My Freezer is a Clown Car (again)

img_7105This past week the season turned from summer to fall, as it does every loop around the globe. Mom Nature took that turn very seriously here in the beehive state. On Monday, it was 91. On Wednesday it was 50, and the mountain peaks that surround my new fair city were iced with their first snow. I’m not sad about that one bit, because when my toes start to turn frosty in flip-flops and thoughts turn to boot season, that means it’s time to fill the freezer with cozy fare for football weekends and chilly nights. Here’s a favorite posts from the early days to usher in hot food in a big bowl season.

Oh, and if you need something to read while the soups are souping, check out this wonderfully ridiculous article from Car and Drive (seriously…Car and Driver) — The Physics of Clown Cars.


[Hi there. Present-day me again. Just thought I’d mention that I’m making the potato leek soup today, and made a few adjustments for those of you out there (me included) who are a little less “my body is a temple and fat is the enemy.” Start off with a strip of bacon (oh, how I wish every sentence ever uttered started with that), cut up into pieces and heat up in the soup pot, with a scant bit of olive oil if the bacon isn’t rendering a mess of fat. Cook the bacon until lightly browned. Toss in the onions, leeks and shallots, and a knob (about a tablespoon) butter, and sweat them until soft. Then add in the taters and proceed as written. Until the end. Once you’ve done the cooking and pureeing, add in a glug, or glug glug of cream or half and half. Season and serve. You can thank me later.]

My Freezer is a Clown Car

There’s something strange going on in my freezer. Structurally, it’s the ‘typical’ rental apartment freezer. It lives on the top third of my fridge and is small. Very small. Yet while it’s dimensions are diminutive, it continually defies the laws of physics. As an avid cook and food blogger, I’m constantly testing recipes and cooking for friends. Add to that I happen to have a good deal of time on my hands these days and relieve the stresses of not having a job, (and having way too much time on my hands), by cooking. Problem is, all that food has to go someplace. I’m a good eater (very), but even I can’t consume it all quickly and I hate to waste food. So it goes into the freezer. My very small freezer. And somehow it fits. How? My freezer it seems, is a clown car. Or rather has the same physical properties as one. You know when that teeny-weeny car drives into the center ring, the door opens, and an endless supply of clownage pours out? That’s what happens in my freezer. Except, they pour in. And in. A seemingly endless number of containers filled with homemade soups and sauces, zip-top freezer bags filled with fresh-baked tasty treats, tightly wrapped aluminum foiled leftover fare, and the occasional cocktail glass in anticipation of a forthcoming dirty martini.

I’ve studied physics in school and nowhere did I see the “Bozo-Principle” mentioned. I think it only occurs in three places. The clown car, a small handbag when you are trying to carry less crap (but really need that third lipstick just incase), and my freezer. It’s a place where time and the parameters of space are suspended, and no leftover is lonely or unloved. A 30 degree time-capsule where on any given day I can relive menus of dinners past, visit the results of successful new recipes, sample birthday baked goods too plentiful to fit into “if it fits it ships” boxes, and sticks of butter and shortening, brown sugar, and sundry nut meats all waiting their turn in some future recipe. Yes, my freezer is a magical and miraculous place. All that’s missing are the giant pants, floppy shoes, and maybe a pony.

This time of year my freezer’s main residents are homemade soups. Soup is my favorite way to get all sorts of good, healthy ingredients into me efficiently and tastily. They also provide me the best excuse I know to make grilled cheese sandwiches, a favorite comfort food choice when I’m in need. (I’ve included a list of my favorite grilled cheese ingredient combos at the end of this post).

A carrot obviously destined for my pantry…

My Spiced Carrot Soup is healthy and delicious, with the Moroccan  flavors of cumin, allspice and cinnamon guaranteed to make you feel toasty on the chilliest of days. And if carrots are not your thing,  give my Potato Leek Soup,  Creamy Spinach, or Creamy Tomato, a try!

Potato Leek Soup Serves 4

This soup comes together in 45 minutes, and you will be shocked at how creamy it is without a drop of cream added. Perfect for a casual dinner,  just serve with a green salad, some nice cheese, crusty bread and a glass of wine and you’ll be in spud-heaven!

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ lb leeks, well cleaned and finely chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 ¼ lb yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1-2 TBSP chopped fresh dill, or 1 tsp dried dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in large stockpot over medium heat. Add onion, leek, shallot and a good pinch of salt. Cover and sweat for about 10 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally.

Once the onion mix is soft, add the potatoes, dill and stock. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Turn off the heat and puree the soup in batches in the blender, or with a hand blender in the stockpot. Season with salt and pepper. Calories: about 100 per serving.

Spiced Carrot Soup

Makes 4 servings, or about 6 cups

  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 lb carrots (one bag), peeled and cut into ½-inch slices
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 ½ tsp cumin, plus extra for sprinkling on top
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • A pinch allspice
  • A pinch cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper (or more to taste)

In a large saucepan, sauté onion in butter and a pinch of salt over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes. Add carrots, cumin, cinnamon, and allspice and sauté another minute. Add broth, bring to a boil, then turn down heat, cover and simmer until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.

When carrots are very tender, turn off heat and carefully puree soup in small batches in a blender until smooth. Return to pan, whisk in  lemon juice, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve with a sprinkle of cumin on top and a squirt of lemon. Calories: approximately 125 per serving.

 

 
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Thin Air

File Jul 25, 10 05 36 AMLately, I’ve been baking high. Now before you go assuming I loaded up on edibles before crossing from Oregon to Utah, I’m talking altitude, not altered states. While the former might have been fun, it wouldn’t exactly endear me to law enforcement in my new home state.

