TOMATO SPAGHETTI CUPS

Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at http://thedaringkitchen.com
This recipe has been floating around so long in the box of scraps that I have no idea where it originated (but it look like a page from an old Lawry’s magazine from when I worked there) which based on all my changes doesn’t matter. Some days I feel like an archaeologist, but come up with oldies that were favorites and will now be revived.  I originally made the tomatoes for Ivonne’s Magazine Monday and they were a HUGE hit with the family for a spring or summer meal. Perfect in fact for the new Daring Cooks challenge.  I can’t wait to come up with a sweet version of an edible container for Daring Bakers.

 TOMATO SPAGHETTI CUPS

6 firm medium tomatoes
6 ounces cooked cappelini
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
+2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup plain yogurt1/4 cup sour cream or ricotta cheese
1/4+ cup shaved Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 celery stalk, minced
2 teaspoons fresh chives*
1 teaspoon Lemon Pepper Spice Hunter salt-free Key Lime Pepper
1 teaspoon Seasoned Salt McCormick Salad Supreme
  • Cut the stem ends from the tomatoes and carefully scoop out the seeds and pulp (I saved these for sweet and sour tomatoes tomorrow night).
  • Toss the pasta with the oil and lemon juice and allow to cool.
  • Whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon pepper, salad supreme and Parmesan cheese.
  • Toss the pasta mixture with the mayonnaise mixture and gently spoon into the tomato shells.
  • Sprinkle the tops with ground parsley and paprika.

*I increased the lemon juice to 2 tablespoons and revived dried chives in the lemon juice before I began assembling the tomatoes.
+Not in the original recipe

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The Daring Cooks September, 2010 Challenge: FOOD PRESERVATION-THE APPLE BUTTER OF KNOWLEDGE

