Monday, April 30, 2012

Secret Recipe Club - Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

It's reveal day again for my group in the Secret Recipe Club!  I'd like to say that the Club has kept my interest in food blogging alive.  There have been times I haven't felt like writing about what I cook - mostly because I've been making the same things over and over.  But since I started the Secret Recipe Club, I've not only HAD to make new things, I've found all kinds of new blogs to read and new recipes to try.

This month, my assigned blog was The Double Dipped Life.  I spent several hours over a couple of days going through Krista's blog, and made a list of 5 different recipes I want to make.  The one I made for this post is Broccoli-Cheddar Soup.  I had just gone to the commissary the day before, and my refrigerator was full of fresh produce, including two crowns of broccoli.  I'd been thinking about just steaming them as a healthy side dish, but when I saw Krista's recipe for the soup, I knew that was the first recipe to try.  It was a winner!

Don loves soup - almost any kind of soup, so when I asked him if he wanted to give this a try, he was enthusiastic.  We had a loaf of multigrain bread in the freezer, so I thawed that to have with the soup.

This soup was not only easy to make, it came together fairly quickly.  It was nice to find out that it wasn't a cream-based soup as I'd expected, but broth-based, thickened with a little flour, and had only 1/2 cup of cream in it.  It tasted as if it had a quart. We ate nearly all of it for dinner last night, and today I finished it off for lunch - I subbed at Yucaipa High today and needed to take my lunch.

The ingredients I used are below.  For Krista's original version, which is only slightly different, go here.

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup
from Krista of The Double-Dipped Life
 3 T butter, plus 2 T cold butter, cut into pieces
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
pinch nutmeg
1/2 t minced garlic
pinch dried thyme
3 T all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth

2 heads (approx. 1 pound) fresh broccoli
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

In a medium pot, melt the 3 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, pepper, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, until soft, 3 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring, until fragrant, for 20 seconds. Add the flour and cook, stirring until the mixture is well blended, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the broth, whisking constantly, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and cook, stirring, until tender, for 10-15 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and puree with a hand-held immersion blender. (Alternatively, in batches, puree in a blender or food processor and return to the pot.)

Add the cream and bring to light simmer to heat through. Add the cheese and cook over low heat, stirring, until melted. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons cold butter, stirring to blend.

Remove from the heat and ladle the soup into bowls.  Makes 4 servings.

This is now going to be part of my "routine" recipes. I really, really like this soup!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Whole Wheat & Oat Baking Mix

For many years, I've been buying the Whole Grain Baking & Pancake Mix from Trader Joe's.

Recently I saw a story on the news about labels on "whole wheat" products, and one of the things I remembered was that if the product is truly "whole wheat," then the first item on the ingredients list is "whole wheat flour" - not "wheat flour." I started checking the labels of a lot of the products I buy, and noticed that they all have "wheat flour" as the first ingredient.

I went in search of a recipe to make my own baking mix, and found one to adapt on the King Arthur Flour website.  I borrowed theirs, but added wheat and oat bran to it. In addition, since I wanted one that would have a longer shelf life, I substituted shortening for the oil. If you use the oil, which some people would find healthier, then the mix must be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

Whole Wheat & Oat Baking Mix
adapted from King Arthur Flour

3 cups old fashioned or rolled oats
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup wheat bran
3 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 cup shortening

1) To make the mix: Grind the oats and oat bran in a food processor until it's all chopped fine, but not a powder.
2) Put the flour, oats, and all other dry ingredients into a mixer with a paddle. (I used the bread hooks, since I didn't have a paddle, and it mixed it all beautifully.) Cut the shortening into chunks (if you're using the stick shortening) or drop by spoonfuls into the dry ingredients. With the mixer on low, mix until the shortening has been broken up into small bits and all is well-combined. 
3) Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks at room temperature, or indefinitely in the refrigerator or freezer.
To make pancakes: Whisk together 1 cup of mix, 1 cup of buttermilk (or a combination of half plain yogurt and half milk; or 3/4 cup liquid whey), and 1 large egg. Don't worry if it seems thin at first: the oats will soak up the milk, and the mix will thicken a bit as it stands.
Let the batter stand for at least 20 minutes before cooking.
Yield: a batch using 1 cup of the mix will make about 5 to 8 pancakes, depending on size.