My first encounter with high altitude baking was probably around the time I was ten or so, and first ventured to the baking instructions on the back of a brownie box mix. There, under the picture of an egg and some corn oil was a tiny asterisk, and High Altitude Instructions, in italics. I think I remember the font being smaller too, as though people living  a few thousand feet above sea level had sharper vision. Of course, being a smart little girl, and knowing I didn’t live on a mountain top but rather on the flat, sea-wrapped Isle of Long, I never paid any attention to the asterisk or tiny font rules.

My first time actually baking 5000 feet above the briny deep was about three decades later, when I was visiting family in Jackson Hole and baking birthday treats for soon-to-be sweet sixteen niece. I didn’t pay attention to the high altitude instructions then either. The result was Red Velvet Cake with Chocolate Guts. It’s name should give an indication of how well that turned out, though filling a cratered cake with the attitudinally challenged overflow of devils food cupcakes was a bit of a stroke of genius. I give my architect brother full credit for that one.

Previous experience aside, now that I live 4,000 some-odd feet above where I did before, it seems high time (sorry) to figure out just how to maneuver this baking high thing. Especially if I am going to continue my quest for tasty pastry world domination, mountain style. I could baffle you with the various whats and whys of baking up here, but there are countless others on line who do that much better (and more boringly.) So here’s how I look at it. There’s less air up here. Or rather, less of the stuff pressing down on your head and your baking goodness. What happens then? Well, first the air bubbles in your culinary confection puff up faster with their newfound freedom. Unfortunately they kind of get, well, how shall I put this….overexcited, and before the rest of the batter is ready, which results in sinkage. I’ll just leave it there.

Basically the fix for this premature rise and droop is a little less of this and a little more of that. Specifically:

  • Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon, decrease 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon;
  • Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 0 to 2 tablespoons;
  • Increase liquid: for each cup, add 2 to 4 tablespoons;
  • Increase oven temperature by 25 degrees F.

As with everything in life, a little trial, error and practice is still needed, but I think I may have this baking high thing down. Sure there will be times of overexcitement and resulting disappointment, but as long as I don’t let frustration get into my head, I think everyone will be satisfied in the end.

My first foray into the high altitude oven were scones. Blueberry scones to be exact. And with adjustments described above, I managed to make a batch that brought moans of satisfaction for all involved. Below is the original recipe, with high altitude adjustments, naturally in italics.

FullSizeRenderBLUEBERRY SCONES

Yield: 8 scones, about 275 calories each

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar (high altitude adjustment: 6 TBSP)
  • 1 TBSP baking powder (high altitude adjustment: 2.25 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup cold salted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cold cream, or 1/4 cup cream and 1/4 cup buttermilk (high altitude adjustment: 6TBSP cream, 1/4 cup buttermilk, plus 1-2 TBSP more if the dough seems too dry)
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • An extra TBSP cream and some raw sugar to brush on the top and sprinkle before going into oven

Preheat oven to 400ºF (425º for high altitude). Whisk together the flour. sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest in a bowl or in electric mixer. Add the butter and mix until you get fine crumbs and the butter is well dispersed. Add in the blueberries and toss until the blueberries are coated in flour mixture.

In a measuring cup, beat together the egg, cream, buttermilk and vanilla. Add the wet to the dry slowly with the mixer going or mix together by hand with a fork until the dough just starts to come together. Dump out onto a floured board, and gather the dough together into a disk about an inch high. Don’t overwork the dough, just bring together until it holds shape.

FullSizeRender IMG_6058 FullSizeRender

Cut the disk into quarters, then each quarter in half to get 8 triangles. At this point you could put the scones on a tray and pop in the freezer, which is what I usually do with at least some of them. Once they are frozen, pop into a freezer bag. They’ll keep for a few weeks, and are easily baked off from frozen, just adding a little time to the bake.

If you are baking them right away, put the scones on a parchment-lined baking pan, brush with a little cream and sprinkle with sugar (I like to use turbinado sugar of this – makes a nice crunch.) Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the scones are golden and firm to the touch.

High altitude baking: Since things take a little longer to bake up here, I raise the oven temp to 425, and bake for about 20 minutes, then lower temp to 350 and bake another 5-8 minutes until firm. This prevents the bottoms from getting too dark before the inside is fully cooked.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button). You can also see what’s cookin’ on my Instagram page. Thanks!  :-)

Who Names These Things?


cropped-img_2452.jpgA Grunt. Someone actually thought that would be an appetizing name for a sweet fruit and cakey morsel. Grunt.

Why? Is it the sound made when eating? The response from some otherwise occupied recipient when baker calls across the house ” hon, I’m making dessert, what are you in the mood for?” “Grunt!” Wait, it gets better. If this exchange took place in Vermont, Maine or Rhode Island, grunt becomes slump. Seriously, a slump. Apparently dessert has bad posture in parts of New England, as opposed to just poor language skills.

How do I know this? Gleaned the other day perusing the history of cobblers (and yes, I need to get a life.) Whilst reading The History and Legends of Cobbler, Crisps, Crumbles, Brown Betty, Buckles, Grunts and Slumps  (stop judging me…it’s bad enough I’m admitting to this stuff), I stumbled upon the evolution of what is basically stewed seasonal fruit topped with an amalgam of flour, sugar and butter. Apparently it all started as pudding. As in the English folk’s use of the word “pudding”, or dessert. Which isn’t actually pudding, though pudding can be “pudding”. Anyway…

Cobbler, crisp, crumble, brown betty, buckle, grunt, and slump are all wonderfully tasting and pitifully named desserts that feature glorious and abundant seasonal fruit, wrapped in or tucked under baked goodness with the sole purpose of sopping up sweet juices. I won’t bore you with the history of these things (I’m assuming you DO have a life), but I will tell you that most if not all  cobbler-esque fare was born of modest means. These are not the lofty, precious, elaborately crafted desserts likely to populate bakery cases. These are the homey things you make when you really want something sweet and wonderful but don’t have much in the house other than fridge and pantry staples.

