Thursday, May 29, 2008

Monday, May 26, 2008

Cookies That Don't Suck

"Cookies That Don't Suck" is about as witty as I can be at the moment, having spent the day landscaping, putting furniture together, and doing some (but not nearly enough) power shopping.


I'm really not a cookie maker. I'm the Daughter of the Grand Master Cookie Maker, whose abilities definitely didn't come my way. My friends are polite about it (yes, I'm talking about the so-so Key Lime Bars I brought to last week's crawfish boil) but it's not my thing. You would think that someone who makes her own pizza crust from yeast and cans pickles could make a damn cookie. Nope. The Frosted Ladybug sugar cookie company (gorgeous & tasty - has zero competition here.

These, though, were super-easy and are light for summer. They'd go nicely on a plate of fresh fruit, or with a good vanilla ice cream. The dough doesn't need to go in the refrigerator prior to baking, so they mix up in about 10 minutes (provided the butter has come to room temp). This was my first experience with cornmeal in a dessert, and it makes a good, crisp cookie.

The recipe calls for ground ginger. I considered using fresh, but didn't and I think that was the right, not-overwhelming choice. If you try fresh let me know how it goes. Mom & Tara, you can expect to see this in the Christmas cookie delivery this year.

From Cooking Light:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 large egg
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Combine flour and the next 4 ingredients (through ground ginger); stir with a whisk. Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Scrape sides of the bowl occasionally. Add egg; beat well. Beat in grated lemon rind. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, and beat at medium-low speed just until blended.

3. Spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons batter 2 inches apart onto 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until lightly browned and almost firm. Remove from oven. Cool on pans for 2 minutes or until firm. Remove from pans. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Nutritional Information
I don't believe in nutritional information for cookies. Sorry.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Moroccan Chicken and a Lessrockin' version

Sometimes a complex recipe is fabulous; you spend hours in the kitchen and your guests say "I never imagined asparagus could be so ethereal!" and you modestly demur but you know, deep down, that you've taken asparagus to another level that the hoi polloi can only dream about. Other times I've looked at Sweetie and said, "Three hours in the kitchen for THAT???"

My old standby Moroccan Chicken, from the cleverly named "Healthy Chicken" cookbook by Barbara Chernetz, is worth the effort. It's a total pain in the ass to make and must be reserved for weekends in our household, but so be it.

So imagine my interest when I was in a doctor's office and came across "Moroccan Sweet Potato Stew" in the March, 2007 Good Housekeeping. Could it be? A tasty, no-fuss vegetarian version of our beloved Moroccan Chicken? And no one paying attention to the fate of the waiting room magazine?

Sorta. It lacks wow-power and co-worker-at-the-community-microwave envy. If you're in a rush and need to throw something together, the Moroccan Sweet Potato Stew is filling, fast, and healthful, if not stupendous:

2 tsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 can (14 to 14.5 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth (1 3/4 cups), or vegetable broth for a vegetarian dish
1 cup no-salt-added garbanzo beans (chick peas), rinsed and drained
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks (Peeled? Who has time? Leaving the peel on is fine)
2 small zucchini, cut into 3/4 inch chunks (I had yellow crookneck squash on hand - it worked fine)
Whole grain couscous
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, chopped (not something I keep on hand or am willing to spend $2 on... the recipe works without it)

1. In nonstick 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook 8 - 10 minutes or until tender and lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic, curry powder, cumin, and allspice; cook 30 seconds.

2. Add tomatoes, broth, beans, and sweet potato; cover and heat to boiling over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook 10 minutes. SWtir in zucchini and cook, covered, 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

3. Meanwhile, prepare couscous as label directs

4. Stir mint into stew. Serve stew with couscous.

Each serving - about 360 calories, 14g protein, 70g carb, 5g total fat, 12g fiber

Now the more-rockin' version -

1 ounce slivered almonds (about 1/4 cup)
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces (I use whatever chicken I have in the freezer)
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup diced carrot (people dice those little things? I slice them)
1 cup diced zucchini
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (I use 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp ground cumin (I use 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp ground coriander (I use 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (that's plenty)
2 cups no-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup canned chick-peas, rinsed and drained (I use the whole can - what else would I do with them?)
1/2 cup golden and/or dark raisins (not a fan of raisins & meat. I leave them out)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Salt & pepper
1 cup couscous
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander or parsley (totally optional, IMHO)

1. In a small skillet, toast the almonds over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently, until browned*, about 5 minutes; set aside.

2. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, turning, until browned all over, about 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet; set aside.

3. In the same skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onino and garlic and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the carrot and zucchini and cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add the cinnamon, cumin, ground coriander, and cayenne. Cook, stirring, 1 minute to toast the spices (this really does make a difference). Add the chicken broth and heat to boiling. Reduce the heat, add the reserved chicken and simmer, covered, 20 minutes.

4. Add the chick-peas and raisins (ew) and cook, covered, 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Uncover and boil over medium-high heat until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes.

5. In a medium saucepan, heat 1/2 cups water to boiling. Stir in the couscous and remove from the heat. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in the almonds and coriander/parsley and fluff lightly with a fork before serving with the chicken.

Per serving - 501 calories, 34g protein, 13g fat, 64 carbs, 21% USRDA Iron, 52% USRDA Niacin

Just a quick note - if you're really intent on throwing this together quickly it can be done. The night before toast the almonds, chop the carrots & zucchini and save in a Ziploc, and cook the chicken. Combine the spices in a Ziploc. You should be able to cut a good 20 - 30 minutes off the prep time when you put it together. Technically couscous can be made ahead, but it gets gummy and it doesn't really save that much time.

*Toasting nuts must be done CAREFULLY - they burst into flame at the slightest provocation. You've been warned.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

O, Please

So the big news to people in the foodie/blog world is that Oprah is going vegan for some length of time.

With a personal chef to whip up grilled tofu on watercress with chestnut/pomegrante foam or whatever, it shouldn't be that big of a deal to her. Let's face it, a lot of us would make different choices if we didn't have to work to put them in action. So for now, color me unimpressed.

Here's what I don't get about Oprah - not that we can truly know what her life is like, but she appears to be beautiful, successful, confident, and wealthy beyond measure from her own talents and acumen. Why is she always looking for something life-changing? If I had a life like that I would fight and claw to the bloody death to keep anyone from changing one single thing about it.

And here's what I don't get about veganism - the point. Life is high-maintenance enough, isn't it? Vegetarianism and I are long-time friends who meet regularly for dinner with little likelihood of a commitment. I understand that some people have ethical issues with eating animals and, while I don't share that concern, I understand it. And I understand that some folks just plain feel better and healthier with a meatless diet.

But veganism? Why no animal products? A cow that needs to be milked is an unhappy cow. Chickens lay eggs - they just do, and they have since the Dawn of Chicken. Or the Dawn of Egg. I'm not taking sides.

Veganism seems like an unnecessary lifelong Iron Chef challenge of trying to turn a dried apricot and six kernels of corn into a cookie - despite having a supermarket within 3 blocks. My one experience with an actual vegan was the co-worker who faked horror that the Italian restaurant we all went to for lunch used cheese and butter, and he sulked in the corner with his pile of carrot sticks. Programmer. Pretty feisty for someone with no B-12 in his diet.

Oh, and that reminds me - vegetarian dog food. The hell? If a dog comes upon a rabbit eating a carrot, it's going to charge after the rabbit. Every. Single. Time. And not because Mr. Bunny wasn't sharing the goods. That's just as true of the feral dingo as it is of the Volvo-riding, NPR-listening pooch. I have one of the latter and she would like a pork chop, hold the green beans.

Disclosure - I don't eat red meat or shellfish. I lived in West Africa for a while and there was not a single cow roaming the tropical rain forest, so I declined all offers of "hamburger." Every Peace Corps volunteer told me that, after not eating red meat for so long, it makes one ill to start eating it again. Since I didn't miss it I didn't bother - and that was in 1989. As for the shellfish, I seem to be the world's only Italian with a shellfish allergy...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

How Garam Masala Got Its Groove Back

"This sauce goes with that."

