Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Indian Butter Chicken

My husband and I have found a wonderfully addicting alternative to "going out"... it's called "cooking in". Imagine that! We attempt to make our favorite dishes that we love to have when eating out. Hey... we're all saving pennies these days, and although it's not as nice as having an evening out of the kitchen, it's fun to have our favorite restaurant's famous fare (well, almost!). A few months ago, my husband and I went out for Indian. I played it safe and had my usual "red curry (coconut) chicken". It was really good! But my husband also had a really nice dish called "Kashmiri Chicken". It was a new dish for both of us, and we loved how silky the sauce was, and how the spices were balanced with a bit of sweet taste. I started looking for recipes when I got home that evening. I didn't have much luck. It turns out that Kashmiri is not really a cooking term, but a regional description of a chicken dish. During my search I found a lot of recipes for a dish called Butter Chicken. And as I was reading ingredient lists I noticed that Indian Butter Chicken seemed to have some similar tastes as to what we had had that evening at the restaurant. (And if there are any Indian food "critics" reading this, first of all... thank you for reading?! and second of all, forgive my naivete for thinking these dishes might be similar!)

The next week rolled around and I decided to try my hand at making Kashmiri Chicken. I started with a basic Indian Butter Chicken recipe and altered it for what I could find/not find and how I thought the recipe would change from Butter Chicken to the Kashmiri dish that we had at the restaurant. I also like a medium heat range when it comes to spices... not wimpy, but not painful either, so I altered the spices just a bit. We loved this dish the way that it turned out and have made it multiple times since then! Perfect comfort food that is certainly healthier than fast food!

Indian Butter Chicken
Adapted from Allrecipes.com to taste like the Kashmiri dish we had from the restaurant.
Serves 4

  • ----------SAUCE-----------
  • 1 Tbsp Coconut Oil (or peanut oil)
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp green curry paste
  • 1/4 tsp fresh grated ginger (I buy it in the jar)
  • 1 tsp garam masala (I made my own - it made enough for 3 recipes)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 pinch salt (I used Kosher salt, so added 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp creamy peanut or almond butter
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • topping for dish: roasted salted cashews - about 2 Tbsp
  • ----------CHICKEN-----------
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • OR - this is great with left over roasted chicken as well. I still sprinkle it with seasonings before adding it to the sauce at the end.
  • ----------RICE----------
  • 1 part rice - 2 parts water
  • I used about 1/2 cup brown rice, rinsed well

  • If serving this dish over rice, get it started first as it usually takes 30-45 minutes depending on cooking methods. I like to use my rice cooker. I measure out the rice, put it in the basin of the cooker and rinse it well (at least twice) by scrubbing the rice with my palm and fingers to wash off the extra starch. This really does make a difference - especially with brown rice. It will cook up more fluffy and not lump itself together. Drain the water as best as you can, then add twice the amount of fresh water as dry rice. Start your rice cooker.
  • To make the sauce: heat 1 Tbsp coconut oil in a large sauce pan over medium high heat. Saute shallot and onion until soft and translucent, not brown.

  • Stir in butter, lemon juice, green curry paste, grated ginger, 1 tsp garam masala, chili powder, cumin and bay leaf. Cook, stirring one minute.

  • Add tomato sauce, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Stir in Half-and-half, yogurt, peanut or almond butter, and raisins. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

  • To cook the chicken: heat 1 Tbsp coconut oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat and season with 1 tsp garam masala and cayenne. Stir in a few spoonfuls of sauce, and simmer until the liquid has reduced and chicken is no longer pink in the center.
  • Stir cooked chicken into sauce.
  • **If the sauce is too thin (mine never is, but this is per the original recipe) you can mix 1 Tbsp of cornstarch into 1/4 cup of water and mix into the sauce. Simmer until it starts to thicken, 5-10 minutes.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Apple Muffins with Crisp Topping

Here's another great use for all those Fall apples you're picking this month. These muffins are extraordinarily moist, perfectly spicy, and the crumbly topping is a nice sweet addition that makes you want to save the top for last! Without going on and on and on about how good these are, I will simply say... make these muffins! You won't be sorry! (My husband has offed four all by himself today and asked when I'm going back for more apples to make more.)

Apple Muffins with Crisp Topping
Makes 12 regular muffins, or a whole mess of minis!

