Monday, September 26, 2011

Thai Chicken Thighs

This is one of my all time favourite recipes. And yet somehow, it's been maybe close to two years since I've made it. I guess probably because I wasn't eating nuts at all while breastfeeding and then it was summer when I stopped breastfeeding. And I really only use my slow cooker in cooler months. Not that it's quite cool yet, but I started thinking that I'd better make it at least once before I have to stop eating nuts again in a month.

This recipe comes from the Canada's Best Slow Cooker Recipes cookbook, which I quite enjoy, as everything I have made from it so far is quick and tasty.  I whipped this recipe up in less than 5 minutes today and then just threw it together with some short brown rice and carrots. The only ick being that I forgot to change the water I soaked the rice in. Which essentially meant that there was way more water in the rice cooker than there needed to be and dinner took forever and an eternity to be ready tonight... plus the water spilled all over my counter. But dinner was still delicious.

Oddly enough, I've never used the fresh cilantro in this recipe. I say oddly enough because I NEVER omit fresh cilantro from a recipe. Ever. Maybe I first started making this before I really knew what cilantro was??? And sadly, today I realized that my tube of fresh ginger had expired. So for the first time ever, I substituted ground ginger. Not at all the same. I don't recommend it. Don't be lazy like me, and run to the grocery store to grab some if you're all out (you can then get the cilantro while you're there...).  As for the meat, I use boneless thighs, only because I find it a pain to get the meat off of the bones, and that works quite well. And I usually stick in a bit more meat than the recipe calls for. Today I used 1.4 kg, I think. I just use the same amount of sauce and it's always turns out fine. Just gives me that much more to freeze.

8 chicken thighs (about 2 lbs), skin removed
1/2 C chicken stock
1/4 C peanut butter (I used natural pb)
1/4 C soya sauce (I use reduced-sodium)
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 hot chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped or 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger root (or 1 tsp. ground ginger)
1/4 C chopped peanuts or cashews
chopped fresh cilantro

1.  Place chicken thighs in slow cooker.  In a bowl combine stock, peanut butter, soya sauce, cilantro, lime juice, chili pepper and ginger.  Mix well and pour sauce over chicken.

2.  Cover and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours, until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a fork.

3.  Serve garnished with chopped peanuts and additional fresh cilantro.

Serves 4.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Peach Pie

What a busy summer!! Things have just started to quiet down a bit after a summer of racing around and non-stop visiting with family and friends. Which is somehow what our summers turn into every year. I both love it and hate it at the same time. I love, love, love getting to catch up with everyone who lives far away and who we don't get much chance to see otherwise. But I hate the midweek racing around that being away every weekend leads to. Each year, I strive to hit a bit more balance in the summer, and somehow, I'm still miles away... but I love getting to see everyone and can't say no to an invite anywhere. It's completely self-created chaos and I guess it just part of who I am.

As fall has approached (despite the humid days - or is that just because I'm pregnant??), our weekends are starting to free up and we have more time to just relax at home and breathe (aka cook and bake). With less than 6 weeks until my due date and the likelihood that I will be induced a bit early to prevent a highway birth, the pressure is on these days to get Logan moved into his new room - which means getting it painted and all set up prior. Plus, I guess I should be packing some bags for the hospital one of these days, just in case... I have one more week of work left (can you say yay???) and then intend to entirely devote myself to filling our freezer chock-full of homemade dinners so that I will not have to cook until the baby is at least 6 months old!

In a traditional old-school division of labour, this afternoon, I found myself inside playing Martha Stewart once again and making peach pie.  All the while, Jerome was outside, cutting the mouldings to be put into Logan's new bedroom.  For some reason, as much as I bake and bake and bake, I've never been much of a pie maker. I've made the occasional pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, and made a delicious apple cream cheese pie a couple of years back. And we've certainly made French pies, which are basically just a crust with the fruit on top (but are delicious).  But I've never really made a true, traditional, North American, double-crust pie. Maybe because they're a bit time intensive?? 

Which means that I've never actually even eaten a wide variety of types of pies. For instance, I've somehow never had a strawberry pie. And I realized at Logan and Maddy's baptism two weeks ago that I'd also never had peach pie. Andrea brought two with her from the Niagara reason (mmm... peaches...) and they were both to die for. Which made me finally get up enough motivation to actually make my own pie. And in the end, it wasn't as time-consuming as I'd anticipated.

