Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bananas Foster syrup

The basis of this syrup was that of my good friend and chef Angie. Angie and I have been friends since the 8th grade. We used to ditch school to, get this people, watch cooking shows on PBS!! Yes, we'd be missing (or not so much) English all while watching Jacque Pepin create some delicious and exotic French dish. Angie went on to culinary school, lucky dog, so when she suggested that I take a banana and puree it with syrup next time I made pancakes I knew I had to heed her suggestion! Being a Kitchen Witch I couldn't leave well enough alone. Nope I had to go and add vanilla, butter and cinnamon. But not just any cinnamon, no the Witch used her brand spankin' new Vietnamese cinnamon purchased at Savory Spice Shop. It was amazing!! So much so that the little Witch declared that "this banana syrup is way better than the house syrup Mom" and proceeded to douse her pancakes with it. (The 'house syrup' in question is Log Cabin syrup as it's HFCS free) Thanks Angie for the suggestion, its a good one! I hope you all try this one, its kid tested and Witch approved!

Bananas Foster syrup
makes 4 servings
1 banana
1/2 bottle (4 oz) maple syrup
1/4 t cinnamon
1 t vanilla extract
2 T butter melted

In a blender put the banana, syrup, cinnamon and vanilla. Puree until very smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Reduce speed to lowest setting, drizzle in melted butter and mix about 30 seconds until very well incorporated.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculcator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 156.6
Total Fat 6.0 g
Saturated Fat 3.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.7 g
Cholesterol 15.5 mg
Sodium 3.8 mg
Potassium 180.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate 26.5 g
Dietary Fiber 0.9 g
Sugars 20.8 g
Protein 0.4 g

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Buttermilk Pancakes

Pancakes for dinner is a fairly regular item in the Witch household. Its fairly quick and the mess is minimal which makes me happy, especially when I'm not particularly motivated to cook dinner. Yes folks, even the Kitchen Witch gets tired of the old dinner routine. So on days when I'm not feeling the creative juices flowing or when I've been busy and time gets away from me, pancakes for dinner it is! Usually I go with my tried and true pancake recipe, and its a good one folks. However this night I had some buttermilk that needed to be used so I broke free from the tried and true and made buttermilk pancakes.

After much research at I decided on the Amateur Gourmets version of buttermilk pancakes. 5 ingredients, a very basic technique, 1 hot skillet and about 10 minutes later, dinner was done!

The pancakes were puffy and golden. They browned up beautifully and had a nice crisp exterior. The interior was a soft airy delight. The buttermilk in the batter added a nice tangy flavor to the cakes as well as make them light and fluffy. The whole family agreed that these were good pancakes. So good that they might become our new go to for pancake night!

Buttermilk Pancakes
makes 8 small or 4 large pancakes
Source: the Amateur Gourmet
1 cup AP flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t table salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk

In a medium size mixing bowl combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Whisk well to combine ingredients as well as aerate them.

In a separate bowl mix the eggs and buttermilk.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and using a whisk, lightly combine them. You do NOT want to overmix the batter. A few pockets of dry lumps is fine, they will work themselves out. You want the batter to be fairly lumpy. It will thicken and puff after resting for about 30 seconds.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Once hot spray with nonstick spray and scoop batter out, making cakes about 3-4 inches in diameter. Allow to cook on first side until edges are slightly dried out and large bubbles break the surface and leave a hole in the top, see photo below.

Flip cakes and allow to cook for 1-2 minutes longer on second side or until golden browned.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople Recipe Calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 155.8
Total Fat 2.1 g
Saturated Fat 0.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.4 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.7 g
Cholesterol 48.7 mg
Sodium 821.1 mg
Potassium 143.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate 26.8 g
Dietary Fiber 0.8 g
Sugars 3.0 g
Protein 6.8 g

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chicken Enchiladas with refried beans

Chicken enchiladas are always a hit in the Witch household. However the last few times I've made them they just weren't quite right. I made special note of a few areas that I felt just weren't working, and vowed to make some changes next time I prepared enchiladas.

The chicken was one place that I knew needed work. In the past white meat chicken breasts were all I'd even consider eating. I'd season it, cook it, dice it and make enchiladas. And every single time I was underwhelmed: the chicken was too chunky, not the right flavor, not at all what I was thinking it should taste like! Now a days my palette has expanded and I understand the beauty of using thighs. The meat isn't as dark as you'd think, so haters, give it a try! They aren't greasy, fatty or gross. As a matter of fact, they're lots more flavorful than the breast, it shreds like you want chicken to shred and has the flavor that I wanted in an enchilada. I slow braised the chicken in some spices in the oven, you could use a slow cooker, then shredded it. The chicken stayed moist, shredded perfectly and most of all had the flavor that I was hoping for. WIN!!

The next area to attack was the tortilla. Rater than add extra calories by flash frying I've always softened my tortillas in heated up enchilada sauce. That's how my Dad taught me, that's how we do it on Christmas when we make our homemade enchiladas, and I was always pretty happy with that. Until last time I made chicken enchiladas. Oh the sauce softened the tortilla, sure enough, but softened it so much that it turned to mush under my fingers. Trying to roll a soggy sauce logged tortilla is disastrous. It rips, tears and splits. Despite its visual appearance, its still tasty, right?, not really! I recall that last time I made chicken enchiladas I was NOT happy with the overall flavor, the tortilla was flavorless mush, no strong corn tortilla flavor that I was hoping for. You NEED that corn flavor to meld with the chicken and sauce, its a whole enchilada experience. So this time I decided to do it the restaurant way, briefly fry each tortilla in hot oil to soften it, fill with chicken, roll and spoon enchilada sauce over the top. SUCCESS!

These chicken enchiladas were exactly like the ones we'd get in a good Mexican restaurant. They were delicious. The tortilla had flavor on its own and didn't turn to mush. The chicken was seasoned and tasty. And best of all, because the chicken is cooked ahead of time, this is an easy weeknight dinner. The assembly didn't take long and after a quick trip through the broiler to melt the cheese, dinner was done.

And because I'm a Kitchen Witch, I couldn't just discard the cooking juices from the chicken. All that chickeny flavor, spices and goodness, well to dump it down the drain was sacrilege! Instead I whipped up a quick and healthy side dish of quick refried beans. A can of pinto beans, about 1/2 cup of the chicken cooking liquid and a pinch of salt, mash them up together and voila! Refried beans that are healthy, tasty and not laden with fat and calories.

I hope you enjoy these enchiladas as much as we all did!

Chicken Enchiladas
makes 14 enchiladas
1 lb chicken thighs
1/2 t each onion and garlic granules/powder and oregano
1 t each chili powder and ground cumin
1 t cumin ground
1/2 c chicken broth or water
1 can green enchilada sauce or up to 2 cups homemade
6 oz Monterey Jack cheese
14 corn tortillas
oil for tortillas

Refried beans
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 c reserved chicken cooking liquids
pinch kosher salt

Prepare chicken first
Preheat oven to 250F
Place chicken thighs in a small dutch oven or a slow cooker along with the spices, herbs and chicken broth. Add a bit of salt and pepper, cover and cook about 3 hours (on low if using a slow cooker) or until thighs are tender and easily shredded.

Remove chicken and allow to cool until easily handled. Shred chicken, discarding any gristle and fat.

Reserve the cooking liquids from the chicken for refried beans.

Assemble enchiladas
Preheat broiler in oven.
Heat a sautee pan over medium high heat. Heat oil, enough to fill pan 1/2 inch deep. Once oil is hot quickly flash fry each tortilla. Immediately place tortilla in a 13x9 pan and fill with about 2-3 T of the shredded chicken. Roll tortilla and place in pan seam side down. Repeat for all tortillas.

Spoon enchilada sauce over top of the enchiladas, top with shredded cheese.

Place on top rack of oven and heat until cheese is melted and slightly browned on top. Remove from oven, allow to cool before serving.

Top with additional enchilada sauce if desired.

Refried Beans
Put drained and rinsed beans in a small sauce pan. Add the 1/2 chicken cooking liquid and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Using a potato masher smash most of the beans. The beans will thicken as they cook. Taste for season and adjust salt as necessary.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Chicken enchiladas
Amount Per Serving
Calories 333.2
Total Fat 9.3 g
Saturated Fat 1.6 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2.9 g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.2 g
Cholesterol 76.9 mg
Sodium 427.5 mg
Potassium 491.6 mg
Total Carbohydrate 40.6 g
Dietary Fiber 6.6 g
Sugars 1.5 g
Protein 23.5 g

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Refried Beans
Amount Per Serving
Calories 104.4
Total Fat 4.7 g
Saturated Fat 0.1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 0.6 mg
Sodium 249.4 mg
Potassium 53.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 18.9 g
Dietary Fiber 6.6 g
Sugars 1.1 g
Protein 5.7 g

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Death by Chocolate cookies

Do you like cookies? What about brownies? Wouldn't it be awesome to have them both, at once, in a delicious dark chocolate cookie concoction of deliciousness? Well guess what readers, YOU CAN!! Yes, the Kitchen Witch has been casting her spell over chocolate cookies and I present to you the fruits of my labors, Death by Chocolate cookies.