I’ve been canning since I was a teenager and have entered many county fairs with my jams and preserves.  I even have some 1st place wins at the LA County Fair and I’ve taught seniors to can in church programs, but I still relished this challenge.  There are so many variables in canning, that every new batch is a challenge.
Apple butter is essentially an apple sauce that’s been cooked down with spices to form a thick spread. No “real” butter is used in the making of apple butter. “Butter” just refers to the spreadable consistency of the final product.
Apple butter is actually a very simple recipe, so please do not be discouraged by the information and jargon used in this write-up. 
Why Preserve Foods?
There are many reasons – save the harvest from our garden for later in the year, control the ingredients that go into our food, nostalgia (memories of our parents or grandparents), make gifts, satisfaction of making it yourself… etc. For me, it’s curiosity, controlling what I eat and just the satisfaction of making it myself.
Why foods go bad?
Before we start preserving foods, we need to know why foods spoil.
The two main culprits are:
1) The obvious culprit is bacteria, molds and yeast/fungi. I call them “bad bugs.” There are “good bugs” that help with fermentation (yogurt, beer, wine, sourdough breads and pickles), but the bad bugs rots foods, gives foods an off taste and can make us sick.
2) The other culprit is enzymes. Enzymes are molecules that occur naturally in food which encourage chemical changes, some of which are desirable – help ripen fruit by converting starch to sugar, soften fruits or vegetables, or reduce acidity level. Some changes are not desirable, browning when an apple is cut, or the fruit becomes overripe where the flesh becomes soft and mushy.
The other supporting culprits are oxygen and unintentional moisture loss. Fortunately, when we eliminate microorganisms, the rest of the culprits are taken care off at the same time.
Brief summary of how each food preservation method works.
Preservation Method Acid Temperature Oxygen Moisture
Freezing   Storing foods at 0F (-17.8C) or lower Airtight packaging  
Boiling Water Canner (high acid foods)/Pressure Canner (low acid ) Some foods can be acidified using vinegar or lemon juice Heats foods to kill bad bugs and neutralize enzymes Jars form a vacuum seal – creates a low oxygen environment
Pickling and Fermentation Food is acidified by using vinegar or natural bacteria creating lactic acid     Brines (salted water) and sugars reduce fresh water
Drying Airtight packaging Removes up to 90% of the moisture
Jam and Jellies Vinegar or Lemon juice, Fruits naturally acidic Cooking, canning or Freezing Canning will create a vacuum seal Sugar reduces water available
For this daring challenge, we will be focusing on Freezing and Boiling Water Canning.
Freezing:
Freezing refers to storing foods in airtight containers at 0ºF (-17.8ºC) or lower. Freezing does not kill bad bugs. The cold temperature causes the microorganisms to go into hibernation/suspended animation.
Freezing is the easiest food preservation method, especially with modern freezers.
The main pointers for freezing:
  • Freeze foods quickly. Quickly freezing creates smaller ice crystals. Water is a funny substance where water expands when frozen. This means larger ice crystals can puncture cell walls (such as whole berries) so when defrosted you end up with a mushy mass.
  • Try not to freeze too much at once. Typical advice 2 to 3 lbs (1 kg) per cubic foot (28 Liters) of freezer space.
  • Containers should be airtight and leak proof.
  • Minimize air and gaps in the packaging. This reduces the chance for freezer burn – drying.
  • Label and date the package. Frozen foods tend to look the same over time, especially when a layer of ice has formed.
  • Vegetables can be blanched to deactivate enzymes. Blanching is quick cooking in boiling water for a few minutes and cooled rapidly in ice water.
  • For initial freezing using pliable freezer bags, freeze on a smooth, flat surface to prevent the bag from molding itself to the rack.
Boiling Water Canning:
Boiling water canning sterilizes the food using the temperature of boiling water. The jars form a vacuum seal which creates a low air/oxygen environment.
Important!
The temperature that water boils varies with altitude. At sea level, water boils at 212ºF (100ºC) while at 5,000 ft (1524 m) water boils at 203ºF (95ºC). What this means is canning (processing) times increase with altitude. Fortunately, we don’t need to do the math. Canning recipes include processing times for different altitudes.
Boiling water canning is appropriate for high acid foods (foods with pH values lower than 4.6). Typically, fruits are high acid foods while vegetables are low acid. There are a few fruits that are on the border (pH 4.6), such as, tomatoes. However, some borderline pH foods can be acidified by adding vinegar or lemon juice. In home canning, lemon juice (and lime juice) refer to bottled concentrate, unless the recipe calls for fresh. Also, vinegar refers to vinegar with 5% acidity. The percentage strength can be found on the label.
In the USA, home canning uses Mason jars, a thick-walled jar. The lid is a two piece assembly – the lid with a reddish sealing compound and a metal band/ring.
Jars should be inspected before each use – looking for cracks and chips. Washed with detergent dish soap and dried. To reduce thermal shock (hot food cracking a cold jar), the jars should be kept hot. Clean jars can be kept hot by submerging in the boiling water canner or in a dishwasher. Also, a warm oven can be used.
For processing (canning) times less than 10 minutes, the jars need to be sterilized for 10 minutes in boiling water. For altitudes higher than a 1,000 ft (305 meters), an additional minute is added for each 1,000 ft (305 meters) above sea level.
The basic steps for using a boiling water canning. 
  • Check your jars for chips, cracks and nicks. Wash and preheat your jars.
  • Fill you canner half full with water. Preheat water to 140ºF (60ºC) for raw packing foods or 180ºF (82ºC) for hot packing foods.
  • Fill jars with food prepared according to the recipe, remove bubbles and adjust headspace.
  • Load jars into the canner. It’s important to keep the jars level.
  • Add more hot water, as needed, so the jars are submerged by at least 1 inch (2.54 cm) of water.
  • Cover the canner with the lid and turn the heat to high.
  • Set timer when the water comes to a vigorous boil. You can lower the heat, but the boil must be maintained.
  • When the time is up, turn off the heat and remove the lid. Wait 5 more minutes.
  • Remove jars making sure the jars are level and set on a towel. Allow to cool to room temperature, undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours.
Terminology
  • Headspace – is the gap between the top of the container to the level of the liquid or food. For freezing, headspace is important to ensure there is room in the container for the expanding food. For canning, headspace ensures that a proper vacuum seal will form without the food spilling out of the jars while canning. 
  • Raw Pack (canning) – foods are placed in jars raw and, typically, a flavored liquid is added to the jars before processing. Advantages: Food is not cooked twice. Retains shape better. Disadvantages: Uses more jars. Foods may float due to trapped air. 
  • Hot Pack (canning) – foods are cooked before jarring. Advantages: Foods are cooked down so more can be packed into a jar. Less air in food. Disadvantages: Original shape is lost.
Recipe: Reduced Sugar Apple Butter
Ingredient U.S. Metric Count Special Instructions
Apples 4lbs* 1.8 kg 12 Apples Cut into eights, stem and blossom end removed
Apple Cider 1 Cup 240 ml   Optional: Water or Juice
Sucralose/Splenda 1/2 Cup 120 ml   Optional: Honey, Agave or Sugar – to taste
Cinnamon, Ground 1 Tbl 15 ml    
Allspice, Ground 1/2 tsp 3 ml    
Cloves, Ground 1/4 tsp 2 ml    
Note: * If you used peeled and cored apples. I recommend buying 5 lbs (2.26 kg) of apples.
Gala and Golden Delicious Apples
Directions:
  • Wash apples well and remove stems. Cut apples into quarters or eighths and remove cores.  Note: I ended up peeling the apple at this step.
  • Combine unpeeled apples and cider in 8-quart (about 7 ½ litre) saucepan. Cook slowly and stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook until apples are very soft (falling apart).
  • Position a food mill or strainer securely over a large bowl. Press cooked apples with cider through the food mill or strainer to make a pulp. Be sure to collect all the pulp that comes through the food mill or strainer; for example, scrape any pulp clinging under the food mill into the bowl.  Note: Since the apples were peeled, I just mashed in the pot.
  • Combine pulp with Sucralose and spices in an 8-quart (about 7 ½ litre) saucepan. Simmer over low heat, stirring frequently. Note: A stick blender was used to mix the spices and creates a smoother apple butter. Also, when cooking down the apples, you want to leave the lid ajar or use a splatter screen. This will allow for evaporation. Another trick is to support the lid by laying two wooden spoons across the top of the pot.
  • To test for doneness, spoon a small quantity onto a clean plate; when the butter mounds on the plate without liquid separating around the edge of the butter, it is ready for processing. Another way to test for doneness is to remove a spoonful of the cooked butter on a spoon and hold it away from steam for 2 minutes. It is done if the butter remains mounded on the spoon.  Note: It may be difficult to see, but the sample on the left is the apples sauce from step 3. The apple sauce left a liquid ring while the apple butter did not.
  • Pour contents into desired storage container or multiple containers. I stored my apple butter in 1-cup (250ml) plastic containers with screw on tops. Refrigerate up to 2 weeks, freeze up to a year, and home canning is good for a year.
* The Finished Apple Butter:
Apple Butter is often used as a spread. However, apple butter can also be used as a condiment (pork chops or in marinades) or as an ingredient to an apple quick bread.

