Monday, July 28, 2014

What Jah-maican?

Israeli-Style Jerk Chicken

Way back when I was in high school, my mother and father used to take vacations in the US Virgin Islands. Every year they chose a different Island and spent a week snorkeling, hiking, exploring, and resting on the warm sand in tropical beaches. According to my mother, the smell of jerk ( a collection of Caribbean spices) pervaded these islands so in an attempt to recapture some of the spirit of these vacations my mother started using Jerk. A lot. 

She bought the book Jerk from Jamaica and from then on always has had a container of homemade jerk spice on hand, which is used most often during barbecues but makes it's way into chicken and coleslaws as well. 

Thus, jerk spice is a fixture of my childhood and I love the taste and using it in cooking. This chicken recipe from Joy of Kosher Magazine takes jerk to the next level. Instead of using dry jerk seasoning (which, like my mother, I always have on hand) it uses very fresh ingredients pureed into a marinade to make a chicken dish that is truly awesome. 

The Attempt

4 lb boneless baby chicken or chicken cutlets

1 small onion, chopped
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
6 cloves garlic
2 scotch bonnet or habanero peppers 
1 2-inch piece of ginger, chopped
1/4 cup fresh thyme
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
2 tsp salt
3 tsps brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground nutmeg

Place all ingredients (besides for the chicken) in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Place chicken in a ziplock bag and pour marinade over it, making sure the marinade is well-distributed on the chicken. Refrigerate overnight. 
Fire up your charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high. Place chicken on grill over direct heat and cook until nice and brown, about 3-4 minutes on each side. 
Serve and enjoy! 

  1. I only used 1 1/2 lbs of chicken so I halved the recipe. 
  2. Charming and I have this thing where whenever a recipe calls for something spicy (like scotch bonnet or habanero peppers) and I use the recommended amount, it usually winds up too spicy for us. In the interest of preserving our taste buds, I chose to use jalapeno peppers instead because they are less spicy than their close relatives, scotch bonnet and habanero. 
  3. PC+Vinegar= No go. I've mentioned this multiple times. Instead of using cider vinegar I used white wine. 
  4. I forgot that the chicken needed to marinate overnight so I started making it after putting the princess to bed. To make sure that the marinade really got into the chicken I scored lines into the cutlets so that the marinade could penetrate. 
  5. I made this on the stovetop in a well-greased frying pan because, sadly, I do not have a grill. 

The Verdict

This was really good. The flavor was subtle but flavorful. And the best news was that Charming who isn't actually a fan of coconut didn't even notice that coconut was in the recipe. Score!! 

The fact that the flavor was very subtle might have had to do with the minimal marinating time, so the next time I make this (and there will be a next time) I'm going to have to marinade it overnight and see what happens. 

The Great Summer Cookie Caper, Part 3

S'Mores Bark

I have a thing for s'mores. There is something about oozy, gooey, slightly charred marshmallows sandwiched between melty chocolate and graham crackers that just melts my heart. My siblings and I have spent hours at the kitchen stove roasting marshmallows and making s'mores, much to the horror of my mother. Prince Charming doesn't get it. I've tried, really. I've made him s'mores, but it just doesn't speak to him.  I guess this is something we'll have to agree to disagree on. 

The fact of it is, that summer=s'mores. Every cooking magazine I have (Ok, I only have two now- Family Circle, and Joy of Kosher) had recipes of multiple s'mores variations that set my heart beating with absolute joy and bliss. 

The first one I tried, I made with my brother and sister. 

The Attempt

7 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 cups mini marshmallows
8 graham crackers, chopped into 1-inch squares

In a double broiler ( a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water) melt the chocolate. Once chocolate melts, remove from heat and mix in marshmallows and graham cracker cubes. Pour over parchment paper and spread it out to an even thickness. Top with sea salt
Allow to cool and break into large chunks. 

