Friday, May 27, 2016

Iranian Style Chicken

Iranian Style Chicken with Barley Salad

One of my mother’s dear friends is an Iranian nurse. She's invited my family over for BBQs on many occasions and served us the most amazing feasts. Of all the foods we had, one dish in particular stuck in my mind. It was barbequed chicken that was amazingly moist and had the tangy zip of curry and something else. I asked her what her secret is and she said she used yogurt as part of the marinade, a trick common in Iranian cooking. In an attempt to recreate those flavors, I did the same and was delighted by the results.


Yogurt makes even chicken breast – a cut that is generally dry due to cautious overcooking – deliciously moist and because yogurt is thicker than milk or oil, it sticks beautifully to the meat. Can’t mix meat and milk? Use Olive oil instead.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep  time: 5-10 Minutes
Marinating time: 2 Hours or Overnight
Cook Time: 30 Minutes

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 Chicken Breasts cut width-wise into 1 inch strips

¼ Cup of 2 % Greek Yogurt – I like Greek Yogurt because I feel it adheres to the meat best.

1 Tablespoon of Curry Powder

Zest of 1 Lemon – That’s the very outer skin of the lemon – the yellow part, not the white

Salt and Pepper – To Taste

1 Teaspoon of Hot Sauce – ideally Harissa or Sriracha – While this is technically optional, those afraid of spice should try a little as the yogurt will dull the heat of the sauce allowing you to experience the flavor without a lot of the burn

Olive Oil – For greasing the baking dish

Equipment

1 Mixing Bowl

1 Knife and Cutting Board

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Rectangular Baking Dish

1 Whisk

1 Zip Top Bag - Optional

Whisk the yogurt, curry powder, salt, pepper, lemon zest, and hot sauce together.

Taste it and adjust for salt. You want the flavor to be on the strong side.

Add the chicken and mix everything together with your hands or a spoon making sure the meat is evenly coated.

If you used your hands, wash them, because raw chicken has a lot of bad bacteria you don’t want all over your kitchen.

Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge or stick it in a zip top bag to save fridge space.

Preheat the oven to 350 oF.

Grease your baking dish with Olive Oil.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the juices of the chicken run clear.

Let the meat rest for 5 minutes and serve!


-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Barley Salad

Barley Salad with Iranian Style Chicken

A question I guessed asked a lot is: what do I bring to a barbeque or potluck?

The best choices for these events like these are salads like this. They transport nicely in large plastic containers and don’t get soggy if you dress them in advance. This one is healthfully packed with whole grains, fresh herbs and vegetables and because the salad is colourful, it’s bound to excite and entice everyone. It’s vegan to boot!

Here’s How You Do It

Ingredients

Difficulty Level: Medium - Easy
Prep  time: 15-20 Minutes

Serves 4 to 6

SALAD

1 Cup of Pearl or Pot Barley, prepped according to package directions – If you have a rice cooker, you can save time and energy by simply dumping in the barley, 2 cups of cold water, and a pinch of salt. Walk away until it dings.

1 Yellow Bell Pepper, diced

1 Italian/Plum Tomato, diced

1 Green Onion, chopped

1 Cup of Fresh Chopped Italian Flat Leaf Parsley – Because flat leaf parsley looks a lot like cilantro in the grocery store, be sure to rub a leaf between your fingers before buying it. If the scent of the rubbed leaf is kinda grassy, you got it! If it smells lemony, you’ve got cilantro, move on and try again.

1 Grilled or Roasted Red Bell Pepper, diced – You can usually find them in jars with the pickles in the grocery store. If you can’t, feel free to use leftovers from a barbeque OR simply leave it out. It adds GREAT sweetness and smokeyness, but if you can’t find it, you can’t find it.