Think of these simple and simply lovely confections as pie for the piecrust-intimidated. I know many bakers out there who wouldn’t attempt to roll their own, but will happily dive in up to their wrists in cobbler craft. And why not? It really is one of the easiest and most beloved desserts you can whip up yourself. Baking, with training wheels. So since it’s that time of year, a pint of berries is finally cheap and the “ugly” peaches even cheaper, go ahead and cobbler to your heart’s content. I promise any grunts you hear will be soaked in pure joy. 🙂

File Jul 16, 9 55 11 AMNames and geography aside, that list I rattled off above are really just versions of cobbler, and the versions and preferences of such vary as much as ridiculous names and personal tastes. Some recipes call for melting the butter in pan, topping with sugar and fruit, and pouring a cakey batter on top, which settles between all the delicious fruit crannies and nooks as it bakes. Others call for drop or cut biscuits as a topping. Still others  offer a crumble of sugar, butter, flour. All are swell, but my personal preferences run with the drop biscuit top. I also skip the cornstarch or flour thickener in with the fruit. There’s nothing that ruins my cobbler experience more than gluey fruit on the bottom. Let the juices flow I say. It gives those biscuits on top something to sop, and extra juices drizzled over ice cream is sublime.

The recipe below is based on the one in Matt and Ted Lee’s cookbook, The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern. I liked it because it featured cornmeal in the topping, and well, Southerners know their peach cobbler, so why mess with that. I’ve given you their recipe pretty much as written, with  my comments in italics (because kibitzing is best when italicized.)

CORNMEAL DROP-BISCUIT PEACH COBBLER RECIPE  (Adapted from The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern – Clarkson Potter, 2009)

Serves 4 to 6

For the peach filling

  • 2 pounds (6 to 7) ripe freestone peaches, unpeeled, pitted, and cut into slices – about 6 cups.(Works with other fruit too, and I especially like to toss in some blueberries, raspberries or blackberries if I have them. You can peel the peaches if you like, I don’t bother, and I don’t really care if they are freestone or not – freestone is easier, but the other is often less expensive so use whatever you have access to.)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, depending on your peaches and your sweet tooth. (Taste your fruit, then decide how much sugar – I alway err on the side of less sugar, tarter fruit, especially if this is accompanies by vanilla ice cream, as it should be.)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces (my addition, you’ll see why later)

For the biscuit dough

  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup fine stone-ground cornmeal (yellow or white)
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt or fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces, plus more for the baking dish
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (whole or low-fat), cold
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)
  • A teaspoon or two of sugar to sprinkle over the biscuit dough
2015-07-15 15.19.58

See those spoons? Those are older than me, and I’m told were my favorite rattle/teether. Might be where this whole thing started…

Make the Filling:

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Butter a 2-quart ovenproof dish. Add the peaches, brown sugar, lemon juice, water (if using), cinnamon, and salt and toss until the peaches are evenly coated. Dot the top of the fruit with that extra tablespoon butter. (My mom always does this with pies and strudel, and there can’t be anything wrong with a little extra buttah.) Forget about it for 10 minutes or so while you prep the drop-biscuit dough.

Make the drop-biscuit dough

2015-07-15 15.26.07

Note the amount of dough ingredients to fruit. This isn’t about the biscuit, it’s about all that gorgeous fruit. Plus then you can load up on ice cream, because as my Oma used to say “it’s just fruit.”

Sift together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and cut it into the flour by pinching small amounts of the mixture together between your fingertips.

Like that

Like that

Do this until the mixture resembles coarse meal with pea-size pieces of butter mixed throughout. Add the buttermilk and stir with a rubber spatula just until a tacky, wet dough comes together. This should take no more than a few seconds.

 

Gently plop spoonfuls of the biscuit dough on top of the peach filling or, if the dough is too sticky to plop, simply spread it unevenly. The dough should be patchy and should not cover the entire surface of the filling. Sprinkle over a teaspoon or two of sugar over the dough – gives it a nice crunchy texture.

Note the gentle ploppage.

Note the gentle ploppage.

Bake until the syrup is bubbly and the biscuit top is alluringly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. (I LOVE that description! I’m using that from now on…”alluringly browned.”)

Let cool slightly before you scoop the warm cobbler into small dessert bowls, ramekins, even cocktail glasses. Top with some vanilla ice cream, and grunt to your heart’s content! Calories: approximately 275, without the ice cream.

File Jul 15, 9 13 34 PM

Scoop, apply vanilla ice cream, repeat.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  

Skinny Jeans

DSC03536Everyone has them, even those who claim they don’t. Doesn’t matter if you are girl or boy, somewhere in the recesses of mind and closet stands a pair of skinny jeans. And depending upon just how long it’s been since you’ve been able to raise them higher than thigh, button and zip, they are usually more a symbol of hope and achievement than fashion choice. I mean, unless it’s Halloween, you’re not likely going to sport those self-embroidered hip huggers you bought because Bobby Sherman was wearing a pair in Tiger Beat magazine. At least, please don’t.

Some have a “collection” of the svelte denim. An indigo history if you will, tracing the expanse of time (and ass). Perhaps there’s a pair you have from high school senior year, before gravity and beer worked its cruel magic. Or that pair in your “dream” size, which only fit for one glorious day in college, after a three-week bout of mono. Or the more recent pair you’re currently dieting to achieve, because you’re  determined to squeeze into them for that reunion, even though it means encasing the wobbly bits in Spanx and not breathing for a few hours. Whichever pair you have, the ultimate goal is the same — the feeling of wonderful smugness that you’ve achieved a goal, even if no one but you knows it.

Here’s something I’ve discovered about my personal skinny jean collection. As brain has gotten wiser (and body older), I realize that skinny jeans are completely subjective to the wearer. Sure, their name implies one is a wispy reed, but the wearer is the one who defines the width of that reed. In the end, all that matters is that particular pair is the one your end felt great in. The other day, after working pretty hard toward skinny-jeandom, I pulled out my pair and ventured in. While I’m not quite there yet, I’m well on my way. No, they aren’t the pair I wore at my thinnest. But they are the pair that made me feel terrific. And just the knowledge of that brings the final pounds to goal a bit closer. 😉

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You’re thinking this is a “diet food” recipe aren’t you? Something that will doubtless get those skinny jeans closer to fanny. It’s not. It is how I look at losing weight. You see, I’m a cook (uh, duh) and an avid eater. Meals are not fuel, they are something to be enjoyed. And over the years I’ve learned that denying luscious tasty things all in the name of reducing Karin isn’t going to work for very long. So, I make those yummy things, just a bit smaller, and maybe adjusting one component to lessen the amount of hiking I need to do to work it off. That’s how my Individual Crustless Quiches came about.

Ok, so something that has cream and cheese as major components doesn’t sound like a skinny-jean inducing dish. And if you have a big slab of it wrapped in all-butter crust, it wouldn’t be. But, if I take the bones of my favorite quiche recipe as a start, make it in an easy single serving size, and leave out the crust altogether, I can have my quiche and eat it too. These are also a great way to get veggies and those “super greens” in me, without having to resort to conspicuously eating kale and chard. Skinny jeans, here I come!

Individual Crustless Quiches

One recipe makes four 1/2-cup ramekin sized servings.

For the custard:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • pinch teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • pinch nutmeg
  • a pinch of cayenne or a shake or more of hot sauce (optional)

For the fillings:

This is where you can really go wild if you like. The key is not to overload the ramekins with goodies, because the point of a quiche is that luscious custard. Here are some options:

  • Chopped mixed hearty greens, like arugula, spinach, baby chard, baby kale. The “baby” greens are more tender and work better in these than the usual ones.
  • Roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, diced summer squash, etc.
  • Thinly sliced asparagus
  • 1-2 ounces diced cooked bacon, pancetta, ham, chicken
  • 2-3 ounces cheese: feta or goat are lovely, so are any cheeses that melt well, such as swiss, cheddar or jack, fontina, havarti, etc.
  • 4 tsp grated parmesan to sprinkle on top.
  • Minced fresh herbs – tarragon is particularly good with asparagus, parsley or basil are terrific too, as are chives or tender thyme leaves.

Technique:

I have a convection/toaster oven, and it’s perfect for making these. Eggs are always best cooked slower in a low oven, and with the added circulation of convection, these go a little faster. Don’t worry if you don’t have one, though – they work fine in a regular oven too. (You just have to be a little patient…something I rarely am when I’m “getting into skinny jeans”-mode.)

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray the ramekins with baking spray (I always have a can of olive oil spray around for this.) Beat the eggs, then add cream, milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne or hot sauce. Add in a teaspoon minced herbs if you are using, and beat until well combined. Add half the cheese and other add-ins into the custard and mix well.

Take the remaining cheese (except the parmesan) and add-ins and divide evenly between the 4 ramekins. Top each ramekin with 1/4th of the custard. Sprinkle each with a teaspoon of parmesan.

Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet or pizza pan, and bake until the custard is set, and the top is nicely browned. Since ovens vary (especially if you are using a toaster oven or convection), start with 20 minutes and go from there. When they are done, the edges of the quiche will have pulled away a little from the sides of the ramekin. Run a knife around the edges, and invert onto a plate. Serve with a green salad, and enjoy your quiche, and your skinny jeans! Calories = approximately 200 to 250 per serving, depending upon the amount of cheese and meat you add.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂

The 12th Woman

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I’m a lazy football fan. If the game is on I’ll watch it, but more likely as background noise than something I’m riveted to my couch to watch. I considered it much like golf or pro bowling. Turn the volume down, and it makes nice company for a lazy sunday nap. That’s before I moved to the pacific northwest.

Up until last year, my loyalties to gridiron gladiator were somewhat anemic. I’d cheer the local guys, happy if either one made it all the way, but not particularly undone if they didn’t. If invited to a Super Bowl party, I’d try to match my outfit (or at least my socks) to the team color, but beyond that, no major effort was made. Then I landed here. Sure it helped that the local team not only made it, but won the BIG show last year. But here was something else too. In a world of jerseys and painted faces (and guts, which takes a lot of guts to do when you’re in Green Bay or Buffalo), I was given a number. Suddenly I wasn’t just a fan, I was part of the team. I know the phrase “the 12th man” is not new to football, but these guys had a flag. I’m a sucker for a flag.

So this afternoon, when the hype stops and the game begins, I’ll be firmly behind the blue and white flag. The 12th man now has a 12th woman too. GO HAWKS!!

Lazy Chicken Enchiladas

Lazy Chicken Enchiladas

This recipe came about yesterday morning when I needed to clean out some room in the fridge. Seriously. I have some recipe development projects to start for a client in the coming week, along with truffle orders for Valentine’s Day, and needed space. I actually LOVE recipes like this. It uses up leftovers while satisfying a couch full of hungry fans, and the variations are endless.

