Monday, January 31, 2011

Greek grilled chicken thighs

Sometimes in the middle of winter you need a burst of fresh summery type flavors. Ya know, just to remind yourself that the cold will end someday and warmth will return. This chicken dish did just that, reminded me of summer with its bright lemon and herb flavors.

Its no secret that the Witch adores Mediterranean and middle eastern foods & flavors. There's just something about smooth creamy hummus and warm pitas that make my heart happy. When you add highly seasoned and grilled meats into the mix, it just becomes a symphony of flavors that make my heart sing. Cumin, lemon, garlic, oh my!

The marinade on the chicken is quite simple, lemon, garlic, herbs and spices. Something magical happens when you combine these common ingredients with chicken and grill it. The garlic is spicy, the herbs are subtle and the tang of lemon cuts through the spices creating a savory delight that just has to be tried. The hint of cinnamon tells you that this is something special and not your usual chicken dish. I highly recommend eating this chicken with pita bread, hummus and lemon garlic rice (post to come soon!)

Greek style grilled chicken thighs
makes 2-3 servings
juice of 1 lemon
1 t oregano
2 cloves garlic pressed or minced
1/2 t coriander seed ground
1/2 t ground cumin seed
3/4 t kosher salt
1/4 t pepper
pinch cinnamon
1 T olive oil
1 lb chicken, thighs or breasts, boned & skinned

Mix everything but the chicken together in a bowl. Add the chicken and marinade for 1-2 hours.

Grill over high heat until internal temperature of 165F is reached. Remove chicken and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with feta cheese if desired.

If you don't have an indoor grill or access to an outdoor one you can also just cook these in a sautee pan, simply add a little oil to the hot pan & cook.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 162.8
Total Fat 8.6 g
Saturated Fat 1.6 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat 4.7 g
Cholesterol 76.4 mg
Sodium 561.6 mg
Potassium 268.8 mg
Total Carbohydrate 3.0 g
Dietary Fiber 0.6 g
Sugars 0.4 g
Protein 18.5 g

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pita bread

One of the things the Witch love about making bread is how versatile it is. For the most part, bread recipes tend to be the same: flour, yeast, salt, water. Its in the skilled hands of the cook that these humble ingredients change from flour and yeast into bread; chewy, crunchy delicious bread. And many varieties of bread, too. The same basic recipe can make white bread, french bread or pita bread, same basic ingredients, its in how you handle them that it morphs.

Let's take pita bread for example. It should be soft, puffy, chewy and hollow inside. It is very similar to a flat bread, but to be considered a real pita it needs that puffy hollow inside. How in the world do you get it to puff, when the ingredients are pretty much the same as pizza dough or flat bread dough??

Simple. The answer is moisture. Keeping the dough nice & moist is key to the puff. As the bread cooks, the water evaporates and causes steam, which puffs the bread. Getting your dough damp enough to puff, yet not so wet that its gluey is the key. I learned a tip from Deb from the Smitten Kitchen, she spritzed her pita rounds with water & let them rest for 10 minutes. This additional moisture was just enough to really get a good puff and yielded perfect pitas.

The pitas bake in a very hot oven and take only 3 minutes each. I'm so glad I decided to try my own pitas, the ones from the store are usually stale, filled with unpronounceable ingredients and cost more than I'm willing to spend on stale bread. Homemade pita is perfect for beginning bread makers, too; the dough is made in a stand mixer, no need to kneed and it rises in the fridge overnight, allowing the flavors to develop slowly giving a depth of flavor usually found in artisan breads. Even if you're new to bread making please give these a try. You'll be happy you did!

Pita Bread
source: Smitten Kitchen
makes 12-16 pita breads
3 1/4 c AP flour
2 t instant yeast
2 t kosher salt
2 T olive oil
1 1/4 c water

Mix all the ingredients in the work bowl of a stand mixer. Attach the dough hook and kneed for 10 minutes on medium speed. Dough will be soft, slightly sticky and not sticking to the bottom of the bowl. Add a touch more flour if too wet or water if too dry.

Put kneaded dough ball into a lightly oiled large bowl and cover with plastic wrap that's been sprayed with nonstick spray. Put covered bowl in the fridge and allow to rise slowly overnight (or up to 3 days). If dough rises too rapidly punch it back down & recover. The long slow rise develops the flavor of the dough and the cold of the fridge slows down the yeast production giving you a nice artisan flavor and excellent crumb texture.

When ready to bake pitas place a pizza stone in the lowest rack of your oven (If you don't have a pizza stone a cast iron pan will work too) and preheat oven to 475F. Allow oven to heat for 1 hour.

While oven is heating remove the dough from the fridge. Divide dough into 12-16 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball then lightly press it out to a thickish disk, about 4-5 inches diameter. Place discs on a lightly oiled sheet pan, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and rest for 20 minutes.