  • 1 1/2 Cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1/2 Cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt (if using a heavier Kosher salt, up it to 3/4 tsp)
  • 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • ------whisk ---------
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I used dark)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ------cream until fluffy------
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 3 apples, peeled. 1 shredded, and two finely chopped
  • 1/3 Cup packed brown sugar (again, I used dark)
  • 1 TBSP flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 TBSP oatmeal
  • -----whisk together, then cut in...-----
  • 2 TBSP room temp salted butter
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Whisk together dry ingredients.
  • In a separate bowl, cream the sugars, eggs, and butter until light and fluffy.
  • Add the shredded apple and vanilla to the wet mix and stir in with a spatula or wooden spoon.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold together with spatula or spoon until all the dry ingredients are well incorporated.
  • Add chopped apple and fold in until well-distributed.
  • Mix topping - dry ingredients first. Then use a fork to cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.
  • Line muffin tray with papers or liberally spray each cup.
  • Fill each cup to the top with batter.
  • Sprinkle with topping.
  • Bake for 20 minutes. Mini-muffins for 13-14 minutes. Or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.
*You can also bake this as a coffee cake too. 8x8 pan, spray it well! Bake 20 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.

*If you really like the topping - double it... I won't tell anyone.

I like to make the mini-muffins topping-free for my daughter. Less messy, and a little healthier!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Apple Crisp

'Tis the season... to pick your own apples! If you are lucky enough to live near a fruit orchard, you know that local fruit that is in season tastes ten-times better than anything you can buy in a grocery market. It's not had long storage times in containers and in temperatures that nature didn't intend... and it hasn't had to journey from far distances or even from another country. And if you're really lucky, you'll find an orchard that has earth-friendly or organic growing practices. Although our orchard is not organic, they do try to spray minimally - mostly when the trees and bushes are in flower and before the fruit appears.

When choosing an apple to make crisps, pies, crumbles, or sweet breads and muffins, try to find a firm fleshed variety that is not initially sweet. Granny Smiths, Empires, Golden Delicious, Jonagolds, Honeycrisps, Cortland, and Braeburns are just a few that hold up well to baking. Today I'm using a mix of Honeycrisp and a variety called Pinata.

Honestly, I've always felt that many of the crisp recipes I've been given and tried have fallen flat. Either the crisp topping never "crisps" or the dish is all-over laking flavor, spice, or is overly sweet. I don't want to feel like I have to put ice-cream on my fruit crisps to make them edible (not a bad addition, but I don't want it to be the highlight of the dish!) I've combined a recipe that my mother had given me a long time ago and also taking some tips that AllRecipes.com has written on apple crisps. I think this recipe is a wonderful combination of flavor, a good balance of fruit and crispy topping, and can stand alone... with or without ice cream!

Apple Crisp
This recipe makes enough for a 9X13" pan, but is easy to cut in half in you want to use an 8X8.

  • 10 Cups of baking apples. Peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/4" thin sections.
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 Cup white sugar
  • 1 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 TBSP apple cider (or water)

  • 2 Cups quick-cooking oatmeal
  • 1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 Cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) salted butter, room temp

  1. Peel, core, slice and cut your apples and place in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Mix the white sugar, 1 TBSP flour, cinnamon and nutmeg together well. Sprinkle the mixture over the apple slices and toss to coat.
  4. Coat your baking dish with spray, pour and spread out the apples evenly. Sprinkle the 3 TBSP of apple cider over the top.
  5. In a small bowl, mix the oats, 2 cups flour, chopped pecans (opt), brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk together to mix. Cut in the room temperature butter with a pastry cutter or two forks until the topping appearing crumbly. Sprinkle it evenly over the top of the apples.
  6. Bake for 45-50 minutes.
This is best served warm. When serving, spoon the great juice in the bottom of the pan over the top of the crisp topping - it has great flavor you don't want to miss out on! Great with ice cream, whipped cream, a little milk, or... just by itself!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"Wings" with Orange Chipotle BBQ Sauce

Confession: this isn't the recipe that I really wanted to be making tonight. You see, ever since I sat down for dinner at a Stone Harbor, NJ seafood shack called Quahogs and took a bite of their Pacu fish ribs (Yes... FISH ribs), I've been thinking about the meal ever since. Let me repeat... FISH ribs. They looked just like pork ribs, but were cut from the belly of a Brazilian fish that grows to be 60 pounds. Smothered with a delicious BBQ sauce and grilled lightly... the meat just fell off the bone. But I digress. I have to "call by Tuesday" if I want my Pacu by the weekend from my seafood guy at the local market.

