Friday, May 31, 2013

Paletas de Arroz con Leche {#SummerOfThePopsicle}

It's no exaggeration when I tell you that we have a batch of leftover Arroz con Leche in the fridge at least twice a month.  At least.  It's my husband's favorite comfort food.  It's his go-to when he's rummaging through the fridge and the pantry and can't find anything to eat.

And really, I can't tell you how many times I looked at a container of leftover sweet, milky rice and thought about trying to make a batch of paletas with it.  And yet, it never happened.  I would put it off - which is ridiculous, because really, if the rice is already made, it takes no more than 5 minutes to put the mixture together and get it into the molds.  The longest part is the wait for them to freeze.
So, when he made another batch earlier this week, I decided there was no time like the present.  Why, oh why, did I wait so long?  I love the creamy texture of the pops, and the way it is broken up by the unexpected (in a popsicle) addition of tender rice.  I really wanted to add a swirl of fruit, too...basically to mimic the dried fruit that I love to stir into my bowl of steaming arroz con leche.  I used strawberry this time, but I think I'll try cherry next time (since it's my favorite fruit to add to the hot stuff) - I think you could get away with any flavor you have around!

Paletas de Arroz con Leche

by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 5 minutes + freezing time
Cook Time: varies (time enough to make some arroz con leche)
Keywords: snack dessert vegetarian milk rice popsicles Mexican summer

Ingredients (4 (2.5 ounce) paletas)
  • 1 cup cold, leftover Arroz con Leche (your favorite)
  • 1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream 
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • pinch of fine sea salt 
  • 1-2 tablespoons (or so) strawberry preserves
Instructions
notes before you get started:
Okay, here's the thing - this is not so much a recipe, as it is a guide. It really depends on the leftover arroz con leche that you are using. If my husband is hungry and doesn't know what to eat, his go-to dish is Arroz con Leche. We have it more than I'd like to admit. Usually it just consists of him using whatever variety of rice, milk, and sweetener that we have around. He likes it best simple (ie...without dried fruit in it). I just used some of the leftover from his last batch to make these the first time.

If you don't have a specific recipe for arroz con leche, you could try this one, this one, or even this one for a bit of a twist. You can leave the dried fruit in a recipe, or leave it out - I'd probably leave it out for the paletas.

If your recipe already has cinnamon or vanilla in it, you may want to leave those out of this recipe. Or you could go with a different flavor profile all together (like the rosewater-scented pudding in the second link above). Also, you'll want to make sure your rice is sweet. Sweeter than you'd normally eat it warm, I'd say, as cold dulls flavors (the reason that I also recommend tasting the mixture while it is cold to determine what you want to add). So, once you've eaten what you've wanted of the warm arroz con leche, add a bit more of whatever sweetener you choose.

If your Arroz con Leche is not firm and thick after it's cold (if it's still liquidy), you will probably want to add less liquid to it. You're looking for a thick, yet pourable mix - nothing too runny.

Also, feel free to use any flavor of fruit preserves that you have hanging around.  Or even chunks of whole, sweet, ripe fruit.  You could also leave it out.  Up to you.

Getting down to it:
Stir the cold Arroz con Leche together with the half and half. Stir in the vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.

Heat the strawberry preserves for a few seconds in the microwave, just so it gets a bit runny. At this point, you can proceed one of two ways.
  1. Quickly swirl the preserves through the rice mixture and then pour into your popsicle molds.
  2. Pour half of the rice mixture into the popsicle molds, then drizzle the preserves over the top. Use a thin knife or a skewer the swirl in the preserves a bit before topping off the molds with the remaining rice mixture.
Freeze at least 4 hours, or until solid, adding the popsicle sticks at the correct time for your molds (I usually stick them in after 1 hour in the freezer).
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Summer of the Popsicle 2


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tilapia a la Veracruzana

Tilapia a la Veracruzana | www.girlichef.com
I'm not sure if you've noticed or not, but over the past couple of months, I have been taking part in a little challenge put forth by Pomì Tomatoes.  Basically, if participating, you are given an ingredient for the month which you are to pair with Pomì tomatoes.  The ingredient for March was wine.  April was eggplant (I was fortunate enough to win this challenge).  And this month's iPomì challenge is fish.

I have changed my mind on what I wanted to make approximately 37 times.  No joke.  I've gone back and forth so many times from a good (insert fish here) Puttanesca en Papillote to a Spicy Fish Ball Soup to a lightly breaded Tuna with Tomatoes to Cod Fritters to.... yeah.  I've been super indecisive.  
Tilapia a la Veracruzana | www.girlichef.com
Finally I put out a little "social network" call for suggestions on what other people would make with a box of Pomì tomatoes and fish of their choice.  I loved hearing the responses and suggestions from everybody.  Suggestions that varied almost as much as the potential-recipes already floating around in my skull.