Recently the Witch made a trip to Savory Spice, a fun spice store that has everything you could possibly need for spices and herbs. They also carry a lot of different cocoa powders. I found some black onyx cocoa powder and had to buy some. I've used other black cocoas and LOVE the intense dark color that it adds, not to mention the super chocolate kick in the flavor department. Savory Spices' black onyx cocoa delivered, nicely, on both of these requirements. Because the onyx cocoa is more expensive than regular old cocoa powder, I use just a bit to add color & flavor with out breaking the bank. In the 1/2 c cocoa powder that this recipe calls for 2 T of that was the black onyx cocoa. You can make these with out black cocoa but the results won't be as dark and delightful.

The Witch uses a combination of white and brown sugar in these cookies. The brown sugar adds moisture as well as a deeper, more caramelized flavor whereas the white sugar provides necessary sweetness and crispness to the exterior crust. A bit of oil is also added to these cookies, it helps balance the dry crumblies that cocoa powder can cause, due to its dry powdery nature. The extra oil helps hydrate the cocoa and make it act more like melted chocolate would in recipes. In addition, mixing the cocoa powders with the fats help coat the cocoa, keeping the grainy dusty texture that is all too common with cocoa powder recipes at bay.

So there you have it. Rich. Dark. Soft. Moist. Slightly crispy. Death by Chocolate cookies. Enjoy, I know you will!

Death by Chocolate cookies
makes 3 dozen cookies
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
1 stick (1/2 c) butter, unsalted
3 T oil
1/2 c cocoa powder
1 egg
1 t vanilla
almost 2 cups flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F

Cream butter and oil in the work bowl of a stand mixer until very smooth. Add cocoa powder and sugars, mix until light and fluffy. Scrap down sides. Add the egg and vanilla, mix until light and fluffy again.

Add flour, salt and baking soda, scrape down sides. Add chocolate chips and mix until evenly distributed.

Scoop cookies onto sheet pan. Bake cookies for 10-11 minutes. You want the bottoms and edges to be set and slightly crispy. Its hard to tell when these are done due to the dark color so use a timer!

Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes on sheet pan before removing to a cooking rack.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 111.5
Total Fat 5.6 g
Saturated Fat 2.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.5 g
Cholesterol 12.0 mg
Sodium 71.2 mg
Potassium 39.0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 16.2 g
Dietary Fiber 0.6 g
Sugars 9.6 g
Protein 1.6 g

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hackbraten & Spaetzle with mushroom cream gravy

The Kitchen Witch is NOT a convenience foods fan. As a matter of fact I go out of my way to avoid all things processed and 'easy'. But sometimes you get in a rutt. And sometimes a friend suggests that you use a seasoning packet for a German dish that you've never heard of, much less tasted. And when you look at this seasoning packet and see that its got no HFCS or PHO's in it, well why not? There are times when a seasoning packet becomes your best friend and sparks an entire dinner that the family really loved. This meal was one of those times!

The meal in question, my dear readers, is Hackbraten, which are German mini meatloaves and they are delicious!! I served these delightful patties with spaetzle, a German egg dumpling, from a BOX! Yes. Seasoning from a packet and noodles from a box, heck I even used better than bullion for the broth!! Does using these prepackaged ingredients make me less of a cook? No. What it does is make me human and recognize that sometimes not every single thing needs to be from scratch. It can be semi homemade. But not cheesed out like Sandra Lee's version of semi homemade, after all I am a Kitchen Witch, therefore I do have standards.

The hackbraten are delicate patties of beef that are seasoned with onion, garlic and paprika and bread crumbs. They are light in texture and have a delicious seared outer crust. The spaetzle are tender yet firm morsels of tastiness. The gravy I made from caramelized cremini mushrooms, shallot, garlic, beef broth and half and half. It was a most delicious and satisfying meal, one that we'll be enjoying again I have no doubt. I am a very happy Kitchen Witch to have heeded the advice of a good friend and tried something new that I normally wouldn't have.

~*~The review of products is the opinion of the Kitchen Witch solely. The Kitchen Witch was not paid or reimbursed for her product review~*~

Hackbraten with spaetzle and mushroom cream gravy
Makes 4 servings
1 lb lean ground beef
1 packet Maggi hackbraten seasoning mix
1/2 box Maggi spaetzle
about 15-20 cremini mushrooms
1 shallot finely minced
1 clove garlic pressed or minced
1/4 c white wine
1 cup beef broth
1/3 c half and half
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
2 T canola oil
1 T corn starch

Bring a large pot of water to boil and season it with salt. Cook spaetzle according to package, about 25 minutes.

