Country-Style Strawberry Shortcake

>> Monday, June 13, 2016


Country-Style Strawberry Shortcake


A few years ago, my friend Talea had me over for lunch one summer day. This rustic, buttery shortcake was going to be our dessert, so she had to bake it first to be sure it would cool while we ate. When it came out of the oven, though, it was so fragrant and crumbly that we dived into it, and skipped "lunch" altogether. It was so good.

When I was growing up in the country in Southwestern Michigan, my parents grew strawberries and a lot of other produce. Every summer after school was out we'd be picking strawberries for our breakfasts and stirring big pots of jam. When I got older, I worked on other farms picking fruit in the summertime: berries, peaches, cherries. If you've never picked fruit, let me tell you that the people harvesting these lovely berries are probably crouched down or crawling along rows of short strawberry hills with aching backs. It's hard work. Please, treasure the little bites!


Country-Style Strawberry Shortcake


June and strawberries are always linked together in my mind - as strawberries and my birthday are. I made this for my birthday dinner last night after a big dinner of steak with brandy peppercorn-cream sauce and sweet potato fries. I'm surprised I had any room left for dessert.


Country-Style Strawberry Shortcake


Ingredients

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar plus 1 tsp
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 c. butter
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp lemon or orange zest
1 pint of strawberries, sliced
8 oz whipped cream

Directions

Combine all ingredients except egg whites. Form soft dough, then shape into 6 rounds 1/2 inch thick. Brush with egg white and sugar. Bake at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until the tops are golden and the shortcake is cooked through. Cool slightly on rack. Cut in half and serve warm or at room temperature topped with berries and whipping cream.

Serves 6.

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Romanian Chicken Paprikash

>> Friday, May 27, 2016


Romanian Chicken Paprikash


This gorgeous dish comes from Joe's high school friend Pam Friel Swan, who learned it from her mother-in-law. When she sent it to us, she labeled it Marie's Puppedykash. We are still trying to find out what puppedykash means; Joe wonders if it's a way of saying the meal in Romanian, and I'm guessing it was how kids pronounced it and it stuck. For example, my daughter Jenn used to call muffins "nuppins"; the silly middle-schooler in me is still tempted to call beef stroganoff "beef strokin-off".

I'm so sorry I said that. Should I have kept that between me and Joe? Yes, a silly eighth-grader's humor pops into my mind at awkward times. Most of the time I'm able to keep it from popping right out my mouth, but I thought maybe you ought to get to know me a little better. :)

So, chicken paprikash. This is one of Hungary's signature dishes, along with goulash. But many other Slavic countries in Eastern Europe have a similar dish, and this particular one is more like a Romanian preparation than a Hungarian one. Who wouldn't love a nice cut-up chicken simmered with vegetables and paprika and broth, then finished in a velvety sour cream sauce?


Countries with Slavic roots, as of 2009
These Central and Eastern European countries have Slavic roots.

Now you get a mental image of those Central and Eastern European countries - which I've heard are stunningly beautiful, inexpensive to visit, and friendly to strangers - aren't you in the mood to whip up something authentic that those immigrants brought with them to America? This supper is wonderfully hands-off: 15 minutes on the front end, about an hour of cooking, and then sauce prep at the end. You can very easily convert this to all all-day crock pot recipe and mix up the sour cream at the end so it doesn't curdle.

We served this with basic German spaeztle noodles, but Joe's friend recommends serving "with thick crusty bread. We use French or Italian, or some kind of thick peasant-y type bread." Soak up every last bit of this luscious gravy. This is also a great recipe for a crowd; you can make it a day in advance and I promise you the flavors will be even better on Day 2.


Chicken Leg quarters in sweet paprika broth

Ingredients

2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp butter
1 cup onions, chopped
2 tbsp Hungarian Paprika – Marie uses half regular and half hot
8 pieces of skinless chicken – We use chicken leg quarters, but Marie uses 6 boneless breasts and thighs
48 oz. chicken stock
16 oz sour cream (We use low-fat sour cream)
¾ cup flour

Instructions

Melt the butter and oil in a very large pan. Add the onions and paprika to the butter. Cook until the onions are soft. Add the chicken and brown on each side. Add the chicken stock and simmer on low for 60-90 minutes - or cook all day in a slow cooker on low heat. Remove the chicken and onions and set aside. Pour the remaining broth into a separate bowl.

Whisk together the warm water and flour. Pour into the pan, turn the heat on low, then add the sour cream to the flour mixture and fold it in; keeping it warm but not simmering.

Use a large soup ladle to add the hot pan juice to the sour cream mixture, one ladle at a time, whisking it to prevent it from curdling (this is much easier with 2 people, one ladling and one whisking). Once all of the mixture is incorporated, return it to the pan and add the chicken and onions back in. Heat for about 30 minutes more to temperature but don’t boil.

Serves 6-8.

Romanian Chicken Paprikash

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Healthy Chili's Southwestern Egg Rolls

>> Friday, May 20, 2016


Healthy Chili's Southwestern Egg Rolls

I tasted these rolls stuffed with chicken, cheese, corn, black beans, and other kinds of goodness last week at Chili's restaurant. The sauce itself I could have sipped with a straw, but since I was in polite company, I just casually wiped a bit of the last egg roll around and around the little dish. I think I drooled a little, too.

