Friday, 29 August 2014

Oven Baked Chicken with Rosemary-Black Pepper Waffles

Chicken and waffles for dinner??? That's the reaction the first time I suggested this, now my husband begs me to make it. Not the healthiest meal out there, but definitely tasty...this is my version.

Pre-heat the oven to 400F. Place a rack onto a baking sheet.

Bread 12 skin on, bone in, chicken thighs. The bone and skin help keep the meat moist, and the skin crisps up beautifully under the breadcrumbs.

 Set up the breading station as follows:

  1. flour seasoned with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper
  2. 2 eggs, a good dollop of Dijon mustard and 1/4 cup milk, whisked well
  3. breadcrumbs seasoned with salt, pepper, chopped fresh rosemary and minced garlic

Place the thighs onto the rack, and bake until crispy, golden and cooked through, about 1 hour.

While the chicken is baking, make your favourite chicken gravy.  Add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup just before serving.

Make the waffles, starting to bake them after about 45 minutes, and keeping them warm in the oven until serving. At this point, I turned the oven down to 350F.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients:

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

Measure out the wet ingredients:

2 cups milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 egg yolks (make sure you save the egg whites)

Whisk together to combine.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk to combine.

Whip the 2 egg whites you saved
 until firm peaks form.

Add them to the batter, and gently fold in.

When the egg whites are folded in, the batter is ready to cook.

Heat your waffle iron.

Ladle the batter onto the waffle iron and cook until golden and crispy.

Keep the waffles warm in the oven until ready to serve.

                          Serve the waffles with chicken, gravy, extra maple syrup and enjoy!!!

This waffle recipe is flexible, which is why I love it. I used olive oil instead of vegetable oil, melted butter would add even more richness to the batter. Some things to try, whether for breakfast or dinner:
  • diced cooked bacon and chopped pecans
  • chopped herbs of your choice, with grated Parmesan
  • sliced bananas and cinnamon 
  • exchange some of the milk for apple juice, fold in grated apple, or top with caramelized apples
  • fresh chopped peaches, add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar to the batter; top with rum whipped cream or vanilla ice cream
  • chopped green onions and ham
  • roasted garlic
The waffles freeze, re-heat in the waffle iron.

If you want the chicken, but not the skin...marinade chicken breasts in olive oil, garlic and rosemary then grill and slice. Top the waffle with the chicken and drizzle with gravy.

Chicken pot pie with a twist...make the chicken filling, and serve it over the waffles, instead of baking it with pastry on top.

Use the waffles as the 'bread' for a chicken sandwhich....mix maple syrup and grainy mustard into mayonnaise, add some sliced chicken

Monday, 25 August 2014

3 Step Oatmeal Berry Muffins

If you are looking for a quick and easy muffin recipe, here it is. The batter can be put together in the time it takes the oven to heat up, and the amount of flexibility in the recipe will make anyone happy. Adaptable and forgivable, what could be nicer?

I call these 3 step muffins, as there are 3 bowls, each involving a step and the measurements for each have similarities to them that makes the recipe even easier to put together. I'll show you what I mean...

First, set the oven to 350F to pre-heat, and lightly grease a twelve muffin pan. You can also line it with muffin liners if you choose to.

Step 1:

In the first bowl, measure out:
1 1/2 cups oats
1 1/2 cups plain non-fat Greek yoghurt

Mix well to combine, set aside.

Step 2:

 In the second bowl, measure out:

1 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Whisk well, set aside.

Step 3:

In the third bowl, combine:

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Add the ingredients in bowl number 1 (Step 1) to bowl number 2 (Step 2).

Mix well until combined.

Add the ingredients now on bowl number 2 to those in bowl number 3 (Step 3).

Fold and stir gently until all combined.

This is where the recipe is forgiving...a bit of overmixing doesn't seem to hurt the tenderness of these muffins.

Divide the batter among the 12 prepared muffins cups and bake until golden and a wooden skewer comes out clean, about 25 - 30 minutes.

Allow the muffins to cool in the pan at least 15 - 20 minutes before attempting to unmould them. As they are quite soft, they tend to break apart if they are too warm when being removed from the pan.

                               Enjoy! Breakfast or a snack, these are great warm or cold.

So, as far as adaptable goes...

  • Fresh or frozen berries are a quick and easy choice, needing no preparation time at all. Try blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries or a combination.
  • If you have other fruit that needs to be used, chop it to the size of a berry....try apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, rhubarb or a combination.
  • Omit the lemon zest, or use orange zest instead.
  • Add nuts to the batter, or sprinkle them on top before baking.
  • Use whatever yoghurt, sour cream or even buttermilk you have available. Flavoured yoghurt will give a depth of flavour that plain doesn't. Allow the oats to sit a bit longer if using buttermilk, this will allow more liquid to absorb, preventing the batter from being too thin.
  • Add spices....cinnamon, ginger (grated fresh, or dried), nutmeg.
  • Who says chocolate chips or chunks won't be awesome in a muffin?
  • Use melted butter or olive oil in place of vegetable oil.
  • The muffins freeze well, but are then best if heated up again before serving.
  • Some combinations to try - peach, pecan and fresh ginger; raspberry, lemon and white chocolate; cranberries and orange; strawberry, rhubarb and orange; pears with almond and dark chocolate; apple cinnamon; triple berry. Let me know if you come up with anything new and exciting, I'd love to try it!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Steamed Vegetable Buns, Chinese Style

