Friday, October 28, 2011

Hot Caramel Apple Spiced Cider

Hot spiced cider has always been an Autumnal favorite of the Kitchen Witch. When I was a kid we used those apple cider packets, tasty yes, but really, how hard is it to heat up cider and spice it?? Turns out not hard at all!! And its SO much better than the packets. The flavor of cider really shines when its heated, the crisp apple just begs for some cinnamon to compliment it.

Nothing goes better with the fresh fall flavor of apple then sweet buttery caramel. I made a batch of my favorite caramels, salted of course, and dipped a few apples into it. Oh boy were those good!! It seemed only natural to add some of that luscious caramel to the hot cider, allowing it to melt into the drink, adding a different layer of sweet, salty and rich to the mix. You can use store bought caramels if you don't want to make your own, but I promise, its a lot easier than you think and oh so much tastier! Caramel sauce (like for ice cream) would work in a pinch, too.

Finally I topped off each mug with a splash of heavy cream. You could use whipped cream instead, but honestly, I was too lazy to whip up the cream when it was going to just melt into the drink anyway. Whip the cream or not, the choice is yours. Regardless, you'll be very happy with the resulting drink, sweet, tart, salty and creamy. Hot Caramel Apple Spiced Cider is the perfect ending to a busy fall day! Enjoy!

Hot Caramel Apple Spiced Cider
makes 4 servings
4 cups apple cider
1 t cinnamon
1/4 c heavy cream
4 pieces of caramel (homemade is AWESOME but store bought will work too)

In a microwave safe bowl OR a sauce pan heat the cider and cinnamon until it simmers. Add caramels and stir until they melt into the drink. If you're in a hurry you can microwave the caramels until they just start to melt before adding to the hot cider. Once caramels are melted ladle hot cider into your favorite mugs and top with cream, whipped or not.

Isn't that Witch awesome?? She was the cake topper on my 6th birthday cake. I love her!

Nutrition Facts calculated by SparkPeople Recipe Calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 165.8
Total Fat 3.6 g
Saturated Fat 2.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.9 g
Cholesterol 10.9 mg
Sodium 27.7 mg
Potassium 30.1 mg
Total Carbohydrate 8.4 g
Dietary Fiber 0.4 g
Sugars 6.6 g
Protein 0.6 g

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Israeli Couscous salad with beans and tomatoes

Israeli couscous, have you all seen or tried this yet? Ever wonder what the heck it is? Well, Israeli couscous isn't a strange and exotic grain. It's not a grain at all, rather, it's pasta, just like all couscous. Yes, you read that right, ALL couscous is really just tiny beads of pasta that cook up super quick due to their tiny size. Israeli couscous is no different except its beads are larger than normal couscous, making them more pearl like. They cook up very fast also, less than 10 minutes, and are tasty! I like to get my Israeli couscous from the health food store, they have it available in bulk and you can buy as much or as little as you'd like. It's really really cheap, too, bonus!

Israeli couscous is toasted from the factory. Personally, I wanted more of that roasty toasty flavor so I decided to further brown my couscous in melted butter. Nothing wrong with that! A small amount of onion was added for flavor, but not so much that it overwhelmed the delicate toasty flavor of the couscous. The Witch used chicken broth to cook the couscous in for additional flavor, but if you're looking to make this dish completely vegetarian water or veggie broth would work just fine also. As the couscous cooks it releases a lot of starches which make the texture of the cooked Israeli couscous more like a good risotto than couscous.

Because this was an entire meal I knew that I needed some protein in there somewhere so I added white beans that I have in my pantry. The soft texture and gentle flavor of the cannellini bean was delightful against the soft, rich creamy flavor of the couscous. Having an abundance of cherry tomatoes from the garden it was a no brainer to add a handful of the sweet red treats into the couscous. Feta cheese was in the fridge and its flavors as well as very granular texture again worked fabulously with the couscous. Now all it needed was a dressing! In a small mason jar, or any jar with a lid, add the juice of half a lemon, a touch of honey to counteract the tart of the lemon and 2 parts olive oil. I just eyeballed the amount in the glass jar, when it looked like I had a 2:1 ratio of oil to lemon juice I stopped. It was about 3T of oil. A touch of garlic and fresh herbs including mint, oregano and parsley completed this easy and tasty dressing. The dressing will make a lot more than you need for one serving, you'll actually be able to get about 3 couscous salads out of this dressing, so save the leftovers in the fridge for another tasty salad.