Once discs have rested lightly flour counter tops and a rolling pin. Roll each disc into a thin flat, about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Spritz each round with water and allow to rest for another 10-15 minutes, covered with plastic or a damp towel.

Now its time to cook the pitas. Place 3 rounds on the hot pizza stone and bake for 3 minutes. The pitas will puff as they cook. There is no need to flip these breads. The tops will not have any browning, this is ok. The bottoms will be slightly browned and crispy.

Allow the oven to recover temperature for 5 minutes between batches of pitas.

~*~Kitchen Witch Tip: If the pitas don't puff spritz the rounds with water and allow to rest again. The water is the key to the puff, you need the dough adequately hydrated to produce the pitas signature puff pocket. If they don't puff, don't dispare, they're still delicious and are perfect for dipping in hummus or any dip of your choosing.~*~

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 107.4
Total Fat 2.0 g
Saturated Fat 0.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.3 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 120.5 mg
Potassium 27.2 mg
Total Carbohydrate 19.4 g
Dietary Fiber 0.7 g
Sugars 0.1 g
Protein 2.6 g

Friday, January 28, 2011

Italian style stuffed Pork Chops

We love stuffed pork chops. There's just something delightful about cutting into a piece of meat & discovering a surprise tasty filling stuffed inside. And when that filling is creamy cheese with tart sun dried tomatoes and zesty garlic, that just makes things even tastier.

This recipe was created for a few reasons:
1. I had some awesome thick cut pork chops that were just begging to be stuffed!
2. I've done a few stuffed chop recipes before & they've been fruit & nut stuffings, delicious but been there, done that
3. I was making polenta as my side dish so I wanted an Italian flair to the chops

So the Witch put her Witchcraft hat on & went to work. Cream cheese is always a good start as far as I'm concerned so it made the cut. Sun dried tomatoes, another natural choice, in they go. I have a bag of frozen spinach in the freezer but only wanted a touch of it, too much spinach and all you can taste is SPINACH - so a few nuggets of the green stuff thawed out was perfect! Garlic and herbs only made sense given the Italian direction we were heading, and a touch of Asiago gave the sharpness I was looking for.

Stuffing the chops is an easy process, simply take a sharp thin knife and create a pocket in the chop. Using your finger open up the pocket more, leaving the sides intact to hold the filling. All that's left then is to stuff the chop then cook it and before you know it, a delicious and impressive dinner is done. Enjoy!

Italian style stuffed pork chops
makes 3 chops
3 thick cut boneless pork loin chops
4 oz cream cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
handful of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
1/4 c julienne cut sun dried tomatoes
2 T fresh grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese
3/4 t dried Italian herbs
kosher salt & pepper
drizzle of oil

preheat oven to 300F
In a small bowl mix the cream cheese, Asiago, sun dried tomatoes, spinach, garlic, herbs with a pinch of salt & pepper. Divide this cheese mixture into thirds.

Create a pocket in the pork chops and stuff one portion of the cheese mixture in it. Sprinkle stuffed chops with salt & pepper.

Heat an oven safe skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil, once pan is hot add the chops. Sear chops on 1 side, once they're nicely browned flip and put pan in the oven, cook about 5-10 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160F. Remove from oven and hot pan, allow to rest 5 minutes before serving.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 361.0
Total Fat 26.0 g
Saturated Fat 13.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.7 g
Monounsaturated Fat 8.7 g
Cholesterol 104.1 mg
Sodium 678.6 mg
Potassium 701.6 mg
Total Carbohydrate 5.7 g
Dietary Fiber 0.9 g
Sugars 2.7 g
Protein 26.2 g

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chopped at home week 1: Babaganoosh & A Pork Roulade

Here's the second dish we made during our Chopped at Home playdate. The first dish you'll remember was Pork Wonton soup. Please allow me to introduce the rest of the ingredients we had to work with for this first challenge.

2 Chinese eggplants
3 tomatoes
2 red bell peppers
1 pork loin roast
a bunch of Chinese herbs

Recently I went to a cooking demo where the Chef made a garam masala spice blend - he sampled it to us via some fantastic babaganoosh with roasted red peppers and it was fabulous. I've never been much of an eggplant fan until I tried this babaganoosh, it was really flavorful and addictive. So when presented with 2 large Chinese eggplants I immediately thought of babaganoosh and the fabulous garam masala which I just happened to have all the spices to make it. Turns out my buddy was thinking babaganoosh as well, awesome! So we whipped up a batch of the spice blend and we roasted the veggies. Then we stood there and asked each other, "Ok, now what? We still have this pork loin to use up" and that's when we decided to pound out the loin, slather it in babaganoosh and roll it up roulade style.

