Thursday, January 28, 2010

Week 4: Red Chile Chicken with Black Beans and Rice

This recipe? Big win. Tasty, the kids ate it without complaint (although the bigger one did insist on putting soy sauce on it, the weirdo), and best of all, the main part is all cooked in one pot and can be put together fairly quickly. A definite keeper!

This, like with last week, is from Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday. First I made his chipotle salsa. It's supposed to be made with tomatillos, but good luck finding those in Ontario in the dead of winter.

A couple of roma tomatoes and 3 peeled garlic cloves, all in a hot frying pan on top of some tinfoil (for easier clean up). Pan roast until the tomatoes and garlic are nice and soft and hopefully at least a little bit caramelized.

Flipped over to do the other side.

Dump it all into a food processor with 2 chipotle chiles. In retrospect one would have been plenty for my taste; this came out pretty spicey, although super tasty!

Blended up and left to sit for a while. The flavours blend more the longer you let it sit.

The main dish! Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and a tablespoon of chile powder, preferably ancho chile powder. Pan sear until cooked:

Mmmmmm. Smells good. Take out the cooked chicken, add some more oil if you need it, and add diced onion and once cup of rice.

Stir the rice and onion in the oil until the rice starts to turn opaque. Add four minced cloves of garlic (one thing I love about Bayless is the he seems to feel the same way about garlic as I do! Lots is always good!) and a tablespoon of chile powder. Stir for a minute until it gets nice and fragrent. Add 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and let simmer for 10 minutes. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and add them to the pot, along with one can of black beans (drained and rinsed). Recover and cook another 12 minutes.

Taste the rice; if not done yet continue cooking. Otherwise, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Mix it all up, serve with the salsa, and enjoy!

Recipe can be found here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Little Wooden People!

I've made a few more of these little people rolls, with more on the way!

I've decided to just go with the larger people, I like the sizing on them better than the tiny little babies and boys and girls.

Each set has three 'men' and three 'women'.
I'm also playing around with different outer fabrics!

These will be up in the store soon.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Week 3: Red Chili Enchiladas with Turkey and Melted Cheese

I'm not sure words can even express how delicious this was. I was planning to make fajitas or quesadillas or something later this week with the leftover chicken from tonight's roast chicken dinner, but now I'm thinking I might have to whip up another batch of these enchiladas instead. Possibly tomorrow.

SO delicious.

The recipe is from Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday, a cookbook I always intend to cook more from and then run into problems getting ingredients. Fortunately, there's now a Latin food store in downtown Milton that stocks things like the essential dried peppers. I expect over the year quite a few Bayless recipes will be making an appearance in this series.

Start with 1 ounce of dried guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded & torn into flat pieces:

Toast the pieces in a dry hot frying pan, about 10 seconds per side, just until they get fragrent - too long and they might burn, and you don't want that.

Then, pull out the FOOD PROCESSOR your darling husband surprised you with:

Isn't it pretty? I just love KitchenAid. It's powerful and surprisingly quiet, and I never would have tackled this recipe without it.

Put the chiles in the processor along with 2 cloves of peeled garlic, 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes with their juice, 1/4 tsp ground cumin, and 1/4 tsp ground pepper. Blend that up very thoroughly.

The can of tomatoes I used was actually too small (damn grocery store shrinkage), so I wound up with less sauce, which is important later. Next time I will make sure to use the full 28 ounces.

In a large saucepan, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Put a mesh strainer over the pot, and dump the blended sauce into the strainer. Press through so the sauce hits the hot oil. This took a fair amount of work to get the liquid through (while leaving the solids in the strainer); I actually found it useful to mix in a couple of tablespoons of water as I was forcing the sauce through the strainer.

Cook the sauce until it reaches the consistency of tomato paste (Bayless says 5-7 minutes; possibly because of the added water it was more like 10-15). Pour in 2 cups of chicken broth, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and season with 1/2 tsp of sugar and salt to taste (I used about a half teaspoon).

