Saturday, August 29, 2009

Apple Spice Cake

This is one of my favorite fall recipes to make. Based on this recipe from Cooking Light, I have made numerous changes, as I found the original recipe lacking. This time I subbed light Laughing Cow cheese for the cream cheese, since I didn't have any on-hand.

Apple Spice Cake

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup (3 oz) low-fat cream cheese
1/4 cup apple sauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
~2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 cup low-fat buttermilk (I subbed with 1 cup skim milk w/ 1 tsp lemon juice)
1 chopped and peeled apple
2 tbsp brandy
2 tsp powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350.

Place the first four ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine flour thru cloves in a large bowl and combine. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat well after each addition. Stir in apple and brandy. Pour mixture into a greased 8" square baking pan.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Whole Wheat-Wheat Germ Bread

This week has been a outright horror. A friend lost her baby at 20 weeks, a friend of the family's daughter-in-law was struck and killed by an SUV while out running and, last night, my aunt passed away in her sleep.

I'm one of those people that, when faced with events like this, keeps moving and keeps busy to keep from dwelling.

So today I've been cooking and baking up a storm. This is one of my favorite breads from The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking. Unbelievably healthy AND tasty. One thing I've discovered in baking these recipes is that I tend to use more flour than is called for. I think here I used about 4 1/2 cups.

Whole Wheat-Wheat Germ Bread

1 tbsp active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil
1/4 cup honey
1 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
4 - 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Combine the yeast and water in a large bowl, stirring until yeast is dissolved. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Stir in the salt, oil and honey. Beat vigorously for 10 minutes, gradually adding the wheat cherm, whole wheat flour. Slowly add in the all-purpose flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn out on a lightly floured surface. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary to prevent stickiness.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Place dough in bowl and turn to coat on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk - a good 1 1/2 hours.

Grease two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans.

Punch down dough. Divide in half, shape into loaves, and place in the pans. Cover with a tea towel and let rise until doubled in bulk - about 45 minutes.

Place in a cold oven and bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. Transfer from pans to a wire rack to cool.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Chicken in Provencal Garlic Sauce

Whenever I see recipes for pan-sauteed chicken, I'm always amazed at the fact that they seem to miss one essential step: no one pounds their chicken.

For me, that's the first step to any successful sauteed chicken dish. You don't pound it as flat as you would for a scallopine, but if you pound it to a uniform thickness, you end up with a much better result.

Also featured in this recipe is freshly-grown garlic! We bought 4 started sets this spring and ended up with 3 small-ish bulbs. I was a bit afraid as to how they turned out but the one I peeled ended up wonderful - fragrant and spicy.

Chicken in Provencal Garlic Sauce

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2" thickness
Sel de Provence and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
herbes de provence

Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add oil and heat thru. Season chicken breasts lightly with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan and sautee 5 minutes, turning halfway thru, until done. Remove from pan and keep warm.

If necessary, add a bit more olive oil to pan. Add onion and garlic and sautee 3 minutes or until translucent. Add chicken broth to pan and stir, scraping browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add in wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes or until reduced. Add chicken to pan and simmer in the sauce for another 3 minutes.

Serve chicken and sauce over rice.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food

Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food

Six years ago I went thru my kitchen and threw out all sorts of "staples" - bleached, enriched white flour, pasta, anything with GMO grains, anything with HFCS (cereal, cookies, crackers, chips, frozen/processed foods, soda, etc.) - and, where necessary (don't need to replace cookies or processed foods) replaced it with organic, whole-grain versions.

That initial large step resulted in several smaller ones over the ensuing years. The result is that the majority of our refrigerator and pantry has been overhauled and filled with organic and sustainably produced food. Three years ago we started an organic vegetable garden and began growing and putting aside our own produce. I barely buy any vegetables from June thru October - only paying for what we don't grow ourselves. We even switched our dog's food to a more sustainable variety.

People often balk at the cost of those foods, that it's not affordable. But, as the article points out, we can't afford to NOT make these sorts of changes.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dry-rubbed Sirloin with Balsamic Fingerling Potatoes

This is an homage to Oregon. And my mother-in-law. Everywhere we went in Oregon, all the food was fresh from a farmer. So, tonight, we had grass-fed organic sirloin, organic fingerling potatoes from the farmer's market, and sweet corn picked yesterday from a friend's farm.

As for how my mother-in-law figures into it, the olive oil and balsamic used on the fingerling potatoes was a Christmas gift from her.

Dry-Rubbed Sirloin

2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
2 tsp mustard seeds, ground
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

2 lb sirloin steak

Combine the first seven ingredients in a small bowl. Rub over both sides of steak. Let sit at room temperature 20-30 minutes.

Pre-heat grill. Cook steak 10 minutes over direct medium-high heat, turning once halfway thru. Then cook over indirect medium-heat another 4 minutes, turning halfway thru, until internal temp reads 140*. Remove from heat, tent with foil and let rest 2-3 minues.

Serve with Balsamic Fingerling Potatoes and grilled sweet corn.

Wine Pairing: Erath Pinot Noir from Dundee, OR

Balsamic Fingerling Potatoes

Balsamic Fingerling Potatoes

1 lb fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and halved lengthwise
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
kosher salt and pepper
rosemary-infused olive oil
18-year-old balsamic vinegar

Combine potatoes, onion and garlic in a medium dish. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil (about 1/2 tbsp) and toss. Drizzle with a bit of balsamic vinegar, toss. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and let cool for a minute. Then lightly drizzle with a bit more balsamic and stir. Serve immediately.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tuna and White Bean Salad

My guilty pleasure when The Spouse isn't home is to have tuna. Tuna melt, tuna casserole, tuna anything. He likes tuna steaks but tuna from a can/pouch? No.

This is a light, healthy, summer-y alternative to the traditional mayo-heavy tuna salad. It takes advantage of lots of fresh herbs that are readily available this time of year. We're growing all the herbs this recipe calls for.

Tuna and White Bean Salad

1 garlic clove
1/4 cup fresh parsley
3 tbsp fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
2 tbsp capers
1 tbsp olive oil
juice from half a lemon
salt and pepper

2 6oz pouches of tuna
1 can white beans (like great northern), drained and rinsed

Combine the first seven ingredients (thru lemon juice) in a small food processor and blend until chopped and well-combined. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, break tuna apart with a fork. Fold in beans and vinaigrette until well combined.

You can serve this a variety of ways - over open-faced sandwiches, with crackers, over lettuce, etc. Me? I had it with a slice of crusty whole-grain sourdough and a few pieces of cheese. Yum.