Thursday, November 29, 2012

Loquat Muffins

I have some loquat preserves in the fridge from the last season, and I always forget I have it so I never use it. When I woke up excessively early today, I decided it might be nice to make some jam muffins, and the loquats were open so I went with that. Y'all could use any sort of jam (or fruit) you wanted, though. Hope you enjoy!

Whisk together:

1 3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt

In a separate container, whisk together:

1 egg
1/4 cup each: oil, yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400F. Mix wet ingredients into dry. Put into a greased (or lined) muffin pan, then top with a dollop of jam or preserves. If your preserves are very thick like mine are, you may wish to push them down a little into the batter with your thumb. If they're thinner, they should disburse a bit on their own. Bake for 20 minutes. Makes 10-ish regular sized muffins.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Simple Chicken Soup

I've been sick the last few days, with some awesome combination viral and bacterial upper respiratory infection. So, while I didn't particularly wish to cook today, I figured I would toss together a quick chicken soup for dinner while I strained some more yogurt. This went in the crock pot, since I figured I ought not miss three days of school in a row and I wanted it to be ready for when we got home. It was, again, very simple, but quite satisfying to both of us. If you're looking for more pizazz, you can easily modify this by adding other veggies or spices. Hope you enjoy!

2 large chicken thighs, deboned and skinned*, then cut into bite sized pieces
1 large carrot, sliced thickly
1 large celery stalk, sliced thickly
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 litre vegetable broth
1 handful wheat berries
salt to taste
1 14-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, smashed a little with your spoon or ladle
most of that 14-ounce can of water

Combine all in a small crock pot and let simmer on high for 5 hours (or low for the same amount of time or longer). Alternately, you could simmer this in a pot for an hour over medium or medium-high heat. Makes about 4 bowls full, so 2-4 servings.

* I stuck the bones in a bag to make chicken stock with later. I also cooked the skins over low heat in a skillet under all the fat had rendered down (and turned into schmaltz). I then stored the fat in the fridge and ate the crispy skins with the soup.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mixed Fruit Cobbler

Along with the penne from yesterday, we also made a big cobbler. The dough I used is a modified pie crust recipe, with increased fat because I wanted to have a crust type that could work for either pie or cobbler. I used it initially for blackberry pie and pineapple-cranberry pie over Thanksgiving to test it, and it did seem to be great for pie and perfect for cobbler. For pie, it makes a soft crust, but not ultra-flaky like many prefer. For cobbler, it's pretty much the ideal texture. Soft insides, but crisp outer portion. You could use any kind of fruit for this dessert, though. Originally we'd planned to do peaches, but instead went with a mixture of pineapple, mango, strawberry and grape. If you don't need a gigantic dessert, you can easily cut this in half and still feed 4-6 people dessert. Hope you enjoy!

Crust:

3 cups flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt (1 teaspoon iodized salt)
3-4 tablespoons of sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 sticks cold butter
2/3 cup cold shortening
ice water

Mix together salt, sugar and flour. Cut in (using either food processor by pulsing, knives, pastry blender or hands) butter and shortening until it looks like little pebbles or very small gravel. Add in water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, until dough is moistened and crumbly but sticks together well if you pinch it. Wrap in saran wrap and chill for an hour before using (or you can freeze it for later use). Makes enough for 2-3 open pies, 1 large cobbler or 1 double crust pie with some extra dough leftover.

Cobbler filling:

5 pounds (yeah, pounds) mixed fruit, either fresh or frozen (if using fresh, this should be the weight of the fruit after removing any cores, peels, stones, etc)
2 cups sugar
juice of one large lemon
1/2 - 2/3 cups cornstarch
1/2 cup-ish water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine fruit, salt and sugar in a large saucepan, and heat over medium-high heat. Mix cornstarch with enough water to make it pourable. When sugar is melted and fruit mixture starts to bubble, add in lemon and cornstarch mixture, and stir well. Continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until thickened. Pour into a 13x9" baking dish. Top with pastry (I just roll out the dough to roughly fit the pan, but you could cut out rounds and place them on top of the fruit if you prefer it that way), cut a couple slits in the dough, sprinkle with more sugar (I use turbinado for this, but any kind is fine) and bake for 50-60 minutes. Should serve 8-12.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Baked Penne

This is a pretty big recipe, making enough food for two 9x13" pans. We were making a batch of penne for ourselves, but also for a friend. It's a vegetarian version of baked penne (I think I have a couple meat versions in here somewhere already), and very, very cheesy. If you make this, my recommendation is to make the full amount of sauce and simply freeze what you don't need yet, so you can use the leftover sauce at a later time. Hope you enjoy!