But then I received a suggestion that I couldn't get out of my head.  It was for a sauce known as Salsa Veracruzana.  It's something I've made before, but not for years.  It hails from Mexico (Veracruz. Obviously), and takes into account some of the Spanish influence on cooking brought over by the conquistadors.  It's chunky and briny and beautifully rustic.  And the perfect cloak for pretty much any variety of fresh fish.  Though it's good on plenty of other things, as well.

Although all versions are essentially the same, this is my version.  And personally, I could eat it all by its lonesome, with a spoon.  But fish of any sort only elevates it that much higher.

Tilapia a la Veracruzana
Tilapia a la Veracruzana | www.girlichef.com
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Keywords: entree sauce fish tomatoes Mexican

Ingredients (serves 4 + extra sauce)
    for the Salsa Veracruzana
    • 1 (26.46 ounce) box Pomi chopped tomatoes
    • 3 (medium-large) red bell peppers, roasted (then stemmed & seeded), divided
    • 1/2 cup water + more as needed
    • 2 (medium) poblano chiles, roasted (then stemmed & seeded)
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 (medium) red onion, sliced thinly
    • 4 fat cloves garlic, sliced thinly
    • 1 teaspoon oregano
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
    • 1/2 cup Manzanillo olives, sliced
    • 1/4 cup capers
    • small handful fresh cilantro, chopped (heaping 1/4 cup once chopped)
    • small handful fresh parsley, chopped (heaping 1/4 cup once chopped)
    • sea salt
    • freshly ground black pepper
    for Tilapia
    • butter or olive oil, for sauteing fish
    • 4 (or more) Tilapia fillets
    to finish
    • lemon slices
    Instructions
    to make the Salsa Veracruzana (yield: 1 generous quart):
    Pour the entire box of Pomi tomatoes into the jar of a blender. Add the 1/2 cup of water, and 2 of the roasted red bell peppers. Pulse until almost smooth, but it's okay if it is still slightly chunky. Set aside.

    In a large, deep-sided skillet, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and garlic; saute until limp and beginning to turn a bit golden in spots, 7-10 minutes. Add the reserved puree to the pan. Adjust heat and allow to simmer gently for 15 minutes.

    Thinly slice the remaining roasted red pepper, and the poblanos and add them to the pan after the 15 minutes has passed. Also add the oregano, bay leaves, lemon juice, vinegar, and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Continue to simmer for about 7-10 minutes. Mixture should be thick, but glumpy...if it seems too thick, stir in a little water at a time, to make it slightly loose.

    Turn off heat, taste and adjust for seasoning; stir in the cilantro and the parsley. At this point, set aside and keep warm while you cook the fish. You could also cool it down and store in a jar or container in the fridge at this point.

    making the Tilapia:
    Sprinkle fish with a little bit of salt and pepper on both sides. Heat a skillet over medium-high and add a couple pats of butter or a big drizzle of olive oil. Place fish presentation side down and saute until golden and cooked halfway through. Flip and continue cooking until just done. This shouldn't take more than 5 minutes or so, total. Do it all at once, or in batches.

    Serve 1-2 fillets per person (depending on the person), with a half cup or so of the Salsa Veracruzana per serving.

    Garnish with a lemon wheel.

    notes:
    You can cook the fish in any manner you like...steam it, grill it, broil it...you don't have to saute it. Either way, it'll be delicious. Also, feel free to use with another type of fish (just adjust cooking times to thickness) - fillets, steaks, or even whole fish.

    Salsa Veracruzana is also delicious with steak (my hubby's favorite way to eat it), prime rib, lengua (tongue), pork, chicken, or any way you choose.
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    Tilapia a la Veracruzana | www.girlichef.com
    So tell me, what would YOU make with a box of Pomì tomatoes and the fish of your choice?

    I received two boxes of Pomì Tomatoes at no charge to use as I pleased to test and develop a recipe using fish and Pomì Tomatoes.  I received no compensation for writing this post.  All opinions are my own.


    Wednesday, May 29, 2013

    Graham Cracker Cinnamon Paletas {#SummerOfThePopsicle guest post: Vintage Kitchen Notes}

    Today kicks off a series of guest posts here on girlichef in honor of the Summer of the Popsicle!  Over the next 4 months, I am fortunate enough to have a different, talented blogger "holding the stick" (as I'm calling it), each Wednesday.  In other words, some of my amazing friends out there are going to be making popsicles, paletas, and ice pops - and then sharing them right here with you and me!  Just thinking of all of the array of icy cold treats to come puts a big, silly grin on my face.

    So, without further ado, I turn the floor over to the woman who's going to get the party started....

    Who's Holding the Stick: Paula from Vintage Kitchen Notes
    Graham Cracker Cinnamon Paletas: a #SummerOfThePopsicle guest post from Vintage Kitchen Notes | www.girlichef.com
    Hey popsicle lovers! Since there´s a summer-long party going on here at girlichef, I´m coming to you from across the world, the lovely city of Buenos Aires, to share one of my favorite ice cream flavors, graham crackers cinnamon paletas, or stick ice cream as we call it here.

