Friday, April 15, 2011

Getting My Waffle Groove Back

After the thrill of pretty darn decent club soda waffles erased years of home made waffle disappoinment, I actually got out my waffles maker's instruction booklet and checked the quantity of batter recommended for each pour.  As I suspected, I had gone horribly wrong somewhere years back.  I had been making crunchy waffles because I was being too skimpy with the batter per waffle square.

I'm a holder-backer from way back, as my friend Lana would say.

With my mental error corrected, of course I had to make waffles again.  This time I chose a gingerbread waffle recipe from my Breakfast file. (Yes, they're categorized and alphabetized.  How else would you do it?)  I had made them years ago with good results, but this time I would get the right batter quantity onto the waffle iron and also not put the listed yogurt meant to be a topping into the waffle batter, even though the mistake worked out edibly.  I thought I'd do them right this time in two ways.

They were perfect for a cool early spring morning, darkly spiced and blessed with interior fluffiness, thanks to proper batter generosity.  All that spice got along swimmingly with real maple syrup and bacon, although the suggested vanilla yogurt and citrus fruit would be well-mated, too.  I'll have to try the latter on my own.  The Mr. is a super traditionalist when it comes to waffles.  Syrup only.  No alternative funny business allowed.

One fabulous bonus of this recipe, aside from whole-wheat flour for better blood sugar regulation, is that it makes quite the quantity.  I got 16 rectangular, 4-at-a-time waffles--enough for four breakfasts for two.  We consumed four that day and froze the rest for later, reheating them briefly and effectively in the toaster.  What a deal: make waffles once, eat them multiple times!  And no crazy chemicals or high prices as with commercial frozen ones.  Another winner, my friends.

I may not be done with waffles, now that I'm good at them.  I just spied a whole wheat version that sounded promising. There are yeasted waffles to try, too.  Wait.  Don't I have a lemon waffle recipe in my file?  And then there were those zucchini waffles with pimento cheese sauce from a few years back.....

Gingerbread Waffles

Makes: 16 4-inch rectangular waffles

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup molasses

In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, cocoa powder, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, and oil until well blended.

Add egg mixture and molasses to flour mixture. Stir just until ingredients are combined and dry ingredients are moistened.

Cook according to your waffle makers instructions (!).  Keep warm stacked on a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven.

Serve with your favorite toppings.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Never Buy It Again: Alfredo Sauce

As I recall, when I discovered how easy homemade ranch dressing was to make, I threatened to do a series of posts on foods that one should never buy again.  Well, the game is on because I've found my second inspiration.

Actually, I haven't so much discovered this DIY fave, as finally photographed it. (I'm so lazy sometimes.  Raahlly, I am.)  The point is that I made my own Alfredo sauce again--just to take it's pretty picture--because it's so easy.  Though I've never been tempted to pay real American dollars for a jar of gloppy pseudo-Alfredo sauce, I'm hoping to convince you to avoid it now.   

Truth be told, Alfredo sauce is so simple that it doesn't really require a recipe, just a basic understanding of what goes into it.  In essence it's cream, butter, and grated Parmigiano.  I add garlic because the scent of it in combination with cream makes me a little swoony, even left over.

Of course, I found many versions out there on the interweb when I was seeking comparison to what I'd already done.  The purists do not do garlic.  Some people substitute other, more melty cheeses for part of the Parmigiano.  White pepper or black may be used.  In short and as usual, have a grand old time adapting it to your desires.  With a little protein and vegetable added (turkey and spinach in my photographed version), it's a quick, rich one bowl meal.

Whatever you do to it, the sauce is still easy enough that it should be added to your repertoire and never bought againI mean, cream is almost a stand-alone ingredient.  It's hard to go wrong here. 

Also...Yes, I know that cream is FULL OF FAT, and therefore calories.  So, no, I am not recommeding that you make this often.  I'm just bossily opining that, if the old calorie budget has a cream sized niche in it, there is no need to buy a jar of unreal (and I mean that literally) chemicals trying to approximate cream, when a pint of cream is cheaper and more authentic, and the sauce itself is...Well, I would say a piece of cake, but cake isn't nearly as easy as Alfredo sauce.  Maybe we should say "Easy as Alfredo" instead.  