Even though I couldn't get ahold of the Pacu fish this weekend, I decided I can first start to work on the wonderful Orange Chipotle BBQ sauce that the chef at Quahog's makes to marinate them in. I decided to make some wings for "game night". And although Penn State is losing to the big Alabama Tide as I write this, I am at least glad that the sauce is a winner so far. I'm not a huge fan of bony wings with no meat, so I went straight for the meatier chicken drumstick. My favorite brand of packaged fresh chicken right now is Bell and Evans. They have five chunky drumsticks (raised without antibiotics or growth hormones) packaged for less than $4. I used two packs and the sauce I made was plenty to accommodate them. So although I wasn't able to make my ribs - I'll just have to let it go until next weekend - it was good practice for me and a wonderful sauce for "wings" if you plan on making them.

Orange Chipotle BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup Orange Juice
  • 1 cup Ketchup
  • 2 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 TBSP chipotle Tabasco sauce
  • 1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp onion flakes
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • ---------------------------
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • In a saucepan, reduce orange juice by half, stirring often, until is starts to thicken.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients, except honey, and stir until it just starts to "pop", or boil.

Place drumsticks, or wings, in a gallon sized baggie and pour sauce over top. Let marinate for 3 hours (minimum) to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray or butter a 9X13 baking dish and arrange wings (and all the marinade you can squeeze out of the bag) so that they lay in a single layer. Bake for 50-60 minutes, turning once and basting with sauce and 1/4 cup of honey about half way through. Another confession: I took these out early around 40 minutes thinking they'd be done (when picture was taken). I decided to put them back in for the extra time - for me 60 minutes - and I was glad I did. The sauce thickened and the meat didn't lose any moisture! It may be less time for those of you using a smaller drumstick or frozen wings.

This sauce was sweet, smokey, and tangy. Perfect for wings, or when you can get it from your trusty fish monger... Pacu fish ribs. ;0)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Vegan/Veggie Burger

Recently I had a good friend tell me that she and her husband were making the switch to veganism. They went from being meat eaters to vegan over-night... and all because of having read a book called The China Study. I have not read the book yet. But I've heard about it and have read about others making changes in their diets because of it. (Perhaps it should be on my must-read list?) Then again, maybe there are things that I'd like to stay naive about just a little bit longer... I'm not sure that I could live without ice-cream, yogurt, cheese, and eggs. I've been a non-red meat eater for 16 years. I even dabbled in vegetarianism for about 8 months one year. Even now, I don't eat a lot of meat, but I do enjoy small amounts of poultry, fish, and seafood. And I cook about 2-3 vegetarian (not necessarily vegan) meals a week. Even as a meat eater, it is hard to deny the knowledge that eating "alive" and whole food is simply healthier for your body. It just makes sense. The fruits, vegetables, and greens that we eat are filled with life and nutrients that are given to us directly from the earth itself. It's where we get our natural vitamins. And it's exciting to know that there are sources of protein - something our body does need and crave - that we can get from non-meat sources. So in honor of that, and in honor of this huge life change that my friends are diving headfirst into, I am at least vowing to explore some vegan as well as more vegetarian meals. I almost succeeded in the vegan meal tonight,but couldn't resist slapping a slice of yummy melty sharp cheddar onto my vegan burger. ;0) I'll get there!

The burgers I made tonight were soft, sweet, and yummy. We grilled them in a pan with a little olive oil spray and served them without a roll, along with a side salad. I did stray from the recipe a bit as far as spices. I wanted my 2.5 year old to still enjoy them. You can always kick the spice up a notch if you aren't feeding delicate palates! Follow the link to the original recipe to see what they added, spice wise. I also am upping the amount of quinoa that it calls for. The burger needed a bit more grain to hold the patty together.

