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Monday, April 29, 2013

Fennel, Sunchoke and Apple Salad

In case you don't know, Sunchoke is a fairly new name for a Jerusalem Artichoke which is a misleading term. The vegetable is not from Jerusalem nor really an artichoke. It is, however, related to the sunflower and is indigenous to North America. It is the tuber of a plant that looks like a sunflower with a much smaller bloom. This tuber grows all summer and is best harvested after a few freezes. Here in New Mexico, it can stay in the ground nearly all winter and once harvested can hang out in the refrigerator for months. When I first bought some from my local farmer's market, I was unaware of the sunchokes long storage potential so when I found one in my fridge several weeks later, I threw it into my vermicompost pit. Some months later, I noticed what I then considered an undomesticated sunflower growing near the pit. The next spring (a year after I'd tossed it) we decided to empty the compost pit and were surprised to discover we'd been growing sunchokes. We harvest a 5 gallon bucket full! I'd guess most Americans are unfamiliar with this American food and I'm surprised at how few of us grow them. In my garden, especially next to the compost, they grow unusually well.

Sunchokes can be eaten raw, roasted, sauteed, in soups, stews and as a side dish. They are a great substitute for a cucumber in a winter salad. Raw they have a nutty flavor and are crisp but not juicy. I wouldn't waste time peeling them, just give them a good scrub. Sunchokes oxidize quickly so either get it into the salad dressing immediately, or put it in water with a little lemon juice or vinegar.

These are the largest  sunchokes we've harvested.


Fennel, Sunchoke, and Apple Salad

Source: based on a recipe from Peter Berley, author of The Flexitarian Table
Serves 6-8

For the dressing:

1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
2 T rice vinegar
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T chopped fresh chives
2 T chopped fennel fronds
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a bowl, whisk together to make a smooth vinaigrette.

For the salad:

8 radishes, trimmed and very thinly sliced
10-12 oz sunchokes, scrubbed and very thinly sliced
2 gala or fuji apples, cored and very thinly sliced
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, and very thinly sliced

As you slice these, place in the bowl. Toss well, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day. Taste to check seasoning before serving.

Crispy Tortilla Eggs with Avocado and Lime

This can be served for any meal of the day.

Crispy Tortilla Eggs with Avocado and Lime

Adapted from a recipe published in The Washington Post which referred to the book How to Eat Supper,  by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift, which apparently includes this recipe.

Serves 4

4 6-inch stale corn tortillas, stacked and cut into 1/2-inch wide strips
1/4 onion, coarsely chopped
5-6 oz. Monterey jack cheese, or queso fresco, crumbled or grated
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 large lime, cut in half
6 large eggs
3 T vegetable oil, plus more as needed
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 c salsa of your choice
1/4 c crema or sour cream, as a garnish

Crack the eggs into a bowl and lightly beat them.

Have ready a plate lined with paper towels next to the stove. Heat the oil in a large12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Working in 2 batches, add half of the tortilla strips and cook for about 1 minute without moving them around until they begin to crisp. Use tongs to turn them over and cook for another minute. Don't let them cook too long since you'll be cooking them more later. Transfer them to paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining half of tortilla strips, adding oil if needed.

When the second batch of tortilla strips is done, return the first batch to the pan. Turn the heat to medium and add the chopped onion and cook for about 2 minutes until the onion has softened and the strips look nicely browned. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and spoon off any extra fat, reserving about one tablespoon in the pan.

Return the pan to the stove top. Move most of the strips to the edges of the pan, leaving about 3 inches clear in the center. Add most of the eggs to the center but drizzle some over the strips. Let cook for 1-2 minutes, allowing the eggs to set, and then gently pull them apart, letting any uncooked egg reach the surface of the pan.

Once the eggs are firmly set, turn them gently in large pieces to finish cooking.

Serve immediately with the salsa, cheese, slices of avocado, a squeeze of lime and a drizzle of crema or sour cream.

Note from Colette: You can add to this basic recipe to spice it up. I like to add chopped green chile to the eggs and top with chopped cilantro and, although I haven't tried it, I think it would be good with some left-over chorizo sausage mixed in.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Slow Cooker Broccoli Chicken Divan

This recipe is fussy, as slow cooker recipes go. It doesn't really save time, but it does allow for the bulk of preparation to be done several hours ahead of dinner, leaving the cook free for socializing or side dish preparation closer to mealtime. And did I mention how delicious it is?


Slow Cooker Broccoli Chicken Divan 

Source: Slow Cooker Revolution from America's Test Kitchen

3 T vegetable oil
2 onions, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 T minced fresh thyme or 1 t dried
3 T all-purpose flour
1 c low-sodium chicken broth
½ c heavy cream
1 teas dry mustard
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
salt and pepper
2 c instant rice
1 c shredded cheddar cheese (4 oz)
½ c grated Parmesan cheese (1 oz)
12 oz broccoli florets, cut into 1-inch pieces (4 ½ c)
1 recipe Toasted Bread-Crumb Topping (see below)

1. Heat 2 T oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add onions, garlic, and thyme and cook until onions are softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in broth, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps; transfer to slow cooker.

2. Stir heavy cream and mustard into slow cooker.  Season chicken with salt and pepper, add to slow cooker, and coat evenly with sauce.  Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 4 to 6 hours on low.

3. Break up chicken into bite-size pieces with wooden spoon.  Stir in rice, cheddar, Parmesan, and 1 teas salt, cover, and cook on high until rice is tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Microwave broccoli with remaining T oil in bowl, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes.  Stir softened broccoli into casserole and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with Toasted Bread-Crumb Topping and serve.

Toasted Bread-Crumb Topping
Process 2 slices high-quality white sandwich bread, torn into pieces, to coarse crumbs in food processor, about 10 pulses.  Melt 2 T butter in 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add bread crumbs and toast, stirring often, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer bread crumbs to bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Makes about 1 c.

Notes from Betsy: I usually skip the bread crumbs. Also, I've used bone-in skinless chicken thighs instead of boneless. If you do this, just remove the chicken from the crockpot in step 3 and discard the bones before replacing the chicken in the pot.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Spring Vegetable Risotto

I didn't discover this Italian comfort food until about 10 years ago and I'm sorry I didn't become acquainted sooner.  There are numerous variations and I haven't run into a variety I haven't liked. This version is particularly nice at this time of year.


Spring Vegetable Risotto

Source:  Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Serves 4-5

To make this dish vegetarian, replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth.  Onions can be substituted for the leeks but use 1 roughly chopped medium onion (1 cup) as a substitute for the leek greens in the broth and 2 minced medium onions (2 cups) in the risotto. At the end of cooking, you may have up to a cup of broth left over.