This recipe truly is the height of laziness. The bones are familiar, basically a redux of my basic enchilada recipe that I shared a few weeks ago. But as I piled the ingredients up on my counter, the thought of warming the tortillas, then dishing out quarter cups of filling and rolling just wasn’t looking like much fun. See what I mean…lazy.

However, what if I just laid the tortillas in the casserole dish, and layered everything on top? Lazy Chicken Enchiladas has all the best parts of the original, but far less fuss.

Lazy Chicken Enchiladas

Serves 6

  • 1 16 oz. jar of your favorite enchilada sauce (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken (rotisserie is fine, or bake/poach about 12 oz. of boneless skinless breasts, thighs or a combo of both)
  • 10-12 corn tortillas, cut in 1/2
  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups shredded cheese (I used a combo of cheddar and mozzarella)
  • 2 oz. block of havarti, muenster, or jack cheese, sliced thin (I do this will a vegetable peeler – works great!)
  • 1/2 cup drained and diced pickled hot peppers (I used peppadews)
  • 1/4 tsp each of garlic powder, cumin and chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp each of salt and black pepper

Preheat over to 400F.

2015-01-31 11.42.36 Add the thawed and dried chopped spinach and the diced hot peppers in a bowl, along with the garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper and mix well. Put aside 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese for the top, and add in the rest and toss until combined.

2015-01-31 11.43.20Put 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish (I used my 8 1/2″ x11″ dish.) Layer in a third of the tortilla halves. I halved the tortillas so they were easier to line the pan and cover the sauce. 2015-01-31 12.00.08Now, like a lasagna, add half the spinach/pepper/cheese mixture, top with half the shredded chicken, and drizzle over a third of the remaining sauce. Do another layer of tortillas, filling, chicken and sauce, then finish with the last third of the tortillas and sauce, making sure to spread the sauce so it covers the tortillas.2015-01-31 12.01.03

Layer the thin slices of cheese over the top, and sprinkle the reserved 1/2 cup of cheese. Cover with a sheet of oiled foil (helps keep the cheese from sticking), and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and browned a little.

2015-01-31 12.08.41Serve with wedges of lime, sour cream, and chopped avocados on the side. Calories: approximately 350-375 per serving.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂

THE SKY IS FALLING!!!

snowheadThis past week the east coast was hit with a blizzard. Which, naturally, is portrayed by the various forecasters, meteorologists and sundry other weather people as SNOWPOCOLYPSE!! BLIZZAGHEDDON!! SHOVELPALOOZA!! Stock in Charmin is sky high due to demand outpacing supply. Easterners are forced to buy FULL FAT milk, as shelves are emptied of their precious 1 and 2%! The only cereal left in the aisle is All Bran, because everyone knows natural disasters and MEGA STORMS mean Captain Crunch and Fruit Loops are allowed as a meal substitute.The. End. IS. NEAR!!!!!

Ok CNN and the rest, get a grip. Sure it’s entertaining as hell to see all those broadcast Chicken Littles work themselves into a lather as they get footage of a lone snowflake on mitten (yes, we know each is unique, we too learned that in second grade), and flail arms over computer generated storm track maps.But it’s just snow. Butt-loads in places perhaps, but still just snow. Frozen water. Something that will melt, eventually. Inconvenient? Yes. Messy? You betcha. And isn’t it fun to hunker down in a cozy home with snuggly people, and the treats everyone allows themselves when the frozen stuff pours from the sky. Even the authorities know this. Orders of “shelter in place” translate to ‘stay inside and drink’. Surely that’s what they meant. And if you weren’t one of the hungry hoards standing on line in the markets during pre-snow hours of non-stop TV doom, you knew the unexpected joys of creating meal plans out of what you had in your bunker.

I think Mother Nature throws these meteorological events at us just for this purpose. After all, just how many boxes of the ‘San Francisco Treat’ do you plan on collecting before you die? There’s no contest you know. Add some cheese, a little of that full fat milk instead of water, roll in breadcrumbs and you’ve got the best fried rice balls you can guiltily have without guilt. You know there’s no guilt in a snowstorm, right? It’s a barometric pressure thing. You want pancakes and french toast and eggs and bacon and sausage? Go right ahead. You’ve got to keep up your strength…there’s SNOW out there!

The basic food groups shift too. Again, barometric pressure. And there are more of them. There’s the chocolate group, the butter group (dip is included in this, and cheese, lots of cheese), the wine group (or whiskey, or both), the “carrier” group (pasta, bread, potatoes, chips), and peanut butter. And anything you can bake with eggs, butter, flour and sugar. Incidences of baking seem to increase at the thought of snowflakes. If you’ve got peanut butter you don’t even need the flour. Peanut butter cookies are as easy as sugar, eggs and the Skippy. Gluten free too…see, it’s HEALTH FOOD!

Of course, by dawn’s light and the plow’s third pass, the crisis has passed, CNN turns back to whatever else is going on, and things go back to a slushy slog, and longing for spring’s first buds. So embrace it while it lasts. The shovel can wait ’til tomorrow…

DSC07878I love the opportunity to peruse the pantry and clear out. It’s a nice exercise in the Karin thought process. For example, why exactly do I have 4 cans of cannellini beans. I know why I had one, but apparently I kept thinking I needed more. Same goes for chickpeas. I really like hummus, but I’m one person. I don’t like it enough to warrant 3 cans of garbanzos worth. So with my wealth of beige legumes, and the Superbowl this weekend, I thought I’d try to come up with something that would purge these beauties from my pantry, in a snacky kind of way. Enter Garlicky Cannellini Bean Dip, and Roasted Spiced Chickpeas.

