Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cool It!

It's cold outside.  For now, anyhow.  When you live below the Mason-Dixon line, you never can tell on a day-to-day basis if you're going to have winter or early spring.  My daffodils have come up, there's buds on the trees, and I keep a pair of sandals next to my boots.  I whine every now and then about how cold my hardwood floors get with my crawl space underneath adding to the chill, but then I wonder how hard it was to heat places like the Biltmore...

We are supposed to get an icy storm tomorrow afternoon, but I refuse to allow the freezing precipitation to drown out my inner sunshine.  This post's recipes are Internet winners. Dinner tonight was Bal Arneson's No-Butter Chicken, from The Cooking Channel.  I love Indian cuisine, but at times it can be a little rich.  It isn't only the spices that can be overwhelming at times, but the heavy creams and in the case of Butter Chicken, the butter.  

I'm not on board with rich dairy foods and they've declared war on me to even things up.  Paula Deen would be so disappointed in this southern girl...

I like that Bal Arneson used 0% fat plain yogurt (I use the Fage brand) instead of butter.  It was a lovely combo of onion, garlic, fresh ginger, and spices.  Add chicken, yogurt, and a splash of water and you get a spicy dish that won't clog your arteries.  It can light up your tongue with heat if you over-do it on the red pepper flakes...

Enter the Eton Mess Parfait to the resuce.  

This pretty in pink treat is normally made with heavy whipping cream, lightly sweetened.  Sounds dreamy.  Layers of fresh berries, fluffy meringues, toasted almonds...delicious.  So what's a girl to do when she would prefer to avoid more junk in her trunk?

She turns to the power of Greek yogurt.  My big culinary duel is with substituting real food for "lite" or "fat-free" substances that when you read their ingredients list, there's no food to be found.  So please take note that I used the same plain 0% plain Greek yogurt as in my dinner, but I added vanilla bean crush (a thick extract with vanilla seeds), a few tablespoons of powdered sugar, and crushed fresh berries.  Use what you want here, whether it be whipping cream, creme fraiche, vanilla ice cream, or vanilla yogurt.  Cook's choice rules!

Eton Mess Parfaits
adapted from recipe by Young Sun via The Cooking Channel

2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/3 cup superfine sugar
2 pints fresh strawberries
1 cup fresh raspberries
extra sugar for macerating
lemon wedges
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 cup 0% fat plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla bean crush
3 tbsp. powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 225.  Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.  (Um, yes.  I did notice I used waxed paper instead of parchment.  After I cooked them.  I really need to get some sleep...)

In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat egg whites on medium for about three minutes or until firm.  Add the 1/3 cup of superfine sugar, little bits at a time, for five minutes until the whites are glossy and stiff peaks are present.

Place in 1/3 cupfuls onto cookie sheet, using spoon to flatten out.  Please do not use you fingers, as the oil in your skin will not allow the meringues to set.  Cook for 3 hours at 225, then turn oven off and leave for another 3 hours.  No peeking!!!

Prepare berries, macerating each with a dusting of superfine sugar and a squeeze of a lemon wedge.

Allow to sit, then take a small portion of the berries to put in the yogurt mixture, about 1 cup, draining the juice from them.  In the bowl of the standing mixer, place one cup of yogurt and vanilla.  Whip at medium high speed for 2 minutes, adding sugar, one tbsp at a time, then beating for another 2 minutes.  Fold in the 1 cup of macerated and drained berries.  You can either leave them chunky or beat them in for 1-2 minutes.  

Layer the berries, cooled meringues, toasted almonds, and berry yogurt into 14 oz. glasses.  

There are far classier ways to make an Eton Mess, and I'm sure I am in some way doing the dish a disservice.  However, we felt it was tasty and refreshing like true springtime. No, I'm not crazy at the amount of sugar involved in the entire affair, but that is why these are treats and not part of our daily menu.  

Take a little time this winter and cook something new.  Bake some bread, try a new type of cuisine, check out a cookbook from your local library.  Branch out, have fun and Bon Appetit! 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Not Your Mama's Pie

Food has become boring to me.  Are you shocked?

Oh come on, it happens to all cooks.  We cook the same thing, the same thing...the same thing.  Mostly because our families like to eat the same thing.  Cooking a repetitive menu is another matter entirely.

So I'm diving across the pond.  Time to get my Brit on.

The rumor, Stateside, is that British food lacks luster.  I wouldn't know, having never been to the United Kingdom, but I do know of a British celebrity chef who has a tasty spin on foodstuffs from his home place.  Jamie Oliver has been one of my favorite chefs for years. I appreciate his take on food - real, fresh, simple, and good for you (mostly).  It's wholesome eating.  

I recently purchased one of his latest cookbooks, "Jamie Oliver's Great Britain" (thanks, Mom and Dad, for the gift card!) and was thrilled to see a particular recipe in his Pies and Puddings chapter.  I love a good savory pie, but I've always wanted to make a fish pie.

Sounds dreadful, doesn't it.  

Trust me, it's not at all dreadful.  Full of flavor, simple ingredients, and none of them chemically enhanced.  No nasty "cream of this or that" soup from a can.  No flavor packets claiming to be sans MSG.  

Now, I won't post the recipe as it's not mine to post, but I will show you that just because something sounds odd doesn't mean you should avoid giving it a whirl.  Toad in the Hole will probably be my next British venture, a combo of Yorkshire pudding batter and bangers (sausages).  And maybe, just maybe, the Brits will convince me to eat PEAS.  Yep.  I hear they're good for you, but I avoid those annoyingly cheerful veggies like the plague.  

So sit back and enjoy tonight's dinner.  It was divine.  Served with a nice hard cider and baby lettuces tossed with a lemon vinaigrette.  Bravo, Chef Oliver! 

Carrots, Celery, & Rinsed Leeks

Bacon and Butter - yes, I said butter

English Mustard -'s not your average yellow stuff!

Veg, Bacon, Rosemary, Light Cream, Mild Cheddar

Beautiful Fresh Tilapia 

Russet Potatoes, Boiled and Mashed with Olive Oil and Sprinkling of Cheddar
(I went easy on the cheddar, as there is light cream in this)

Grub's Up!  Tuck in!