Use mix as you would use Bisquick.  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Whole Wheat Banana-Blueberry Jumbo Muffins

I've gotten away from healthy cooking for a while. I'd been doing water aerobics and laps, and everything was just fine. But then I injured myself (it's a long story, but after a month of steroids, muscle relaxants and vicodin all is healed and I"m pain-free), and have to stop the swimming and water aerobics for a while. Following his colonoscopy last week,  Don was ordered by his doctor to start eating more fiber. He has diverticulosis, and we don't want it to turn in to diverticulitis.  So the first thing I did was get some whole wheat flour, oat bran, wheat bran, and flax.  I can make all kinds of things and add fiber to them.  We had oatmeal for breakfast two days ago - I used steel cut oats and added some diced pears and spices.  It was similar to apple pie oatmeal.  This morning I made some waffles with Trader Joe's Multigrain Baking and Pancake Mix - and added a quarter cup of wheat bran to the batter for some added fiber.  They also had some mixed berries in them, so we used less syrup than we usually do.

Speaking of syrup - I've been using sugar-free syrup for a couple of years, but have gotten tired of the taste.  Regular pancake syrup has too many carbs, so I mix the two together and just use less on my pancakes and waffles. 

Don likes to eat carbs for breakfast - but he's been loading up on empty carbs and I need to change that. One thing I'm doing is making muffins to replace the ones he ate from Costco.  The Costco ones are made with white flour and lots of fat and sugar.  I found a recipe for banana bread that I'm going to adapt for different flavors - it uses whole wheat flour, and I can mix in things like ground flax, oat bran or wheat bran, almond flour, and other things that add fiber or protein.

Today's muffins are banana-blueberry.  I'm going to Costco tomorrow, and decided to finish up a bag of blueberries that's been in the freezer forever - and buy a new one tomorrow. I also had two bananas in the freezer - I just throw them in there in their skins, and they're fine for breads once they're thawed. (Did you notice I just used there, their, and they're in the same sentence?)

Whole Wheat Banana-Blueberry Jumbo Muffins

1 stick butter, softened
1 c brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c oat bran (adds fiber and nutty texture)
1/4 c flax seeds, ground
1 c blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease and flour 6 jumbo muffin tins. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Add the bananas and eggs, beating until smooth. Add the flour, oat bran, and flax seeds, stirring until smooth. Fold in the blueberries. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling almost to the top. Let rest at room temperature for 10 minutes. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Cool completely on a wire rack. Makes 6 jumbo muffins. 

Thursday, April 05, 2012

I went to Ethiopia for dinner

In a way. Let's say it was my take on some Ethiopian food. My book club recently read Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone. Most of the book takes place in Ethiopia - we attempt to make food related to the books we read, so we had some pretty interesting dishes.

I was hesitant to even try the food my girlfriends brought - but once I tasted each dish, I kept eating, and went back for more!  Each one shared the recipes with the group, and tonight I made two of them. The main dish was Linda's Doro Wat - a spicy chicken stew.  It's a very simple recipe - chicken, onion, and spices. In Ethiopia, it's served on injera, a flatbread made from teff - a flour unavailable here. At book club, Debbie brought some Indian flatbread called Malabari Paratha. It's from the frozen food section at Trader Joe's.  You could also use pita bread or some other flatbread, I suppose. But I really like the paratha, and since we have a Trader Joe's fairly close, I bought two packages. There are five in a package - two for Don, two for me, and one for my leftovers that I'll take to work tomorrow.

The side dish was a room-temperature green bean dish, recipe from Betty. It's actually from South Africa, but I bet something similar is made in Ethiopia.

Doro Wat

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1" chunks
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 large sweet yellow onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup water

Sprinkle the cut-up chicken with the lemon juice, and let sit while you cook the onion. In a 4 to 6-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, brown the onion without fat until quite dark, stirring often. Add the butter and spices and stir to blend. Add the water and the chicken, stirring to combine everything. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat about 20 minutes until chicken is tender. Add more water, if necessary, to bring the mixture to stew texture. If the dish is watery, then thicken with 2 tablespoons of flour dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water. Serve with flatbread or pita bread. I use Malabari Paratha, which you can get in the frozen foods section at Trader Joe's.  This served two with a little for a leftover meal.

Note:  Browning the onion without fat is important - the caramelization of the onions adds both color and a bit of sweetness.

This is the flatbread we had. It needs to be browned more - but can be eaten hot or at room temperature.

African Green Beans

1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
1/2 t salt
2 T olive oil
1 T lemon juice
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1 garlic clove, mashed
1/4 c sweet white onion, thinly sliced
2 T sliced green olives
1/2 T hot red pepper flakes

Cut the ends off the beans, and cook in a large pot of boiling water along with the 1/2 t salt for 10 minutes. Drain and cover with cold water for about 5 minutes. Drain again. Combine oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Add the onions, green olives and beans and toss until well coated. Eat either room temperature or chilled.  4 Servings.