Roasted Spiced Chickpeas

Makes about 1 1/2 cups of chickpeas

This is a ridiculously simple recipe. Which is good, because the key to a snow day is not slaving over the stove, but rather lying around, eating, drinking, and generally saving up your strength to face the elements at some point. It’s also totally up to you what spices you add. Like curry instead of cumin? Go ahead. Want them a little sweet rather than savory? More cinnamon and a little pinch clove. Hotter? Have at it. You get the idea…

  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2-2TBSP olive oil
  • 1-1 1/2 tsp salt, depending on taste (I used sea salt, which is a bigger flake, so if you use regular table salt, you may want to cut back a bit.)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp smoked hot paprika (or cayenne or whatever spicy mix you like)

Preheat over to 375F. Drain, rinse and dry the chickpeas. I put them on a paper towel lined  sheet pan, then rub them with another paper towel. Some of the skins will probably come off, that’s fine. Just pick the skins out (they have a tendency to burn).

In a bowl, add the olive oil, salt, pepper and spices of choice. Whisk to combine. Toss in the now dry chickpeas and toss so they are all coated. Taste a chickpea and adjust seasoning if needed. Just don’t over salt. These shrivel up a little so a bit under salted is fine. You can always sprinkle a little more over at the end.

Pour out the seasoned chickpeas onto a foil-lined baking sheet, and arrange so they are all in one layer and spread out a bit. Roast for 40 minutes, shaking the pan a few times during roasting. Taste one and decide if you want them just crispy on the outside and creamy inside, or crunchy through. If you want crunchy, continue roasting for another 10-15 minutes, keeping an eye on them so they don’t burn.

Cool and serve. These are best the day you make them. Calories: approximately 125 per 1/4 cup.

Garlicky White Bean Dip

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Garlicky Cannellini Bean Dip

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Cawfee Tawk

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“One coffee, dark” I said. ‘Um, we only have one brew’ she said, looking puzzled. “OK”, looking puzzled myself, “that’s fine, and I’d like it dark.” The look changed from puzzled to a little apprehensive, and the cadence of her speech slowed to ‘english is not your mother tongue’ speed. “I’m sorry, but we only have one brew, and it’s medium, not dark.” I was about to embark on another round of this early morn banter when the thought hit me…Karin, this lovely young woman speaks coffee, NOT cawfee.

A couple of years ago I wrote about the ritual of ordering coffee in Italy: pay first, then go to counter with receipt, or face the mockage of barista and local. I suppose a visitor from a foreign land could be forgiven her ignorance. Countries have their language and cultural norms to respect, and once I learned how, I could practically pass for local. But it wasn’t until the exchange with my local barista that I realized that coffee here (or back in my old there) speaks its own dialect too.

If you grew up in or around NYC, by the time you came of coffee age you knew the language. Step up to any deli or bodega or coffee cart counter, plop down your buck, place your order. Your choices? Regular, light, dark, black. The cardboard cup placed in your hand with its snappy “We are happy to serve you” and random blue and white Grecian theme contains the fully formed caffeinated quaff. Pull back the plastic tab on the cap, try to secure it to the thingy sticking up in the middle, fail, just rip a hole in it, wrap multiple napkins around blazing hot cup, and drink. If you ordered a “regular”, that cup contained your morning joe with milk and one sugar. Light and sweet was, well, light and sweet (lots of milk, 2 sugars.) Dark, my coffee of choice, was a touch of milk. And black, sans cow.

My guess is this ‘cawfee’ shorthand was created sometime shortly after the earth’s crust cooled and the first naugahyde diner banquette was installed, in an effort to help speed things along. Coffee in NY up until the time of the revolution sparked by Starbucks, was purely utilitarian. That first cup a necessary early morning stimulant to get you from point A to B without ripping someone’s head off, or cluelessly stepping off curb and getting hit by a bus. Civilization could function seamlessly as long as that cardboard “We are happy to serve you” was in your hand. Out here in the PNW, coffee is religion. A java church on every corner, the sacrament dosed in ounces from beans lovingly roasted in-house and lavishly described with terms like “after notes” and “floral”. It’s good, great in some cases, but it takes a Gotham gal a little time to get used to. So the next time I order from my favorite drive-thru, I’ll try to remember to translate my cawfee dark before I get to the window.:-)

DSC07832A coffee-themed recipe is clearly called for, and in the spirit of caffeine-fueled indulgence I’ve got one that’s quick, easy, and under 200 calories to boot. Fast Espresso Pudding is just a variation on a chocolate pudding recipe I found a few years ago. I was having one of those days, when the incoming crap storm from work was making me cranky, and something soothing and chocolate was necessary to calm jangled nerves. Already in my jammies (ok, so what if it was 5:30pm), the thought of leaving my cozy nest to go to the market for box pudding just wasn’t going to fly. So I figured, why not make it on my own? Happily, the experiment worked, with just a few ingredients I already had and could pronounce without consulting a chemistry text. To be fair, this isn’t as good as my more elaborate chocolate pudding recipe, but for a quick fix, it’s perfect!

Fast Espresso Pudding Makes 4 approximately 1/2 cup servings

  • 3 TBSP instant espresso powder
  • 2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 TBSP corn starch
  • 5 TBSP sugar (or more, according to taste – I like things a little less sweet)
  • 2 cups whole milk (I’ve done it with 2% but anything lower and the pudding tends to be a little grainy)
  • A pinch salt

Whisk together everything but the milk in a saucepan. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring continuously, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. IMG_0418Pour into cups and let cool for 30 minutes on the counter. Refrigerate for another hour until set. If you want to avoid a skin on top, cover with plastic before cooling on counter, making sure to press the wrap onto the top of the pudding. I like to froth some milk and add a dollop on top and a little cinnamon before serving. Calories: approximately 170 per serving.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂

The Unresolved

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©cookinginmyheels.com

I’ve mentioned more than once (usually this time of year) that I hate New Year’s resolutions. Considering the sheer number of them cast on calendar day 1, the odds that they are actually fulfilled is slim, meaning you start off the fresh slate of a new year with failure. I know this from experience. Therefore for a few years now I’ve planted myself firmly in the unresolved category. Nope, no stinkin’ perky overly optimistic New Year resolutions for me.

