Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Paprika Chicken

Sometimes the simplest recipes surprise you.  I did not expect a recipe from Pampered Chef could be clean.  Not to say anything bad about PC, they've been great for me.  It's just that recipes that are advertised as quick or easy and usually involve very little cooking, usually means a lot of premade this and that mixed together in a very high sodium / low health combo.  Convenience comes at a price, ya know?  I guess that is what I was expecting?  A just add condensed soup and go kind of meal.

What I got, was anything but.  What I got was a very tasty, healthy, Clean Eating-style meal that really did come in at under 29 minutes. My one concession from their recipe is I skipped on the egg noodles.  I was having pasta in another meal very close to this one, so I didn't need the double-dose of whole wheat noodles.  What you choose to do, is up to you.  Their recipe calls for this meal to be served over a bed of boiled egg noodles (8 oz uncooked).

Paprika Chicken
Makes: 4 servings

8 oz green beans
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1 Tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne flakes (optional)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp cooking oil, divided
2 Tbsp fresh dill, optional
8 oz uncooked egg noodles, optional

Cook egg noodles according to package directions, if using.  Add green beans to last 2 minutes of cooking time.  Drain, reserving 3/4 cup of cooking water.  Set noodles and beans aside.

Heat skillet over medium-high heat and warm 1 tsp oil.  Dice chicken into 1-inch pieces; sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne and cook in skillet 5-7 minutes until centres of chicken are no longer pink stirring occasionally.  Set aside.

Heat remaining 1 tsp oil in skillet.  Cook onion and mushrooms over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until golden brown.  Add chicken to skillet with remaining cooking water from beans and noodles.  Stir up browned bits from bottom of skillet.  Cook and stir 2-3 minutes or until sauce is thickened and chicken is heated through.

Divide into 4 servings.  Serve garnished with dill, if using.

Source: The Pampered Chef, 29 Minutes to Dinner.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Slow-cooker Tuscan Turkey & White Bean Chili

Now, just so you don't think I spent the whole month eating nothing but cake, haha, I present: a turkey chili.  A Clean Eating turkey chili, no less.  I got a little lazy with it, I will admit... for a slow cooker recipe, this had a lot going on in the original recipe, like buying, grilling, and scraping fresh corn kernels into the pot -- I skipped it and bought frozen instead.  Overall though, even with shortcuts, it's a yummy lunch and a great mental break from my usual tail-end-of-winter meals.

Also, I used whole turkey breast that I cut into smaller more bite-sized chunks.  The recipe originally calls for ground turkey breast, but that's a rare find in my area, so I just chopped up a whole breast instead.

Slow-Cooker Tuscan Turkey & White Bean Chili
Makes: 6 servings of about 1 1/2 cups each

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 lbs turkey breast (ground or chopped)
4 chopped garlic cloves
1 yellow onion, chopped
12 mini redskin potatoes, scrubbed and halved
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cups low-sodium broth (chicken or veggie)
2 15 oz cans low-sodium beans (white beans recommended, but works well with bean medley)
1 cup tomato puree
1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 tsp basil leaves, dried

In a skillet, heat oil then brown turkey, onion, and garlic over medium heat for about 10 minutes until  turkey begins to brown.

Transfer mixture to 4 to 6 quart slow cooker.  Add remaining ingredients and slow cook over high heat 3 - 6 hours, testing every hour to see if potatoes and veggies have softened. 

Source: adapted from Clean Eating Magazine, Jan/Feb 2013, p. 44.

Dad's Birthday Cake part III - The Finished Cake

I learned a lot from this cake.

For one, rolled buttercream is harder to work with than fondant.  The RB is much softer than fondant, and therefore has a tendency to tear under the weight of itself when you spread it over a cake, rather than stretching lightly like fondant does.  A recommendation I read online after suggests making a 25:75 rolled buttercream to fondant mixture for best results.

For two, rolled buttercream is much shinier than fondant, so this must be taken into consideration in the design.  Shine, or no shine, pick your preference.  I found a few of my fingerprints stayed pressed into the cake.

For three, rolled buttercream, at least the chocolate variety than I can speak of, was a smash hit!  Not everyone likes the taste of fondant but this rolled buttercream is a clear winner in my experience.  You don't need a lot, either.  A little goes a long way.

From the assembly angle, I learned that using impression mats on very soft surfaces (rolled buttercream versus fondant) can make cleanup a pain because small pieces of the buttercream got lodged in the holes in the letters saying "happy birthday".  Those little 'a', 'p', 'b' and 'd' holes required toothpicks to clean 'em out.

I learned also that I should have had more practice piping zigzags.  It's been a while, and I'm a little rusty, apparently. But, in the end, a well received cake makes me a happy baker, and that's enough for me.


Dad's Birthday Cake part II - Chocolate Frosting

I've made chocolate decorator icing and chocolate frosting before.  The decorator icing has a different mouth-feel than I wanted for this cake, and although the chocolate frosting was amazing, decadent, and rich it was also a bit more time-consuming and expensive than I wanted for this cake.  The attention for this cake I wanted to be on the rolled buttercream, so I searched out a recipe that is simple, quick, and made from my usual pantry ingredients.  This was just the trick.

Chocolate Frosting
Makes: about 3 cups

1 cup unsalted butter, softened but not melted
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 tsp almond extract)
4 Tbsp milk or heavy cream

Cream together butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment.