* Freezing:
I used a freezer bag where I expelled as much air as possible and minimized the gaps in the bag. Freezer bags work well for storage since they can lay flatter in the freezer than containers.

With a container, you need to ensure you have “headspace”. Headspace is the gap between the food (or liquid level) and the top of the container. Typical, headspace when freezing foods is 1/2 “ (1.27 cm) for straight sided containers. As mentioned previously, water expands when freezing. The headspace allows room for expansion.

Thawing:  
The best method (Food Safety) is to thaw in the refrigerator for a day.
Cold water, 70ºF (21ºC) or lower, can be used for as quicker way to defrost. The frozen food is submerged under running water. An alternative to running water is to change the water every 30 minutes. If you need an even faster method to defrost and you plan to cook the food immediately, the microwave is another method (of last resort).
* Boiling Water Canning:
For our challenge, apples are high acid foods. Golden delicious apples have an approximate pH of 3.6. Boiling Water Canning is an appropriate method of preserving apple butter.
Apple Butter processing information:
Headspace when canning apple butter is 1/4 “ (0.64 cm)
Processing Time:
15 minutes for altitude of 0 ft (0 m) to 1,000 ft (305 m)
20 minutes for altitude of 1,001 ft (305.1 m) to 6,000 ft (1828.8 m)
25 minutes altitudes above 6,000 ft (1828.8 m)
For boiling water canning, you need a pot that is high enough to cover the jars with at least 1” (2.5 cm) of water. Also, a rack, to prevent thermal shock, is used to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot. Any type of rack will work – a tea towel, a trivet, tying together unused bands… etc. I improvised a rack by tying metal bands to a bamboo sushi mat.  
  • Jars are filled using a wide mouth funnel. 
  • A plastic bubble remover is run along the sides of the jar, in an up and down motion, to remove air pockets.
  • The top and side of the jar are wiped down with a damp paper towel.
  • Headspace is measured to ¼” (6.5mm).
  • Lids are placed in a pan of hot water (180ºF or 82ºC) to soften the sealing compound. Do this prior to beginning to fill your jars so it sits in the hot water about 10 minutes.
  • The lid is seated, centered on the jar and the band is screwed on.
  • The purpose of the band is to hold the lid down, but not too tightly. Air from the jar needs to escape into the boiling water.  I generally screw down the bands (using two fingers) until resistance stops the band. After which, I give a slight additional 1/4″ (6.5mm) twist.
  • The jars are lowered into the hot water canner. Water temperature is about 180ºF (82.2ºC).
  • The water level is checked to ensure there is at least 1” (2.54 cm) of water above the jars.
  • Next, pot is covered and heat turned to high.
  • When the water comes to a boil, the timer is started (15 minutes). The heat can be lowered as long as the water remains at a boil.
  • After the 15 minutes are up, the whole canner is removed off the burner (I have an electric stove) and uncovered. Jars are left in the canner for 5 more minutes.
  • After 5 minutes, the jars are lifted out level.  The temptation is to tilt the jars to drain the water off the top of the lids. Do NOT do that! You don’t want to contents of the jar to running under the seal.
  • Jars are placed on a dish towel to minimize thermal shock and allowed to cool for 12 to 24 hours. While the jars are cooling, you may hear a ping or a pop from the lid as it seals. That ping is a good sound. For these three jars, they all pinged within a minute.
  • After 24 hours, test the seal. The lid should be bowed down (concave), when you press down the lid should not move or pop up. Also, try lifting the jar by the lid only. The lid should stay on if properly sealed. The final thing is to look at the lid to see if there are any cracks or debris caught between the jar and the lid.
Storing – Once the integrity of the lids have been checked, it’s best to store the jars in a cool, dark space. The rings are removed. The rings have done their job of holding down the lids in the boiling water canner and are not needed for storage.

Remember to check the lid before you open a jar.
If the lid has become unsealed during storage or the lid is bulging, throw it out.
If the food has mold, become oddly discolored or has an off odor, throw it out.
The canned apple butter can easily store on a shelf for one year.

