Thursday, July 5, 2018

Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce

So when my husband asked me to make Enchiladas for the first time I must admit that I was ....
reluctant to say the least - I like them at the restaurant but I couldn't imagine how much work they would take. I remember my mom making them for us a kids and they were good but they definitely didn't become a staple at home. With this recipe that I tried they have now become a staple in the house and they are a great, easy go-to week night meal. They can be made the easy way or more complicated. For us the more complicated version means making the tortillas at home using our tortilla press. I usually make a double batch of the red sauce and the second container usually finds a home with someone or I freeze it for next time!

If you manage your time properly and start the sauce and then cook the filling while the sauce is reducing this recipe takes about 1 hour total (including cooking, preparing, baking, and waiting).

Enchilada Red Sauce

2 tbsp avocado oil (I usually use vegetable oil or a avocado/veggie hybrid oil)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour (I have used GF flour before as well)
2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp dried oregano
2 cups chicken stock

  1. Heat oil in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk together over the heat for one minute.
  2. Stir in the remaining seasoning and stir for another minute or so.
  3. Gradually add the stock, whisking constantly to remove the lumps and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until thickened slightly.
I consider this sauce to be mild enough for me (I usually like spice at level 3 on a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being the hottest - yes I am a wimp!)

Chicken Enchiladas

2 tbsp avocado oil (or vegetable oil)
1 small white onion, peeled and diced
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into small 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
1  x 4 ounce can died green chiles
1 x 15.5 ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained
8 Large tortillas (I use a corn tortilla usually as there is a Smart Fiest one we love)
3 cups shredded cheese (Mexican blend or cheddar cheese)
1 batch of the red enchilada sauce
Topping: cilantro and/or cilantro lime crema

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large sauté pan,  head oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add diced chicken and green chiles (I usually only use 1/2 a can). Season with salt and pepper - I sometimes also sprinkle a little oregano and cumin on the chicken as well. Saute for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally until the chicken is cooked through.
  3. Remove from heat - at this point I chop up the chicken mixture even more finely but this is a preference only.
  4. Prepare a 9 x 13 inch baking dish - spray with cooking spray (please trust me this is a MUST) I often place a good spoonful or two of sauce on the bottom.
  5. To assemble use an assembly line:
    1. Tortilla
    2. Enchilada sauce
    3. beans
    4. chicken
    5. cheese
  6. Lay out the tortilla, spread two tablespoons of sauce over the surface of the tortilla, add the beans in a line down the middle, add a spoonful of the chicken mixture (I've learned to divide it roughly in the pan) sprinkle with cheese, roll up and place in the baking dish with the seem down and then repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  7. Spread the remaining sauce and cheese on the top (at this point I usually end up shredding extra cheese)
  8. Bake for 20 minutes and then serve immediately.

Cilantro Lime Cream

Mix the following together:
1 cup sour cream
1 lime - zested and then juiced
1 handful cilantro (about 1/4 cup chopped well)
Salt to taste

this is best made a head and I warn it is highly addictive!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Chickpea, Cumin and Spinach Koftas with Tahini Dressing

So I am going to start with saying that my version or adaptation of these made for a very odd looking end product but putting that aside they were amazing and definitely will be on our list of things to make again. It is also nice as a non-meat meal that left all of us fully stuff.

This recipe comes again from Gordon Ramsay's cookbook "Home Cooking Everything you need to know to make fabulous food" (I would include this book on my must buy list - there are a number of amazing recipes that are easy to make and a definite crowd pleaser even with the fussy eaters!)

Mine ended up with a totally green blob like appearance because I pureed everything for the husband and his texture issues in food. The only picture I have also is from the next day at work when we were sharing the left overs they were that good!

Note: this was not a difficult weeknight recipe to make; however, it does have a 1 hour chill time during the recipe so I would probably make one night and then cook another night - once they are cooked they don't hang around long!

Chickpea, Cumin and Spinach Koftas with Tahini Dressing


8 ounces spinach (I used 1 package frozen spinach)
Olive Oil
1 tbsp. cumin seeds
2 x 14 ounce cans chickpeas, drained
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. chickpea (gram) flour, plus extra for dusting)


1/2 cup plain yogurt
1-2 tbsp. tahini paste, to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive Oil (optional)