We seared the pork rolls in a hot cast iron pan then finished them in the oven. They were pretty darn good I have to say. The babaganoosh filling turned out to be more of a tunnel of babaganoosh rather than a spiral roll but meh, that happens. The flavors blended nicely with the pork and the garam masala spices were really good with it. Would I make this again? Absolutely, with a few changes. First of all, it made a TON of babaganoosh (which we did enjoy with pita chips later that week) so keep that in mind. Second, I don't know that I'd go thru the messy work of making it into a roulade again; rather I'd cut the loin into chops, cook them & serve the babaganoosh as a side dipping sauce. But the flavors were really good and it was fun to work with different ingredients off the cuff.

So that leaves the Chinese herbs. We decided the best idea was to determine WHAT these strange herbs were before using them. Its a DARN good thing we did, too; turns out that we got a medicinal herbal packet, one of them you had to boil 9 times before its considered safe for ingestion. Another one claimed to be "Flavorless, sweet and neutral, however it could cause hallucinations as well as damp excretions" Needless to say we decided to forgo the herbs. There'll be another cooking playdate this weekend, who knows what we'll make next!

Babaganoosh Pork Roulade
Makes about 4 cups of babaganoosh
Pork Roulade serves 4 people
2 Chinese eggplant sliced 1/4 in thin (regular eggplant can be used if the Chinese variety can't be located)
3 tomatoes, halved and seeded
2 red bell peppers, halved and seeded
4 oz cremini mushrooms
Olive oil
kosher salt
1 T Garam masala
Pork Loin roast
butchers twine or cotton string for tying

Preheat oven to 400F. Distribute vegetables between 2 sheet pans. Drizzle vegetables with about 3 T oil for each pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast. Check veggies half way and rotate pans if needed. If they're not browning much add a bit more oil. Once they've browned remove from oven.

Put roasted vegetables into the work bowl of a stand mixer along with the spices and puree, adding up to 4 T olive oil. Puree until you have a smooth mixture.

Pretty it isn't, however it is darn tasty!

~*~Kitchen Witch Tip: No food processor? No worries! This babaganoosh would be quite good in a chunky fashion as well. Simply chop all the roasted veg to your desired consistency then add the spices and stir. Next time I make it I'll leave it chunkier, more like a salsa~*~

To make the roulade:

Preheat oven to 350F

Cover counter tops with plastic wrap, you'll need 2 overlapping sheets. Dampen counter before laying plastic out for best adhesion. Cut roast in half and cover with plastic. Using the smooth side of a meat mallet pound out the meat to 1/4 in thick, trimming any tendons as you go.

Salt and pepper the meat. Spread babaganoosh over it evenly. Roll the pork along the long side and tie with butchers twine in a running knot. Sprinkle the roll with garam masala. Repeat with 2nd half of meat if you had to cut your roast in half as we did. (click here for more info on how to tie a roulade)

Sear tied roll in a hot cast iron skillet on all 4 sides, placing pan in oven once you start the sear on the last side. Cook pork until internal temperature of 150F is reached. Allow meat to rest at least 5 minutes before removing twine and serving.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Who doesn't love lasagna? Well if you asked me that question 5 years ago I would have said ME!! ME!! The Witch can't stand lasagna!!!! Turns out I was wrong, I do like lasagna, I just like GOOD lasagna, not the stuff my parents used to make & call lasagna.

My parents, bless their hearts, are just not the most food savvy people created. To them, using cottage cheese, Carl Budding ham and pizza sauce was how you made lasagna. Now I know a lot of you out there enjoy cottage cheese in your lasagna, and I'm not knocking that. But please, do try the ricotta instead. Its about the same price as cottage cheese, the texture is leaps & bounds better and it makes lasagna lots better. The Carl Budding ham, well that can be eliminated entirely and no one will miss it. I think the ham was some kind of a strange nod to prosciutto, however that still makes me wonder because my Dad, who put the ham in, hasn't ever heard of prosciutto in his life! If you use jarred sauce please do yourself a favor and get good jarred sauce.

This particular lasagna was made with ground beef but you can use whatever ground meat you like: sausage, beef, turkey or chicken, all work. If meat's not your thing replace it with thin sliced vegetables like broccoli, zucchini or eggplant.

Like all lasagna this makes a TON. It reheats well which makes it idea for lunches. It also freezes well however I'd freeze it before baking it. If you choose to freeze lasagna here's a few tips:
~get disposable pans otherwise your 'real' pans are tied up in the freezer
~write what the dish is along with cooking times & temps on the top layer of foil
~thaw lasagna in the fridge overnight before baking, or if that's not an option then bake for about 2 hours or until its bubbly in the middle.