For the Gremolata:

2 T minced fresh parsley leaves, stems reserved
2 T minced fresh mint leaves, stems reserved
1/2 teas finely grated zest from 1 lemon

Combine ingredients in small bowl and set aside.

For the Risotto:

1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off and reserved, spears cut on bias into 1/2-inch thick pieces
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts halved lengthwise, washed, and sliced thin (about 4 cups), and
2 cups roughly chopped leek greens, reserved
4 c low-sodium chicken broth
3 c water
5 T unsalted butter
Salt and ground black pepper
1/2 c frozen peas
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teas)
1 1/2 c Arborio rice
1 c dry white wine
1 1/2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup), plus extra for serving
2 teas juice from 1 lemon

Chop tough asparagus ends and leek greens into rough 1/2-inch pieces. Bring chopped vegetables, reserved parsley and mint stems, broth, and water to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Strain broth through fine-mesh strainer into medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Return strained broth to saucepan; cover and set over low heat to keep broth warm.

Heat 1 T butter in large Dutch oven over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add asparagus spears,  a pinch of salt, and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Add peas and continue to cook 1 minute. Transfer vegetables to plate and set aside.

Melt 3 T butter in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add leeks, garlic, 1/2 teas salt, and 1/2 teas pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are translucent around edges, about 3 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring frequently, until fully absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes.

When wine is fully absorbed, add 3 cups hot broth to rice. Simmer, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and bottom of pan is almost dry, about 12 minutes.

Stir in about 1/2 cup hot broth and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 3 minutes; repeat with additional broth 3 or 4 times until rice is al dente. Off heat, stir in remaining tablespoon butter, Parmesan, and lemon juice; gently fold in asparagus and peas. If desired, add up to 1/4 cup additional hot broth to loosen texture of risotto. Serve immediately, sprinkling each serving with gremolata and passing Parmesan separately.

Notes from Colette:

I recommend that you use Parmigiano Reggiano if you can swing it. Using the stuff in the can would seriously compromise the flavor.


An old family favorite even though I'm not certain it's authentically Mexican: .



2 pounds beef chuck, cut in 1-2 inch pieces
1 1/2 c water
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T chili powder
1 T vinegar
2 teas dried oregano, crushed
1 teas salt
1 teas ground cumin
1/8 teas pepper
2-3 green onions, sliced
1/2-3/4 c shredded cheddar or jack cheese
approximately ten 10-inch flour tortillas
guacamole and/or sour cream

In a large saucepan or a Dutch oven combine meat, water, garlic, chili powder, vinegar, oregano, salt, cumin, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover; reduce heat and simmer 2-3 hours or until meat is very tender. Uncover and cook at medium high for about 15 minutes or until water has almost evaporated. Watch close­ly and stir near end of cooking time so meat doesn’t stick or burn. Remove from heat. Using 2 forks, shred meat.  Add the cheese as well as the green onions (or substitute 1/3 c minced yellow onion).

Heat flour tortillas in microwave to soften.  Spoon about 1/4 cup meat mixture onto each tortilla, near one edge. Fold edge nearest filling up and over filling just till mixture is covered. Fold in the two sides envelope fashion, then roll up. Fasten with wooden pick, if needed.

In heavy skillet or saucepan fry filled tortillas in 1/2 inch hot fat about 1 minute on each side or till golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Keep warm in oven (at 200F) while frying remaining chimichangas. These can also be baked on a cookie sheet at 350F for 20-30 minutes until browned. Garnish with lettuce, guacamole and/or sour cream.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cochinita Pibil (Slow Cooked Achioto Pork)

This recipe hails from a great book, Mexican Everyday, which is full of recipes so streamlined they can easily be fit into busy days. Conchinita Pibil is a dish from the Yucatan and to be truly authentic, it would need to be a whole pig, cooked in a pit in the ground. Using the banana leaves around a pork roast in a slow cooker makes it something American cooks are more likely to do, at least with some frequency. This pork never fails to please; it is highly flavorful without being spicy (hot). Everyone I've ever served it to can't get enough of it. The lovely aroma will fill your kitchen all the while it cooks which is an added pleasure.


Cochinita Pibil (Slow Cooked Achioto Pork)

Adapted from a recipe by Rick Bayless
Serves 6-8


One available brand.

Achiote paste, or seasoning can be found in any Mexican market, usually in a small rectangular box. You can also make your own if you can't find it although you'll have to have annato seeds on hand, also available at the Mexican market. (Pre-mixed achiote paste is more convenient but if you buy a jar of annato seeds it will last nearly indefinitely and it might save you a trip to the store. As a note of interest, you've likely eaten annato since it is often used as a safe, red or orange food colorant.) You'll also need a small spice grinder, (I use a coffee grinder I picked up at a garage sale) or a blender.  See the recipe below.

Banana leaves can be found in  Mexican or Asian market, often frozen rather than fresh, at least here in western USA, but frozen is just as easy to use. Although this recipe can be made without them, I highly advise you to seek them out for they add a subtle but wonderful flavor.

I suppose technically it isn't necessary to use a bone-in roast but you will lose flavor. The pork will cook so long you will not have to worry about slicing around the bone, so there is little reason to skip it. 

One half 3.5-oz package of achiote seasoning (paste)
3/4 c fresh lime juice (bottled juice will inhibit pickling), divided
one half 1-pound package banana leaves
a 3-pound bone-in pork shoulder roast
1 large white onion, sliced about 1/4 in thick
1 large red onion, thinly sliced

Stir 1/4 c lime juice and 1/2 teas salt into a medium bowl. Slice the red onion thinly from pole to pole and place in bowl. Stir well. Set aside on counter and from time to time as the pork cooks give the onions a quick stir. They'll turn fuchsia in color and soften into pickles.

Place the achiote seasoning into a small bowl. Pour in 1/2 c lime juice and 1 1/2-2 teas salt, then use the back of a spoon to smash the paste into the lime juice until it is a smooth marinade (I've left a lump or two when I'm in a rush).

If you use banana leaves line your slow cooker with one leaf along the sides and bottom of the insert. The best way is to lay one 2-ft section along the length and then another section across, pushing them down into the bottom of the insert. Place a handful of the white onion slices on the banana leaves. Lay in the pork roast and pour the marinade over the top. Around the sides pour 1/2 c water. Scatter the remaining white onion slices on top of the roast. Fold the banana leaf flaps over the top of the roast. If the top isn't covered, take  another smaller section of leaf and lay it on top, tucking the edges into the slow cooker.

Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 6-7 hours until  the meat is falling off the bone.