I've always loved the Chinese steamed pork buns, and when I tried Jamie Oliver's recipe, from "jamie's kitchen" I was hooked even more. This recipe is easy to follow, and produces wonderful results everytime. It works just as well using chicken breasts instead of pork chops, but I decided to try it with vegetables this time, as an accompaniment to the Honey Lime Roasted Chicken I made a few nights ago.

I stuck to the same basic filling flavours, and it worked really well. We still prefer pork though!

 To make the filling,grate or finely chop about 3 cups of vegetables.

I used grated carrot, yellow and green zucchini and diced red pepper.

Sweat the vegetables in olive oil until starting to soften. Add 2 cloves garlic, minced and 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger. Add about 1/2 cup apple or orange juice to sweeten and prevent them from drying out too much.

Continue to cook until the vegetables are soft, but not mushy. Remove from the heat to cool.

1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
4 tablespoons hoisin sauce

Mix well, and set aside while the dough for the buns rises.

To make the buns, combine the following in a large bowl:

2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt (less if using salted butter)
3 1/2 tablespoons cold butter, cubed

Using your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a fine crumb.

In a separate bowl place 1/2 tablespoon of active dry yeast.

Fill a 2 cup measuring jug with warm water (slightly hotter than body temperature).

Measure 14 tablespoons into the yeast, give it a quick stir and leave it to start proofing. When little bubbles start rising, it is ready.

Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

No kneading is required in this recipe.

When all the liquid is incorporated you will have a fairly rough looking dough.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave the dough to rise until doubled in size.

When the dough is light and puffy and double in size, gently punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured counter.

Divide the dough into 10 equal sized pieces and form into balls.

I like to weight them, they are around 2 ounces each.

Now for the assembly:

Press each ball flat, about 2 1/2" to 3" in diameter, making a slight indent in the centre.

Place a tablespoon of filling in the centre.

Gently pull the sides of the dough up to meet in the middle and cover the filling. Pinch them together to seal.

Place each bun in a muffin cup liner in a bamboo steamer.

I like to place 5 in each layer, that gives plenty of room for them to grow, which they do!

Cover with a clean towel and allow to rise for about 15 minutes.

Heat water in a shallow pan or wok that will hold your steamer comfortably.

Place the lid on the steamer, and set it in the water. Keep an eye on the water, replenish it if needed. You don't want the buns on the bottom layer to be sitting in a bath of water.

They should steam for around 10 minutes. they will puff up more, and the filling will be hot inside. Check by sticking a metal skewer into one of the buns to test the temperature of the filling.

Remove the steamer from the water, and serve the buns with more sweet chili sauce, soy sauce or sriracha.

  • As I mentioned earlier, Jamie Oliver's original recipe calls for pork. If you prefer chicken, use 2 breasts for the recipe.
  • Extra filling does freeze well, so why not double it and save on some of the work next time you make them?
  • The buns are best eaten hot, but people in our house have been known to take them for lunch the next day.
  • Jamie Oliver suggests lining the steamer with lime leaves for extra fragrance. I haven't tried this, but it will also help to stop the buns from sticking to the bamboo. If you have access to somewhere that sells banana leaves (usually an Asian supermarket, often in the freezer) those also work well for lining the steamer.
  • Adjust the size of the buns if you wish, just remember to adjust the amount of filling and possibly the steaming time.
  • If you like Peking duck, chop it finely and use it for the filling.
  • Shitake or enoki mushrooms, sliced green onions, blanched sliced cabbage are some other vegetables that can be used.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Basil Pesto

Pesto is one of the easiest sauces to make, as it only requires a food processor and no chopping! It keeps well in the fridge, freezes well and can be adapted in oh so many ways...

Finally, a summer that agreed with the basil I try and grow each year. It had flourished, making me very happy. I love using it fresh, but now we can have all the pesto we want for the next few months...there is so much basil, I will also chop some and freeze it. This is great for adding to sauces or soups, as all you need to do is scrape off the required amount and it's as good as adding fresh.

To freeze the pesto, fill an ice cube tray and place in the freezer. When the pesto is frozen, pop the cubes out and place in a resealable bag or container and keep in the freezer until you need to use.

As I said, making pesto is a fairly simple process, especially when all the ingredients are assembled and ready to go. I multiplied the recipe by 4, but I am giving instructions for the original recipe. If you have a lot of basil, multiply away!!!

Pick, or purchase, 2 cups of basil leaves, make sure they are clean. Set aside.

Measure out 4 cloves of peeled garlic and 4 tablespoons of pine nuts.

Place the garlic and pine nuts into a food processor and process until roughly chopped.

