Monday, April 25, 2011

Skillet Quiche with sausage and cheese

The Kitchen Witch loves quiche, let that be understood. Egg pie, filled with delicious things like cheese, veggies, meats, I mean hello!? Its delicious! Quiche is also a major caloric blow, thanks to the pie crust. Pie crust can be a nightmare to make. It can be disastrous to roll out. And even when both of these steps go well, the crust can fight back and be tough and dry, not flaky and flavorful like it should be. So why not forgo it all together and use something that we KNOW goes well with eggs? Something like hashbrowns.

A layer of hashbrowns serve as the crust, the fillings get piled on top and it's capped with an eggy custard that is so soft you'd swear there was a LOT of cream in it. But no, the Kitchen Witch strikes again - using a mere 4 eggs and 2% milk the custard will never miss the cream. Now this is not to say that quiche is low calorie, well at least not this version loaded with Swiss cheese and sausage. It rings in at 590 calories per serving, but that serving is 2 slices of delicious quiche. Add a salad with a low cal dressing and you're good to go.

When making quiche really look at what you have in your fridge to use up. Quiche is magic for left overs. What better place to use up some of that left over Easter ham than in a quiche, add some cheese and left over asparagus from the same meal and voila, a brand new dinner, using only 1/2 new ingredients. Experiment with your families favorite flavors or be bold and make up a new one of your own. I like to follow the guideline of 1 veg, 1 meat and 1 cheese when making quiche.

Any leftovers will reheat nicely but avoid the microwave. To reheat quiche place slices on a baking sheet and put into a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 350F. Heat quiche until hot through, about 5 minutes.

Skillet Quiche with sausage and cheese
makes 4 servings, 2 slices each
1 box sausage links (8 links)
4 eggs
1.5 c 2% milk
2 slices swiss cheese
1-2 roasted red bell peppers diced (jarred)
1/2 onion diced
3 large russet potatoes
3 T butter
2 T oil
kosher salt and pepper to taste

preheat oven to 375F

Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Shred potatoes for hashbrowns. Squeeze out the potatoes to drain the juices. Add 2T oil to the hot pan then put onions and potato shreds into the pan pressing firmly to make a solid layer. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Dab pieces of butter over top of hashbrown and sprinkle with salt, continue to cook until deeply golden on 1st side. Once browned flip hashbrown and cook on 2nd side.

While hashbrown is cooking cook the sausage until done. Remove, drain fat and dice sausage.

Once hashbrown is browned on 2nd side add the cheese slices, sausage and diced red peppers.

In a bowl add the eggs, milk and a pinch of salt & pepper. Whisk until well combined. Pour egg mixture over the hashbrown/sausage/cheese/peppers and place skillet in the preheated oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until center is just set and doesn't wiggle. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
4 Servings, 2 slices each
Amount Per Serving
Calories 589.9
Total Fat 40.7 g
Saturated Fat 15.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat 9.1 g
Cholesterol 263.1 mg
Sodium 894.8 mg
Potassium 544.0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 31.9 g
Dietary Fiber 1.9 g
Sugars 5.4 g
Protein 21.5 g

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cake Pops

Cake pops have been all the rage in the blogesphere for a while now. I'm pretty sure we have Bakerella to thank for these delicious little treats. The Little Witch LOVES the birthday cake pops at Starbucks but man, they get pricy!! $1.50 a pop is highway robbery when you can make an entire batch, of 40 pops, for $5 or so.

So a few weeks ago the Little Witch and I were at Starbucks. She wanted a cake pop. I caved and got her one to go with my grande Pike Place. As we were enjoying our treats I was asked a question.

"Mom, can you make cake pops?"
"I sure can sweetie!"
"What? You can? With sprinkles too? What about the stick?" I love how she thinks she's caught me in some big fallacy and tries to call me out. Such a sassy girl!
"Stick and everything. I can make them, no problem!"
"I want you to make cake pops TODAY Mom. Let's go to the store & get what we need!"

Now thats a girl after my own heart. So being a good Kitchen Witch I did my daughters bidding and off we went to the craft store for candy melts and pop sticks.

~*~Disclaimer: The candy melts DO have PHO's in them. While this breaks one of my 'unapproved ingredients' rule I made the exception for these babies. If anyone knows of PHO free candy melts PLEASE let me know!! The brand I used claimed to be 'trans fat free' yet ingredient #2 was partially hydrogenated oil, so, as far as I'm concerned its unapproved. And yet I used it. So there! Rules were meant to be broken, right??~*~

I've made 2 batches of these pops, the first I used a store bought cake mix and homemade frosting, the 2nd batch was homemade cake and frosting. I have to say that the homemade cake held up a LOT better in pop form than the cake mix did. Cake mix cake is very soft and got too mushy. The homemade cake had more tooth to it, and when the frosting is mixed in made a thicker paste to work with. If you have the time I highly recommend making your own cake. And if its a bit on the dry side that's GOOD! With all the icing that's added to the cakes a dry cake tends to work better than a super moist one.