When the pork is done, use tongs to pull the meat out of the slow cooker into a serving dish, discarding the bone. It will naturally break up so you won't really need to do additional shredding. Cover and keep warm. Skim any excess fat off the top of the brothy marinade in the slow cooker and decant it into a shallow sauce pan and reduce the liquid by boiling it until it is more like a gravy than a broth. Taste this sauce and add salt if needed.

Place on serving plates; top with some of the sauce and the pickled onions. Serve with hot tortillas and a roasted chile salsa if you like. A good rice such as Moros y Cristianos (white rice with black beans) is a good side dish for this meal. For a small group, I like to serve this with fried plantains, but it complicates last minute preparations. Tasty, though, for sure.

Homemade Achiote Paste:

also from Rick Bayless

2 T annato seeds
2 teas allspice
1 teas black peppercorns
1 1/2 teas dried oregano, preferably Mexican (also available in a Mexican market)
3 T cider vinegar
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 generous teas salt
Water as needed

In the spice grinder, pulverize the annato as finely as possible and dump into a small bowl. Pulverize the allspice and peppercorns together along with the oregano and add to the annato. Mince the garlic and add to the mixture along with the salt. Add the vinegar and stir. It won't really hold together so add a tablespoon or so of water until the mixture is a thick paste. Use the entire mixture for this recipe; however, if you are using it for another application and have leftovers, they may be refrigerated in the fridge for several months, according to the book Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen.

Whole Grain Hot Cereal


I developed a strong aversion to oatmeal "mush" that was served to me as a young child, so strong that I didn't try hot oatmeal for breakfast for decades. In spite of enjoying oatmeal in other applications (such as a salted oatmeal cookie) it took an introduction to steel-cut oats to help me overcome my dislike. As I've tried to include more whole grains in my diet, I've tried variations and the following is one of my favorites. Check out the link for multiple ideas for gussying-up hot cereal.


Whole Grain Hot Cereal

Adapted from a recipe by cookbook author Lisa Yockelson, published in The Washington Post, called Hot Cereal Merry-Go-Round:
Serves 5

4-5 c water, divided
1/4-1/3 c maple syrup, to taste, or other sweetener such as brown sugar or agave syrup 
1/2 teas salt
2 teas cinnamon or 1 teas ground cardamom (Tom gave me and Betsy a spekulaas spice mix that is great here, too), optional
1/2 c old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 c rolled wheat flakes
1/2 c rolled spelt flakes
1/3 c miller's bran (also know as unprocessed wheat bran)
1/4 c brown rice farina (also known as brown rice grits or creamy rice cereal
3 T golden flaxseed meal (I've used brown)
3/4 cup dried apples 
3 large dates (such as Mejdool), pitted and chopped
2-3 teas vanilla, optional
1/2 chopped toasted nuts, any kind

Bring 3 1/2 c water to boil in a large saucepan. Add maple syrup, spice, and salt, stirring well. Sprinkle the grains and flaxseed meal into the boiling water, making sure all ingredients are mixed in well. (The original recipe suggests adding each grain separately which certainly is a good technique but when I just dump in the "mix" everything stirs in satisfactorily.)

Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then stir in 1/3 c water, adjusting the heat so the mixture bubbles gently. At this time I usually add the dates and apples as well.  Repeat  in 5 minutes with another 1/3 c water and then another 1/3 c water, letting the cereal cook 5 minutes between additions. (I usually find an additional 1/3 c water necessary or it is too thick.)

Remove from the heat and add vanilla to taste. Divide into bowls, top with toasted nuts and milk or cream and serve.

Notes from Colette:

Some of these ingredients will take some hunting, but it is worth it and once you've found them you can buy them in quantities and have them ready at hand. Here's a little shopping advice:

Almost all of the grains can be found in Whole Foods or other stores with bulk sections, such as Winco. I have substituted oat bran for miller's bran. Brown rice farina can be hard to find under that name, but look at the ingredient list on a box of hot rice cereal and it may say brown rice grits--that's the stuff. I've used Bob's Red Mill and Arrowhead Mills (Gluten Free Rice & Shine Hot Cereal). The first time I made this, I coarsely ground some brown rice using a small coffee mill and that worked, too.

I usually measure at least two batches of the dry ingredients at a time and freeze a bag of "hot cereal mix" to use next time.

I've also made this with ginger syrup instead of maple and topped it with crystallized chopped ginger. This is a recipe that is quite flexible and you can try your favorite flavors.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Night Cooking: Chicken Parmesan Nuggets

I asked Adam what he wanted for dinner and he said chicken nuggets. I didn't really want chicken nuggets but I remembered a chicken Parmesan recipe that we tried a while back. So I did a new variation of the recipe where I cut the chicken into nuggets and then dipped and fried them. I thought it worked pretty good. I also made a simple marinara out of tomato sauce, onions and garlic.

Here is the original recipe from Cooks Illustrated:

Best Chicken Parmesan

Serves 4

Our preferred brands of crushed tomatoes are Tuttorosso and Muir Glen. This recipe makes enough sauce to top the cutlets as well as four servings of pasta. Serve with pasta and a simple green salad.


    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    Kosher salt and pepper
    1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    Pinch red pepper flakes
    1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
    1/4 teaspoon sugar
    2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil

    2 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed, halved horizontally, and pounded 1/2 inch   thick
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    2 ounces whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)
    2 ounces fontina cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)
    1 large egg
    1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (3/4 cup)
    1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
    1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
    1/3 cup vegetable oil
    1/4 cup torn fresh basil


    1. FOR THE SAUCE: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in medium saucepan over medium heat until just shimmering. Add garlic, ¾ teaspoon salt, oregano, and pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and sugar; increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes. Off heat, stir in basil and remaining 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and keep warm.

    2. FOR THE CHICKEN: Sprinkle each side of each cutlet with 1/8 teaspoon salt and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. Combine mozzarella and fontina in bowl; set aside.

    3. Adjust oven rack 4 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Whisk egg and flour together in shallow dish or pie plate until smooth. Combine Parmesan, panko, garlic powder, oregano, and pepper in second shallow dish or pie plate. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Working with 1 cutlet at a time, dredge cutlet in egg mixture, allowing excess to drip off. Coat all sides in Parmesan mixture, pressing gently so crumbs adhere. Transfer cutlet to large plate and repeat with remaining cutlets.

    4. Heat oil in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Carefully place 2 cutlets in skillet and cook without moving them until bottoms are crispy and deep golden brown, 1½ to 2 minutes. Using tongs, carefully flip cutlets and cook on second side until deep golden brown, 1½ to 2 minutes. Transfer cutlets to paper towel–lined plate and repeat with remaining cutlets.

