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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sun Dried Tomato and Feta Chicken

I am in countdown mode. In 23 days, we get our household goods delivered and start moving into our new place. I can't believe how much I miss my stand mixer... and my food processor... and all those little kitchen gadgets you don't know you depend on until you can't. It's interesting how this minimalist kitchen has impacted my cooking. In some ways, it's actually been a good thing. It forces me to be more creative, and it brings me back to basics. The other day, I finally broke down and made a loaf of bread. It has been so long since I kneaded a batch of dough from start to finish. I had forgotten how therapeutic bread kneading can be.

Last night, I was staring at a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trying to figure out what to do with them. The trick, of course, is to use what you have to your best advantage. Chicken breasts can be a bit blah if you're not careful, so I wanted to be sure they had enough bold flavor. I started out with some sliced onions. About halfway through the cooking, I looked back in the refrigerator for more inspiration and saw a jar of sun dried tomatoes in oil. Then, when the breasts were cooked through, one last perusal of the fridge led me to a container of crumbled feta. The combination of flavors was very satisfying and robust. This "make it up as you go" dinner passed the test with flying colors, and I'll definitely be making it again!

Sun Dried Tomato and Feta Chicken
Yield: 4 servings

2 TBS olive oil
1 tsp butter
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup thinly sliced onions
1/2 tsp Mrs. Dash or other seasoning blend
1/4 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper
3 TBS sun dried tomatoes in olive oil
1/4 cup crumbled feta

Heat the oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat until bubbly. Add the onions. Stir to coat with the oil and then cook for 2-3 minutes. Push the onions out of the way and add the chicken breasts. Spread the onions around them and let cook without disturbing until the breasts are nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Season the chicken breasts and then flip. Stir the onions. Let breasts brown again for another 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is just cooked through. When the chicken is almost done, add the sun dried tomatoes. Using a thermometer is your best bet to not overcook the chicken.  At the last minute, add the feta and stir to mix. Serve breasts with onion, tomato, and cheese mixture over the top.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cabbage Salad

For the longest time, I never thought I cared for eating raw cabbage. My only real experience with it had been traditional coleslaw, which I am don't care for. I have a problem with most mayonnaise based salads. So imagine my surprise when I went to a function a couple of years ago and found a German style coleslaw on the sideboard. German style coleslaw is basically sliced cabbage in a vinaigrette... there is no mayonnaise involved! Just my thing. What I found was that the cabbage is so nice and crispy and often actually quite sweet. I was sold!

This salad makes a lovely side dish and cabbage is very healthy for you! A cup of shredded, raw cabbage has only 22 calories and is chock full of dietary fiber, vitamins C and K, and a wide variety of other vitamins and minerals. While you can dress is ahead of time, I like it best freshly dressed... I like it when the cabbage is at its crispiest. 

The salad shown above was very quick to make. I shredded the cabbage myself, but you could always use the pre-cut stuff. I added some shredded carrot and some Craisins. I then dressed it with my poppy seed vinaigrette. So easy and delicious... and, oh, so beautiful! 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Not All Soy Flour is Alike

If you make many breads, especially breads from my site, you've probably seen a recipe that calls for soy flour. I use it in my raisin bread, potato wheat bread, and wheat sandwich loaf. Soy flour is used in bread recipes for a couple of main reasons: it improves the texture by helping the bread to hold moisture and it lengthens storage life. It also strengthens the dough, which can be important in breads with whole wheat in it so that you get a bit more volume. Additionally, it can contribute to crust browning.

The first time I bought soy flour, it happened to be Hodgson Mill's brand, and for years that was the brand that was always available and convenient. When I moved to Florida a couple of years ago, however, that brand was not as readily available, so I purchased a bag of Arrowhead Mill's soy flour. I was so confused when I opened the package and the flour looked so different! In the photo above, the Hodgson Mill's flour is on the left while the Arrowhead Mill's is on the right. Look at that difference in color. Not only did it look different, it smelled different! Worst of all, it tasted different. In delicately flavored breads, I could taste it, and I was not a fan! I couldn't understand why it was so different.

Then one day I finally found some Hodgson Mill's soy flour in a store again and brought it home. I got the other bag out and did a side by side comparison. The first thing I noticed was that there was a HUGE difference in calories and fat. Notice that even though the volumetric serving size is the same, the Hodgson Mill's flour (bag on right) has half the calories and zero fat compared to the Arrowhead Mill's soy flour? Hmmmm. I had to look farther.