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NUT BUTTERS – DARING COOKS JULY CHALLENGE

The July Challenge is brought to you by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. We decided to go nuts and get creative with nut butters!
Nutrition research suggests that nuts are good for your health. Nut butters, or pureed nuts, make it easy to use nuts in cooking. Although peanut butter is a staple in North America, most popular as the star ingredient in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and beloved in peanut butter cookies and other sweets, it’s seldom used in preparing savory dishes. Nut butters — including not only peanut butter but almond, cashew, and walnut butters — are common ingredients in many Asian and African countries, used in a wide array of savory dishes. Nut butters add complex & interesting flavors to dishes, provide body & thickness to sauces, and can be used to replace the dairy fats or other oils in recipes.
The challenge is make a fresh nut butter and to use it in one savory recipe. You choose the type of nut (peanuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias, etc.). Then puree the nuts into a paste or butter. Then use your fresh homemade nut butter in at least one savory recipe. The nut butter challenge was inspired by the article “Better with Nut Butter” by Kathy Baruffi in Cooking Light magazine.
In addition to instructions for making nut butters, we have provided 4 challenge recipes from which to choose: Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms, Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing, Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce, and Walnut Walnut White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage.
What about dessert? We chose to focus on using nut butters in savory recipes, but we know nut butters make fabulous sweet treats. An extra but optional challenge this month is to use a homemade nut butter in a sweet recipe. The type of nut and the recipe is up to you. Can’t wait to see the results!
Recipes Sources:
Homemade Nut Butters (including almond, cashew, hazelnut, macadamia, peanut, pecan, pistachio, & walnut): adapted from Better with Nut Butter article from Cooking Light magazine online
Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms: adapted from Cooking Light, October 2002
Asian Noodle Salad: adapted from Thai Noodles with Peanut Sauce from Cooking Light, October 2002
Asian Cashew Dressing: adapted from “Chinese Peanut Dressing” recipe (p. 22) in Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds
Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce: adapted from Butter Chicken recipe at Food Network online
Walnut & White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage adapted from Cooking Light, August 2007

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

NOTES:
  • We had best results making nut butters in a food processor rather than a blender. My basic two-speed, household blender worked fine for soft nuts like pecans and walnuts, but was unable to blend harder nuts like almonds & macadamias. Unless you have one of those high-powered blenders guaranteed to puree almost anything, we recommend using a food processor.
  • The four challenge recipes include instructions for making the appropriate amount of nut butter for the particular recipe. If you made the nut butter in advance, substitute the appropriate volume of nut butter for the nuts.
  • The yield of nut butter is about half the original volume of nuts. If you start with 1 cup (240 ml) nuts, you’ll get about ½ cup (120 ml) nut butter.
  • We have provided recipes for unsweetened nut butters since the challenge is to use the nut butter in a savory recipe. You may sweeten the nut butters as desired for use as a spread or in dessert recipes.
  • Despite the name, there is no dairy butter in nut butters. They are essentially pureed nuts, also called nut pastes.
  • To use nut butters in sauces as a substitute for heavy cream, first make a nut cream. Whisk the nut butter with about twice the volume of water, adding more water until you reach your desired consistency. For example, start with ¼ cup (60 ml) nut butter with ½ cup (120 ml) water; add more water as needed.
Simple Suggestions for Using Nut Butters:
  • sauce for grilled meat or fish
  • topping for pancakes or French toast
  • dip with apples or celery
  • spread for toast or sandwiches
HOMEMADE NUT BUTTERS
  • The process for making various types of nut butters is essentially the same. Pour nuts into bowl of food processor. Grind the nuts in the processor until they form a paste or butter. The nuts first turn into powdery or grainy bits, then start to clump and pull away from the side of the bowl, and finally form a paste or butter. The total time required depends on the fat and moisture content of the nuts; grinding time will vary from roughly 1 to 4 minutes (assuming a starting volume of 1 to 2 cups [240 to 480 ml] nuts). Processing times for a variety of nuts are described below.
  • You may add oil as desired during grinding to make the nut butter smoother and creamier or to facilitate grinding. Add oil in small increments, by the teaspoon for oily nuts like cashews or by the tablespoon for dryer/harder nuts like almonds. You may use the corresponding nut oil or a neutral vegetable oil like canola.
  • The inclusion of salt in the nut butters is optional and to taste. If you make nut butters from salted nuts, peanuts or cashews for example, you will not need additional salt. We recommend making unsalted nut butters for use in the challenge recipes (and other savory recipes) since the recipes call for salt or salty ingredients. You can then adjust the salt to taste. If you are making nut butter for use as a spread, you should add salt according to your preference.
  • Roasting the nuts before making nut butters is optional according to your preference. To roast nuts in the oven, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4). Spread nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet or roasting pan. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until nuts are fragrant and a shade darker in color. Allow nuts to cool before grinding. Roasted nuts will make butter with darker color than raw nuts.
  • It’s helpful to keep in mind that the yield of nut butter is about half the original volume of nuts. If you start with 1 cup nuts, you’ll get about ½ cup nut butter.
  • The consistency of nut butters varies from thin & soft (almost pourable) to very thick and hard depending on the fat content of the nut. (See links below for nutrition info on variety of nuts.) Homemade nut butters will probably not be as smooth as commercial products.
  • Homemade nut butters are more perishable than commercial products and should be stored in the refrigerator. The nut butters harden & thicken somewhat upon chilling.
  • See links at bottom of post for additional information about making nut butters at home.
What variations are allowed:
  • We tested the challenge recipes below with particular types of nut butters as indicated in the ingredient list. You are free to experiment with other types of nuts. For example, you may want to substitute walnut butter in the Chicken with Pecan Cream and Mushrooms. You may also substitute the chicken or shrimp in the challenge recipes with your protein of choice.
  • If you are unable to eat nuts due to allergies or other dietary restrictions, we suggest you consider making a seed butter (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, etc) and use it in a savory recipe of your choice. Making seed butters is very similar to making nut butters. We have provided links at the bottom of this post with information on seed butters and recipes. You’re also welcome to use other alternates as discussed in next bullet point.
  • If you are unable to eat nuts or seeds, you might consider making a fruit butter and then using it in a sweet or savory recipe. (Fruit butters are fruit cooked to form a paste, see links at bottom of post for recipes.) We are also open to other ideas for those with allergies or food restrictions. For example, pureed beans or pureed roasted vegetables could be used in a variety of savory soups, stews, or sauces.
  • If you do not own a food processor or high-powered blender to make your own nut butter, you may complete the challenge with store-bought nut butter.
  • Vegans, vegetarians, and those with food restrictions may substitute accordingly in the challenge recipes.
Preparation time:
  • Homemade Nut Butters: 10 minutes (optional) roasting, 5 minutes preparation
  • Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms: approximately 30 minutes
  • Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing: approximately 30 minutes
  • Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce: approximately 30 minutes
  • Walnut White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage: approximately 10 minutes
Approximate Processing Times in Food Processor for Nut Butters:
  • Almonds: form a thick butter in about 2 to 3 minutes for slivered almonds, or 3 to 4 minutes for whole almonds; the skin of whole almonds will leave dark flecks in the butter
  • Cashews: form a smooth, spreadable butter after about 2 minutes of processing
  • Hazelnuts: form a firm, thick, and grainy butter in about 2 to 3 minutes; to remove the skin from whole hazelnuts, roast in a 400 degree F oven (200 degrees C/Gas Mark 6) for about 5 minutes or till skins loosen, then rub hazelnuts in a clean dishtowel to remove some of the skin; the remaining skin will leave dark flecks in the butter
  • Macadamias: form a soft and smooth butter in about 2 minutes
  • Peanuts: form a thick, grainy butter in about 2 or 3 minutes
  • Pecans: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give pecan butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor
  • Walnuts: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give walnut butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor
  • Pistachios: According to the Nut Butter Primer from Cooking Light, pistachio butter is dry and crumbly with a tendency to clump during processing; they recommend combining it with softened cream cheese for easy spreading and report a processing time of 3.5 to 4 minutes. Please note, we did not test pistachio butter.
I chose CHICKEN with PECAN CREAM & MUSHROOMS with a few deletions and changes. to make it palatable to my family I substituted cashews for pecans and onions for mushrooms.  Hubby also asked that I make it chunky so I used 1/2 cup water instead of the 3/4 cup it called for.

