Saturday, September 26, 2009

Chocolate Pecan Fudge

It's been a while since I posted anything, and I'm glad to be back. The whole month of September has been consumed with teaching a thesis writing. My camera is full of pictures from things that I have cooked, yet I haven't had a chance to write about them!

I'm back at it with a recipe I made a few weeks ago for a departmental picnic. It was probably a mistake to make fudge in a hot Georgia September, but it was one of those situations where I had the ingredients, so I might as well make it and make my life a little easier. This fudge recipe is based off of Nigella Lawson's chocolate pistachio fudge from one of her Christmas specials. I opted to use pecans because it's difficult to find shelled pistachios where I live and also, pecans are much cheaper. I liked going along with Nigella's suggestion of stashing this in the freezer. It makes it taste like icy cubes of the most decadent chocolate butter cream frosting.

Chocolate Pecan Fudge

12 oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 tbsp unsalted butter
pinch salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Add the chocolate, condensed milk, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan on low heat; stir to melt.
2. Add the pecans to the melted chocolate.
3. Pour the mixture into a lightly greased 9"x9" square pan (or equivalent). You can line the pan with aluminum foil to make taking the fudge out later easier.
4. Let the fudge cool at room temperature, then place in the refrigerator or freezer to set, at least one hour in the freezer.
5. Cut into approximately 64 pieces.

Servings per recipe: 64
Per serving:
Calories: 57
Fat: 3.1 g
Saturated fat: 1.7 g
Cholesterol: 4 mg
Sodium: 18 mg
Carbohydrates: 6.7 g
Sugar: 6.1 g
Protein: 1 g

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Three Seed Bread

Last night I made bread for the week. I'm beginning to think making bread should become a weekly ritual because it tastes so much better than the processed stuff I used to get. I especially like the fact that it's not full of preservatives and I can customize it any way I want to. For the bread I made last night I used my Low-Carb Honey Whole Wheat Bread recipe as a base, sans walnuts, and added sunflower, flax, and sesame seeds, which added a different texture to the bread. I also tried baking it more like a country loaf...sort of free form with stripes cut into the top, instead of in a loaf pan. I've found this bread to be perfect for sandwiches and toast, because unlike some whole wheat bread recipes, it doesn't form huge holes that will invariably make the bread fall apart in your toaster. Instead, this bread is dense but delicate with nice nubbly seeds inside. This bread is perfect for one of my favorite foods: grilled cheese sandwiches.

Three Seed Bread

1 1/2 cups room temperature water
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp honey
3-3 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tbsp gluten flour (aka: vital wheat gluten)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp quick rise yeast
1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
2 tbsp sesame seed
2 tbsp flax seeds
more white whole wheat flour for dusting
more extra virgin olive oil for oiling the bowl
nonstick cooking spray

1. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the water, oil, honey, 3 cups whole wheat flour, gluten flour,salt, yeast, and seeds. Turn on the machine to form a rough dough. If the dough is very sticky, add some of the remaining 1/2 cup flour and mix some more. Let the dough stand in the bowl with the dough hook removed for 15 to 20 minutes. Alternatively, you could use a wooden spoon or your hands to mix the dough instead of the dough hook.
2. Place the dough hook back in the dough and let knead for 10 minutes. If the dough starts climbing too much, use the rest of your reserved flour, and maybe a little more. Alternatively, you could turn the dough from the bowl onto a floured surface and knead by hand for 10 minutes.
3. Place the dough in a bowl oiled with olive oil. I just re-use the mixing bowl. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm spot for an hour, or until it has doubled. You can also let it slow rise in the refrigerator overnight: cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then a cloth and sit it in the fridge until it has doubled.
4. Once the doubling occurs, preheat the over to 350 degrees F.
5. Turn the dough onto a parchment-covered baking sheet and shape the bread into a round. Use a paring knife to make score marks across the top of the loaf. Alternatively, you could use an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan, but do not score the bread.
6. Bake the bread for 40-45 minutes. The outside of the bread should sound hollow and not yield when you tap your finger on it.
7. Remove the bread from the oven and turn it onto a cooling rack.

Makes 16 slices:
Per slice:
Calories: 127
Fat: 2.5 g
Saturated fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 149 mg
Carbohydrates: 22.7 g
Fiber: 1.2 g
Protein: 4 g

Monday, September 7, 2009

Thai Red Curry with Chicken and Butternut Squash

This weekend some friends and I migrated over to Savannah (again) for a day of shopping. Of course, we had a good time. Savannah has got to be one of the best cities in the world; it never fails to make me happy. We managed to make it to Fresh Market, where I picked up some much-needed Thai ingredients for making quick curries: green and red curry pastes and fish sauce. Tonight I used the red curry paste to make a curry inspired by several of Nigella Lawson's quick curry recipes. I took her idea of using squash, which initially I thought would take forever to cook, but instead it was tender within 15 minutes. I have been trying to work my way around making Thai curries without the appropriate ingredients for so long I was pleasantly surprised to have a curry that tasted pretty darn close to something I would get at our local Thai restaurant.

Here's something to keep in mind: not all curry pastes are created equally, so if you're shy of spiciness, add a little paste in the beginning and then build upon it until you get it to the desired spiciness. Also, while at the store I found this cool stuff called wok oil, which is great for quick Asian cooking because it's a light-colored oil (and thus can take a lot of heat without smoking) that is flavored with garlic and ginger. It's perfect for when you want to slam together a quick dinner. If you don't have wok oil, just add a little minced garlic and ginger (or galangal, if you can find it) along with the shallot and peppers.

