Saturday, June 4, 2011

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

     Baking bread makes my apartment smell marvelous.  It's a homey smell, one that beckons me to the kitchen.  It makes me want wait by the oven with butter in hand, to slather over that first slice. 

     Home made bread is a treat. Nay, an indulgence.  There is a time investment.  And for those who knead the dough by hand, a built-in work out.

     I rely on my Kitchenaid stand mixer.  I cannot begin to tell you how much fun it is to watch the mixer do all of the hard work for me.  It is a fun, edible science experiment to watch flour come together with various liquids and become playdough.  I love how yeast happily interacts with a warm cocoon of dough to produce an even bigger, but now fluffy dough ball.  It's like magic.

     This is the best home made, 100% whole wheat bread I've ever made.  Most of the time, bread made using only whole wheat flour turns out like a brick.  And it's a bit bitter, too.  This recipe came from the King Arthur website and they got it right.  There's even the addition of a "secret" ingredient: orange juice.  The OJ cuts the bitterness of traditional whole bread, giving it a sweetness that's closer to white breads.

     This bread has a better, finer texture than other whole wheat bread recipes...not as tender as white bread, but certainly not crumbly-coarse either.  It slices very well--if you make homemade bread, you know what a pain slicing it can be!  I didn't even need a bread knife to get thin-ish, uniform slices.

     If you're on the lookout for a 100% whole wheat bread recipe, try this one, from the King Arthur Flour website.  You'll like it.  (Nutrition facts are also listed at the website.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

15-Minute Chicken Chili

     I shall call this "Magic Chili."  It really is ready to eat in 15 minutes.  It's hearty the way a good chili ought to be.  And it can be spicy...mine isn't as I am congenitally averse to spicy foods.  I don't like to sweat when I eat, ya know?

     Magic Chili goes really well with quinoa; pronounced "keen-nwa", it is a high-fiber, high-protein seed that is quite similar to rice once it's cooked.  I was out of rice (D'oh!) and I wanted something grain-like to eat with the chili.  I had cooked up a batch of quinoa with low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth.  The quinoa was originally supposed to go into a savory breakfast dish but the flavors and textures didn't work out.  I figured, why not try it with the chili?

     And wow, it was awesome.  Beyond awesome.  It was bordering on greatness.  (However, I wouldn't use quinoa in this dish if you have any kidney problems...that's a lot of protein for one meal.) 

    Magic Chili, truly. 

15- Minute Chicken Chili
Adapted from
Makes 4 generous servings

10 oz cooked chicken, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 tsp- 1 1/2 tbsp chili powder (use less or more according to your preferences)
1 1/2 tbsp cumin
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 (15 oz) can low-sodium black black beans
1 (4.5oz) can minced green chiles (optional, I didn't use them)
1 cup fresh or frozen and thawed corn kernels
Salt, ground black pepper, and cayenne pepper, to taste


1. Add all of  the ingredients to a medium pot.  Heat over medium-high heat.  Cook for 15 minute, stirring occasionally.  The tomatoes will release their juices and the chili will become more "soupy."  (Have faith, it will happen.)  Taste and add salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste if needed.  Serve over rice, quinoa or with a side salad.

Nutrition Information Per Serving, for the chili only:
Calories: 287, Fat: 6.3g, Cholesterol: 37mg, Sodium: 600mg, Carbohydrates: 34.2g, Fiber: 9.2g, Protein: 23.5g

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Easy, Awesome Roast Chicken

     Forget Mark Bittman.  I've made his roast chicken with dry, tasteless results.  That was 8 years ago.  I swore off of roasting chickens after that; I decided that the grocery store had perfectly delicious rotisserie chickens.  Easy. I need a chicken carcass on a regular basis so that I can make low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth.  Rotisserie chickens from the grocery store are $6...can I roast a chicken at home for under $6? 

     As it turns out, no, even though this particular recipe only needs two ingredients, chicken and lemons. (Salt and pepper aren't counted as they are pantry staples.)  I spent about $8 on this recipe. 

     BUT.  This is the (second) BEST roast chicken EVER.  (The best roast chicken I've had was made by my chef brother-in-law. Heaven.) 

     This is undoubtedly the EASIEST roast chicken ever.  

     The meat on this chicken is so tender and moist.  Even the breast meat.  The flavor is out of this world.  Uber chicken.  A hint of lemon.  Salt.  Pepper.  Altogether, fabulous.  This ranks as one of my favorite dishes this year. 

     Will I go back to store-bought rotisserie chicken?  Sure, if I don't have time.  Will I make this roast chicken again?  Most definitely--as much as I can.

(I carved out a leg/thigh piece before I took a picture of the whole chicken.  Oops!)

