Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Snow and Oven Fried Fish and Chips

This morning I dug my truck out of snow halfway up my calves, locked the tires into four-wheel drive, and drove myself to a final at 7:30 a.m. That's the kind of stuff that makes me happy I didn't grow up in Phoenix. I actually love driving when it's just snowed because it feels like everything is in slow motion. This weather calms me. Instead of leaving two minutes before class, I give myself 20. I drive 15 mph the whole way knowing I won't be one of those people in the ditch. It becomes evident I will never forget the techniques of winter driving. I have a good CD in the player and wish to myself the drive was just a little longer-while thanking God I brought a truck to school this year! My Cobalt never would have gotten me to my test on time.
On to dinner: My parents were wonderful enough to bring me halibut when we met in California. There is no local fish to speak of in Arizona...which is a brand new concept for me. I actually don't like being so far from the cost as seafood has been a big part of my diet for pretty much my whole life. You really don't miss it until it's gone. I remember hating fish growing up. At least once a week I would be forced to eat salmon or halibut that my dad had caught during the summer...practically abusive parents I had. Now, of course, I love fish and I don't think I'll consider living far from a coast of some kind in the future.
So, tonight I made oven fried fish and chips. You can't really compare them to real fish and chips, but they were still really good. With the stale bread we had laying around I ground up some bread crumbs in my fancy food processor. The coating I used was simply seasoned flour, then an egg mixture, and finally the bread crumbs. The "chips" were more of potato wedges from organic russet potatoes tossed in oil, salt and herbes de provence.

That's right: my plate says "tree hugger"

Oven Fried Fish and Chips

2 tbsp. vegetable/canola/safflower oil
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. halibut fish fillets
1 c. flour
sea salt & fresh cracked pepper
1 egg
3 tbsp. milk
hot sauce to taste
1 1/2 c. bread crumbs
2 russet potatoes
olive oil
1 tsp. herbes de provence

Wash and cut potatoes into 6 wedges. Toss in a bowl with oil, salt, pepper, and herbs. Spread in a single layer on cookie sheet. Place in oven while preparing the fish.
Coat the bottom of a baking dish with the oil and preheat oven to 350-degrees. Combine flour, salt, and pepper in one shallow dish. Whisk egg, milk, and hot sauce in another. Spread bread crumbs in a third. Rinse and pat dry fish fillets. Cut into 1 1/2" sticks-dredge in flour, coat with egg mixture, and roll in crumbs. Place in oiled dish and repeat with the rest of the pieces. Bake 15-20 minutes, until the fish is flaky when tested with a fork. The potatoes should be done at the same time.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

My whole weekend was EXTREMELY lazy. This coming week is finals so everyone was studying and taking it easy. My finals, however, are going to be easy and so this left me with a lot of time for myself. It also snowed this weekend so that cut out a lot of the outdoor activities that would have otherwise been possible. So...I baked, read, studied a little, did yoga, and stayed home. It was nice and I may have finally gotten rid of the cold that has been hanging on for the last couple weeks.
I had the urge to bake bread and found a recipe for cinnamon raisin bread from thefreshloaf.com. I thought I'd try to adapt it for the bread machine and then bake it in the oven-because mixing and kneading bread in my kitchen proves very difficult. Unfortunately, it wasn't very successful but I was able to salvage it. I ended up having to take it out of the machine and mix and knead it...on the floor. My counter tops are too high for me to get any leverage so I just moved a cutting board to the floor and it actually worked out well.
The bread turned out amazingly, with a super crispy crust and moist nutty center. It made the whole apartment smell wonderful. I've been eating it toasted with peanut butter for the last few days...pretty delish. I posted the recipe below...definitely commit to making it by hand or in a stand mixer. I would suggest halving the recipe as well. Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Bread
from thefreshloaf.com
Makes 3 loaves
24 oz (5 1/2 cups) bread or all-purpose unbleached flour
8 oz (1 7/8 cups) whole wheat flour
5.3 oz (1 5/8 cups) rolled oats
20 oz (2 1/2 cups) water
3.5 oz (3/8 cups) milk
2.4 oz (3 tablespoons) honey
2.4 oz (5 1/2 tablespoons) vegetable oil
.7 oz (1 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon) salt
.37 oz (1 1/4 tablespoon) instant yeast
.5 oz (2 tablespoons) ground cinnamon
10.6 oz (2 cups) soaked and drained raisins

Begin by soaking the raisins in warm water for 30 minutes. The oats should be soaked in a separate bowl with the water (1/2c. should be reserved if using active dry yeast, to proof) for about 20-30 minutes. Mix the flours, yeast, milk, honey, oil, salt, and cinnamon into the oats. Stir until everything is incorporated, then knead by hand for 5 minutes or in a mixer for 3. Drain the raisins and then knead them in until evenly distributed. Cover the bowl and let rise 1 hour.
Remove dough from bowl and gently release the gas by folding the dough into thirds. Fold one more time in thirds from the other direction. Place dough, seam side down, back into the bowl and allow to rise for another hour.
Divide dough into thirds and shape loaves. Place seam side down in greased loaf pans. Brush tops with water and sprinkle more oats on top. Cover and allow to rise for another 1 1/2 hours. Preheat oven to 450-degrees. Bake five minutes, then reduce temperature to 375-degrees and bake another 20 minutes. Rotate loaves 180-degrees and bake another 15-20 minutes. Loaves should be nicely browned and they should sound hollow when the bottoms are tapped.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Vegan Chocolate Beet Cupcakes

I am a big fan of the chocolate beet cake at Middle Way in Anchorage and I've always wanted to recreate it at home. It took a while for me to acquire all of the ingredients and equipment that I needed; but today was the day that it all came together. I've had a can of beets in the pantry for about 2 months now...I bought them with the intention of making this cake before I realized I needed a food processor to puree them. I got the food processor as an early Christmas present from two of my wonderful aunts. The last ingredient, the cocoa powder, was bought by Brittney last night. It was well worth the wait and these cupcakes are amazing! I whipped up a chocolate peanut butter icing to top them off...but they would have equally wonderful sans icing.