If you try it, "Easy as Alfredo" may become your new catch phrase.  But I want credit if it goes viral.

Alfredo Sauce

Serves: 4

1-2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup cream
Freshly ground black pepper or ground white pepper to taste
1/2 cup (or more, to your taste) Parmigiano, grated

In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the garlic in the butter for about a minute, until fragrant.  Add the cream and allow to simmer and reduce for 10-20 minutes. (Let's say, while your pasta water comes to a boil and the pasta cooks.  Beautiful plan, isn't it!)  Stir in the pepper and cheese, reserving some cheese for garnish.  Toss with hot, cooked and drained pasta, and serve.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Old Pal Curry

Today was a slow cooker dinner kind of day, since I had a meeting in another town during the usual cooking hour. While prepping my chosen recipe this morning, I realized that I had not yet included it in my blog collection, an omission that surprised me once it had come to my attention, as I've made it many times, and I'm not one for repeating dinners. (My husband has been known to opine that we never have the same dinner twice.) I may love to explore the seemingly endless possibilities, but occasionally it's time for a stand-by pal like Chickpea and Vegetable Curry.

I do love this vivid stew. Back in our days on the farm with Dave's plain-eating parents, it was the first dinner that came to mind when they went out of town, and I could cook whatever meat-free, vegetable-heavy, exotically spiced dinner I wanted.  We reveled in it then, and still love it now.  And we're not the only ones.  I've shared it with a goodly number of people who have also enjoyed it.  Some have asked for the recipe as well.  Again, I am mystified that I am only now getting around to recording such a winner. 

I found the recipe in Cooking Light a few years back, shortly after I decided that the slow cooker needed to become my new favorite kitchen tool and sanity saver.  The ingredient list is long, but that's the only daunting part.  The chopping and sauteeing can be done the night before if necessary, which it was in my formerly busy life.  After that modicum of work, the prepped mixture can be stored in the refrigerator in your slow cooker's removable crock. (If yours isn't removable, it would be a worthwhile investment to purchase one so made.) In the morning, pop the crock into its base, turn on the heat, and go about your business.

In the evening, come home to the saturating fragrance of curry and a bowl of flavorful, colorful, nutritious goodness that only requires the stirring in of some spinach and coconut milk to be ready for belly filling.  If you're feeling fancy, cook up some couscous or rice over which to ladle it.  (OK, you could also eat it with saltine crackers, as my husband did in my absence, but I'm not recommending that approach.) 

In case you have picky eaters who may experience anxiety over curry, rest assured that the printed version minus serrano chile, which is my forced version since they aren't available in my local grocery store, is mild.  If you want to pump up the spice volume, use the serrano, or increase the curry powder and/or ground red pepper.  I'm sure the vegetable content could be adapted to what is on hand, too, although I have somehow not tried that yet. 

After taste and nutrition, the plus is quantity--six servings worth. If you don't have a big family, that's enough to eat for days or to take for lunch, which will probably make co-workers ask enviously "So, what are you having?" 

Chickpea and Vegetable Curry
from Cooking Light

Serves: 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup (1/4-inch-thick) slices carrot
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
3 cups cooked chickpeas (2 cans)
1 1/2 cups cubed peeled baking potato
1 cups coarsely chopped green bell pepper
1 cup (1-inch) cut green beans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14-ounce) can vegetable or chicken broth
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1 cup light coconut milk
Lemon wedges

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat; add onion and carrot; cover and cook 5 minutes or until tender.  Add curry powder and next 4 ingredients; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Place onion mixture in a 5-quart electric slow cooker.  Stir in chickpeas and next 8 ingredients.  If you're prepping ahead, store in refrigerator at this point.  If not, or when ready, cover and cook on high-heat setting for 6 hours or on low-heat setting for 8-9 hours.  Adds spinach and coconut milk; stir until spinach wilts.  Serve with lemon wedges.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lull With Mysteries

There hasn't been much written about food around here lately because I've hit one of those lulls that come, whether we want them or not.  There have been flops, so-so's, and emergency pizzas that support the local business man.  Now the time has come to sit at baseball games paying attention mostly, I confess, when my son is in action.  When I planned this week's cooking yesterday (a heavenly day, truly), there were only three days on which we would be home for a cooked dinner. This is real life.

