Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bringing a Little Love Back into Lunch: Cashew Chicken Wrap

Lunch is often the most neglected meal of the day in this house. Not that we don't eat it. We would never miss a meal but more often than not we buy our lunches instead of taking them from home. I'm sure many of you are in the same boat, as it can be hard to drum up enough energy to get homemade dinner on the table let alone lunch. Recently, I have committed myself to using a little bit of Sunday to put something delicious together that we can bring to work and school for a few days. Mind you Sundays are largely devoted to the outdoors, football, brunch, and other more worthy pursuits but if it takes me less than 30 minutes of hands on time, I deem putting together some fun lunch food a good investment.

These wraps were certainly worthy of my time. You can also forgo the wrap and eat the chicken salad straight up. Chicken and cashews is a combination that works every time. I altered the dressing to my preference, which includes a little less mayo and a little more vinegar and mustard. These wraps will remind you not to neglect lunch. The middle of the day is often the hardest to get through, why not have a delightful meal to look forward to.

Cashew Chicken Wrap
Heavily adapted from The Kitchn, serves 4

2 chicken breasts
3 tbs mayo
3 tsps rice vinegar
2 tsp honey
1 tsp olive oil
3 tsps dijon or honey mustard depending on your preference
1/3 cup chopped cashews
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/2 a cup mandarin oranges
Half a small head of red cabbage chopped
Salt and pepper
4 tortillas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake chicken breasts for 25-30 minutes. Use a fork to shred the cooked chicken breasts.

Combine the shredded chicken breasts with the mayo, rice vinegar, honey, olive oil, and mustard. Fold in the cashews, green onions, mandarin oranges, and cabbage. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Wrap in a tortilla or enjoy without.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Raspberry Truffle Brownies with Aleppo Pepper Ganache

Before I say anything else, I must say this, make these brownies. They are a revelation. The root of this brownie is the all cocoa powder recipe by Alice Mendrich. Her recipe seems to be widely regarded as the gold standard with which to judge other lesser brownies. Yes, lesser. These brownies highlight the deep and rich flavorful aspects we all love in chocolate. They are oh so chewy with a perfect crust on top. The raspberry jam and ganache additions by Garnish with Lemon just make them all the more beautiful.

My clever gift

I made these brownies as a part of my husband's Valentine's Day box of spicy culinary treats. I also made guajillo kettle corn, cayenne and cranberry red pepper jam, and chocolate ghost chili almonds. To fit with the theme I spiced the ganache on the brownie with Aleppo pepper, which was the perfect addition, if you aren't afraid of a little heat. I must say I was quite pleased with myself for coming up with this creative gift for my spice loving husband. In the last five years, I have begun to surprise myself with my Martha Steward like creativity. Where did this come from? I have recently found myself drawn to crafting. Should I be concerned? My husband mentioned he thinks I may be preparing for kids down the line. So yes, concern may be warranted. Until then has anyone seen my glue gun?

Raspberry Truffle Brownies with Aleppo Pepper Ganache 
Modified slightly from Garnish with Lemon, Makes one square 8 inch pan

1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
Heaping 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used my favorite Valrhona)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup raspberry jam
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream
Optional: 1 tbs Aleppo pepper flakes (cayenne would work too, use 1/2 tsp)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 8 inch pan with parchment paper enough so that it hangs over the sides.

Combine butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a large microwave proof bowl. Heat for 1 minute and stir, heat for an additional 30 seconds, and repeat as needed until the butter is all melted. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Add vanilla and eggs to the cooled cocoa mixture and whisk vigorously. Gently stir in the flour until combined. Pour in the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center still comes away with a little moist batter. Cool on a rack.

Once cool spread jam over the top. Place brownies in the fridge, while your prepare the ganache.

Place chocolate chips and cream in a microwave proof bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and repeat until melted and combined. Stir in Aleppo pepper flakes, if using. Spread ganache over the brownies with a flat spatula.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Baked Parmesan Garlic Tater Tots

Oh, potatoes. My love for you knows no limits. In the past two days, I have hit the potato trifecta. Fries for dinner one day, fries for lunch the next, and these tater tots for dinner following lunch. Thank goodness the tater tots were baked or I would be in real trouble. Regardless, this is what my dreams are made of, tater tots and fries. I suppose I have other grander dreams but those are long term. Like traveling the world over with my husband, owning a little log cabin in our favorite place on earth, Crested Butte, and saving the world one washed and reused plastic bag at a time.  But today I can attain the dream of baking and consuming some supremely delicious tater tots, which I did and would do again in a heartbeat.

