Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Salmon Cakes

Just a quick pointer to a recipe posted to my personal blog:

Salmon Cakes

It's an easy recipe that uses canned salmon (or leftover cooked salmon) to great advantage. It gets a little crunch from onions, peppers, and celery. It's delicious served as a salmon burger, or on top of a big crunchy green salad.

It's good summer eating.

Monday, June 22, 2015

African Bean & Chicken Stew

Chicken is one of the most popular ingredients among our students. If you are looking for a quick and easy dinner option, chicken is a winner. It's versatile, and reasonably priced, particularly if you shop the sales. All this makes it a popular choice with time-strapped students on a budget. This recipe takes pantry ingredients to produce an unusual entree. It's super-easy and the beans stretch more expensive boneless chicken to feed six. You may not think boneless chicken is that expensive, but it is still 3-6x more expensive than the canned beans. And for convenience, a can of beans is hard to beat.

Peanuts are a New World food, originating in South America. But they grow very well in Africa and are a popular ingredient in West African stews. That's why this is called African Bean and Chicken Stew.

African Bean & Chicken Stew
(6 servings)

1 ½ cups of brown rice
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into ½" chunks
2 - 3 green onions, chopped
½ cup Fajita sauce (see Note)
3 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 cups frozen corn or 1 12 oz. can corn kernels, drained
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can red beans, drained and rinsed
1 14.5 oz. can petite-diced tomatoes, undrained
4 to 5 drops hot sauce, such as Tabasco
¼ cup chopped peanuts

Bring 3 ½ cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add brown rice, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 50 minutes until rice is tender. When rice is nearly done, heat oil in a large pan; add chicken and sauté over medium heat, stirring and turning frequently until almost all pink color has disappeared. Add green onions; sauté 2-3 minutes longer, continuing to stir frequently; reduce heat to low. Blend fajita sauce with peanut butter, drizzle over chicken and onions. Add corn, beans, tomatoes and hot pepper sauce; stir well to combine ingredients. Simmer mixture a few minutes longer to heat throughout, stirring occasionally. Spoon over brown rice in individual serving bowls. Garnish with chopped peanuts.

Note: This recipe uses liquid fajita sauce. There are a number of brands; we like Frontera skillet fajita sauce. One packet of Frontera skillet fajita sauce contains enough sauce to make this recipe twice.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sesame Street says "Let's Cook!"

Most of my audience are not the Sesame Street set. But, maybe some of you are parents and you struggle with getting your kids to eat a variety of foods. I know how that goes. My daughter is now all grown up and her palate has expanded a great deal but she was a fairly picky eater as a kid. The fact that her mom was a trained chef meant nothing to her. I introduced new foods until they became old foods and familiar to her. I cooked more simply. The wonderful folks at Sesame Street have just released a cookbook for families, which uses many of the concepts I used with my daughter. It has recipes that appeal to children (children-tested too) wrapped up in that lovable Sesame Street package of Grover, Elmo, and Zoe.

One recipe, Zoe's Tortellini Soup with Tiny Turkey Meatballs, is printed in a story in the New York Times. Check it out. It's a very easy soup that takes advantage of pantry staples and pre-made food to make a filling dinner that kids and adults will love. You buy the tortellini. You make your own tiny turkey meatballs. You use packaged stock and canned tomatoes for the soup. Simple and delicious. Pre-made food isn't bad food if you are careful about what you use. And, it definitely makes the parent's job of getting a meal on the table a lot easier.

“Sesame Street Let’s Cook!” by Susan McQuillan, RD. Copyright © 2015 by Sesame Workshop.

Photo credit: By cyclonebill (Tortellini med svampe og mascarpone) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Blueberry Wheat Germ Pancakes

We love pancakes in my house. My husband makes classic buttermilk pancakes every few weeks. I like to mix it up with some variations. I made these pancakes for Mother's Day this year. I adapted them from a King Arthur Flour recipe. As you can see from the picture, my recipe makes quite a stack of pancakes. This is half the King Arthur recipe. People must have very large families or else plan to feed all their neighbors in Vermont!

These are not sweet at all. I put real maple syrup on my pancakes. I vacationed in Vermont as a kid and only the real stuff will do. If the pancakes are sweet, breakfast tastes more like dessert. As much as the Vermonters like dessert for breakfast - pie for breakfast is a local tradition - I don't like sweet things for breakfast.