    5. Place cutlets on rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle cheese mixture evenly over cutlets, covering as much surface area as possible. Broil until cheese is melted and beginning to brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer chicken to serving platter and top each cutlet with 2 tablespoons sauce. Sprinkle with basil and serve immediately, passing remaining sauce separately.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Crisp Cornmeal Waffles

I adore foods containing cornmeal: johnnycakes, corn bread, corn muffins, and the like. So I was excited to try this recipe for cornmeal waffles. Whipping the egg whites seems like a pain, and it does add time, but the recipe makes a big batch that's easy to freeze. In fact, I made these last week, and every morning I think "Should I have ____ for breakfast? Nah, I'll have waffles."


Crisp Cornmeal Waffles

Source: The Madden Family Cookbook
Yield: about eight 7-inch Belgian style waffles

1 c all-purpose flour
1 c cornmeal
1/2 c cornstarch
1 teas salt
1 teas baking powder
1/2 teas baking soda
1 1/2 c buttermilk
1/2 c milk
3/4 c vegetable oil
2 large eggs, yolks separated
1 T sugar

If you want to keep your waffles warm before serving, preheat oven to 200F. Mix flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Measure buttermilk, milk, and oil in a large measuring cup, or small bowl. Whisk in egg yolks and set aside.

Whip egg whites to almost soft peaks. Sprinkle in sugar and beat until whites are firm and glossy.

Pour buttermilk mixture into flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Add egg whites to batter in dollops and gently fold in with a spatula until the whites are just incorporated.

Add batter to a hot waffle iron and cook until golden brown. As each waffle finishes, you may set on a warm oven rack. Waffles can be left on the rack as long as 30-45 minutes--the longer they sit the crispier they get. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

White Chicken Chili

I used chiles labeled "pasilla" from my local Winco, thinking they were probably poblanos. However, there was absolutely no heat in the final product, so I'll need to experiment some more. Also, feel free to halve the cayenne if you have any concerns about heat. This is delicious served with tortillas or corn muffins.


White Chicken Chili

Source: The America's Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook
Serves 4-6

1 15-oz can white hominy, rinsed (can use yellow, but white has a better flavor)
4 c low-sodium chicken broth
2 T vegetable oil
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
Salt and pepper
3 poblano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1 onion, chopped fine
2 T all-purpose flour
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teas ground cumin
1 teas ground coriander
1/8 teas cayenne pepper
1/2 c jarred tomatillo salsa (or salsa verde)
2 T minced fresh cilantro

Optional (but yummy) toppings:
sour cream
shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
chopped tomato
sliced scallions

Process 1 1/2 c hominy and 1 c broth in blender until smooth, about 10 seconds. Set aside.

Heat 1 T oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Brown chicken lightly on both sides, about 5 min; transfer to plate.

Add remaining 1 T oil, poblanos, and onion to fat left in pot and cook over medium heat until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, garlic, cumin, coriander, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 1 min. Slowly whisk in remaining 3 c broth, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps.

Stir in pureed hominy mixture and remaining hominy. Add browned chicken, along with any accumulated juices, cover, and simmer gently until it registers 160 degrees, about 10 min (longer at high altitude). Transfer chicken to cutting board and shred into bite-size pieces.

Meanwhile return chili to simmer. Stir in shredded chicken and tomatillo salsa and cook until heated through, about 1 min. Stir in cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Skillet Tetrazzini

This recipe provides a tasty way to use up leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. It's equally good with shredded chicken, which I always seem to have in my freezer. My boys both love it, and it's been on my list of fast dinners for years.

Skillet Tetrazzini

2 T unsalted butter
10 oz white button or crimini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thinly 
1 onion, minced
salt and pepper
8 oz egg noodles (3 c)
2 c low-sodium chicken broth
1 c heavy cream
1 c frozen peas
1 1/2 c shredded, cooked turkey or chicken
1 T dry sherry
2 T minced fresh parsley

Melt the butter in a 12-in skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, onion, and 1/2 teas salt. Cook until the mushrooms are browned, about 15 min. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

Sprinkle the noodles into the skillet. Pour the broth and cream over the noodles. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are tender, about 10 min.

Stir in the peas, turkey, sherry, mushroom mixture, and parsley and allow to heat through, about 1 min. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Asparagus and Avgolemono (Greek Lemon and Egg) Soup

I've made a version of this soup with just the eggs, lemon, and rice and I've made it with shredded chicken for a heartier meal, but until this week I hadn't seen it with vegetables. Since I have asparagus growing in my garden, I felt compelled to try out this version. I'm glad I did. This soup is great accompanied by a crusty baguette or a flat bread.


Asparagus and Avgolemono (Greek Lemon and Egg) Soup

Source: Adam Reid at
Serves: 6-8

1 1/2  lb. asparagus
Salt and pepper
2  qt. homemade chicken stock or packaged low-sodium chicken broth
Zest (removed with a vegetable peeler in large strips) and 1/4 cup juice from 1 1/2 medium lemons
1 large bay leaf
Pinch of ground cardamom, or 2 whole cloves
1/2 c long-grain white rice
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
3 large egg yolks, preferably at room temperature

Infuse the stock: Bring the stock, lemon zest, bay leaf, and cardamom or cloves to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Cover the pan and set it aside off the heat to infuse for 20-30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard the zest, bay leaf, and cloves if you used them.

Prep the asparagus: Bring 1 quart of water to a rolling boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Fill a medium bowl with ice water and set aside. Cut the tips off the asparagus spears and reserve the spears for another use. Add the asparagus tips and 2 teas salt to the water, and cook until the asparagus tips are bright green and tender, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Drain the asparagus and immediately transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again, dry with a kitchen towel, and set aside.

Cook the rice: Return the pan to medium-high heat and bring to a strong simmer. Add the rice, adjust the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the rice is cooked through and tender, about 18 minutes.

Finish the soup: Whisk the eggs, yolks, and lemon juice in a medium heatproof bowl to blend. Whisking constantly, slowly ladle about 2 cups of the hot broth into the egg mixture. Continue whisking until the egg-and-broth mixture is uniform, then pour it into the pot with the rest of the broth. Cook, stirring constantly, until the soup thickens slightly and wisps of steam appear, about 5 minutes (do not allow the soup to simmer or boil). Add the asparagus tips, 2 teaspoons salt, and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, to heat the asparagus through, about 1 minute longer.

Serve the soup: Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt and pepper, if necessary, and serve immediately, garnished with lemon slices.

Because of the egg, avgolemono thickens a lot as it cools, and can be tricky to reheat. If you have leftovers that you want to warm up, use super-low heat so you don’t curdle the egg, and gently whisk in a little extra stock to loosen the consistency if you need to.

Notes from Colette:

I found that using just the tips of the asparagus wasn't enough, so I cut some of the spears, although not the entire pound and a half--probably about 6 spears. This soup is a exceptionally pretty shade of yellow if you use farm eggs.