  1. Wash the spinach, then place in a medium-hot oiled pan and stir until wilted. Drain thoroughly, squeezing out any excess water, then finely chopped. (Here I just used 1 package of chopped frozen spinach and squeezed out all of the excess water using cheese cloth).
  2. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry hot pan for about 1 minute until aromatic and golden, then grind in a mortar with a pestle.
  3. Place the chickpeas, cumin and spices along with a good pinch of salt and pepper in a blender and blend to a fine paste. (If the mixture looks too dry to hold together, add 2 - 3 tablespoons of water and blend again).(I used a vitamix for this part because we don't own a blender and it didn't work very well - the next time I would try a food processor instead).
  4. Add the spinach, sprinkle in the flour and mix well to combine (I processed the spinach because the husband has texture issues).
  5. Dust your hands with flour, then take a tablespoon of the mixture and mold it into an egg shape. (I did this with a cook scoop but it didn't work well next time I would use just a regular spoon). Repeat until all of the mixture has been used, then place on a plate or baking sheet dusted with flour. Chill for at least 1 hour until you are ready to cook.
  6. For the dressing - combine all of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste. Ad a little olive oil if you want a looser consistency. I found that this was better to sit overnight so I would actually make this first before making the koftas.
  7. Preheat the oven to 250F.
  8. Heat some oil in a pan and pan-fry the koftas in batches over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown on all sides and hot all the way through. Drain after frying, and keep them warm in the oven.
  9. Serve the koftas warm with the dressing on the side.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Chicken Parmesan Balls an amazing Alton Brown creation

So I don't know how many times I have heard/read/seen the advice that you really must read through an entire recipe before you start cooking.

The foreword of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" 50th Anniversary edition has some words of advice that I would like to copy here again just in case you need another reminder:

Our years of teaching cookery have impressed upon us the fact that all too often a debutant cook will start in enthusiastically on a new dish without every reading the recipe first. Suddenly an ingredient, or a process, or a time sequence will turn up, and there is astonishment, frustration, and even disaster We therefore urge you, however much you have cooked, always to read the recipe first, even if the dish is familiar to you. Visualize each step so you will know exactly what techniques, ingredients, time, and equipment are required and you will encounter no surprises. Recipe language is always a sort of shorthand in which a lot of information is packed, and you will have to read carefully if you are not to miss small but important points. Then, to build up your over-all knowledge of cooking, compare the recipe mentally to others you are familiar with, and note where one recipe or technique fits into the large picture of the theme and variations. (pg xxvi)
Well those who have had the opportunity to see my cookbooks know that I often read them like a novel when I get them. I sit and study which recipes I may want to try and mark them with post it notes along the top of the book and make note of them in my notebook (I try not always good on this point). I have mentioned that I have a rule that I need to have at least 1 recipe per dollar I spend on a book - so if a cookbook costs $10 I must have 10 recipes I want to try. I even make notes directly in a cookbook about the steps, ingredients that go together for each steps. What's the point?

This cooking expedition is a real reminder that this holds true no matter how simple the recipe is and no matter how familiar you think you are. I missed a step  but at the end of the day the recipe was still amazing despite the imperfections in my technique!  The recipe was straight forward and honestly we enjoyed it more than a traditional chicken parmesan.

Oh and I happened to stumble across AB's page in which he has clarifications about some of the recipes in his Everyday Cook book (click the link for the book on amazon). Find them here: Everyday Cook Corrections and Clarifications. Just now that this recipe is (a) Game changer (b) easy weeknight meal that the Monkey helped out with!

Chicken Parmesan Balls

3 ounces panko bread crumbs (divided 1/2 ounce and 2 1/2 ounces)
4 ounces parmesan cheese, grated (divided 1 ounce and 3 ounces)
1 1/2 lbs ground chicken
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. herb oil (another AB recipe could also just Olive Oil)
1 tbsp dried basil
2 tsp garlic power
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
Spaghetti sauce (the original recipe uses an AB sauce - I used 1 can or about 2 1/2 cups)
4 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese, grated

  1. Heat the oven to 400F
  2. Mix together 1/2 ounce of the panko with 1 ounce of the parmesan in a small bowl and set aside. (note: this is where I messed up this is for rolling the balls in before frying).
  3. Combine the chicken, egg, 1 tbsp. of the herb oil, the remaining 2 1/2 ounces panko, the remaining 3 ounces parmesan, the basil, garlic powder, parsley, oregano and salt in a large bowl. Using your hands, gently combine until just incorporated, trying not to overwork the meat.
  4. Divide the meatball mixture into 28 golf ball-size rounds (1 ounce each) (now - you can weigh out the mixture or use a cookie scoop - I used the scoop then rolled them). Roll the balls in the panko mixture (I missed this part of the step entirely).
  5. Heath the remaining 1 tablespoon herb oil over medium heat in a 12-inch oven-safe skillet. Brown the meatballs in the herb oil, about 30 seconds on each side, working in batches if needed to avoid crowding the pan. Remove the browned meatballs from the pan (if using AB's weeknight spaghetti sauce make it - or do like me an open the can)
  6. Cover the meatballs with the sauce, cover with the grated mozzarella and bake until the meatballs are cooked through about 10 minutes, and the cheese is melted. Serve over cooked pasta or on top of crispy bread. (Frankly - the 4 ounces of mozzarella was not enough cheese for us so we used more and because I still had that panko and parmesan set aside from earlier I just put them on top of the cheese for a crusty top.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Cardamom-Spiced Custard with Chai Syrup

So anyone who knows me by this point knows that I love cooking shows of all varieties - Top Chef; Masterchef (Canadian and US versions of both); Good Eats; Cut Throat Kitchen; Hells Kitchen. I also would love to be on one or anyone of these shows - particularly Masterchef Canada. So I watch the show and see how I could do in similar situations and also to push myself to try and learn new things.