Quinoa, Black Bean, and Sweet Potato Burgers
Lightly adapted from fatfreevegan.com

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, finely grated
  • 1 can of black beans, washed and drained
  • 1/2 of 1 baked sweet potato, flesh scooped out (or 3/4 cup canned)
  • 1/2 cup Quinoa (uncooked). Make sure to choose a brand that is pre-rinsed or you will need to sort (for rocks) and rinse off the sour coating on the grain. Try "Ancient Grains"brand for a nice pre-rinsed Quinoa.
  • 2/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 TBSP ketchup
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • An hour before you make the burgers, wrap your sweet potato in aluminum foil and bake for one hour at 400 degrees F. You can use a toaster oven if you have one.
  • Place dry quinoa with 1 cup of water into a sauce pan with lid. Bring to a boil, then turn heat back to a low simmer. Simmer, covered, for 10-12 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.
  • Saute onion and garlic with a little olive oil. If you are using jarred minced garlic instead of fresh, add the garlic at the very end when the onions have turned translucent.
  • Add beans to the same pan and cook for 2 minutes more.
  • Turn off heat. Lightly mash about half of the beans.
  • Combine all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix until well-combined. Form into patties. It will make 4-5 patties.
  • Lightly spray a skillet with olive oil (and spray top of burger before flipping) and fry until brown on each side.

My little bunny rabbit... liked her veggies and vegan burger.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Roasted Beets with Feta

I did it! I finally took the purple plunge. I've always enjoyed beets, but thought that preparing them seemed a pretty daunting task and just too much work. I'm here to report that it really wasn't that big of a deal. I found a recipe that was pretty easy, simple ingredients, and not all that messy. And my inspiration? My neighbor brought us a "welcome to the neighborhood" bushel of vegetables and melons straight from her garden. After all the heirloom tomatoes were slurped up, all of the squash grilled and eaten... there sat three lonely purple beets. They were just staring at me and begging to be used. I just couldn't let them go to waste. "But what do I DO with them?", I pondered. So after a quick search on the internet, I rolled up my sleeves and went to work.

I attempted a recipe straight from allrecipes.com. I didn't vary a thing, other than I only had three beets instead of four, and I took it easy on the amount of shallots I added to the dressing.

The result was a wonderfully light beet salad, with a slightly "pickled" taste... which is something I really enjoy after growing up in an area with a heavy Mennonite and Amish population. The Pennsylvania Dutch pickle everything, by the way. I'll never forget my husband's disgust as he learned about my obsession with purple pickled hard-boiled eggs! (Yum!) The salad's pickled taste is nicely balanced with the feta cheese, though I also thought I would enjoy it with a creamier goat cheese as well.

If you try this, let me know what you think. And if you are a beet lover, I'd love to hear what YOUR favorite ways to prepare them are!

Roasted Beets with Feta (click the link to go directly to the recipe)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Garden Lunch

Step 1:

Step 2:

Step 3:

Do you juice? What are your favorite combinations?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Zucchini "Crab" Cakes

Wondering what to do with all of that zucchini that is over-flowing your garden at the moment? This is a great way to use up some of the extras (or maybe one that got too big!).

It is usually around the end of July that home gardeners start pulling out their really "creative" recipes to use up the extra bounty from their vegetable patches. My Mom always used to make us zucchini pancakes and zucchini bread to try to use up her extras - and as kids, we appreciated the effort! Here is another twist on a zucchini "substitute" to throw into your repertoire.

**The trick to making this recipe successful is draining your zucchini to get the excess water out of it. I use my food processor to grate the zucchini, but you can use any hand held grater as well. I then throw all the grated zucchini into my salad spinner and sprinkle on a tsp of salt. The salt will help to draw out the moisture. I let it sit for 15-20 minutes before spinning the extra moisture out. If you don't have a salad spinner, line a colander with paper towels and let it drain that way. With either method, you may want to squeeze the grated zucchini with some paper towels after the draining period to get any extra water out before starting the recipe.

Zucchini "Crab" Cakes
Adapted from the infamous "Connie's" recipe

  • 2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (about one large, or two small)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 TBSP butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 1/4 cups bread crumbs (regular)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (for dredging right before frying)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (or vegetable oil) for frying
  • Grate and drain your zucchini (see tip above recipe)
  • In a large bowl combine zucchini, onion, whisked egg, and melted butter.
  • In another bowl combine bread crumbs and seasonings.
  • In a cast iron, or heavy bottomed skillet, melt your cooking oil on medium heat.
  • Combine zucchini mixture with the bread crumbs and mix well. Shape mixture into patties. Immediately dredge with flour, and fry in skillet until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels before serving.
Quick and easy remoulade:
  • 1/4 cup Mayonaise
  • 2 TBSP Ketchup
  • 1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1-2 shakes of hot sauce

Zucchini "Crab" Cakes are great served with a Tomato, Avocado, and Corn salad, or with this Potato and Mushroom salad!