     No nutrition info on this one as it varies so widely, depending on the part of the chicken you're eating.  It's relatively healthy, if you use a roasting pan with a raised rack (you can kind of see it in the picture above).   Have a bit of the crispy skin (just a bit!) so you can savor the loveliness of it all.  Then exercise excellent self-control and strip the rest of the skin (and fat) from the chicken.  Your arteries will thank you.

    The recipe is at Cheap, Healthy, Good; an excellent blog for healthy, cheap eats.  Enjoy!

Eggplant Pomodoro Pasta's the end of May already!  Hardly time to post about the veggie of the month, eggplant.  Picking a "new" fruit/veggie this month was hard, as I like nearly all of the in-season veggies from the Cottage Industrialist's produce calendar.  Except I've never had rhubarb and I've never cooked with eggplant.  It's nearly impossible to find a rhubarb dish that isn't a dessert, so I went with eggplant.  I've nothing against desserts but I wanted to find a recipe that I could incorporate into the meal rotation...and I don't typically eat dessert.

     I was pleasantly surprised to find that eggplant is easy to work with and easy to cook!  Unlike butternut squash and sweet potatoes; I love both of those veggies but cutting them takes serious muscle.  I'd also read stories on the internet that eggplant could be bitter...I must have picked a lucky eggplant (or a lucky recipe that simply works with any natural bitterness) because I didn't detect any bitterness at all.  In fact, I thought the eggplant cut, cooked, and tasted like squash.

     If you like olives and capers then this dish is most definitely for you!  This is a lovely meal, with layers of flavors and textures.  Definitely use a good extra virgin olive oil, if you have one.  It will shine in this dish.

(Sorry for the picture quality...I forgot to set up additional lighting.)

Eggplant Pomodoro
Makes 6 servings

2 tbsp extra virgin olive-oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 plum tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup olives
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 teaspoons capers, rinsed
3/4 tsp coarse Kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (optional--I skipped this but then I'm a spice wimp)
12oz whole-wheat pasta (I used homemade whole-wheat fettucine.  A shorter, stouter pasta would be better, such as macaroni.)


1. Cook the pasta according the directions the box.  Drain, rinse in cool water and set aside.

2. Chop the olives and set aside.

3. Heat oil in a large non-stick pan.  Add the eggplant and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook about another minute, until it is fragrant.  Add the diced tomatoes, olives, vinegar, and capers.  Add the black pepper and crushed red pepper, if using.  Stir to combine everything and cook until the tomatoes release their juices, about 5-7 minutes more.  Taste.  Add additional pepper and salt if needed.

4. Remove the eggplant mixture from the pan and ladle over the pasta.  Mix well and serve.

Nutrition Information:
Per serving: 282 calories; 7 g fat ( 1 g sat , 5 g mono ); 0 mg cholesterol; 50 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 10 g protein; 11 g fiber; 467 mg sodium; 416 mg potassium.

Friday, May 27, 2011

My Family, Gia Dinh Cua Toi

     Last week I went out of state to visit my family for my birthday.  We live kinda far apart, so I don't get to see them that often; usually just once a year.  At the back row (l-r) is my sister-in-law, me, then my second brother.  In the front (l-r) is my youngest nephew, my niece, my oldest brother (his wife is in the back row, far left), my oldest nephew, and my Mom.  The kids belong to my oldest brother and his wife.  We're a good lookin' bunch.  I'm not the only girl in the sister lives in yet another state and she wasn't there for this visit.  Yes, my beautiful, petite mom had FIVE kids. 

     It was a wonderful time and my birthday dinner was fabulous! My third brother (he's on the far right in the picture below) and the rest of my family spent the whole day prepping and grilling a five course meal.  What a great birthday present!

    The day began by marinating the veggies, shiitake mushrooms and baby bok choy in a homemade sauce.

My third brother, making the dough for the flat bread.

The flat bread, ready for the grill...

Mom putting a homemade rub on the tri-tip...

Heating up the coals in the chimney.

My second brother's AWESOME grill set up.  I definitely had grill-envy. 

The set up for the smoker (the tri-tip got cooked in here).

And since we're outside, I'll take you on a photo-tour of my brother's garden.  Those baby plants? Corn!  (Cool!)  And string beans that grow in a bush.  

A huge squash...

And some herbs...Thai basil on the left and Parsley on the right.

Two of my brothers, grilling the veggies...

The veggies looked and smelled great!

Grilling the flat bread.

Grilling pizza for the kids, in case they didn't like anything else on the menu!  (My oldest nephew didn't believe a pizza could be cooked on grill.  I had to show him the picture to convince him!)

Me, enjoying a glass of wine and some truly glorious weather.  (Jim, the hat is a nod to you : )

And at last, the feast!

This last one is a Vietnamese dumpling, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.  The name completely escapes me at the moment and right now it's too late at night to call my Mom and ask her for the name.

     It was a great birthday!  If food is love, then I am overflowing!  Gia dinh cua toi = my family.