Despite the lull, there have been two mysteries--one lingering, one solved.

First, how is that a promising recipe can be such a failure?  How can I like every ingredient in a dish and yet dislike the result so much that I can't bear to eat it again, throwing away over a pound of chicken, ounces of cheese, and a heap of vegetables?  I don't know, but it happens sometimes.  Last week's bake of chicken breasts with lemon, feta, and zucchini was just such a disappointment.

Perhaps my first mistake was succumbing to the lure of cheap chicken after weeks of grocery sticker shock when I know by now that quantity over quality is a concept that doesn't usually work for me.  Other than that error in judgment, I can't account for the phenomenon.  I simply proffer the mysterious results.  The feta's normally vibrant flavor seemed to have disappeared, the bitterness of the lemon pith out-thugged the fruit's usual zest, the zucchini was watery, and the texture of the ill-chosen chicken was oddly brittle.  For whatever reason, this assemblage of favored friends didn't party well together at all that night. But one moves on. 

The mystery solved was an easy delight.  For some time I had wondered in a latent way what cooked radishes would be like.  Years ago, I had run across the idea of sauteeing them, a radical enough idea.  Then my online search turned up--of course, why didn't I think of that, almost any vegetable is better that way--roasted radishes. In an Asian style, with chicken alongside.  Being dinner on a sheet pan, I was in.

The surprising result was that we instantly liked them.  Considering that I had never consumed radishes in any other form than raw, I expected an adjustment, a bite or two of getting aquainted with the difference in texture and flavor.  Instead, we absentmindedly dug in like we'd eaten roasted radishes all our lives and found that we felt right at home with them.  It seemed quite natural, in fact.  Nothing watery or unpalatable this time.  And so rosy!

Oh, yes, and the chicken was good, too.  But that wasn't news.

These two dishes are proof that we never really know much except through experience.  A seeming sure thing can be a disappointment.  A what-the-heck-just-try-it effort can be delicious.  The only way to know is by doing.  So, if you're contemplating something that sounds safe, and you've never tried cooked radishes before, consider it.  You might hate them.  Then again you may love them.  There's only one way to find out.

If you get really wild, try roasting the greens as instructed (mine were, um, dead, or I would have) and learn even more. 

Sesame Ginger Chicken with Roasted Radishes and Radish Greens
from An Hour In The Kitchen

Serves 2-4

4-6 pieces of chicken, skin on
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup sake, optional
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 bunches of radishes with greens
Oil for greasing the pan

Rinse chicken pieces and pat dry, if you feel you must. 

Mix soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, honey, ginger, garlic, sake (if using), sesame seeds, lime juice, rice vinegar, and water. Set aside a 1/4 cup and pour the rest over the chicken pieces. Marinate for at least 20 minutes, longer if you have the time. I had only the twenty minutes before hunger would begin threatening critical mass, and it worked just fine.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wash radishes and greens well.  Remove greens and set aside. Cut radish globes into quarters and toss in the reserved 1/4 cup of marinade until coated.

Brush the bottom of a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet with oil. Arrange chicken pieces skin side up on pan.  Pour marinade over chicken. Add radishes around the chicken.

Cook for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.  Then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and roast for 15-20 minutes more or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 170 degrees. Remove chicken and radishes from the pan and keep warm, leaving the liquid in the pan. Toss the washed radish greens into the pan.  Return the pan to the oven for 3-4 more minutes until the greens are wilted.

To serve, place the greens on a plate.  Top with the chicken and radishes.  Drizzle the pan juices over all.