The final results of this are savor, rich, creamy, tart, sweet and plain yummy. The herbs in the dressing added great flavor, just enough to keep you interested in taking another bite. The tomatoes give bursts of sweet tart flavor that counter the rich creamy taste of the couscous. A nice salty tang is provided by the feta and the creamy beans kept me full for hours! This recipe was developed as a quick and easy lunch for myself. Imagine my surprise when the Little Witch wanted to try some (shock!) and then declared that she LOVES couscous and wanted more! (double shock!) If you're looking for a quick lunch, easy side dish or a meatless main course, look no further than this Israeli couscous dish. Enjoy!

Israeli couscous salad with beans and tomatoes
makes 1 main dish sized serving
1/2 c Israeli couscous
3/4 c chicken broth OR water
2 t butter
1 T minced onions
1 T minced green pepper (optional)
6-8 cherry tomatoes
1/3 c white beans (cannellini beans), drained and rinsed (1 can will make 3 salads)
2T feta cheese
3t dressing, recipe follows

Lemon herb dressing
makes enough for 3 salads
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 parts olive oil, approx 3T
1t honey
1 clove garlic sliced thin
pinch kosher salt & pepper
fresh minced herbs: parsley, mint and oregano (small bit of parsley, 5 leaves each mint & oregano)

Make dressing first: combine all ingredients in a small lidded jar and shake well to mix. Set aside.

Prepare salad:
In a small sauce pan heat butter over medium high heat until it foams. Once the foaming stops add the uncooked couscous, stir to coat all pearls in butter. Toast for 2 minutes then add the onions. Stir to coat onions in butter and continue to toast for 3-4 minutes longer, until couscous is browned and smells nutty.

Add the broth or water and bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Add the beans, cover the pan and allow to cook for about 5 minutes. Check couscous for tenderness, if soft all the way through then drain couscous of any remaining liquid. Return to pot. Add the dressing, tomatoes and feta, stir well to coat everything evenly. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts calculated at SparkPeople recipe calculator
Salad only, no dressing 1 Serving
Amount Per Serving

Calories 459.6
Total Fat 9.6 g
Saturated Fat 4.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.2 g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.2 g
Cholesterol 25.0 mg
Sodium 308.7 mg
Potassim 294.2 mg
Total Carbohydrate 16.6 g
Dietary Fiber 4.8 g
Sugars 0.7 g
Protein 17.7 g

Nutrition Facts calculated at SparkPeople recipe calculator
Lemon herb dressing only -- 3 Servings
Amount Per Serving

Calories 130.5
Total Fat 14.0 g
Saturated Fat 2.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 10.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 96.3 mg
Potassium 14.9 mg
Total Carbohydrate 2.9 g
Dietary Fiber 0.1 g
Sugars 2.1 g
Protein 0.1 g

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pork Red Chili

Chili is a great dish to serve in fall, is slow cooked flavors will warm bellies on the coldest of days. It's also very budget friendly, with the bulk of the ingredients being pantry staples. Most of the time red chili is made with beef. Being a rebellious rule breaking Kitchen Witch, I decided to use pork in mine this time. Green chili with pork is amazing, so I figured why not try it with the red version. I found country style boneless pork ribs on managers special for $2.80 and couldn't resist. These ribs do need a long slow braise to maximize their flavor as well as make the darn things tender. Chili seemed like a perfect match for the cut of meat I had on hand.

So, in addition to the super cheap package of pork there was something else that really made me want to make chili, other than the fact that its delicious. The Witch is a savvy shopper - get this deal! I scored a new Food Network 5.5 qt dutch oven, enamel covered cast iron, with a metal handle on the lid making it oven proof, for $46 at Kohl's!! The pan is normally $100, on sale for $70, I had a 20% off coupon AND a $10 off coupon, making my total before tax $46. Not too shabby!!! And the best part, other than the screamin' deal I got, is that its green!! My favorite shade of avocado green! I LOVE IT!

Back to the chili! After browning the pork and onions in the dutch oven I added the spices and allowed them to toast to develop their flavor. I used my favorite Black Canyon Chili Powder blend from Savory Spice - it's combination of cocoa powder, cinnamon, chili powders, garlic and toasted onion really make red chilies shine, in this Witches' opinion. The cinnamon and cocoa powder really remind me of a good slow cooked mole, in a fraction of the time. If you don't have Black Canyon chili powder, well you can order some from Savory Spice OR you can make a knock off version at home by combining unsweetened cocoa powder, cinnamon, chili powder, onion and garlic powders and you'll have a fair representation on what the Black Canyon powder is all about. The pork in this chili was amazing, tender, flavorful and very rich. It worked so well with the cumin and ancho chiles that I may never make a beef chili again!

