Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Chicken and Farro Whole Grain Empanadas - Make the Switch for #WholeGrainsMonth!

Chicken and Farro Whole Grain Empanadas - making the switch for #WholeGrainsMonth via @girlichef
September is Whole Grains Month, and I am partnering with the Whole Grains Council as one of their selected "Make the Switch" bloggers. Our goal was to take a family favorite recipe and retool it by adding more whole grains. It's a contest for the participating bloggers (we can win cash prizes for the top votes), but if you drop by the Whole Grains Council website and place a vote for your favorite recipe—you'll also be entered for a chance to win cash ($500) and a big selection of whole grain foods!
September is #WholeGrainsMonth
So, now you're wondering what I did to make the switch to whole grains, right? Well, I started with my family's favorite empanada recipe. The original uses only all-purpose flour, so I substituted half whole wheat pastry flour in this version. It was still flaky and tender and melt-in-your mouth delicious. I actually think it may work well using entirely whole wheat pastry flour. That was my first "switch".

My second switch was in the picadillo filling itself. The original uses pork, but I switched it out for a combination of white meat chicken and farro (one of my 3 favorite whole grains). I decided to use half lean meat and half farro to make the picadillo because I wanted to ease everybody into the switch. I think I could've gone straight-up whole grain (no meat) in this instance, as well. The size and chewiness of the cooked farro really echoed the texture of our usual filling. I actually think that if they didn't already know I'd made the switch, they wouldn't have even guessed there was anything different.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Triple-Chocolate Brownie Cookies with Zucchini #OXOGoodCookies

Triple-Chocolate Brownie Cookies with Zucchini #OXOGoodCookies via @girlichef
As if the fact that they are studded with zucchini, white chocolate, and walnuts weren't tempting enough, these cookies also have the fudgy, chewy texture of a brownie. Let's just call that double-your-pleasure.

I've mentioned this before, but I thought it was worth saying again—I have some pretty great neighbors. For many reasons, but why I bring it up now is because of our little "food trade system" we've fallen into over the years. For the most part, they share raw produce and I share prepared food. This would be because they tend to their garden and even forage for mushrooms once a year, while I seem to spend all of my time in the kitchen developing and testing recipes.

They hand over large bags (seriously) of produce, and I come back at them with jars, boxes, and plates of jams, preserves, breads, and other baked goods. It's a fairly great system. I like to offer up  goods from my "wild garden" like grapes, mint, chamomile, compost squash, and wild garlic, but lately that's all I seem to have since time is something I'm always chasing and rarely catching up with. I've never been fond of running.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Lemongrass Chicken Dumpling Soup - Dumplings All Day Wong blog tour

Lemongrass Chicken Dumpling Soup - Dumplings All Day Wong blog tour + giveaway via @girlichef
I'll be the first to admit that my dumping technique (or lack of) needs work. Fortunately, there's plenty of opportunity for learning how to fold dumplings of all sorts in the new cookbook by Lee Anne Wong, Dumplings All Day Wong. Not does she show technique, she also shares recipes for several types of dumpling dough; perfect for those who can't find dumpling wrappers in the store (raising hand). Also perfect for those who like to try making their own everything—at least once.

Wong not only shares dough recipes, how-to make dumpling tutorials, and some classic dumpling dishes, the book is packed with fun and unusual combinations and dishes throughout. Plus, I'm pretty sure this is the best name for a cookbook EVER.

The dish that I'm sharing from the book today looks simple...and it is fairly simple. If you've never made dumplings before, pleating the dough is the only semi-difficult process in the recipe, and even that isn't too bad once you've fumbled through half of them. But don't let that fool you into thinking the flavors in this dish are also simple. They're not. They're in-your-face loud! Lemongrass screams from both the bright yellow (turmeric) chicken filling of the dumpling and from the unassuming broth.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Spiced Buttermilk Poached Pear Bread #twelveloaves

Spiced Buttermilk Poached Pear Bread from girlichef.com
The tender poached whole pears peeking out of this spiced buttermilk quick bread make it a real show-stopper, and I'm using it to conjure up autumn—crisp air, sweatshirts, apple cider, football, and bonfires.