Marinara Sauce:

1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
maybe 1/3 of the tomato sauce can of water
1 15-ounce can stewed tomatoes
1 15-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 big glugs of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, diced
6-8 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 13-ounce can mushrooms
1 1/2 tablespoons each: dried basil, dried marjoram (of course you could use fresh)
2 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley (likewise, fresh is fine)

Heat onions, lemon juice, salt, pepper and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When onions are almost translucent, add garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Add in water, tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes and whole peeled tomatoes, and bring to a strong simmer. Once simmering, use a potato masher to break up the tomatoes. You want to be able to discern that tomato pieces are present, but you don't want them to be very big. Add mushrooms and herbs and simmer for about an hour, or until thickened and fragrant.

Baked Penne:

2 pounds penne, cooked to al dente
1 pound-ish mozzarella, shredded or cut into cubes
1 pound assorted Italian cheeses (I just bought that "Italian blend" shredded stuff for simplicity, but you can use whatever you like)

Heat oven to 400F. Mix together penne, mozzarella and sauce with a spoon. Portion into two 9x13" pans (or just in one big pan if you wish). Top each pan with half of the Italian cheese assortment. Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered. Alternately, you may bake for 30 minutes covered with foil, then another 30 minutes uncovered. Serves 10-ish.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Almond-Date Granola

I figure since y'all have fresh yogurt now, you might want some granola to go with it. This is a pretty simple way to make granola, and it's tasty without being overly sweet. Hope you enjoy!

3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ (optional, but I like it this way)
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup chopped or sliced almonds
1/4-1/3 cup each: vegetable oil, honey
1 cup chopped dates

Heat oven to 250F. Mix together the oats, germ, almonds and salt. Whisk together the honey and vegetable oil, then pour it into the oat mixture and stir until well incorporated. Put on a sheet pan (cookie sheet, whatever) and put in the oven. Give it an hour and a half or so in the oven, but stir it every 15 or so minutes so it doesn't burn. Once you take it out of the oven, let it cool a bit then add the dates. Cool completely and store in an airtight container. Makes about 5 cups.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Yogurt and Labneh

We go through a pretty shocking amount of yogurt in this house. I eat it sometimes with honey (and occasionally a sprinkle of black pepper), or sometimes with jam. Of course, I also use it for baking and mashed potatoes and lots of other things. We also make a lot of labneh, because Ross will eat about a pound a week of that while he's at work. And since a good quality yogurt (for a pound or so) is around $4, I've tired of spending the money on it and have chosen to just make my yogurt. Consequently, I'm sharing the method I use with you, so you can do this as well if you like. This is more methodology based than recipe based, so just be aware of that since my writing format will be more prose than standard recipe. Hope you enjoy!

Making yogurt is pretty easy. It's easier if you use a crock pot, but it's easy even if you use a pot/double boiler. Basically, however much milk you use is how much American-style yogurt you'll get (you have to drain the whey for Greek or Arabic style, which is what will be happening in my house when it's done, but you obviously get less yogurt as a result. On the other hand, you also get whey to use when you're making bread, or I suppose to make ricotta from if you're so inclined). You can also freeze yogurt for up to a year, and once it's thawed it's basically the same as before it was frozen (I have to freeze some to use as my starter culture, or it'll wind up getting eaten). 

So basically what I'm doing is this:

3 quarts milk (I typically buy 2% milk since I'm not a milk drinker and that's what Ross likes, but I prefer whole milk yogurt) into a crock pot. Let it sit there, on high, covered, for 2-3 hours, or until it's 185F (if you hold your milk at 185 for 30 minutes, it'll be thicker/creamier than if you just bring it up to 185 and move on with your day). Grab your thermometer and check the temp. If it's 185, neat. If it's cooler, not neat and give it a little longer. You could also put a probe thermometer in your crock pot before you put the lid on, and then you won't have to check for time since it'll beep when you hit the right temperature.

Once it's 185, turn off the heat and let it sit for an hour or so, until it's cooled to 110F. Then whisk in 3T - 1/2 C of yogurt either into the whole crock, or into just a couple cups of the heated milk (and then return that small batch of milk and yogurt culture to the crock pot and whisk it in).