Pork Red Chili
makes 4 generous servings
1 lb country style pork ribs, boneless
1 large onion diced
5-6 cloves garlic peeled and smashed but left whole
2 t ground cumin
1 T Black Canyon chili powder
1 T ground ancho chilie
4 bay leaves
kosher salt
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can beans, kidney, black, your choice, drained & rinsed

In a dutch oven heat over medium high heat and brown pork ribs. Brown all 4 sides well then add the diced onions. Allow onions to soften and brown slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the spices and stir well, sautee for about 3-4 minutes. Spices will stick to the bottom of the pan, that is fine.

When spices are very fragrant add 2 cups water and scrape up browned bits from bottom of pan. Add the diced tomatoes and cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 hours.

After 2 hours have passed stir the meat, it should be starting to get very tender and fall apart. Allow it to shred naturally while stirring. Add the 2nd can of tomatoes, drained beans and reseason with salt & pepper. Cover again and allow to simmer for 1 1/2 hours longer. Once done shred up remaining chunks of pork - you should be able to squeeze the chunks with your tongs & they will just fall apart. Serve with corn bread or tortilla chips. Top with jalapenos if desired.

Nutrition Facts calculated at SparkPeople Recipe Calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 331.0
Total Fat 12.2 g
Saturated Fat 4.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 65.0 mg
Sodium 1,835.9 mg
Potassium 252.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate 27.7 g
Dietary Fiber 8.4 g
Sugars 6.2 g
Protein 28.2 g

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Jalapeno Corn Cakes

Today I'd like to introduce you to a fabulous foodie and cook, Phyllis Davis. Phyllis isn't a guest blogger; rather she has been a guest in the Witches' house for various cooking dates. Please allow me to introduce Phyllis Davis!

"I was a caterer in Texas in the 70's, a sous chef for six years at the Broadmoor Cooking School during the 80's and assisted: Jacques Pepin, Marcella Hazen, Guiliano Bugialli, Stephan Pyles, Paula Wolfort, Martha Stewart, Ken Hom, and others, became the Food and Restaurant Critic for KKTV in the 80's, taught private cooking classes throughout my cooking life, and now I have the pleasure of cooking with you, Andrea."

Holy cow how did I get so lucky to find a friend and foodie with such a varied and rich history? I'm one lucky Witch, that's for sure! Phyllis and I have a great time cooking, chatting, knitting and generally enjoying each others company. Most recently we made 2 dishes, sweet corn gelato (to be posted soon) and jalapeno corn cakes. Both recipes were delicious and will be/have been repeat offenders in the Witches' kitchen already! The corn cakes were particularly delicious, I loved the crunch of corn, slightly crispy exterior and gentle heat of the jalapeno and the cool sour cream topping was perfect. I've made these twice since then and LOVE them! They are really good for breakfast, too, if you are into a more savory type of AM meal.

Confession time: Phyllis and I made these dishes in August when corn season was at its peak. Yours truly has had a run in with a little thing called LIFE - between a beloved dog passing away, getting a new puppy and a Little Witch starting preK, we have been busy, hence the lack of posts lately AND the unseasonality of this post.

Jalapeno Corn Cakes
Makes 6 servings, 2 cakes each
Source: Sunset Magazine
1 lg egg
1 c milk
3/4 c. medium-grind cornmeal, preferably stone ground
1/2 c. flour
3/4 t. kosher salt
2 t. baking powder
1 t. chopped marjoram (optional, we omitted)
2 green onions, chopped, plus more for garnish
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 c. corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1/4 c. veg or canola oil
Sour cream

Whisk egg, and milk and add the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder & marjoram stirring to combine.

Fold in chopped onions, jalapeno, and corn.

Heat 2 T. oil in large nonstick skillet over med heat and scoop 1/4 c. portions of batter into pan. Cook, turning once, until puffed and brown - total about 6 minutes.

You can also make smaller bite size cakes, they are wonderful appetizers!

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 272.4
Total Fat 14.0 g
Saturated Fat 2.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat 6.8 g
Cholesterol 38.3 mg
Sodium 428.5 mg
Potassium 224.0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 32.2 g
Dietary Fiber 3.0 g
Sugars 3.9 g
Protein 6.7 g
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