  1. The recipe called for using a baking bar of chocolate, but I just went with chocolate chips and it worked out fine. 
  2. I hate double broilers almost as much as I love s'mores so I just melted the chocolate in the microwave. 
  3. We may have used too many graham crackers because I forgot to tell my sister how many to break up so she kind of just kept going till I told her to stop. 
  4. We used colorful mini marshmallows because that was what we had in the house. They're a little bit sweeter than regular mini marshmallows but that's about it. 
  5. We forgot the salt. And didn't miss it. 

The Verdict

These things are addictive. 'Nough  said. 

Sister: "Esti, please don't make these again."
Me: "Why? They're awesome!"
Sister: "I know! I keep eating them!!" 

Who Says Commercials Are Lying?

Mayonnaise Schnitzel 

The story of this supper is rather roundabout. It started when my wonderful neighbor saw this commercial for mayonnaise. While she knows that the commercial was obviously trying to sell Hellmann's mayonnaise, the chicken in the commercial looked so good she had to try it. So she made her regular schnitzel recipe using mayonnaise instead of eggs. 

Just like in the commercial, the chicken came out crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. As she told me about her experiment, my mouth began to water, so for supper last week, I tried it out. 

The Attempt

1/2 lb chicken cutlets 
1 cup light mayonnaise
2 cups cornflake crumbs
1 Tbs taco seasoning + Salt, pepper, garlic powder and caynne pepper to taste

Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Place mayonnaise and cornflake crumbs into two different shallow plates. Mix the spices into the cornflake crumbs and adjust  seasoning to desired spiciness. Dip chicken into mayonnaise and using a knife or a spoon, spread in a think layer over the cutlet. Dip cutlet in crumb mixture until fully coated with crumbs (no mayonnaise should be showing.) Place on cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining cutlets. 

Bake on 375 for half an hour to 45 minutes or until cutlets are no longer pink inside. 

  1. I didn't really monitor the cooking time. I just kept on checking until I felt like the cutlets were done. It was somewhere between 30-45 minutes, though, if I estimate correctly. 
  2. I used taco seasoning because that was what I had on hand, but feel free to use any spice mixture that strikes your fancy. 
  3. I feel like panko or regular breadcrumbs or a mixture of the two would work just as well, but I liked the crunchiness of the cornflakes. 

The Verdict

Um, wow. It was hands-down the best breaded cutlet I have tasted. Ever. There was not one cutlet left over for lunch the next day. I loved it. Charming loved it. Basically, a winner all around. 

We had it in a sandwich with the works (lettuce, ketchup, tomatoes, bbq sauce ext) but it would taste equally great by itself with a side of rice, potatoes, or orzo. 

I don't think I'll ever be making another schnitzel recipe again. 

Better than Gazpacho!

Roasted Tomato Soup

I made this soup to go with the tuna-noodle casserole. The idea of roasting the tomatoes and then pureeing them into a fresh tomato soup struck me as brilliant. I decided to do this with tuna-noodle casserole because they are both light and summery. 

The Attempt

2 lb tomatoes (About 4 baseball sized)
6 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1/4 medium onion
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp vinegar 
1 tbsp italian seasoning (or 1/2 oregano, 1/2 basil)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tsp brown sugar
1 3/4-2 cups chicken stock, hot

Preheat oven to 375. Line a 9x13-inch pan with parchment paper. Cut tomatoes into thirds and place in the pan. Add garlic cloves and onion. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Season with Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. Roast for 45 minters. 
Transfer to a large bowl. Add hot chicken stock. Using an immersion blender, puree until soup is smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. 

  1. I was making this recipe to go along with the New Tuna Noodle Casserole so instead of using chicken stock, I used vegetable stock because I needed the recipe to be Parev (Parev is the the absence of dairy and meat. In Jewish Law, one can't eat meat items (like chicken stock) with dairy (like the tuna noodle casserole, which contained cheese) 

The Verdict

I really, really liked it. In fact, I thought it tasted even better cold the next day. 

