Saturday, July 23, 2011

Southwestern Salad

     Here's a salad I threw together one night.  Just cook up some chicken - seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder and a bit of cumin, then put it on top of some greens with strips of red bell pepper, corn, avocado, and black beans.  Top with cilantro ranch dressing and you have yourself a yummy dinner salad!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Authentic Paella

     I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain for 3 months during my Junior year of college.  Paella is considered the national dish of Spain and I ate it time and time again.  It was always a treat though because it is delicious!  I tried multiple times to get my Spanish madre to let me help in the kitchen because I wanted to learn how to make all of those Spanish dishes that were served to me each night.  Unfortunately culture wouldn't have it, I was a guest, and I just could not help in the kitchen.  So, I have done my best to recreate the paella that I ate there and I do believe I have come rather close.  I couldn't find any recipes online that reflected the paella I was accustomed to eating, so I came up with my own recipe.  I really don't measure, I just keep adding ingredients until it looks good.  For your sake, I'll try to estimate how much to use though, but keep in mind those quantities are flexible.  Just believe me when I say this dish is forgiving so don't stress.  

1 1/2 c. uncooked white rice
3 c. chicken broth
3/4 c. frozen peas
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbl olive oil
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 lb. small, deveined and cooked shrimp
15-20 cooked mussels
4 lemons
Paella Seasoning OR the following: 
black pepper to taste
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. paprika
pinch of saffron

1.  Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  
2.  Combine rice and broth in a medium sauce pan.  Bring to boil over high heat and then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until rice is done.  
3.  In a paella pan (or a wok if you don't have one... a paella pan is large and shallow, which is key.  So, you could also use a large frying pan and then transfer to a shallow baking dish as well) heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add chopped chicken breast, minced garlic, and onion.  Cook until chicken is cooked through. 
4.  Add the shrimp, peas, and red pepper.  Cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes.  
5.  Slice the lemons. 
6.  Stir in rice.  Add remaining seasonings,  I just use a paella spice mixture that I brought back from Spain but the italicized spices above are the ingredients of that paella spice.  I estimated the amount to use to achieve the desired taste so be sure to taste test and make sure it's to your liking.  The SAFFRON is key though.  Paella isn't paella without saffron!  After adding spices (I usually add, taste, add, taste, add, taste and add some more!  The rice shouldn't be ultra flavorful but it also shouldn't taste too plain)  squeeze the juice of 2-3 slices of lemon over the rice mixture and stir.     
7.  Spread evenly into a shallow baking dish (or paella pan if you happen to have one), arrange remaining slices of lemon around the edges and bake in oven for 7-10 minutes.  
8.  Meanwhile, make sure your mussels are heated.  I used the pre-cooked and debearded mussels from a bag.  If you are doing this, then you just need to steam them in a pan in about 1/2 inch of water until they are heated through and open.  Discard any mussels that do not open.  
9.  Remove the paella dish from the oven and arrange cooked mussels throughout.  
10.  The paella is meant to be flavored with lemon to taste after serving on individual plates.  

Serve paella with a baguette or loaf of french bread and DO NOT slice the bread!  Whenever I make this I am sure to let everyone know they have to pass the bread around and just tear pieces off at will.  It's the authentic way of doing things!  In Spain, I never had my bread sliced, everyone eats bread daily and everyone tears pieces off all throughout the meal.  I hope you can make sense of the recipe, it's really trial and error every time I make it so just keep a tasting spoon handy.  This is really great and healthy so do try it and enjoy the cultural experience! 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cinnamon Apple Streusel Muffins

     I had a craving for Apple Streusel Muffins the other day but when I went to make them I discovered I was short on about half of the ingredients.  I refused to let that deter me and instead made up my own recipe based on what I had.  The result was a pan full of the most moist, flavorful, delicious muffins I've ever made! Be careful, these are addicting!

INGREDIENTS (16 muffins)
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup honey nut cream cheese (you can also use regular)
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 cup chopped, peeled tart apples
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/3 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons cold butter or margarine
3 tablespoons uncooked oatmeal

  1. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. In another bowl, beat the eggs, sour cream, cream cheese, apple sauce, and butter. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in apples and pecans. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full.
  2. For topping, combine sugar, flour,oatmeal, and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle a rounded teaspoonful over each muffin (or more if you want! Pretty sure I did). Bake at 400 degrees F for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Serve warm.