Blueberry Wheat Germ Pancakes
(serves 5-6)

Dry Ingredients
2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
¾ teaspoon baking powder (1 ½ teaspoon at sea level)
½ teaspon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda (same at sea level)
½ cup toasted wheat germ

Wet Ingredients
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
3 Tablespoons vegetable or nut oil (walnut is particularly good)

1 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries (no need to thaw frozen ones)

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together all the wet ingredients in a large measuring cup until well combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until there are no large pockets of dry ingredients. Add the blueberries, and stir gently to incorporate. Do not over-mix. Heat up a griddle using a medium heat. Too hot and your pancakes will burn before they are cooked through. Too low, and you'll be waiting forever and they will dry out. Grease the griddle lightly with butter or oil before each set of pancakes. For medium-sized pancakes, use a scant ¼ cup of batter per pancake. Do not crowd them; it becomes very hard to flip them if they are too close together. Cook until bubbles pop through the top and the holes formed don't close up. The edges will be cooked and the pancakes nicely browned. Flip and cook until the other side it toasty brown. Repeat until all the batter is gone. Serve hot.

Can be reheated in a microwave or oven but they are at their best fresh from the griddle.

Adapted from The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook by Brinna B. Sands, Countryman Press, 1992.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Whole Wheat Tortilla Chips

It's so easy to make your own healthy tortilla chips. No frying needed. You bake lightly oiled tortillas in a hot oven and you have crunchy, crispy healthy chips. Best of all, you can flavor them any way you want.

Some whole wheat tortillas are thick. These don't work as well for chips. I like the ones made for wraps. I found The Ole brand of Extreme Wellness High Fiber-Low Carb Tortilla Wraps work really well because they are very thin. All those "health" words in there are not necessary. Find a brand that is thin and whole wheat. That's what is important.

The seasoning is up to you:
  • Really simple: just salt
  • Simple and sweet: cinnamon-sugar. Equal parts ground cinnamon and sugar
  • Savory: any ground spice and salt. Blends like chili powder work well. I used a blend called Mapuche seasoning from the Savory Spicy Shop. It's based on a Chilean spice blend, and contains cumin, coriander, smoked sweet paprika and chile.
The method: heat your oven or toaster oven to 400°F. Brush or spray the tortilla with oil. Sprinkle lightly with seasonings. Cut into wedges. Place on a rack and bake for about 5 minutes. Turn them over and continue baking until crispy. Watch at the end of baking because they can burn at the edges. Store in an airtight container to keep them crisp.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Roasted Chicken with Fennel

I'm participating in the VegOut! campaign from Recipe for Success. It's a positive way to say "Eat Your Veggies!" Try a bunch of different vegetables - the goal is 30 veggies in 30 days - and see how you like them. Find some new ones you may not have known you liked and just eat more of them. Americans don't eat a lot of vegetables. Research shows that eating them is good for your health. You may be surprised to learn that you don't need to eat a lot of them - a meta-analysis showed that 4 servings a day is the sweet spot. Less than 4 is sub-optimal but more than 4 didn't seem to confer any greater health. So, get to 4. It's not that hard to eat that many. Stick to ones you like, nothing wrong with that. But, eat more of them!

This recipe uses a somewhat unusual vegetable: fennel. Fennel has a subtle licorice taste. You can eat it cooked or raw. It's used a lot in Italian cuisine where it goes by the charming name of Finocchio.

Note: This dish needs to marinate overnight for the full development of flavor.

Chicken Roasted with Ginger, Fennel, and Tomatoes
(serves 4-6)

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons grated ginger
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed (see Note)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

4 - 6 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on (about 2 pounds)
1 head of garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 head of fennel, cored and sliced thinly
1 large onion, thickly sliced
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup dry white wine or vermouth
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and black pepper

Combine all the rub ingredients in a small bowl. Rub the chicken thighs with this, making sure you get most of it between the skin and the flesh of each thigh. Place the thighs in a large (big enough to hold the chicken and all the vegetables which you'll add later) glass or ceramic baking and marinate, covered, in the fridge overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Scatter the garlic, fennel, onion, and tomatoes around the chicken. Pour in the wine, drizzle the oil on the veggies, and season the whole thing with more salt and black pepper. Cover with foil. Bake for 1 ½ hours until chicken is completely cooked. Remove the foil and increase the oven temperature to 450°F. Put the chicken back in the oven and roast at this higher temperature until the skin gets browned and crispy. Serve over rice or roasted potatoes.

Note: To crush fennel seeds, smash them with the flat bottom of a skillet.