¼ Cup of Dried Cranberries – Soaked for 15 minutes in hot water – This keeps them from being too chewy

DRESSING

¼ Cup Lemon Juice

1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar

½ Cup Olive Oil

1 Heaping Teaspoon Dijon Mustard

1 Clove of Garlic – Smashed

½ Teaspoon of Honey

Salt and Pepper – To Taste

Equipment

1 Pot for cooking the barley

1 Large Plastic Container

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Knife and Cutting Board

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Small Bowl

1 Small Whisk or Fork

Dump the cooked barley, cranberries, bell pepper, tomato, green onion, and parsley in your plastic container.

In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing until everything is well combined.

Pour over the salad and stir everything with a wooden spoon to coat the barley.

You can now serve it or put the lid on the container and put it in the fridge until you’re ready to head to the potluck or barbeque.

Enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Zucchini Muffins


Zucchini for breakfast?

You bet!

In a world where parents are still battling their kids over whether or not they should eat their vegetables, clever camouflage is the perfect way to sneak veggies into the most obnoxiously fussy eaters. Take this recipe. While similar to a carrot cake batter, the zucchini adds a lot more moisture resulting in a deliciously tender muffin with a hint of cinnamon. It’s so good your kids won’t care that they contain veggies!

Are guests coming over and you have no time to make a fancier dessert? Never fear! With a few minor adjustments you can turn a practical breakfast item into a fancy cake even a baker will appreciate!

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy to Medium
Prep time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 35 Minutes

Yields 12 Muffins

Ingredients

2 Eggs

½ Cup Brown Sugar

½ Cup White Sugar

¾ Cup Vegetable Oil

½ Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

2 Cups of Self Raising Flour – This is flour that has baking powder and salt already mixed in. If you don’t have it, use 2 cups of regular flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder and ½ teaspoon of salt.

½ a Teaspoon of Baking Soda

½ a Teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon

½ Teaspoon of Salt

2 Cups Grated Zucchini

½ Cup Low Fat Greek Yogurt

If ya wanna get fancy…



CHEATERS’ LIME CUSTARD FILLING - Optional

1 Package Instant Vanilla Pudding

2 Cups Full Fat Milk

Zest and Juice of 2 Limes

LIME CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

1 Package Cream Cheese - Softened

½ Cup Butter – Softened

1 ½ Cups of Powdered Sugar

Zest and Juice of 1 Lime

Pinch of Salt

Equipment

2 Large Mixing Bowls

1 Regular Bowl

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Whisk

1 or 2 Muffin Pans

1 Pack of Muffin Liners

1 Zip Top Baggie or Butter Knife – For the Frosting

1 Piping Bag with Sturdy Narrow Tip (Optional) – For the cheaters’ custard

1 Box Grater

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Sieve for sifting

Electric mixer (Optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 oF and line a muffin pan with paper liners.

In a large mixing bowl beat eggs, white and brown sugar, the vegetable oil, and vanilla together.

Sift in the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

Stir gently with a wooden spoon to combine.

Stir in zucchini, and then the Greek yogurt.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the thickest cupcake comes out clean.

Serve as is OR if ya wanna get fancy, prep the filling and frosting and serve them for dessert!

Cool the cupcakes completely. If you want to speed this process up you can always stick the muffin pan in the freezer for 10 minutes.

If you’re opting to make a filled muffin, in a regular bowl prep the vanilla pudding as per the package directions. Stir in the lime zest and juice.

Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. I find this easier to do with an electric mixer but a little elbow grease and a sturdy whisk will work fine.

CAREFULLY add the icing sugar, a little at a time until well combined.

Stir in the lime juice and zest.

For filled muffins, put the custard in the sharp tipped piping bag. I find the easiest way to do this is to put the piping bag in a glass, folding the edges of the bag over its rim. You can then scoop the custard into it with little mess.

Squeeze some of the custard out of the piping bag to make sure you have an even flow.

To fill the muffins, ssing the tip of your piping bag, poke a hole in each muffin. Insert the tip of the bag ¼ of an inch in and squeeze the custard out until you see the muffin expand a little.

Repeat the process with the remaining muffins.

Put the frosting in a zip top bag and cut the tip off after which you can pipe the frosting onto the muffins in a swirly pattern. If you’re tired, lazy, or pressed for time (all valid reasons in my book) use a butter knife and smear the frosting on.


Enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.




Thursday, May 12, 2016

Pretty Party Sandwiches

Egg Party Sandwiches

Tuna Party Sandwiches

Party sandwiches are a healthy alternative to heavier party foods like nachos and grilled meats. In Montreal no one does them better than Snowdon Delicatessen where you can get a box of them for 20 bucks. If you can’t get to Montreal or are strapped for cash, give my recipe a try.   They take minutes to prepare and will tempt even the most boorish beer guzzling meat eater.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep and Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

5 Hardboiled Eggs – Peeled, Cooled, and Finely Chopped

2 Cans of Tuna in Water – Drained

4 Tablespoons of Mayonnaise or Jarred Salad Dressing, Divided

2 Teaspoons of Fresh finely chopped Dill, Parsley, or Basil, Divided – Use what you like

1 Rib/Stalk of Celery, peeled and finely chopped

1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice

1 Teaspoon of Dijon Mustard

1 Shallot, finely chopped – If you can find shallots, which are small, more delicate relatives of onions, use a green onion instead

1 Loaf of White or Whole Wheat Bread

Salt and Pepper to taste

Equipment

2 Regular Bowls or Plastic Containers

2 Regular Spoons

1 Knife and Cutting Board

1 Large Serrated Knife

Measuring Spoons

1 Rolling Pin

In a bowl or plastic container mix the together the Eggs, 2 tablespoons of Mayonnaise, the Mustard, 1 Teaspoon of the Dill or Parsley, half the chopped celery, the chopped shallot, and some salt and pepper to taste.

Set aside.

In another bowl, mix together the Tuna, remaining Mayonnaise and Celery, the Lemon Juice, and the other teaspoon of Dill or Parsley.

You’re now ready to assemble your sandwiches.

Spread some of the egg mixture on a slice of bread and top with a slice of bread.

Repeat until you’re out of filling.

Roll your rolling pin lightly over the sandwiches to evenly distribute the filling and level them out. It will also keep the filling from spilling out when you cut them up.

Using your serrated knife cut the crusts off the sandwiches and then cut the sandwiches into 4s.

Do the same with the tuna mixture.

Arrange in a pretty pattern on a plate or pack up and stick in your cooler for a picnic!

Enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.



Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Moroccan Style Eggplant Pita Pizza



Moroccan food isn’t talked about enough and it’s a damn dirty shame. Because of Morocco’s strategic location on the northern tip of Africa near Spain and the Middle East, its cuisine has touches of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors complete with the skillful use of bold spices and fresh ingredients. Since the cuisine is typically associated with tajine stews and couscous, I wanted to do something a little different.

In deference to Morocco’s proximity to Western Europe, I opted to do a pizza loaded with Moroccan flavors. With tender roasted eggplant, creamy yogurt, fresh tomatoes, and smear of flavored tahini, this dish is bound to please even the fussiest vegetarian guest.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Medium - Easy
Prep and Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients

1 Large Eggplant, the top leaves and stem removed, and finely chopped

2 Teaspoons dried Parsley or Coriander

1 Heaping Teaspoon + 1 Pinch of Ras El Hanout – This is the national spice mix of Morocco used in everything from vegetables to stews to couscous. You can often find in among the spices in the ethnic section of major grocery chains and in health food stores and ethnic markets. Can’t find it? NO PROBLEM! Just mix equal parts cumin, dried ginger, coriander, cinnamon, pepper, cayenne pepper (be gentle with this stuff if you can’t handle spicy food), allspice, nutmeg, and ground cloves and a pinch of salt.

4 Tablespoons of Peeled, Minced Garlic - Divided

Salt to taste

5 Tablespoons of Olive Oil – Divided

Large Tomato, diced - OR - 11 Cherry or Grape Tomatoes, Coarsely Chopped
The best type of tomato to use will depend on the time of year. In the winter, regular tomatoes tend to be mealy and tasteless so you’re better off using cherry or grape tomatoes which are generally grown in greenhouses and stay sweet year-round.