What I love about these tater tots is how easy they are to make and how they blow frozen tater tots out of the water in terms of both texture and flavor. Parmesan and garlic are an excellent flavor combination but the sky is the limit with what you could put in these babies. I'm thinking green chili, pepper jack, and chili powder may be up next for me. Have fun with them because tater tots are nothing if not fun!

Baked Parmesan Garlic Tater Tots
Slightly adapted from Food52, serves 4

1 1/2 lbs russet or red potatoes
4 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 cup parmesan
1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake potatoes until fork tender, about 50 minutes. Run under cold water to cool.

Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment and grease with olive oil.

Grate potatoes on the large holes of a box grater.

Using a fork, combine potatoes with salt, garlic, and parmesan.

Using about a tablespoon of the potato mixture form into a roughly tot shaped cylinder and place on the baking sheet. Repeat until all the potato mixture has been used.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Maple Sweet Potato Oat Muffins

What is it about mornings that makes them so lovely? For me it's the calm and peace of the world before it begins to wake-up. In the morning, we can have a moment to ourselves before we must fulfill our daily responsibilities and answer to others. Running taught me to truly appreciate this calm. I love quiet hours spent traversing over trails, where it is just me and the birds, and sometimes the bears, and probably the mountain lions too but they have yet to show themselves to me (thank goodness, I much prefer being oblivious to their presence). My love of morning has translated into a deep love of breakfast. Breakfast food embodies all that is wonderful about morning, especially muffins. Muffins demand we cozy up with a blanket and a cup of tea and enjoy the serenity. This maple sweet potato oat muffin especially does that, as nothing radiates comfort more than maple syrup, sweet potato, and warm spices. 

This muffin is my dream combination of ingredients, whole wheat, sweet potato, maple syrup, oats, yogurt, and coconut oil. It's the right way to start your day, mostly because it's delicious but also because it's balanced. It contains less sugar than you average muffin and relies on yogurt and coconut oil for the moisture. And it's so tasty, a little bit like a pumpkin muffin kicked up with a rich sweet potato and maple flavor that you will savor in the early morning hours before you start your day. 

Maple Sweet Potato Oat Muffins
Makes a dozen regular muffins

1 cup sweet potato (about two medium sized sweet potatoes)
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour 
3/4 cup rolled oats 
2 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tbs cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice 
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup coconut oil melted and cooled (can sub olive or vegetable here)
1 egg
3/4 cup Greek yogurt 
1/4 cup maple syrup 
1/4 brown sugar 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roast sweet potatoes for an hour. Remove from oven and let cool. Remove flesh and mash with a fork or potato masher until roughly the consistency of mashed potatoes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray or grease with butter. 

Whisk flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt in a medium bowl. 

Whisk sweet potato mash, coconut oil, egg, Greek yogurt, maple syrup, and brown sugar until combined. 

Add dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 to full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Enjoy everything the morning has to offer. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Not Your Average Hot Dog: Sweet and Spicy Pickled Relish and Homemade Buns

Let's talk about hot dogs because why wouldn't we? After this week, I'm convinced I don't eat them enough. They are darn delicious. Even your average ballpark dog with mustard and ketchup is a splendid thing. But this hot dog, well, it took everything I know and love about hot dogs and knocked it out of the park. Okay, enough with the baseball references. What I am saying is this hot dog was an extraordinary flavor bomb. First and foremost, it was made with Tender Belly Franks, which are actually all pork, and truly the best hot dog I have ever had the pleasure of eating. In Boulder, I know you can find them at Alfalfa's, Cured, and Lucky's Market. Any all beef hot dog will work as well but if you can get your hands on these, count yourself lucky. 

What else made these awesome was a quick and easy homemade sweet and spicy pickled relish and buns from scratch. I know buns from scratch may sound intimidating but if you have an extra hour, you can whip them up quick. You can't compare fresh baked buns to store bought. There is simply no contest. Home baked bread wins every time. If you don't have the time, not to worry, hot dog buns are pretty tasty anyway. The relish though only takes about twenty minutes to make and is a really lovely addition to any hot dog. Quick pickled carrots and jalapenos with sweet relish give you that right amount of zip with a subtle sweet. My guess is you haven't had a hot dog since this summer and I always say there is no time like the present for a hot dog. Or at least that's what I'm saying now. 

Hot Dogs with Sweet and Spicy Pickled Relish 
Makes enough relish and buns for 6 hot dogs 

Sweet and Spicy Pickled Relish
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
1 clove of garlic crushed
3 jalapenos chopped 
2 medium sized carrots chopped
1/4 sweet relish 

In a medium sauce pan over high heat, whisk apple cider vinegar, sugar, and salt together. Add bay leaf, garlic, jalapenos, and carrots. 

