Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chicken Chili

One of my closest friends from high school is about to have her first baby, and I couldn't be more excited for her! As Cathy and her husband await the arrival of their little girl (only 10 or so days to go!), I started thinking about what I could do for them once the baby is here. Cathy is a great cook, but I know she's going to be tired and stretched thin as she adjusts to motherhood, so I wanted to help make a couple nights after baby's arrival that much easier.

As I searched for great freezer-friendly recipes, I came across this Chicken Chili on Annie's Eats. It sounded like a nice twist on a classic, and I figured it was a recipe that would suit their tastes well. The weather was decidedly fall-like today, which made it a perfect day to open the kitchen door and put a pot of chili on the stove. I managed to put most of this into Tupperware containers that went straight into the freezer, but not before I tasted a bowl for myself. I had to make sure it was tasty before I gave it away! I think this chili was perfect for freezing, and will make a healthy and comforting meal for the new parents. And the overflow will be great for my lunch tomorrow, too :)

Chicken Chili
From Annie's Eats, originally from Barefoot Contessa Parties by Ina Garten

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
4 cups chopped yellow onion (2-3 onions)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 bell peppers (I used 1 red, 1 green and 1 yellow)
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. dried oregano
1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, finely diced
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 (28 oz.) cans whole peeled tomatoes in puree, not drained
2 (15 oz.) cans beans, drained and rinsed (I used 1 can black and 1 can pinto beans)


Preheat the oven to 375˚ F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the chicken breasts on the foil, and season with salt and pepper. Fold the foil over the chicken breasts to make a “packet”. Roast 30-40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Allow to cool enough to handle, then shred or chop into bite-sized pieces.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions 10-15 minutes, or until tender and translucent. Add the garlic to the pot and sauté just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Mix in the chopped bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, oregano, chipotle, and kosher salt. Cook 5 more minutes.

Place the canned tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse briefly so the tomatoes are cut to large chunks. Add the tomatoes with the puree to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the shredded chicken and the beans, and allow to simmer for another 20 minutes.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Oatmeal Pancakes with Apple Topping

I almost made pumpkin pancakes last weekend, now that it's feeling a little more like fall. But before I defrosted the pumpkin that I roasted a few weeks ago, I remembered another pancake recipe that sounded just as good. My mom and sister were recently raving about oatmeal pancakes, and they sounded like a healthy and filling way to start our lazy Saturday. I didn't have a specific recipe to use, so I searched online and found one with great reviews from Epicurious.

Heading into the kitchen, a quick survey showed that I had all the ingredients (except buttermilk, but it's soooo easy to make you own. Who really keeps a lot of buttermilk around their house?). I got these put together really easily, and sautéed a diced apple to use as topping. The combination of oatmeal pancakes with cinnamon apples and maple syrup was a fancy version of what we would usually make for breakfast, but it was still really easy to pull together. I think mixing apples into the batter would also be great, and I'm thinking about experimenting with a pumpkin-oatmeal version as the weather continues to change. These are a wonderful weekend breakfast, perfect when paired with coffee and a movie to start a lazy Saturday.

Oatmeal Pancakes

3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons well-shaken buttermilk, divided
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

Soak oats in 3/4 cup buttermilk 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl.

Stir egg, butter, brown sugar, remaining 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk, and oat mixture into dry ingredients until just combined.

Heat a griddle over medium heat until hot and lightly brush with oil. Working in batches, pour 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto griddle and cook until bubbles appear on surface and undersides are golden-brown, about 1 minute. Flip with a spatula and cook other side, about 1 minute more. (Lightly oil griddle between batches.)

**Note: I did find the batter to be thinner than I like, so I added about 1/4 cup of extra flour to get the consistency I wanted. I also might add just a little more brown sugar next time, for some extra sweetness**

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mediterranean Lentil Salad

This is a great meal for this time of year, as we savor the last tastes of summer. The air is getting cooler (except in my condo, which is very good at retaining heat!), and I'm starting to crave fall flavors. These lentils are really satisfying, and are good either warm or at room temperature. I got the recipe from Elly's blog, and I only made two slight changes. I used fresh tomatoes, since I'm trying to enjoy them before fall really hits us. I also decided to serve it on a bed of spinach, to make it more of a main dish. I served it with some roasted beets, pita chips, and a glass of wine, for a perfect late summer dinner.

