Sunday, February 26, 2012

Broccoli Chicken and Quinoa Casserole

You may have noticed I love comfort food.  Food that makes you think of home, childhood and security.  Casseroles are considered comfort food by many people and this one definitely fits the bill for my family.  

This casserole began with my sweet friend Carol bringing her overflow of fresh broccoli to the office and telling me to "take a lot."  I thought about a few things I could do with it for dinner that night but when I got home I decided that a twist on a classic was in order.  Lightening it up using fat free soup, just a touch of mayo and a good amount of spices to liven up the flavor.  In the end my family inhaled it and I was lucky to have a small amount to take for lunch the next day. 

Although this casserole is easy to throw together if you are looking for something quicker try using broccoli that has already been cut into florets and a rotisserie chicken.  You could even use frozen cooked chicken breast if you like.

Broccoli Chicken and Quinoa Casserole

1 can fat free cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup low fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup skin milk
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
a few dashes of pepper
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1-1/4 pounds fresh broccoli florets
2 cups diced or shredded cooked chicken breast
1-1/2 cups dry quinoa, rinsed
3 cups chicken broth

In a small sauce pan bring the chicken broth to a low boil.  Stir in the quinoa, cover and cook on low heat about 15 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is tender.  Pour quinoa into a bowl and place in the freezer for about 15 minutes to cool, stirring a few times, until it reaches room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non stick spray.

In a bowl combine the soup, mayonnaise, milk, curry powder, cumin, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.  Set bowl with sauce mixture aside.  Add the broccoli florets and chicken to the bowl with the cooled quinoa.

Pour sauce mixture over the broccoli mix and stir in 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.  Mix until well combined.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Miso Chicken

On a fairly regular basis I am challenged, for lack of a better word, by friends and family to try to recreate a dish they had someplace or to create a dish using a certain ingredient.  Recently I was given some Miso paste and told "let me know what you come up with."  I put the paste in the refrigerator and forgot about it for a few weeks.  Then about a week ago I decided it was time to do something with it.

I love Miso soup but didn't want to do the obvious so I decided to make a marinade and grill some chicken with it.  I wanted something that wouldn't require very much planning ahead and would give us a little bit of change.  I looked in my pantry and decided to on a few additional ingredients and went to work.  The marinade took only minutes to put together and while the chicken marinaded I cooked the rice. I served it with jasmine rice and broccoli and found that the combination of ingredients gave the chicken an earthy flavor that went well with them.

I used the Williams Sonoma's GreenPan Cast Iron Nonstick pan, which I LOVE.  Any grill pan, cast iron skillet or skillet that conducts heat well will work.  Using your BBQ would work really well also. 

Miso Chicken

4 Tablespoons light miso paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon roasted ground ginger
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs

Combine the miso paste, minced garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil and ginger.  Stir until well combined.

Place chicken pieces into a a gallon size zip top bag.  Add the miso marinade.  Seal the bag and massage the chicken with the marinade for about two minutes, making sure each piece is coated.  Place bag of chicken in the refrigerator for an hour.  

Heat your grill pan over medium high heat and lightly oil it.  Remove the pieces of chicken one at a time and place them on the hot pan.  Sear both sides until nice grill lines develop (or chicken is browned) and lower heat to low heat.  

Cover and cook chicken just until the juices run clear.  Chicken cooks quickly so you will only need to sear each side for about three minutes and then cook the chicken for about 5 minutes depending on how well your pan conducts the heat.  Remove chicken from the pan and allow to sit for five minutes before cutting or serving.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

This Bread is So Good it Can't Possibly be Almost Effortless to Make

You may have noticed I LOVE BREAD!  I love putting the ingredients together watching them transform into something incredibly beautiful and comforting. It fills the house with a smell that screams home. Because of this I am always looking and studying many different recipes and techniques.  I read about the chemistry of the bread and how different ingredients effect the taste and texture.  One thing I have come to realized is that there are more ways to make bread than I ever realized.  

I came across a recipe developed by a by Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery and knew I had to try it immediately.  I was amazed at how quickly it came together and went to bed anxious to bake the bread the next day.  I thought about it off and on throughout church (yes I am obsessed) and when I got home I quickly prepared it for baking.  When it came out of the oven Nathan (my sixteen year old son) wanted to cut it immediately but I was able to convince him to wait until it cooled.  When we finally cut into the bread it was crusty on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.  Usually I like to put a little butter (okay, sometimes more than a little) or jam on the fresh bread but this bread needs absolutely nothing.  It is one of the best breads I have ever tasted.  

With this recipe you will never want or need to buy an "artisan" loaf from the bakery again.  It literally comes together with less than ten minutes of active work.  The hardest part about making this bread is waiting to cut it.

I decided to see if it could be made with the most basic equipment.  Items found in almost any kitchen.  I used an old medium sized mixing bowl, a wooden spoon (any study spoon will do) and a metal mixing bowl to bake it is.  Yes, a mixing bowl.  As Jim Lahey says, even a six year old can do this.  

I plan on trying to make this with all whole wheat flour next.  I will let you know how it goes.  Until then, do yourself a favor, make this bread!  You will love every bite.

No Knead Rustic Bread

3 cups all purpose flour (plus about 1 cup more for sprinkling)
2-1/2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1-1/2 cups water

Equipment needed:
medium mixing bowl
large spoon or wooden spoon
two cotton towels (NOT terry cloth) or one cotton towel and a piece of parchment paper
5-6  quart dutch oven / large metal mixing bowl with foil/ 5-6 quart stainless steel pot with oven safe lid
cooling rack
In a medium mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients.  Add the water and stir together with a large spoon (I used a wooden spoon), stir about a minute until completely combined.  

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave it on the counter, at room temperature for 12 - 24 hours.  The dough will bubble and grow, this is normal, it is referred to as ‘fermenting.’  

Generously flour your counter and pour the fermented dough onto the flour.  Stretch and fold the dough about 4 times, once on each side of the dough.  The dough will be very sticky.  The best way to insure you don’t have the dough completely stuck to you is to dampen your hands before each stretch and fold.  I keep a small bowl of water within arms reach and dip my fingers in the water, rub it a little between my fingers and stretch then fold, then dip my fingers again and continue stretching and folding.  After you have folded the dough 4 times allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes.  

Generously flour a cotton kitchen towel or a piece of parchment paper.  Do no use a terry cloth towel, the threads will get stuck to the dough.  Form the dough into a ball, it will look like a deflated, that is fine.

Sprinkle the dough with flour and cover with another cotton towel.  Allow to rise until double, about 2 hours. 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with the dutch oven and lid (or metal mixing bowl or stainless steel pot) in the oven so it also heats up.  When the oven and dutch oven reach 450 degrees remove the dutch oven from the oven.  Uncover the dough and brush off some of the flour from the bottom towel (NOT from the top of the dough) and flip the dough into the dutch oven.  You want to do this as quickly as possible so the dutch oven does not cool off.  

Put the cover on the dutch oven. If you are using a metal mixing bowl cover it,as tightly as possible, with a couple layers of foil.  Be careful the pot/bowl with be VERY hot, use oven mitts to cover the bowl with foil or when lifting the lid.  Place the pot or bowl in the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes.  

Removed lid or foil and return pot/bowl to the oven.  

Turn the oven up to 500 degrees and bake 15 minutes (this includes the time it takes for the oven to heat from 450 degrees to 500 degrees).

Removed from oven and turn bread out of the pot or bowl onto a cooling rack immediately.  Cool completely before cutting.

Adapted from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery