Monday, August 25, 2008

Berries in Season - Try this Quick & Easy Berry Dessert

Strawberry Clafoutis . . . I know . . . the name sounds naughty - but I can attest that this dessert is both sinfully delicious and ridiculously easy to make! If berries are in season, then most folks have all the remaining ingredients available at home:)))

In fact, virtually any berry will work . . . Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries - most notably, the traditional Cherries! This weekend, we found a great deal on Blue & Raspberries and I promptly made a Clafoutis for brunch dessert. *The image here is not my clafoutis as I didn't have a camera at hand - thanks go to Cozinha Criativa's photostream on flickr.

This recipe is French and only moderately healthy - lots of antioxidants and protein - but quite a bit of carbs as well. The basics of this recipe are so simple, you may be able to remember them for a quick summer treat anytime. Soon I will be experimenting with Splenda and whole wheat versions of this beauty!

Multi-Berry Clafoutis
  • 2-3 Cups Berries, this weekend I mixed Raspberries & Blueberries
  • 3 eggs, whole
  • 1 c milk
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract (or use only vanilla if that is what you have and like)
  • pinch of salt
  • Optional Garnish: powdered sugar, whipped cream or ice cream
  • Butter or Non-Stick cooking spray for pans
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Some recipes call for a lower temp, but I find that the cooking time ends up being too short, so I have turned mine up. Grease a 9 or 10 inch pie pan, round, or square, or a number of smaller individual tureens with butter or a non-stick cooking spray. Place all, save a few for garnish, berries into the pie pan.

Beat eggs together in a bowl, add milk and other liquids. Continue to beat adding sugar, salt and finally flour. The batter will be very liquid, this is correct. Pour this custard mixture over the berries and ensure it is even. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the custard is firm and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. All ovens heat differently, so use your judgment, if the center still wobbles or is gooey - put it back for a bit more time. The top should be golden brown and look delish.

Serve directly for a hot dessert or let this cool and serve later on chilled with the topping of your choice. Whipped cream is my favorite!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Chicken Piccata . . . A Meal Beloved by All

If ever you should find yourself on holiday with a lactose intolerant person, a no-red meat person and someone allergic to garlic and onions . . . count yourself lucky for having read this recipe.

Seriously, I made this recently for an Austin cyclying friend, but told her how it became one of my standbys. Christmas 2000 . . . scenario above ensued while on a Ski/XMas holiday trip and I had volunteered to make the holiday feast. Grrrrreeat.

I wracked my brain . . . skii'd . . . apres skii'd . . . and voila amid a bit of festivity came upon my solution. Chicken Piccata . . . with margarine instead of butter! (mind you, I only use margarine when the lactose intolerant are in the house:))).

Chicken Piccata with Whole Wheat Spaghetti and Roasted Vegetables (Serves 2)
  • 2 5-6 Oz Chicken Breasts, pounded flat
  • 1 Lemon, Juiced & Zested
  • 1 Tbsp Butter (margarine when you've got the Lactaid crowd)
  • 1/3 c capers
  • 1 c chicken broth or stock (I love Better than Bouillon)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp Corn Starch
  • 1/3 Pack Whole Wheat Spaghetti
  • 1 Zucchini Cubed
  • 1/2 Red Bell Pepper Cubed
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

While you wait for the water to boil, chop your veggies and pound the chicken out if you haven't already done so. Put all the cubed vegetables on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, add the herbs, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix to coat. Place the vegetables in the oven on the top shelf - but don't turn it on yet. You will broil these and it will take 10 minutes or so, but I'll let you know when to push BROIL on hi:)

Your water should be boiling now, drop in your pasta - whole or broken in half, however you prefer.

Put a pan or grill pan (even better) on medium high with a spray of non-stick cooking spray and about 1/4 of the butter. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and when the pan is hot, a drop of water dances on the surface, place the chicken in. Put the veggies in the oven now, high broil.

Sear the chicken on one side and cook for about 3-4 minutes. The chicken should easily come off the pan surface now, flip and cook 3-4 minutes on the other side. After you flip the chicken, check your veggies and turn to ensure even cooking.