Adam Reid writes that in season he uses corn, zucchini, leeks or spinach in place of the asparagus. I imagine they'd all be good, but I think asparagus and lemon are particularly good together.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mushroom and Leek Galette with Gorgonzola

This is a delicious and beautiful vegetarian main dish which is hearty enough to be comfort food on the coldest of days. It's worth planning ahead to make this excellent crust. Consider serving this with a fresh salad and crusty bread. 


Mushroom and Leek Galette with Gorgonzola 

Source: Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Serves 6


1 1/4 c (6 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 c (2 3/4 ounces) whole-wheat flour
1 T sugar
3/4 teas salt
10 T unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces and chilled
7 T ice water
1 teas white vinegar


1 1/4 pds shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thin (or a combination of shiitake and cremini)
5 teas olive oil
1 pd leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced 1/2-in thick and washed thoroughly (3 c)
1 teas minced fresh thyme
2 T crème fraîche
1 T Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
3 ozs Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (3/4 c)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt
2 T minced fresh parsley, optional

For the dough:

Process flours, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined, 2 to 3 pulses. Add butter and pulse until it forms pea-size pieces, about 10 pulses. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Sprinkle water and vinegar over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix until loose, shaggy mass forms with some dry flour remaining (do not overwork). Transfer mixture to center of large sheet of plastic wrap, press gently into rough 4-in square, and wrap tightly. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.

Note from Cook's Illustrated: "Barely mixing the dough and then resting it in the refrigerator hydrates the flour while minimizing gluten development, for a more tender crust. Don’t worry if the dough looks loose and shaggy—it’s supposed to."

This is how "shaggy" the mass is. It is a little tough to get it into shape to begin with. I use the plastic wrap to hold the mass in place as I form it into the square.

Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface. Roll into 11 by 8-in rectangle with short side of rectangle parallel to edge of work surface. Using bench scraper, bring bottom third of dough up, then fold upper third over it, folding like business letter into 8 by 4-in rectangle. Turn dough 90 degrees counterclockwise. Roll out dough again into 11 by 8-in rectangle and fold into thirds again. Turn dough 90 degrees counterclockwise and repeat rolling and folding into thirds. After last fold, fold dough in half to create 4-in square. Press top of dough gently to seal. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

For the filling:

Cover mushrooms in bowl and microwave until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to colander to drain and return to bowl. Meanwhile, heat 1 T oil in 12-in skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add leeks and thyme, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are tender and beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to bowl with mushrooms. Stir in crème fraîche and mustard. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position, place pizza stone on oven rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes. Roll out on generously floured (up to1/4 c) work surface to 14-in circle about 1/8-in thick. (Trim edges as needed to form rough circle.) Transfer dough to parchment paper–lined rimmed baking sheet. With tip of paring knife,  or a drinking straw, cut five 1/4-in circles in dough (one at center and four evenly spaced midway from center to edge of dough). Brush top of dough with 1 teas oil.

Spread half of filling evenly over dough, leaving 2-in border around edge. Sprinkle with half of Gorgonzola, cover with remaining filling, and top with remaining Gorgonzola. Drizzle remaining 1 teas oil over filling. Grasp 1 edge of dough and fold up outer 2 inches over filling. Repeat around circumference of tart, overlapping dough every 2 to 3 inches; gently pinch pleated dough to secure but do not press dough into filling. Brush dough with egg and sprinkle evenly with kosher salt.

Lower oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake until crust is deep golden brown and filling is beginning to brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool tart on baking sheet on wire rack for 10 minutes. Using offset or wide metal spatula, loosen tart from parchment and carefully slide tart off parchment onto cutting board. Sprinkle with parsley, cut into wedges, and serve.

Notes from Colette:  You may have noticed that I didn't use gorgonzola cheese in the example above. I was too lazy to run to the store (takes too long out here in the boonies). I used some asiago cheese I had in the fridge. It worked fine but gorgonzola is a better choice.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Toasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa

In spite of the ingredient list, this is a good salsa for the seasons when you can't find a good tomato. Frozen corn works well, because the toasting concentrates its flavor.


Toasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa

Source: Cook's Country Magazine
Makes about 5 cups

3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 large ear corn, kernels removed (about 1 cup)
1/2 teas ground cumin
1/8 teas cayenne pepper
3 T fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped fine
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
2 scallions, chopped fine
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco

Heat 1 T oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add corn and cook until deep golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add cumin and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to large bowl. Whisk remaining T oil, lime juice, 1/4 teas salt, and 1/4 teas in small bowl. Add to corn mixture along with tomatoes, beans, bell pepper, chile, scallions, and cheese. Toss well and check seasoning. Cover  and refrigerate until flavors meld, at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Notes from Colette:

I made several changes to this recipe and it still tasted great. I used frozen corn, thawed, and I used at least 50% more than called for. I didn't have any serrano chiles so I used chipotle in adobo, although I used none of the sauce and only 1/2 a chile. Those of you with stronger heat tolerance will want more. Since I was using the chipotle, I skipped the cayenne (again, those of you who like heat, keep it in). When I bloomed the cumin, I also added a minced garlic clove. There is not a tomato worth eating fresh at this time of year, so I used some I roasted and froze last summer. I am sure you could use canned tomatoes, well drained, or halved grape tomatoes. I also didn't have a red bell pepper, so I used bottled, charred red pepper. I didn't include the cheese but added avocado since I had some that needed to be used. As you can tell, I used the recipe more as a guide and you can do the same.

Guacamole Soup

It may seem odd to place guacamole in the bottom of a bowl of soup. But it is quite a pleasure to dip your spoon deep into your soup and come up with avocado goodness.


Guacamole Soup

Adapted from The Good Fat Cookbook  by Fran McCullough
Serves 4

2 (14.5-oz) cans or 1 (32-oz) package low-sodium chicken broth or 2 qts. homemade
2 c water
1/2 onion, sliced thickly
1 garlic clove, smashed
Salt and pepper

1 whole chicken breast, (two chicken breast halves), 12 to 16 ounces, see note below
2 ripe avocados, cut in half
1 jalapeno chile, minced, optional
juice of 1 lime (about 2 T), plus lime wedges for serving
about 1/2 c chopped cilantro leaves

optional garnishes (I use them all but they aren't completely necessary):
4 T  creme fraiche or sour cream or, even better, crema, Mexican soured cream
1/3 c crumbled queso fresco (Mexican fresh cheese), optional, see note below
4 corn tortillas cut in strips and fried in small amount of vegetable oil, optional
scallions or chives, sliced thinly, optional

Combine the chicken broth and water in a medium saucepan with the onion, garlic, and a little salt and pepper, and heat. Cut the chicken into 4 pieces and add to the broth. Bring the broth to a boil, then turn down the heat and cook at a slow simmer, partially covered, for about 12 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through but still tender (160F on an instant read thermometer). Remove the chicken breast and let cool. Strain the broth.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle shred the meat. Correct the seasoning of the broth.