This tastes so incredible. Nothing like canned enchilada sauce, it's a whole different world. It's sweet and smokey with just a hint of heat. Major flavour.

Warm a dozen corn tortillas (Bayless has a complicated method for this - I just sprinkled them with water and stuck the stack in the microwave for 20 seconds, then wrapped in a tea towel). You could do this with flour tortillas instead of corn, although in this dish I think the corn really works nicely (and I say that as someone who spent months perfecting homemade corn tortillas before finally coming to the conclusion that I don't really LIKE corn tortillas. But in this recipe they work well).

Spread a half cup of the sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. I'm using a small dish here because I had less sauce than I should have and decided to only make 9 enchiladas rather than 12.

Take 2 cups of shredded cooked chicken (I used turkey instead, because I got a cheap turkey breast when I went shopping) and toss with another 1/2 cup of the sauce.

Fill each tortilla with the chicken (or turkey!) mixture, roll, and place seam side down in the baking dish.

Sprinkle with 1 cup (or more!) of cheese, and top with the remaining sauce.

Bake for 10-15 minutes in a 350 oven, until warmed through and the cheese has melted.

Seriously, SO GOOD. Next time I'll make a double batch.

(someone else has typed out the full recipe, you can find it here. also her blog is just very cool.)

I'm probably going to try some variations on the enchilada sauce, like making it with chipotle peppers or ancho peppers instead of the gaujillos. I bet the chipotles in particular would be amazing.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bean Bags #1

Daughter #1 came home from school very enthused with bean bags the other day. Apparently they played with them in gym class. I asked if she'd like me to make some, she said YES, and these are the result. Not fancy, just 7" cotton squares turned and topstitched and filled with some Romano beans I bought by accident (I thought they were pinto beans). They were a hit this morning, especially with the baby, who is now at that age where putting things into things and then taking them out is jolly good fun. A bucket and a couple of bean bags and she was in baby heaven.

So these aren't that exciting, but making them has given me some ideas, which will be showing up here and probably in the store soon. For one thing there's the issue of washability, and for another I don't really like the feel of the beans in these bags, they're really too big. Rice would have a better feel to it, I think. Plus then they'd double up nicely as microwavable heating pads!

At any rate, I think my motivation is back! I'm gradually restocking the store and I have ideas to mull over and play with. All is right in my creative world again.

Now, I just have to find a recipe to try this week!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Party time?

I had my 200th Etsy sale today! Go me!

New sewing stuff coming tomorrow, I hope. Need to drag my lazy butt off this couch first.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Week 2: Falafel and Pita

So, not the greatest picture, you really can't see the deliciousness here. This is a homemade pita bread filled with 'falafel' (sort of) and topped with tzatziki (which I cannot spell, ever) and fresh tomatoes. Really, really good.

I don't know what possessed me to try making pita. On the one hand, dear god, if you've never had a fresh home made pita, you are SO missing out. Those cardboard rounds they sell at the grocery store are basically an entirely different food. So, yay for home made pita!

On the other hand, I can't stop eating them. This is the same problem I have with all bread, actually - home made is just so much better you find yourself polishing off a half a loaf in one sitting. You don't do that with store bread!

Still, I'm not sure I can go back to store pita. Now that I know what I'd be missing...

Pita bread is essentially made like most other breads, just baked a little differently. After some experimentation and reading a ton of different variations on pita recipes, I've settled on what seems to work pretty well for me:

1 cup white flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup hot water

Mix together.

Add, a half cup at a time, 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour and mix until it hangs together as a dough, then knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.

I use my kitchenaid. I love my KA. I wouldn't make bread if I didn't have it to do the kneading for me.

The finished, kneaded dough. It will be a bit sticky, which is good - for pita you want a slightly sticky dough.