My sweetie and I nodded politely as the proud owner of Panahar, a Bangladeshi restaurant on Buford Highway, told us what was what. We disregarded his instruction. When trying to lose a few pounds, aren't frivolous sauces one of the first things to go? Especially if you'd like another piece of fresh-from-the-oven naan?

He returned ten minutes later as we ate our ungarnished food. Patiently, he reminded us - "This goes with that. And this other goes with the vegetables. You will really enjoy it, I promise."

And so, since he seemed so invested in matching dish to sauce from the buffet, we dutifully fetched the required sauces. What a difference - the food went from good to OHMYGOD!WE'REEATINGHERETOMORROWANDTHENEXTDAY.

You'd think a lesson like that would stick, right? And that this so-not-Indian chick would take the advice of someone who knows so, so much more about this than she? Nope.

Tonight's dinner was Cooking Light's recent Grilled Tandoori Chicken recipe. I omitted the serrano pepper and, for the sound culinary reason that "it costs less" used chicken thighs instead of the go-to chicken breasts. The chicken smelled heavenly on the grill pan but it fell flat on the taste test.

And then... the yogurt sauce. It all came together and truly tasted Indianish. I'm no threat to Panahar, Udipi, or Madras Sarvana Bhavan, but it'll work to quell an early-stage Indian food craving. With brown rice and fresh green beans steamed in chicken broth, it worked.

From Cooking Light, May 2008 -

2 teaspoons canola oil
4 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
2 teaspoons ground coriander, divided
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 cups coarsely chopped onion
1/2 cup coarsely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons finely chopped seeded serrano pepper
8 garlic cloves, crushed
2 1/2 cups plain low-fat yogurt, divided
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, divided
2 teaspoons salt, divided
16 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 3 pounds)
Cooking spray

1. Heat oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add paprika, 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander, garam masala, turmeric, and red pepper to pan; cook 2 minutes or until fragrant, stirring constantly. Remove from pan; cool.
2. Place onion, ginger, serrano pepper, and garlic in a food processor; process until smooth. Add spice mixture, 1/2 cup yogurt, 2 tablespoons juice, and 1 3/4 teaspoons salt to onion mixture; process until smooth. Transfer mixture to a large heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Cut 3 shallow slits in each chicken thigh. Add chicken to bag, and seal. Toss to coat. Marinate in refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.

3. Prepare grill.

4. Combine remaining 2 cups yogurt, 2 tablespoons juice, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl, stirring well. Cover mixture, and chill.

5. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Place chicken on a grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill 7 minutes on each side or until done. Serve with yogurt mixture.

8 servings (serving size: 2 chicken thighs and about 1/4 cup yogurt mixture)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 256(28% from fat); FAT 8.1g (sat 2.3g,mono 2.7g,poly 1.8g); PROTEIN 32.2g; CHOLESTEROL 119mg; CALCIUM 181mg; SODIUM 767mg; FIBER 1.7g; IRON 2.2mg; CARBOHYDRATE 12.7g

Foodie and the Beast

My foodiness had rubbed off on the Brown Dog in our household. She has a thing for pork in all its glory - bacon, ham, tenderloin, barbecue.

And she is a full-fledged snob about it.

She can tell the difference between pork and other meats, even when many people can't. When I make turkey bacon (or "fakin'", as my sweetie calls it), her little nose quivers. When I make pork bacon she risks life and paw jumping up to snatch a piece out of the skillet. She has 'napped sausages when I foolishly left them unattended in the kitchen. I looked everywhere until her smug chops-lickin' told me everything I needed to know.

When she hears a can lid pop she charges into the kitchen with the expectation that she will be served her beloved canned food. When it's a can of tomatoes or something else not intended for her little tummy she sulks - "I don't know why YOU get canned food when I've had a tough day of tail-wagging and YOUR tail hasn't moved off that sofa." You might think that a dog with such exquisitely attuned senses would know not to come running into the kitchen when a can of paint is being opened, but you'd be wrong....