Sweet & Spicy Chicken

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Sweet and Spicy Chicken

While those of us who are celebrating Passover are limited of what we can eat doesn’t mean our menu only consists of potatoes, hard boiled eggs, and chicken soup with matzo balls. True, there weren’t as many Passover friendly items when I was growing up as there is now. Aside for chicken soup and chocolate matzah, I didn’t care for anything else. While many of the Passover friendly items are not accessible where I live, I’ve learned to make my own dishes.  Cooking for Passover was not so challenging for me. Despite the fact that people tend to eat more on holidays and therefore demand recipes that are thematic to the holiday they are celebrating, my menu tends to be more basic and standard. Likewise there are an abundance chicken recipe ideas that are Passover friendly, including the one I borrowed from a spicy honey chicken recipe.

Some people see Passover as a challenge for our culinary abilities and pushes us to our creativity limits. It does put things into perspective by learning to appreciate what we have. Thankfully, I am spending most of the holiday away and therefore there isn’t much for me to prepare. I can’t complain as the household is populated by two adults and we are generally organized. Hopefully sometime soon when kids enter the picture, it won’t be the same. During the week, I have soup and salad like any other week. This sweet and spicy chicken recipe is easy to prepare and the ingredients are accessible all year around.

While the original recipe called for chicken breasts, I used a whole chicken.  Since side dish ideas are limited, you can serve this chicken with boiled potatoes, steamed green vegetables, roasted vegetables, or quinoa. Cooking for Passover doesn’t have to be painful. When it comes to cooking for holidays, I try to keep my menu traditional but simple. If you don’t celebrate Passover, you can enjoy this recipe anytime of the year.  Wishing my Jewish friends a happy Passover! As for everyone else, I hope you enjoy the lovely Spring weather. Thank you for your readership and support. You inspire me to post and share recipes with you.  What are some of your favorite holiday recipes? What do you like least about cooking for holidays? If you don’t celebrate holidays, what are your to-go Spring recipes? All ideas are welcome so don’t be too shy to share :-)

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 fresh whole chicken quartered and skinned
  2. 1/2 cup of honey
  3. 1/3 cup of your favorite hot sauce
  4. 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  5. 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce  (or a Passover-friendly equivalent)
  6. 1 onion diced
  7. Ground pepper for taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken and onions in a greased baking dish. Season chicken with garlic powder and ground pepper. Mix honey, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce together and pour over chicken. Bake covered for 45 minutes and uncovered for the last 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Yields 4 servings

 

Russian Sweet Potato Salad

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Russian Sweet Potato Salad

Beets are commonly associated with Russian cuisine and this Russian sweet potato salad happens to have some beets in it. If you are just starting to become accustomed to eating beets like I am, this Russian sweet potato salad recipe is a great starting point. Beets happen to add a Russian flair to this unique potato salad.  The flavors from the beets and sweet potato pair nicely. Learning how to make this particular Russian salad is not so difficult. I used raw beets and sweet potatoes and merely boiled them. You can use canned beets as cooking beets can be time-consuming although I recommend you rinse them in order to reduce the sodium content.  I served this salad when I had company over for a weekend meal and I was surprised that each person had second servings of this salad. I suppose beets can grow on you if you give them a fair chance. I don’t regularly consume beets but won’t dismiss a recipe requiring beets either.

Potatoes and hard-boiled eggs are synonymous with Passover; many recipes abound with potatoes, as they are considered to be almost the ultimate comfort food. Considering that we eat so many potatoes over Passover I decided to try to create a similar dish with sweet potatoes (as a complex carbohydrate a healthier choice) and I added cubed cooked beets to enhance the fiber content of this Russian salad recipe.  If you don’t like sweet potatoes, you can ultimately prepare this salad with regular white or red potatoes. Beets are very popular in Russia, thus the name of this original dish. While this salad makes an ideal Passover salad recipe idea, it can be appreciated all year around. You can even add crumbled goat cheese or low-fat Bulgarian cheese to this salad if you like (yet another idea that passed over my head, excuse the pun).