Aha! There's the difference. The Hodgson Mill's is a
defatted soy flour. Once I did a little research, I came to realize that I had just gotten lucky with my initial purchase. When I started doing a little reading on using soy flour in baked goods, I found the articles usually referred to defatted soy flour.

The moral of this whole story is that you should be aware that not all soy flour is alike and one is better for baking than the other. I was not a fan of my wheat sandwich loaf using the fat-full soy flour because I could taste it in there, which was not my intent and altered the flavor in a negative way. In most bread recipes, soy flour is used more like a dough conditioner than a flavoring, so the defatted version is definitely preferred. Now you know!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sour Cherry Chocolate Torte

This is another recipe that's surprised me in how long it took me to share it with you. I make this recipe all the time. It's one of my main recipes for easy company desserts or take-it-with-you desserts. In fact, I make it often enough that I have occasionally worried that maybe people might be sick of seeing it. Naaaaah, you can't be sorry to see this dessert again after trying it once.

This recipe originally started as a 9" torte. I still often make it that way, but I've become entranced with how cute it turns out when baked in a mini-cheesecake pan. I have a thing for cute, individual portion desserts. I'm in therapy for it...

This dessert is fudgy like a good brownie, but with a little sophisticated twist. I love the subtle flavor boost of the almonds and I adore the moist, tart addition of the sour cherries! The chocolate in this dessert is wonderful and present, but it is not the only star of the show. I don't think I've ever had someone refuse seconds!

Sour Cherry Chocolate Torte
Yield: 1 9" torte OR 12 mini-tortes

1 lb. can red sour pitted cherries packed in water
6 oz semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup almond flour or ground almonds
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2/3 cup sifted AP flour

Pre-heat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9” spring-form pan or mini-cheesecake pan and dust with fine bread crumbs. Drain cherries and spread on paper towel and let stand. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler; set aside to cool slightly.

Grind almonds to fine powder, if necessary, and set aside. Cream butter in a bowl, then add vanilla and almond extracts. Add sugar and beat well. Add eggs one at a time. On low speed, add chocolate and almonds. Add flour, stirring only to mix.

Place half of the batter in the pan. Place a single layer of cherries and then put rest of batter on top.

Bake for 50 minutes at 350°. Cake will be dry and crusty on top and toothpick will come out clean when done. Mini-cheesecake version needs to be checked sooner for doneness. Cool in pan on a rack for 15 minutes. If using springform pan, remove side and let cake stand on bottom of pan until cool. If using mini-cheesecake pan, let cool completely in pan. Serve torte right side up. Sprinkle with powdered sugar once completely cooled and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

What's this? A Cookbook!?!

This is something I first started a couple of years ago. And then I got sidetracked. The nice thing about being stuck in temporary housing for so darn long is that you finally get around to things you've been putting off forever.

Why did I ever start in the first place? I mean, really, all of my recipes are online and available to all as it is. Well, I always thought that I would be okay with taking the digital revolution into the kitchen. But you know what? I've found I'm not. I hate having to read a recipe off my computer or husband's iPad while I'm trying to cook or bake. I have to clean my hands to scroll, or the screen goes to sleep while I'm doing step 2 and have to wake the darn thing back up to go on to step 3, and, worst of all, I have to be careful not to destroy the thing with all the messiness of the kitchen.

The good news is that I like my recipes! I don't post things just for the sake of posting them. If I don't think it's really good, I don't post it. As a result, I make and refer to my recipes all the time. Unfortunately, once I realized I wasn't a fan of referring to them online while I was in the kitchen, I started printing them all out. I had quite a stack of papers going. I realized that what I really needed was to have a volume that was beautiful (I love looking at the pictures) but also had all of my favorite, go to recipes in it, ready to be pulled out on a whim.

So, I decided to make it happen. I made it using Blurb. Sadly, print on demand isn't cheap. I won't be offended if you decide it's too expensive for what it is and decide you don't need it. However, if you are like me and you want it? It's out there waiting for you. I've put a fairly extensive preview online, almost half the book (all the recipes are already online, after all). In addition to the concise version of the recipes (for quick reference, if you need a reminder of all the little tips and details, the full post for each recipe is still available online). I've included my 116 favorite recipes in a variety of categories. Every recipe includes at least one full color photograph. I know I've had the link to the preview on here for a week or so, but I thought a little explanation would not be taken amiss.
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