer Kerr Caramels would have been a much better choice. I also would have chilled the batter for a lot longer than I did. It was a really sticky batter and I ended up with more on my fingers than on the cookie sheet.

I look forward to tweaking this recipe again in the near future. It definitely has potential and they seem to keep quite well. This means they make great lunch additions.

Pasta Fagioli

This was TO DIE FOR!!!! I'm not quite sure why I haven't made it before. I think its largely because I still forget that I actually like beans (which is the fagioli part for those who don't know). Yet another ingredient I would have turned my nose up at until recently.

It was love at first bite for Clutterbuck....the boy loves beans...perhaps a little too much. I used two cans of beans in this recipe. One I pureed to thicken the broth (why didn't I think of that sooner??) and the other I added whole. The rest of the ingredients were:
  • Onions and garlic, finely chopped (actually pre-chopped...what a lifesaver!)
  • Celery and carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 cans of white kidney beans
  • 1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
  • Chicken stock (or veggie if you want a completely veggie friendly meal)
  • A cup or so of water
  • A parmesan cheese rind....we eat enough of this that I have them on hand anytime I make a stock
  • Bay leaf
  • Tbsp fresh chopped basil
  • Tbsp oregano
  • Some parsley if you want....I rarely use has little to no taste and does nothing other than make a my opinion
  • Short pasta. I used Canneroni but you could use anything
I pretty much just followed the regular soup process after that. I sweated the veggies in a soup pot, added the liquids, pureed beans, spices, parmesan rind, let it all simmer for a few hours. A while before it was time to eat I added the pasta and the second can of white kidney beans, let them cook in the stock and served it hot with some grated cheese on top.

This will definitely make it into regular rotation at the Smart-Clutterbuck household.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chicken Cacciatore....Next

Made it in the slow cooker. It wasn't very good. I took a chance and added curry powder to it....mistake....just ended up making everything taste bitter and way too acidic.

I'll try again in a few months when I have blocked this attempt from memory

Lets Talk Cookies

Although the previous post’s cookie picture might look good, the actual cookies were not. There was nothing actually wrong with them, I used the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip package (well, actually we did end up tossing them after a suspected food poisoning incident between Clutterbuck and I the night I made them. However, the PC Blue Menu Chicken Pie was the prime suspect, but that’s a different story). No, these cookies turned out just fine….but they just weren’t….great. This made me start to think about all the different chocolate chip cookies I have had in my 27 years, which is A LOT! What was it about these cookies that I didn’t like and how were they different from other cookies I have liked.

To start, these cookies were very “cakey”, I prefer a chewy cookie (think grocery store bakery cookies). I also started to realize that I’ve never actually tasted any homemade cookies that were similar to the ones you buy in the bakery section at the grocery store, or another example would be Mrs. Fields cookies. Generally, I find homemade chocolate chip cookies are either thinner and crispier or puffy with a texture closer to cakes. We all try the same trick and pull them out of the oven before they are done to keep them a little soft, but that only works while they are fresh. Put them in a container for tomorrow and they are either cold undercooked cookies, or set up cakey cookies. This is not what I was going for.

So I set out to find ingredients more conducive to a chewy cookie. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Sifted pastry flour. This has a higher gluten content than all purpose flour. Bread flour is even higher but I didn’t want to buy a big thing of bread flour.
  • Melted butter. The heat of the melted butter helps the gluten to do its thing while mixing
  • Brown sugar, the darker the better. Brown sugar has molasses in it which definitely helps create a chewy cookie (or anything)
  • 2 eggs with one egg white removed. Yes, its true this is not a diet cookie, but egg whites actually dry out batter. I subbed in 2 tablespoons of milk as well to help moisten everything up
  • Chilled dough. This is key for so many reasons. The primary one is that it will prohibit your cookies melting into flat puddles on your cookie sheet, but it also gives the butter time to set back up and makes it a lot easier to roll the cookies out onto the cookie sheet
  • Check the cookies every 5 minutes. I ended up baking them for only 10 minutes and removed them only once the edges started to brown. I let them cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes and moved them to a rack to cool. They were not undercooked, but were not overly browned or dried out either
I apologize that I have no picture because these were such a screaming success. Although, Clutterbuck’s only comment about them was “these have soooo much chocolate” which completely threw me off, because for a man who can eat an entire giant Toblerone bar in one sitting, I didn’t think anything could have too much chocolate. Anyway, there were other opinions and all were positive. These were, hands down, EXACTLY what I was trying to achieve. They were chewy and yummy and stayed that way for the week that it took to devour them.

For those that are interested here was the final recipe:

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Pour the melted butter in the mixer's work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Curse of the KitchenAid Mixer

Some words of wisdom folks....if you are on a diet, or even thinking about being on a diet, DO NOT buy a KitchenAid Mixer!! There will no longer be anything standing in the way of your cravings for cookies, pasta, carrot cake....the list goes on....and on...and on....

Every recipe I browse, every ingredient I come across, every appetizing picture I see, they all get catalogued in my head as the next potential project for me and my lovely mixer.

Most recently, I was at the grocery store picking up a few random ingredients. The most important was a big bag of flour to embark on my pasta making project. I couldn't help myself from perusing the chocolate chips. There are so many different kinds now. Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, peanut butter, caramel, M&Ms, chocolate chunks. I think I remember a time where only semi-sweet chocolate chips and those bars of bakers chocolate existed in this section.

Anyway, fast forward to check out. Who do you think has a nice big bag of Chocolate Chunks tucked under their arm? That's right...yours truly. OK well it wasn't tucked under my arm, that would melt them and not in a yummy kind of way...but you get the idea.

Fresh Pasta...take 2...and 3...and 4....

Yum yum yum!!!

My first attempt at making pasta with the KitchenAid Mixer. It went OK but I'm still trying to find that perfect balance to keep the dough from being too dry. I tried two different versions both were satisfactory but not perfect.

The first was a the KitchenAid recipe. It took me two tries, the first batch went straight to the trash, it did not pass go or even collect $200. It was a crumbly mess.

4 eggs
3.5 cups of flour (sifted)
1 tablespoon of water
Pinch of salt

It produced a huge batch of dough and I used it to make Bucatini in my pasta press. I have no clue what I'm going to do with all this pasta....especially since I'm not even sold on the texture of this batch, but it seems like such a waste to throw it out. I'll probably let it sit in the fridge for a while until my emotional attachment loosens and then I'll get Clutterbuck to toss it...its much easier for everyone that way.

The second batch seemed a bit better but still didn't really meet my expectations. It was a smaller batch though so it was much easier to hand knead (well moderately easier).

2 eggs
1.5 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of water
Pinch of salt

I used this batch to make dinner (pictured above). The bolognese sauce was the true star. It was a really slow cooked ragu with only a few key ingredients:

Large tin of diced tomatoes (drained)
Onions and garlic (finely chopped)
2 stalks of celery (finely chopped)
Bay leaf, fresh basil, crushed chili peppers

Simmered for a few hours uncovered and then the fresh pasta was tossed in to the pot with the sauce to finish cooking it all.

I think my next attempt will be my own made up recipe. It will look something like this:

2 eggs
1 yolk
1.5 cups of flour
tablespoon of water (as/if needed)
pinch of salt

I'll also start with the eggs in the mixing bowl and add the flour (the above recipes were done in reverse).

I'll keep you the meantime, does anyone want some "fresh" bucatini???