Sunday, August 28, 2011

Whole Wheat Crêpes

     Earlier this summer, Allison and I, her friends Yaniv and Grace, and my friend Marina ventured to the Carmel Arts District.  Besides gawking at outrageous artwork with outrageous prices, we popped into a cute little French restaurant called La Mie Emilie for an afternoon "snack".  We ordered croques (jazzed up grilled cheese) and crêpes.  Marina's choice was a Galette Végétarienne - a buckwheat crepe with sautéed tomatoes and onions, Gruyère cheese and an over-easy egg.  While we were munching away, Allison glanced at Marina's dish and asked her what it was.  Marina has a fabulous, wonderful accent and she told her it was a crepe.  However, it came out sounding like "crap".  Then she added, "And it's brown." The look on Allison's face was priceless!  I couldn't help it - I laughed until tears were streaming down my face!  And so did everyone else when I explained to Allison that Marina was eating a crepe and it was brown because it was made of buckwheat flour. 

Marina's Crepe!

Allison's Chcolate Coconut Crepe
 Back at home, my interest in attempting crepes was piqued!  I looked them up in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  She explained that in the average French household, crepes  weren't thought of as something special, but a common way to make use of left overs.  However, her recipes calls for making the batter and letting it sit in the refrigerator for two hours!  Who has time or is organized enough for that! (Not me!)  So, I turned to the May/June edititon of Cook's Illustrated.  In the article "Foolproof Crepes" the author assured me that it wasn't necessary to let the batter sit for an extended period of time before using. Good news for me - crepes can be whipped up anytime!
     Other useful tips given were: preheat the pan for 10 minutes, pour in just enough batter to coat the pan, and flip it by first nudging it underneath with a rubber spatula.

Ready to Flip

Savory Fillings

Last Sunday afternoon, Allison and I had a great time making these and experimenting with different fillings. Our favorites were: tomatoe, thin sliced ham and Gruyere cheese; Nutella with strawberries; and a squirt of lemon with a sprinkling of Splenda. However, the possibilities for different filling combinations are endless. I tried a couple different pans, and found the best one was an inexpensive eight inch "Wolfgang Puck Cafe Collection" omelet pan from Sam's Club.  I sprayed it liberally with cooking spray and then wiped the inside with a cloth each time before pouring in the batter.  To make the crepes healthier, I used whole wheat flour and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.  If you want to use regular white flour, increase the flour in the following recipe to 1 1/2 cups.

Nutella and Strawberries

Whole Wheat Crepe Batter                                              

Lemon and Sprinkle of Splenda

1 cup cold water
1 cup cold milk (I used skim)
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 tablespoons melted butter

Whirl the liquids, eggs and salt in the blender. Then add the flour and butter and blend again.

Grace and Yaniv at La Mie Emilie

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stir Fry - Old School/New School

Old School Stir Fry
 Ingredients for New Style Thai

A couple weeks ago Jenn asked me for our stir fry recipe.  Now that she is living on her own, she wanted something quick and easy.  Stir fry can be really healthy and you can use any suitable veggies you have on hand, but you do have to watch that you don't overload it with oil. I actually use olive oil!  The stir fry recipe that I have used for years came from my 1981 Betty Crocker International Cook Book and that's the one Jenn wanted.  But lately, I have become a bit more adventurous with my stir fries!  Below is the recipe the girls grew up with, but written in red is how I've been jazzing it up.  Certain tastes and flavors just seem to fit together; lime and cilantro, coconut and peanuts, coriander and ginger - they just take plain stir fry to a new level! If you wish to take the Thai twist, the ingredients listed in red are all optional. They all compliment each other, but the most important to me are the lime, coconut milk, cilantro, chili, and coriander.

The Stir Fry You Grew Up With
1. Gather up what ever you have/want in refrigerator to use in the stir fry. Things I use are: onions, celery, carrots, broccoli, cabbage. If you plan ahead you could buy pea pods, mushrooms, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts. Wash, if needed, and slice the veggies up.
2. Wash/slice what ever you are going to use as your meat: chicken, steak, shrimp, pork. (Sometimes I put the meat in a bowl along with 1 egg white, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon soy sauce - but this isn't necessary. It just gives it a bit of a "crust" like you might find in broccoli beef.)
3. Put about 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet, place on medium heat, and add cut up vegetables. Sprinkle in about 1 heaping teaspoon of ginger and 1/2 heaping teaspoon of garlic powder. Cook and stir about 5 minutes until vegetables are still a bit firm/crisp. Add in the juice of one lime and dice up a hot green chili. Substitute 2 teaspoons fresh diced ginger and 2 minced cloves of garlic for the dried stuff. Add 1 teaspoon dried lemon grass or finely chop up a couple stalks of fresh lemongrass. Throw in a small bunch of finely chopped cilantro and 1 teaspoon coriander seeds. 4. Remove the vegetables from the pan, put in a bowl, and cover them up to keep them warm while you cook the meat. (Or just cook the meat at the same time in a separate pan.)
5. Put the meat in the skillet you used to cook the vegetables, and stir fry for about 2 minutes or until chicken is white/ other type of meat looks done. (You may have to add just a bit more oil.)
For Thai, put in 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, and 3 tablespoons soy sauce (I use light soy sauce).
6. Add to the skillet a cup of water and appropriate bouillon cube (beef/chicken) or a cup of canned broth. Cover and simmer for two minutes. Use 1 cup of canned unsweetened coconut milk instead of the broth.
7. If you want a shiny, thicker look to the stir fry you can dissolve 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into 1/4 of a cup of COLD water. Turn the heat up so the broth and meat are boiling, then dump in the cornstarch/water mixture all at once and stir. It should get thick immediately. I skip this for Thai.
8. Add the vegetables back in along with 1 teaspoon of soy sauce (Skip the extra soy sauce for Thai) and for a couple minutes "reheat" the vegetables now mixed with the meat.
9. Serve with additional soy sauce and rice if desired. We use light soy sauce and brown rice. Top with peanuts - yummy!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Jose's Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons - A Special Treat!