Chicken with Cashew Cream & Onions

Cashew Cream:
3/4 cup coarsely chopped cashews, roasted
3/4 cup  water
¾ teaspoon salt, more as needed
½ pound egg noodles or pasta
4 ~6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon olive oil, more as needed
Salt & pepper to taste
Sauce:
1 tablespoon deglazing liquid (water, broth, wine; optional)
1 teaspoon olive oil, more as needed
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1 large Vidalia Onion, sliced thin
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Chopped cashews, (optional garnish)
Directions: 
  • Prepare cashew cream. Grind cashews in a food processor for about a minute or so until smooth, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed. Add water and 3/4 teaspoon (3 ml) salt; process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Set aside cashew cream.
  • Cook noodles according to package instructions in salted water. Drain, rinse, and keep warm.
  • If desired, pound chicken to ¼ inch (6 mm) thickness to promote even cooking. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken; sauté 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Cook the chicken in 2 batches, adding more oil if needed for second batch. Set aside cooked chicken on a clean plate, cover to keep warm.
  • Add deglazing liquid to pan if using and stir up any browned bits. If needed, add another teaspoon (5 ml) of oil (or more) to pan for sautéing the shallots and onions. Sauté the shallots and onion slices over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes or until onions are tender and starting to brown. Add fresh thyme to the pan. Stir in pecan cream; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 minutes till reduced slightly.
  • Slice chicken into thin strips. Divide the noodles among serving plates. Add a scoop of the onion cashew sauce on top of noodles. Lay sliced chicken on top. Garnish with fresh thyme and/or a pinch of chopped cashews if desired.

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STACKED GREEN CHILE & GRILLED CHICKEN ENCHILADAS ~ DARING COOKS

This month are Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food chose for May’s Daring Cooks Challenge to create a Mexican dish worthy of a Cinco de Mayo celebration using a homemade enchilada sauce. They chose a Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe using tomatillos.  

Making tortillas was optional – thank goodness.  While I have made them, I prefer not to as Bartleby would say!.  
Making a homemade Mexican style enchilada sauce was mandatory – once again thank goodness as I’d have it no other way. There is nothing better than fresh!

And these are excellent with my homemade REFRIED BEANS.
 

Their recipe Source was:

Blog-checking lines: Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on www.finecooking.com and written by Robb Walsh. 

Notes:
1. Roasting the Anaheim chiles is a critical part of the Green Chile sauce. More information about how to do this is included below, but please resist the temptation to rinse the chiles to remove the skin or seeds. You will lose lots of flavor if you do this!!
2. If using a broiler to roast the chiles, lining the broiler pan or baking sheet with foil greatly simplifies the clean-up process!
3. You may want to consider using gloves when peeling and removing seeds from the chiles. I keep a set of gloves in the kitchen for just that purpose. All it takes is one hand to the eye or nose for a lot of pain to set in!