Vanilla cake
Source: Epicurious
makes approx. 40 pops
2 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (aluminum free preferred)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temp.
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup 2% milk

2 cups powdered sugar
1 T vanilla extract
2 T milk
3 T butter, softened

Candy melts, about 8 oz
candy sticks (available at craft stores, 50 for $2 or 150 for $4)
Optional: foam to stick pops in to dry, if you don't have foam then you can either hold the pops to dry (drag) or place on parchment paper (which works but makes flat spots and your sprinkles will sink into the candy coating.) Your choice!

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare pan of choice (The Witch uses a sheet pan lined with parchment for cake pops, it bakes faster and since you're making cake crumbs the shape is not important.)

Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer whip the butter. Add the sugar and beat again until fluffy. Add the vanilla. Mix in eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition and scraping down the sides after each addition. Add 1/3 of the milk, beat until smooth. Add 1/2 the flour and mix well. Scrape down sides and add 1/3 milk, beat well. Add remaining flour, scrape down sides and mix. Finish with last addition of milk, mixing until just smooth. Pour cake batter into prepared pan and bake until done by toothpick test method.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer whip the butter. Once light and fluffy add the vanilla and powdered sugar. SLOWLY mix this, adding 1T of milk at a time until you have an icing consistency. Once all sugar is incorporated turn the speed to HI and whip the icing for 2-3 minutes.

Making the cake pops:
1. Allow the cake to cool completely. The cake must be room temp or it will melt the icing and not form balls properly.

2. Crumble cake into the work bowl of a stand mixer. Yes, just crumble it up. You are going for cake crumbs. I know it seems wrong, trust me.

3. Once cake is crumbled up attach the paddle to your stand mixer and mix until nothing but crumbs remain. Any big pieces break up by hand.

4. Add 1 1/2 c icing or 1 tub of premade stuff to the cake crumbs. Mix on low speed until completely incorporated. The cake will take on the texture of play dough once its mixed properly.

5. Shape balls. The Witch uses a cookie scooper to make the balls then goes back and smooths the balls by hand.

6. Melt candy melts in microwave using 30 second bursts to melt candy melts. Stir well between heating cycles. It took about 90 seconds to melt throughly in my microwave

7. Dip sticks into melted candy melts and then place stick into cake ball. (this really helps the cake to stick to the stick)

8. Place cake balls with sticks in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm up before dipping in candy melts

9. Remove cake balls from the freezer and dip into candy melts. I like to have a spoon on hand to pour melted candy melts over the top by the stick. Swirl the pops in the melted candy and allow excess to drip off.

10. While candy melts are still wet sprinkle with sprinkles. Place cake pop into styrofoam to allow candy to harden OR place onto parchment paper to cool.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
40 Servings, 1 pop each
Amount Per Serving
Calories 142.6
Total Fat 5.7 g
Saturated Fat 4.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.2 g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.1 g
Cholesterol 22.8 mg
Sodium 63.5 mg
Potassium 13.8 mg
Total Carbohydrate 21.1 g
Dietary Fiber 0.2 g
Sugars 16.2 g
Protein 1.3 g

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Yakitori Sauce

Here in Colorado Springs there's an awesome little Japanese restuarant that I've been going to for over 25 years now, called The House of Yakitori. They serve, yes that's right, Yakitori! Yakitori for those of you who don't know is skewered pieces of chicken, cooked over a charcoal grill, glazed with a delightful sweet sauce that is similar to teriyaki, but yakitori sauce is thicker, richer and a lot more flavorful than teriyaki sauce. For years I've been saying that I need to make my own yak sauce (as we fondly refer to it) and yet getting it just right has elluded the Witch, until now!

After many, many, many taste tests at the restaurant I was fairly confident that I knew what was in the sauce. Soy sauce, that was a given. Sugar, most likely brown sugar seemed right as well. And yet, time after time, it STILL wasn't yak sauce. Good teriyaki sauce, sure but yak sauce, no. What was missing I wondered?

Hours were spent at the Asian Pacific grocery, staring at the products in the 'SAUCES' aisle (and let me tell you thats a BIG aisle there!) wondering what I needed to take my sauce from good teriyaki to holy cow that's it Yakitori sauce. Then it hit me. Mirin! Mirin is a rice wine product with a very high sugar content. And it is EXACTLY what my yak sauce was missing.

