Monday, February 20, 2017

ChezCindy: Mardi Gras Roux

In celebration of Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday, I usually make cajon/creole food for a dinner party with a few friends.  Pictured above is Shrimp Etouffee.  

Typically, this style of food starts with a roux.  A roux is a mix of flour and fat used as a thickening agent.  Traditionally roux is made using the stovetop burner.  This is a long process, using a low to medium flame, with constant stirring so as not to burn the roux.  A burned roux with flecks of black must be thrown out as it will not taste good when used in your final recipe.  I have learned from Food Network's Alton Brown, that the roux can easily be made in the oven.  The key in using the oven is that it provides a consistent even temperature with heat surrounding the skillet, yielding less chance for burning.  It still requires a long cooking time, but the difference when using the oven is this is passive cooking.  Stovetop time requires constant stirring attention.  Whereas the oven version only requires stirring a few times over 45 minutes. 

Process for Making Roux
Set the oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Place 1/2 cup of vegetable oil or lard, and 1/2 cup of flour in a 10 or 12-inch cast iron skillet.  Stir to combine.  Once the oven comes up to temperature, place the skillet on the middle shelf of the oven.  Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon 3-4 times over the course of the cooking time.  Once the roux has reached the desired color, using thick oven mitts, remove from the oven.  The roux is now ready to use.  A word of caution:  the roux is extremely hot.  Be very careful not to splash it on your skin. 

Shown below are the various stages of color when preparing a roux.  The darker the color, the more complex the flavor.  Darker roux is used for heaver meats like duck or pork.  Lighter roux is used when cooking shrimp or chicken. 

White Roux - just after combining the flour and fat

Blond Roux - after 10 minutes of cooking

Peanut Butter Roux - after 30 minutes of cooking

Mahogany Roux - after 50 minutes of cooking

Roux can be used when making Gumbo or Etouffee. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

ChezCindy: Whole Grain Chocolate Banana Bread

Whole Grain Chocolate Banana Bread

Banana bread so delicious, who cares that it is made with healthy whole grain flour.  That's just a bonus.  This easy recipe comes together quickly mixing everything by hand, yielding a tender muffin-like crumb. 

Whole Grain Chocolate Banana Bread
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup spelt flour*
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 large egg
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mashed ripe bananas - 2-3 bananas
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour standard baking loaf pan, 9x5 inch. 

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, soda and salt.  Chop the chocolate; add to the flour mix. 

In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg, then add the cooled melted butter, vanilla, banana and yogurt.  Stir to combine.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients; gently fold together with a rubber spatula until the flour mixture is just incorporated. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake on the center rack for 50 - 60 minutes until the center of the loaf is set - a toothpick inserted should come out clean.  Cool in the pan for 15 minutes.  Turn out onto a rack for about 60 minutes to cool completely.

This banana bread smells so amazing while it bakes and cools, you'll be tempted to eat it soon after coming out of the oven.  When baking with whole grains, it is best to allow the baked goods to fully cool so that the structure sets up, allowing the shape to take hold.  Wait to cut into this bread for a full hour.  Then, enjoy!

* If you cannot find spelt flour, use 1 cup of whole wheat or use white all-purpose flour.   

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

ChezCindy: Nothing Says 'I love you' like Cheesy Kale Chips

Cheesy Kale Chips

I don't recall how I first learned of nutritional yeast, but it was several years ago.  I must have seen it promoted somewhere for use with popcorn for a cheesy seasoning substitute.  I'm not vegan or vegetarian, but like to learn of products that may benefit my overall health.  I started out with the small container from Bragg, a well established source for health food products.  I quickly exhausted my supply and moved on to the large container from Whole Foods.  Nutritional yeast is a power source for vitamin B and a bit of protein.  It is often used as a cheese substitute and adding umami punch to vegetable soup.  I like it for it's nutritional benefit and for the taste!  I now generously sprinkle nutritional yeast on my popcorn, kale chips, and roasted vegetables.  Below is a delicious recipe for cheesy kale chips that is quite addictive.  Serve to your loved ones with abundance and share the love.

Cheesy Kale Chips
1 large bunch of kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Rinse the kale leaves and dry thoroughly with kitchen toweling or salad spinner.  Remove the tough stems and tear the kale leaves into pieces, about 3-4 inches.  This does not have to be precise, but don't tear too small as the leaves shrink while baking.  This should yield about 6-7 cups.  Place the oil, nutritional yeast and seasonings into a large bowl; stir to combine.  Add the kales leaves and massage the leaves so that the oil mixture is evenly coated on all of the leaves.  Using your hands is the best process here.

Spread the kale leaves out onto 2 large baking sheets into a single layer.  Avoid overcrowding the sheets, spreading out the leaves so that they don't overlap.

Bake in the oven for about 8 minutes.  Pull the sheets from the oven. Using a spatula, gently stir the leaves for even cooking.  Return the sheets back to the oven for an additional 2 minutes; total baking time is about 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Slide the kale chips from the trays onto a paper towel.  The chips will continue to crisp as they cool.  Serve when cool.  Store in an air-tight container. 

Book pictured is Let Them Eat Kale, by Julia Mueller.  Recipe is adapted from her recipe included in the book. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

ChezCindy: Cookies and Wine

Yes, cookies and milk are the classic childhood pairing, but as we look towards Valentines Day, perhaps think a bit differently.  Consider decadent cherry chocolate cookies and a beautiful red wine.  Maybe the wine is the small amount left from dinner - as we did here.  Our discovery was that the sweet cherries highlighted the berry notes in the red wine.  And red wine and chocolate are always fabulous together.  Consider making these cherry chocolate cookies for a sweet finish to your Valentines dinner.  Or for any dinner occasion when there is red wine!  

Wines to consider for pairing are Oregon Pinot Noir or French red Burgundy.  Pictured here is a medium bodied Italian red wine.

Cherry Chocolate Cookies
If you can make chocolate chip cookies, you can easily make the switch to this double chocolate cookie with dried cherries and toasted pecans.  Enjoy!

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (or use chocolate chips)
1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 cup dried cherries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl; whisk to combine.  Set aside.

Working with an electric mixer, add the softened butter and brown sugar to the mixing bowl; mix until pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs one a time, mixing until combined.  Reduce the speed of the mixer, gradually add in the flour mixture, mixing until just combined.  Add in the chopped chocolate, chopped pecans and dried cherries.  Mix until just incorporated.  Less mixing overall creates a more tender cookie.   

Scoop out 2 tablespoons of dough for each cookie, place on an ungreased cookie sheet, spacing each about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 12 minutes, or until the cookie is puffed and no longer appears glossy.  Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool.