Sunday, January 27, 2013

Caramelized Apples with Pistachio Cream

Warm spicy apples swimming in a lightly spiced whipped cream topped with pistachios.  Very reminiscent of apple pie, but without the crust.  This is the kind of dessert that feels like a great big hug. A perfect treat to indulge in when the weather outside is too cold for comfort.

There are no rules when it comes to this recipe. I used Golden Delicious apples, but feel free to pick your favorite tart, firm apple.  No pistachios on hand?  You could easily sub any type of nut.  Personally, I think walnuts would be fantastic.  Feel free to adjust the spices to your liking, using more or less.  You really can't mess this up. If you want a healthier dessert go ahead and sub yogurt for the whipped cream.  I'm sure it would be equally delicious.
Caramelized Cardamom Apples with Pistachio Cream
Adapted from Quick & Easy Indian Cooking
by Madhur Jaffrey
Serves 4

For the Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2-3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom

For the Apples:
 6 tablespoons butter
4 medium-sized tart/firm apples
1/2 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon finely ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For Garnish:
2 tablespoons chopped pistachios

In a medium-sized bowl, whip the cream and sugar until you see soft peaks.  Add in the spices and stir.  Place bowl back in refrigerator to chill.

Melt the butter over low heat in a large, nonstick frying pan.  Take the pan off the heat.  Peel, core, and slice the apples thinly dropping the slices into the melted butter as you cut them.  Fold them into the butter as you go so that they do not discolor.  Add the sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, and pinch of salt.  Cook on low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, then turn the heat to medium and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring very gently now and then, until the apples are tender and have caramelized lightly. 

Serve on individual plates with a dollop of the cream on top of the apples.  Sprinkle with the chopped pistachios and serve.

Theme: Sweet Endings

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Thai Chicken with Chiles and Garlic

This is a dish for those of you who are big on flavor.  Lots of garlic and spicy hot chiles really amp up the flavor in this simple ground chicken dish.

This recipe was a HUGE hit the first time it debuted in my kitchen.  Since then it's been requested and made a handful of times.  This recipe scores big points in the taste category, but it is also quite healthy, really economical, and fairly quick and easy.  Great for a weeknight meal.

Sometimes I like to wrap the chicken in lettuce and serve it as a lettuce wrap.  Other times, I serve the chicken over rice.  We love it either way.

 Thai Chicken with Chiles and Garlic
Inspired by Madhur Jaffrey's Step by Step Cooking
Serves 4

5 garlic cloves, minced
3 shallots, minced
1 inch cube of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, for stir frying
4 fresh hot chiles (red or green), cut into rings
1 pound of ground chicken
1/2 cup chopped thai basil (or regular basil)
6 teaspoons soy sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
Optional:  rice, for serving and/or
big leaves of lettuce, for wrapping the chicken

Note: I used 4 jalapenos (both red and green)  I also used regular basil in place of thai basil.  Fish sauce can be substituted in place of the soy sauce, if you wish.

In a small bowl combine the soy sauce and brown sugar.

In a wok over medium-low heat, stir fry the garlic and shallots, frying for about 2 minutes, or until the shallots are golden brown.  Add the chiles and ginger and give a few vigorous stirs.

Increase the heat to high and stir in the chopped basil.  Add the ground chicken and fry for about 3 minutes, stirring to break up the meat as you go.  The chicken should turn white all the way through.  Stir in the soy sauce and sugar mixture.  When everything is combined transfer to a serving dish.  Serve over rice or in lettuce as a lettuce wrap.  Garnish with more basil, if desired.

Theme: Potluck!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Light and Healthy Chicken, Broccoli, and Pasta Casserole

I've spent a lot of time in the kitchen lately, but sadly I have very little to show for it.  You know who I'm blaming?  The sun!  It just refuses to shine.  Rainy gloomy days.  Cloud coverage galore.  Can you believe the sun starts to set at 3:30 in the afternoon?  The nerve! Any pictures taken after 3:30 have shadows and the lighting is just terrible. Since normal people eat dinner after 3:30 you can understand how trying to get a picture of your dinner becomes an obstacle. 

I was tired of being thwarted by the sun, so today I started making dinner at noon and by 1:00 I was taking pictures.  Problem solved.  I'm so glad I was able to snap a decent picture of this casserole because it definitely deserves to be shared.

This is a light and healthy casserole but you would never know it.  It tastes very decadent and it's super creamy.  Pasta, shredded chicken, and broccoli tossed in a creamy garlicky cheese sauce with a crispy bread crumb topping.  It's delicious and totally family friendly.  My husband, who absolutely can't stand broccoli, ate two servings.  In fact the whole family wiped this casserole out.  There were no leftovers.

This is a great recipe to add to your light and healthy collection.  I think next time I'll make a double batch because this actually reheated very well and I would really love to have some leftovers.  

Chicken, Broccoli, and Pasta Casserole
Adapted from Skinnytaste
Serves 6, or less, depending

6 oz Ronzoni Smart Taste Pasta
2 tsp oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
12 oz fresh broccoli florets, chopped
1 tbsp butter
1 medium shallot, minced
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1-3/4 cups fat free chicken broth
1 cup 1% milk
12 oz cooked shredded chicken breast
4 oz shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar
cooking spray
3 tbsp shredded parmesan cheese
2 tbsp seasoned breadcrumbs

Note: I used the breast meat from a rotissiere chicken  for this dish.   I also used 2% milk since that's what I had on hand

Cook noodles in salted water until al dente, or slightly undercooked by 2 minutes. Set aside.
Heat oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and cook on medium heat until golden, about 1 minute. Add the broccoli and a little salt, saute and cover the broccoli for about 3 minutes on medium heat until the broccoli begins to soften. Set aside.

 Preheat the oven to 375°. Lightly spray a 9 x 12 casserole dish with cooking spray.

In a large pot, heat butter over medium-low heat, when melted add the shallot and cook until soft, 2-3 minutes. Add the flour and a pinch of salt and stir well, cooking an additional 2-3 minutes on medium-low heat.

 Slowly whisk in the chicken broth until well combined over medium heat; whisk well for 30 seconds, then add the milk and bring to a boil. Simmer on medium heat, mixing occasionally until it thickens (about 6-7 minutes). Remove from heat and add reduced fat sharp cheddar and 1 tablespoon of the parmesan cheese; mix well until the cheese melts. Add the shredded chicken, noodles and broccoli to the sauce and mix well until evenly coated.

Pour into a casserole dish and top with parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. Spray a little more cooking spray on top and bake for about 20 - 25 minutes. Place the casserole under the broiler a few minutes to get the crumbs crisp and golden (careful not to burn).
Servings: 6 • Serving Size: 1/6th • Old Points: 6 pts • Points+: 8 pts
Calories: 313 Fat: 9.9 g • Protein: 27.2 g • Carb: 31.2 g • Fiber: 4.4 g • Sugar: 2.6 g
Sodium: 256.7 mg (without salt)