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 large sweet potatoes peeled and cubed
  2. 1 large raw beet peeled and cubed
  3. 2 cups of chopped celery or snow peas
  4. 1 red onion cut into slices

For the vinaigrette, you will need:

  1. 2 tablespoons of walnut or olive oil
  2. 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
  3. 2 teaspoons of honey
  4. 1 inch ginger grated
  5. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Steam sweet potatoes for 15 minutes until soft but not mushy. Do the same for the beets (although they tend t cook longer).  Drain vegetables once cooked and let them cool. Place them in a salad bowl along with celery and onion.  Whisk the ingredients for the vinaigrette together until well combined. Drizzle in with vegetables and lightly toss. You can serve this Russian sweet potato salad as side dish to meat, poultry, or fish. Or you can sprinkle some toasted chopped walnuts if you like.

Yields

6-8 servings

 

Emerald City Soup

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Emerald soup

Remember the classic movie of “The Wizard of OZ”  where Dorothy is directed to the City of Emerald in hopes for someone there to transport her back to Kansas? While making this soup, that scene was replaying itself in my head.  In fact, the name I gave this soup was inspired by the movie. I thought to go with that than generic titles  such as green vegetable soup recipe  as there are many variations of them.  Incorporating green vegetables daily in your diet seems to be one of the most recommended pieces of nutritional advice given today. While I had many objections to eating vegetables as a kid, green vegetables were an exception.

My parents never had to put in much painstaking efforts to encourage me to eat my green veggies. I suppose the parental negative reinforcement of threatening me with no dessert somewhat helped to a certain degree. Growing up, I would snack on raw broccoli and spinach. Thankfully, I never really had to compete with anyone as everyone else didn’t seem to share my love for these vegetables. They were a treat to me second to high quality Swiss dark chocolate.  I’ve also looked forward to a creamy green soup my mother made for dinner be it broccoli soup or spinach soup.  As much as I like green soup, I haven’t had much success achieving the creamy and velvety consistency that I desire in a soup. I didn’t want to use potatoes nor heavy cream as a thickening agent. At the same token, I don’t care for watery soups either.

This green soup has been one of the most healthiest vegetable soup ideas I’ve ever used. And one of the easiest as well. It has the best of three worlds; broccoli, spinach, and kale. Ever since my newfound love for fresh kale has been publicly vociferated to others, nearly to the point of insanity, I wanted to utilize it in other ways aside for chips, and salads. I normally wouldn’t mind eat kale raw as it is but I had a surplus of them. I shamefully confess to overstocking on produce but I do make sure that nothing goes to waste.  I didn’t have to fish out too far for vegetable soup ideas for the week. While I only used three green vegetables, you can use chard in lieu or in addition to kale. You can include green peas as well.  What I like most about green soup is that it is loaded with hearty, fiber-rich vegetables. Besides, a steaming bowl of green soup, packed with the season’s freshest vegetables, is a healthy way to jumpstart your dinner. Serve with a swirl of fruity, fragrant extra-virgin olive oil for richness if you like. Reserve leftovers for an improvised Alfredo sauce.  

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 tablespoon of olive oil + more for garnish (optional)
  2. 1 onion chopped
  3. 2 cloves of garlic minced
  4. 1 lbs of fresh kale leaves removed from stems
  5. 2 cups of chopped broccoli
  6. 1/2 cup of green peas (optional)
  7. 1 cup of fresh spinach stems trimmed
  8. 4 cups of reduced sodium vegetable broth
  9. Salt and pepper for taste
  10. Toasted whole wheat croutons (optional)

Instructions

Heat oil in a stock pot over high heat.  Add chopped onions and saute for 5 minutes till they begin to brown. Add garlic and saute for another 2 minutes.  Add the vegetables, salt, and pepper and saute for 5 minutes. Pour in broth, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Puree with a hand blender or in batches using a standing blender.  Serve hot and garnish each bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and croutons.