So another MasterChef Canada like adventure. They had a recent episode where the contestants had to make a crème brulee with a caramel cage during a pressure test. Crème Brulee has been on my list of things to make for a long time. However, just haven't had a chance. Ultimately, then with the husband was diagnosed with diabetes it makes it more difficult to make certain desserts because of the sugar content. Then in what I would guess is a sponsored post one of the judges Claudio share a recipe for making a crème brulee style dessert that used Splenda. Now, I know that some people have issue with using artificial sweeteners; however, with diabetes a real concern and trying to find a way to enjoy the same or similar kind of desserts I use them. 

Now, I also wanted to try the other part of this challenge of making the caramel cages - so I used Google to find some videos on making the caramel and voila - I managed to achieve a pretty amazing result. That being said while I enjoyed the dessert I was not a fan of the Chair Syrup.  I think I will try a different variation of this the next time and I have a goal of trying a crème brulee in the sous vide.

Cardamom-Spiced Custard with Chai Syrup

3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
2 eggs
1 yolk
2 Tbsp SPLENDA® Stevia No Calorie Sweetener, for bottom of ramekins
1 Tbsp SPLENDA® Stevia No Calorie Sweetener, for custard mix
2 Tbsp + 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 salt
Chai Syrup
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp SPLENDA® Stevia No Calorie Sweetener
1/4 tsp each ground cinnamon, cardamom, clove, anise
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. In a small saucepan over medium high heat, melt 2 Tbsp SPLENDA® Stevia No Calorie Sweetener with 2 Tbsp vanilla. When bubbles begin to form on surface, set a timer and let boil for 1 min. Divide evenly among ramekins and let cool. Caramel should harden as it cools. Scald milk and cream in a sauce pot. Add 1 Tbsp SPLENDA® Stevia No Calorie Sweetener, remaining 1/2 tsp vanilla, cardamom, and salt. In a mixing bowl whisk eggs and yolk, then strain through a fine sieve. While whisking constantly, very slowly add the egg mixture to the scalded milk
  2. Divide mixture evenly into ramekins. Put ramekins in a Bain Marie with boiling water halfway up the side. (a 9x13 baking pan works great for this). Bake for about 18 minutes, or until middle is jiggly but set.
  3. Remove from Bain Marie and let rest out of the water on counter for 30 minutes. Do not refrigerate as it will cause the caramel to harden. Run sharp knife around the edge of custards. Place plate on top of ramekin, invert and turn out onto plate and serve immediately.
  4. To make the Chai Syrup: In small saucepan, stir together water and SPLENDA® Stevia No Calorie Sweetener over medium heat until fully dissolved. Stir in spices and let cool. Then pour as much as desired on top of custard before eating.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Golden Chicken with Potatoes and Chickpeas - more tagine adventures!

More experimenting with the Tagine. I like the idea because most of the recipes that I have used or I have tried require very little effort or preparation work and they cook for longer periods of time without much attention required which means they are perfect for after a long day at work. I can come home and put the few but amazing ingredients together then sit and relax for a while supper cooks and we still end up with an amazing supper that was home cooked without a lot of effort.

This recipe was a particular hit because it had a potatoes in it which made it a full meal.  The only down side was that we did not have any pitas or like bread to eat with the meal so we used toasted bread. But this meal is one that does require something to soak up the amazing sauce with! The left over chicken breast also made a very good and amazing chicken salad sandwich the next day.

Note that many of the tagine recipes I am cooking called for either avocado or Olive Oil and I have used an avocado blended mix because pure avocado oil was not in my budget.

Golden chicken with Potatoes and Chickpeas

Designed for Medium or large
Makes 4 to 6 servings

3 tbsp melted butter
20 strands saffron
1 tbsp ground turmeric
3 tbsp avocado or olive oil
2 onions, cut into quarters (I only used 1 because of my tagine size)
4 to 6 skinless boneless chicken breasts (I only used 3 because of tagine size)
1 cup chicken broth
1 piece approx. 2" cinnamon stick
1 can - 14 oz chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 chopped flat-left parsley

  1. In a bowl combine the melted butter, saffron and turmeric. Set aside.
  2. In the bottom of the tagine heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and potatoes cook while stirring for 5 minutes.
  3. Add spice mixture, chicken sliding around and moving the onions away to brown the chicken - I made sure that the chicken made contact with the bottom and side of the tagine to improve browning. Cook for about 5 minutes or until chicken is browned.
  4. Using tongs, turn chicken over, add broth and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil. Cover with tagine lid, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring once, for 25 minutes.
  5. Stir in the chickpeas and parsley. Replace lid and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until chickpeas are heated through and chicken is no longer pink inside. Discard cinnamon stick prior to serving.