Wrap it up with a big towel or a blanket or whatever, and stick it in the oven (or in a cooler, or wherever it will be warm and insulated but not too warm) overnight (7+ hours). Uncover, and you should see separation, and possibly green liquid, or whatever. All of that is okay. If you like American style, stir to combine the whey back into the yogurt and put it in container(s) and in the fridge (this is where it will both thicken, and stop souring). If you aren't into the American style, do this anyway and chill it for a few hours or overnight, then, put some cheesecloth in a strainer, and the strainer in a bowl, and pour the yogurt into the cheesecloth (and fold the tops of the cheesecloth over it) and stick it in the fridge (this is what I do). Two hours or the next day, take the yogurt out of the strainer and package it for consumption: you'll have Greek strained yogurt and some whey in the bowl. You can freeze the whey for later use if you're saving it to make ricotta cheese. You can make a sort of lemonade from it instead, drink it as is, put it in protein shakes, use it in soups, bread-making, cooking pasta, or all sorts of other things. I mostly use mine for bread-making.

Now, if you want to make labneh from your yogurt, you will need to strain however much yogurt you'll be using for this for ANOTHER day to two days to remove what's left of the whey, and you'll also want to mix some salt into that yogurt before you restrain it (or after. I often forget to salt the yogurt until after it's labneh). Then you can either have the cream cheese-like labneh in a container when it's done (and you can use it exactly the same ways you'd use cream cheese or marscapone), or you can shape it into balls, stack the balls lightly on coffee filters or cheesecloth on a plate (in the fridge or not; I prefer not because then I don't have to worry that the fridge is drying my coffee filters out), and check it daily to see how much moisture is left on the filters/cloth. Once you've come back and there's no moisture, the balls are done and you can roll them in mint (or not) and gently place them in a mason jar that you then cover with olive oil (you could use other oils if you want. Normally when I buy them this way, they're in safflower oil but I think they taste better in olive). Then eat them as you see fit. I eat them in sammies, with some pickles, za'atar and a drizzle of oil. But take them out of the jar with a spoon and not a fork because they're delicate and break apart easily.

If you just want to eat the yogurt, and you aren't into plain yogurt, you can mix into your portion honey (which is sometimes nice with a tiny pinch of black pepper), jam, fruit, granola, or whatever it is you like in your yogurt. Also, you can make dips and stuff like that, or have fresh yogurt on hand for cakes and stuff.


As an aside, the total cost for this, for me, is $2.61. From that $2.61, I get about a pound of strained yogurt and slightly more than 2 pounds of labneh. For your $2.61, if you like American-style yogurt, you will get a full three quarts of yogurt. Or you can get 2 - 2 1/2 quarts of strained yogurt. And you know EXACTLY what is in it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Alex's White Chili - For Daniel

Several years ago, I was a judge in a chili competition. This was pretty awesome for me, since I love chili to no ends. One of the entries in the non-traditional category was a white chili, made by a guy named Alex. When I first saw it, I admit I thought I would NOT like this chili (as I lean more toward traditional takes on chili), but after tasting it I thought it was fabulous. So I asked Alex for his recipe. As often happens when you ask someone for a recipe that the person makes generally by feel or memory, the recipe you get mostly is a list of ingredients and you have to extrapolate what is meant by this list.

So I extrapolated (and made some "changes" where a required ingredient wasn't really clear or where I thought another ingredient might be tasty too), when it came time for our Second Annual Chili Day (in which we also had our housewarming party, since we moved to a bigger place to accommodate the kid that's on its way). It was really interesting, since the chili offerings were a traditional Texas chili and this white chili. People seemed to like them equally, and I got requests for the recipe for the white chili. Especially from Daniel, who seemed to REALLY like it. So, Daniel, here's the recipe! Hope you all enjoy!

2 pounds chicken (I used thighs for extra flavor, but breasts would be fine too, and I believe are what Alex actually used)
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon each: onion powder, garlic powder, paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil

4-5 quarts chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds dry white beans (any kind, or a mixture, is fine), cooked to package directions
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon oregano
2 teaspoons freshly ground cumin
3 minced cloves of garlic
1 large white onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 medium can (11 ounces?) chopped jalepenos or seranos, with liquid
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Chop up chicken into really small pieces (bite sized or smaller). Put seasonings in first section on top of chicken pieces, then mash all together with your hands to coat evenly. Heat a large skillet with olive oil and fry the chicken pieces until cooked through. Put the chicken in a large pot, dutch oven, or crock pot. Add to it your broth, cooked beans, spices, onions, garlic and the full can of chilis with their liquid. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the liquid reduces and you have a thick chili. You may need to skim some fat as you go (I did). Top with grated Monterrey jack cheese. Serves 10-20.