Source: Barilla pasta
makes 12 servings
1 box Barilla lasagne pasta sheets (not the ones with ruffled edges, the flat sheets)
2 eggs
1 15oz container of ricotta cheese
16 oz shredded mozzarella cheese (4 cups, divided)
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese (2 oz)
1 lb ground meat (sausage, beef, turkey or chicken, your choice)
5.5 cups marinara sauce (2 jars worth)

Preheat oven to 350F if using glass, 375F if using a metal baking pan.
Spray a 13x9 baking pan with non stick spray and spray a piece of foil to cover the dish as well.

Combine the ricotta cheese, eggs, Parmesan and 2 cups mozzarella cheese in a medium bowl.

Brown meat and drain off fat.

Assemble lasagne:
1. Spread 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of the pan.

2. Layer 4 uncooked sheets of pasta, 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, half the browned meat, 1 cup mozzarella and 1 cup sauce

3. Layer 4 sheets pasta, 1/3 ricotta mixture and 1.5 c sauce

4. Layer 4 sheets pasta, 1/3 ricotta mixture, remaining meat and 1 cup sauce.

5. Layer 4 sheets pasta, the remaining sauce and remaining mozzarella cheese.

Cover with sprayed foil and bake 50-60 minutes until bubbly. Remove foil and bake 5 minutes longer to melt cheese. If desired turn broiler on and brown the top layer of cheese.

Allow to rest 15 minutes before serving.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 460.3
Total Fat 22.6 g
Saturated Fat 10.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.7 g
Monounsaturated Fat 6.6 g
Cholesterol 100.0 mg
Sodium 792.9 mg
Potassium 189.2 mg
Total Carbohydrate 36.0 g
Dietary Fiber 3.2 g
Sugars 5.4 g
Protein 29.2 g

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Garam Masala spice blend

This recipe is courtesy of Chef Andrew Sherrill from the Blue Star here in Colorado Springs. About a month ago I went to a cooking demo that Chef Andrew held at a local spice store called Extraordinary Ingredients. He demonstrated 3 recipes for us, a delicious Jamaican Jerk rub, the best cajun blackening spice I've ever tried and this mind blowing Garam Masala.

A few of the ingredients in this spice blend are a bit more exotic than your local grocery store will carry so I recommend scouting out your favorite spice retailer for the black cardamom pods as well as the black cumin. Chef Andrew explained that the black cardamom and black cumin have a more intense, deeper flavor than their 'regular' counterparts. They provide a distinct depth of flavor that you won't get from standard cardamom or cumin. If you are unsuccessful in your hunt for black cardamom and black cumin, fear not, the regular versions can be used, your spice blend just won't be as intense as the Chef intended.

Lastly, be sure to toast your spices before grinding them. Toasting spices is very easy and imparts so much flavor you'll wonder why you never toasted them before! Simply heat a DRY skillet over medium high heat, once the pan is hot add your whole spices and shake it around for about 20-30 seconds. Once you can smell the spices you're done. Over toasting leads to burning and burn is not a flavor you're going to want in your Garam Masala. Allow the spices to cool for about 3-5 minutes for easiest grinding. A mortar and pestle is the preferred grinding device, however a coffee or spice grinder works just fine, too. This Garam Masala spice blend will last about 6 months stored in your spice cabinet.

Garam Masala
Source: Chef Andrew Sherrill of the Blue Star
~*~Makes a LOT of spice blend, feel free to scale it back for your use~*~
4 T coriander seed
1 T cumin
1 1/2 t black cumin
3-4 large pods black cardamom
1 T black pepper
2x1 inch pieces cinnamon sticks OR 3/4 t
3/4 t bay leaves crushed
3/4 t cloves

Toast all whole spices (reserve the bay leaves, they do not benefit from toasting). Allow to cool about 3-5 minutes before combining with the bay leaves in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Grind until very fine. Store in a sealed container, in a dark dry place.

Best when used directly after grinding as the flavor components are released by the toasting and grinding process. Flavor will diminish the longer it sits. I'd store this Garam Masala no longer than 6 months.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Chopped at Home week 1: Pork Wonton soup

I'm a lucky Witch! Why you ask? Because I've got a good friend whos amazing in the kitchen AND has a kid about the same age of the Little Witch. We've been having 'cooking play dates' where the kids play and the cooks, well cook! We've made quite a lot of delicious things - the cheese blintz pancakes were one of our creations.

This past weekend, my buddy came over with a hodge podge of ingredients. It was his idea that we'd play our own version of "Chopped", the cooking contest show from Food Network. On the show the contestants are given an ingredients basket and they have 30 minutes to create an edible dish using all of the strange ingredients. In the Witches' house, we take the mystery ingredients, spread them out on the kitchen table and then discuss what our plan of attack is. There is no time limit! Sure, its not the same as Chopped, but then again there's no TV crew to film us, either.

