Tuesday, January 15, 2008

mixed berry and white wine chicken

I recently paid a visit to the library in Downtown Austin and fell in love with the cookbook section! I literally had to put some back because I couldn't even walk down the aisles due to the weight of all the books I was carrying. When Jose saw me, the first thing he did was laugh; it was a site, a funny one. Anyway, I haven't had a chance to absorb all the wonderful goodness of the many recipe books I borrowed, but there is one book that I haven't been able to put down. It has really great pictures, plus it's so darn cute...it's called Shakespeare's Kitchen! For a degree holder in English and foodie, that's pretty much like heaven in binding! It's a great book, plus it even smells delicious (I feel that each book has it's own wonderful, unique smell that's in a category all its own...). I asked Jose to skim the pages so that he could pick out something we could make for dinner together last weekend, and he chose the Chicken with Wine, Apples, and Dried Fruit...which sounded pretty yummy. Of course, being that I always have to change recipes around in one way or another (well, not always, just most of the time) I went ahead and tweaked a few things here and there, they were very minor changes. The recipe called for whole wheat flour and we didn't have any so I used regular white, and I also changed what dried fruit went into the dish. I'm not much of a date fan, so I decided to add cranberries instead. It's always fun to add in your own personal touch, because in the same way our personalities differ, our taste buds experience flavor in their own unique ways as well. I'll post the original recipe, then I'll add my semi-copy-cat after it :).

Chicken with Wine, Apples, and Dried Fruit
4 chicken legs and thighs
Salt and freshly milled black pepper
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups dry white wine
1/4 cup currants
1/2 cup dried plums
1/2 cup pitted dates
1 TBSP minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tart apple, cored and quartered, skin on

Here is my mixed berry and white wine chicken
8 chicken thighs (instead of 4 of each)
salt and pepper
1/3 cup white flour
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (I used a large pan :)
1 2/3 cups dry white wine (I'm not used to cooking with this, so I figured I'd add a little less first)
1/4 cup fresh pomegranant seeds
1/4 cup sweetened, dried cranberries
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg (I used the powder)
1 tsp cinnamon (I always add more of this!)
1 tbsp brown sugar (it counteracts the sourness of the cranberries)
1 sweet fuji apple, cored and thinly sliced w/ peel...because I love fujis!

Instructions (these are basically the same for both recipes):
Cut apart the chicken legs (and/or thighs). Sprinkle the chicken pieces with the salt, pepper and flour (I rolled it in the flour :). Heat the olive oil in large saute pan over high heat and brown the chicken on all sides. Remove the chicken from the pan. Add 1/4 cup of the wine to the pan and stir to loosen the pan drippings. Add the remaining wine, then the dried fruit, apples, and spices also. Return the chicken to the pan, cover with a lid, and reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes (the book says 30 but I like to make sure it's really cooked :). About 20 minutes into the chicken-cooking process, I sprinkled the brown sugar on top of the meat so that it could have a nice lightly sweetened coat. Remove the chicken and cook the pan sauce for 5-10 minutes, or until it's reduced by half (so it thickens and becomes more rich in flavor).

That's about it! Have fun experimenting with adding your own favorite dried fruits! I think maybe olives would add a nice touch too!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

healthy oatmeal raisin cookies

I actually have a good excuse for the time that's passed since my last post...I got married! Yes, the last couple of weeks leading up to it were a bit hectic, considering my then-fiance-now-husband and I weren't planning on having a ceremony in the first place...but now we're glad we did! It was a very simple but beautiful wedding, and even though I loved the dress, my favorite part was the vow-reading that took place during the ceremony, it was a very memorable moment.

Now, back to the topic of food, a few weeks ago I made some oatmeal cookies. They are a pretty traditional cookie, usually made with a simple recipe...but most of those recipes include about 2 sticks of butter. I hate deceiving myself into thinking that I'm eating something healthy because the word "oatmeal" is included in the list of ingredients of the baked good I'm savoring...so I've tried to improvise and had some success after a few experimental sessions...I traded in 2 sticks of butter for 2 TBSPs and my taste buds don't know the difference!

Inspired by the oatmeal cookie recipe on the traditional Quaker Oats container, I decided to make a healthier version of the delectable treat. Instead of using literally half a pound of butter, which would translate into 2 sticks, I remembered the beauty of applesauce...keeping in mind that with applesauce, at least with baking, a little goes a long way. So for this particular cookie, between 1/8-1/4 cups of applesauce are the magic measurements...but it also depends on what texture you're going for. If you want a cookie with more bite, then about 1/8 cups and 1 tbsp should do the trick. However, if you really like the big soft cookies, then put a little more applesauce, somewhere around 1/4 cup.

Ok...so here's the recipe. A few other changes went into the cookies, but I do have to thank the little Quaker Oats guy for coming up with the initial, though terribly unhealthy and a little less flavorful, recipe.

Improvised recipe (makes a little over 2 dozen, if you make 1 tbsp sized cookie dough servings):
1 1/2 cups flour
2 cups oatmeal (this is one less cup than the original)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2-2/3 cups raisins (the golden ones taste so much better!)
1 tablespoon cinnamon (a lot more than the original)
a few sprinkles (about 1/8 tsp nutmeg)
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cups sugar
1 cup brown sugar
about 1/4 cup applesauce
2 TBSP Butter

I baked these in a 350 oven for about 12 minutes...note: the more applesauce you use, the longer it takes for the cookie to harden.

P.S. I took these cookies to work, and they were gobbled up completely!

Random Fact: I read somewhere, and I'll find the link one of these days, that applesauce and brown sugar tend to soften things with time. So be careful not to add too much of either, if you don't want your cookies to crumble :).