Friday, August 31, 2012

Chicken Tortilla Wraps

With the exception of the chicken I’ve substituted for ground beef, these wraps use almost exactly the same ingredients as yesterday’s Southwest Taco Salad - but taste completely different. I served both dishes back-to-back this week, and Ron didn’t realize he was eating essentially the same meal. Both are nutritious and delicious. To lower the fat, use fewer olives, less cheese, and substitute yogurt for the small amount of sour cream the recipe uses.

Chicken Tortilla Wraps:

2 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (or ¼ lb. or 125 g lean ground beef)
Two 10-in. corn or flour tortillas
¼ head of iceberg lettuce, coarsely chopped
¼ c. finely chopped green onions (“spring” onions)
1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
10-to-15 ripe, pitted olives (“black olives”), finely chopped
Salsa, as needed
Sour cream, as needed

Insert circular rack into medium skillet, or use food steamer. Fill skillet with unsalted water just to top of rack. Place chicken thighs on rack, covering skillet. Steam/poach thighs 20-to-30 min., topping water level as needed so skillet does not boil dry. Cook chicken until no pink remains, 25-to-30 min. Drain off fatty water, placing chicken briefly in freezer to chill. Blot chicken dry, remove skin, and slice meat from bone (If using ground beef, follow directions in yesterday’s blog for Southwest Taco Salad recipe). 

Have all ingredients assembled and prepared at your dining table before beginning. Briefly warm tortilla shells in large skillet or microwave oven. Allowing each person to help himself, offer tortillas with sliced chicken, chopped lettuce, onions, tomato, cheese, and a sprinkling of olives. Offer salsa and sour cream on the side. Roll and wrap tortilla, using cutlery or hands to eat. In the quantities specified above, this excellent salad serves 2. 

Start with tortillas ... This one needs a Smiley Face!
Assemble ingredients for the table: Click on
the photo to enlarge it and see the detail

Steam/poach chicken in unsalted water

Chill and slice chicken

Prepare tortillas with choice of ingredients

Wrap 'n' roll! Chomp, chomp, chomp!

Seconds, anyone? This means Ron!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Southwest Taco Salad

I first ate this excellent salad in Arizona some 30 years ago. I quickly jotted down the ingredients and have been making it ever since. A taco is normally defined as a deep-fried, folded tortilla filled with lettuce, tomatoes, seasoned meat, shredded cheese, and a variety of tasty condiments. 

Southwest Taco Salad: Serve with salsa and sour cream
In this salad, the tortilla is formed against the folds of tortilla bakers before being oven-baked, producing a healthier, low-fat taco. I have two tortilla bakers (see And Yet a Further Note, below!), but it’s so quick to bake the shells that I simply make them ahead - unfilled - if I’m going to need more than two.

What I like so much about this wholesome salad is that in it are all the basic food groups including vegetables (lettuce, olives, and green onions), fruits (tomatoes and salsa), grains (tortillas), dairy (cheese and sour cream), and protein (ground beef or chicken). The added “plus” is that this combination of foods - all served chilled - is insanely delicious! It’s filling enough that in all these 30 years, I have never been able to finish eating the taco bowl that holds it all.

But hey! I’m boring even myself! Tacos should be fun! This cook certainly thinks so ... Olé! 

Southwest Taco Salad:

Two 10-in. )25 cm) corn or flour tortillas
¼ lb. (125 g) lean ground beef (or cooked, shredded chicken)
1 tbsp. taco seasoning (see Note)
¼ c. finely chopped green onions (“spring” onions)
¼ head of iceberg lettuce, coarsely chopped
1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
10-to-15 ripe, pitted olives (“black olives”), finely chopped
Salsa, as needed
Sour cream, as needed

Have all ingredients assembled and prepared before beginning. Preheat oven to 375 deg. F. Press tortilla shells into folds of oil-sprayed non-stick tortilla bowl baking pans. Bake 8-to-10 min. Remove cooled shells from baking pans and reuse with additional tortillas, as needed. Pans do not need greasing for second and subsequent bakings. Set baked shells aside before proceeding with this recipe.

In small skillet, fry lean ground beef over medium heat until no pink remains. Place hot meat in strainer over small bowl to drain fat. Chill and wrap fat, tossing into garbage (not down the sink!). Run hot water over meat in strainer to further de-fat meat. Blot dry. In a medium bowl, combine meat, taco seasoning, finely chopped green onions, and lettuce. Set side.