After having many the delicious pie made by my mother-in-law or various other members of my husband's French family, I cannot ever bring to buy store-bought crusts. They just don't cut it in this household after having the fabulous-beyond-words flaky pastry of my mother-in-law (which reminds me that I vowed a year ago to learn how to make her crusts and have done nothing to do so... must get on that during my next mat leave!). So I guess the idea of making and rolling two crusts, plus making the filling has led to me never really making a pie. So I will admit that I cheated a bit on the crusts and used a food processor recipe.  This saved me the dreaded kneading that keeps me away from making any real crusts. You can find the recipe I used for the crust here, though this time, I used all-purpose flour instead of whole-wheat. And from there, it was simple.

I got the rest of the pie recipe from the Wives with Knives blog here:

pastry for 9-10 inch double pie crust
3/4 C - 1 C sugar depending on sweetness of the peaches
4 tbsp. flour
dash salt
1 tsp. vanilla
6 C peeled sliced fresh peaches
2 tbsp. butter
egg wash made with 1 egg yolk and 2 tbsp. water
sanding sugar

Moutains of freshly sliced peaches.

1.  Line pie plate with pastry.  Combine sugar, flour, spice and salt.  Add vanilla to peaches, mix lightly.  Stir in spice mixture and mix lightly.

Peaches mixed with flour/sugar/cinnamon mixture.

2.  Fill shell.  Dot with butter.

3.  Add top crust; crimp edges.  Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sanding sugar (I didn't have any sanding sugar, so I just sprinkled with regular granulated sugar - it doesn't look quite as nice, but it's not bad).

4.  Bake in a 400 degree Farenheit oven for 45-50 minutes or until juices are bubbling and the crust is nicely browned.

Mmmm... pure delight!

5.  Serve warm with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I have to say that I'm more than impressed with the appearance of my pie. I wish we were having guests over for dinner tonight. It seems like a waste to cut into such a beautiful creation for just the two of us. 

For a dairy-free option, you can substitute shortening for the butter in the pie crust. Which apparently makes them taste that much better anyhow!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Apple Date Squares

We went on our annual apple-picking adventure yesterday with Heather and Bap, along with their kids and Heather's mom. Heather's mom said to me as we were heading into the orchard "didn't we go strawberry picking together last time I was in town?" (she's visiting from Halifax). Which made me chuckle. Yes, I have a slight obsession with fresh-fruit picking in the summer...

Though we've been going on our own for years, as the only coupleless child at the entire orchard, apple-picking is getting more fun as Logan gets older. I just can't wait until he's old enough to put to work to help with the picking ;)

Logan, on his first apple-picking adventure, last year.
And somehow, this year, he's
old enough to eat an apple...
I used to pick a couple of big bags of apples, turn them all into homemade apple sauce and can them for the winter months. But with Logan racing around the house, baby no. 2 on the way in just 6 short weeks and Logan's 'big boy room' not yet painted and decorated, I've had to come to the realization that this will not be in my future this year (though I'll probably still make the odd batch to eat fresh, as there's nothing better than homemade applesauce for dessert!).

But I've nonetheless already started working on the 20 lb. bag of apples we picked yesterday. We are probably going apple picking again with some other friends early October, so I figure we'd better eat through these ones quickly.

This recipe is a minor, but tasty, twist on the classic date square. And I absolutely love date squares. I was inspired to make these by some delicious looking apple date squares that they sold at the apple orchard we visited. Though they looked more delicious than they actually were. I told Jerome that I was sure I could make a better version myself at home, and these are it.

I took the base of this recipe from Cook Great Food, because I love their date square recipe (which they call Matrimonial Cake). I then took the filling from the BC tree fruits website recipe for apple date squares.

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour (I used whole-wheat)
1 1/2 C oats (I used large flake)
1 C lightly packed brown sugar (I used 3/4 C and would try 1/2 C next time)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 C butter or margarine (butter gives it better flavour)

1 1/2 C pitted dates
3/4 C water
2 apples, peeled and coarsely grated (I used 3 apples and left the skins on for the extra fiber)

In a medium saucepan, combine the dates and water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and mash dates.  Remove the heat and stir in apples.

In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar and baking soda. Cut in butter with pastry blender or in food processor until mixture is crumbly.

Press half of the crumb mixture into nonstick or lightly greased 8x8 inch square pan. Top with the apple-date mix. Cover with the remaining flour mixture. Pat down.

Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees Farenheit. Cool and cut into squares.

