Wednesday, January 30, 2013

EASY CHICKEN CHILI


This is one of my favorite lunches, and it's so easy to make when you use rotisserie chicken, or any leftover cooked chicken or turkey.  Use this recipe as a starting point, adjusting ingredient amounts to your preferences.

Easy Chicken Chili
Rating:  10 out of 10
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INGREDIENTS, per serving:
1 Tbsp. Extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 tsp. minced or grated garlic
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. Mexican oregano, crushed
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt, according to your preference
1/2 cup shredded or chopped cold rotisserie chicken*
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup your favorite salsa (I like Harris Teeter chunky mild)
1/4 cup black beans
1/2 cup Havarti cheese with jalapenos (or Monterey Jack cheese with jalapenos)
  *You may also use leftover shredded or chopped cooked chicken or turkey.

Optional garnishes:
1/2 ripe avocado, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. green onions, sliced
1-2 Tbsp. Fage nonfat plain Greek yogurt (or regular or lite sour cream)
1-2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped cilantro
Tortilla chips

In heavy frying pan, cook onion in oil over medium heat till transparent, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, and chicken; cook, stirring, about 1 minute.  Add broth, salsa and black beans; stir to combine; cover pan and cook over medium-low heat about 5 minutes, or till everything is hot.  Off heat; sprinkle cheese over hot chili; cover for about 1 minute to melt.  Scoop into bowl, keeping cheese on top.  (Alternately, you can place the chili in a bowl and then sprinkle the cheese on top, stirring it into the chili slightly to hasten melting.)  Garnish with avocado, green onions, yogurt and/or cilantro.  If desired, serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

SWEET POTATO-PECAN HONEY BUNS


Eastern North Carolina has plenty of fresh, delicious sweet potatoes and, with the arctic weather we've been having, here's a good way to use some.  Sweet potatoes add some extra flavor to this sweet dough.  You may be lucky enough to still have some of those $.19/lb. sweet potatoes from Wal-Mart at Thanksgiving time.  If not, head to the Farmer's Market next Saturday and get some for $.75/lb.

Pecans have been pricey this year, due to a bad pecan crop.  Moore's Produce at the Farmer's Market has 1-lb. bags of large shelled pecans for $10.  Considering that they're fresh local pecans and not something that's been sitting in a bag for over a year, $10 is still a good price.  Of course, you can substitute walnuts, but they're not a whole lot cheaper.  Whatever you decide, these sticky buns will comfort you during the icy-cold weather we're having.  (And just because we'll be reaching 80 degrees this week, I'm confident there's more cold weather to come in February.)

If you're out of honey, you can find some very reasonably priced local raw honey at Henry & Shorty's on
Rt. 17 northside, below Moore's BBQ.  He also has Amish milk, butter and cheese and a lot of other goodies.

Sweet Potato-Pecan Honey Buns
Adapted from Pillsbury
Rating:  9 out of 10
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Makes 2 dozen medium rolls, or 1 dozen large.

INGREDIENTS:
2 packets active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes*
1/4 cup sugar
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, divided + 1/4 cup solid butter for topping
2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt + 1/4 tsp. for topping
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (I used my homemade vanilla extract.)
2 large eggs
3-1/4 to 3-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, whisked, then lightly spooned and leveled
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup + 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar divided
3/4 cup toasted chopped pecans (or walnuts), divided

*You may substitute canned sweet potatoes.  Drain liquid from can to equal 1/2 cup and use it, warmed, instead of water to soften yeast.

Soften yeast in warm (not hot) water.  Combine in bowl of standing mixer potatoes, sugar, 3 Tbsp. melted butter, 2 tsp. salt, vanilla and eggs.  Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium-low speed until well combined.  Add 1 cup of flour and beat on medium speed until well combined.  Remove paddle attachment and insert dough hook.  Gradually add remaining 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 cups flour until a stiff dough is formed.  Cover bowl with dampened clean kitchen towel and let dough rise in a warm place (85F to 90F) until light and doubled in size, about 1-1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare topping.  In saucepan, combine honey, brown sugar, 1/4 cup solid butter and 1/4 tsp. salt. Bring to boil and cook, stirring constantly, until a little syrup dropped in cold water forms a soft ball (234F), about 1-1/2 minutes.  Pour into greased 13 x 9 x 2" pan or two 8 or 9" round layer pans.  Sprinkle evenly with 1/2 cup pecans.

Toss dough on well-floured surface until coated with flour and no longer sticky.  Roll out to 24 x 8-inch rectangle.  Brush with remaining 2 Tbsp. melted butter.  Sprinkle with 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar and 1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans.  Roll as for jelly roll, starting with 24-inch side.  Cut into twenty-four 1", or twelve 2" slices.  Place slices cut-sides down over topping.  Cover, let rise in warm place until light and doubled in size, 30-45 minutes.

Heat oven to 375F.  Bake rolls 25-30 minutes on center rack.  Cool 2 minutes, then invert on serving plate or on rack over waxed paper.  Let stand 30 seconds before removing pan.