Be sure to season your filling if you are not using boneless, skinless grilled chicken. While the sauce is flavorful, the chicken or other filling you use should be seasoned if you are not using boneless, skinless grilled chicken. 

Preparation time: Below are the approximate prep times for each step of the process. The sauce is the most time-intensive, but it can be made ahead and several of the steps can be done simultaneously. See additional information below for more preparation times and tips.
Roasting/preparing chiles and tomatillos: 30 – 60 min.
Assembling/simmering enchilada sauce: 30 min.
Grill chicken: 10 – 15 min.
Assembly/ baking enchilada stacks: 30 min.

Equipment required:
• Grill, broiler, or gas stove to roast Anaheim chiles
• Grill, broiler, or saucepan to cook tomatillos
• Bowl and plastic wrap to cover the bowl or a paper bag to steam Anaheim chiles
• Blender or food processor to puree tomatillos (or very finely chop)
• Small frying pan (for frying tortillas)
• Baking dish – either one large (10×15 inch) or individual gratin dishes
• Cheese grater
• Knives for cutting chicken and roasted chiles
• Spoons for stirring sauce
• Tongs are helpful for turning chiles as they roast, chicken as it grills and tortillas as they fry
INGREDIENTS
1½ pounds Fresh Anaheim chiles (about eight 6 to 8 inch chiles) 24 ounces 678 grams – roast, peel, remove seeds, chop coarsely. Other green chiles (NOT bell peppers) could probably be substituted but be conscious of heat and size!)
7-8 ounces Tomatillos (about 4-5 medium)212 grams – peel, remove stems
4 cups Chicken broth (32 ounces/920 grams)
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 teaspoons yellow onion, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ tsp Kosher salt (add more to taste)
¼ tsp Black Pepper (add more to taste)
2 tablespoons Cornstarch (dissolve in 2 tablespoons water, for thickening)
Hot sauce, your favorite, optional
2 Boneless chicken breasts (you can also use bone-in chicken breasts or thighs)
3 tablespoons Olive oil or other neutral vegetable oil (use more as needed)
Kosher salt and pepper
12 Small Corn tortillas (5-6 inch/13-15 cm). (you can also use wheat tortillas or other wraps)
6 ounces grated Monterey Jack, 170 grams (other cheeses (cheddar, pepper jack, Mexican cheeses) can be used. Just be sure they melt well and complement the filling)
Cilantro for garnish, chopped and sprinkled optional
DIRECTIONS

Roasting Fresh Chiles
  • Coat each chile with a little vegetable oil. If you are doing only a couple chiles, using the gas stove works. For larger batches (as in this recipe), grilling or broiling is faster.
  • Lay the oiled chiles on the grill or baking sheet (line pan with foil for simpler clean-up). Place the grill or broil close to the element, turning the chiles so they char evenly. They should be black and blistered.
  • As they are completely charred (they will probably not all be done at once), remove them to a bowl and cover with plastic, or close up in a paper bag. Let them rest until they are cool.
  • Pull on the stem and the seed core MAY pop out (it rarely does for me). Open the chile and remove the seeds. Turn the chile skin side up and with a paring knife, scrape away the skin. Sometimes it just pulls right off, sometimes you really have to scrape it.
  • DO NOT RINSE!
Green Chile Sauce 
  • Put a medium saucepan of water on to boil and remove the papery outer skin from the tomatillos. Boil the tomatillos until soft, 5 to 10 minutes. You can also grill the tomatillos until soft. 
  • Drain and puree in a blender or food processor.
  • Return the tomatillos to the saucepan along with the chicken broth, chopped green chiles, minced onion, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add the cornstarch/water mixture and stir well. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and reduced to 4-5 cups, another 10-15 minutes.
  • Adjust seasonings and add hot sauce if you want a little more heat.
Stacked Green Chile and Grilled Chicken Enchiladas
  • Heat a gas grill to medium high or build a medium-hot charcoal Coat the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Grill the chicken until just cooked through, 4-5 minutes a side for boneless chicken breasts.
  • Cool and then slice into thin strips or shred.
  • In a small skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Dip the edge of a tortilla into the oil to check – it should sizzle immediately.
  • Using tongs, put a tortilla into the pan and cook until soft and lightly brown on each side, about 15-20 seconds per side (at the most).
  • Drain on paper towels.
  • Add oil as needed and continue until all 12 tortillas are done.
  • In a baking dish large enough to hold four separate stacks of tortillas, ladle a thin layer of sauce.
  • Lay four tortillas in the dish and ladle another ½ cup (4 ounces/112 grams) of sauce over the tortillas.
  • Divide half the chicken among the first layer of tortillas, top with another ½ cup of sauce and 1/3 of the grated cheese.
  • Stack another four tortillas, top with the rest of the chicken, more sauce and another third of the cheese.
  • Finish with the third tortilla, topped with the remaining sauce and cheese.
  • Bake until the sauce has thickened and the cheese melted, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
  • To serve, transfer each stack to a plate. Spoon any leftover sauce over the stacks and sprinkle with cilantro, if you wish. The stacks may also be cooked in individual gratin dishes.