Yet, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit there are a few things I’d like to change now that 2014 is behind and 2015 all bright, shiny and new. Specifically, my 2014 behind, and sundry other jiggly bits that seem to be spilling over. In other words, just like all the other folks tipping scales a bit too much to the right, I’m going on a “diet”.

Yes, I know it’s not “in” to use that word anymore. It’s a “lifestyle change”, or “correct choices” or “taking control of your life”. At least that’s what the countless commercials that seem to start the minute the clock strikes twelve on January 1st say. The only thing running more than enticements to join Jenny, or watchers, or Marie’s microwaveable boxes are dating site ads (Farmers Only dotcom… Seriously!) Obviously Madison Ave is sure the key to New Year happiness is skinny jeans and a date (and maybe Ol’ MacDonald.)

Whatever it’s called, the point is there’s more of me than space in my jeans, and if I want to feel better about my reflection, I’d better do something about it. So I have. At any other time of the year, this would not be considered a resolution, therefore I am resolute to be unresolved. I’ve just started my March diet a little early. 🙂

h8RkHMLfK9o3yaad7dsP8hsw1m4ROmk7GLkArJpzmYY[1]Resolution Enchiladas

Makes 8 enchiladas, or 4 servings

This is my go-to enchilada technique for two reasons — it’s adaptable to whatever I have on hand, and it’s quick. That means when I’m trying to cut calories but still have something filling and tasty, it’s a perfect fit. When I’m not counting, full fat cheese and chorizo. When I am, lower fat cheese, spinach and black beans. Simple, satisfying, and very tasty. This recipe also features a favorite appliance when I’m hungry and want something NOW…my can opener.

N_tfiPpDSTVO8xK5P8ExE-1t4it2iOj9mlacIz1ft6E[1]Ingredients:

  • 1 cup drained canned black beans
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 TBSP chopped cilantro (leave out if you are one of those who HATE cilantro)
  • A tablespoon or two ( or toss in the whole can) fire roasted chopped green chilies, depending on your tolerance of heat – could substitute chipotles in adobo here too.
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese – (I used a lite mix of cheddar, jack and queso blanco. Go full fat if you like- just don’t go fat-free, it doesn’t melt well.)
  • 1 16 oz. jar of enchilada sauce (try Frontera if you can find it – it’s swell!)
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 400F. Pour about 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce in a casserole or au gratin dish and swirl around so it coats the bottom. Take your tortillas, wrap them in foil and pop in the oven to warm up for a few minutes and get a little more pliable. (You can also do this in the microwave, wrapped in a damp paper towel and nuked for about 30 seconds.)

Add the beans to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Mash them up a little with a fork (you don’t want a paste, just some squished and some whole beans.) Add the squeezed-dry spinach, chilies, cilantro, salt and pepper and mix well. Toss in half the cheese and mix well. Taste the mix and adjust salt and pepper if needed.

When your tortillas have softened up, lay one tortilla on your work surface and put about a 1/4 cup worth of filling in a line down the center. Roll up and place, seam side down in the casserole dish. Continue with the rest of the tortillas and filling. Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the rolled tortillas. An edge sticking out is fine (I like a little bit of crunch) but the enchiladas should be mostly cover with the sauce. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese.

Bake in oven covered for about 15 minutes, then uncovered another 5 until the cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly. Wait about 5 minutes before serving. I like to serve with some chopped avocado, limes, cilantro and low-fat sour cream on the side. Calories: approximately 170 per enchilada.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂

 

What’s Up Doc Redux

I first published this post about two years ago, but considering my (and possibly your) current state of snot, it’s worthy of a second look…ACHOOOOO!!!

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©cookinginmyheels.com

Here’s something I was wondering recently: Is it possible to drown in your own, how shall I put this delicately, snot? Ok, as gross as that sounds, if you are one of the gazillions who are suffering from the head cold or flu that is going around, I bet you’ve asked yourself that very question. How could you not, between the sneezing,  wheezing, coughing, and blowing of snout more times than that poor little button deserves yet there’s still no end of gook in sight. Yes folks it’s that time of year, the cold and flu season. The annual reminder that despite how powerful and mighty we at the top of the food chain think we are, a teeny microscopic being and several hundred million relatives can reduce an otherwise healthy human to a wheezy sneezey snotty wretch. You think you’ve been spared, gotten through all those holiday parties and crowds with nary a sniffle, and then when you least expect it, SURPRISE!! Mr. Rhinovirus or worse, his sister Influenza invite their many many cousins to a party in your nose…and chest…and head.

Like many of you, these very unwelcome guests recently visited me. I was actually quite surprised and more than a little pissed that I succumbed to the current plague too. Smugly I thought I’d taken all of the necessary precautions. I washed my hands like a happy little obsessive-compulsive germophobe, eliminating every possible villain. I armed every pocket with hand sanitizer and tried to avoid crowds (not an easy feat when you live in a city of millions). I treated the visibly infected in my life like lepers (sorry, you know I love you but it’s every woman for herself in sicky-avoidance-ville), and even beefed up on Echinacea and vitamin C. But alas, all my prophylactic efforts proved useless. When those nasty buggers want you, you are like the poor slow-moving schlub closest to the zombie hoard. You’re a goner.