Add another 1/4 of the butter, 1/2 of the chicken broth, all the lemon juice and the capers. Let simmer in this mixture for 2 minutes. At this point, your pasta should be done. Remove it from the heat and drain. Remove the chicken from the pan, reserve on a plate, add the remaining butter. Mix the cornstarch in the remaining chicken broth and add this to the sauce. Let the sauce thicken (add more cornstarch if you like the sauce thicker).

Toss the pasta in 1/2 of the sauce and reserve the remainder to put over your chicken. Remove the veggies from the oven. Assemble your plates with 1/2 of the pasta, a piece of chicken and half the veggies. Drizzle with the remaining sauce and almost anyone, save the vegetarians, will love this meal:-)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Salmon on request . . . with homemade Pesto!

Recently a friend who had read and loved my Caesar Salad post texted me desperate for a few quick and easy Salmon recipes. So Huffy, in honor of your text, I thought I'd make one of those tonight and feature it here.

The recipe that follows is one that I usually make with store bought pesto, but having purchased a huge bunch of basil at a farmer's market last week . . . what was a girl to do but make pesto to ensure that it didn't go bad. I'll share the recipe for pesto also noting that if you keep prepared pesto on hand like I do, this makes for a super quick meal that is flavorful and easy.

Pesto Salmon with Quinoa Salad and Greens (serves 2)
  • 2 4-6 Oz pieces of Salmon, size it to your calorie needs, fresh or defrosted frozen (see my tip below)
  • 2 Tbsp Pesto (store bought is fine, but I just learned how easy it is to make my own . . . see below)
  • 1 C Quinoa
  • 2 C Water
  • 2 Oz Lowfat Feta, cubed
  • 10 Grape tomatoes diced
  • 1/2 Avocado, 1/4 diced & 1/4 sliced
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 3 C Mixed Greens & Baby Spinach
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinaigrette (see various options on my Summer is for Salads Post)
  • 1 Oz Lowfat Feta, cubed
  • 6-8 Grape tomatoes sliced
Place both the quinoa and the water into a small pot and bring to a boil with the lid closed, immediately reduce heat to low. Keep the lid on and heat on very low until the quinoa is cooked and looks fluffy. This will take approximately 20 minutes. FYI - the quinoa LOVEs to boil over in my kitchen. This is not a disaster, just a little messy. So keep an eye on it as it goes from simmer to boil over within just a few moments.

While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the salad & salmon. Spray a baking dish that fits the salmon with Pam or another non-stick cooking spray. Rinse the salmon with cool water whether you have just purchased it or defrosted it; pat dry with a paper towel. Place the Salmon in the pan and top each piece with 1/2 of the pesto, spreading it so you get good coverage on the fish.

When you only have about 10 minutes left on the quinoa, place the salmon under the broiler set on high. The fish will take between 8 - 12 minutes depending on your cut of salmon, oven and preferred doneness. I, blasphemy, like mine pretty well through and find that 11 minutes does about right.

While the salmon is broiling, chop the ingredients for the quinoa and green salads. Toss the greens with dressing, feta and the tomatoes. Put the remaining quinoa salad ingredients in a bowl, feta, tomatoes, avocado, salt & pepper.

The salmon should be done, remove it from the oven and let it sit for a moment while you assemble the rest. Toss about 1/2 of the quinoa into the bowl with the feta mixture and mix well. Split the quinoa salad on the two plates, top with the salmon and accessorize with the green salad.

Voila! Quick and easy meal that can take less than 30 minutes once you get the multitasking down, and leaves you with some quinoa left overs for tomorrow. If you make more salmon, it tastes pretty good cold tomorrow too . . . just a time saving thought . . .

Tips & Tricks from Kir's Kitchen

Home Made Pesto: I love the Sunset Valley Farmers Market here in Austin and almost always buy basil when I am there (sadly I don't have a green thumb, else I'd grow my own:). But it is rare that I can enjoy it all fresh within about 3 days . . . so I have taken to chopping it up and just putting it in a tupperware covered with olive oil. I can then use it as is to cook with or as I was inspired to do for pasta yesterday, throw the basil oil combo in the cuisinart with a piece of garlic and some pine nuts (maybe 1/2 cup of basil oil, 1/2 cup pine nuts & 1 clove garlic - but you can tweak to your own specs). Done and done. Actually, I added a little salt and pepper, but it was so simple and fresh. Yummmmm . . .

Salmon: We buy our Salmon at Costco - shocker I know - and then I portion and freeze it. This is much cheaper than buying fresh each day, gives me flexibility to have it on hand and lets me ensure the quality and freshness personally. The trick is to cut the salmon in proper portions first, then rinse it, dab it dry and wrap it in saran wrap. These wrapped packets should then be placed in freezer bags and as much air removed as possible before you freeze them. I find that putting them in the fridge the night before has them defrosted & broil ready when you come home from work.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Save at Home: Sunday Migas & Chunky Salsa

What is Sunday without a bit of brunch!?

(for my reader friends - I promise I will post a foto in my next blog - I just found these too tasty to let them wait!)

Last weekend we went to one of our favorite restaurants where they made some killer migas . . . and I mean killer. If you don't believe me, go try them out at the South Congress Cafe in Austin - the spicy refried black beans that accompany this gloriously cheesy favorite are the piece de resistance.

That meant that this weekend, after a two hour hike, we were inspired to make migas ourselves and save a bit of dosh. This was a first time effort and I enlisted my trusty breakfast chef boyfriend who is more chemist than artist when it comes to food and therefore an excellent foil to my experimental cooking style when recipes are involved.

We found a decent looking migas recipe and tweaked it to meet our needs and available ingredient list (John helped me not replace too many key ingredients) . . . the result was delish:

Green Chile Migas with Black Bean Mango Salsa (serves 2)
  • 4 Eggs
  • 3 Corn Tortillas
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped Red Onion (the mellow flavor is less overpowering than white onion)
  • 3-4 Tbsp Green Chile Salsa / Salsa Verde (how hot do you want it?)
  • 1/2 Orange Bell pepper finely chopped (we were out of tomatoes and subbed this in)
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1/3 Tbsp Butter or Margarine
  • 1/3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 4 thin slices Sharp White Cheddar (or regular Cheddar if that's what you have on hand)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 Can Black Beans, drained & rinsed (I love Goya brand for the best value)
  • 1/2 Large Mango, cubed (consider a peach or nectarine if you cannot find mango)
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped Red Onion
  • Juice of 1/2 Lime or Orange, whichever you prefer for breakfast
  • 2 Tbsp Chopped Cilantro (I used some that I had frozen and it worked like a champ)
  • Salt & Red Pepper to taste

For the Salsa. Combine all the ingredients, mix and let sit while you cook the rest. This way the flavors infuse as you prepare the meal.

For the Migas. Heat a pan or skillet on med-high with the butter in it. While this heats, rip up the tortillas into bite sized pieces. Saute the tortillas in the butter till softened, add the onions and cook till translucent. Finally add the peppers and saute until they are your desired level of done, I like mine a with a bit of crunch left. Only add the oil if your pan gets dry during the process, else you can skip the extra fat.

Meantime, in a bowl whisk or mix together the eggs, water, salsa, salt and pepper. Add this egg mixture to the pan and scramble all the ingredients together. Don't overcook them. When they are still a bit gooey, crumble two slices of the cheese and add the cilantro into the mixture and scramble it through to your desired level of doneness. Most migas in Texas are served just a tiny bit runny, but we tend to like them dry. Place on a plate and blanket with the remaining cheese, ripped into a few pieces.

Garnish with some of that chunky salsa on the side and serve with more green salsa and/or sour cream if that is your preference.

If you go easy on the cheese, this is quite a healthy dish all around - high in protein and fiber, it'll keep you full without making you feel heavy as many brunch dishes can. So make migas at home and save yourself the trip and cost of that restaurant Sunday brunch (as nice as it is sometimes:))

I calculate that we spent $4-5 cooking this at home versus our $24 at brunch - granted, SoCo Cafe will still have me coming back every so often for a treat!