Mediterranean Lentil Salad
from Elly Says Opa!

1.5 cups lentils
1 bay leaf
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 shallot, minced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. good quality extra virgin olive oil
3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Baby spinach- tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (or make extra dressing, and toss with the spinach, too)

Bring a pot of water and the bay leaf to a boil. Rinse and pick over the lentils, and then add them to the boiling water. Cook until soft, about 20-25 minutes.

Drain the lentils and set aside to cool slightly. Toss with the sundried tomatoes, olives, carrots, and parsley.

Whisk together the shallot, red wine vinegar and dijon. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking constantly until the dressing emulsifies. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the slightly warm lentils and mix to combine. Top with goat cheese crumbles. Serve at room temperature.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tomato & Corn Pie

I'm still here... barely! I'm back to a 40 hour work week, and while that really isn't too big a deal (everyone else does it!), I find it's taking me some time to adjust. And right when I get used to my current job, I'll be switching jobs again! But it's a good switch, because starting in October I'll be teaching high school math. That's what I spent the last crazy year working towards, and the long term sub job I'll be doing is a great first step towards getting back into my own classroom. I can't wait to get started, although that means my blog posts will probably continue to be sporatic for a while longer. I'm still cooking, because eating is a necessary part of the day and I can't just force myself to eat pre-made junk. But finding time to cook creating new things, and then finding time to blog about them is a little more that I can handle most days. Weekends are an exception, though, which is why I had the time to make this lovely corn and tomato tart last night.

I'm lucky to be part of a wonderful book club, full of interesting, intelligent 20-something women here in Chicago. We meet once a month to catch up, using a book as the excuse to get together, and I really look forward to those meetings. Now that I'm not working evenings any more, I'm going to be a much more regular participant in these gatherings. Last night we got together for purely social reasons, inviting significant others and friends to join in an end of summer cookout. It was a wonderful night of catching up with friends and enjoying the cooler weather of September... I would be happy to live in this type of weather for most of the year!

When I was choosing a dish to share at the cookout, I first thought of a couple of my usual standbys. My potato salad always gets rave reviews, and this broccoli salad was a major hit last time I made it. But I had the whole day to prepare a dish, and I have piles of cookbooks and cooking magazines thave have been sorely neglected recently. I remembered this Tomato & Corn Pie from a recent issue of Eating Well magazine, and thought this was the perfect chance to test it out. The olive oil crust was simple to make, and I was able to use fresh corn and tomatoes given the time of year. This dish was an absolute hit at the party, for the meat eaters and the vegetarians in the crowd. It was a perfect showcase for this end of summer produce, and was so pretty to look at, too!

Tomato & Corn Pie
from Eating Well magazine, July/August 2010

3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (see Note)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons cold water

3 large eggs
1 cup low-fat milk
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 1 large ear; see Tip) or frozen
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

To prepare crust: Combine whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, add oil and water and gradually stir them in to form a soft dough. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Roll the dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a 9-inch pie pan, preferably deep-dish, and press into the bottom and up the sides. Trim any overhanging crust. Line the dough with a piece of foil or parchment paper large enough to lift out easily; fill evenly with pie weights or dry beans. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil or paper and weights. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes or up to 1 hour.

To prepare filling: Whisk eggs and milk in a medium bowl. Sprinkle half the cheese over the crust, then layer half the tomatoes evenly over the cheese. Sprinkle with corn, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and the remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Layer the remaining tomatoes on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pour the egg mixture over the top.

Bake the pie until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Ingredient note: Look for whole-wheat pastry flour in large supermarkets and natural-foods stores. Store it in the freezer.

To remove corn kernels from the cob, stand an ear of corn on one end and slice the kernels off with a sharp knife.