Thursday, September 18, 2014

Crockpot Chicken Tinga Tostadas + @redgoldtomatoes giveaway!

Crockpot Chicken Tinga Tostadas
It's that time of year again. The time when days grow shorter, and activities stretch out longer. School really throws a wrench in things, doesn't it? By the time you've picked up the kids from their various practices, meets, games, and clubs it feels too late...or you feel too pooped...to start thinking about dinner. Don't you love it when you actually planned ahead a wee bit? Just enough that, even as the kids are strong-arming each other to see who can get in the house first, a glorious scent fills the air in pushes back in greeting.

Yes, I'm talking about the beauty of a crockpot, people. If the welcoming blanket that envelopes the house isn't enough, the thought that dinner is basically done already will be.

I've mentioned plenty of times before that I think a keeping your slow cooker at-the-ready year-round is the way to go. It doesn't heat up the house in the summer, and it's cozy and comforting in cold weather—that's my kind of kitchen "tool" (one that doesn't gather dust). That being said, there is just something about using it when there's a chill in the air that makes using it feel right. It's probably nostalgia, and nostalgia is a powerful emotion.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Robert May's French Bread (a historical bread from 1660)

Robert May's French Bread (a 354-year old recipe) #bread | girlichef.com
Well, the 16th is here once again, and believe it or not, I'm actually posting my Bread Baking Babes loaf on time. With my mind set on a trip to Seattle this coming weekend, I almost let the day float past without making it. But in light of my resolve to remember to slow down and bake bread, I took some time yesterday to make this simple (yet entirely appreciated) loaf.

Our host Babe for the month is Ilva from Lucullian Delights, and her assignment for us was one rooted deep in history—354 years to be exact. This French bread was originally published in 1660, in one of those glorious old cookery books that now take a bit of study to interpret, The Accomplisht Cook; or the Art & Mystery of Cookery by Robert May. And yes, accomplisht is the proper old-English spelling. The recipe saw a bit of a revival when it appeared in the pages of the 1977 cookbook English Bread and Yeast Cookery, by British cookery writer Elizabeth David (you may remember her being on the list of 50 Women Game-Changers in Food that I cooked through a couple of years ago).

Well, the BBBabes are making old new once again. Ilva invited us to bake this simple egg white-infused bread (not sure exactly what role the egg whites played, but I went with it)—the actual challenge lying not so much in the recipe itself, but in the decoration of the bread. We were to get creative with the presentation.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Peanut Butter Apple Raisin Waffles w/ Chia Seeds + a Better Breakfast Month Giveaway!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of National Peanut Board. All opinions are 100% mine.
Peanut Butter Apple Raisin Waffles w/ Chia Seeds + a Better Breakfast Month Giveaway | girlichef.com
In celebration of Better Breakfast Month, I'm bringing something both nutritious and delicious to the table today. Packed with protein, fiber, and fruit, these waffles are inspired by one of my family's favorite snacks - crisp apples slices with a shmear of peanut butter and a smattering of plump raisins, or as we like to call them—ants on a raft. They're crisp on the outside and moist on the inside, plus they aren't too sweet (which makes them the perfect vehicle for a drizzle of pure maple syrup).

I'm excited to be partnering with the National Peanut Board today to highlight Peanut Butter for Breakfast! Now, I grew up with the old adage "breakfast is the most important meal of the day", a belief that I've passed on to my own children. Many people may think that's just something parents say to get their kids to eat breakfast, but it's based on good fact—especially if your breakfast includes a high amount of protein. Studies show that people who enjoyed a breakfast that included at least 35 grams of protein felt fuller, had fewer cravings, and even ate fewer high-calorie snacks later in the day. Starting the day by eating breakfast is also associated with weight loss and maintenance.

Adding peanut butter to your breakfast is a fantastic (and easy) way to get that protein into your morning meal. Even if you're in a hurry (and I know this from experience), it's simple to toast a slice of bread, and then spread it with peanut butter. Another quick and easy idea is to swirl it into some yogurt, with a palmful of chopped peanuts and some banana slices (even a few mini chocolate chips).


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.