Thai Red Curry with Chicken and Butternut Squash

1 tbsp wok oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 bell pepper, any color or a combination of colors
2 tbsp prepared Thai red curry paste, or to taste
1 lb chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 13.5-oz can lite coconut milk
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp demerara sugar or brown sugar substitute
1 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)
1 stalk fresh lemongrass (or 1 tsp dried lemongrass)
10 oz butternut squash, peeled and cut into small chunks (optionally, use pumpkin)
1 lime, for garnishing

1. Heat a large pot over medium heat; add the oil and allow it to heat through. Then add the scallion and bell pepper and cook until they are tender. Blend in the curry paste.
2. Add the chicken and stir to coat it with the curry paste. Brown the chicken on all sides, about 2 minutes.
3. Shake the can of coconut milk to combine the solids with the coconut water, then pour over the chicken. Add the broth, sugar, and fish sauce.
4. Take the stalk of lemongrass and bend it to bruise it, then submerge it into the coconut sauce.
5. Submerge the squash pieces into the coconut sauce, then cover the pot with a lid. Allow the curry to cook for about 15 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
6. Once the squash is tender, remove the lid and allow the sauce to evaporate and thicken. Once the sauce has thickened slightly, blend in a little lime juice and check for seasoning. Once the seasonings are to your liking, serve immediately, with rice.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 332
Fat: 14.1 g
Saturated fat: 6.7 g
Cholesterol: 84 mg
Sodium: 857 mg
Carbohydrates: 17.7 g
Fiber: 2.1 g
Sugar: 2.2 g
Protein: 33.8 g

Chocolate Cream Pie

For the dinner I was going to last night, I had every intention to make a lemon mousse pie from one of the box mixes I inherited from one of my old roommates. Upon opening the box, I realized the filling mix was as hard as a rock and despite beating it against the counter a few times the mixture wouldn't budge. Lucky for me, I had the ingredients to make homemade chocolate pudding, so I tossed the bad ingredients and made the graham cracker crust according to package directions. The crust was then filled with the chocolate pudding, and once cooled, was topped with sweetened whipped cream.

Chocolate Cream Pie

5 oz graham cracker crumbs
5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup unbleached organic cane sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups milk (I used skim to cut calories)
2 egg yolks
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

sweetened whipped cream, if desired (or you could use Cool Whip, but just don't tell me about it...)

1. Combine the crumbs and butter in a small bowl and press them into a 8"-9" pie shell; set aside to harden and cool.
2. Sift the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, and salt into a 2-qt saucepan.
3. Combine the milk and egg yolks; gradually stir them into the cocoa mixture. Heat the saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils. Boil ans stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla, and then pour the pudding through a fine wire mesh sieve to remove any lumps.
4. Pour the hot pudding into the crust. Once it stops steaming, place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to keep it from forming a skin. Allow it to continue to cool slightly, then set it in the refrigerator to cool completely.
5. Garnish the pie with whipped cream, if desired.

Servings per recipe: 8
Per serving, without whipped cream:
Calories: 234
Fat: 10.3 g
Saturated fat: 5.3 g
Cholesterol: 73 mg
Sodium: 253 mg
Carbohydrates: 32.4 g
Fiber: 2.1 g
Sugar: 18.8 g
Protein: 4.5 g

French Potato Salad

Last night I had an outdoor party to go to and I prepared both chocolate cream pie and what I like to call French Potato Salad. The reason I call it "French" is because I took the famous French salad, Salade Nicoise, and pared it down, leaving only the green beans and potatoes remaining. I then combined those two ingredients with the traditional American dressing but added more flavor with two different kinds of mustard, parsley, and shallot. I consider this potato salad the elegant French cousin of American potato salad.

French Potato Salad

2 1/2 lbs red potatoes, or other waxy potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 lb fresh green beans
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp coarse-ground mustard
1 tbsp Dijon or spicy brown mustard
1 tsp sugar or sugar substitute
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley (other fresh herbs may be used too, like dill or tarragon)
salt and coarse-ground black pepper, to taste

1. Add cold water and salt to a large pot. Add the potatoes to the pot and set it over high heat. When the water begins to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and place a lid on the pot. Allow the potatoes to cook until they are fork tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Once they are done cooking, drain and rinse them thoroughly in cold water and allow them to cool and drip dry for about 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, trim the green beans and cut them on a bias into bite-sized pieces. Add them to a medium saucepan of boiling salted water to blanch for about 3 minutes or until they are tender-crisp. Optionally, you can add them to the potatoes in their last 3 minutes of cooking. Once they are done cooking, rinse them in cold water and allow them to cool and drip dry for about 10 minutes.
3. In the bottom of the salad bowl, blend the shallot, mayonnaise, vinegar, mustards, sugar, parsley, and some salt and pepper. Gently fold the potatoes and beans into the dressing. Allow the salad to sit in the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving; toss before serving.

Servings per recipe: 10
Per serving:
Calories: 148
Fat: 4.5 g
Saturated fat: 0.7 g
Cholesterol: 3 mg
Sodium: 111 mg
Carbohydrates: 24.9 g
Fiber: 3.8 g
Sugar: 2.8 g
Protein: 3.5 g
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