Saturday, February 24, 2007

Rachel's Spicy Pasta Salad

My sister sent me this recipe more than a year ago, and then made it for us on her trip here for our wedding in September of 2005, (which was potluck and the best wedding food we've ever had). The salad is really good and very easy, and the leftovers were fantastic. It was great to be able to munch on in the post-wedding, wrapping paper strewn, chaos. The salad is flavorful and, as she mentions below, easy to customize. I think it would be fine without chicken, as well.

My sister, who lives in Flagstaff, is a fabulous cook. I think we both inherited the cooking gene from our mother, who always seems to have loved cooking, although what she cooks has changed a lot over the years, to adjust to changing tastes (and a husband with cholesterol problems). The food of my childhood was often classic 70s food: homemade macaroni and cheese (which I hated), spaghetti with meat sauce (ditto), turkey tetrazzini (ditto-I was a picky child. Love 'em all now)-side dishes of canned pears on a lettuce leaf topped with grated cheese. But we also ate things like homemade wontons and chile rellenos and Grecian chicken. My mom, and Rachel and I, all love to bake. One shining childhood memory is of the night dinner was a bowl of meringue. I blame my childhood for my deep ingrained feeling that I haven't finished my evening meal if I don't get dessert at the end of it. Nutritionists who recommend treating yourself once or twice a week to a dessert make me laugh.

And back to my sister's salad! Thanks for this, Rae.

Spicy Pasta Salad
1 ½ tablespoons curry powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 ¼ cups light Miracle Whip
1 pound gnocchi shaped pasta
8 oz. sugar snap peas
1 mango, peeled and cubed
1/3 cup honey-roasted sliced almonds

I made a few substitutions – chicken breasts instead of thighs; pasta
shells; a little more of all the spices, especially cayenne; and on one
occasion used a combo of regular mayo and miracle whip, as well as
sweetened lime juice – they were all fantastic.

1. Combine curry powder, cayenne, cinnamon, and salt. Sprinkle 1 tsp. of
the mixed spices on one side of chicken. Broil 6 inches from heat for 8
minutes; turn and broil another 8 minutes or until thermometer reads 180
degrees. Remove, let cool, cut into bite size pieces.
2. Stir remaining mixed spices and 1 tbsp. of the lime juice into salad
dressing. Refrigerate.
3. Bring large pot of salted water to boiling; cook pasta until tender
but still firm. Add peas during last minute of cooking. Drain and rinse
with cool running water.
4. Toss mango with remaining lime juice. Place in serving bowl with
pasta, peas, and chicken. Toss with salad dressing. Refrigerate. Top
each serving with almonds.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Double Chocolate and Orange Pudding

This is a really easy recipe and it tastes fabulously rich. We love chocolate and orange, but you can ommit the orange zest and sub 1 1/2 tsp vanilla for the Gran Marnier and it will be very, very good. It is an easy recipe for children to help with; the measuring and the whisking, even the orange zest grating can be doable by an older child (especially with a microplane, which my daughter and I both find much easier to use than a zester). Leftovers, if you have any, keep fairly well for a few days in a sealed container in the fridge. It's very good slightly warm, or chilled. With or without whipped cream (I usually don't bother). The first time I made this was as a surprise for my folks, after I stayed in their house while they were away for their anniversary. I left dinner fixings in the fridge, salmon and asparagus, I think, but this is all we remember.

Can serve six, spooned into small ramekins or wine glasses, for instance. Tonight, the three of ate it all.

*1/2 c granulated sugar
*1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder
*2 TBS cornstarch
*1/4 tsp salt
*zest of one orange
*2 c 1/2 and 1/2, or 1 cup whipping cream and 1 cup milk
*3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
*1 TBS Gran Marnier, or other orange liqueur.

-Whisk sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt together in medium saucepan.
*Gradually whisk in one cup of cream until completely smooth. Whisk in remaining cream and orange zest.
*Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens and comes to a boil, about 5 minutes. Continue to whisk for one minute. Remove from heat.
*Add chocolate and Gran Marnier and let stand until chocolate melts, about 5 minutes. Stir just until incorporated (don't stir too much or it will thin out).
*Serve warm or chilled.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

White Chicken Chili

This is a relatively easy recipe, enjoyed by kids and adults. I've served at parties and work potlucks and it's always the first thing to go. If serving to children (or wimpy adults!) be cautious about spicing it up-start mild and add spices to taste after it's cooked. Remember, chili powder gets spicier as it cooks.

I really recommend using dried beans-I like the texture better, and they are much, much cheaper than canned. If you're lucky enough to get local dairy products and chickens, use those, too.

*1/2 pound dried navy beans (about a cup), picked over, OR 2 cans white/cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
*1 large onion, chopped
*1 TBS olive oil
*4 TBS unsalted butter
*1/4 cup all-purpose flour
*2 cups chicken broth
*1 cup half-and-half or milk
*1 teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste
*1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder (or to careful if yours is very spicy)
*2 teaspoons ground cumin
*1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
*1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
*1 7 oz can chopped mild green chiles
*1 1/2 cups frozen corn
*5 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 pounds), cooked and shredded (I saute them-see below-or poach them)
*1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack or white cheddar(about 6 ounces)
*1/2 cup sour cream (light is fine; can add more to taste)

-If using dried beans, rinse, then cover with two inches of water in large pot, bring to boil, then remove from heat and let sit for an hour. Drain. Place back in the pot, cover again with 2 inches of water, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for an hour or until beans are soft.
-If you want to saute your chicken breasts, salt and pepper them. Heat 1 TBS olive oil and 1 TBS of the listed butter over medium heat in large soup pot until sizzling. Add chicken breasts and cook until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Remove, let cool enough to handle, and shred. (If you happen to have a stand mixer, try this great new technique for shredding meat: put your chicken in the bowl of the mixer with the paddle attachment and turn it on low to medium-magic!) Don't clean the pan.
-Cook onion in 1 TBS olive oil (or the oil-butter mixture from above) in soup pot until soft and turning golden.
-Leave onion in pot. Add (remaining)butter to pot, let melt,and whisk in flour. Cook this roux for 3 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring, or until it starts to turn golden (be careful not to burn). Gradually add broth and half and half or milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, then simmer, whisking occasionally, for 5 minutes or until thick. Add tabasco, chiles, chile powder, peppers, salt, pepper, and cumin. Stir in beans, corn, chicken and either:
-Cook over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
-Transfer to crock pot and cook on low for the afternoon.
-Stir in cheese, cilantro, and sour cream at end of cooking period.
-If you'd like, pass extra cheese, sour cream, and cilantro when serving.

-Freezes beautifully!
-If it's too thick, add a little more chicken broth or some beer.
-You can spice it up with some jalapeno or extra chile powder...
-I pureed the peppers in a food processor once before adding them and really liked the way it made the flavors blend.