The joy on the faces of my daughter, nephew, sister and husband was aparent when I offered them a sample of my yak sauce. At first they all looked at it like "oh sure Witch, you've claimed to make yak sauce before and its just NOT the same!" Then they try a sip. Their faces changed from dismay to delight, eyes light up and my wonderful wonderful nephew Ben even proclaimed "this is BETTER than yakitori sauce, it has more flavor and isn't as sweet as theirs!" The boy is almost 10 and is a genius, what can I say? :)

So here it is dear readers. Yakitori sauce. Its rich, thick, syrupy, sweet, salty, savory, umami laden and delicious. Perfect on grilled meats, especially chicken and beef. Because of its high sugar content it will burn quickly on the grill so use a judicious hand when dolling out the sauce over the coals. I sincerely hope you all enjoy this as much as we do!

Yakitori sauce
makes about 8 servings
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
2 T rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic whole, crushed with back of knife

Combine everything in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer. Remove garlic cloves after 5 minutes of simmering. Continue to cook until sauce has reduced and is a thick syrup.

Chicken skewers:
1 lb chicken thighs boneless and skinless, cleaned and cut into chunks for skewering
2 T yakitori sauce
1 T soy sauce
bamboo skewers, soaked in water a minimum of 30 min before grilling

marinate chicken in the sauces for 1 hour. While chicken marinates soak the bamboo skewers in water. The moister the skewers are the less chances there is that they'll burn up on the grill.

Skewer about 2 oz of chicken on each skewer. Grill over hot charcoal until done.
Drizzle with yakitori sauce when finished.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Yakitori sauce only
Amount Per Serving
Calories 101.4
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 1,054.0 mg
Potassium 85.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 28.0 g
Dietary Fiber 0.1 g
Sugars 26.4 g

Nutrition Facts
Chicken skewer with sauce, 1 each
Amount Per Serving
Calories 183.5
Total Fat 2.7 g
Saturated Fat 0.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.7 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.8 g
Cholesterol 57.3 mg
Sodium 1,113.4 mg
Potassium 244.6 mg
Total Carbohydrate 28.0 g
Dietary Fiber 0.1 g
Sugars 26.4 g
Protein 14.6 g
Protein 1.0 g

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Vanilla Bean bundt cake with strawberry topping

Strawberry season is in full swing much to the delight of the little Witch and her Daddy. Those two LOVE strawberries! With pounds of strawberries on the counter, which have an especially short shelf life, whats a Witch to do? Make strawberry shortcake is the logical answer, but there's one big problem with that: the Witch doesn't like the shortbread part of the strawberry shortcake. That's why in the Witches' kitchen you'll find a vanilla bean bundt cake in lieu of shortcakes. Same idea, better flavor, who doesn't love that?

I was making this dessert for a dinner party for adults I decided to add a splash of white wine to the berries while they macerated. I really liked the way the wine flavored the berries, it added sweetness, acidity and a nice balance that really elevated this from a simple strawberry sauce to something special. The syrup that resulted from the wine, lemon, sugar and juices from the berries was awesome with the vanilla cake. Now if wine's not your thing you can of course leave it out. But I highly recommend trying it. It really made the berries shine!

The vanilla bean in this cake and strawberry sauce come from my latest acquisition from Savory Spice Shoppe, vanilla bean paste. Now I feel this name is a misnomer, when I think of a paste I envisioned a thick paste that was all vanilla beans. What it is however is vanilla beans in a thick syrup. Delicious still but not what I had envisioned. As a result you need to use a LOT of this product to get the vanilla rich results. I started out with a teaspoon and soon ended up with about 1 TABLESPOON in the batter. Honestly it could have used another tablespoon - but I wimped out (mostly due to costs!) and added some vanilla extract as well to emphasize the vanilla flavor. If you don't have vanilla bean paste fear not, you can use vanilla beans split and scraped or just use vanilla extract. It won't be 100% the same but when the cake is being slathered with berries, who cares!

One last thing, when I served this dessert I made a vanilla bean whipped cream too. It was really good, but I forgot to take a photo of it, and it was all gone by the time I got around to actually taking pictures. Which is a shame, it was the crowning touch to this already delicious dessert. I'll include the recipe for the vanilla bean whipped cream, but you'll have to use your imagination on how it looks. Here's a hit: white, whipped and fluffy with black specks of vanilla in it. Enjoy!

Vanilla Bean Bundt Cake with strawberry topping
makes 12 servings
2 c ap flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 egg
2 egg whites
1 T vanilla bean paste
1 t vanilla extract
1 c sugar
1/2 c oil
3/4 c milk

Strawberry topping
1 lb strawberries, hulled, washed and sliced thin
1/4 c sugar
2 T white wine
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 t vanilla bean paste OR 1 t vanilla extract

Vanilla bean whipped cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 T powdered sugar
1 t vanilla bean paste

Slice berries, place into a bowl and toss with sugar. Add the vanilla, wine and lemon juice, stir well. Allow berries to macerate at room temperature for 3-4 hours. If desired you can crush berries with a potato masher.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract and paste and mix well. Add the eggs, mixing well. Finally add the milk, mix until smooth.

