30 March 2017

Easy One-Pan Chicken Burritos

Easy One-Pan Chicken Burritos / www.delightfulrepast.com

It's been one of those weeks. You know the kind. Too much stuff going on. Not feeling great. No time or energy for cooking or going out. Had to think of something I could throw together quickly and not mess up every pan and dish in the house. Only other requirement: flavor. Oh, and organic, of course.

Of all the times to have completely run out of my stock of homemade freezer meals! I like to have at least five dinners in the freezer at all times, but the freezer was bare.

I had flour tortillas and a jar of crushed tomatillos on hand, and that made me think of Chicken Enchiladas. Yeah, right! Chicken Enchilada Verde Casserole? Nope, today even that was too much work. So I just came up with a concoction that would cook in one pan and involved no chopping whatsoever. Just whip it up, wrap it in a tortilla and call it dinner.

Every ingredient is a pantry staple. I didn't care that it has no vegetables. And I certainly wasn't going to be bothering with garnishes and side dishes. Phht! I threw stuff in a pan and sat down and had a nice cup of tea while it did its thing. Well, I did eventually have to grate some cheese. But one could use packaged shredded cheese.

A burrito by itself is not very photogenic. That big expanse of white tortilla* looks pretty blah, but like I said, today was not a day for pretty garnishes. And anything remotely akin to photo styling was not going to happen, so there you have it. Sorry.

* I used store-bought tortillas this time, but I love making my own Homemade Flour Tortillas when I'm having a better week.

So tell me all about your latest sorry week!

Easy One-Pan Chicken Burritos / www.delightfulrepast.com

Easy One-Pan Chicken Burritos

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups lower sodium chicken broth
1 cup crushed tomatillos (Muir Glen organic)
1 teaspoon ground dried chiles*
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 4-ounce can diced green chiles
1 4-ounce can sliced black olives
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup sour cream

* I don't use commercial chili powder because it has salt, garlic and other things in it besides chiles.

1 In 12-inch skillet (or Le Creuset 3.5-quart stainless steel saucier), heat butter and oil over medium heat. Stir in flour, cook for about 1 minute. Whisk in chicken broth. Cook, stirring, until thickened, about 3 minutes.

2 Stir in tomatillos, chile powder, salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, green chiles and olives. Place chicken breasts in pan. Bring to a simmer and continue to simmer over low heat, covered, about 25 to 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

3 Remove chicken from pan. While sauce continues to simmer, uncovered (so it can reduce a bit), use two forks to shred chicken into bite-size pieces. Return chicken to the pan. Stir in sour cream.

4 Spoon mixture onto warm flour tortillas, top with shredded cheese, and fold. Great with chopped avocado, cilantro, etc.  

23 March 2017

Perfect Pound Cake

Perfect Pound Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com

Pound cake is a British invention of the early 18th century, I'm told, and got its name from being made from a pound each of the primary ingredients--eggs, flour, sugar and butter. These proportions have been altered over the years, but I like to make a pound cake that holds as closely to that proportion as possible.

I found that using 3/4 pound, rather than a pound, of each of the primary ingredients made the perfect amount of batter for a standard Bundt pan. This is a classic vanilla pound cake with just a hint of brandy or sherry (strictly optional) as well as mace. Not enough to really notice, just enough to add a certain je ne sais quoi to the classic cake.

Most days I don't sift flour; I don't know what got into me this morning, but I triple-sifted the dry ingredients. Not sure it was necessary, but what the hey, right? I'm sure my usual whisking the daylights out of them in a large-ish bowl would have sufficed. But, hey, you do whatever you think is right.

The main thing is the creaming. Take your time with that step; it pays off big time in the all-important texture of the cake. Don't let your butter sit out for hours and get overly soft. Let it sit out just long enough to be soft but still cool and not at all shiny, oily or melty.

Perfect Pound Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com

And bring the milk and eggs to room temperature before starting the cake. This helps you get the characteristic fine-grained texture. Don't use margarine or any other substitute for the butter. Butter is, along with eggs, the primary flavor of pound cake, so it must have real butter. 

Then beat it really well on medium speed and then gradually beat in the sugar, taking at least 8 minutes from the time you start creaming the butter until all the sugar is fully incorporated. Then beat in the eggs one at a time on medium speed, beating until incorporated after each addition.

But once you start adding the flour, use low speed and take care not to overbeat. I usually finish that step by hand so as not to overbeat. These steps ensure the moist, even crumb that is the hallmark of a classic pound cake.

I love a perfectly plain piece of the cake with a cup of tea, but it also is the perfect foil for ice cream and chocolate sauce or berries and whipped cream; and it's my favorite cake to use in Trifle. How do you like to serve pound cake?

Perfect Pound Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com
And, yes, pound cake is supposed to get a crack on top.