    The icy sticks take me right back to my grade school years, when they were sold by a man on a bicycle who rode down my block offering three flavors, strawberry, orange and lemon, all water based, and so cold you had to be careful it didn´t stick to your tongue and had to have your mom come to your rescue. It was a weekend treat and the sound of the whistle had us all kids running outside while begging our parents to please, please buy us some paletas.

    I love to be guest posting here, and with ice cream no less! Heather is such a source of inspiration, that when I had the chance to choose a recipe from all the Sunday Supper blogs, I choose her to-die-for soft pretzels with beer cheese sauce. Her style of writing and sometimes biting wit are amazing. A lady with personality, I like that.
    Graham Cracker Cinnamon Paletas: a #SummerOfThePopsicle guest post from Vintage Kitchen Notes | www.girlichef.com
    So my paletas had to be something special. I got into the habit of making my own graham crackers some months ago, since I can´t get them here. And the more I made them, the more I became addicted to their cinnamon honey flavor. That´s not news, I know, who doesn´t love graham crackers, right? But let me tell you that when you mix them with some good, old fashioned, custard based ice cream, the flavor amplifies. More cinnamon, more caramel tones, more of everything that´s good about the cookies and the ice cream.

    If you´re not in the habit of making ice cream you should have a serious talk with yourself, buy an ice cream machine and remedy that. If you already make ice cream but have never made paletas, you should grab a bowl the the stuff, a spoon and have an even more serious talk with yourself while you eat it. Paletas are so much fun. And so simple to make. Really.

    You can even pour your favorite frozen drink, like a margarita for instance, and have the best happy hour of all summer.
    Graham Cracker Cinnamon Paletas: a #SummerOfThePopsicle guest post from Vintage Kitchen Notes | www.girlichef.com
    Me, I´m going with the creamy cinnamon with ground graham crackers inside, and then some more on the outside. Just to make it over the top. Because the summer is just starting and this party deserves it!

    Thank you my friend for having me here, it´s always exciting to share my food with you and get to know your readers.

    Graham Cracker Cinnamon Paletas
    Graham Cracker Cinnamon Paletas: a #SummerOfThePopsicle guest post from Vintage Kitchen Notes | www.girlichef.com
    by (guest post) Paula Montenegro of Vintage Kitchen Notes
    Prep Time: 15 minutes + 6 hours in fridge + 4 hours in freezer
    Cook Time: 15 minutes
    Keywords: snack dessert vegetarian nut-free eggs milk cream July 4th Labor Day Memorial Day popsicles summer

    Ingredients (10-12 medium-sized paletas)
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1 large cinnamon stick
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 2 cups cream, divided
    • 6 large egg yolks
    • ¾ cup granulated sugar
    • ¾ cup ground graham crackers + additional to sprinkle
    Instructions
    The cinnamon is roasted, but you can skip that step and also the cinnamon stick. It does give it a deeper, wonderful flavor.

    In a small skillet (I use my crepe maker), toast the ground cinnamon and the stick, about 2 minutes until you smell the toasted aroma, tossing it around so you don´t burn it.

    In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, 1 cup cream and the cinnamon stick. Bring just to a boil, remove from heat and let infuse for 5 minutes.
    Graham Cracker Cinnamon Paletas: a #SummerOfThePopsicle guest post from Vintage Kitchen Notes | www.girlichef.com
    Put the yolks in a large bowl and gradually add the sugar, beating until beginning to thicken only. I do this with a hand whisk.

    Take out the cinnamon stick, and add the warm milk gradually to the yolk mixture, whisking all the time.
    Transfer this mixture back to the saucepan and cook, over medium heat stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, some 3 to 5 minutes. Do not let it boil. When you draw your finger across the back of the spoon there should be a clear path.
    Graham Cracker Cinnamon Paletas: a #SummerOfThePopsicle guest post from Vintage Kitchen Notes | www.girlichef.com
    Strain the mixture into a bowl, add the ground cinnamon and the remaining 1 cup of cream. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.

    When you´re ready to put the cinnamon mixture into the molds, add the ground graham crackers. Pour the very cold custard into the popsicle molds, attach the stick and freeze for 4 hours, or more, until solid.

    To unmold, pass the bottom and sides of the molds through hot water for 10 seconds and carefully unmold. If you still can´t take the paletas out, put them under hot water for 5 more seconds, until you can unmold them.

    Sprinkle them with additional graham crackers and eat.

    adapted from In theSweet Kitchen, by Regan Daley
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    Graham Cracker Cinnamon Paletas: a #SummerOfThePopsicle guest post from Vintage Kitchen Notes | www.girlichef.com
    While you're waiting for your paletas to freeze, drop by and pay Paula a visit at Vintage Kitchen Notes, and follow her in a few places if you don't already:  Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Google+

    A huge, HUGE thanks to YOU, Paula for kicking this series off in style!  Your beautiful photos and touching stories are always a source of inspiration to me.  And I know that when I make a batch of your creamy, mouthwatering paletas, my family is going to be sending kisses your way.
    Summer of the Popsicle 2


    Monday, May 27, 2013

    Cashel Blue & Hazelnut Shortbread {ft. @CashelBlue @KerrygoldUSA}

    Cashel Blue Cheese & Hazelnut Shortbread | www.girlichef.com
    I have been nibbling on a wheel of Irish Cashel Blue cheese for a couple of weeks now.  It's creamy, almost buttery texture, and it's delicate, green Roqefortii-veins have a way of beckoning me to snag a crumble and let it melt into a primal, musky puddle on my tongue.

    Much to the chagrin of the other inhabitants of my home.  Aka, the family.  The only ones in my house whose senses trill at the presence of blue cheese are me ...and the cat.

    But that's not all bad.  That means that I wasn't batting off advances toward my wheel of Cashel Blue as I tossed around recipe ideas and commenced testing.  Mine.  All mine.  Though in all honesty, it would be nice to share.
    Cashel Blue Cheese & Hazelnut Shortbread | www.girlichef.com
    So yes, I've been working on developing a recipe.  More than that, developing a recipe that perfectly flaunts the attributes of Cashel Blue.  From cheesecake to quiche, from burgers to ice cream, from bread to pungent, creamy sauces - I worked through a plethora of thoughts and recipe formulations.  Even a batch of Cashel Blue cheese dressing is on the horizon.  From simple to "involved", Cashel Blue lends itself to a world of delicious applications.

    But in the end, the idea that won out...the one that I could not get out of my head until it came to fruition, was savory shortbread.  I mean, that buttery, creamy texture and tone of the Cashel Blue that is given to it in part by the lush Irish grass that their cows graze on, marries perfectly with the golden Kerrygold butter which shares that similar characteristic.  And I had already decided that I wanted something that would pair well with whiskey (Irish or otherwise).
    Cashel Blue Cheese & Hazelnut Shortbread | www.girlichef.com
    You can taste the distinctive, mild flavor of Cashel Blue in every bite of these savory little rounds of shortbread, which is rounded out nicely with the meatiness added by the addition of hazelnuts, and the bite of black pepper.  Rich, buttery, and perfectly crumbly, it makes the ideal accompaniment to munch alongside whiskey (or whisky) - whether alone, or as part of a tasting of various whiskies.

    On a side note, as the shortbread was baking, a glorious smell permeated the air in the kitchen.  As I sat back next to an open window with sunshine streaming in, my feet kicked up, I was thinking about how amazing the kitchen smelled.  One minute later, my daughter walks through from outside and says "Ugh, it stinks in here!".  Followed not long after by an older brother who just made a face and a noise.  And a younger brother who held his breath every time he dashed in and out of the kitchen for the next two hours.  Ha!

    Well, whatever.  They don't like whiskey either, so*...

    Cashel Blue & Hazelnut Shortbread
    Cashel Blue & Hazelnut Shortbread | www.girlichef.com
    by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
    Prep Time: 10 minutes + time to rest
    Cook Time: 23-25 minutes
    Keywords: bake cheese side snack vegetarian sugar-free soy-free butter nuts blue cheese

    Ingredients (2 dozen pieces)
    • 4 ounces unsalted Kerrygold butter, at room temperature
    • 4 ounces Cashel Blue cheese
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup cornstarch
    • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons finely ground hazelnuts
    • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
    • freshly grated black pepper, to taste (10 good grates, or so)
    Instructions
    In a medium-sided bowl, cream together the butter and blue cheese until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until everything is combined, and no spots of dry flour remain. The mixture will be crumbly like a streusel topping - don't worry, that's perfect.

    Lay a large sheet of plastic wrap out on your work surface. Tip the bowl and pour the mixture out onto the plastic. Use the sheet of plastic to gather and pat the mixture together, until you have a rectangular "block" of shortbread dough that is about an inch thick. Wrap the plastic around it and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 hours.

    Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

    Lightly flour your work surface. Remove the dough from the plastic and set it on your prepared area. Lightly dust the top with a bit more flour to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin. Use a rolling pin to gently roll the dough until it is 1/4-inch thick.

    Using a cutter that is approximately 1½-2-inches, cut circles from the dough. Gather up the scraps and re-roll or pat them out again. Repeat process until all of the dough is used up. If you like, poke a few holes about halfway down the dough, for decoration.
    Cashel Blue Cheese & Hazelnut Shortbread | www.girlichef.com
    Set the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about an inch between each. Place the sheets into the freezer for 15 minutes.

    Preheat oven to 350° F.

    Transfer the baking sheets from the freezer to the preheated oven. Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until the shortbread has started to turn golden; rotate the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before carefully transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

    Once completely cool, store in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to 3 days.

    notes:
    I think these would be equally good using pecans or walnuts in place of the hazelnuts.

