Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chicken in Catalan Ratatouille

So, as you may or may not know... chicken is my least favorite meat. I don't know why - since it seems to be everyone favorite meat. The default when you do not know what to cook. But for me, chicken takes the most effort. I think because it doesn't have a strong flavor.  could be? maybe?  Or perhaps, I'm just ornery and do not want to like what everyone else apparently loves.  Probably, the later.  *grin*

Well, I made this chicken dish and took some into work to give to a friend who LOVES chicken.  I took enough for her to share with her hubby... but she said it was so good she ate it all. I think that is the best part about cooking - the joy that people have in eating what I make.

So, a bit about this recipe. I have a cookbook I bought at Costco, after we came from Spain the first time around. We had loved the food and I saw this cookbook. For $10, how could I go wrong? And, it's a great buy. So far everything I've made from it has been wonderful - and for the most part I follow the recipe. sort-of.

The book is called: The Food of Spain

Now how can one go wrong with that? And, it has little stories about the food. Which I always find fun and interesting. This dish, is from Catalan. Hence, the alternate name for it Chicken in Catalan Ratatouille. Apparently, the Catalans say it is from Samfaina/Valencian. 

Both Catalan and Valencian food is considered Mediterranean cuisine. The food is based on a mixture of vegetables and meats - like paella - which are slow cooked to bring out the flavors. With Spain having both the European and the Moorish influences, the food is rich, warm and tasty - which is especially great as winter is coming to the Midwest. 

That being said - if you want the original recipe - go buy the book. ;)  They did have zucchini in this recipe that I didn't have at the time - but I would probably add it in for the next go.  Or another green vegetable.  As colors go, this one is very pretty - especially when you do the yellow bell peppers. Which always seem so bright and happy to me. 

Chicken in Samfaina sauce

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces*
1/4 cup butter 
2 large onions, chopped
1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into bite sized cubes
3 cloves garlic (I think there might have been more), crushed / minced
2 large bell peppers, cut into cubes (different colors is nice)
14 oz chopped tomatoes (puree of tomatoes works too)
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped oregano and parsley
1/2 cup white wine

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Officially, you are suppose to brown the pieces - but I'm always too lazy.

Heat butter in a nice sized, deep frying pan/skillet. Add onions, cook for about 10 min until softened. Add garlic, eggplant and bell peppers. Cook for another 10 min or so.

Add wine and deglaze the pan (pulling up the brown bits). Add tomatoes, bay leaf, herbs. Add chicken. Bring to a boil - and then turn down to a simmer over low heat. Cook covered for about 45 min. Or until chicken is cooked and eggplant has softened / disappeared (depending on how small you chopped up the eggplant. I did really small so that the BF wouldn't find it. )

*note: I cut up the chicken legs into 2 parts at the joint, leaving them on the bone. The breast pieces, I cut up into four large cubes. While they will not cook exactly the same time, the breast pieces will cook a bit faster than the legs - the amount of liquid in the dish will keep everything nice and moist.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Crepe's again - gluten free, grain free and yummy!

I love crepes!  And, creating new versions of gluten free crepes has been heaps of fun.

The cashew butter version is really good but it means that I had to have cashew butter available when ever I wanted a crepe.

So, I have been playing with various nut flours, bean flours and the like to get the mouth feel of a good crepe and one that would hold up to fillings.  After all, what good is a crepe that can't hold up to a good preserve or in this case strawberries and whip cream?


1/2 cup chestnut flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
4 eggs
1 cup milk or water

mix eggs and liquid until well mixed.  Sift flours into the liquid and mix well and let it sit for about 5 to 10 min.  This will allow the coconut flour to absorb some of the liquids.  It should look like real crepe mix - sort of like cream pouring from a cup.  Add eggs if it is too thick.  Or more chestnut flour if too thin.