One of this week's mystery ingredients was pork hocks. All I could think to do with these was to cook them down & make a stock out of them. Pork stock. Ok sure, you've never heard of it but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't try it. Right away the Witch gets her trusty dutch oven out and starts the hocks browning. Throwing in a basic mire poix of celery, onion & carrot was only natural for stock making. I threw in a bit of garlic and ginger for a bit of Asian flavor. 2 hours later, we were witness to an extremely flavorful pork stock that was just begging to be made into a soup.

The wontons were just premade frozen wontons from the Asian market. Use whatever frozen wontons you like, or you can make your own. When we ladled the soup into the bowls and topped them with slices of green onions, well it was like being in a good Chinese restaurant. Rich. Flavorful. Unctuous and filled with umami. This soup was GOOD!! I'd have to award the Chopped championship to us, for sure! With a rockin' soup like this the competition didn't stand a chance. Oh wait...there was no competition. Well whatever, the soup was still good!

Pork Wonton Soup
makes 4 servings
5-6 pork hocks - unsmoked
2 carrots, peeled and cut into thirds
2 ribs celery, cut into thirds
1 onion, rough chop
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed but left whole
1 inch ginger, cut roughly, you don't even have to peel it
kosher salt & pepper to taste
frozen pork wontons
drizzle of oil

In a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot, heat over medium high heat and add oil. Once hot add the pork hocks and allow to brown. This will take about 5 minutes per side.

After first side is browned add the veggies to the pan, onions first, then carrots then celery and garlic. Allow to cook on 2nd side about 5-10 minutes, stirring veg once or twice to avoid burning.

Once the pork has browned and the veg have a slight bit of color on them add water, enough to cover the hocks in 2 inches of water (about half the pan full). Bring up to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer uncovered for 1 hour.

After 1 hour stir things around and add some salt and pepper (best guess is about 1/2 t kosher salt and 1/8 t pepper) and the ginger. Allow to simmer for another hour. The stock will start to thicken as the collagen is dissolved from the pork hocks enriching the stock. the stock will also reduce by about half, concentrating the flavors so be sure not to over salt initially. You can always add more salt later on.

Once stock is done, about 2 hours, strain off solids and discard them. Rinse out the stock pot, return the strained liquid to the pot and add 8 frozen wontons to the stock. Allow wontons to simmer in stock for 5-10 minutes, or until cooked through.

Serve soup with a drizzle of soy sauce and green onions if you have them.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cranberry & Spice jam

Cranberry and spice jam, it tastes as good as it sounds. This jam was created to go alongside brie en croute with pralined pecans. Its not what most would consider a sweet jam, its quite tart; retaining the cranberries tang and flavor. We really enjoyed it with the brie, the tartness of the cranberries really cut through the creamy fattiness of the cheese and the flavors were very complimentary. This jam can be canned - use the hot pack method and process in a water bath. If you choose not to can the jam, it'll last about 3 weeks in the fridge, covered. This would also be delicious on a turkey sandwich.

Cranberry & Spice jam
makes about 3 cups
makes about 3.5 cups, or 28 servings (2T each)
1 bag cranberries, fresh
1/2 c orange juice
2 1 in pieces of cinnamon stick
4 all spice berries
2 cloves
~*~ can substitute 1 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice for the whole spices ~*~
3/4 c sugar
pinch of salt

Combine everything in a sauce pan. Stir well. Heat over medium high heat until it starts to boil. Reduce heat to medium low. Simmer over medium low for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. Remove whole spices (if used) before serving.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 26.1
Total Fat 0.0 g
Saturated Fat 0.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 5.7 mg
Potassium 14.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate 6.7 g
Dietary Fiber 0.3 g
Sugars 6.0 g
Protein 0.1 g

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sesame Shrimp Lo Mein

Recently the Witch got brave, and with a little help from her friends, went to the Asian Pacific Grocery store. Why this place intimidated me for so long is a mystery, I'm just so glad that I've discovered it! As a lover of Asian flavors I was in foodie heaven with all those different types of soys, sauces, chili pastes and noodles. Oh, the noodles!! SO many choices: rice noodles, ramen in every variety you can imagine and a few you've never thought of, lo mein noodles, etc. The ones that really caught my eyes were the nested egg noodles. Something about them spoke to me, and I'm really glad I listened to their call!

The lo mein noodles are thin, yet have nice texture to them, light yet hearty enough to stand up to the intense heat of a wok. Their flavor is exactly what a lo mein dish needs. Once you've tried real Asian noodles in lo mein you won't be going back to plain old pasta as a substitution.