Mix the ground beef with seasoning mix according to directions. Form into 8 small patties.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot add 1T canola oil and pan fry the patties, using 2 batches so as not to crowd the pan. Cook until desired doneness.

While the patties cook make the gravy.
In a 2nd skillet melt the butter and olive oil. Once hot add the mushrooms and brown well. When mushrooms are about 80% done add the shallot and garlic and continue to cook until shallot starts to brown on the edges, 2-3 minutes longer. Deglaze pan with white wine and allow to reduce by 1/2. Mix the cornstarch into the beef broth, stir it well and add to the pan. Bring gravy up to a simmer to thicken. Once thickened stir in the half & half. Serve with hackbraten and spaetzle.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
4 Servings, 2 patties, spaetzle and gravy
Amount Per Serving
Calories 678.6
Total Fat 36.6 g
Saturated Fat 14.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat 14.6 g
Cholesterol 138.0 mg
Sodium 1,606.6 mg
Potassium 388.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 50.0 g
Dietary Fiber 4.1 g
Sugars 2.5 g
Protein 30.6 g

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cheddar and broccoli soup

Some broccoli cheese soups are more broccoli than cheese. I don't like that. If it claims to be broccoli CHEESE soup, I expect to see and taste more than just a garnish of shredded cheese. This soup delivers in the cheese department, rich, deep and flavorful.

I used a bit of dry mustard in this recipe. Dry mustard is spicier than regular mustard, its the ground mustard seed with out any vinegar or water added. Don't try to use regular mustard for the dry. Theres something about the way the dry mustard makes the cheese taste, it brings out the sharpness of the cheddar and is wonderful. There's also a few dashes of tobasco in this soup. Much like the dry mustard, tobasco helps the soup have a depth of flavor with out spicy heat, I mean after all theres about 1/4 t of tobasco to almost 6 cups of liquid, how spicy can it be?

Lastly I like to use the broccoli stems in my soups. They're filled with nutrients and fiber and its just so wasteful to throw them away in favor of their prettier friends the florettes. I simmer the stems in water and puree them so I get a lot of broccoli flavor in the soup, along with all the vitamins and fiber, but no one knows it in there. Witchcraft I tell you!

If you're looking for a soup that delivers big in the cheese flavor this is the one for you. If you like broccoli soup, this is the one for you! So pretty much unless you hate cheese and broccoli, you should like this soup. Enjoy!

Cheddar and Broccoli soup
makes 6 large servings
2 heads broccoli
4 c chicken stock
1 c milk
1 c water
1 onion diced fine
3 cloves garlic
3 dashes tobasco sauce
1/2 t dry mustard powder
pinch turmeric (optional, helps add yellow color to combat the green from the broccoli puree)
kosher salt & pepper
1/4 c butter (half stick)
1/2 c flour
8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Prep veggies first, dice onions, mince garlic and reserve. Remove florettes from broccoli and reserve. Slice the broccoli stems thin (1/4 inch thick approx) and place into a small sauce pan with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and allow stems to cook. Once stems are cooked put them into a blender with 1/2 the cooking liquid and puree until smooth.

Meanwhile, heat a large soup pan over medium high heat. Melt the butter in the pan, once it stops foaming add the onions and garlic. Stir well to coat in butter and cook until onions are starting to brown on the edges.

Add the flour and about 1/2 c of the chicken stock, whisk well, this will thicken and become a paste. Keep whisking and slowly add the remaining chicken stock. Whisk until no lumps remain. Add the milk, tobasco sauce and dry mustard and optional turmeric, whisk well to incorporate. Bring up to a simmer.

Once the soup starts to simmer add the cheese and stir well until all cheese is melted. Taste for salt & pepper, add as needed. Add the broccoli puree to the soup along with the reserved florettes.

Simmer soup for 20 minutes, stirring often to avoid burning. Once broccoli is tender taste soup again for seasoning, adjust salt & pepper as needed.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 392.9
Total Fat 23.4 g
Saturated Fat 13.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.9 g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.5 g
Cholesterol 64.0 mg
Sodium 924.2 mg
Potassium 1,046.9 mg
Total Carbohydrate 28.4 g
Dietary Fiber 9.9 g
Sugars 2.6 g
Protein 20.6 g
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