    I think that the ABSOLUTE perfect use for this savory shortbread, is served alongside whisk(e)y. Set them out with other munchies like sliced apples or pears, dried figs and apricots, smoked and/or candied and/or spiced nuts, dark chocolate, smoked meats, or a some sharp cheddar or crumbly Parmesan. Or serve them alone. They are the perfect accompaniment to a variety of whiskies.
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    Cashel Blue Cheese & Hazelnut Shortbread | www.girlichef.com
    *I jest.  Obviously my kids don't like whiskey.  They're beer drinkers...

    I received a wheel of Cashel Blue from Kerrygold at no cost.  I received no compensation to write this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


    Sunday, May 26, 2013

    Fresh Limeade w/ Chia Seeds {#SundaySupper: Picnic}

    Fresh Limeade w/ Chia Seeds | www.girlichef.com
    My new obsession?  Chia seeds.  Since the first time I tried them, I've wanted to put them into everything.  I love the way they plump up and get all gummy, in the way that tapioca gets gummy.  Plus, they're a superfood.  How can I resist that!?

    They are an ancient source of fuel, originally used regularly by the Aztecs and the Mayans as part of their diet - and their main source of fuel for long expeditions.  It's said that just one tablespoon of chia seeds can sustain a person for 24 hours.  Plus, chia seeds are the highest known plant source of omega-3 and omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids.

    What else? They help boost metabolism and lean muscle mass. They add bulk and nutrients with very few calories, therefore are helpful in weight loss and maintenance.  Their high concentration of omega-3's helps to lubricate and keep joints supple.  Aside from the EFA's, they contain about 20% protein, and are a source of fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, niacin, zinc, and phosphorus. Fun fact?  They can absorb seven times their weight in water (ummm...bulk...weight loss).
    Fresh Limeade w/ Chia Seeds | www.girlichef.com
    Oh, and did I mention that I love their gooey, gummy texture? Yeah.

    A great way to start adding chia seeds to your diet is to put them into your favorite beverage.  I'm talking things like water (add a squeeze of lime), juices, agua frescas, lemon and limeades, shakes and smoothies, and even tea.  You want to let them sit in the liquid for at least 30 minutes to give them time to start soaking up that liquid...so you get that crazy mouth-feel.  They are still digestible if you don't soak them, though.

    Lately, fresh lemonade or limeade like this one have been on the fridge shelf constantly.  It's an incredibly refreshing way to stay hydrated AND get the nutritional benefits of the chia.  Plus, how perfect is it for the hot weather?  We often feel like eating less this time of year, anyway.  Drinking our nutrients, while filling the space in our stomach?  It seems like the way to go.  Also perfect for a picnic.  Simply whip up a big batch and put it in jars or bottles with tight-fitting lids.  Slide into a cooler and you're set!

    Fresh Limeade with Chia Seeds
    Fresh Limeade with Chia Seeds | www.girlichef.com
    by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
    Prep Time: 10 minutes (+ 30 minutes in fridge)
    Cook Time: n/a
    Keywords: beverage vegan soy-free nut-free limes chia seeds

    Ingredients (approximately 1 quart)
    • 5 small-medium limes, scrubbed & quartered
    • 4 cups cold water
    • 1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
    • 1/4 cup chia seeds
    Instructions
    Place the lime quarters, water, and sugar in the jar of a blender and pulse 10-20 times. You want to release the juice and oils from the limes, but not crush the skins too much (or the limeade will be bitter). Set a strainer over a pitcher and pour the limeade through, pressing down on the solids to release as much liquid as possible.

    Stir in the chia seeds, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Stir before serving, chilled and over ice.

    adapted from Paletas
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    Fresh Limeade w/ Chia Seeds | www.girlichef.com
    #SundaySupper is going on a PICNIC this week, and our host is Katy from Happy Baking Days.  So spread out your blanket, get comfortable, and take a peek inside of our overflowing picnic basket!

    Salads and Slaws:
    Sandwiches and Mains:
    Desserts:
    Drinks:
    Sunday Supper MovementWhat are your favorite Picnic Foods and Drinks?  Feel free to leave links and/or recipes in the comments.  Also, please join us for our live twitter chat tonight at 7pm (Eastern) using the#SundaySupper hashtag, and check out the Sunday Supper board on Pinterest

    SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Coming to Orlando July 19-21, the first annual Food and Wine Conference sponsored by #SundaySupper. Visit the website to learn more and join in on the fun.

    sources:
    The Ancient Chia Seed: How it Can Benefit your Health 
    (Care2) Ancient Chia Seeds: An Ancient American Superfood 


    Friday, May 24, 2013

    Asparagus Tart inspired by The Color of Tea {cook the books}

    Asparagus Tart | www.girlichef.com
    Let me preface this by saying that I don't remember a singular mention of asparagus in this book.