I was on a double mother/daughter date with Jessie, her boyfriend's mother Kim and his sister Kelly. We wandered around the mall, a place I haven't visited since my girls were teens. Kim wanted to get her ears pierced at Claire's Boutique. Did you know Claire's still exists? Actually, it's hard to imagine a mall without that teenybopper place. It hasn't changed - lots of glitter, BFF necklaces, and boy band posters. And of course, that piercing booth in the front window. I really, really wanted these avocado earrings.



After Kim got pierced, she treated us to appetizers at Chili's - another place I haven't visited in forever. It was nice to spend an afternoon doing nothing in particular except talking and hanging out. My life is clearly too busy, because I actually felt guilty for not doing something productive or goal-oriented with my time!

Anyway, these little Tex-Mex style egg rolls were a hit with everybody, and I definitely wanted to make them again. I looked for a recipe online when I got home. On some recipe copy-cat sites (Top Secret Recipes is pretty helpful) I found a recipe that weighs in at 870 calories. Eek! I decided to experiment with a lighter version of the recipe. I don't know exactly how many calories there are in my version, but they're not fried and they use low-fat ingredients. They taste just about the same, too.

Corn, bean, cheese and chicken wraps


By the way, the recipe calls for the vegetables to be finely chopped; I suggest putting them into the blender or food processor, if you have one, and let it do the work.

Ingredients


3 oz chicken breast
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup white onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp jalapeno, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 plum tomato, finely chopped
2/3 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh spinach, finely chopped
2 tbsp cilantro
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/3 cup egg white
3/4 cup shredded low fat sharp cheddar cheese
8-10 seven inch flour tortillas

For the Avocado Ranch Sauce

1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/2 cup low fat mayonnaise
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp ground pepper

Directions

Whisk together the oil and chili powder. Cut the chicken breast into fine pieces and allow to marinate in the oil mixture for 15 minutes. In a large skillet, cook the chicken pieces until browned on all sides. Set aside. 

Add a little more oil and saute the rest of the vegetables for 5 minutes. Stir in the egg, cheese and chicken and remove from heat. 

Oil a cookie sheet with spray oil. Wrap the tortillas in a damp towel and heat in the microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until they are soft and flexible. Lay them one at a time on a cutting board and place about 2/3 cup of the filling down the middle of the tortilla. Fold over the end, then roll up the tortilla and place it, seam side down, on the cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and corn/bean mixture.

Place the freezer for 15 minutes to solidify the filling. While the rolls are chilling, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Blend together all the sauce ingredients until very smooth, and let it chill until you're ready to serve it.

Spray the tops of the rolls with oil. Place the sheet on the center rack and cook for about 20 minutes, turning once, until the rolls are nicely browned and the filling is cooked through. Slice the rolls halfway through on a diagonal, and serve with the avocado sauce.

Serves 6-8.

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Orange-Jicama Salad

>> Sunday, May 1, 2016


Orange-Jicama Salad


I was middle-aged before I ever tasted a jicama, a Mexican vegetable that looks like a giant beige turnip and tastes like...crunch. Maybe starchy and crunchy like a water chestnut. That's why it is so versatile; it takes on the flavors of everything around it. The chameleon of vegetables. Jicama in this salad adds crispness to the delicate combination of tangy orange slices and creamy avocado, all in a lime-pepper dressing.

Ingredients

4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 orange, peeled and thinly sliced
1 avocado, peeled and chopped
1 cup jicama, peeled and julienned
1/2 small white onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup lime juice (juice of 3-4 whole limes)
3 tsp honey
1 small jalapeno chile, sliced paper-thin (optional)
Dash salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive or canola oil

Directions

Toss together the lettuce, onion, and jicama. Sprinkle the avocado with a bit of lime juice to prevent it from turning a dark gross color. Whisk together the lime juice, salt and pepper, and oil. Stir in the chile slices. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, place lettuce mixture in salad bowls, and allow each person top with orange, avocado, and the salad dressing. If there are any leftovers, store the lettuce mixture separately from the avocado and oranges, because if you mix it all together, these will make the salad gooey and runny.

 


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Beef and Asparagus in Black Bean Sauce

>> Friday, April 29, 2016



Beef and Asparagus in Black Bean Sauce


Ahh, this is tasty Chinese take out food that you can make at home faster than the delivery guy can send it. I have to admit, I didn't know what exactly made up "black bean sauce"; I was in the grocery store one day and thought, I have a couple cans of black beans at home, and I bet I could make this sauce pretty easily.

Nope. Black bean sauce is made from fermented soybeans, and I could probably learn how to ferment those beans into that thick and umami-rich sauce, but a jar of black bean sauce is about 3 bucks and I'm working on a fast and easy dinner here.

So whip this up in 20 minutes next time you're craving Chinese, and relax with a full, satisfied belly.

Beef and Asparagus in Black Bean Sauce

Ingredients

3 cups water
1 1/2 cups white rice
2 tsp oil
1 pound beef stew meat
1 pound fresh asparagus (or frozen bits if asparagus is out of season)
2/3 cup yellow onion, sliced
6 oz. sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/2 cup black bean sauce
2 tbsp cornstarch stirred into 1/2 cup cold water

Instructions

Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Place the 3 cups water and rice into a pot, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes.

Cut the asparagus into 2-inch segments and steam for 5 minutes in the microwave. While it is steaming, heat the oil in a wok or high-sided frying pan, and saute the beef until browned. Add the asparagus, onion, and water chestnuts, and cook for 5 minutes. 

Whisk together the black bean sauce and cornstarch mixture, and pour over the beef mixture. Cook and stir until the sauce is thickened, 5-8 minutes. Serve over the rice.

Serves 4-6.

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