Add the basil, and process until it is chopped and makes a paste.

Keeping the processor running, slowly add 1/2 cup olive oil. The slower you pour the oil, the thicker and more emulsified the pesto will be.

Scrape the pesto into a bowl, and add 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan, Stir this in by hand.

Taste, season with salt and pepper. Parmesan can be salty, so I find it best to season after adding the cheese.

Wondering what to use pesto for? Try some of the following:

  •  Toss hot cooked pasta with pesto and garnish with toasted pinenuts and grated Parmesan.
  • Spread onto pizza crusts instead of a tomato based pizza sauce. Top with grilled chicken, halved cherry tomatoes and goat cheese.
  • Mix into mayonnaise. Use this for sandwhiches or wraps, it adds a lovely depth and tang.
  • Mix it into chicken salad with chopped green onions.
  • Add it to the bechamel or ricotta cheese layer of lasagne. This is really nice with a chicken and spinach lasagne, or a grilled vegetable lasagne.
  • Garnish tomato soup with a dollop of pesto.
  • Instead of plain garlic bread, use pesto instead of garlic butter.
  • Use as a sauce for grilled chicken or fish.
  • Use the pesto as a vinaigrette. Either add a bit to your basic vinaigrette, or add an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar to the pesto to make a vinaigrette. There is sufficient oil in the pesto, so you won't need to add more. Toss salad greens, potatoes or pasta with seasonal vegetable and your dressing to make a colourful picnic item.
  • Green eggs and ham? Why not add pesto to your scrambles eggs or omelette? 
  • Mix pesto into soft cream cheese to spread on a bagel.
  • Add to  Basic Tomato Sauce to make an easy pasta sauce for dinner when you're in a rush.
  • Toss potatoes with pesto instead of oil and roast.
  • Tuck a bit of pesto under the skin of chicken or turkey before roasting. This helps keep the meat moist, but provides a lot of flavour at the same time.

Here are some ways to change up the basic bail pesto recipe:
  •  Instead of all basil, which can be expensive if you are buying it, use half basil and half spinach, or parsley. People who hate spinach never know they're eating it!
  • You can use other nuts or herbs for something different. Try almond and spinach, walnuts and roasted red pepper, cilantro and pumpkin seeds, arugula and pinenuts, sundried tomatoes and basil.
  • If you use a vegetable such as roasted red pepper or sundried tomato, the process would start with pureeing the vegetable, then adding the oil, nuts, garlic and lastly the cheese.
  • Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to brighten the flavour, cut the oil and intensify the green colour.
  • Add capers, this works especially well if you are serving it with fish.
  • Use asiago or romano instead of Parmesan. They have a sharper flavour.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Peach Upside down Cake with Rosemary and Black Pepper

Friends were stopping by after dinner for a glass of wine, so I decided to make some kind of cake to enjoy with the wine. There were 3 peaches sitting in the fruit bowl, and lots of fresh rosemary in the garden...

I had made this cake before, but with pecans and peaches. I switched out the pecans for some chopped fresh rosemary, and at the last minute decided that some cracked black pepper would enhance the sweetness of the peaches. And it did!!!

Start off by pre-heating the oven to 325F and lining the bottom of a 9" springform pan with parchment paper. Lightly butter the parchment, then sprinkle with sugar, about 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary and a light sprinkling of freshly cracked black pepper.

Peel 2 fresh peaches and remove the pits. If they are ripe enough the skin will peel off easily just by pulling it with a knife. I prefer this to a quick blanching in boiling water, then immersing the peaches in ice water. It is way too easy to leave them in the hot water too long and end up with cooked peaches.

You will only need 1 1/2 peaches; eat the other half and enjoy it! Slice the peaches into 1/4" thick slices and lay them on top of the sugar, rosemary and black pepper.

Set this aside while you make the batter. Using a stand mixer cream:

4 oz soft butter
3/4 cup sugar

Add 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla, scraping the bowl down in between.

3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)

Mix until just combined.

Add :

1/4 cup non fat plain Greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons milk

Mix until just combined, scraping the bowl down halfway.

Spread the batter evenly over the peaches, being careful not to disturb the peach slices.

Bake for 35 - 45 minutes, until golden, and a wooden skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean and dry.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes before gently removing the ring, then flipping the cake over onto a plate and carefully removing the bottom of the pan, and then the parchment paper.

This was a hit, everyone loved it, the rosemary and pepper really complimented the sweetness of the peaches. It was a lovely way to end a summer evening, watching the sunset and sipping wine on the patio with friends.

Other alternatives:

  • Nectarines, apples, pineapple, plums...all will work well.
  • If the idea of the rosemary doesn't appeal to you, use roughly chopped nuts instead.
  • Use sour cream instead of the yoghurt.
  • Feel free to use brown sugar instead of white, and add dark rum to the batter instead of 2 tablespoons of milk.
  • Spice up the cake batter with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger or nutmeg.
  • Drizzle the finished cake with caramel sauce, melted chocolate or serve with whipped cream, mascarpone or ice cream.