Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Corn chowder

Who says chowders have to be unhealthy? This had minimal butter, no cream, lotsa veggies, and soy milk! And it tasted great (in my opinion at least). My brother always laughs at me because I'll drink diet coke and eat french fries smothered in cheese, guacamole, and carne asada (the best thing ever by the way if you've never tried it - a San Diego hole in the wall Mexican specialty). But my argument is that if a comparable lower calorie version of carne asada french fries existed, I'd eat it. Unfortunately, there isn't, but there is one for soda, so I might as well take advantage of that, right?

I'm always about finding comparable healthy alternatives. I've baked eggrolls before, made creamless creamed spinach, baked potato wedges/chips, etc. and now I'm on to my healthy version of corn chowder, I hope you like it!

- 2 tbs butter
- flour
- 1 can of corn
- 1 onion finely diced

- 2 ribs of celery chopped

- 1 potato diced

- 1 chicken breast

- 1 cup soy milk

- 1 cup chicken stock or water

- 1 tsp oregano

- 1 tsp parsley

- salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a heavy pot and add flour a little a time to make a rue. Keep adding the flour until it can't hold anymore.

In a separate pan (or take the rue out and use the same pan), sweat the onions until softened. Add a pinch of salt to help with the process.

Add it to the pot (or add the rue back in).
Add the can of corn, with the liquid, soy milk and chicken stock/water. Stir to break up the rue and thicken the soup.

Toss in the celery, potato and the chicken breast to poach. Bring everything to a boil then turn down to a simmer.

When the chicken is cooked, take it out and shred it and put it back in. Add the herbs and salt and pepper to taste and enjoy the comforting goodness of this healthy corn chowder.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tortilla Soup

I love soup. Whenever restaurants ask if I want soup or salad, I always go for the soup. I made this soup with the leftover liquid from the carnitas. It would be such a shame to waste all that flavorful broth. Why do they sell chicken and beef broth, but not pork broth? Pork broth is yummy too, isn't it?

Anyway, this soup is also a great way to use up stale tortilla chips or the small broken ones at the bottom of the bag. Unfortunately, I was a dummy that forgot to add the tortilla in before taking the picture. Oops. But I'm sure you can use your imagination.

Since I used leftover carnitas liquid, I don't have measurements for ingredients. Mine are always just estimations anyway and really done more by taste than anything, but here it is...

- Pork broth (chicken would work fine too)
- 1 chicken breast

- 1 can of corn
- 1 can of black beans rinsed

- 2 ribs of celery sliced

- 2 carrots diced

- 1 onion diced

- 2 cloves of garlic minced

- 1 jalapeno minced finely

- cumin to taste

- chili powder to taste

- salt to taste

- black pepper to taste


- Saute the onions until soft and add the garlic, cumin and chili powder. Toast the spices until fragrant.
- Add the carrots and celery and saute for a few minutes.
- Pour in the broth and bring to a boil.
- Add the jalapeno and chicken breast. Simmer until the chicken breast is cooked. Remove the chicken breast, and shred it.
- When the vegetables are soft, add the chicken back in, the corn and black beans.
- Heat everything through, add salt and pepper to taste and serve it with some tortilla chips and a dollop or sour cream if desired. Diced avocado would be a wonderful addition too.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Crispy, Juicy Carnitas

Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexican independence day. Sept 16th is! So in honor of it, I'm posting this today. Happy Mexican Independence Day!

I had no idea carnitas were so easy to make. I'm definitely making this a lot more in the future, especially since it was so yummy!

Having a pressure cooker really makes life a lot easier too. Pressure cookers are really amazing. Instead of braising for hours on end...I popped the meat in for half an hour and *poof* it's done! It's like magic!
On top of being so delicious and easy to make, they're healthy too. I always thought that carnitas were deep fried to get their crispy goodness, but they don't have to be. All they need a bit of time in the oven for nice crispy edges and a juicy interior.

Put it on a tortilla with some chopped onions, cilantro and hot sauce and you've got yourself a great meal!

I'm also submitting this for Joelen's TGIF Happy Hour that is featuring margaritas and other Mexican goodies.

- 4 pounds of pork butt (shoulder)
- 1.5 tbs of salt (plus more to taste)
- 1 tsp cumin (plus more to taste)
- 1 tsp chili powder (plus more to taste)
- 5 grinds of ground black pepper (plus more to taste)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 onion
- 1 jalapeno
- 3 cloves of garlic

Cut the pork into ~2x2 inch cubes. I think this is a good size because it cooks quicker than not cutting it into chunks but still keeps it really juicy.

Sprinkle the seasonings on the meat and put it into a pressure cooker or large pot if you don't have a pressure cooker. Rough chop the onion and jalapeno and toss them in. Crush the garlic and throw that in the pot too. Next add water until the meat is barely submerged if using a pressure cooker, or until fully submerged if you're using a pot.

If you're using a pressure cooker, heat until fully pressurized and keep it there for 30 minutes or until tender. If you're using a regular pot, put a lid on it and put it into a 300 degree oven, or simmer on the stove top for a few hours until tender. A slow cooker would work too.