The flavors on this are inspired by sesame chicken, our most ordered dish from Chinese restaurants. The Witch chose to use a bit of tahini in the sauce to really bring the sesame flavor home, however I'll be the first to admit that the sauce needs a bit of tweeking. It was good, quite good, don't get me wrong, but its not perfect. I don't quite know what's missing, maybe a touch more acid? Less tahini? The flavor & texture of the sauce was very similar to peanut sauce, thick and rich, spicy and sweet, but SOMETHING was missing. If you all have any suggestions please let me know! Despite the sauce not being up to my high standards of perfection this dish was devoured and not a single left over noodle was to be found. Which just means that I need to make it again, and work on that sauce!

Sesame Shrimp Lo Mein
makes 4 servings
1 lb shrimp, defrosted, deveined and peeled, removing tails
red bell pepper, julienne
1 bunch scallions, sliced on the bias
1 large carrot, julienne
1 stalk celery, sliced thin on the bias
4 bunches of Asian egg noodles
3 T soy sauce
2 T white wine
3 cloves garlic
1 T tahini
2 T water
2-3T sugar
2 t Sriracha
sprinkle of sesame seeds for garnish
2 T oil for stir fry

Chop all vegetables and set aside first.
Peel and devein shrimp and pat dry.
Mix up the sauce ingredients in a bowl and reserve.

Cook noodles according to instructions on bag & reserve.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the oil and stir fry the veggies until they start to brown & have softened slightly. Push the veg aside in the pan and add the shrimp. Cook about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way through then add the sauce, stirring to coat everything evenly. After sauce is added throw the noodles in and stir fry about 1-2 minutes longer. Shrimp will finish cooking in this time. Garnish with sesame seeds and enjoy!

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 374.6
Total Fat 12.0 g
Saturated Fat 1.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 5.4 g
Cholesterol 185.8 mg
Sodium 963.5 mg
Potassium 784.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 38.3 g
Dietary Fiber 5.2 g
Sugars 16.3 g
Protein 28.1 g

Friday, January 7, 2011

Chocolate Crinkles

Are you a chocoholic? Do you like cookies? Do you like your chocolate to be on the darker side, full of complex flavors and not cloyingly sweet? If you answered YES to these questions then I've got the cookie for you! Chocolate Crinkles!

What makes these cookies so special? First of all, they call for melted chocolate, not cocoa powder. Now don't get me wrong, the Kitchen Witch LOVES cocoa powder. But even the Witch will admit, its not 'real chocolate'. Cocoa powder is a large contributor of the dreaded dry crumblies in cookies, and sometimes it just doesn't have that CHOCOLATE punch of flavor that I'm looking for. There's nothing more disappointing than taking a big bite of a deep dark chocolate cookie and have no flavor to back up that beautiful color. These cookies, on the other hand, deliver on the chocolate in a big way. The Witch used a combo of 60% dark (4 oz) and semi sweet chips (6 oz, yeah I know that's more than the recipe called for, but I love chocolate!). Next time I'll use all 60% cacao dark chocolate, as always, use whatever chocolate you like.

Second, there's not a lot of sugar in these babies, a mere 2/3 c plus 2T for the entire batch means these won't be cloying in the slightest. I also really like how the less than sweet cookie base allows the powdered sugar coating to bring a bit more sweetness to each bite.

Lastly, the coffee powder in these cookies really take them from ho hum to WOW! Dark chocolate and coffee are BFF. Just like real BFF's, they bring out the best in each other. Coffee intensifies chocolate's flavor while chocolate makes coffee less bitter. The deep complexities of each of these sing in perfect harmony in this powdered sugar coated chocolate lovers dream come true cookie. Please keep in mind that these are not very popular with the kids. Between the intense dark chocolate, the lack of sugary sweetness and the deep coffee notes keep the kiddo's hands off these, which leaves more for us adults. I like that!

Chocolate Crinkles
source: adapted from King Arthur Flour Recipes
Makes: about 3 dozen cookies (more or less depending on size)
1 1/3 cups (8 ounces) chopped bittersweet chocolate and/or chocolate chips
1/2 cup (4 ounces, 1 stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup plus 2T (4 3/4 ounces) sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons espresso powder (optional) (I used a packet of Starbucks VIA Italian Roast)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups (7 ounces) All-Purpose Flour
confectioners' sugar* (for coating)

In a microwave safe bowl add the chocolate and butter. Using 30 second bursts of power, heat chocolate until melted, stirring well after each heating cycle. It took 3 rounds in my microwave. Stir chocolate and butter until you have a smooth consistency.

In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar, eggs, vanilla and espresso powder. Stir in the chocolate mixture, baking powder and salt, then the flour. Chill the dough for 2 to 3 hours, or overnight; it'll firm up considerably.

