Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Un-Recipe Files - Salted Dark Chocolate Clementines

Clementines are one of my favorite winter snacks.  I love how easy they are to peel.  I think the younger generation is going to be spoiled by clementines, they won’t know what it is like to peel a stubborn orange.  If you have seen the Cuties commercials you know that they even market to children, “Cuties are for kids”.

I first saw chocolate dipped clementines on the Food Network website and tried them right away since I had everything on hand.  The combination of juicy citrus, dark chocolate, and sea salt is delicious.  I used Maldon sea salt since it is so pretty and I like pretty things.  I totally hoard my Maldon salt and only use it when it adds to the presentation, like in these flatbreads with sea salt,honey, and thyme.

I melted 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate in the microwave for about 1 minute, then dipped a few segments in the chocolate, laid them on waxed paper, and sprinkled with the salt.  The chocolate dries pretty quickly, so you need to sprinkle the salt on pretty often.  I was able to dip two clementines with that amount of chocolate.  Such a fun sweet snack to have on hand!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Butternut Squash Risotto

Perfect Pairing: Garlic rocker

If you watch cooking competition shows (one of my guilty TV-watching pleasures) you know that risotto is a dangerous dish to make.  The judges always seem to think it is the wrong texture, overcooked, undercooked, mushy, runny, not runny enough, bland, etc.  I guess I don’t even know what the perfect texture for risotto is.  I think it is fair to say that mine is not the perfect consistency but I don’t give a rip.  I love it. So there.
My grandma loves to tell a story about me when I was four years old.  Apparently it was a very cold day in March and I came downstairs in a swimsuit.  My mom told me to change, I refused, she told me I looked ridiculous and I said, “Well, I looked in the mirror and I think I look beautiful.”  I don’t think I actually said “so there”, but it was inferred.
I really, really love butternut squash so I am crazy about this risotto.  I actually made it twice for my family over the holiday break.  Everyone was a fan, even my 17 month old niece. 
I was so excited to use one of my new Christmas presents with this recipe, a garlic rocker.  I bet you didn’t even know you needed a garlic rocker!  I prefer the garlic rocker over a garlic press because the garlic does not get stuck and it is much easier to clean.  I live for cooking gadgets.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hot Buttered Rum

Perfect Pairing:  Winter party
I like to think of myself as a very healthy person and I try to eat nutritious, balanced, and light meals.  Putting butter in drinks typically does not fall into that “healthy living” category.  In defense of this drink, there is not much butter or added sugar when you consider how much this recipe makes.  Does that help?  Ok, so it’s not exactly carrot juice.  Moving on.
Hot Buttered Rum is so delicious and it just sounds welcoming.  It is also slightly dangerous because you can’t even taste the rum. 
I picture myself sipping this toddy in a cozy ski lodge in front of a blazing fire while my gloves and scarf dry nearby.  Did I mention that I haven’t skied in about 15 years?  Fortunately this drink is equally fantastic on any old frosty day!  It is the perfect thing to serve at a winter party.  It also makes your house smell like apples and cinnamon.  Is there a more welcoming aroma? 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Jicama with Chile Lime Salt

Perfect Pairing:  Margarita Glass

We happened to be in Mexico for the Super Bowl this year.  We watched the game in our room because we didn’t feel like fighting crowds at bars for hours.  Also, the view from our room was pretty spectacular and we wanted to enjoy it.  The downside of this plan is that the game is shown with Mexican commercials, and let’s be honest, I usually watch for the commercials.  So that was a bit of a bummer.  Thank goodness for YouTube!

Of course we still wanted to have the requisite Super Bowl appetizers for the game, but with a Mexican flair.  My dad had just been fishing so I made ceviche with his fresh fish as well as pico de gallo and guacamole.  I think my favorite appetizer of the night was Jicama with Chile Lime Salt.  It is healthy, refreshing, and just three ingredients.  My parents had a version of this before I arrived at The Hacienda, a gorgeous restaurant in Cabo.  I loved the idea so much I made my own version.

You just need three things: jicama, limes, and chile lime salt.  Chile lime salt is one my favorite spices.  It is the “secret” ingredient in my favorite Chicken Vegetable Barley Soup.  I think jicama is an underappreciated vegetable.  It is crisp, kind of like a cross between a cucumber and a pear, and just slightly sweet.  A cup of this root vegetable is under 50 calories, has no fat, and 6 grams of fiber!  Don’t let the gnarly outside scare you. 

There is no better serving piece for this recipe than a margarita glass.  I was able to borrow one from the hotel with a little sweet talking to our friend Jorge.  I coated the inside of the glass with a layer of fresh lime juice and then sprinkled a generous serving of the chile lime salt.  The jicama sticks are piled inside and then topped with another squeeze of fresh lime juice.  This will definitely be going into my normal rotation.

I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day with your sweethearts!  If you are looking for a quick dessert for tonight’s dinner check out this simple Cherry Cheesecake I posted for Valentine’s Day last year.  I am fortunate enough to have dinner made for me this year.  Lucky me!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Stir Fried Vegetables in a Soy and Ponzu Sauce

Perfect Pairing:  Deep sauté pan

I just got home from a wonderful vacation in Cabo, Mexico.  It was everything a vacation should be.  I spent a lot of time enjoying the views, reading, and most importantly, relaxing.  A few favorite memories below.
view from chair
We went to some great restaurants and also enjoyed a lot of chips, guacamole, and margaritas.  When in Mexico, right?  Now I am back to normal life and diet, and actually looking forward to old routines.  This dish fits right in with the healthy lifestyle!

Stir Fried Vegetables in a Soy and Ponzu Sauce is a quick, healthy, weeknight vegetable side dish.  It is great served alongside salmon or grilled chicken.  The sauce is just a few ingredients, made up mainly of soy and ponzu sauce.  I had never used ponzu sauce before making this dish.  My brother gave me a bottle of it in my stocking, and I am so glad he did because it is a delicious ingredient.  Ponzu is a citrus flavored liquid seasoning that is commonly used in Japanese cooking.
To keep the vegetables crisp it is important to cook them in batches.  Start off with the onions and peppers, follow with sliced mushrooms, and drop in the snow peas last since they cook so quickly.
The Perfect Pairing for this dish is a deep sauté pan.  A few years ago I bought a 5 quart Calphalon nonstick pan at Bed Bath and Beyond and I love it.  I use it more than any other pan in my kitchen.  I would not be without it!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Slow Cooker Lemon and Garlic Chicken

Perfect Pairing:  Extra chicken broth for the gravy

Awhile back I wrote about making Coq Au Vin in the slow cooker.  Well, it was only sort of made in the slow cooker.  Yes, the crock pot was involved, but it was not your typical “throw it in and forget about it” kind of recipe.    Don’t get me wrong, it was totally worth the extra steps and time. 

This Slow Cooker Lemon and Garlic Chicken recipe is simple and delicious.  I will definitely make it again.  It can be hard to have anything made in the slow cooker taste fresh and light, but this recipe fits the bill.  Also, it was nice to find a slow cooker chicken recipe that did not call for cans of soup. 
I pretty much stuck to the recipe provided on TheKitchn.com.  They said it was one of their all-time most popular recipes, so who was I to argue with that?  One thing I would recommend is thinning out the gravy with extra chicken broth because the lemon can be a little bitter.  You may also want to use Better than Bouillon if bouillon cubes freak you out.
There is a small amount of prep before everything goes in the slow cooker, but it can be accomplished in under 10 minutes.  It smells so good while it is cooking.  Hi birdie.

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