When the meat is cooked and falls apart easily, remove the onions, garlic, bay leaf and jalapeno if you can find them. Drain all but 1/2 an inch of the liquid.

Lightly smash each cube of pork so that it falls apart just a little bit, but not totally shredded. The reason I do this is to maximize the surface area that will get extra seasoning and will get crispy in the oven, but not so much so that it dries out and is no longer juicy.

Sprinkle on additional amounts (to taste) of the same seasonings you used before. Don't be scared to be generous with the seasonings.

Pop it into a 350 degree oven for about 10-20 minutes or until the tops and edges are dry and crispy and most of the liquid has evaporated.

Shred the meat with a fork or your fingers. Serve it in a tortilla with some chopped onions, cilantro, hot sauce and any other toppings of your choice.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Stuffed Baguettes

These are like the best things ever! This is the same recipe as the baguettes I made earlier, but stuffed with ooey gooey cheese and other goodies. I did a few experiments with pesto and artichokes, blue cheese and bacon, salami and cheese, and our favorite, ham and cheese. Look at that cheese oozing out - yum!

The first time I made this, I made 2 baguettes and 2 stuffed baguettes. The stuffed ones were such a hit that they disappeared within hours of coming out of the oven! Since they were so good, I thought I'd make more and freeze them, but the next batch of 6 never made it to the freezer before getting gobbled up. I tried one more time to make a batch for freezing and finally succeeded. They freeze really well and still taste great heated up in a toaster oven.

I definitely recommend giving these a try!

And also as an update to my last entry about the baguettes, I used bread flour and a baking stone this time and it seemed to help with making more larger air bubbles, but it may also just be my imagination. Who knows...

I'm also submitting this for Joelen's September Tasty Tools Event. She's highlighting bakeware this month and since I used a baking stone, silpat, and cooling rack, that should qualify, right? The roundup will be posted on October 5th, so keep your eye out for it!

From King Arthur's blog:
1/2 cup water
1 cup Bread Flour
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
All of the starter
3 1/2 cups Bread Flour
1 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

The Starter: Mix the starter ingredients together till smooth, cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight.
Preparing the Dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead them together -- by hand, mixer or bread machine -- till you've made a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface should still be a bit rough. Allow the dough to rise, covered with lightly greased plastic wrap, for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour, and then again after 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased or floured work surface. Divide the dough into two pieces (if you're using our Steam Baking Master, or three pieces, for longer, thinner baguettes. Shape each piece into a rough, slightly flattened oval, cover with greased plastic wrap, and let them rest for 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into six pieces. Flatten each piece into a 5" square. Layer with the stuffing of your choice—a slice or two of ham or salami, some cheese, mustard—and roll up like a jelly roll, pinching the ends and the side seam closed.

Place the logs in the folds of a floured couche or floured cotton dish towel, which you've set onto a sheet pan or pans. Or place them directly onto the pan (lightly greased or parchment-lined). Cover them with a proof cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to rise till they have become quite puffy, but haven't doubled in size; this will take about 60 to 90 minutes.

Preheat your oven to
425°F; if you're using a baking stone, place it on the lowest shelf. Roll the risen baguettes from the couche onto the lightly greased or parchment-lined pan of your choice -- or onto a peel, if you're baking directly on the stone. Spritz the baguettes heavily with warm water; this will help them develop a crackly-crisp crust. Using a very sharp knife held at about a 45° angle, make three 8” vertical slashes in each baguette. Place the baguettes in the oven.

Bake the baguettes
in a 425°F oven for about 25 minutes, until they're golden brown. Yield: six stuffed baguettes.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sa Cha Green Beans and Meat

August was pretty pathetic, huh? Only 3 posts...sorry about that. Things have been busy, and are still busy, but I'll try to be better about posting. And with this post, I only need 3 more to "improve" on last month!

Sa cha
sauce is often referred to as Chinese BBQ sauce though it doesn't resemble BBQ in the traditional sense at all. Sa cha is a little spicy, a little smokey, not sweet at all, very unique and very yummy. Typically I like to use Chinese long beans for this dish, but I didn't have any on hand, so I used regular green beans and it still turned out great.

- 1 tbs cooking oil
- approximately 1 pound of green beans or Chinese long beans
- approximately 1/3 pound of ground pork (or turkey/chicken)
- 1 garlic clove minced
- approximately 1 tbs soy sauce (to taste)
- approximately 2 tbs of sa cha sauce (to taste - I like a lot, so you should probably start with less and add keep adding it to your liking)

If you're using green beans, clean and cut them into ~1/2" dices. If you're using Chinese long beans, cut them into smaller pieces.

Heat some oil in a pan/wok and add the garlic, ground meat and soy sauce and keep it moving until mostly cooked through.

Add the green beans and sa cha sauce and keep everything moving until it's all cooked through. Taste the dish and add more soy/sa cha according to your preferences and serve over fluffy white rice.