Scoop cookies using a cookie scoop and place into powdered sugar. Roll in sugar to coat all sides and place on a parchment lined baking sheet (these cookies do want to stick so please use parchment, silpat or lightly oil the sheet tray). Bake at 325 for 10-12 minutes. The bottoms will be slightly crispy and the tops will be very soft, almost liquid. Allow to rest on baking sheet for 1 minute before carefully removing to a cooking rack. Let cookies cool for at least 1 hour.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cheese blintz pancakes

Are you looking for something new and different to offer for your breakfasts and brunches? Cheese blintz, while delicious, can be a serious pain to make. First you have to make crepe batter, let it rest for an hour, make the crepes - a task that in and of itself is challenging, then fill the crepes with the cheese filling and serve. Wouldn't it be awesome if there were a cheese blintz pancake that gave us the same flavors but with only half the work? Guess what? There is! Cheese blintz pancakes!

New Years day we had friends over for a cooking brunch playdate. The menu planning was the duty of our buddy Eric and he chose cheese blintz pancakes. Sounds good to me, says the Witch. Add cheese to pretty much anything & I'm a happy girl! I was really excited to make these - something different from plain pancakes, a savory twist on a family classic.

The finished product is a thing of beauty, a browned crispy pancake and inside is smooth, creamy & cheesy. We topped our blintz pancakes in the traditional way, with a schmear of sour cream and a dollop of strawberry jam. We also tried a lot of other fruit toppings, blueberries, cherries, apricot jam, raspberry jam and apple pie filling. After much sampling we concluded that the strawberry jam was the best, its sweet tart flavor balanced the rich cheese pancake perfectly. I hope you enjoy these as much as we did!

Cheese Blintz Pancakes
makes 4 servings, about 2 pancakes per serving
Source: My friend Eric and his mom, Phyllis
1 cup Wondra flour (~*~see Kitchen Witch Tip below)
2 eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 T sugar
1 t table salt
oil or butter for cooking pancakes

In a large mixing bowl add the flour, salt, sugar, sour cream and cottage cheese. Mix together, it will be lumpy.

Beat the eggs in a separate bowl. Once beaten fold them into the cheese & flour mix. This will make a very thick batter.

Cook over medium low heat in a well buttered sautee pan until cooked on both sides, about 3-4 minutes on first side, 2-3 on 2nd side.

Top with your choice of toppings: sour cream and strawberry jam is the best!

~*~Kitchen Witch Tip: WONDRA flour is a super fine milled flour designed to dissolve quickly into sauces & gravies with out producing lumps. Its delicate texture helps the otherwise heavy blintz pancake stay light & airy. You can use all purpose flour in lieu of WONDRA, however please use 2 T less AP flour (so 3/4 c + 2 T of AP, vs 1 cup of WONDRA) AND be aware that you might have a slightly more chewy pancake if using all purpose flour.~*~

Nutrition Facts
provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Cheese blintz pancakes - values do not include any toppings
Amount Per Serving
Calories 323.2
Total Fat 15.6 g
Saturated Fat 9.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.8 g
Monounsaturated Fat 4.7 g
Cholesterol 136.1 mg
Sodium 872.7 mg
Potassium 167.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate 30.9 g
Dietary Fiber 0.6 g
Sugars 3.3 g
Protein 15.7 g

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Meyer Lemon shrimp cocktail

Shrimp cocktail usually falls into one of 2 categories: bland and meh at best or out of this world delicious. I'm happy to report that this shrimp cocktail falls into the latter category. If you like your shrimp plump, perfectly cooked & delicately seasoned and your cocktail sauce hot, spicy and sinus clearing, then this is the shrimp cocktail for you.

Speaking of cocktail sauce, according to this Witch, it had better be spicy. Clear your sinuses spicy! If you don't like your cocktail sauce as hot as the Witch does, feel free to back off on the horseradish. However the beauty of horseradish is that its a quick burn, up front in your palette and sinuses, and it doesn't linger. One big burn then its gone, leaving you with a serious need to double dip your shrimp to get more of that spicy goodness back into your mouth. A touch of the Meyer lemon and Worcestershire sauce add just enough acid to make your taste buds stand up and pay attention.

The shrimp are baked in a very hot oven, which concentrates their flavors unlike steamed or boiled shrimp, which tend to be rubbery and flavorless. The Witch likes to use shell on shrimp and roast them in their shells, again adding to the flavor component, and helps keep them from drying out while in the hot box. Meyer lemon is a sweet lemon, not as intensely tart and the perfect citrus for shrimp. The tart lemon compliments the briny flavor of shrimp yet isn't heavy or over powered. Please remember to peel your shrimp before dipping into your cocktail sauce.