    And let me next apologize for not making dainty, colored shells filled with creams, jellies, and ganache in an array of alluring flavors.  Because way-back-when (a couple of months ago), I basically vowed that I would be making macarons in honor of our current Cook the Books selection, The Color of Tea.  You see, I'd already enjoyed this book once before.  And I mentioned that the heading of each chapter sets the mood with a particularly delicious sounding macaron flavor like Coconut with Passion Fruit-Spiked Buttercream, Vanilla with Raspberry Markings and Raspberry Gel insertion, and Honeycomb with Milk Chocolate Ganache.  You know, just to name a few.

    Our main character, Grace, actually opens up her own shop that serves macarons in the city of Macau, China.  I mean, in this novel, macarons are basically a metaphor for the delicacy, fragility, and beauty of life.  And yet, I didn't make any the first time I shared The Color of Tea with you.  And now, I'm not sharing them with you this time, either.

    I'll admit that it does have a teensy little bit to do with my week-long macaron making (or rather, attempting to make) marathon.  I've sort of put the task of mastering the macaron on the backburner.  I mean, I'll happily eat them with gusto should they appear in front of me - I just haven't been in the mood to try baking any myself again.
    Asparagus Tart | www.girlichef.com
    But amidst the array of enticing macarons sits the most delectable...the most sensuous...the most unforgettable tomato tart.  It lurks in the underbelly, in the background, if you will.  But I think the tomato tart that Grace associates with her mother, and with her husband, is the epitome of love in the novel.

    I almost made a different version of a tomato tart than I did last time.  I wanted to make a tomato tart.  I yearned for a tomato tart.  (As a matter of fact, since I didn't actually wind up making one, these feelings all still apply.)  But, I just couldn't find any worthy tomatoes at this time of year.  Worthy like this...

    Next to the peaches were boxes filled with tomatoes still clinging to their vines.  The ripe tomato smell was almost sexual.  It filled my nostrils as I lifted up a box.

    So, since it is full-on Spring, I turned to a veg that is in season right now to make my tart, Asparagus.  Half of the slender spears standing at attention, the other half slightly bent to one side, as if swaying to the music...green and dusky purple.  I also found a block of Monterey Jack cheese with brilliant red flecks of roasted red peppers inside that I knew needed a place in the tart.  Add a little garlic oil...a smattering of black pepper and the smoked sea salt I'm so obsessed with, and it makes Spring seem almost as sensual as Summer.

    Asparagus Tart
    Asparagus Tart | www.girlichef.com
    by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 35-40 minutes
    Keywords: bake entree breakfast vegetarian sugar-free soy-free nut-free asparagus cheese spring

    Ingredients (serves 4)
    • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed (half of a 17.3 ounce box)
    • 6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese w/ Roasted Red Peppers, shredded
    • ~1 pound asparagus spears
    • 1-2 tablespoons garlic oil
    • smoked sea salt
    • freshly ground black pepper
    Instructions
    Preheat the oven to 400° F. Flip a baking sheet upside down (or use a rimless baking sheet), and set a piece of parchment paper on it.

    Lightly flour a work surface and roll the sheet of puff pastry dough out into a rectangle that measures approximately 16" x 10". Lightly score a 1-inch border all the way around the dough, without cutting all the way through. Dock the dough, inside of that border, all over with a fork.

    Slide into preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden.

    Remove from oven and scatter cheese as evenly as you can over the puff pastry, inside of the border. Trim the ends of the asparagus so that they fit neatly inside of that border, as well. Line the asparagus up on top of the cheese, alternating every spear, tip to tail. Drizzle the garlic oil all over the asparagus, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    Asparagus Tart | www.girlichef.com
    Slide back into oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the asparagus is just tender.

    notes:
    Feel free to use any type of cheese you like; swiss, gruyere, or fontina would be nice, as would goat cheese. You could substitute olive oil for the garlic oil, if you wish. And speaking of garlic, scattering a handful of roasted garlic cloves under the asparagus would be nice, too.
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    Asparagus Tart | www.girlichef.com
    cookthebooksThe Color of Tea was chosen by one of my Cook the Books co-hosts, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, as our foodie-read for this round.  Submissions are due by the end of the day on Monday, May 27.

    Also, join us for our next book, chosen by Simona of Briciole - How to Cook a Wolf by M.F.K. Fisher.



    This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


    Thursday, May 23, 2013

    Papaya-Coconut Paletas + @OXO Summer Fruit Tools {#SummerOfThePopsicle}

    Papaya-Coconut Paletas {#SummerOfThePopsicle} | www.girlichef.com
    Now, as much as I love to complain about the sweltering heat of summer, I also have reasons for welcoming that heat.  Warm, plump, juicy fruits that dribble down your chin when you take a bite.  Icy popsicles that leave you with sticky fingers.  Glasses and bottles filled with refreshing cocktails that sweat right alongside you under the heat of the sun.  Even an Autumn-lovin' girl like me enjoys sand between my toes, sunshine on my shoulders, and the sound of the waves lapping up to the shore while I hide my eyes behind huge Jackie-O shades, enthralled in a good book.