Dump the dough into an oiled boil, flip it over to oil the whole thing, then cover with a clean tea towel and put somewhere warm to rise for about 90 minutes (if using all white flour, I only rise an hour, but I find the whole wheat needs a little longer). I like to proof my dough in the oven, since you are pretty much guaranteed no drafts. I just turn it on for about 3 minutes to warm up the interior a bit, stick the dough in, and go on with my day.

Although that does mean you have to NOT plan to use your oven! There have been incidents in the past...

The dough after rising. I could probably even have left it longer. Bread is really very forgiving, so I don't get too hung up on exact times.

Punch down, shape into a rough circle, and cut into 8 pieces. If you want to be SUPER picky, you can weigh the dough and figure out how much each piece should weight so they'll all be identical, but I just don't care that much.

Shape each piece into a rough ball (I could have done a better job of this part) and let rise a half hour or so.

Lookit those! The dough becomes delightfully soft and workable after this rise.

Roll each piece out into a nice circle, 6-8" wide. Or so. I didn't measure. I'm guessing. Fairly thin, anyway. After rolling them out, start preheating your oven (this way the rolled out rounds get a little rest before baking) to very very very very hot. Around 500 or so. On the lowest rack, stick a pizza stone or piece of stoneware or something so it gets nice and hot too.

Once the oven is hot, take out the stone, slap a couple of the rounds on top, slide in, and bake for 3 minutes. They should within a minute or so start getting all puffy, forming the pita pocket:

(I am so not competent with a rolling pin, in case that's not obvious already. Those are some weirdly mishapen pitas. Fortunately, they still taste awesome!).

After three minutes remove the pitas, and wrap them up in a tea towel (the steam will help keep the pitas nice and soft and pliable), then repeat with the remaining rounds.

Try not to eat them all at once, OK? You do want to get them into a storage bag fairly quickly so they stay nice and soft.

OK, so having figured out the pita thing, what to put in them? My lunch today involved stuffing a pita with a mixture of crumbled bacon, diced tomato, sliced avacado, and mayonaise, and hot damn, that was tasty. I wish I'd made two, I'd eat another one RIGHT NOW. Ahem.

But for this post, I wanted to try something involving chickpeas, and since I really like falafel, I decided to make falafel-esque patties, only in a nod towards not having a heart attack any time soon, I grilled them instead of deep frying them.

1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed:

Mashed up:

Add in:

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 parsley
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp red pepper (didn't have any, just used regular ground pepper)

Process until smooth:
Taste, adjust seasonings (ie you might want to add salt - i didn't because the canned chickpeas were plenty salty enough to start with).

Stir in 2 tablespoons of flour:

Form into patties, fairly thin, let stand for 15 minutes.

Here is where you would deep fry them, but I don't really do the deep frying thing (good lord, the mess!), so I pan fried them on my griddle. I did butter the griddle up a bit, but basically I just cooked them about 4-5 minutes a side until they were nice and brown and hot:

Not to bad! Not the same as a real falafel, of course, but good enough for an easy and cheap lunch or dinner.

mmmmmmmm. Home made pita, topped with tzatziki and falafel and tomato. A little hummus on this wouldn't have been amiss, either.

the tzatziki recipe was a total disaster, since it left out two key steps, and also I forgot to photograph it. Still tasted pretty good, though. Recipe (with the missing steps included!) is below.

I'm thinking I might be experimenting a lot with different things to stuff in pitas over the next few weeks...

Pita Bread

Mix together:

1 cup white flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup hot water

Gradually add in 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour. Knead dough 10 minutes until smooth and elastic (will probably be slightly sticky). Let rise 90 minutes. Punch down, divide into 8 pieces, form into balls, let rise 30 minutes. Roll each piece into a disc. Heat oven to 500 degrees with a stone on the bottom rack. Bake each round for 3 minutes, and wrap the finished pitas in a tea towel until ready to use or store.


1 can chick peas, drained, rinshed, and mashed.

Mix in:

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 parsley
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp red pepper

Process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Mix in 2 tbsp flour, form into patties, and fry until brown and hot.


