Saturday, July 31, 2010

In Search of The "Perfect" Breakfast Muffin!

Well, it's back to the kitchen again, this time to try and come up with a delightful new muffin!  As I sit and contemplate all of the delicious varieties of muffins, I remember my sweet potato muffin from a few months ago, and decide to try a variation to share today!  Instead of using grated raw sweet potatoes (like in my Sweet Potatoes Strike Back post), this time I am using a delightfully roasted and mashed white sweet potato, added in to a flavorful apple muffin, to create the perfect light and fluffy texture! This is a simple recipe, sure to be enjoyed by family and friends alike, and is a great start to the day!  Sweet potatoes, apples, oats, maple and spices = DELICIOUS!

1 medium sweet potato (I used a white sweet potato today, but you can use any variety), baked and mashed
2 Large Granny Smith apples, chopped (peels and cores removed)
2 eggs
1/2 cup mild olive oil
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tablespoons cinnamon, ground
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg, ground
1 teaspoon ginger, ground
1/2 cup oats (old fashioned)
2 cups flour, unbleached
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder

To prepare:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a large 6 cup muffin pan by spraying lightly with cooking spray (or use a normal size 12 cup muffin pan). Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine the mashed sweet potato (equal to about 1 cup), chopped apples, eggs, olive oil, milk, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Stir well.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the oats, flour, sea salt and baking powder, stir well.  Add in to the wet ingredients, stirring just till combined, being careful not to over mix.  Batter will be thick and stiff.
4. Spoon in to muffin tin cups, filling about 3/4 full.  Place in to preheated oven, and bake until golden and fluffy, about 30-35 minutes for large muffins, 20-25 minutes for normal size muffins. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan about 5-10 minutes before gently removing muffins from tin. Makes about 9 large muffins, or 18 regular size!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Deliciously Hearty Vegetarian New Mexico style Chile (Stew)

With a big Summer Monsoon storm thundering outside, the comfort of the kitchen was calling my name, and the warmth of a hearty stew was the perfect answer!  Here in New Mexico, you can find red and green chile readily available, and I love gracing our dinner table with their delightfully full flavor (although I don't really save them for dinner! You'll find chile in many breakfasts, and even some sweet dessert foods around here!). Green Chile can be a deliciously mild chile, full of robust flavor ready to complement any dish, but it can turn around and be devilishly hot as well, surprising you with a kick of heat that can throw you off your chair!  Red chile tends to have more of a "smoky" flavor, very deep and ancient.... I generally use a ground red chile powder to add it's deep flavor to my dishes, or I sometimes even make an incredibly hot and flavorful sauce of the red chile soaked in liquid and blended to a paste!  The People of New Mexico have been using chile in their food for so long, that it is a rich part of our culinary culture, and there are not many restaurants that you go to here without being asked, "Red, or Green?".  Well, today- I say, "Christmas!"  A delightful blend of both, to fully enjoy all the flavor of chile, in this Deliciously Hearty Vegetarian New Mexico Style Chile!! 

2-3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large Sweet onion, chopped (vidalia, oso, walla walla, etc...)
1 large Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1 large Green Bell Pepper, chopped
3 cups mushrooms, chopped (I used Baby Bellas, but you can use any full flavored mushroom)
3 bunches green onions, chopped
3 cups Roasted and peeled Green Chile, chopped
4 cups White Hominy
4 cups diced tomatoes, with juice (I had a can on hand of Ro*Tel tomatoes and green chile today so I used that, but you can use fresh!)
1 cup fresh Cilantro, chopped
1 1/2-2 teaspoons Sea Salt, or to taste
Freshly Ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup ground Red Chile powder ( I use the special Reserve highest quality ground chile for the best flavor!)
1 teaspoon Coriander, ground
1 teaspoon Cinnamon, ground
2-3 Bay leaves*
2 Tablespoons Honey or Agave Nectar

To Prepare:

Chop all vegetables to about the size of Hominy, removing all seeds or skins as needed.  Place a large pot over high heat ( 4 qt. or larger), and add in the olive oil.  Add in the onion, peppers and mushrooms, and saute until softened. stirring often.  Add in remaining ingredients, stirring well.  Bring to a simmer, cover, and adjust temperature to maintain a simmer for at least one hour, stirring occasionally.  The longer you allow this dish to simmer, the more flavor you will have!

Variations: you can add meat to this dish if you desire, by browning the meat first and then following the recipe.  Or you can add in some beans (black or pinto would be very tasty!), or even switch up what vegetables you use in the dish!  Have asparagus, or green beans?  Extra corn, spinach, or beets on hand?  throw them in!  Or potatoes (even sweet potatoes would be delicious!)!  Use this basic recipe and make it your own!