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DARING COOKS ~ BRUNSWICK STEW

Wolf of Wolf’s Den chose a popular pan-Southern classic called Brunswick Stew.

According to Wolf, “Brunswick Stew has a long, and oft debated history. Brunswick, Georgia claimed that the first Brunswick Stew was created there in 1898. There is, at the Golden Isles Welcome Center on Interstate 95, a bronzed stew pot with a plaque proclaiming this fact.

However, Brunswick, Virginia claims that the first Brunswick Stew was created there by a camp cook named Jimmy Matthews in 1828, for a hunting expedition led by Dr. Creed Haskings, a member of the Virginia State Legislature for a number of years. He was said to have used squirrel in the original Brunswick Stew created for the group when they returned. The hunters were at first skeptical of the thick, hearty concoction, but upon tasting it, were convinced and asked for more.

Every year, there is an Annual Brunswick Stew Cookoff that pits ‘Stewmasters’ from both Virgina and Georgia against their counterparts, and takes place every October in Georgia.

In the early 20th Cent, the rivalry of the two Brunswicks helped make this dish as popular as it is today, and it quickly became a pan-Southern classic. Some recipe call for the original addition of squirrel, but most allow for chicken, turkey, ham, or pork, even beef on occasion. Rabbit is also used. The vegetables can vary widely from variation to variation, however, the Brunswick Stewmasters recipe says *exactly* what is used in competion stews, and states that “Adding any additional ingredient(s) will disqualify the stew from being an original Brunswick Stew.”

However, most agree that, Brunswick stew is not done properly “until the paddle stands up in the middle.”

The first recipe is more traditional – long and involved, as can be many Southern recipes. The second was the very first Brunswick stew I ever tasted. Both are fairly straight forward and easy, requiring no special equipment, techniques, or super hard to find ingredients.”

Recipe Source(s)- I’ve included two different recipes for this Challenge, out of the hundreds of variations out there. The first is from “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-Be Southerners” by Matt Lee and Ted Lee”, and the second from the Callaway, Va Ruritan Club, who hand out cards with their recipe printed on them, every year at the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival, and where I tried my first ever Brunswick Stew.

Blog Checking Lines- The 2010 April Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Brunswick Stew. Wolf chose recipes for her challenge from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, and from the Callaway, Virginia Ruritan Club.

Variations allowed- Recipes may be halved if you choose. You may substitute any vegetables you don’t prefer. You may use fresh, canned or frozen vegetables. My variations are included in the notes. For example- some recipes include okra in their stew, others use creamed corn. You may sub out the rabbit for pork, turkey, beef, or even another game animal if you have it available.

Mandatory- You must use one of the two recipes provided. Now, to not exclude our vegans/vegetarians, if you’d like, use vegetable stock and leave out the meats. It won’t be a ‘true’ Brunswick Stew, but it’ll have the spirit of one.} There’s no gluten anywhere in this that I’m aware of, so we’re good in that regard.

Recipe Two, The Short Way-
Brunswick Stew recipe from the Callaway, Va Ruritan Club, served yearly at the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival in Ferrum, Va.

Serves about 10

2 ½ pounds combination diced stewed chicken, turkey, and ham, with broth – yes, all three meats
3 medium diced potatoes
2 medium ripe crushed tomatoes
2 medium diced onions
3 cups frozen corn
1 ½ cups frozen lima beans I just don’t do lima beans!
4-5 strips crumbled bacon
4 tablespoons of butter
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon Poultry Seasoning
Dash of red pepper
2 diced carrots (optional)
Tomato juice

  • In the largest stockpot you have, which is hopefully larger than the 5 qt ones I have, preferably a 10-12 qt or even a Dutch Oven if you’re lucky enough to have one, fry the bacon over medium-high heat until it just starts to crisp. Transfer to a large bowl, and set aside. Reserve most of the bacon fat in your pan, and with the pan on the burner, add in the chiles. Toast the chiles until they just start to smell good, or make your nose tingle, about a minute tops. Remove to bowl with the bacon.
  • Season liberally both sides of the rabbit and chicken pieces with sea salt and pepper. Place the rabbit pieces in the pot and sear off all sides possible. You just want to brown them, not cook them completely. Remove to bowl with bacon and chiles, add more bacon fat if needed, or olive oil, or other oil of your choice, then add in chicken pieces, again, browning all sides nicely. Remember not to crowd your pieces, especially if you have a narrow bottomed pot. Put the chicken in the bowl with the bacon, chiles and rabbit. Set it aside.
  • Add 2 cups of your chicken broth or stock, if you prefer, to the pan and basically deglaze the4 pan, making sure to get all the goodness cooked onto the bottom. The stock will become a nice rich dark color and start smelling good. Bring it up to a boil and let it boil away until reduced by at least half. Add your remaining stock, the bay leaves, celery, potatoes, chicken, rabbit, bacon, chiles and any liquid that may have gathered at the bottom of the bowl they were resting in. Bring the pot back up to a low boil/high simmer, over medium/high heat. Reduce heat to low and cover, remember to stir every 15 minutes, give or take, to thoroughly meld the flavors. Simmer, on low, for approximately 1 ½ hours. Supposedly, the stock may become a yellow tinge with pieces of chicken or rabbit floating up, the celery will be very limp, as will the chiles. Taste the stock, according to the recipe, it “should taste like the best chicken soup you’ve ever had”.
  • With a pair of tongs, remove the chicken and rabbit pieces to a colander over the bowl you used earlier. Be careful, as by this time, the meats will be very tender and may start falling apart. Remove the bay leaf, celery, chiles, bacon and discard.5 After you’ve allowed the meat to cool enough to handle, carefully remove all the meat from the bones, shredding it as you go. Return the meat to the pot, throwing away the bones. Add in your carrots, and stir gently, allowing it to come back to a slow simmer. Simmer gently, uncovered, for at least 25 minutes, or until the carrots have started to soften.
  • Add in your onion, butter beans, corn and tomatoes. As you add the tomatoes, crush them up, be careful not to pull a me, and squirt juice straight up into the air, requiring cleaning of the entire stove. Simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring every so often until the stew has reduced slightly, and onions, corn and butter beans are tender. Remove from heat and add in vinegar, lemon juice, stir to blend in well. Season to taste with sea salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce if desired.
  • You can either serve immediately or refrigerate for 24 hours, which makes the flavors meld more and makes the overall stew even better. Serve hot, either on its own, or with a side of corn bread, over steamed white rice, with any braised greens as a side.