Vegan Chocolate Beet Cupcakes

1 15 oz. can sliced beets
1/2 c. safflower or canola oil
1 c. brown sugar
2 c. flour ( I used 3/4 c. all-purpose and 1 1/4 c. whole wheat)
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. instant coffee (optional)
dash of cinnamon (optional)
1/2 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325-degrees and fill a cupcake pan with paper/foil liners.

Drain beets, reserving the liquid, and puree in the food processor. Add just about a 1/4 c. of the beet liquid back in to thin the puree. Add oil and sugar to food processor and pulse a few more times; until well mixed.

In a separate bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix in coffee and cinnamon. Add the beet mixture to the flour mixture and stir well. Fold in chocolate chips.

Divide batter into muffin pan; it should make about 12 cupcakes. Bake for about 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean ( I just touch the tops to see if they've firmed up) If desired, ice cupcakes when completely cool...or frost one to eat while still warm if you can't wait...like me!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Icing

1/4 c. all-natural creamy peanut butter
3 tbsp. water
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. powdered sugar

Add peanut butter, water, cocoa powder, and vanilla to a medium size bowl and mix well with a hand mixer. Gradually add powdered sugar and continue mixing until it reaches a smooth and spreadable consistency.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Moroccan Chicken with Couscous

So Dan came to visit for a couple days on his way from Colorado to California. Yesterday, we drove down to Sedona and went hiking up Cathedral Rock. It was beautiful and I wish I had brought my camera. He said they'd been eating a lot of bad food on the road so I thought I'd make dinner one night he was here. The Moroccan chicken recipe I made is really simple...I didn't measure any of the spice, though, so it's more like a few more shakes of the turmeric and cumin (probably around 1 tsp. each) and a just a shake or two of the cinnamon, coriander, ginger, and cayenne (maybe 1/4 to a 1/2 tsp. each).

Moroccan Chicken and Couscous

for the chicken...
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 boneless skinless all-natural chicken pieces
1 zucchini, cut into 3/4" half rounds
3 carrots, cut into 3/4" half rounds
1 clove garlic, minced
spices: turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, cayenne
1 c. chicken or vegetable broth
fresh parsley
1/3 c. raisins and dried apricots (sliced)
1/2 c. canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and skin removed

for the couscous...
1 1/4 c. water
pinch of salt
couple drops of olive oil
1 c. couscous

Heat a medium sized skillet over med-high heat and add olive oil. When hot, brown the chicken about 3 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and add zucchini, carrots and garlic to the skillet. Stir and add spices. Continue cooking until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Place chicken back into the skillet on top of the vegetables. Add broth and a few sprigs of fresh parsley. Cover and allow to simmer until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender. Add dried fruit and garbanzo beans and continue to cook 5 more minutes. Remove cover and raise heat a bit to reduce the liquid in the pan.

For the coucous, bring water, salt, and oil to a boil. Stir in couscous, cover, and remove from heat. Allow to sit five minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Serve chicken over couscous.

The spices in this dish are really warming and perfect for a cold day. I can never decide what my favorite part of it is....the garbanzo beans or the dried fruit. It really does have a perfect flavor balance. Hope you try it.

After we ate, Brittney and a friend that she met in the hostel laundry room came and joined us for movies and dessert...which was apple crisp; made mostly with apples I picked from my grandma's tree before coming home. I tried a new recipe from the Chez Panisse: Desserts cookbook and it was quite tasty; even though Brittney bumped the dial and sent the oven up to 450 degrees for the first 20 minutes. We had a VERY crispy crisp but it was saved with a foil cover while the apples finished cooking. I don't think it beats the recipe I usually use, from the Vegetarian Epicure, but it was a welcomed stray from the norm.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The last of the leftovers...

A week from Thanksgiving and I used up the last of the turkey I was able to take home from my holiday in California. My family kindly accommodated me by buying a free-range turkey. My mom roasted it with her amazing chestnut-chanterelle mushroom stuffing. It makes me happy just to think about it. The first meal I made with it since coming home was a big
turkey pot pie, which turned out beautifully. Tonight, I made turkey and rice soup with stock I made the other day. I'm hoping it will cure the impending illness that I feel is creeping up on me. Not likely. The rest of my soup was pretty traditional...celery, onions, carrots, and peas. I also added the universal herb in my house: herbes de provence.

For dessert, because I never forget dessert, I made a French quatre-quarts (directly translated, it means four-fourths) which is basically a pound cake-but better. It's made with a total of four ingredients...imagine that. You start by weighing three eggs; usually it will come to about 180g. Then, you weigh out the same amount of the sifted flour, sugar, and butter. Melt the butter and mix it really well with the sugar. Separate the eggs, adding the yolks to the butter and sugar mixture and reserving the whites in a bowl to the side. Vigorously stir the yolks into the butter and sugar. Gradually mix in the flour until smooth. Stir in about a 1/2 tsp. of salt. Then, whip the whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Gently fold this mixture into the batter. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees. It's deliciously simple and just plain delicious. My godmother always added rum soaked raising into the mixture which is also wonderful. It's also just perfect on it's own. Mine came out a little toasted-I think because I used a stoneware loaf pan...or maybe because I left it in a minute too long. That won't stop me from enjoying every slice of it though!