Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Roasted Chicken and Broccoli with Raisin Sauce

Roasted Broccoli and Chicken with Raisin Sauce
Wait, wait, where are you going?  This isn’t a joke!  Raisin sauce!  It’s real, and it’s delicious!
Let me back up a bit.  We love roasted broccoli at our house.  We eat it two, sometimes three times a week.  And while I enjoy it, I really do, there came a day (last week) when I wanted to add a little something new to our dinner repetoire.  Google is my friend, and I quickly came across several different recipes for Broccoli with Raisin Sauce.  Well, if so many other people thought it good enough to make, photograph, and write about, it must be worth a try.
And it was an unmitigated success!  This simple sauce has it all – sweet and spicy, with a little bite from the vinegar.  I served this with roasted chicken thighs, and the raisin sauce was amazing with those too!  For an easy dinner, roast the broccoli on one sheet pan, chicken thighs on another, and make the sauce when they’re done.  Be bold, try something new, and surprise yourself with a funky, fun new recipe!
Roasted Broccoli and Chicken with Raisin Sauce
  • 3 large bunches of broccoli, chopped into florets
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • salt and pepper
  • 9 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup raisins (I used golden raisins, but use what you like)
  • 2 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  1. Preheat oven to 400*F.  Line two cookie sheet pans with aluminum foil.  On one pan, lay out the chicken thighs, making sure there is room between them; don’t crowd.  Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper (and a little garlic powder is nice too).  Place in the oven on the top rack.
  2. On the second sheet pan, spread out the broccoli florets and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of oil.  Sprinkle with salt and place in the oven on the bottom rack.
  3. While the chicken and broccoli cook, make the raisin sauce:  combine remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, raisins, vinegar, and cumin in a blender or food processor.  Blend until relatively smooth – until the raisins are broken down and saucy.
  4. The chicken is done when a thermometer reads 160*F, and the broccoli is done when it’s getting some crispy brown spots.  Serve both with the raisin sauce!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tropical Granita

In my last post on the joys of Homemade Coconut Milk, we’ll look at the most traditional use of coconut:  Dessert!  Coconut milk can be used in savory or sweet dishes, but I think most people like to find coconut mingling with chocolate or fruit.  Here’s a recipe that will satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy way – Tropical Granita!
For some reason, my girls won’t try new fruits readily, but if I put them in a smoothie or in this granita, they love it!  A granita, if you don’t know, is like a cross between a sorbet and shaved ice.  It’s icy, flaky, and refreshing!  You can use any fresh, juicy fruit you want here – mangoes, peaches, any berries – but be sure you add at least one banana.  The bananas create a thicker texture and enough sweetness that you don’t need to add any sugar!  You could use frozen fruit too – pineapple and raspberries would be lovely!  I used nectarines, bananas, and strawberries.
As with all homemade recipes, there are pros and cons.  The pro, of course, is there are no sweeteners, preservatives, artificial color, etc.  The con is that since there are no stabilizers and gums, this granita is a little more difficult to scoop than commercial ice cream.  I take it out of the freezer about half an hour before we eat it, so it can soften up a little.  It’s a great motivator – I tell my daughter I’m taking dessert out of the freezer, so if she wants to eat some, she better start eating that broccoli on her plate!
Tropical Sorbet
  • 1 cup dessicated coconut and 1 1/2 cups water (or one can coconut milk)
  • 3 nectarines or peaches
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • optional toppings:  whipped cream, shredded coconut, strawberry jam
  1. In a blender, blend the coconut and water.  Strain through a colander and cheese cloth.  Return coconut milk to the blender.  (If using canned coconut milk, just pour it in the blender!)
  2. Boil a pot of water.  Score an X on the bottom of each peach or nectarine.  Drop each nectarine into the water and let it boil for 30 seconds.  Remove the nectarines to an ice bath.  When cool, peel off the skin.  Cut the flesh from the pits and add to the blender.
  3. Add the banana to the blender and blend for 30 seconds.  Remove stems from strawberries and cut in half.  Add to blender and pulse a few times – I like to see chunks of berries!
  4. Pour into a large, shallow container and cover with plastic wrap.  Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours.  To serve, let thaw for about half an hour, and then scrape up with a spoon or fork.  Mound in a dish and serve with whipped cream, more diced berries or coconut flakes, or a dollop of strawberry jam!
These make great popsicles too!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Homemade Cheezits, from Homemade Coconut Flour

Homemade Cheezits

So, you fell in love with coconut milk too, right?  It’s your end-all, be-all, new favorite thing? That’s okay if it’s not.  But if you have made it, or plan to, you will be left with a cheesecloth-wrapped ball of pulp.  Now, someone who didn’t know better might just chuck that in the trash.  But not us!  We are going to use the pulp to make Homemade Coconut Flour and, with that flour, we’re going to make Homemade Cheezits!
First, the tools you will need:  You’ll need a baking sheet, parchment paper, and a food processor or blender.  If you have a Silpat silicone baking liner, now is the time to use it.  And you’re in luck:  the ingredients are already in your house, right now!  Once you make (or purchase) coconut flour, you can whip these crackers up in minutes.  The good news is that they have no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, or any unpronounceable chemicals – hooray!  They come out of the oven the perfect blend of crispy and  chewy, ready for snacking.  The bad news is, because they lack any of that lab-created stuff, they don’t stay crispy.  But that is easily remedied by a quick pass through a toaster oven.  Just a few minutes is enough to make these crackers crunchy again.
Ready to make some homemade, preservative-free snacks your family will love?  Let’s go!
Homemade Coconut Flour
  • Pulp from 2 batches of coconut milk
  1. Preheat oven to 250 F.  Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.  Spread out the coconut pulp, breaking up any lumps.  Toast the pulp until completely dry and powdery.  You really need to make sure all the moisture is removed.  This can take anywhere from one to two hours.  Stir occasionally to make sure the lumps are broken up and there are no hot-spots, and don’t let it burn!
  2. When the pulp is very dry, let it cool in the oven for another hour or so.  Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend for 5 minutes.  Depending on how powerful your blender is, you can get it pretty fine.  My food processor did a decent job, but the flour was not silky fine in texture.  That’s okay!  Get it as powdery in texture as your tools allow.

Homemade Coconut Flour

Homemade Cheezits
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used cheddar)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.  In a food processor, blend all the ingredients together.  You will end up with a moist ball of dough.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat liner.  Plop the ball of dough down on the liner, and cover with a piece of parchment paper.  Roll out the dough very thinly, to about 1/8″ thickness.  Try to make it even thickness all the way across – you can see my edges were a little thinner, and they got crispier than in the middle.  That’s fine, but you don’t want a huge variation in thickness.  Remove top sheet of parchment paper and bake for 8-10 minutes until starting to color.
  3. Remove from oven and score with a sharp knife.  You don’t need to go all the way through, because you don’t want to cut your liner or parchment paper.  Bake again for another 8-10 minutes until golden brown and starting to get crispy at the edges.
  4. When it’s cool enough to touch, cut all the way through the crackers, or just use your hands to break them at the perforations.  When cool, store crackers in sealed container.  To crisp, put them on a baking sheet in the toaster oven or regular oven for five minutes.
I think next time I make these, I’ll add a little paprika or garlic powder.  New flavor combinations are exciting!  So - what store-bought snacks do you like to make at home?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Homemade Coconut Milk, and Coconut Chia Pudding

Coconut Milk Jar
I am not afraid of a little hard work.  To avoid preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, or other unnecessary weirdness in my food, I will attempt any hair-brained, hippy-dippy, do-it-yourself recipe.  Some work out, others are failures (or what I like to call "learning experiences") - and thankfully, making your own coconut milk is the former.  Easy peasy!
Coconut milk is a key ingredient in many Indian, Thai, and other Southeast Asian recipes.  It’s also a great staple to have on hand if you are lactose intolerant, or if you are allergic to soy or almond milk.  And while you can find it in a can in many supermarkets, it is quite easy to make at home!  All you need is dried or desiccated coconut flakes, a blender, a colander, and cheesecloth.  Now, this is not the coconut you make into a pie – that stuff is full of sugar and preservatives!  Make sure it is unsweetened, dried coconut.  You can use fresh coconut too, if you can find one. (I can get them at my local Thai market, but you may not have one of those nearby.)  The coconut milk is good for about a week in your refrigerator.  I keep mine in a Ball jar with a lid, but I can’t make it last more than 3 days – it’s that delicious!
What you do with it is up to you.  Pour it over your cereal (or Christi’s Granola), use it in coffee in place of creamer, or make this delicious Coconut Chia Pudding.  Chia seeds can be found online at Amazon, at nearly all health food stores or Whole Foods, and at Trader Joe’s.   Chia seeds are teeny, tiny, little health bombs!  Full of Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and other necessary things, chia seeds can add crunch to homemade crackers, or top sweet potatoes and salads.  Even better, when mixed with liquid, they create a gel, and make a delicious “pudding” that feels decadent, but is actually quite healthy.  Think tapioca or rice pudding, without all the diet-busting starch!
Coconut Chia Pudding

Next week I’ll have more recipes that use coconut milk, but for now, here are the basics.  Check it out!
Homemade Coconut Milk
  • 1 cup shredded, dried coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  1. Boil water.  (I know, but it has to be said.)  In the pitcher of a blender or a large food processor (I use a food processor and it works fine), pour in one cup of coconut flakes.  Measure out 1 1/2 cups of boiling water and pour over the coconut.  Let sit for about 20 minutes.  Then blend for 2 or 3 minutes if you have a really strong blender, or about 4 minutes in a food processor.  You want to see a foamy slurry.
  2. Line a sieve or colander with a large piece of cheesecloth, folded over on itself.  Place the colander over a large bowl.  Pour the coconut mixture into the cheesecloth and squeeze, squeeze, SQUEEZE!!!  Pour the coconut milk into a jar with a lid and keep refrigerated.
  3. Don’t throw away the coconut pulp!  This can be mixed into smoothies, or spread out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and baked at 200*F for about 1 to 2 hours.  When it is completely dry, grind again in the food processor … and you just made coconut flour!  And now for the other recipe…
Coconut Chia Pudding
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey (optional, depending on how ripe and sweet your fruit is)
  • 1 cup chopped fruit – I like strawberries, blueberries, or peaches, but find what you like best
  1. In a Tupperware container with a lid, pour in one cup of coconut milk and 1/4 cup chia seeds.  Put the lid on and shake to combine.  Put in the refrigerator.  Shake again in one hour.  
  2. The chia pudding should be ready in about 3 hours.  When ready, it should be very thick, like tapioca pudding.  To serve, divide chia pudding between two bowls, drizzle with a tiny bit of honey if desired, and stir in the chopped fruit.  This makes a great dessert, or a nice, light breakfast.