To assemble Southwest Taco Salad, fill cooled, baked tortillas (formed as taco shells) with meat-and-lettuce mixture. In this order, top with tomatoes, grated cheese, and olives. Do not fill shells in advance lest they soften. Serve with salsa and sour cream on the side. In the quantities specified above, this salad serves 2. 

Note: I buy a 1.2 oz. (35 g) package of taco seasoning, taking only what I need and reserving the rest for next time. 

Further Note: If you like this recipe, you’ll also enjoy my Tex-Mex Nachos (see the Index under Appetizers).

And Yet a Further Note: No tortilla baker? No wor-ries! Turn a standard muffin tin upside down, spray the bottom, and fold 4-inch tortilla shells between the muffin compartments to produce several small taco shells. Bake as above.

The necessary pans: Any brand will do

Press tortillas into non-stick pans

Bake 8-to-10 minutes, until pale golden

Fry lean ground beef in skillet ...

All pink should disappear; drain fat in sieve over bowl

Wash beef with hot water to remove any remaining fat

Ron helped chop olives very finely 

Two tomatoes: One ripe, one past its prime

Combine meat, lettuce, onion, seasoning

Layer taco shells in order listed

Continue with cheese ...

And ripe, pitted, finely chopped olives

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Blackberry Pancake Syrup

Ron and I have just returned from the fray, bloody but unbowed, battling brambles, bugs, and bears (many of the former and none of the latter, but I liked the alliteration). Simply put, we’ve been picking blackberries. 

When you pick summer’s blackberries, you touch the earth, feel the sun on your shoulders, connect with the food you eat, and feel thankful for nature’s bounty.

Why restrict your choice of pancake syrup to maple? This syrup is also fabulous over vanilla ice cream.

Check the Index under Brunch: Pancake Syrup (Blackberry) for a slightly different version of this great recipe that appeared in September, 2013!

Blackberry Pancake Syrup (Version 1):

3-½ c. blackberry juice
3-½ c.  granulated sugar
1-½ c. light corn syrup

Briefly soak at least 7 cups of blackberries in cold water to remove insects and leaves. Drain and remove and berries that show traces of mold. Whirl berries at high speed in blender. Using back of soup spoon, press juice through sieve to remove seeds. To measured juice in large saucepan, add sugar and corn syrup. Bring to hard, rolling boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, skimming foam from surface with metal spoon. Cover loosely and cool to room temperature. Pour into small, covered containers. Label and freeze. When ready to use, store in refrigerator.

Note: Blackberries grow wild in many areas, making this a penny pincher. If you have an inexpensive or free supply of raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries, this recipe also works well with them.

Better by the bowl full!
Soak in cold water to remove stems and the occasional insect
Measure cleaned berries
Whirling at high speed
Add to blender ...

Blackberry Pancake Syrup: Fresh from the vine!

Whichever version of this recipe you use, this
Blackberry Pancake Syrup freezes beautifully!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dutch Baby Pancakes

A brunch treat: Dutch Baby Pancakes
This oven-baked, puffed pancake makes a fabulous weekend brunch! Young and old alike find it a major treat.  

Dutch Baby Pancakes with Fruit Filling:

To Prepare the Pancake:

⅓ c. butter or margarine
1 c. milk
4 eggs
1 c. all-purpose flour
¼ c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425 deg. F.  In a 9-in. pie plate, melt butter in oven. If butter is cold, this could take more than 5 min. While butter melts, add milk, eggs, and combined dry ingredients to blender goblet, buzzing at high speed about 1 min. Pour cold, well-aerated mixture onto fully melted butter that is sizzling hot. Bake 15-to-20 min. until pancake is puffed and golden. Prepare fruit filling while pancake cooks.

To Prepare the Fruit Filling:

½ c. syrup reserved from canned peaches or pears
2 tsp. cornstarch or tapioca starch
1-to-2 c. fresh or frozen berries, sliced peaches, or choice of assorted fruits
Whipped cream, as garnish (optional)

In medium saucepan, combine cold fruit syrup and starch, whisking together well. Turn heat to medium-high, cooking just until syrup thickens. Mixture will thin out with addition of fruit. Add prepared fresh or frozen fruits, stirring until warmed through. As soon as pancake emerges from oven, pour fruit into centre and serve. Yields one large, puffed pancake. Cut in wedges as 4 large or 8 small servings.

Note: If using fresh fruit, be sure to prepare it - rinsing, hulling, peeling, slicing - before starting this recipe.

Note: It’s easy to adjust the proportions of this recipe as required. Cutting the recipe down by a quarter makes a great breakfast for the two of us, served in two individual pie plates.

Melt butter to sizzling in 425 deg. F. oven

Combine dry ingredients, mixing well

Add milk, then eggs, then dry ingredients to blender

Buzz at high speed about 1 min.

Thicken syrup from canned fruit with starch

Add fresh or frozen fruit to hot syrup

Cook until heated through

Pour into hot puffed pancake, distributing fruit evenly 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Chocolate Gelato

Here's the scoop: A sample is ample
If only I were as rich as this Chocolate Gelato! Although I used skim milk to lower the fat content, the eggs, heavy cream, sugar, and cocoa make this a high-fat treat. That’s why a sample is ample: This is the single best Gelato I’ve ever made or tasted. Gelato is Italian-style ice cream. What makes it Chocolate Gelato rather than chocolate ice cream? Gelato is heated to fully dissolve the sugar used in its preparation. Eggs and cream thicken it as a custard. It’s then quickly chilled before becoming something quite sublime. Making this beautiful Gelato is not expensive. 

What I love about ice cream is that there’s no waste. You can take what you need for a special occasion, returning the rest to the freezer. Midway through the processing of homemade ice cream, you can add whatever you fancy to the mix - caramel or chocolate candy bits or a sauce running through it like a frozen ribbon. 

This Chocolate Gelato is so good that it stands on its own. I wouldn’t add a thing to to it. The recipe comes from The Donvier Ice Cream Dessert Book by Anna Creery (The Donning Company, Publishers, Virginia Beach, VA, 1992). I’ve slightly modified the instructions.

Chocolate Gelato:

¾ c. unsweetened, sifted cocoa powder
¾ c. granulated sugar
1 c. milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1-½ c. heavy cream (“whipping cream”)

In a saucepan, combine cocoa and sugar, stirring until well mixed. Gradually add milk to make a paste. Whisk in eggs. Place over medium-low heat, stirring about 7 min. or until thickened. Whisking constantly, use a candy thermometer to slowly raise the temperature of the milk mixture to 175 deg. F. Remove from heat and whisk in cream. 

Stirring occasionally, cool milk mixture by pouring into medium-sized metal bowl set into larger bowl partially filled with ice cubes and cold water. When mixture is well chilled, pour into deeply frozen canister of electric ice cream maker, processing about 30 min. Serve immediately or label and freeze in covered storage container. Do not freeze or store in canister of ice cream maker. To serve after storage, soften slightly in refrigerator about 30 min. Makes 1 quart (1 L).

Note: No ice creamer maker? See the Index for How to Make Frozen Treats Without an Ice Cream Maker

And that’s a wrap for this short series on Frozen Treats. I’ll have more Ice Cream, Gelato, and Sherbet recipes next summer - which starts around Dec. 1 in the Southern Hemisphere (I could never forget my Aussie Dollinks)! A hint about what’s ahead: If you like pancakes, youll love tomorrows blog!

Combine cocoa and sugar

Slowly whisk in milk

Add slightly beaten eggs

Whisk constantly until mixture reaches 175 deg. F. 

Add cream - or save a step by slathering directly onto your hips

Pour thickened mixture into ice cream maker

Rich and creamy Chocolate Gelato in only 30 minutes! WOW!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Wild Mountain Blueberry Ice Cream

Mountain memories: Blueberry Ice Cream

Another favorite! My childhood family once spent hours picking a huge bucket of wild mountain blueberries - only to lose them all when I tripped on the way home.

Wild Mountain Blueberry Ice Cream:

1 c. whole milk
1 c. heavy cream (“whipping” cream)
¾ c. granulated sugar
2 c. blueberries, fresh or unsweetened frozen

Freeze canister of electric ice cream maker with mixing blade already inserted at least 7 hr. or overnight. Add all ingredients to blender, buzzing several seconds at high speed. Pour into deeply frozen canister of electric ice cream maker, processing 20-to-30 min. Serve immediately or label and freeze in covered storage container. Do not freeze or store in canister of ice cream maker. To serve after storage, soften slightly in refrigerator about 30 min. Makes 1 quart (1 L).

Note: No ice creamer maker? See the Index for How to Make Frozen Treats Without an Ice Cream Maker.

Add milk and cream to blender

Add sugar, too!

Quality Control Department samples berries

Add berries to blender: Continue sampling

Buzz briefly at high speed, leaving berries finely chopped

Pour mixture into deep-frozen ice cream canister

Scrape blade clean before eating or storing frozen ice cream