Yields 6 servings

 

Classic Gluten-Free Loaves

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gluten-free loaves

In efforts to making my house Passover friendly, i.e. wheat-free, I have been replacing wheat flour with a variety of gluten-free flour substitutes such as buckwheat flour, quinoa flour, brown rice flour, and tapioca flour. Although I’ve thankfully have not been dealt with  celiac disease, I am always looking for opportunities to make detoxing more convenient for me. I have managed to sustain without gluten for 2 weeks.  Having never tasted gluten-free bread before, I had my reservations of baking a couple of loaves but I wasn’t about to go running out to buy more bread after an intensive thorough housecleaning.

I am still a bit experienced when it comes to baking with gluten-free flour but it hasn’t daunted me enough to discourage me from trying.  While baking bread is my specialty, I always welcome gluten-free alternatives. Learning how to use gluten-free flour for baking bread was educational and loads of fun.  Mastery is generally commensurate with practice fueled by relentless determination.  I suppose my perseverance has no limitation for better or for worse. Quitting  was never an option for me. Part of overcoming an unprecedented challenge is embracing it wholeheartedly.  Fortunately, my uncontrollable desire to experiment was never an issue to me and the risks were usually worth taking.  Without sounding presumptuous, the gluten-free treats and bread I have baked were overall satisfactory. Even if you don’t bake gluten-free bread that often, it’s a useful baking skill to have.

 

Wheat flour contains gluten which is a protein that binds and strengthens dough in baking. Consequently, when baking with gluten-free/wheat-free flours you may need to source alternative binding agents. Xanthan gum is often used along with gluten-free flour, especially for baking bread, rolls, etc.  Wheat free recipes using gluten-free flour substitutes usually have been carefully formulated to produce the best possible result whilst factoring the problems associated with lack of wheat gluten, therefore substitution can be a risky experiment. If you use wheat/gluten-free substitution, then be aware that the end results may be a complete fiasco. Therefore, I don’t recommend that you do it for the first time if cooking for an important occasion. Test your creation on family members, especially those suffering from celiac disease before sharing it with others. I use quinoa flour, rice flour, and buckwheat flour as opposed to a gluten-free bread mix to have control over the quality and quantity of the bread. You can use other gluten-free flour of your choice if you don’t like the ingredients I provide for you in this recipe. You can find most of these ingredients at your local healthfood store.

 

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 cup of quinoa flour
  2. 1 cup of brown rice flour
  3. 1 cup of buckwheat flour
  4. 1/2 cup of topacia flour
  5. 1/2 cup of corn/potato starch
  6. 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum
  7. 1 tablespoon of yeast
  8. 1 cup of warm water
  9. 1 teaspoon of sugar or honey + 1/3 cup
  10. 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  11. 1/2 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
  12. 1/4 cup of oil
  13. 1/4 milk of your choice (in lieu of eggs)

Instructions

Place yeast, sugar, and salt in warm water. Set aside till it starts to bubble and foam. In a bowl, mix the first 6 ingredients and whisk to thoroughly combine.  Blend the sugar, oil, milk and vinegar in another bowl. Add the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. Then add the yeast mixture. Kneed till elastic.  Divide dough into four parts and make small loaves. Place each loaf in a small loaf pan. Allow dough to rise in an undrafted area for 45 minutes to an hour or until double in size.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Yields 4 small loaves

 

 

 

Chocolate Fudge Quinoa Cookies

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quinoa cookies

My house has been declared a wheat-flour free zone. Thus far, I managed to accomplish that much from my Passover cleaning. Since children are not in the picture yet, there is not much of a mess in my place that requires intensive and thorough cleaning. Plus we will be spending most of the holiday away by friends and family which does save us quite a bit of  emotional and financial stress.  As I reiterated just a couple of sentences ago, my house is purge of wheat flour but I have quinoa flour among other types gluten-free flour.  Forgetting for the moment that I no longer had gluten flour, I was conquered by  this intense need for chocolate cookies. The hankering was too irresistible to ignore. Noticing that I had quinoa flour on hand, this struck an idea in my head. I only used quinoa flour twice ever since I bought it. Besides gluten-free breads and muffins, I couldn’t think of a better way to use quinoa flour other than for making a batch of cookies; particularly chocolate fudge cookies.  I made gluten-free brownies before and they were a success so why should chocolate quinoa cookies be any different?

