Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hot Apple Cider Toddy

This is my favorite holiday drink. We've been making it for years, so I can't believe I never posted the recipe. You can barely taste the rum thanks to apple cider, sweet maple syrup and plenty of cinnamon. You don't need actual apples for this drink--I just thought they made a nice picture. The drink itself isn't all that photogenic.

This year, Musselman's sent me their cider to review, so that is what I used. You can find unfiltered apple cider in the produce section of most supermarkets. Regular apple juice will not get the job done. I could easily drink this cider by itself, but with rum and that hit of lemon (it's not the same without the lemon), it's extra festive.

Hot Apple Cider Toddy

Makes 1 drink

1 1/2 oz dark rum
6 oz (3/4) cup apple cider
Ground cinnamon to taste
Maple syrup to taste (a teaspoon or 2)
1 to 2 fat lemon wedges

Pour rum into a large mug. In a small saucepan, warm cider over medium heat (do not boil). Season to taste with cinnamon and maple syrup. Squeeze in the juice of one lemon wedge, and add more if desired. Pour into mug and serve.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chicken Posole with Tomatillos

This is a really easy and quick posole, but it's also packed with flavor. If you've never eaten it, posole is a soup with shredded chicken or pork, hominy and lots of Mexican flavors, like oregano, chiles, cilantro and lime. I like to add chopped fresh tomatillos to mine. They have a mild flavor that's crisp and clean--a cross between celery and a green tomato with a hit of lime. That's my best description. Plus, they contribute a vegetable component to the soup.

This is perfect for leftover roast chicken. Whenever I make roast chicken lately, I've started roasting two birds. It is truly no extra work, and the leftovers are awesome! Of course, if you never have leftover chicken laying around, you have other options...see the recipe head note!

Chicken Posole
You can poach some chicken breasts if you don't have leftover meat, or just use the meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Turkey and pork also work well. Don't skip the extras--I especially love the sliced radish.

Serves 4 generously

1 Tbs canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground allspice
Chile flakes to taste
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups reduced sodium chicken broth (or use up to 2 cups water to replace some of the broth)
8 tomatillos, cut into quarters or sixths
28 can hominy, rinsed and drained
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped into bite-size pieces
Juice of 1 lime
For serving: thinly sliced radish, lime wedges, chopped cilantro, crumbled feta or cotija cheese

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, salt and pepper to taste, oregano, cumin and allspice, and cook until tender and lightly browned. Add chile flakes and garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Add broth (or broth and water) and bring to a boil. Add tomatillos and simmer until tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Add hominy and chicken and simmer just until heated through. Turn off heat and stir in lime juice. Check seasoning and adjust as necessary (you may opt to add more cumin or allspice as well as salt and pepper). Serve with suggested accompaniments.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Savory Fresh Fig Sauce

This is such a simple little thing, but I had to get it up on the blog because we liked it so much. It's an easy fig sauce that I whipped up to go with roast duck awhile back. Unlike a lot of figgy things, it is mostly savory and would also taste great with roast pork or turkey.

Sadly, figs seems to be out of season is always too short! But I since I use this blog as my personal recipe journal for keeping track of things I want to make again, here it is. It takes no time to put together and served as a tasty alternative to gravy. It has butter for richness and texture, but the sauce is mostly figs and red wine. As I think about this, I don't see why you couldn't do the same thing with other fruits. Maybe frozen berries or pears, but the cooking time will vary depending on what you use. And now, here's a picture of our lovely duck:

And served with fig sauce:

Wine and fresh fig sauce with thyme
The natural pectin in the figs thickens this sauce.

Melt 1/2 Tbs unsalted butter in a small saucepan on medium-low heat. Add shallot, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender. Add 1/2 cup red wine and bring to a simmer. Add 5 to 6 finely chopped fresh figs and simmer until sauce begins to thicken and wine reduces by half. Add 2 Tbs chicken broth and continue simmering until sauce is desired consistency. Add fresh thyme to taste. Reduce heat to lowest setting and stir in a sliver of butter (about 1 tsp). Taste and add salt if needed. Serve right away.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Frittata Bites with Spinach and Sun-dried Tomatoes

These little bites are a perfect appetizer: they're not too filling, you can prep them ahead of time, and you can serve them hot or at room temperature. I think they're especially cute for holiday parties because of the flecks of red and green.