Perfect Pound Cake – 3/4-Pound Cake, Actually

(Makes one 10-inch 12-cup Bundt cake)

2 1/2 dip-and-sweep cups (12.5 ounces/354 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces/177 ml) milk, room temperature
2 tablespoons brandy or sherry, optional
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large* eggs, room temperature
3 sticks (12 ounces/340 grams) unsalted butter, soft but cool
1 3/4 cups (12.25 ounces/347 grams) sugar

* That's medium for UK eggs. And if you're using homegrown eggs, that's about 12 ounces or so of eggs in their shells.

1 Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas4. Butter and lightly flour, or spray with cooking spray, one 10-inch 12-cup Bundt pan. I use 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of flour and shake out the excess flour.

2 In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and mace. In 1-cup glass measure, stir together the milk, brandy or sherry, and vanilla extract.

Note: If you're going to sift the dry ingredients, don't sift the mace; you'll likely end up with some stuck in the tiny holes of your sieve.

3 In bowl of electric mixer or other large bowl, beat the butter until very light. Beat in the sugar gradually. This step should take a total of not less than 8 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well on medium-high after each addition. Beat mixture until very light and fluffy.

4 Add the dry and wet ingredients alternately to the creamed mixture, starting and ending with the dry. Do not overbeat; overbeating at this point will ruin the cake. Give it a few stirs by hand to incorporate the remaining dry ingredients.

5 Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with spatula, and bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

6 Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack and cool completely. The cooled cake can be wrapped tightly and stored at room temperature for up to 5 days. Can be double-wrapped and frozen for a month; thaw, wrapped, at room temperature.

Note: In fact, the cake is better if you store it for a day or two before serving.

Perfect Pound Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com
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16 March 2017

Mini Cranberry-Apple Tarts - In My Hurry-Up Puff Pastry

Mini Cranberry-Apple Tarts in Ruff Puff Pastry / www.delightfulrepast.com

I know it's easier to make one big tart, but I just have a "thing" about minis or individual tarts. These Mini Cranberry Apple Tarts can be made with any pastry, even store-bought frozen puff pastry, but I would encourage you to give my Hurry-Up Ruff Puff Pastry recipe a try.

These are meant to look a bit rustic, so you can free-form the tarts or, as I did with these, use crumpet rings. One always feels so clever to think of another way to use something that sees so little action as crumpet rings (Crumpets and English Muffins).

Just look at those flaky layers. And you can get them with less work and less fat than you think. It's so good, Mr Delightful has requested it for the next pie I make. With summer on its way, it will be Fruit Pie Season before we know it.

Summer fruit is the only thing I like about summer! Can't wait for the peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, cherries, watermelon ... In the meantime, I'm having fun with apples and everything else that is in season now. 

What are your favorite fruits and fruit desserts?

Mini Cranberry-Apple Tarts in Ruff Puff Pastry / www.delightfulrepast.com
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Mini Cranberry-Apple Tarts

(Makes 4)

The Filling

1 1/4 pounds (20 ounces/567 grams) Granny Smith apples
1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup (2.33 ounces/66 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon (9 grams) flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces/59 ml) water
2 tablespoons (1 ounce/28 grams) unsalted butter

The Pastry

1/2 recipe Ruff Puff pastry (freeze half for another day)
1 tablespoon milk
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar mixed with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 Peel, quarter and core apples. Cut each quarter into quarters lengthwise and into 1/4-inch-thick slices. You should have 3 cups. Put in a 2-quart saucepan. Stir in lemon juice to keep apples from turning brown.

2 In small bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Stir in dried cranberries, separating any that are clumped together.

3 Pour dry mixture over apples in saucepan; stir to coat. Stir in water and butter. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer until apples are starting to get tender and liquid is thickened and reduced, about 10 minutes (5 minutes covered, 5 minutes uncovered), stirring frequently. You should have about 2 1/2 cups. Set aside to cool; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

4 Spray 4 crumpet rings with cooking spray and set them on a parchment-lined quarter sheet pan. If you don't have crumpet rings, you can just make free-form tarts.

5 Roll the puff pastry into a 14-inch (trimmed measurement) square. Cut the dough into four 7-inch circles, and fit the circles into the crumpet rings, leaving an overhang of dough. Put about a 1/2-cup portion of filling in the center of each.

Note: The pastry should be about 1/8-inch thick. You can cut out three and re-roll the scraps for the fourth; it will be every bit as good as the others.

6 Fold the overhanging pastry in toward the middle, leaving the center open. Brush with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Or do an egg wash, if you prefer, with an egg beaten with a tablespoon of water. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes while oven preheats to 425F/220C/Gas7. Or refrigerate for several hours and bake just before serving. 

7 Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Mini Cranberry-Apple Tarts in Ruff Puff Pastry / www.delightfulrepast.com
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09 March 2017

Bean with Bacon Soup

Bean with Bacon Soup / www.delightfulrepast.com

When I first met Mr Delightful, back before the earth had cooled, he liked canned condensed bean with bacon soup. If I recall, it tasted okay; but I just have this "thing" about canned soups and convenience foods and stuff that isn't organic. So, naturally, I had to come up with a better bean with bacon soup.