If you've also gone apple-picking and are looking for apple recipes, you might be interested in some of the following:

finnish apple pancake for breakfast (I intend to whip up one of these later today to make for tomorrow's breakfast):

date and apple sweet bread (this is delicious!):

apple cream cheese pie (also gonna make this before we run out of apples):

fiber-full bran pancakes with little pieces of chopped up apples inside:

apple cake/muffins:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse Pie

This has got to be amongst the healthiest of dessert choices...  Can you tell that I'm pregnant and just don't care??? Can I maybe justify it by saying that at least the peanut butter has some protein and good fats??? 

Nah, let's just go back to the just don't care part, as that's the truth of the matter. This is one of my all-time favourite desserts, and I really almost never get a chance to make it. Since it's not terribly healthy, I usually only make it when we have company or are going to someone else's for dinner. But given that half of the people I know have someone in their family who has a nut allergy (my family included), my opportunities to make this are few and far between. And as I'm already dreading the day that I will have to cut out peanut butter to breastfeed again, I decided to just make it for us this weekend. A whole pie, for us. Not something I typically do. But at least this one is kept in the freezer, so we'll be under no obligation to eat it every single day (heehee... obligation).

I omit the sugar in the chocolate mousse, as I don't find you need it. I don't bother decorating it most of the time. On the odd occasion, I've used Reese's Pieces to decorate the outside edge of the pie. As this is kept in the freezer, it's great for when company is coming, as you can make it a few days in advance and no one will be able to tell the difference.

1 1/4 C chocolate wafer crumbs (I use Oreo crumbs)
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/3 C melted butter (I use light margarine) 

Peanut butter filling:
4 oz. (120g) cream cheese
2 tbsp. table cream (15%)
3/4 C smooth peanut butter
1/3 C granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 C whipping cream (35%), whipped

Chocolate mousse:
1/2 C whipping cream (not whipped) 
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 eggs, divided
1/4 C granulated sugar (I omit this last amount of sugar)

1/2 C whipping cream, whipped
1 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, grated

Crust:  In mixing bowl, combine crumbs, sugar and butter, mixing until combined.  Press into bottom and sides of a 10-inch pie place (I only put the crust on the bottom).  Bake in a 325 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Cool before filling.

Peanut butter filling: In bowl, mix cream cheese, cream, peanut butter, sugar and vanilla; beat until smooth.  Gently whisk in whipped cream; mix until well blended.  Spread over cooled crust; refrigerate while preparing the mousse.

Chocolate mousse layer: Bring cream to a boil; add chocolate chips and stir until melted.  Add egg yolks, whisking until well blended.  In mixing bowl, beat egg whites until frothy; gradually add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.  Fold into chocolate mixture and when blended, pour over peanut butter layer.  Cover and freeze until ready to serve.  Remove from the freezer 20-30 minutes before serving, but serve frozen.

Garnish: Spread with whipped cream and sprinkle with grated chocolate.  

Makes 8 to 10 servings (I cut it into 12 servings).

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Make-Ahead All-Dressed Mashed Potatoes

This recipe came in the Kraft Canada What's Cooking Fall 2011 edition. I made this to go with supper last night and it was quite tasty. I likely won't make it super often, as it's not exactly the healthiest of side dishes, but it was a nice change from our standard fare. You don't need to add any additional salt to the potatoes, as the bacon makes it salty enough.

2 1/2 lb. Yukon gold potatoes (about 6), peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tbsp. non-hydrogenated margarine
1 C sour cream, divided (I used low-fat)
1/2 C chopped fresh chives, divided (I left this out, as I didn't have any)
1 pkg. real bacon pieces, divided - I think this refers to the packaged, precooked bacon pieces. I used real bacon, using maybe 8 slices, cooked and crumbled
1 C cheddar cheese, shredded

1.  Cook potatoes in boiling water 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender; drain.  Return potatoes to pot.  Add margarine and 2/3 C sour cream; mash until potatoes are smooth.  Stir in 2/3 each of the chives and bacon.

2.  Spread into a 13x9-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  Cool to room temperature; cover.  Refrigerate up to 24 hours.  Remove from refrigerator 20 minutes before baking.

3.  Heat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.  Bake potatoes, covered, 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through.  Sprinkle with cheese; bake, uncovered, 3 to 5 minutes or until melted.  Serve topped with remaining sour cream, chives and bacon.

To bake immediately after mashing, bake (uncovered) in 400 degree Farenheit oven 10 minutes or until heated through.  Sprinkle with cheese; bake, uncovered, 3 to 5 minutes or until melted.

Makes 14 servings.