So here I sit, looking oh SO attractive with a head the weight and density of a bowling ball, my honker red and threatening to exit my face if I blow it one More TIME, and a pile of Kleenex that just might take over the living room. The only good thing is my voice sounds like Kathleen Turner circa “Body Heat”. Unfortunately, I’m so repellant that the only use for it is to record a new voicemail message so future callers think I’m really hot.

At least I know from previous afflictions that at some point in the next day or so the snotty mob will leave my body. So since I’m useless for anything else until then, I think I’ll just hunker down on the couch with some good old movies and some healing, soothing food. After all, it’s “feed a cold”, right?

When it comes to battling a bad head cold, my go-to menu follows the advice of doctors (and moms). Liquids, lots of them (a hot toddy couldn’t hurt), and for mealtime, soup. While chicken matzo ball soup always factors into the mix, when I’ve had my fill and need a change I make my Carrot Cumin Soup. Packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, this tasty healing elixir gets warmth from the addition of toasted cumin seeds. It’s terrific on its own with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream on top, or alongside a therapeutic grilled cheese sandwich. I prescribe a bowl for lunch or dinner and repeat as needed. Nine out of ten docs (and Bugs Bunny) agree…this soup will make you feel better in no time.

Carrot Cumin soup

Makes about 4 cups

  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 lb carrots, peeled and chopped about the same size as the onion and celery
  • 1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 ½-3 cups chicken stock (you could substitute vegetable stock)
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice (or just a pinch)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sour cream or yogurt for garnish

Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan until they become fragrant – be careful not to burn them (they go fast so don’t walk away from the pan.) Set aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, cinnamon stick and a pinch of salt and sauté about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, the toasted cumin seeds, broth and the pinch allspice. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the carrots are very soft, about 20-25 minutes.

When the carrots are done (take one out and if they squish easily they’re done) turn the heat off under the pot.  Puree the soup in a blender in batches, or with a hand blender in the pot until completely smooth and velvety. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt. Calories: About 110 per cup.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button). Thanks! 🙂

Just Call Me MacGIRLver

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©cookinginmyheels.com

Remember how MacGyver could build a wind turbine, nuclear fusion reactor, or inordinately complicated whatsis from rubber bands, paper clips, a car battery and a roll of scotch tape? No biggie I say. Sure, Mac could defuse a bomb,  escape his weekly perilous predicament and save the world in a mere 60 minutes (including commercials). But could he whip up a tasty dessert for three chick-flick movie night viewers with a serious case of the munchies? I think not. And, could the wizard of aluminum foil and rubber band engineering do this with two pears past their prime, some really good wine, a modest pantry and a Hershey bar? Give it up Mac. You’re clearly out of your depth.

Imagine if you will, an impromptu gal pal (and a guy) movie night, happily thrown together over an even more spur of the moment lunch earlier that day. There we are, all snug with cozy slippers and fluffy blankie, remote poised to dive into an evening of chick flick. Then someone says it — the innocuous comment about craving something sweet. Brainpan gears start turning, and just like a yawn spawning more yawn, all three of us are channeling Homer Simpson-esque “Ooo…something sweet” thoughts. Now when I was back in Gotham these thoughts could easily turn to a pint of Cherry Garcia or package of Mallomars with a quick phone call or pj-clad run to Duane Reade. But when you are on the top of a mountain on a rainy night in rural Washington, alternatives are necessary. Enter MacGIRLver.

Instead of rubber bands, two slightly past their prime pears. Instead of a car battery and paperclips, some vanilla ice-cream, finely ground coffee and a Hershey bar. A half bottle of wine, a splash of balsamic, a pinch of cinnamon and slow simmer later….the sugar-jonesing trio is digging in, the munchies are sated, the guy gets the girl, love triumphs again and all is right in the world. All in 30 minutes. Take that, MacGyver!

Spiced Wine Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce

Here is another example of something that is more technique than precise recipe, since the ingredients were what was found in the kitchen, and the occasion very spur of the moment. Overripe pears mean a tarter poaching liquid, and ice cream is a perfect stand in for cream when making a chocolate sauce, especially when you have some good finely ground coffee (or instant in a pinch) to balance the sweetness of the ice cream. Since the pears I started with were already pretty soft, they didn’t need a long time in the poaching liquid either.

For the pears: (Works best with overripe pears)

  • Overripe pears – one per person
  • 1/2 – 3/4 of a bottle of red wine (you could substitute cranberry or pomegranate juice if you like, just omit the balsamic)
  • 2-3 TBSP honey or sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • pinch salt
  • 1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Peel very ripe pears (one per person), cut out any rotten spots, scoop out the seeds from the bottom using a melon baller or small spoon. Set aside as you make the poaching liquid.

In a saucepan large enough to fit the pears lying on their sides in one layer, heat together some red wine, a splash (1-2 teaspoons) of balsamic vinegar, 2-3 tablespoons of sugar or honey, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 pinch cloves and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and put the pears in the pan. The poaching liquid should come almost to the top of the pears but not cover. Simmer for 10 minutes, turn the pears, and simmer another 10 minutes. Remove the pears to a plate, turn the heat up under the poaching liquid and boil down until reduced by a little more than half. Taste and adjust for sweetness if needed. (It shouldn’t be overly sweet – a little tartness is nice.)

While the pears are poaching, make the chocolate sauce:

  • 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream, melted (Coffee ice cream would be great too)
  • 1 milk chocolate bar
  • 1-2 tsp very finely ground coffee
  • pinch salt

Heat together all the ingredients over low until the chocolate is melted. Stir well until the sauce is smooth.

To serve:  Pour a little of the poaching liquid on the plate. Slice the pear in half lengthwise and place, cut side down, on top of poaching liquid. Drizzle chocolate sauce over the pears.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