4 Tablespoons of Greek Yogurt

2 Tablespoons of Grated Cucumber

½ a Teaspoon of Dried Mint

¼ Cup of Tahini aka Sesame Paste – Also available in the ethnic foods section of major grocery stores. If you can’t find it, try another smooth seed or nut butter but stay away from peanut butter.

4 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice or Vinegar - Divided

2 to 4 Medium Pita Breads – I used whole wheat ones, but use what you like.

Equipment

1 Large Baking Pan

1 Baking Sheet

1 Spatula

3 Regular Bowls

2 Regular Spoons

1 Knife and Cutting Board

1 Box Grater

Measuring Cups and Spoons


Preheat the oven to 350 oF.

Dump the eggplant into the baking pan.

Sprinkle with the Ras El Hanout, Dried Parsley, 2 Tablespoons of the garlic, and salt.

Drizzle with 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil and 2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice.

Mix everything together with your hands to evenly distribute the herbs, spices, and oil.

Roast the eggplant for 25 minutes, flipping the eggplant once with a spatula at the 15 minute mark.


While the eggplant is still hot, dump the tomatoes into the pan and stir everything together to soften them up. The acid in the tomatoes will give the eggplant an additional flavor boost.


In a regular bowl, combine some Olive Oil with a pinch of Ras El Hanout and a little salt and spread it on the pita breads with the back of a spoon.


Stick the pita breads in the oven for 5 minutes to crisp up.

In another regular bowl, mix the remaining Lemon Juice with the Tahini, the remaining Olive Oil and 1 Tablespoon of the Minced Garlic.

In your third bowl, mix the grated cucumber, remaining teaspoon of garlic, dried mint, and some salt to taste.

You’re now ready to assemble the pizzas.

Spread the tahini mix on each pita and top with a generous helping of the eggplant and tomato mixture.

Add a dollop of the yogurt mix and serve!

Enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.















Monday, May 2, 2016

Spicy Thai Coconut Red Curry Soup with Spinach


Though we’re well into spring, spring doesn’t just mean sunshine and flowers. Spring means rain and lots of it and unlike the sunny days the rainy ones are often unpleasantly chilly.

Luckily, cold rainy days are the perfect time to indulge in a warming spicy soup like this one.

This soup is creamy, spicy, and extremely quick to prepare.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep and Cook Time: 15- 20 Minutes
Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients

1 Can of Coconut Milk

1 ¾ Cups of Vegetable or Chicken Stock – Store bought or instant is fine

3 Tablespoons of Red Curry Paste – You can get this stuff in Asian markets and in the Asian foods’ section of major grocery stores.

¼ Teaspoon of Green Curry Paste

2 Teaspoons of Thai Fish Sauce

¼ Cup Frozen Chopped Spinach, Thawed – Some brands have frozen spinach in cubes to allow for portion control. If this is the kind you get, two cubes will do the job.

Salt – To Taste

3 White fish fillets, cubed – If you use frozen, thaw them out

½ Pack of Rice Noodles


Equipment

1 Medium Sized Pot

1 Whisk

1 Wooden Spoon

Measuring Cup(s)

Measuring Spoons

1 Knife and Cutting Board

1 Heat Proof Mixing Bowl

Regular Bowls (with which to serve the soup)

1 Ladle

Soak the rice noodles in hot water and start your soup.

Dump the coconut milk into the pot and whisk in the curry pastes. The red curry paste, which is more chili based, will provide heat and flavor, the green curry paste, which has more lemon grass and cilantro in it, will add a cooling element.

Bring it to a boil on high heat and add the fish sauce and stock.

Whisk everything together and dump in the spinach.

Stir to combine and then dump in the fish, simmering until the fish is opaque and flakes when pressed with a wooden spoon. The time it takes will depend on the thickness of the fillets, but it will probably take 3 to 5 minutes.

Taste the soup and adjust the salt for your taste.

Drain the rice noodles and put some in the bottom of each bowl.

Ladle the soup over the noodles and serve!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.