Heat a non-stick pan (about the only time I use a non-stick pan) with butter on medium heat.*  Once the butter has melted and is coating the pan.  Pour about a 1/2 a cup into the pan (I use a soup ladle) - tip the pan around to coat the pan with the batter.  cook until you see the edges browning up and pulling away from the pan.  Flip over (you maybe able to do this with just 1 spatula but I usually use two).  brown the other side just for a bit. 

place into a plate. fill with whatever you want.

some options:
  • jams and preverves
  • fresh fruit
  • cheese - like goat or brie or something else soft and melty
  • creamed spinach (this one is really good!)
  • sauteed mushrooms with cheese

*Note: You don't want to cook on high heat in a non-stick pan because the coating can leach a chemical known as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) when exposed to high heat. And, PFOA has been linked to cancer and birth defects.

Read more here:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Rib steaks and rainbow chard

I have been bad about taking pictures.... so, you'll have to just accept that it looked pretty and tasted good.  :)

Rib steaks, what the heck is that...and where do I find a recipe to tell me how to cook it.  I honestly thought it was a tougher cut of meat.. boy was I wrong.  Rib steak is prime rib - but in steak form.  So, when cooking it is tender and juicy.. but without the cooking time of the prime rib (since that is one big piece of meat).

Well, I guess I didn't have to go and marinate it or anything... but I did.  So, here is the recipe adapted from Emeril's Rib Steak Sicilian Style.

Sicilian Rib Steak with Rainbow Chard

6 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh basil (chopped finely)
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh parsley (chopped finely)
Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
2 rib steaks
salt to taste

Mix everything except for the Parmesan in a bowl and coat the steaks.  Let sit while you heat up the grill or grill pan.   Cook the steaks and when resting the meat, sprinkle the Parmesan.  So that there is a nice melted layer on the top.

Rainbow chard:
1 large batch of chard (roughly chopped)
6 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste

Heat pan and melt butter.  Add olive oil.  Add garlic and let sweat a little bit (1 min).  Toss in the chard.  Cook until wilted.   (5 to 10 min depending on how much you like the flavor of Chard.  The shorter the time - the more chard flavor you will taste.  Over time, the garlic takes over. )  Add salt to taste. 


I was going to add pine nuts but ran out of time. I'm sure it would have given a nice crunch. Next time.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A nod to Boliche

I was thinking of Boliche (Cuban pot roast) that I read on 3 Guys from Miami but I really didn't want to take the time to do up a full pot roast. 

While the picture doesn't capture the yummy-ness of this dish.  You can see that it could dress up nicely - if one put a bit of effort into it.  I didn't because we were hungry. :)   But, how can you go wrong with Spanish Chorizo and beef?

Stuffed steaks with Chorizo

4 Round Steaks or similar cuts of steaks
1 package Spanish Chorizo
6 cloves garlic (I like garlic, you can reduce but it really gives a great flavor)
1 onion, sliced
1 can tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon oregano
2 potatoes, small cubes
1/2 can of water (just to get out the tomato juices from the can)
salt and pepper to taste
butter - about a tablespoon or so

twine or tooth picks

In a food processor, blend chorizo and 3 cloves of garlic until ground meat consistency.

Take steaks, salt and pepper both sides. Take chorizo mixture and spread even amounts on the steaks. Roll the steaks and either tie with twine or stick through with tooth picks so that you have meat rolls.

Place a knob of butter in a pan (some what deep dished) and once heated place steaks in and allow to brown. turn and brown all sides (it's worth it, honest!) Toss in onions, tomatoes, garlic, water and potatoes. Bring to boil, simmer and cook covered with slight opening for about 20 min. Until potatoes are done.

Pull out steaks and cut into bite size pieces so it is easier to eat. Otherwise, you can serve the rolls (removing tooth picks / twine) and let the person cut it. Put sauce with some potatoes. Serve.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Italian Beef

I have been craving Italian Beef... those thin, juicy, tasty slices of meat in sauce. yum.

