Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Iron Chef Carrot Recap

Iron Chef Carrot was more than a competition this time. We also used it as an excuse to throw a small baby shower for Cara and her future little Carit! But it turns out that carrot is actually a pretty fun (and tasty) ingredient. It's so versatile that we had a ton of variety in the types of dishes and flavors, which made the night exciting. We also had a lot of fun decorating diapers for Cara with fun sayings on them to make her laugh when she's up changing diapers in the middle of the night. Oh, I guess I shouldn't mention changing diapers in a food blog... sorry about that. Ok, let's get to the best part--the food! 

First up were our appetizers, starting with Chelyen's Carrot Tots and Curry dip. I never thought anything could make a better tot than a tater, but carrots definitely came close in this dish. And the curry yogurt dip was a great pairing to the flavors of the tot. This would be a great way to serve kids something that they would enjoy eating, but also sneak in something a little healthy as well. Heck, forget the kids-- someone make it for me! 

Next we enjoyed the night's winner (and I swear, it wasn't rigged!). Cara made a Moroccan Carrot Hummus with pita chips. She topped it with feta cheese and olives which not only made it look really professional, but also added great flavor to the hummus. I love me some feta cheese. It was a big hit and everyone kept going back for more. Congrats on another win, Cara! 

For the main course, Jen seared up some great looking scallops and served them over a carrot puree with an herbed oil drizzled on top. It looked like something you could order in a restaurant, and tasted great as well. Plus, you know I'm a sucker for scallops. They are really hard to cook well and Jen nailed it. This one was a really well-composed dish!

I had the other main and since I've been dying for an excuse to buy a spiralizer, I decided to make carrot noodles. I improvised using a sesame-peanut dressing for the noodles, combined with my own recipe for peanut butter chicken. I definitely enjoyed it, but I noticed my jaw was tired after eating a few bites. The raw carrots really stood out, and maybe not in the best way. It's not something I would make again, but I was happy with the result.

Emily served her side, a Spicy Thai Carrot and Kale Salad, with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds which were a cool visual addition. The peanutty dressing was my favorite part of her salad, and I definitely think it should go in the dressing recipe box. I think the group just wasn't a big fan of raw kale. But kudos to Emily for going healthy! We've also teased her about doing a whole Iron Chef competition with kale, so I think she was preempting us on that one.

I've made carrot fries at home before and while they aren't always as good as the real thing, they are a great, healthy alternative. But Laura's Carrot Fries with Cilantro Dip were better than any of the recipes I've tried. They have a sweet but also a bit sharp, tangy flavor, and I love the way the dip worked to cool down the tang. She also oven baked them which makes them even healthier than typical fried fries.

And finally, the desserts! Of course, you know we had to do a carrot cake! No carrot competition would be complete without one. But I like how Doan elevated the traditional dish with her Rum Carrot Cake recipe. You only got a hint of the rum but it was just the right amount. It was perfectly moist and delicious with wonderfully creamy frosting.

And lastly, our runner-up for the night, Kim's Chocolate Carrot Cake. It's a really nice twist on the classic, and yet still had that carrot cake flavor, even through the delicious chocolate. Plus it looked really beautiful (I have a soft spot for layer cakes). It made for the perfect finish for the night, and it's no wonder she got our second place prize.

Next time I promise to be more timely in my recap (but don't hold me to it). Up next is Iron Chef Potato, which should be a fantastically starchy evening. Until then!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cider-Beer Braised Chicken Tacos

I bet you thought I couldn't possibly find another taco recipe to post on this blog. Well, you were wrong! There are MILLIONS! I can go on for years! Tacos forever!!

Ok, sorry about that. I just love tacos, you guys. This recipe looked sufficiently different from the other recipes I've posted, and it is. And it looked sufficiently delicious, and it is. So here we go. It's a pretty simple recipe that I found on a blog called Half-Baked Harvest. But don't let the simplicity fool you. These pack a ton of flavor (and a good amount of heat). I also made a little psuedo-salsa to top it with, mixing some apple into some pretty normal ingredients, which brought some really nice crunch and flavor to the taco. I recommend you try it!

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2 chipotle chilies in adobo, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
salt and pepper
1 cup beer 
1/2 cup apple cider
3/4 cup enchilada sauce 
1 jalapeno or serrano, diced
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 lime, juiced
1/2 cup diced apple
Handful of cilantro, chopped

In a small dish, mix together the spices: chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, brown sugar, cayenne and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cut your chicken into big chunks and put them in another small bowl. Pour the olive oil over and then add the garlic and chipotle chiles. Stir a little to spread the chiles and garlic around and then pour in your spice mix and mix well until the chicken is evenly covered.