    I melt at the sight of a plant hung heavy with ripe tomatoes.  Give me a basket and a blueberry bush, and I'm as wide-eyed as I was when I was 10.  And I'll admit that the purple stain a half an hour of mulberry picking leaves on my fingers and my palms is a sight I crave when there is snow on the ground.  Give me a radio and a swimming pool and you may not see me for the rest of the day.
    Summer Fruit Tools from @OXO | www.girlichef.com
    Speaking of summer fruit, I tend to get lost in the wonderland of rich shades of the rainbow.  I pick so from the fields or the garden until my bags and buckets are overflowing.  I raid the farmer's market, and even the produce department like it's going out of style.  Or out of season.  I love the local fuzzy peaches, the ruby cherries, the blueberries the color of a fresh bruise, and the grapes that slide right out of there skins when you pinch them.  But I also cannot resist a spiny pineapple, or a  bright green-fleshed kiwi with it's smattering of minuscule seeds and scratchy skin, or the vibrant hues of the sweet mangoes or papaya so tender you can eat it with a spoon.

    This obviously means that I need a few fun gadgets in my kitchen arsenal.  So, when given the opportunity to try an awesome array of Summer Fruit Tools from OXO, my cheeks starting tingling in anticipation of all of the fruit to come.
    Summer Fruit Tools from @OXO | www.girlichef.com
    Here's a rundown of the OXO Summer Kitchen Tools that I tried, and my thoughts on each one:
    • Ratcheting Pineapple Slicer: I'll admit, I've always wanted one of these.  Let's just say that it didn't disappoint.  It's extremely easy to use and you get that fun spiral of perfectly cored, spiral-sliced fruit once you're done ratcheting.  It's not essential, I mean, I can cut up a pineapple like it's nobody's business, plus, if you just want chunks or wedges, this won't help you.  However, if I'm in the mood for a spiral, I'm excited to have this tool to pull out of my holster.
    • Strawberry Huller:  I have a couple of different styles of strawberry hullers, but none like this.  It's easy to use, and it'll get the kids helping in no time.  It works well, but I'm probably more likely to reach for my paring knife.
    • 2 Piece Fruit Scoop Set:  These are great.  I like the heft and comfort of the handle and the size of the scoops themselves.  They are great at scooping seeds from a melon (and I'm thinking a pumpkin in the fall), plus they do a good job of scooping the fruit cleanly from the skin.  They're very useful, again, it depends on how you want your end-product to look, as to whether you should use one or not - diced or sliced neatly cries out for a sharp knife.
    • Mango Splitter:  This is cool - and again, something I've always wanted to try out.  It's ridiculously simple to use - one good push and you've got yourself two sides of a mango sliced clean from the pit. It does leave a fair deal of "meat" on the pit, but in this house that's a bonus - people scramble to be the one who gets the pit to suck on.  It's sharp, but I'm thinking if your mango was a little too much on the far side of ripe, it may get a little squished when you first try to get the blade to cut through the skin.  Worth it though, if you are uncomfortable with cutting a mango.
    • Cherry (& Olive) Pitter:  My favorite gadget of them all.  Have I ever mentioned that cherries are my absolute favorite fruit in the world?  I already owned a cherry pitter which worked perfectly well, but what I really like about this one is something so simple, I didn't even think about it before I saw it, the "splatter shield".  Pitting cherries can be a messy job - especially when you're pitting a few pounds worth of sour cherries for a pie or cobbler.  The shield actually stops the splatter.  Very cool.  If you get one gadget all summer, get this one.  It'll also come in handy for pitting olives.

    Now...what to do with all of that beautiful peeled, pitted, scooped, hulled, and sliced fruit just ripe for the taking?  We ate a lot of it out-of-hand.  Some went into smoothies.  A few cocktails were enjoyed.  And if you know me at all, you know that a batch of popsicles had to make its way into my freezer as well.

    Papaya-Coconut Paletas

    by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
    Prep Time: 5 minutes
    Cook Time: n/a
    Keywords: dessert snack vegan coconut papaya July 4th Memorial Day Labor Day popsicles summer

    Ingredients (10 (2.5 oz.) Pops)
    • 11.5-12 ounces fresh papaya
    • 10.5 fluid ounces coconut water (with or without pulp)
    • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon agave nectar
    • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
    • 1/4 cup finely shredded, unsweetened coconut, toasted
    • 1 tablespoon papaya seeds (OPTIONAL - SEE NOTE)
    Instructions
    Place all of the ingredients except the shredded coconut and papaya seeds into the jar of a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a large measuring cup with a spout. Stir in the shredded coconut.
    IF you are using the papaya seeds, drop a few into the bottom of each of the popsicle molds. Fill the molds with the mixture. Freeze for at least 4 hours, or until solid, adding the popsicle sticks at the correct time for your particular mold.

    note:
    Papaya seeds are completely edible, HOWEVER, they have a very distinctive, almost peppery flavor. My kids and husband HATE them. I'm okay with them, but I actually preferred my paletas without. You might want to just put a few into one or two to try them out. If you do put them in, and wind up not liking them, they're very easy to just spit out...especially if you're eating them outside.
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    Summer Fruit Tools from @OXO | www.girlichef.com
    WHICH OXO SUMMER FRUIT TOOL WOULD YOU LIKE BEST? WHAT WOULD YOU MAKE WITH YOUR SUMMER FRUITS?