When ready to serve, reheat the chicken broth until piping hot. Meanwhile, scoop out the flesh from an avocado half and mash it roughly in the bottom of each of the four soup bowls, adding 1/4 of the optional jalapeno. Add salt to taste and a little lime juice; mash well.

Pour the hot broth over the mashed avocado in the soup bowls, divide the shredded chicken among them, and top with cilantro leaves, tortilla strips, scallions, and a spoonful of creme fraiche. If you're using the cheese, scatter it over the top. Serve the soup immediately, with lime wedges on the side.

Notes from Colette:

Chicken: Using boneless, skinless chicken breasts makes for a fast meal but even poaching can leave you with dry and overcooked meat, if you aren't careful. You may substitute chicken thighs for the breasts but it will take longer to cook. Use an instant read thermometer and make sure you've cooked the thigh meat to 165F (according to Alternatively, you can use left over chicken, or rotisserie chicken.

Cheese: The original recipe suggested substituting feta for queso fresco. I don't advise this because the strong flavor of feta changes the focus of the soup. I think it better to use shredded jack or, as a last resort, sharp cheddar.

We have found that an avocado fresh from the fridge makes the soup unacceptably tepid. I advise microwaving the avocado, once mashed in individual bowls, or heat  the avocado, broth and chicken before adding the garnishes. For a family this may be too many extra steps. In that case, it may work best to mash all the guacamole and heat before placing in soup bowls; then top with hot broth, chicken, and garnishes.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Chocolate Pots de Creme


Chocolate Pots de Creme

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated Magazine 
Serves 8

From the magazine: "We prefer pots de creme made with 60 percent cocoa bittersweet chocolate (our favorite brands are Ghirardelli, Callebaut, Valrhona, and El Rey), but 70 percent bittersweet chocolate can also be used. If using a 70 percent bittersweet chocolate (we like Lindt, El Rey, and Valrhona), reduce the amount of chocolate to 8 ounces. A tablespoon of strong brewed coffee may be substituted for the instant espresso and water. Covered tightly with plastic wrap, the pots de creme will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator, but the whipped cream must be made just before serving."

Pots de Crème:

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (see note above), chopped fine
5 large egg yolks
5 T sugar
1/4 teas table salt
1 1/2 c heavy cream
3/4 c half-and-half
1 T vanilla extract
1/2 teas instant espresso powder mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Whipped Cream:

1/2 c heavy cream (cold)
2 teas sugar
1/2 teas vanilla extract
Garnish (optional)

Cocoa powder for dusting
Chocolate shavings for sprinkling

For the pots de creme:

Place chocolate in medium heatproof bowl; set fine-mesh strainer over bowl and set aside. Whisk yolks, sugar in a medium saucepan (make sure you whisk carefully so nothing escapes into the pan's corners). Cook mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly and scraping bottom of pot with wooden spatula until thickened and silky, 8 to 12 minutes.. The custard should register 175 to 180 degrees on instant-read thermometer. (If you don't have a thermometer, you can test the custard by determining if it coats the back of a spoon: Stir custard with a spoon, pull it out and turn it over. Make a line with your finger. If the mixture is thin and not quite ready, the line will not hold. If the custard has thickened correctly, the line will hold and have neat edges.) Do not let custard overcook or simmer or it will likely curdle and you'll have sweet scrambled eggs.

Immediately pour custard through strainer over chocolate. Let mixture stand to melt chocolate, about 5 minutes. Whisk gently until smooth, then whisk in vanilla and espresso. Divide mixture evenly among eight 5-ounce ramekins. Gently tap ramekins against counter to remove air bubbles. (This is so rich I may purchase some smaller ramekins.)

Cool pots de crème to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 72 hours. Before serving, let pots de crème stand at room temperature 20 to 30 minutes.

For the whipped cream:

Using hand mixer, beat cream, sugar, and vanilla on low speed until bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium; continue beating until beaters leave trail, about 30 seconds longer. Increase speed to high; continue beating until nearly doubled in volume and whipped cream forms soft peaks, 30 to 45 seconds longer. (Cream can also be whipped with an egg beater or by hand with a whisk--both more work but if you don't have a hand mixer you can do it--don't use cream substitute.)

Dollop each pot de crème with about 2 tablespoons whipped cream; garnish with cocoa or chocolate shavings, if using. Serve.

Note from Colette: This may be one of the times you should use Callebaut. I tried the recipe with Trader Joe's Pound Plus chocolate which they claim is produced in Belgium, but I found it to be a bit grainy for this application.

Avocado and Bacon Salad


Avocado and Bacon Salad

This recipe calls for a head of lettuce, which can make a huge salad. If your head of lettuce is a large one, I'd advise using less lettuce (possibly 12/-3/4 head), or increase the other ingredients. As it stands this is a large salad, although at this point, I'm unsure exact numbers of servings. You may safely half the recipe and feel free to tweak ingredients to your liking, adding more bacon or avocado if you're inclined. This is a simple salad so best quality ingredients will make a big difference. I use fresh lemon juice and streaky bacon with a high proportion of meat to fat.

Dressing (mix and set aside):

1 1/2 teas lemon juice
1/4 c sour cream
1/2 c mayonnaise
1/4 teas salt
1/4 teas freshly ground pepper


8 slices thick bacon (sliced 1/4 inch thick and crisply cooked )
1 bunch scallions (sliced 1/8 inch thick)
2 ripe avocados (peeled and cut into chunks)
1 head romaine lettuce, torn in bite size pieces
salt and pepper, if needed

Mix salad ingredients in a large bowl. Pour dressing over all and gently toss. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Boeuf Carbonnade

In the early 90's our family moved to Belgium because Leon had been assigned to work at NATO headquarters. We lived outside of Brussels in the Flemish village Erps Kwerps. The US government had hired a Belgian national to be a liason for family members. This woman, Giselle, aided Americans as we navigated life in a foreign country. She helped us communicate when our poor language skills created barriers (such as when we had to see medical specialists) and tried to educate us about the culture including the language issues (Belgium has three official languages). She shared this recipe with this title, although it may have been more correctly called "Carbonade Flammandes" or even more correctly (in Flemish) "Vlaamse Stoverij." I feel sure this is a Flemish peasant recipe in spite of its French name. The method of setting bread spread with mustard on top of the stew is authentic in Flemish instructions. As the stew cooks, the bread disappears and thickens the dish.