Slowly add powdered sugar to mixing bowl, beating at lowest speed, scraping down sides as necessary.  Add in milk/cream as much as necessary for desired consistency.  4 Tbsp is a starting point, you may need more or less.  Beat mixture on medium speed for three minutes to add air to the frosting if desired.

Note: the frosting is actually darker than pictured.  The flash is deceiving.

Source: Savory Sweet Life.

Dad's Birthday Cake part I - Chocolate Rolled Buttercream

This past weekend, we celebrated my Dad's birthday.  It was a semi-milestone birthday, but in true-to-Dad fashion he didn't really appear to care about the whole thing at all.  To mark the occasion anyway (and to get another excuse for a cake!) my family gathered together to celebrate with a meal and gifts.  My contribution was this cake, and assistance to my Mom in tracking down the Sons of Anarchy season for him.  Dad's been sucked into that show in a big way, and now when I watch it if I'm over there, I am starting to get sucked in too!

This cake was exactly the chance I needed for two reasons: it gave me opportunity to test drive a new vanilla cake recipe (which I will not be sharing with you because it turned out to be less than I had hoped,) and it gave me opportunity to try working with rolled buttercream.  Rolled buttercream is a concept that up until recently was completely unheard of to me.  How I've made it this far without discovering this yummy substance I do not know!  This version, in chocolate, is literally homemade Tootsie Roll.  Don't believe me? Make it yourself. You'll see.  Tootsie Roll.  As a cake covering.  You're welcome.

Chocolate Rolled Buttercream
Makes: About twice what you would need to cover one 8"x3" layer cake

1 cup clear solid vegetable shortening
1 cup clear corn syrup
1/2 tsp butter flavouring
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
6 1/2 - 7 1/2 cups powdered sugar (slightly less than 2 lbs)


Note: this recipe is best made with a heavy duty stand mixer with a paddle then wire hook attachment.

Cream together shortening and corn syrup in bowl of stand mixer.  Add flavourings, salt, and cocoa powder and beat until well blended.  Mix in the powdered sugar until thoroughly mixed in.  Mixture will be extremely stiff.  If this is too much for your mixer, dump the contents out to counter top and knead in remaining powdered sugar until smooth and well blended.

To store: cover in a thin layer of shortening and wrap in plastic wrap.  Store in sealed plastic bag and place bag inside an airtight container.

Note 2: Rolled buttercream can be kept at room temperature for a few days, in the fridge for several weeks, or frozen for several months.  Let it return to room temperature before using.


Source: Cake Central. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites


These are exactly what they look like.  And, exactly what I wanted -- a healthy snack that doesn't taste healthy.  It gives me something yummy to have for an afternoon snack that won't leave me craving sugar like a maniac nor will it fill me up too much for supper.  It seems that every time I get bored with clean eating, or lose faith in the philosophy, or just plain get sick of healthy foods, they go and give me reason to carry on.

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites
Makes: 36 bites

1 1/2 cups pitted dates
1 1/2 cups puffed rice cereal
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
5 oz (about 9 Tbsp) natural unsalted creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
7 oz 70% dark chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp coconut oil

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil.  Pour over dates in a large bowl and let soak for 5 minutes.  Sift out dates with a slotted spoon, reserve 2 Tbsp of the water and discard remaining water.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, blend rice cereal, oats, flour, and salt.  Process into fine crumbs and transfer to a medium bowl.

Add dates, reserved soaking water, peanut butter, and honey to empty food processor.  Process until smooth.  Add vanilla and process until combined.  Add in cereal mixture and process on high until a soft, sticky dough forms, about 30 seconds.

Using a small cookie scoop or a spoon, scoop 1 Tbsp portions of dough and roll into round balls with hands.  Freeze balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet for about 2 hours, covered, in the freezer.

Using a double-boiler (or 1 oz slow-cooker), melt chocolate and coconut oil together, being careful not to burn the mixture.
Working one at a time, gently dip the balls into the chocolate and return to parchment-lined baking sheet.  Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.

Once balls are set, transfer to a resealable bag or covered container and freeze up to one month.  Thaw for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Source: Clean Eating Magazine, Jan/Feb 2013.

Lemon Buttercream Icing

To continue from the fondant blog, I have been trying new and wonderful cake-y recipes to work on my cake decorating class and build up my skills for the upcoming wedding cake I'm planning to tackle.  One of my more recent assignments is to make a cake frosted with buttercream.  Easy enough, right? I had complete freedom in what I chose to make and decorate.  So I looked through my bookmarks, googled around a bit, looked through my books, and dreamed up various different scenarios.  I finally settled on this cake idea because the recipe for the icing sounded too great to pass up!

The one change I made is fairly major.  I swapped out the salted butter specified in the recipe with unsalted.  This is because my experience with it was completely opposite to Karlynn's.  She says she chose to use salted butter to cut down on the too-sweet taste of the icing, but for my nearly salt-free taste, it was way too salty to stand! I ended up doubling the batch, using one batch with salted butter as written, and one unsalted to tone down the salt flavour and still it was noticeably salty for me.  When I make it again, it will be unsalted all the way.  But, where salty/sweet are concerned it's all personal preference, so do whatever makes you happy.

Lemon Buttercream Icing
Makes: frosting for a 8x2-inch layer cake

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp lemon zest
3 Tbsp lemon juice
5 Tbsp cream

Beat butter in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Slowly add in powdered sugar and lemon zest, alternating with liquids until desired consistency is reached.

Ice cake as desired.


Source: slightly adapted from Kitchen Magpie.