Apart from being a novel concept, these gluten-free cookies are ideal Passover dessert ideas as well. Irrelevant to Passover, I have been detoxing from wheat flour and therefore these cookies were perfect. I nearly didn’t miss the gluten version. I’ve learned to adjust without certain ingredients.  But I needed gluten-free dessert/snack ideas that were not limited to fruit and vegetables. I never liked commercial brand gluten-free cookies. They tend to be too airy or too sugary. Regular cookies are not any more delightful.  That is partially the reason why I chose to make my very own batch.  Gluten-free or not, the making of a good cookie solely relies on taste and texture. The flavors need to be balanced. I am more partial towards dense and chewy cookies. And there needs to be a cold glass of milk within my proximity. Those are my stipulations. Otherwise, I am not as fastidious ;-)

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 cup of quinoa flour
  2. 1/2 cup of topacia flour
  3. 1/2 cup of cocoa powder
  4. 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  5. 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  6. 1/4 teaspoon of  xanthan gum
  7. 2/3 cup of brown sugar or coconut sugar
  8. 1/2 cup of vegan butter softened
  9. 2 teaspoons of tahini or nut butter
  10. 2 egg whites
  11. 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  12. 1 cup of dark chocolate chunks or chocolate chips

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place egg whites and sugar in a food processor and beat for 2 minutes. Add the remaining wet ingredients and mix well till incorporated. In a separate bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together.   Mix dry mixture with wet mixture. Fold in chocolate chunks/chips. Scoop 1 heaping tablespoon of dough onto the cookie sheets, spacing the cookies about 1″ inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, allow to cool for 5 minutes before eating (I’m too impatient, especially when cookies like these are screaming out for me).

Yields 24 cookies

 

 

 

French Macaroon Cookies

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french macaroons

I intended to make French macarons for an acquaintance who recently gave birth. Although I manged to nail the meringue consistency, my poor piping skills resulted flat cookies. That is why I dub this French macaron recipe French Macaroon Cookies. French macarons consist of egg whites, sugar, almond flour/meal, and food coloring (if you decide to use any like I did as displayed in the picture) making them ideal Passover dessert ideas as well as delectable treats all year around. They usually include a filling between two cookies.  Although the picture of these gluten-free cookies don’t have the same appeal as do French macarons, they are just a soft, chewy, and tasty. I will try to perfect the French macaron sometime later on the month as I know many of my friends and relatives will enjoy them.

Macaroons are cookies made of egg whites, sugar, shredded coconut, and potato starch. They are popular Passover treats. Unfortunately,  my coconut allergies won’t allow me to enjoy these cookies so French macarons are an alternative to me which I can content with.  Light as a feather, this interpretation of French macarons are popular yet immensely enjoyed French treats that will give these cookies a does of sophistication. Filling options can vary from coconut, chocolate, nutella,  fruit jam or meringue. In this case, fillings are not essential  but you can make sandwich cookies from this recipe. For a nut-free version, simply replace almond meal with finely grated white chocolate.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 4 egg whites
  2. 3/4 cup of confectioners sugar
  3. 1 cup of almond flour (you can use hazelnut flour if you prefer)
  4. 1/4 teaspoon of creme of tartar
  5. 1/4 cup of superfine sugar
  6. Pinch of salt
  7. Food coloring (optional)
  8. Filling of choice (optional)

Instructions

Pulse confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a food processor until combined. Sift mixture 2 times. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then slowly add superfine sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Sift flour mixture over whites, and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny. Mix in food coloring if you like.

Transfer macaroon batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip, and pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets, dragging pastry tip to the side of rounds rather than forming peaks. Tap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm, about 10 minutes. After each batch, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees, heat for 5 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees.

Let macaroons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve immediately, or stack between layers of parchment, wrap in plastic, and freeze for up to 3 months.

Yields 24-34 macaroons

 

 

 

Nutty Vegan Brownie Delux

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2014-03-20 12.45.04

Although I am not a vegan nor anywhere close to embracing veganism, I have recently developed an appreciation towards vegan treats (mainly soy-free). I have been cutting back on my consumption of eggs due to the latest health scare. They are also easier to make and the ingredients are more accessible. Vegan or not, I am always open to a healthier and less caloric alternative. This isn’t your regular brownie recipe. Well, most vegan brownie recipes are not usually ordinary. I’ve seen vegan brownie recipes with kale, squash, etc. I’ve seen people use black beans for a gluten-free option. I contemplated this idea but since I’ve been using black beans as baking marbles on numerous occasions, I felt it was best to freeze the idea for the time being.If you have a gluten allergy or intolerance of some kind, the black bean option is at your disposal.  Although these are not gourmet brownies, the flavor and gooey texture is just as such. I almost neglected to mention that not only are these brownies soy-free but they are sugar-free as well.

Having your cake and eating it too is not a phrase I throw around lightly. Growing up using a regular brownie recipe, I have become accustomed to  dense, fudgy and soft brownies; not light, cakey and dry. Then why is emulating a traditional brownie recipe that simply consists of a few simple ingredients so difficult? It’s mainly due to the egg, which emulsifies, binds, slightly leavens then bakes up as part of the actual base of the brownie itself. Emulating this takes an expedition deep into the innards of brownie science.  It took me a number years of practice coupled with some failures to successfully perfect the brownie.  This vegan brownie recipe was a cinch to make. I used peanut butter, flaxseed meal with water,  almond spread, honey, vanilla extract, salt, spelt flour, apple cider vinegar,  and carob powder. I didn’t use these ingredients in that particular order but you get my point.

The process consists of  a luxurious batter that comes together in the bowl of your food processor. That’s right. No hand labor is required for this recipe.  Just dump and whirl. Let your food processor do all the hard work for you. It’s as easy as it gets. However, I strongly suggest that you don’t over mix your batter or you will get tough brownies; not the gooey dense texture that we all love. These indulgent, fudgy  vegan nutty brownies with a rich peanut butter flavor guarantee satisfaction. They are just pure, healthy decadence at its finest. They can be gourmet brownies without the excess amount of sugar, oil, butter, and eggs. Healthy treats are just as enjoyable and each bite of the brownies say a mouthful.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1  3/4 cup of spelt flour or oat flour (you can use the same amount of rinsed and drained canned black beans for a gluten-free option).
  2. 2 tablespoons of flaxseed meal resting in 5 tablespoons of water
  3. 1/3 cup of carob powder (you can use unsweetened cocoa powder instead)
  4. 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
  5. 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  6. 1/2 cup of pure honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar
  7. 1/2 cup of unsalted natural peanut butter
  8. 2 tablespoons of almond butter (you can use other nut butters of your choice)
  9. 1/8 cup of apple cider vinegar
  10. 200 grams of dairy-free bittersweet chocolate squares broken into bits

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F . Lightly grease an 8×8 baking pan. Once the flaxseed meal has rested for 5 minutes, place all ingredients except for chocolate chunks in a food processor. Pulse for a few minutes. Scrape down sides as needed. If the batter is too thick, slowly drizzle in some water. Fold in chocolate chunks. Transfer mixture to a baking pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven or until the top is no longer shiny. Let  the brownies cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into squares.

Yields 16 brownie squares