Boeuf Carbonnade 

2 pounds beef cubes, about 1-1 1/2 inch square (you’ll get a better product if you cut the cubes yourself from a chuck roast since stew meat is usually just scraps from any cut and may not have much flavor or tenderness)
2 T butter
2 large onions chopped
1 teas salt
1/4 teas pepper
1 teas dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, minced
2 bottles dark beer, preferably Newcastle Brown Ale unless you can get a good Belgian beer such as Geuze
2 thick slices bread, crusts removed
1 T mustard

Melt butter until it browns lightly and brown the beef.  Add onion and cook until soft. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in herbs and salt and pepper.  Pour in beer and mix well.  Bring to a simmer. Top mixture with bread spread with mustard (if the bread is quite stale, you may want to cut it into pieces before adding it--otherwise, the bread may remain in large lumps).  Simmer 2-3 hours until beef is tender, stirring several times.  If the liquid drops below the level of the beef add small amount of water—watch carefully as you come to the end of the simmer; you don’t want to turn this into a soup.

Serve with potatoes, rice or egg noodles. 


I've seen some noted cookbook authors, such as Dorie Greenspan, increase the flavor in this "stew" by browning bacon (as many as six slices) with the onions as well as adding some allspice and cloves. She also increases the onions.

Open Sesame Pancake Mix

When I was young, I couldn't understand why Grandpa Hayes didn't like pancakes. But about 10 years ago I realized that white pancakes are gummy and heavy and I began to agree with him. In the last couple of years I've found that pancakes made of whole grain flours have a more pleasing texture and taste better, too. This has become my favorite and since it is a mix it combines convenience with good flavor.

Admittedly, it calls for a large amount of sesame seeds, which I think you can find in bulk sections of supermarkets and buttermilk powder is fairly easy to find--I've used Saco and Bob's Red Mill brands both of which can be found on Amazon as can sesame seeds.


Open Sesame Pancake Mix

Source:  Cookbook author Crescent Dragonwagon (this is her real name, although not her birth name)

1 c sesame seeds 
1 c old-fashioned oats 
3 c whole-wheat flour 
2 3/4 c all-purpose flour 
1 1/2 c buckwheat flour 
2 1/4 c stone-ground yellow or white cornmeal 
1 c sugar 
1 (12-ounce) container buttermilk powder 
5 T baking powder 
2 T baking soda 
2 T salt

Toast sesame seeds in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Stir constantly, until fragrant and light brown, about 4 minutes. Immediately remove from the stove. Pour into a bowl to cool.

Place oats into a food processor and pulse until powdery. Add sesame seeds and pulse to grind. (Mixture will be mostly powdery with a few whole seeds here and there. Don’t over-grind, or you’ll end up releasing too much oil). Transfer oatmeal mixture to a large bowl. Add flours, cornmeal, sugar and buttermilk powder. Stir well. Sift baking powder, baking soda and salt over flour mixture. Stir well.

Transfer into 1-pint jars or zip-top bags. To prevent rancidity store in the freezer.

To make pancakes: Beat 2 eggs with 1 cup water in a medium bowl. Whisk in 2 cups pancake mix and 4 teaspoons vegetable oil; do not over beat. Heat a heavy nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium heat. With a spoon, place batter on grill and cook 2 to 3 minutes, flip and cook 1 to 2 minutes.

To make waffles: Whisk together 2 egg yolks (reserve whites) and 1 cup water. Whisk in 2 cups pancake mix and 3 tablespoons vegetable oil just until well combined. Preheat a waffle iron. Beat egg whites until stiff; gently fold into batter. Pour batter onto waffle iron and cook until done, about 4 to 6 minutes.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Slow Cooker Thai Peanut Chicken

A BYU story about the blogger behind 365 Days of Slow Cooking introduced me to this delicious slow cooker recipe. Although it's not always the case, I think of a slow cooker recipe as "dump, stir, and leave." This one fits the bill--you dump in most of the ingredients, let it cook for several hours, cook noodles and add a couple of things in the last half hour, and you're done. And a great bonus: it helps me use up the oodles of zucchini currently sitting in my freezer.


Slow Cooker Thai Peanut Chicken

Source: 365 Days of Slow Cooking
Serves 4-6

12 oz linguine or fettuccine noodles, cooked and drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 c peanut butter
1 c chicken broth
1 lb chicken thigh tenders or boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 -in cubes
1 c shredded zucchini
1/3 c soy sauce
1 teas sugar
1 red pepper, cut into thin, long strips
1 T lime juice
1 c chopped cilantro, divided
chopped peanuts, for garnish

Add garlic, peanut butter, broth, chicken, zucchini, soy sauce, sugar and red pepper to slow cooker. Stir to combine. Cook on low for 4-5 hrs or on high for 2-3 hrs. A half hour before you are going to serve, add lime juice and 1/2 c cilantro to slow cooker. Serve over noodles and garnish with remaining cilantro and peanuts.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Pasta Shells with Peas and Ham

I found this recipe paging through a Food and Wine cookbook at Michael's grandparents' home.  It's simple, tasty, and can feed a crowd. The last time I made it my two-year-old repeatedly asked for more--he probably ate 5 servings.


Pasta Shells with Peas and Ham

Source: Food and Wine

1 lb small pasta shells or elbow macaroni
2 T plus 1 teas olive oil
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
10 oz package frozen peas
¼ lb thinly sliced country ham or prosciutto, coarsely chopped (I often use John Morrell diced ham)
1 ¼ c heavy cream
1 c low-sodium chicken broth
¼ c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
⅓ c chopped fresh dill (optional)

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta shells until al dente. Drain the shells, return them to the pot and toss with 1 t olive oil to prevent shells from sticking together.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 T olive oil. Add the sliced garlic cloves and cook over moderate heat until the garlic is golden, about 4 minutes. Add the frozen peas and the country ham and cook until the peas are hot and the ham is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the heavy cream and the broth and simmer over moderate heat until the cream has slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Stir the cream sauce into the cooked shells. Add the Parmesan cheese and the chopped dill (if using) to the pasta and season with salt and pepper.

Note from Betsy: Most often, instead of the fresh dill, I will sprinkle the finished product with dried dill weed, until I can see a pleasing amount of herb throughout the pasta. 

The Best Hummus

In the summer of 1987 our little family left United States for our first overseas assignment in the Air Force. Until that time, I hadn't been exposed to much foreign food. Of course, I ate at Mexican restaurants and cooked a few "Mexican" things myself; but they weren't really Mexican. Moving to Bahrain, the small island country in the Persian Gulf which has long been an international port and home to a variety of cultures, introduced me to a large variety of new foods. Living in Bahrain changed me profoundly in a number of ways but one of the most enjoyable changes was in the way I cook and eat.