1 cup plain yogurt, drained
1 cucumber, peeled, chopped, seeded and drained (put chopped cucumber in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and let sit for 20 minutes to drain)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 clove garlic, peeled

Put everything except the yogurt into a food processor and process until smooth (or, put into a large bowl and use a hand/stick blender to process). Mix in yogurt. Cover and refrigerate one hour for best flavour.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Where'd my motivation wander off to?

Man, I am so tired in the evenings, I'm not accomplishing much sewing. Hopefully once the term gets into full swing I'll feel more like sewing!

I did make this up:

It's in the store. Hopefully lots more to come!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Week 1: Mushroom Lentil Burgers

For the first recipe of the 52R project, I chose Mushroom Lentil Burgers from The Complete Canadian Living Cookbook. I like this book because the ingredients and sizes are suited to the Canadian kitchen, like giving can measurements in milliliters and sizes that are actually available here. And I've always had very good luck with their recipes.

Some of the ingredients. My camera was being annoying and having trouble focusing; I hope to improve the photos through the year.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tsp of vegetable oil over medium heat. Add one medium onion, finely chopped, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes or until soft. (I added a couple of cloves of crushed garlic, which weren't in the original recipe, because I always add garlic). Add 1 cup finely chopped mushrooms and 1/2 tsp thyme (I used Italian seasoning because I was out of thyme); cook, stirring, for another 4 minutes or until just starting to brown. Let cool slightly.

The mushroom onion mixture. I added probably more like 1 1/2 cups of mushrooms, rather than the called for one cup, and I still didn't think the end results were mushroom-y enough.

In a bowl, coarsely mash 1 can (19 oz/540ml) of drained and rinsed lentils. In future versions I will cook my own lentils rather than using canned.

note the unmashed lentils. Forgot that step until after I'd added the next ingredient (1/2 cup oats). I mashed them at this point, but probably not quite enough. Actually, I wish I had a food processor, I think I would have pureed the lentils, which would possibly give a smoother texture to the 'burger'.

In addition to the oats, stir in the mushroom mixture, 3 tbsp Parmesan cheese, 2 tblsp chopped pine nuts or pecans, and 1/4 tsp pepper. I couldn't find pine nuts when I went grocery shopping (what's up with that?), and I don't really like pecans, so I substituted cashews because I love cashews.

Once it's all mixed together, shape into four patties. You can then refrigerate on some waxed paper if you want to cook them later.

I tasted the mixture at this point, pretty good.
The formed burgers.
Cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown.

Looking good!

Serve on a bun with toppings of your choice.
I used some thinly sliced cheddar cheese, fresh avocado, fresh homemade salsa, and some chipotle hot sauce.

Verdict: Excellent. A definite keeper recipe. I'm usually not a fan of burger substitute recipes because they just make me want a real burger, but mushroom based substitutes are the exception, since I love mushrooms to a perhaps unreasonable degree.

For future versions, I'm going to increase the mushrooms to more like 2 cups and probably try and use a smaller onion, I thought the onion taste was a bit strong, especially with the onions in the fresh salsa on top of that. And I want to try this with the lentils more pureed. But really, very good, nice mushroom flavour, and a very satisfying and filling sandwich.

The baby also really liked it! The four year old was unimpressed, and since my husband doesn't like mushrooms, I made him something different which I will put in a future 52R post.

Recipe: Mushroom Lentil Burgers

1 tsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms (I used more like 1 1/2)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 can (19 oz/540 ml) lentils, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup oats
3 tbsp parmesan
2 tbsp chopped pine nuts or pecans (I used cashews)
1/4 tsp pepper

1. In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat; cook onion until soft, about 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and thyme, cook another 4 minutes or until just starting to brown. Let cool slightly.

2. In bowl, coarsely mash lentils; stir in mushroom mixture, oats, cheese, pine nuts, and pepper. Shape into four 3/4" thick patties.

3. In same skillet or on greased grill over medium heat, cook patties for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Serve on buns with toppings of your choice.