Recipe2-In large stock pot or Dutch Oven, mix all ingredients, heat until bubbly and hot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add tomato juice as desired. Cook until all vegetables are tender. Serve hot.

Optional- Not required for the Challenge-but I always make my own broth!
Sunday Chicken Broth

From “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-Be Southerners” by Matt Lee and Ted Lee
Makes about 1 quart (4 cups or 919.68 grams or 32.303 oz)
Estimated Time- 1 ¼ hours

Bones and trimmings, but not giblets, of one 3 ½- 4 ½ lb (1594.32-2049.84 grams or 56-72 oz) chicken, or 12-14 oz / 341.64-398.58 grams / approx. 2 cups chicken bones and trimmings
1 large onion, trimmed, peeled, quartered
6 large stems fresh flat leaf parsley
1 stalk celery, cut into 2” lengths
2 large bay leaves
5 cups / 1149.6 grams / 40.379 oz cold water
1 cup / 229.92 grams / 8.076oz crisp dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste

Place bones/trimmings in medium stockpot and add onion, parsley, celery and bay leaves. Add wine and water, liquid should cover all ingredients, if not, add more until it does. Bring to vigorous simmer over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer gently for roughly 45 minutes to an hour, skimming any scum or fat that comes to the surface.

Strain broth into bowl through fine mesh strainer. Discard the solids. Measure what you are left with, if not planning to further reduce, then salt and pepper to taste.

Store in tightly sealed container in refrigerator until the remaining fat congeals on the top. Remove the fat, and unless not using within 2 days, keep tightly sealed in the refrigerator. Otherwise, freeze, and it will keep for upwards of a month.

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Dimsum/Potstickers ~ Daring Cooks June challenge

It is time to post out our completed June challenge for Daring Cooks. Jen from Use Real Butter.

The dough wasn’t very difficult. You just have to be sure to use the right amount of the flour and water, which can be a bit tricky. The filling was our choice and as my hubby likes his meat, I choose a pork filling. This was a lot of fun and hubby thoroughly enjoyed being a taste tester. The dough wasn’t so difficult – though, you have to make right the amount of the flour and water, that can be tricky. My first few tries at rolling out the dough I got it way too thin, but finally found a medium consistency that held together for frying.

I made a tart raspberry soy sauce dip that really topped it off well. Hubby all but licked his plate! is hosting our challenge this month for traditional Chinese Dumplings, commonly known as Dimsum or Potstickers or Wontons which we love when we go out so this was a great opportunity for me to try my hand at it!

Dough:
– 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
– 1/2 cup (113g) warm water
– flour for work surface
Jen’s Filling:
– 450g ground pork
– 4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
– 3 stalks green onions, minced
– 7 shitake mushrooms, minced (if dried – rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
– 1/2 cup bamboo shoots, minced
– 1/4 cup ginger root, minced
– 3 tablespoons soy sauce
– 2 tablespoons sesame oil
– 2 tablespoons corn starch
Jen’s Dipping sauce: (I made my own out of homemade tart raspberry jam and soy sauce)
– 2 parts soy sauce
– 1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
– a few drops of sesame oil
– chili garlic paste (optional)
– minced ginger (optional)
– minced garlic (optional)
– minced green onion (optional)
– sugar (optional)


Instructions how to make the dough by Jen:
Method 1: Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth. The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water).

Make the dough, Method 2 (Jen’s mom’s instructions): In a large bowl mix flour with 1/4 cup of water and stir until water is absorbed. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time and mixing thoroughly until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. We want a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch.

Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking – about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side. Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

Filling – meaty: Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by clean hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or two). – Easy peasy

To pan fry (potstickers): Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.

Don’t forget to check out some really amazing dumplings by the other Daring Cooks by clicking on the links to their blogs at the temporary Daring Cooks Blogroll.

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