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Archive for June, 2011

Scurry for curry

I’m on my game this week!  I’m making things!  I have (some) energy!  The weekend and patriotism are fast approaching!  All good things, as Martha might say.

Sometimes I’m not so good at motivating myself to make a well-balanced dinner and end up cooking something frozen or, for instance, throwing some hot dogs in a pan.  This week I wanted to make something for dinner that would take effort to prepare but was relatively easy to throw together.  And maybe kind of healthy.  My solution was a lovely little chicken salad with a kick — curry!  I know what you’re thinking: “How absolutely delicious and wonderful!”  And boy are you ever right.  This stuff is good.  Real good.

Curry Chicken Salad

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
5 cups water
1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup light mayonnaise (I used Hellmann’s light)
3 teaspoons curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped red apple (I used Fuji)
1/4 cup sliced grapes

Place chicken breasts in a pot that’s just about large enough to fit them in one layer.  Add water so that it completely covers the chicken by at least a half inch to an inch.  After bringing the liquid to a boil, reduce heat to a bare simmer so that only an occasional bubble breaks the surface. At this point, partly cover the pot, cook for about 10 minutes, then turn off the heat, leaving the chicken to finish cooking in the hot water for 10-15 more minutes.  Remove chicken and shred with knife and fork.

In a large bowl, mix yogurt, mayonaisse, curry powder, salt and pepper.  Add shredded chicken, apples, and grapes; mix together.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  Serve over salad greens, on a pita, in a wrap or sandwich.

** The yogurt in this recipe will tenderize the chicken so the longer you refrigerate the salad, the better it will taste!

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It’s been awhile since I last posted and I feel kind of guilty about it.  I haven’t been baking a lot or even cooking a lot and I’m not sure why.  I’m trying to muster up some motivation but this being healthy thing (or TRYING to be healthy) seems to take a lot of energy!

I managed to drag myself into the kitchen this past Father’s Day, though, as I was baking my presents this year.  There were two cakes to be prepared since I celebrate both my father and stepfather and all that they’ve done for me!

Picking what kind of cakes to make was pretty much a no-brainer for me.  My step-dad loves pistachios so a fresh pistachio cake was the obvious choice.  The second cake choice was made because it was a cake recipe that my dad and I used when I was little — bringing back the nostalgia.  I wasn’t able to taste either cake due to time constraints but I’m told that both were very delicious and seconds were had.

But without further ado…THE CAKES!  The first is adapted from Three Many Cooks.

Fresh Pistachio Cake

Cake:
3/4 cup shelled pistachios (plus 1/4 cup for decorating)
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 package instant pistachio pudding mix
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg white, at room temperature
3/4 cup ice cold water
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Honey Vanilla Buttercream:
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons honey

Preheat the oven to 325° F.  Generously butter two 9-inch round cake pans.

In the bowl of food processor, pulse the pistachios until they are coarsely chopped. Transfer about 2 tablespoons’ worth of the coarse pistachios to a large bowl. Continue to process the rest of the pistachios until they resemble a fine crumb.  Stir the chopped pistachios into the reserved coarse pistachios and then combine with the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Whisk to combine.

Beat the butter and shortening until creamy and light. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Scrape down the bowl, add the whole egg, and beat until just combined.

Add the flour mixture to the bowl in three parts, alternating with the ice water, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl and make sure everything is incorporated.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white and cream of tartar until soft peaks form (You can do this by hand and it should only take 2 to 3 minutes). Do not overbeat. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 20-30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack and let cool completely.

To make the frosting, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add milk and cream and cook over medium heat whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl and beat on high speed until cool (this takes at least 7 to 9 minutes of mixing) then add the butter; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Beat until frosting is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add the vanilla and honey and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is proper consistency.

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a serving platter. If the top is uneven, trim to create a flat surface then evenly spread about 1/4 to 1/2 cup frosting on top. Add the top layer. Spread a very thin layer of frosting over the sides and top of the cake and put it in the refrigerator for bout 15 minutes to firm up. Spread the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Garnish the cake with crushed pistachios and refrigerate it for 15 minutes to it firm up before serving.

Let the cake sit a room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.

And the next cake!

Espresso Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup brewed, cooled coffee
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable shortening
4 eggs
1 egg white
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Generously grease a fluted cake pan with removable bottom.  Place a sheet of tinfoil around the bottom of the cake pan to avoid any leakage.  In a medium bowl whisk flour, espresso powder, baking powder, and baking soda then set aside.  In a small bowl, mix the milk and coffee together.  In a large bowl cream the vegetable shortening and sugar together.  Add eggs, egg white, and vanilla to the creamed mixture and stir to combine.  Add the flour mixture to the bowl in three parts, alternating with the coffee/milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for approximately 90 minutes.  Cake is done when a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for about 20 minutes and then remove outer pan to cool completely.  Feel free to dust with powdered sugar for a little added touch!

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You know what makes my heart smile?  When my niece wants to bake with me.  Sure, it may have been a long day but when she gets so excited over the prospect of baking with Aunt Buffy, well, what’s a girl to do but break out the aprons.

I will tell you that I’m still kind of a novice at the whole baking with kids thing so we didn’t really do any “from scratch” baking.  My brother and sis-in-law had a cupcake mix that was simple and manageable for little hands.  Mixes are great, though, because kids still get a kick out of something like pouring ingredients into a bowl and I love that.  They feel so rewarded for being able to get something from point a to point b in one go.  Like, look, there it is!  It didn’t disappear and it’s not all over the floor!  I DID IT!!  It’s pretty wonderful stuff.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a lot of photographic evidence of this magic but I think the results speak for themselves.  Next time I will make a conscious effort to get some pictures of how gosh darn cute my niece is in her baking gear.  Maybe I’ll even get my nephew in on the fun!

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Orange a go-go

I know it’s been awhile and I feel terribly guilty.  I haven’t been baking since we got home from Florida but I just didn’t want to make my waistline any bigger.  Yet, anyway.

I kind of figured that my baking would temporarily run dry once we got home so I made it a point to make something while I was staying in the sunshine state.  It was pretty easy to decide what the focus of my baked good should be and boy were they juicy.  Apparently oranges weren’t in season but I still feel like I got the best of the best.

The orange flavor in this was perfect – not overwhelming but not just a hint of it, either.  The raspberries really broke through, too, and added a nice zing.  It was all gone and in our bellies by the end of the trip.

Orange Raspberry Bread

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups fresh-squeezed orange juice (or the store bought stuff if you want to make life easier)
3 tablespoons finely grated orange peel
1 container raspberries

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugars and salt; whisk to mix.

In a small bowl, beat eggs slightly then stir in orange juice, butter, and grated orange peel. Add wet mix to flour mixture, stirring only enough to moisten all ingredients. Fold in raspberries.  Spoon mixture into greased 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan, spreading to corners. Bake bread in preheated 350°F oven for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, lower temperature to 325°F and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes.  Bread is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let stand 5 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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