So, of course, I've been looking for a good recipe.... and thinking I had a roast in the freezer. I knew I was all set once I found this recipe on Paupered Chef.

Ummm... I know I use to have a roast in the freezer.  Did we really eat them all? Oh, no! But, I need Italian beef.  So, while my version does not use a roast.. I would highly recommend you have one. It's tasty either way... but cutting up a round steak into nice thin slices... madness! :)

Italian Beef

  • 2 1/2 pounds beef round or beef sirloin tip roast (or if you are crazy: round steak)
  • 1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 quart water
  • salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 450f.
Mix basil, red pepper flakes, oregano and garlic.  Rub meat with spices. 

Crazy people version:
put steaks in oven and roast for 10 min.
lower oven to 250f. 
add water to roasting pan, cover with foil.  Cook for 1.5 hrs, turning occasionally.
remove foil, cook for another 30 min. or so. 
pull out of the oven, put liquids in a pan to cook down.  And start slicing the meat as thin as possible.
I know that P.Chef put his in the freezer - but it really seemed like more work and waiting than I wanted to do.

Once all the beef is sliced, put it in the pan to meld the juices with the meat.  Serve.

Normal people, please follow the chef as I haven't tried this yet.  But, I will.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Chemicals in the home

I know, it's been ages since I've written anything... and what is the first thing I write about?  Chemicals in the house.

I've been reading this book (What's gotten into us : how to live a healthy life in an increasingly toxic world by McKay Jenkins) which I picked up randomly at the library.  And, while the book is a bit over the top - I have to say it is making me think about what is in the house and the impacts of the products in our lives.  Then the other day, this NY times article about a woman who tried to figure out what is in the products in her house and the possible toxicity to child to be.  The article tends to make the women sound a bit wacko - but honestly, if I just had a baby - wouldn't I want to do the best I could?  I don't think it is off the wall to try and minimize exposure to harmful chemicals.

Anyway, here are some blurbs that just hit home for me:
  1. One thousand to three thousand new chemicals were introduced into our environment every year over the past 30 years,” Dr. Trasande said (NY Times)
  2. Here is the body burden study that was paid for by The Alliance for  a Clean and Healthy Maine.  This study was referenced in Jenkins' book. When I was reading the book, I was surprised - shocked, actually - at the amount of Fire Retardants (PBDE's) in people's bodies.
  3. As the chemical load, or “body burden,” has increased, Dr. Trasande said, “we’ve seen an increase in chronic childhood diseases: asthma, developmental disabilities, certain birth defects, certain childhood cancers. And these aren’t just two trends that exist at the same time. There are scientific studies that have tied the two together.” (NY Times)

Just reading those three pieces of information, that most of the chemicals being put out into the market aren't tested.  That we are finding products which aren't expected in human bodies - in human bodies.  That there is an increase in chronic childhood diseases from the growth in chemical load.  It makes me think that wandering off the consumer path isn't a bad choice. 

For a while now, I've been moving the house to less toxic cleaning products.  The house is cleaned using a vinegar and water solution (which may not be the best smelling cleaning product - is safe enough that I don't worry about the cats walking on the wet floor.  Or me wandering around bare foot on the damp floor)  Also, for the nicer smelling cleaning (bathroom/shower) I use Dr. Bronner's Castile soap in either Peppermint or Green tea both of which are germ killers and smell quite nice.

I don't know if this is going to "extreme" lengths or not. I know that I feel better not having a lot of chemicals in the house and it's heaps cheaper on the pocketbook. :)

Here are some sites that you can use to research what is in your products:
  • Skin Deep which is ok.  It doesn't have all the products I use/use to use.  And, I've found that some of the information maybe outdated.  But, still it's a good start.
  • Good Guide which I like a lot and spent quite a bit of time on today.  
  • US department of health household products database it's a bit geeky. I'm not sure how useable it is... but it has a LOT of data. 
Happy freaking out. :)