Jose, the brother of one of Allison's friends, is an aspiring baker.  As the only boy in a family with five children, he  learned that making delicious treats keeps him in his sisters' good graces.  One of his specialties is coconut macaroons dipped in chocolate.  He picked up the recipe from watching the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network.  They really are divine - toasted crunchy coconut on the outside and sweet chewy yumminess in the middle.  The chocolate takes it over the top and I think we were all in heaven when we sampled them!  We spent a delightful afternoon visiting, making beaded jewelry, and chatting while Jose taught us how to make these chocolate dipped coconut macaroon cookies.

While the oven was preheating at 325 degrees,  Jose mixed together 14 ounces coconut, 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  He set this aside and asked for another mixing bowl.

Then Jose took the whites of two large eggs and added a pinch of salt to them.  With an electric mixer, he beat the egg white mixture until it was stiff, glossy, and clung to the beaters.

Jose then folded the egg whites into the coconut mixture.
We covered a cookie sheet with foil and misted it with cooking spray.  Jose prefers to use parchment paper, but I didn't have any on hand.  Next, Jose used a couple of large soup spoons to mold and drop the macaroons onto the cookie sheet.  The macaroons were placed in the oven and the timer was set for 25 minutes.

Towards the end of the baking time, Jose put 8 ounces of chocolate chips in a bowl.  He microwaved them for about 20 seconds.  The shape of the chips looked intact, but when he stirred them, it was evident that they had started to melt.  He continued to stir them until they became a smooth liquid.  Jose said sometimes it's necessary to microwave the chips a second time before they start to melt, but to be cautious about it!

When the macaroons were done baking, Jose removed them from the cookie sheet and dipped one side of each one in the melted chocolate.

All agreed; they were heavenly!
Thank you Jose!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lake Part II - The Cherry Capital of the World!

Our family lake cottage is nestled among the five major cherry producing counties in northern Michigan.  Each little burg around sells the same coffee mug pictured above naming their village as "The Cherry Capital of the World"!  I got a couple of them in the Elk Rapids pharmacy last year and have really enjoyed using them when at the lake. Besides selling other various articles with cherry motifs, outside each town are stands that sell fresh cherries, pies, and jams.  I bought some dried sour cherries and compared them with a batch Aunt Betsy had made.  Betsy's were so much better!!  So - I wondered if I could make cherry salsa that could be just as good as what was being sold in each town's specialty shops.  To go along with the salsa, I put together some chicken cherry chipotle quesadillas. Allison loved them!  She brought the left overs to work for lunch and said everyone was drooling over the delicious aroma.  To round it out, here is a great kale salad Jenn made with dried cherries.  And last but not least, is my mom's recipe for a three ingredient cheating cherry cobbler - very fast, very yummy, but - in this case -  not very healthy! 

Chicken Cherry Chipotle Quesadillas 
2 cooked, chopped chicken breasts
2 cups of shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup dried cherries
1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced onions
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

8 tortillas
1.  Cover baking sheet with foil, spray w/ cooking oil, place four tortillas on foil

2.  Mix the remaining ingredients and place mixture on top of each of the four tortillas

3.  Place remaining tortillas on top of each of the four others, spray with cooking oil, and bake at 350 for 10 minutes

Cherry Salsa
1 1/3 cherries - pitted, chopped up a bit
1/4 cup coarsely chopped dried cherries                                    
1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped red onions
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Put all ingredients in a pan, bring them to a boil, turn down the heat to low, simmer for about 10 minutes.

                                                Curly Kale Salad with Dried Cherries

1.  Wash a bunch of kale and tear into bite size pieces, discard center stem of each leaf.  Drizzle leaves with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon.  Let this sit for a few minutes or even for several hours in the refrigerator.

2.  Add 1/4 cup dried tart cherries, 1/4 cup of crumbled cheese such as feta, goat, or blue, and 1/4 cup of chopped nuts such as almonds, walnuts, or pecans.  If desired add more lemon and olive oil at a ratio of 1:2

                                                            Lorraine's Cheating Cobbler
For each large can of cherry pie filling you put in a baking dish, top with one box of Jiffy yellow cake mix (dry) and 1 stick of sliced butter.  Bake at 350 for about 50 minutes until brown and bubbly.
(If you can't find a Jiffy cake mix, use 1/2 box of another brand)