Now, heat your dutch oven on high until hot, then sear the chicken about 2-4 minutes a side. It will cook more later so don't over cook it now. Also, be careful of breathing in the spices while they cook. It will definitely make you cough! Once the chicken is seared, turn down the heat and pour in the beer and apple cider, scraping the bottom of the dutch oven to deglaze it. Simmer on low for 25-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

While the chicken is simmering, you can make the salsa. Just mix together the jalapeno, onion, apple and cilantro with the lime juice, and stir. Leave it in the fridge while you finish the chicken.

Once the chicken is done, shred it with two forks. Turn up the heat on the sauce in the pot and reduce it down to about 3/4 of a cup and then add the chicken back to the pot along with the enchilada sauce. Let that warm up for a few minutes and once it's hot, it's ready to serve! We used sour cream and a little cheese on our tortillas, as well as the chicken and apple salsa and the mixture was really tasty. I know the apple seems a little weird, but go ahead, be daring and give it a chance! You will be happy to find yet another taco to love. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bacon Cheddar Cheese Puffs

Today we had a fun event at work. We all got together to have a potluck and play games. These types of events don't happen very often, so it's always nice to get out of the office for a bit. Well, we had a sign up sheet to determine who would bring what for today. I decided to sign up for an appetizer. Normally, I would make a dessert since that's my favorite thing to make, but I decided to sign up for an appetizer. Everyone and their brother signed up for desserts. It took me quite a while to decide what I wanted to make. Eventually, I settled on this cheese puff recipe from With Love and Cupcakes. Instead of Chipotle Cheese I used Bacon Cheddar Cheese since TJ's didn't have that option. And, I must not know how to make things smalls because my cheese puffs were quite large. What really matters is how it tasted, and these were great! I would definitely make these cheese puffs again, but smaller! And, my co-worker's must have liked them, because only 2 were left! Leftovers for the win! Enjoy!

1 cup water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon mustard
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 eggs
1 cup grated chipotle-flavored cheddar cheese, like the one here (Or Bacon Cheddar Cheese from Trader Joe's)
Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Take out a small saucepan and combine the water through mustard. Set the stove to medium heat. Stir until the butter has melted and the mixture begins to boil. Add in the flour and lower the heat to low. Stir until the mixture comes together and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Continue to cook the dough and stirring for about five minutes. The mixture should start to steam. Transfer the dough to your standing mixture. Go ahead and beat for a couple minutes to help release some of the heat from the dough. Next, add in an egg one at a time. I beat the egg prior to adding to the mixture. Stir well after each addition. Fold in the cheese and combine well. Put some of the mixture into a piping bag and pie out the mixture in small amounts...1 1/2 inches side and 3/4 inches tall. Bake the puffs for about 15-20 minutes or until nice and golden in color. Remove from oven and cool completely. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Apple Streusel Egg Muffins

It's been a long time since we've posted a new recipe. Sorry about that. No good excuse really other than being busy with life. This particular recipe that I'm posting today is from the 21 Day Sugar Detox Book . I did this detox back in June, and it was pretty difficult. But, I really think it helped with sugar cravings, and I lost about 8 pounds! Fortunately, the author provides plenty of wonderful recipes to choose from during the detox. This Apple Streusel Muffin was something I ate for breakfast everyday. There's absolutely no sugar in it save for the diced apples. However, it's still very good. I'm still eating this for breakfast along with a Chocolate Avocado Smoothie! Enjoy!

1 tbsp butter, coconut oil, or ghee (I use butter)
1 1/2 cups peeled & chopped green apple
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, divided
3 tbsp warm water
6 eggs (I use 5)
2 tbsp full-fat coconut milk
1/2 tsp  vanilla
1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp coconut flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium sized skillet, sautee the diced apples in the melted butter over medium heat. Sprinkle 1 tsp of the cinnamon and stir. Add in the water. Stir and cook for about 10 minutes until the apples are the consistency of chunky applesauce or apple pie filling. Set aside to cool completely.

In a medium size bowl, add the eggs and whisk. Then, add the coconut milk and vinegar. Whisk until incorporated. Sift in the coconut flour, baking soda, and salt. Add in the remaining 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Whisk until well combined. Next, stir in the cooled apples. Prepare 6 cups of a muffin tin with parchment paper muffin cup liners. Pour the mixture into the cups. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until the muffins have risen and golden in color. Enjoy.