As it turns out, PC wasn't so crazy about it. He did say it was good, but Charming is a three soup kind of guy. The two soups he likes are chicken soup, vegetable soup, and full-meal soups that contain veggies, carbs and meat all in one. But I loved it, so I'd probably make it again for myself. 

Oh, and it was really easy... 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Who Knew?

New Tuna-Noodle Casserole

I really thought this one wasn't going to work out. Not that I thought the recipe wouldn't be good, but I figured that PC wouldn't like it. I figured that because tuna noodle casserole is really little more than glorified baked ziti- you know, sans the marinara sauce and with the inclusion of vegetables, and tuna, and different shaped noodles.  All right, so I admit tuna noodle casserole isn't really like baked ziti, but I assumed that PC would find it just as filling. (Translation: Not filling enough...) 

On the other hand, I have been eyeing this recipe (salivating over it) since I got Susie Fishbein's Teens and 20-Somethings cookbook and I was really in the mood for it. So I paired it with a soup and prayed for the best. 

As for the result, I'll wait till the Verdict, just to increase your suspense! 

The Attempt:

High heat or professional cooking spray
1 (12 oz) bag extra broad egg noodles (yolk-free if possible)
Kosher salt or coarse sea salt
water as needed
1 (12 oz) can white albacore tuna, packed in water, drained
1 cup frozen peas
1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 medium onion, peeled, but into 1/4-inch dice
8 oz button or crimini mushrooms, brushed clean and sliced
2 Tbs unsalted butter
2 Tbs all-purpose flour
1 cup low-fat milk
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup cornflake crumbs or breadcrumbs
1 Tbs butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted, rapidly boiling water according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Add the drained tuna, using a fork or your fingers to break it up and distribute through the noodles. Add the peas, set aside. 

In a medium pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and mushrooms. Saute until soft and fragrant, 5-6 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the 2 Tbs butter and stir to melt it and distribute it through the onions. Sprinkle on the four. Stir until mixture becomes sticky. Slowly pour in the milk, stirring to make a smooth sauce. Add the salt. Stirr in the cheese. As it melts, the sauce will thicken. Pour over the noodles and mix well.

In a small bowl, mix the crumbs with the melted butter. Sprinkle over the top of the noodles. Bake, uncovered for 15 minutes, or until heated through. Serve hot. 

  1. I halved the recipe and baked it in a smaller pan because we don't have a meaty oven. So we bake all our dairy stuff in a toaster oven. I halved it because we didn't need 8-10 servings, which is what this recipe makes... 
  2. PC+Mushrooms=NO GO. I substituted with mixed chopped peppers and just followed the recipe. 
  3. I added more tuna than the recipe called for, because the tuna is my favorite part. The recipe called for 12 oz. I halved the recipe, but added 10 oz. If you were making the whole recipe that would be the equivalent of 20 oz for the whole recipe (or 4 tuna cans, but who is counting?)

The Verdict

Mikey likes it!! Charming dubbed this one a repeat!! A repeat! He even said that it didn't need the soup to be a filling supper. (Doing happy dance!!) 

Some stray observations. 
  1. Charming suggested that replacing the peppers with spinach would be  better fit for the recipe. It's an interesting idea that I'll have to give a go.
  2. I think it would be possible to replace the butter in the crumb  topping with olive oil, which is a tiny bit healthier. However, in the sauce, the butter adds flavor so I wouldn't replace it. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Let's Smoothie Everything Over

Breakfast Fruit Smoothies

So, this post is going to break with the template a bit because this isn't actually a recipe. It's more a list of great ideas. 

First, some background: PC is on a sort-of diet. It's only a sort-of diet because the only two real changes is that I'm making 'lighter' suppers with more veggies, and instead of cereal for breakfast he has fruit. First he started having a pear for breakfast, but after an hour or so he would be hungry, so we hit on another idea: SMOOTHIES!!

It goes like this. I put fruit and fruit juice in the blender. Blend. Pour into two cups. One for PC, one for me and the princess (we share). I freeze the leftovers in Ice Pop molds for SMOOTHIE POPS!!! 

