Friday, January 23, 2009

Post-script: UBET

I feel I cannot leave my readership hanging with a perfectly good supper and no dessert, no matter how small. So I will share with you the secret to the best chocolate milk possible: U-BET chocolate syrup. YUM!

Chocolate Milk

8 oz organic milk (I used cow for the desired nostalgia it conjures for me, but no fear dairy-phobes; soy, rice, or almond milk shall work just as well, technically)
1 soup spoon of U-BET chocolate syrup + more if needed (as will likely be, when you discover how yummy U-BET is!)

Mix, then lick spoon, as a nice coating of chocolatey goodness will remain even after stirred in milk.

This is a tasty pre-bedtime treat, as calcium in milk will aid your sleep!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Where my heart is...

I arrived in New York last night, after spending an entire month in the Bay Area. The Bay was perfect-- the weather was sunny, I felt calm and comfortable, and I was surrounded by people I love. It was really hard to fly home to NY, where it had been snowing and freezing, and leave my boyfriend in Cali, without me. This morning was ugly; I felt sad and depressed and had absolutely no motivation to do anything. One of those "it will never get better" feelings... pretty taxing and low. In moods like these, I think nothing can be done to make myself feel better. In moods like these, the only activity that has a chance of cheering me up is cooking. So I took an active role in ending the lowness and consulted my new recipe reading material. After a trip to the demonic Whole Foods, I began to create.

The end result was a dinner of homemade cornbread and chili verde. For a gal who was down-and-out, the process of creating this meal was definitely uplifting, and the fruits of the labor certainly delicious!

Check it out:

Chile verde
1 T veg oil
3.5 lb bone-in, skin-on split chicken breasts
kosher salt
ground black pepper
1 shallot, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic
3 Anaheim chilies, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
3 Poblano chilies, stemmed seeded, and roughly chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, minced
3.5 c low-sodium chicken broth
2 15-oz cans cannellini beans
1/4 c chopped cilantro
juice of 2 limes
3 green onions, light green and white parts sliced thinly

Spoon 1 T oil into large saucepan, and turn heat on to medium. Season the chicken breasts generously with salt and pepper. Place them in pot, skin-side down, and brown them, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the pot, and dispose of all but 1 T of the oil in the pot. Set the chicken aside to cool, and when cool enough to touch, remove skin and discard. The chicken breasts will be cooked in the stew, whole, but not until a little later.

In food processor, pulse the garlic, chilies, shallot, and onion until all pieces are chopped very finely but it does not puree (see photo). Add this veggie mixture, along with minced jalapenos, to the same large saucepan that the chicken had browned in, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5-10 minutes.
At this point, maintain the heat (medium/low) under the saucepan and transfer 1 cup of the cooking veggies to the food processor along with 1 cup chicken broth and one of the cans of beans. Puree. Then add contents back to the saucepan. Add to the pot remaining 2.5 cups chicken broth and the reserved now-skinless chicken breasts. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover, cooking until breasts are cooked through (reading about 155-160 on a cooking thermometer), about 30 minutes.

When chicken is cooked, remove from the saucepan again. Add remaining can of beans to the saucepan and, when cool enough to touch, shred the chicken. Add shredded chicken, lime juice, cilantro, and green onion to the simmering pot. You may also add salt and pepper to taste.

Organic Whole Wheat Cornbread

1 c whole wheat flour
1/2 t baking soda
1 1/2 t baking powder
2 1/2 T sugar or 1 T agave nectar
1 1/4 t salt
3/4 c cornmeal

2 eggs
2 T melted butter
1 1/2 c buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a dark (for better crust) 9x9 pan. Combine dry ingredients (if using agave nectar, add to the wet ingredients, not the dry). In a pyrex measuring cup (or microwaveable bowl), melt the butter. When melted, add right to pyrex cup the 1 1/2 c buttermilk and 2 eggs. Mix with a fork. Add wet ingredients to dry, and stir until just combined. Pour into greased pan, and bake in oven for 20-25 min, or until done.

Terrific meal, with tons of leftovers for later in the week to keep you cheery.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Winter in the Bay

I apologize for not updating my blog in quite some time; I have been vacationing in the fantastical bay area for the past couple of weeks. It's not that I haven't been cooking here--I have been, but it's more difficult when you don't have your own kitchen and not only have to work around others but do not have typical resources at hand. Fortunately, I am visiting residents of the house in which I resided for a month before the big migration to NY, and a lot of my old spices and dry ingredients remain untouched.

The bay area was a wonderful decision on my part to escape New York's very cold winter. Now, in the past couple of weeks I have heard various bay area residents complaining about the weather. They say it is much colder than usual. I agree- It is much colder than usual bay area winter. However, I embrace the bay's "winter" in its semblance to its summer, fall, and spring. When I lived here I complained about not having typical seasons. There was no true differentiation between seasons--San Francisco's fall does not consist of leaves changing color; instead it gets strangely hot in October, and then continues to get more and more mild as the months pass. By December, it is chilly, but people still wear shorts outside. Before living in the bay, I often judged the weather from my bedroom window, based on what people in the streets were wearing. That is almost impossible in San Francisco winter; about a quarter of the people wear shorts or traditional summer attire, another quarter in heavy down winter coats (unnecessarily, I have discovered), and perhaps half in layered, traditional fall clothing. I have never lived somewhere with such bland, mild weather. But back to what I began with--I welcome the bland and mild with open arms when my parents tell me over the phone on new years eve that it is eighteen degrees in NY! I was wearing a t-shirt yesterday. All day! And I was warm! Incredible, I tell you.

I should mention, however, that although the weather is definitely warmer and friendlier than that of NY at this time of the year, it is still relatively chilly. Iphone tells me it is 35 degrees in NY right now. It's a kind 51 in Oakland, which, in my opinion, warrants the making of soup. And so I dedicate today's recipe to Rebecca, long lost friend. The Bay is not the same without you. Try this black bean soup, courteously inspired by Laurel's Kitchen:

1 1/2 c dried black beans, sorted and rinsed
2 c veggie stock
4 c water
1 bay leaf
1 T veggie oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 potato, grated
2 stalks celery, chopped (same size pieces as onion)
2 t dried oregano
1/2 t garlic powder
salt and black pepper to taste

Put beans, liquids, and bay leaf in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then simmer, covered. They will simmer for about 2 1/2 hours, or until they are soft enough to eat comfortably. For the first hour and a half of the beans boiling, you can go chill out somewhere other than the kitchen. Or work on another crafts project. Or do your laundry (that's what I did). When two hours have passed, in a large pot, heat your oil. Add chopped onion, and stir, cooking until translucent. Add celery and grated potato and carrot. Add oregano and garlic powder, and cook, stirring, for about five minutes. Now add your beans and their broth, including the bay leaf, to the large pot of cooking veggies. Bring to a boil. If it's too thick at this point, you may add some water, but make sure to bring contents of pot to boil. Simmer for another half hour, or until all of the veggies and beans are to your desired softness. Add salt and pepper as you see fit. Laurel suggests 2 t salt and 1/8 t pepper. But the exact measurements are up to you. Laurel also suggests juice of one lemon and lemon slices to be added to soup when done. Go for it if this sounds appealing to you! And if not, ladel into bowls and enjoy. I also think some (redundantly) fresh creme fraiche may go nicely spooned into bowls of soup before eating.
Ta ta for now! Back to the welcomingly chilly Cali air.