This month's #TwelveLoaves theme of pears gives fall a nod, as well. As soon as I knew our theme, I knew what type of bread I'd be making. I have a similar version bookmarked in several places. Basically, it's a quick bread with poached pears taking center stage. It's pretty simple to switch up. It really just depends on what type of quick bread you want to pair with it.

Since I'm in that autumn state of mind, I wanted something speckled with warming spices, and thought that a buttermilk quick bread would play the perfect host. Combined with pears that were also quickly poached in a spiced simple syrup, it really does taste like cooler days.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Spicy Bacon Bloody Mary and Bacon-Infused Vodka #BaconMonth

Spicy Bacon Bloody Mary + Bacon-infused Vodka #BaconMonth #putsomepiginit via @girlichef
So, do you remember a few days ago when I was all excited to wrap #BaconMonth up with a neat little bow? I told you that the 31st was International Bacon Day, making it the perfect close to a month-long bacon fest? Turns out, I lied. Not purposefully—it was due to a mistake on a website that lists food holidays (it was actually the 30th, and the Saturday before Labor Day). Consider my bubble burst.

Ultimately, though, even if my bow is a little crooked and wonky (believe me, that's nothing new), it was still an amazing month. I also mentioned a raising of glasses, and that is still on! This Bloody Mary was the majority of bacon month in-the-making. I know have a jar of vodka infused with the flavor of bacon sitting pretty in my fridge. I'm pretty sure that calls for a Bloody Mary a day all weekend long. How perfect is it that this is a long weekend, by the way!?

I like my Bloody Mary with a kick, so I start out with spicy tomato juice or V8. From there I add more spice. You can always tame it down if you don't like as much heat by using regular tomato juice and/or leaving out the horseradish and hot sauce. But that's no fun.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Dijon Mushrooms - Easy Gourmet Cookbook blog tour + giveaway

Dijon Mushrooms - Easy Gourmet Cookbook blog tour and giveaway | girlichef.com
Piled atop crusty toast, these oven-roasted mushrooms with garlic, lemon, and dijon pack a major flavor-punch and they couldn't be simpler to make. These Dijon Mushrooms are just one of the numerous dishes I have dog-eared to try in the new cookbook by Stephanie Le of I am a Food Blog. Today the blog tour stops here for a tasty sneak peek at this cookbook that is set to be released this upcoming Tuesday, September 2nd!

I will start off by saying that I'd never visited I am a Food Blog before receiving my copy of this book. And now, I'm a wee bit hooked. Stephanie has amazing style and photos, and her food and drinks are inventive and fun while still be totally approachable (for example, her Filet 'O Fish and Fries Burger—love). Her cookbook follows suit.

When I mentioned her blog being approachable, the book is even more so. She still displays plenty of creativity in her food, but chose to go with "basic", unintimidating titles. For example, the recipe that I'm sharing today—Dijon Mushrooms. Totally unassuming. Or another recipe that high on my "to try" list, Maple-glazed Duck. Nothing scary about that. Flipping through the book, you'll see other names like Coddled Eggs, Seafood Pappardelle, Spaghetti and Meaballs, Baked Mac & Cheese; recipes that even an inexperienced cook probably wouldn't shy away from. And they shouldn't. Some of them are more involved than others, but none of them require formal culinary training to be successful.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Polenta Bread {Bread Baking Babes}

Polenta Bread | girlichef.com
This beautifully rustic bread is speckled with bits of yellow polenta throughout, has a slight tang from preferment, and is surround with a thick and pleasantly chewy crust. It also happens to be this month's Bread Baking Babes bread of the month, as chosen by BBBabe Elizabeth of blog from OUR kitchen.

And I'm late. Thirteen days late. I blame it on school starting this month. I was so preoccupied with back-to-school shopping and preparation for the kids, that the 16th came and went without blip on the radar. But, I'm making up for it now. I actually took my time and went nice and slow on these loaves. Every thing about making them felt right, and I think that's because I didn't even glance in the direction of my bread machine.

What's a bread machine got to do with it (or rather, the lack of)? Well, I've become pretty dependent on mine. Here's the story: years ago, I discovered how convenient it was to let my bread machine do all of the mixing and kneading, and subsequently the first rise, for me when I was busy. So, during the holidays, the bread machine came out. It freed up time and precious counter space. Once the madness subsided, it was tucked back in its place on the basement shelf.