I came up with this recipe a while ago, but I thought about it recently when Bella Sun Luci sent me some of their sun-dried tomatoes to try. Along with caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes are one of my absolute favorite ways to instantly add a lot of flavor to many, many things. I use them all the time in sandwiches, on pizza, in salads, and in pasta and grain dishes. They're sweet, but they've also got that deeply savory umami factor that makes certain foods irresistible.

I liked the Bella Sun Luci tomatoes (lots of good recipes here on their site, and here's a great collection of sun-dried tomato recipes on Kalyn's Kitchen) as much as the brand I usually buy (Whole Foods 365). They're packed in extra virgin olive oil and they have a very bright, fresh tomato flavor. The ones in the jar were good, but I especially like the non-oil packed ones that come in a resealable bag (like the kind Craisins or other dried fruit are packaged in). They are so moist, unlike other non-oil packed varieties that generally need to be soaked in water to make them edible.

Here are more ideas for using sun-dried tomatoes from the archives:

Morel Mushroom Barley Risotto
Healthy Bell Pepper and Zucchini Gratin
Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade

Frittata Bites with Spinach and Sun-dried Tomatoes
Another reason these are great for a party: you can do everything a couple hours ahead of time and pop them in the oven when guests arrive.

Makes 48 pieces (may be halved easily)

Nonstick cooking spray
1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed
32 oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves, patted dry and finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
12 large eggs
1 cup reduced fat milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat two 24-cup mini muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray.

Place spinach in a colander and press firmly to extract as much water as possible; transfer to a bowl. Add sun-dried tomatoes to spinach and combine. Place one slightly rounded teaspoon spinach mixture and one teaspoon goat cheese in each mini muffin cup.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Using a 1/4-cup measuring scoop or a liquid measuring cup with a spout, fill each mini muffin cup with egg, 1/8-inch from the rim. You can prepare frittatas up to this point and refrigerate for up to 2 hours. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are puffed and edges are golden. Cool in pans 5 minutes; pop out of molds with a spoon and serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

High Protein Banana Pecan Pancakes

I've seen a few recipes recently for healthy pancakes make without flour. I have nothing against carbs or the fiber-rich whole wheat pastry flour that I usually use for pancakes. However, I like that these alternative recipes contain a lot of protein from egg whites and, in the case of this particular recipe, cottage cheese.

I LOVE pancakes, but don't eat them all that often because I'm not always in the mood for the sugar crash that goes with them (don't even suggest that I replace the maple syrup with fresh fruit or sugar-free syrup--that is not an option). So, I liked the idea of a recipe that provides some extra protein to balance things out. Still, I was afraid a healthier pancake would be dry and unsatisfying. In that case, what's the point?

I finally tested them out last weekend, and the results were awesome. I adapted a recipe I saw on Ask Georgie, a fantastic blog written by a registered dietitian who shares all sorts of great recipes as well as her nutrition expertise. I made it a little more complicated by beating half the egg whites and folding them into the batter (which, by the way, comes together in a snap in your blender). These were some of the moistest pancakes I've made in a while, and they had tons of banana flavor. The texture was so light and tender. And for some reason that I can't explain, they were extremely easy to flip...what more could you want?

I don't think these pancakes have any hallmarks of a "diet-friendly" recipe. They're just really good. Since they are also extremely good for you (and lower in calories than most pancakes), it's easy to enjoy them with a side of bacon and definitely maple syrup.

High Protein Banana Pecan Pancakes
Adapted from
I use to beat half of the egg whites and fold them into the batter, but I've found that combining everything in the blender works just as well. And it makes these so quick and easy to whip up on a Sunday morning as soon as I get home from the gym. If you think your batter is too thin, you can add a tablespoon of potato or corn starch. I have done it both with and without the starch, and the batter cooks up either way. I like to sprinkle the pecans on each pancake in the skillet, but you can aslso just  fold them into the batter if you prefer.

Serves 2

1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 large very ripe banana
1 cup quick-cooking oats (80 g)
4 egg whites or 3/4 cup liquid egg white product
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt (scant)
2 packets Splenda or sweetener of choice
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 to 4 Tbs buttermilk or regular milk
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped

In a blender, combine the cottage cheese, banana, oats, egg whites, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, Splenda, vanilla and 2 Tbs of the buttermilk. Puree. If the batter is very thick and resists mixing, add additional buttermilk.

Coat a skillet or griddle with nonstick cooking spray and heat to medium high. For each pancake scoop about 1/4 cup of the batter and sprinkle with some of the chopped pecans. Flip when edges set and bubbles form, cooking 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until pancakes are golden brown, adjusting heat as needed.