Meyer lemon shrimp cocktail
makes 2 large servings
1 lb shrimp, shell on & deveined, thawed
juice of 1 Meyer lemon
2 T olive oil
3/4 t kosher salt
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed but left whole

Cocktail sauce
1 very heaping teaspoon of extra hot horseradish (prepared)
1/2 c ketchup
1 T lemon juice
pinch salt
2 t Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 450F.
While oven heats dry thawed shrimp with paper towels or give them a run in your salad spinner. Once shrimp are dried add the lemon juice, oil, garlic and salt. Toss to coat. Allow to marinate for 15 minutes.

Pour marinated shrimp onto a sheet pan in a single layer. Bake for 10 minutes or until shrimp turn pink and curl and are just cooked through. Remove from sheet tray immediately, discard garlic and peel shrimp, enjoy with cocktail sauce.

Cocktail sauce:
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Taste for season, add a bit more salt or horseradish depending on taste.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Meyer Lemon Shrimp
Amount Per Serving
Calories 182.7
Total Fat 8.7 g
Saturated Fat 1.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat 5.3 g
Cholesterol 172.3 mg
Sodium 407.9 mg
Potassium 224.2 mg
Total Carbohydrate 2.0 g
Dietary Fiber 0.0 g
Sugars 0.3 g
Protein 23.1 g

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Spicy cocktail sauce
Amount Per Serving
Calories 41.0
Total Fat 0.0 g
Saturated Fat 0.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 445.0 mg
Potassium 1.8 mg
Total Carbohydrate 10.3 g
Dietary Fiber 0.0 g
Sugars 8.0 g
Protein 0.0 g

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Brie en croute with pralined pecans

This is something that the Witch made for New Years Eve. There's just something so delicious about a hot melted soft cheese that is wrapped up in a buttery flaky pastry. When you decide to top that same cheese with a layer of brown sugar and pecans prior to baking, well you've then got a taste sensation on your hands.

Brie en croute is not hard to make; its as simple as placing a wheel of cheese on some pastry & wrapping it up. Voila. The Kitchen Witch decided to make her tried & true galette pastry dough for the en croute part of this dish, the results were outstanding. The dough is so easy to work with, costs less than store bought puff pastry and has no trans fats in it, something you can not say about the boxed stuff. If you have a food processor I highly encourage you to try this pastry. If making your own pastry isn't your thing then you can use the frozen sheets of puff pastry.

Before placing your wheel of cheese on your pastry, shave off the top rind and scoop out a small amount of the cheese, leaving a shallow well for your brown sugar to rest. When the cheese bakes the brown sugar melts and becomes one with the nuts and cheese. Cut into your browned brie en croute and you'll be rewarded with a lava flow of scrumptious cheese, sweet bits of sugar and crunchy nuts. Crackers or toast points are perfect vehicles for getting the cheesy goodness into your mouth. If you decide to lick the plate when the cheese and pastry is gone, well I won't tell anyone!

Brie en Croute with Pralined Pecans
makes 1 small brie (3-4 servings)
Inspired from Your Homebased Mom
1 small wheel of Brie or Camembert cheese
about 1/3 c brown sugar
about 1/4 c pecans
Pastry dough (makes enough for 2 brie's)
3/4 c flour
3/4 t kosher salt
1 T lemon juice
2 T c ice cold water
2 T sour cream
1/4 c butter (1/2 stick)
1 egg yolk mixed with 1t water for brushing outside of pastry

Begin by making the pastry. Cut the butter into cubes and place it in a bowl with the flour. Put flour and butter into the freezer for 30 minutes to thoroughly chill.

While butter & flour are chilling mix up the liquid ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

Remove flour & butter along with salt and place into the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse 4-5 times, you will still have large chunks of butter, this is OK.

Add the liquids and pulse 4-5 times more until you have a dough that will hold together when squeezed. It will look crumbly, that is OK. Turn dough out onto plastic wrap, form into 2 rounds and cover each with plastic. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour minimum before rolling it out. (if you have a large brie (larger than 5 inches diameter) use the entire batch of dough for your en croute to ensure you have enough pastry to cover the cheese)

Prepare your cheese by removing the rind from the top. Scoop some of the cheese from the middle of the brie, leaving about a 1/4 inch border. With a spoon, dig out the cheese from this area to about 1/4 - 1/2 inch deep.

Fill the cavity in the cheese with brown sugar, packing it down until you get an nice level surface.

Roll pastry out into a round that will cover the sides and about 1 inch of the top of the brie (about 6-7 inches). Place cheese in the center of pastry. Top brown sugar with pecans and wrap the cheese with the dough, leaving the top center exposed. Brush the pastry with the egg yolk wash.

Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes until pastry is browned and cheese is bubbly. Allow to cool briefly before enjoying.

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