(You may or may not have noticed, but I'm rather exited about this...) 

Here are some of the smoothie combinations we have tried: 

1. Blueberries, pineapple, and juice (Either guava, youngberry, orange or pomegranate) 
2. Strawberries, pineapple, and juice
3. Strawberries, mangoes, and juice
4. Strawberries, kiwis and juice
5. Strawberries, blueberries, kiwis and juice
5. Strawberries and apples and juice
6. Blueberries and mangoes and juice
7. Blueberries and kiwis and juice
8. Blueberries and apples and juice
9. Blueberries, mango, persimmon and juice

Really any combination. I usually use a base of blueberry or strawberry and then add a second or third fruit. I don't usually add sugar unless the smoothie is really tart (generally with the kiwi) or really bland (i.e.: with the apple). 

And the best part is, it keeps you full till noon!! 

Oh and did I mention SMOOTHIE POPS!!!

Feel free to comment with your ideas! 

Loverly Leftover Chicken

Moo Shu Chicken Salad

Leaving aside how awesome Moo Shu sounds, I was really exited to try this one (This one is also from Family Circle.) It looked so yummy and easy. As it turns out, I was right. 

I made this recipe using leftover barbecue chicken from Shabbos. Now, the recipe actually calls for pre shredded carrot, and bagged coleslaw mix. That plus shredded pre-made chicken, and bottled moo shu sauce, cinch right? Of course, being  me, I have to complicate things. 

Firstly, I never get shredded carrots, because getting a whole carrot and shredding it myself is cheaper. It only takes about three minutes, so while the little Princess was gleefully spreading ziplock bags all over the kitchen floor  I took a nice medium sized carrot, peeled it... and kept on peeling. After I had a pile of carrot peels I took a knife and coarsely chopped the peeled carrot. Super easy- but the effort kind of defeats the purpose of using shredded carrot. 

Ditto for the coleslaw mix. Prince Charming hates cabbage, so that was automatically out, the good news is that I had a bunch of wilting peppers that were begging to be used, so I cut them into super thin slices while Princess tired of the ziplock bags and started climbing up me. Again, it only took about 3 minutes and then the Princess and I were off to play with blocks, but the whole point of using the coleslaw mix is that there is zilcho effort involved as opposed to minimal effort. 

That being said, I actually don't mind minimal effort, especially if the results taste like this. 

The Attempt: 

2 tsp canola oil
1 bag (10 oz) coleslaw mix
3/4 cup shredded carrot
3/4 cup moo shu stir fry sauce (such as Iron Chef or China Bowl)
4 cups shredded rotisserie (or leftover) chicken
8 cups Asian salad blend (such as Earthbound Farms Zen Blend)
3 Scallions, sliced
1/3 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add coleslaw mix and carrot; cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until partially wilted. Stir in 1/2 cup of the sauce and bring to a simmer. Stir in chicken.

To serve place greens on a large serving platter. Spoon Chicken mixture over greens and sprinkle with scallions and peanuts. (Serve remaining 1/4 cup stir fry sauce for drizzling over salad)

  1. As I mentioned above, I switched out the coleslaw for 2 large thinly sliced green bell peppers,  and a thinly sliced onion. Because in the end that meant more vegetables than in the original recipe, I added more sauce. In the end I used close to a cup of the sauce, but I didn't reserve for drizzling over the salad later because it didn't need it. 
  2. PC doesn't like nuts (I'm nuts about them though-Groan for bad pun.) so I left them out altogether. I do, however, think that they complement the salad wonderfully. According to the recipe, if there is a question of peanut allergies, soy nuts substitute nicely. 

The Verdict:

So I could tell PC wasn't thrilled with this one, on account of the shredded COTB (chicken-on-the-bone) but he did concede that it tastes really good and is a great way to use leftovers. He even had it for lunch the next day! 

As for me, I'm obsessed. I think I would have it once a week if I could, but I would probably get sick of it- you know, shredding the chicken....