    I received these OXO Summer Fruit Tools at no cost to try and review, as I wished. I was not compensated for this post, and all opinions are 100% my own.
    Summer of the Popsicle 2


    Wednesday, May 22, 2013

    Fruit & Oat Power Smoothie {she made, ella hace}

    Fruit & Oat Power Smoothies | www.girlichef.com
    Uuuuummmmm....was I complaining about how cold it still was around here one month ago?  I think that I was.  I mean, I do love to complain about mother nature skimping out on Spring and Autumn.  Because of course I would get the shaft when it comes to my favorite seasons.  The ones that allow me to breathe.  To relax.  To gear up for the bitter cold or the sweltering heat, whatever the case may be.  So allow me to complain about the ridiculous heat we've been having lately.  You know, just to prove my point.  Snow one month ago.  Temps in the nineties today.  I miss you Spring.

    What's my point?  I know you're beginning to wonder.  Well, as you can see, it's she made, ella hace time today - the time when I get together with Leslie and we both make our own versions of a dish...or take a theme and roll with it.  Leslie suggested that we do "breakfast" as our theme this month, and I whole-heartedly agreed.  I mean, I'm constantly craving my favorite breakfast, which is Chilaquiles.  I figured it would be the perfect time to share another variation with you.
    Fruit & Oat Power Smoothies | www.girlichef.com
    Then the month got crazy.  And it got hot.  And I loathed turning on any source of heat unless it was absolutely necessary.  I guess the short of it is, that I basically got lazy.  I didn't feel like making Chilaquiles...and actually measuring out ingredients and writing them down.  I mean, whip up some salsa, fry up some chips, pour the salsa over the chips and stir, top with queso, maybe an egg, probably some crema and avocado.  Lazy, I say.

    So, the day before yesterday, I told Leslie how much I sucked and she suggested we do a breakfast drink.  That lady is brilliant.  Just one reason I like her so much.  Cold drinks to start off a hot day are just right.  Today, it's smoothies, to be precise.

    These smoothies are packed with fruit, oats, wheat germ, and chia seeds to start the day off right.  Not only are they refreshing and delicious, they're such a healthy way to start off the day.  And, as often happens, Leslie and I were thinking along the same lines.  Just head over and check out her Strawberry Oat Smoothie.  You'll see.

    Fruit & Oat Power Smoothies

    by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
    Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
    Cook Time: n/a
    Keywords: blender beverage breakfast vegetarian oats papaya cherries strawberries American summer

    Ingredients (serves 2)
    • 1 cup milk (almond, rice, soy, dairy)
    • 1/4 cup uncooked rolled oats
    • 2-2 1/2 cups chopped fruit (whatever you like)
    • ~2 tablespoons brown rice syrup
    • 1 tablespoons wheat germ
    • 1 teaspoon chia seeds
    Instructions
    Place everything in the jar of a blender and puree until thick and smooth. Serve immediately.

    other options:
    It's a smoothie, switch up, remove, substitute - the possibilities are endless. (pictured) Cherry-Berry (Cherries, Raspberries, Strawberries) and Papaya-Cherry. Use fresh or frozen fruit.

    Brown rice syrup is slightly less sweet than honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar, so you will want to adjust to taste.

    Try adding a couple of pinches of spice if it goes with your ingredients: ginger, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg. Or if the fruits fit, try adding a bit of fresh mint or even basil.

    Add a scoop of nut butter.

    Add a handful of greens to the mix (spinach and kale both work well).
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    Fruit & Oat Power Smoothies | www.girlichef.com
    What happens when two American girls who are both married to Mexican guys find out that although one of them lives in the U.S. and one of them lives in Mexico, they both love eating the same food?  Well, naturally they decide to get "together" the only way they can and cook up the same dishes.  Or perhaps take the same ingredients and talking about them in their own voice or using them in their own way. 

    Leslie and I have teamed up to occasionally cook/bake/make a our own versions of the same food.  We want to see how similar (or how different) they turn out.  Other times we will pick an ingredient and use it however we choose...or maybe just talk about it.  Good food knows no borders and we hope to share the food we love with you.  It's not a competition, it's a showcase.  We will post on the same day as each other and would love to hear your thoughts on what we've made and how you make it. 

    Join me (here at girlichef) and Leslie in her kitchen (at La Cocina de Leslie) for some delicious food.
    She Made, Ella Hace Banner- girlichef.com and lacocinadeleslie.com