Needless to say, even though I don't put the word "organic" in front of every ingredient in my recipes, nearly every ingredient is. But if that's not your thing, you can make it with conventional ingredients. If using conventional bacon, which has far more fat than the organic uncured bacon I use, be sure to drain off the fat. 

I know it sounds crazy to put ketchup in soup, but all I can say is it's really good. At least with the brand I use. Besides adding a touch of tomato and sweetness to the soup, it adds a little organic vinegar and spices as well. Mr Delightful, the lifelong "mmm mmm good" man, pronounced it "even better, much better."

What is your favorite soup? Do you eat it regularly, just when you're sick, only during Soup Weather, or when?

Bean with Bacon Soup / www.delightfulrepast.com

Bean with Bacon Soup

(Makes 12 servings)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces organic hickory smoked uncured bacon, cut into 1/4-inch-wide slices
1 medium (8 ounces) yellow onion, chopped
3 quarts water
2 pounds navy or other small white beans
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped carrots
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 teaspoon marjoram leaves
2 cups lower sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup ketchup

1 In 6-quart Dutch oven, heat olive oil and saute bacon until cooked. (You can skip the oil if you're using conventional bacon; remove all but a tablespoon or two of the fat before adding onions.) Stir in chopped onion and cook until bacon and onions are caramelizing a bit, about 20 minutes. Stir in water and beans. Bring to a boil; you can use that time to chop celery and carrots. Stir in celery and carrots, salt, pepper, thyme and marjoram. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours.

Note: Organic uncured bacon is so lean, there is no need to drain off the fat as there would be if using conventional bacon.

2 After 2 hours, stir in chicken broth and ketchup. Continue simmering for 1 hour or until done, adding more liquid (water or broth) if needed. With immersion blender, puree the soup a bit to thicken it, leaving most of the beans whole.

Note: Dried beans can vary a great deal in how much cooking they require. I find three hours usually works for this, but if your beans are not fully cooked at three hours just keep cooking until they are. If your beans cook faster, then at the 3-hour mark the soup may have thickened to your liking without any pureeing needed.

02 March 2017

Hummingbird Cake - Banana-Pineapple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Hummingbird Cake - Banana Pineapple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting / www.delightfulrepast.com

Hummingbird Cake is a real blast-from-the-past cake. Popular in the South in the 1970s, it came to national attention years later when Oprah Winfrey's personal chef brought it to her television audience. Like Carrot Cake, also popular in the 1970s, Hummingbird Cake has cream cheese frosting.

Most Hummingbird Cakes are far too sweet for my taste and have waaaaay too much frosting. I've cut back on both, so one slice (1/16th of the cake) is well within my daily sugar allowance. (See Sugar - Toxin or Treat? for more about that.)

I was too lazy to get out my piping bag and tips, so this cake is just stone plain. But that just goes along with the whole simplifying-my-life thing that I'm enjoying so much. And taking that even further, I froze half the cake, 2 slices in each of 4 glass freezer containers, for future treats. 

Tell me, do you like to freeze cake and other desserts instead of having great quantities of the stuff sitting around screaming "Eat Me" every time you walk by?!

Update 05/10/18: For a less sugar and less work hummingbird treat, try my Hummingbird Muffins!

Hummingbird Cake - Banana Pineapple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting / www.delightfulrepast.com

Hummingbird Cake

(Makes one 8-inch 2-layer cake, 16 servings)

The Cake

2 dip-and-sweep cups (10 ounces/283 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups (9.33 ounces/265 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces/177 ml) organic canola oil
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces/118 ml) milk
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 8-ounce can unsweetened crushed pineapple, not drained
1 cup finely chopped ripe bananas (2 6.5-ounce bananas)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

The Frosting

6 tablespoons (3 ounces/85 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons (3 ounces/85 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pound (16 ounces/454 grams) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 2 tablespoons milk

1 Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas4. Grease well and lightly flour two 8-inch/20 cm layer pans. 

2 In large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, soda, cinnamon and salt. Add oil, milk and eggs, stirring with a spoon just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in pineapple (including juice), bananas, vanilla extract and pecans.

3 Pour into prepared pans. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

4 Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on racks until completely cool, another 1 1/2 hours.

5 Make Cream Cheese Frosting. In bowl of stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and milk; beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. You will likely have to add the liquid ingredients before adding all the powdered sugar.

6 Freeze however many slices you don't need right away. Each of these Pyrex Simply Store 3 Cup Rectangle glass dishes with lids holds 2 slices of cake.

Hummingbird Cake - Frozen 2 Slices at a Time in Glass / www.delightfulrepast.com

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