Bring to a boil for one minute. Remove from heat and let sit for twenty minutes. Drain liquid and remove bay leaf and garlic clove. 

Mix in the sweet relish with the carrots and jalapenos and serve over the top of your favorite hot dog. 

Hot dog buns
Adapted from King Arthur Flour The Baker's Companion 

1 cup water
1 tbs instant yeast 
3 tbs honey
1 large egg
2 tbs melted butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups wheat flour 
1 tsp salt
1 tsp onion power

I always proof my yeast before baking to make sure it's activated. To do so combine yeast with 1/4 cup warm water (around 100 degrees) and honey. Let sit for 5 minutes or until yeast becomes bubbly. 

Add yeast mixture, the remaining 3/4 cup water, egg, butter, both flours, salt, and onion powder and combine. Knead by hand or mixer, until you have a smooth dough. Put dough in a greased bowl (either butter or olive oil work well), cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise for an hour. Another trick to help bread rise is to turn your oven on until it heats to about 110 degrees, turn off, and let the bread rise in the oven. 

Divide dough into eight pieces and on a lightly floured surface roll into a hot dog bun shaped cylinder about five inches long. Put the buns on two greased baking sheets, cover, and let rise 30-40 minutes, until they are puffy. 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on a rack. 

Other recommended hot dog ingredients
Ketchup or BBQ sauce
Cream cheese (Sounds crazy? Just wait until you try it)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Valentine's Day Spiced Chocolate Lava Cake with Brandied Cherry Sauce

A Valentine for my husband

I began this blog because I really do believe in the power of food to connect us to each other. Whether we are cooking a meal together, sharing one, or giving cookies to a friend, food brings us together. The first few months of this blog have brought that point home, as many of you have commented on or cooked something I have posted. Last week my best friend called me to discuss one of the recipes she was making with her boyfriend and today my sister sent me a text with a photo of a Valentine's version M&M cookie. All of this makes me endlessly happy and reminds me again that my love of food is so much more then the enjoyment of a tasty bite, although it certainly is that too. My love of food is sharing that enjoyment with all of you. So thank you all for making this adventure more fun than I imagined. 

Now you are all wishing I would just get on with it. Enough with the sentimental ramblings. We are here to talk about the food. Can you guess how we celebrate love and Valentine's Day in this house? Food, yes food, always food. So my husband, who is equally enamored with all things delicious, helped me develop this decadent Valentine's dessert for two. Please forgive me for missing the money shot with the chocolate deliciousness flowing from the cake but the cake split in half when I took it out of the ramekin. This did not make for the most beautiful photo but it didn't change how darn amazing you will find this cake. We are all human and the lesson to take from it all is that it doesn't matter how it looks as longs as it tastes dreamy. 

Cutest ramekin in the world 

When drumming up Valentine's dessert ideas, we came to the word luscious. This cinnamon and cayenne spiced chocolate cake, which oozes chocolaty goodness is decadent. What elevates it to luscious is the boozy red wine, brandy, and sweet cherry sauce that goes on top. If you are feeling particularly risque, a scoop of vanilla ice cream wouldn't hurt either. 

Spiced Chocolate Lava Cake with Brandied Cherry Sauce 
Lava cake adapted from Joy the Baker, serves 2

Brandied Cherry Sauce Ingredients: 
1 cup frozen cherries or fresh if in season 
2 1/2 tbs sugar 
1/2 cup red wine 
2 brandy shooters (15 ml) 

Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil. Turn to medium low and let reduce down for 10-15 minutes. Serve over this cake or vanilla ice cream (or both) and enjoy! 

Spiced Lava Cake Ingredients: 
2 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 large egg
8 tsps granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt 
Pinch of cayenne
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsps all purpose flour

With rack in center of the oven, preheat to 375 degrees. Place a cookie sheet in the oven.

Generously butter and flour a ramekin and I mean generous so yours doesn't stick and break like mine. 

In a sauce pan bring a couple inches of water to a simmer. In a heatproof bowl over the simmering water, mix chocolate and butter until melted. 

Whisk together eggs and sugar in a medium bowl. Pour in about a tablespoon of the chocolate mixture and whisk to temper the eggs. Whisk in the rest of the chocolate mixture. Add salt, cayenne, cinnamon, and flour to the mixture and whisk until combined. 

Pour batter into your ramekin and place on cookie sheet in oven. Bake 15-20 minutes. 