TIP:  Bake an extra sweet potato or two when you're having them for dinner.  The extra potatoes are great cold, cut up for salads, mashed for soup, muffins, scones or cupcakes, or to use in these sticky buns.  

Monday, January 7, 2013

ALMOND-PECAN-CRUSTED SNAPPER


One more piece of snapper was left from hubby's fishing trip in July.  I decided to coat the thawed fish with luscious local pecans, almond flour and seasonings and saute it in olive oil and butter.  This is my new favorite way to cook snapper and other white fish.  The nuts impart a wonderful flavor, and they make the fish more satisfying.

I've also made this recipe with flounder.  While fresh, local fish is always the best, you can use frozen and thawed if you prefer.  Here in East Carolina, flounder is always in season.  B&J's on Route 70 is the best source, unless, of course, you know a fisherman or have a boat yourself.  Pecans have been scarce and pricey this year, but I did manage to get some without breaking the bank.  Hope you did, too, because the flavor of the pecans is prevalent in this dish, and I can't imagine substituting any other nut.  Almond meal can be purchased online or at Harris Teeter or Wal-Mart.  Store it in the freezer in its original bag placed inside a larger freezer bag.  It will keep about a year, and makes wonderful frangipane desserts.

Almond-Pecan-Crusted Snapper
Rating:  10 out of 10
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INGREDIENTS:
1/4 cup chopped untoasted pecans
2 Tbsp. almond flour (almond meal) or very finely chopped almonds
2 Tbsp. Panko breadcrumbs
3 Tbsp. whole wheat bread chopped or torn into pieces
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
Pinch Diamond kosher salt
Pinch white pepper
1 lb. (skinned both sides) snapper fillets (or other mild white fish)
1/4 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
2 Tbsp. white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup milk
1-1/2 tsp. hot sauce
1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

In mini food processor, combine pecans, almond flour, Panko, whole wheat bread, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Pulse a few times, till ingredients are finely ground and well mixed.  Pour onto wax paper.

Pat fish dry with paper towels.  (Fish should weigh at least 1 lb. after skinning.)  Cut into 3-4 serving pieces.  Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper.  Spread white whole wheat flour onto another sheet of wax paper   Pour milk into shallow bowl and stir in hot sauce.  Heat oven to 350F.  Set out a cast-iron frying pan (or other heavy pan).  Cut lemon into 4 wedges.  Dredge fish pieces in whole wheat flour, dip in milk mixture, then into nut/bread mixture.

Heat fry pan on medium heat.  Add oil and butter.  When oil and butter start to foam, add fish pieces.  Cook about 3 minutes, or till underside is golden brown; turn fish over and place in oven for about 5 minutes, or till fish flakes easily when pierced with a fork.  Serve hot with lemon wedges.  Yield:  2-4 servings



Friday, January 4, 2013

NEW AMERICAN DIET


In 1995, the National Institutes of Health started following more than 500,000 AARP volunteers (ages 50 and up).  They wanted to determine how diet influences health, especially connections between diet and cancer.  The study, now completed, confirmed previous conclusions of other studies on diet and disease.  People who ate plenty of vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts, whole grains, olive oil and fish -- and less red meat, processed meat and butter -- had fewer cases of cancer and heart disease.  Following are some highlights of the study:

1.  Red meat is especially linked to colon cancer.  Red meat includes beef, pork and lamb.  Carcinogens are theoretically formed when the meat is pan-fried or cooked over an open flame, especially when it is charred. Recommended amounts to consume:  no more than 18 oz. a week.

2.  Foods containing nitrites are linked to cancer.  Hot dogs, luncheon meats and bacon are all available in nitrite-free forms now.  Since nitrite acts as as a preservative, it's important to store these foods properly at recommended temperatures.

3.  Fill 2/3 of your plate with "plant-based" foods (veggies, beans, whole grains, nuts) and 1/3 with animal-based foods such as chicken, seafood, lean beef or low-fat dairy.  Briefly precooking meat, either in the microwave or by parboiling before grilling, reduces cancer-causing compounds.  Don't worry about grilling veggies because carcinogens are not formed when veggies are exposed to high heat.

4.  Tomatoes in any form are rich in lycopene.  Lycopene, theorized to protect against prostate cancer, is also found in pink grapefruit, cabbage and beets.  When possible, add a small amount of fat to improve lycopene absorption.

5.  Whole grains help protect against cancer.  Fiber from whole grains is more protective than fiber from fruits and vegetables.

6.  Alcohol consumption of any amount increases the risk for breast cancer.  High alcohol consumption also increases the risk of several other cancers for both women and men, including colon and liver cancers.  Recommended amounts:  no more than 2 drinks/day for men, 1 drink/day for women.

AARP's new diet book by John Whyte, MD, AARP New American Diet, is designed to help Americans age 50 and older lose weight and keep it off with foods that also help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.