I was a den-mother for a group of boys most of whom attended the Department of Defense school Betsy and Tom were enrolled in. There was a boy named Tareq (son of a Chinese-American mother and Egyptian father) who joined us although he went to another school. The kids and I were evacuated from Bahrain just after Iraq invaded Kuwait and, in the chaos of quick preparations, I was unable to gather contact information for some friends and I "lost" this family. Time has helped complete the loss and I've forgotten Tareq's last name and his mother's first. Otherwise I'd give her credit for the best hummus I've ever tasted.


The Best Hummus 

1  16-oz can chickpeas, drained (or 2 c cooked chickpeas)
1/4 c tahini (sesame paste, available in many supermarkets or in a Middle Eastern shop)
1/6 c warm water (measure this by filling a 1/3 c measure half full)
1/6 c olive oil
juice of 1 lemon (or 3 T)
1-2 cloves of garlic, depending on size and your preference
heaping 1/2 teas salt
1 teas cumin seed, coarsely ground
freshly ground pepper to taste

Blend the ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Notes from Colette:

If you don't have a mortar and pestle to grind the cumin seed, crush the seeds under a cast iron skillet. Although the original recipe doesn't suggest it, to make this even better, toast the seeds in a small skillet over medium heat until they release some of their volatile oils and become fragrant.

The skins on chickpeas make hummus somewhat grainy. I don't mind the texture but if you prefer a silkier finish, here are some hot-off-the presses instructions from the May 2013 issue of Cook's Illustrated:

"For our method, toss the rinsed and drained chickpeas with baking soda (1½ teaspoons per 14-ounce can) and then heat them in the microwave or in a skillet over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes until the beans are hot. Transfer the beans to a large bowl and wash with three or four changes of cold water, all the while agitating the beans vigorously between your hands to release the skins, which will float easily away."

Note from Betsy: I haven't been able to find cumin seed lately, so I've used a heaping teaspoon of ground cumin. Cumin seeds taste better, in my opinion, but ground cumin is an acceptable substitute.

Note from Colette: If you are having trouble finding cumin seed, shop at an International grocery or a Mexican market. They'll likely be available as well as much more affordable than in a supermarket or online.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Hot Milk Cake

I remember my mother baking only three or four varieties of cake.  She took this cake to picnics, potlucks and ward dinners. She baked dozens in the months before my wedding, keeping them in the freezer, so she could serve strawberry shortcake at the reception. Except for altitude fussiness, it has been a reliable recipe, first for my mother, and later for Betsy and me. However, I find it to be highly sensitive to altitude changes. During all the years I lived at sea level, I couldn't successfully bake this cake; it fell flatter than a pancake. I ate it only when I returned home to Utah but didn't get to enjoy it in the last years of my mom's illness and after her death. At the time, I wasn't educated about altitudes and baking so I went for a decades without baking this cake. In those years the internet either didn't exist or was in its infancy so I couldn't do a google search, which today turns up hundreds of versions. Early in this century I found in the library a book (I believe this is the title: Mennonite Recipes from the Shenandoah Valley) in which I came upon a recipe for Hot Milk Cake. I reasoned the elevation of the Shenandoah Valley would be closer to sea level and baked the cake. The cake was evocative of my mother's and it became a kind of "comfort cake" for me. I'm including both versions of the cake here.


Hot Milk Cake, high elevations

1 1/4 c milk (this has been baked with skim, 2 %, and whole milk as well as reconstituted powdered milk, but I use whole milk nowadays)
1 cube butter (1/2 c)
4 eggs
1 3/4 c sugar
2 c flour
2 1/4 teas baking powder (at Betsy’s elevation, see note below for altitude recommendations)
1 teas vanilla extract   
1/2 teas almond extract

Place the milk and butter in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edge of the pan and the butter melts. You’ll also see steam rising off the milk.

Beat the 4 eggs and sugar together. Add the flour and beat for one minute. Add the hot milk mixture and mix well. Sprinkle the baking powder over the top of the batter and mix in well. Stir in vanilla and almond.

Pour batter into a 9 X 13 cake pan. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes or until a toothpick poked in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Notes from Colette: This recipe is so old that several instructions need discussion.

1--Butter--The recipe doesn’t specify unsalted butter which is the current butter of choice. My mom and I baked this for years using salted butter. If you choose to use unsalted butter, I’d advise you to add 1/4 teas salt, although I haven’t tested it. I'm told by professionals that unsalted butter is usually of higher quality.
2--Baking powder--We are instructed to sprinkle this over the top of the batter which is a pretty odd practice. However, I still do it and it works. If you prefer, stir the baking powder into the flour before adding it to the batter. 
3--Altitude effect-- Betsy lives 500 feet lower than I do therefore I use 1/8 teas less baking powder than she does. Look your elevation up on the internet and if it is higher than 5500 feet you may want to decrease by another 1/8 teas, making it 2 teas of baking powder. I haven't tested this recipe at levels higher than 5500 feet (I know my mom baked it at that elevation).

See topping recipe below.

Hot Milk Cake, low elevations

1 c milk
1/3 c butter
4 eggs
2 c sugar
2 1/2 c flour
3 teas baking powder
1/2 teas vanilla extract
1/2 teas almond extract

Place the milk and butter in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edge of the pan and the butter melts. You’ll also see steam rising off the milk. Beat the 4 eggs and sugar together. Add flour, baking powder, vanilla and almond extract. 

Add the hot milk mixture and mix well.

Pour batter into a 9 X 13 cake pan. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes or until a toothpick poked in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Let cool.

Hot Milk Cake is compatible with a variety of toppings. Use it as a sweet shortcake. Top with any sliced fruit, plain or in simple syrup, or a berry coulis. You can frost it with chocolate or caramel frosting. Most summers, I omit the almond flavoring and use the cake in a lemon curd/blackberry trifle (which will be posted at some point). This is my favorite, bringing back memories of my mother's irritation when I picked sweetened nuts off the top of the cake and plopped them in my mouth.

Broiled Coconut Frosting

6 T butter
2/3 c brown sugar
1/4 c whipping cream or canned (evaporated whole) milk
1 1/4 c shredded sweetened coconut
1/2-1 c nuts, chopped
1/2 teas vanilla

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add all additional ingredients and mix together. Cook for about 5 minutes at medium-low heat or until the sugar is dissolved. Spread on cake and place under broiler until slightly browned, watching carefully so it doesn’t burn. You will have better luck if the cake has cooled somewhat before you place this topping on it. If the cake is hot, the topping melts and slides down the sides.