Remove ramekin from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. After it has cooled slightly, use potholders to invert it on a plate. Enjoy with the one you love or alone with love. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

M&M Cookies to Love

Let's talk about warm things because right now it is -7 degrees where I reside. The -9 degrees I woke up to deterred me from my morning run and I am left feeling cold and cooped up. Last night in an attempt to embrace the cold and enjoy a cozy night in, Blake and I spread out blankets on the floor, lit a bunch of candles, and enjoyed a picnic of cheese, cured meats, and red wine. How romantic, eh? It is a favorite monthly tradition of ours. In the summer we take the picnics outside and in the winter we enjoy the diversion they offer from a cold winter night.

Dessert on picnic night was a favorite staple in our house, the M&M cookie. My husband's absolute favorite. I have to say I have enjoyed my fair share of M&M cookies and these take the cake or the cookie, if you will. The recipe comes from a wonderful blogger Bake or Break with very slight modifications. Yes, the M&Ms in the picture are Denver Broncos colored but for the love of all that is good and kind in this world, please don't make me talk about that game. We are trying to move past that tragic loss in our house. Turns out eating a bunch of these wonderful chewy M&M cookies helps. A rather large glass of red wine doesn't hurt either.

M&M Cookie to Love
Slightly adapted from Bake or Break

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
10 tbs butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups M&Ms

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.

With an electric mixer on medium beat butter, brown sugar, and sugar until combined and fluffy. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Beat until combined. Mix in M&Ms.

Using 3 tbs of dough roll into balls and place on prepared pans. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until edges are brown but center is still soft.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Fish Tacos with Chipotle Cream and Kate's Famous Slaw

When we got married, we both wrote our own vows. Of course they ended up looking remarkably the same. I vow to be your best friend until the end of time, I vow to keep exploring this world with you, I vow to brew the best beer together, and of course, I vow to continue to pursue the best food with you at my side. You know, the usual.

 In this house we are engaged in an endless pursuit of eating and creating the best meals. Chili, tacos, and pizza happen to be three meals we have dedicated a substantial amount of time to perfecting. Our chili recipe is getting pretty darn good. Our pizza crust has become the kind of slightly sweet, chewy delight that creates the perfect foundation for the one million different sauce and topping combinations we have piled on top. 

Last night was fish taco night. These fish tacos were awesome. Really quite good, if I do say so myself, which I just did. Beer battered fish with a light pan fry, smothered with dynamite chipotle crema, and topped with our favorite slaw and avocado. The slaw recipe is our go to for everything from BBQ to tacos. It's simple, no frills, light on the mayo, heavy on zesty apple cider vinegar and tangy mustard. The chipotle sour cream was inspired by a tarter sauce recipe from Sunset Magazine. I replaced the mayo with sour cream because I like it better. Greek yogurt would work here too. I also went heavy on the chipotle and relish. We like heat so temper this recipe according to your preference. 

Fish Tacos with Chipotle Crema and Kate's Famous Slaw 
Serves 4-6 depending on if you live with my husband or not 
Partially adapted from Sunset Magazine

1 cup dark beer (we used home brewed stout) 
3/4 cup all purpose flour 
1 tsp salt
1 lb tilapia 
Vegetable oil 
8-10 corn tortillas
Kate's famous slaw (recipe to follow)
Chipotle sour cream sauce (recipe to follow) 
Avocado lime 

Kate's Famous Slaw
1 medium head of cabbage, shredded 
2 carrots, grated on box grater
2 shallots, grated on box grater or finely diced 
1/4 cup mayo 
 3 tbs dijon mustard 
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs apple cider vinegar 
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper 

Mix together shredded cabbage, carrots, and shallots. Whisk mayo, dijon, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour over the top of the cabbage mixture and mix until coated. This is best done at least one hour before you plan to use it. Can be made the day before and stored in the fridge. 

Chipotle Sour Cream 
1 cup sour cream 
1/4 cup sweet relish 
4 tbs chipotles with adobe sauce (2 tbs for those liking it a little milder) 

In a blender or food processor, mix until smooth. 

Beer battered tilipia  
Whisk together the dark beer, flour, and salt. 
Cut fish into one inch strips. 
Heavily coat the bottom of a frying pan with vegetable oil and heat on high. You want your oil hot. Also, please be careful not to lean over or stick any body parts close to the hot oil. It sizzles and spits so be aware. With a fork dip each piece of fish into the batter, lift out, and let drain off slightly. Cook a few battered pieces at a time in the oil until golden brown on both sides (about 2-3 minutes per side). Transfer fried pieces to paper towel lined baking sheet and keep warm in an oven heated to 200 degrees, until all the fish has been fried. 

Warm corn tortillas in the oven or microwave. To assemble: place a few strip of fish on warmed tortilla, drizzle over some chipotle crema, a good heaping of slaw, and avocado on top. A few dashes of hot sauce are an excellent addition.