Slowly add in the dry ingredients. Mix until batter is smooth. Pour into a sprayed bundt cake pan.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 40-50 minutes or until cake tests clean and top is browned. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with berries and whipped cream.

Whip cream by combining all the ingredients in a work bowl and mix on HI until thick and whipped. Don't let it go too long or you'll end up with vanilla bean butter.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
12 Servings with berries, juices and whipped cream
Amount Per Serving
Calories 357.9
Total Fat 17.6 g
Saturated Fat 5.6 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat 7.8 g
Cholesterol 43.8 mg
Sodium 208.3 mg
Potassium 159.0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 45.4 g
Dietary Fiber 1.9 g
Sugars 27.5 g
Protein 4.8 g

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Brined curried & roasted chicken legs and thighs

Brining chicken is the single most important thing you can do to ensure you'll get juicy flavorful chicken. I don't do it every time I'm ashamed to admit and when I do, I'm always blown away with just how juicy and how much flavor gets into the meat. The reasons not to brine are flimsy: not enough time, seems too hard, just an odd idea for the home cook, but really it couldn't be easier!

All a brine is is a super salty flavored solution. The salt in the solution draws moisture out of the protein but then through osmosis, the brine is drawn into the flesh, along with all the flavors you add to the brine. I like to add herbs, spices and aromatics to mine since those flavors actually penetrate the meat. This time I decided to add a bit of curry powder into my brine. I love the flavor of curry powder, its not over powering and really works well with chicken. 1 T worth of the yellow stuff in addition to some garlic & onion granules (they dissolve better in the brine which is why I use the granules, but fresh is fine too), a touch of brown sugar for flavor and a background sweetness along with the required salt yielded a very flavorful brine.

The chicken brined for 8 hours before I baked it. Baking was as simple as removing the pieces from the liquid, putting them into a roasting pan, pan into the oven. Set a timer for 1 hour and voila, dinner's done! The flavor of this was really delicious. The curry was mild and both the husband and I decided that our chicken tasted similar to rotisserie chickens from Sams, which is a pretty good thing if you've ever tried their rotisserie chicken. Savory is the best way I'd describe the flavor. It was not overly salty, rather just gently seasoned and juicy, bursting with flavor.

A few final notes on brining:

~~the skin (in my experience) doesn't get as crisp as non brined birds. That makes sense to me, the chicken is submerged in salty water for 8 hours so crisping up that skin is going to be hard! If crispy skin is very important to you take care to pat the chicken dry before baking it (I did not) and/or run it under the broiler before serving(this I did do).

~~You can brine boneless skinless cuts but they take a LOT less time, up to 2 hours maximum for a boneless skinless chicken breast, otherwise you run the risk of over brining which would produce a salty piece of meat. Ew.

~~Some choose to rinse their brined meat before baking, that choice is up to you. If you are sensitive to salt then please rinse. If you're like me and can't get enough of that rock then forgo it.

~~Experiment with the flavors in your brine! Fresh rosemary spears is delicious on poultry, as is sage. I've added fruit to the brine and then stuffed the bird with the fruits and let it roast, delicious!

Most importantly, give it a try!! All it takes is a little for-though to get the protein into a brine 8 hours before cooking time and a bit of imagination on what flavors you want to experience.

Brined curried chicken legs & thighs
makes 4 servings
1/4 c kosher salt
1 T brown sugar
1 T curry powder
1/2 t garlic powder, can use fresh minced garlic, 2 cloves
1/2 t onion powder, can use 1/2 fresh onion cut into chunks
4 cups boiling water
about 8 cups ice

4 pieces of bone in skin on chicken thighs
4 pieces of bone in skin on chicken legs
(can use any chicken pieces you like, breasts respond well to brining, they stay juicy and flavorful)

Mix the spices, salt, sugar and boiling water together until salt & sugar dissolve. Pour into a large bowl that can hold the brine as well as the chicken pieces and add ice. Stir to cool brine down. Not all the ice will melt, this is OK.

Add the chicken pieces. Move chicken and brine to a cold location, like the fridge, and allow to brine for 8 hours.

Transfer brined chicken pieces to a baking pan (I had to use 2) and bake at 375F for 1 hour or until internal temperature reads 180F and skin has rendered fat and browned slightly. Finish browning under hot broiler if desired.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 142.4
Total Fat 4.6 g
Saturated Fat 1.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.4 g
Cholesterol 96.4 mg
Sodium 222.3 mg
Potassium 273.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 0.0 g
Dietary Fiber 0.0 g
Sugars 0.0 g
Protein 23.8 g
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