Delicious ways to serve this dish: Just as it is, as a stew, with a bit of fresh cilantro, avocado, a touch of cheese and a warm tortilla.  Or as a filling for enchiladas, or burritos! Try with Blue Corn tortillas for an even more authentic flavor!  Regardless of how you serve this dish, I am sure your family and friends will love it, and it makes enough to share with them all!  Please enjoy on your next stormy day, I promise it will bring some spice and warmth to your day!
*Remove Bay leaves before serving...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Simply Amazing Mango Freezer Jam

I am completely enamored with the luscious and flavorful mangoes available right now, with their delicious odor wafting through the produce aisle at the local market to tantalize my senses...With all of the delicious abundance of mangoes in my kitchen, I knew I wanted a way to preserve them to enjoy later in the year.  And what better way to preserve their flavor than by turning them into beautiful little jars of delightful freezer jam?! Freezer jam is an old favorite of mine, conjuring memories of turning juicy ripe fruits and berries into a treat to be enjoyed all year, beautiful warm days of simple times spent with family...And the flavor is so outstanding compared to the typical canned (cooked) style of jam.  The fresh fruit flavor bursts over your taste buds, and you feel the warmth of sun on your face and grass under your toes with each bite.  So amazingly simple, and Simply AMAZING, this jam will become a favorite for your family, especially delightful on cold Winter days when you need the tropical warmth of the Sun, and the pure delicious flavor of golden ripe mangoes!  It is also perfect to make a batch and share jars with friends, or to enjoy at your next brunch, and even in salad dressings and marinades for grilled or roasted meats.  It's uses are endless in the kitchen, so make sure to make several batches to last you the whole year, and to share with friends!
Mango Freezer Jam

Prep Time: about 10 minutes

4 cups crushed mangoes (about 8 whole mangoes)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 ( 1.59 oz)packet Instant Pectin (I use Ball brand)

To Prepare:
1. Peel the mangoes and cut the fruit off the seeds, placing the fruit into a large bowl.  Use a potato masher to crush the fruit well, leaving a few small pieces. Stir in the lime juice.
2. Sprinkle the sugar over the top of the fruit, and stir well, about 1 minute.
3. Sprinkle the pectin over the sweetened fruit, and stir well, for a full 3 minutes.
4. Spoon the jam into clean, freezer safe containers, cover, and let sit at room temperature about 30 minutes.
5. Place in freezer.

-This jam will stay fresh tasting in the freezer for one year (make sure to label the date on your containers), or you can store in the refrigerator once opened for 3 weeks.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Herbed Citrus Cream Cheese Fruit Tarts

It has been a while since my last blog post, however- I have a delightful recipe to share with you today, that I hope was worth the wait!  I happened to come across the most perfectly ripe and sweet mangoes the other day, as well as some incredibly flavorful blueberries.  I felt inspired to create a new dessert using these delightful ingredients, and am quite pleased with the delicious results!  A light and flaky Butter Lime crust topped with smooth and creamy Thyme Citrus Cream Cheese filling, and a layer of flavorful mangoes and blueberries...DELICIOUS! This dessert would be just perfect for your next Summer evening grill with friends, just be sure to make plenty, as most of your guests will likely want a second helping!  I felt inspired to add the thyme in to this recipe as a new change in herb for sweet dishes.  It adds just the right note of "herb-i-ness" and rounds out the sweetness of the dish, providing for an interesting taste combination that may be new to most people, but is completely wonderful, particularly paired with the citrus notes.  Please enjoy these delightful little tarts, and let me know if you do try them, and how they turned out for you!

Herbed Citrus Cream Cheese Fruit Tarts:
Prep Time: about 10-15 minutes
Bake Time: about 25 minutes
Serves: makes about 18 individual tarts


For the Butter Lime Crust:
2 cups unbleached white flour
3/4 cup butter, softened (I used salted sweet cream butter)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup lime juice, chilled
1/4 cup cold water, plus more by tablespoon as needed

For the Thyme Citrus Cream Cheese Filling:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/3 cup unbleached white flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons citrus zest (I used orange and lime zest)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, very finely minced

For the Mango and Blueberry layer:
2 ripe mangoes
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 Tablespoons agave nectar
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons orange juice

To Prepare:
1. First, in a medium bowl- combine the flour and butter for the crust, using a fork to cut the butter in until the texture is like corn meal. Add in the sugar and salt, stirring just till combined.  Sprinkle the lime juice over the crust ingredients and lightly stir.  Add in the cold water, a tablespoons at a time, until crust is like a pie crust consistency, being careful not to over mix, as this will cause the crust to become tough.  Place the combined crust into a large zip type storage bag, and place in the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the rest of the tarts.
2. Prepare the cream cheese filling by combing all ingredients (cream cheese, egg, flour,sugar, zests and thyme) well in a medium size bowl. Set aside.
3. Cut mangoes into thin slices (after removing the skin), and place into a medium bowl with the blueberries, agave nectar, and citrus juice. Stir well. Set aside.
4. Preheat oven to 355 degrees Fahrenheit while you assemble the tarts.  Roll the chilled dough out very thinly (about 1/8th-1/4 of an inch), and cut into 4 inch rounds.  Place one round into the cup of a large cup size muffin tin (my tins hold about 1 cup muffin batter per cup). Repeat with remaining rounds, pressing down into each cup to create the tart shells. Place 1 tablespoon of thyme citrus cream cheese into each cup, spreading evenly across the bottom. Fill with sliced mangoes, and place a spoon of blueberries on the top of each tart.
5. Place into the preheated oven and bake about 25 minutes, till fruit is bubbly, cheese has puffed up, and crusts are slightly golden. Remove from oven, and run a knife around the edge of each tart. Allow to cool in pans about 10 minutes, then gently remove tarts, placing on a wire rack to cool.
6. Serve and thoroughly enjoy!!