Monday, October 31, 2011

Black Bean & Corn Chicken Bake

With a dissertation to do, moving to a new home, and caring for our 8-month-old son, I am all about easy and quick dinners.  This meal was inspired simply by wanting a quick meal and discovering I had beans, chilies, and corn at home.   It's fairly similar to the Lime Chicken with Black Bean Sauce recipe I have, but there are some differences in terms of ingredients and preparation.  This dish is a great meal for your health too, with lean chicken breasts, heart-healthy and anti-oxidant loaded black beans, salsa, and corn.  And besides that, it's low in calories and absolutely tasty.  And did I mention easy, very easy?

4 Chicken Breasts, Cut into two strips
1 Can Black Beans
1 Can Green Chilies
1 - 10 oz Bag Frozen Corn
1/3 Cup Salsa
1 Tbsp. Dried Cilantro (or 3 Tbsp. Fresh)
1 Cup Low-fat/Non-fat Mexican Blend Shredded Cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Place defrosted chicken breasts in dish.
2.  Pour remaining ingredients over the top of the chicken.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until chicken is tender and juices run clear.

Enjoy!  Top with extra salsa and sour cream if you prefer.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin Chai Tart & Tartletts

It is clearly fall now with the brisk, chilly air, the leaves beginning to fall, football, and Halloween coming up soon.  Fall is definitely a favorite season of mine.  With it, comes exciting food changes too.  I had an amazing Pumpkin Pie Chai Tea the other day at Mayorga Coffee and decided I needed to not only make a similar recipe at home--you can find the recipe for Pumpkin Pie Chai Tea (or latte) here.
Then, I realized I also had to make it in a pie (or a tart or tartlett).  Not only is this dish absolutely amazing in terms of deliciousness, but it's a great home air-freshener too (bake this and your place will smell awesomely like fall should smell). .
Note that I included photos of both a tart (large pie size) and tartletts (approx 6" across).  You could also make mini-tartletts...just modify your cooking times (the smaller they are, the less time they need to cook).


Pumpkin Chai Filling
2 Cups Chai Tea, Strongly Brewed (I used 4 bags, steeped about 5-7 minutes)
8 Ounces Cream Cheese, Softened (Reduced or Non-Fat)
1/2 Cup Agave Nectar (or could just use White Sugar if you prefer)
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
1 Egg
2 Egg Yolks
2/3 Cup Pumpkin Puree (Fresh or faster route and do canned)
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Shortbread Crust
3/4 Cup Butter, Softened (1 1/2 sticks, Organic, of course)
1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup All-Purpose (organic) Flour
1/2 Cup Rice (organic) Flour
1/4 tsp. Salt


Pumpkin Filling
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put brewed Chai tea in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring a boil and reduce to 4-5 Tbsp.  Set aside and cool.
2. In a mixing bowl, cream together agave nectar and cream cheese.  Add sour cream and mix well.  Add eggs/yolks in, one at a time.
3.  Add pumpkin, salt, vanilla, and Chai tea reduction.  Stir together.
4.  Pour into tart pan lined with shortbread crust.
5.  Bake at 350 about 45-55 minutes, or just until set for large tart.  For tartletts, bake about 35-45 minutes, or until set (25-35 minutes for mini-tartletts).

Shortbread Crust
1.  Cream together the butter and powdered sugar.  Add in vanilla.
2.  Slowly add in the flour and salt, just until combined.
3.  Cover in plastic and set in refrigerator for about an hour.
4.  Once dough is back to room temperature, roll to 1/4" thickness and mold to tart pan.
5.  Bake once filled with Pumpkin Chai Filling.

Enjoy! Sprinkle with pumpkin pie seasoning, nutmeg, or cinnamon.  Top with whipped cream or chocolate shavings.  Best enjoyed on a chilly night, snuggled up, with a mug of pumpkin pie chai tea. :)

Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup

So lately I've been making a lot of baby food and spending less time being innovative in the kitchen for the adult meals.  Last week, I was making some plums, carrots, and sweet potatoes for Maxwell to eat and had more than enough potatoes and carrots left over.  Thus, I decided to make a Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup for an adult dinner!  You can follow either set of instructions (pureeing carrots and potatoes first, or later on).
Very healthy meal, loaded with beta-carotene, vitamins A, B6, K, C and dietary fiber.

1 lb Fresh Carrots (peeled, cut into roughly 1" pieces) (Organic, preferably)
2 Sweet Potatoes/Yams (Organic, preferably)
2 Tbsp. Butter (again, Organic, you get it, I know...)
1/4 Cup Minced Onion (or Chopped Fresh Onion)
2 Tbsp. Minced Garlic
1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
4 Cups Water
1 Bouillon Cube (Vegetable or Chicken) (or 2 tsp. Granulated Bouillon)
Sea Salt, to taste
Black Pepper, to taste

1.  Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1" cubes (roughly, precision not needed).
2.  Cook butter, onion, garlic, carrots, and potatoes in a large stockpot over medium heat for 5-7 minutes.  Pour in the wine and cook 2-3 minutes, or until it is reduced about 50%.
3.  Add water and bouillon and bring to a boil (turn heat to medium-high).
4.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until carrots and potatoes are tender.
5.  Remove from heat and puree. You can do this with a regular blender, immersion blender, Baby Bullet in my case (it was a great gift!), or whatever (even a masher).  I actually use my immersion blender A LOT too. You will have to blend in batches, most likely.
Now skip to the bottom....

Alternative Directions (Puree first):
(if for some reason you want pureed carrots or sweet potatoes alone for another dish/baby food)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2.  Take peeled, cut up carrots and put in saucepan with 2 cups water.  Cook over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, or until carrots are tender and break easily with a fork.
3.  Meanwhile, poke sweet potatoes with a fork multiple times.  Then wrap sweet potatoes in foil and bake in preheated oven for 45-55 minutes (depends on size of potatoes), or until potatoes are tender.
4.  Puree the carrots however you want.  You can do this with a regular blender, immersion blender, Baby Bullet in my case (it was a great gift!), or whatever (even a masher).  I actually use my immersion blender A LOT too.
5.  Using a fork, scrape off the skins of the semi-cooled sweet potatoes.  Puree them with your preferred device and remaining 2 cups water.
6.  Cook butter, onion, and garlic in a large stockpot over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.  Pour in the wine and cook 2-3 minutes, or until it is reduced about 50%.
7.  Add in carrot and potato purees and bouillon.  Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring well.
8.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Feel free to vary it by stirring in different herbs (thyme or basil or ginger) and/or adding some light cream to it.  Top with croutons.  Season with the sea salt and black pepper, to taste.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Pumpkin Pie Chai Tea

Pumpkin Pie Chai Tea.  I don't know if I need any further description than those words.  I haven't tried Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte, but I bet it's got nothing on my recipe below....and if it does, well it costs a lot more than making it at home.  Additionally, this recipe uses chai tea instead of coffee or espresso.  Tips for making a Pumpkin Spice Latte with coffee or espresso instead or included below.
Try it with a tasty Pumpkin Pie Chai Tart or Tartlett.

Makes 1 - 12 oz Mug or 2 - 6 oz Mugs
1/2 Cup Milk (Organic, Fat-Free)
2 tsp. Stevia, or other sugar substitute
1 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice (or use a blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and dash of ginger)
1 tsp. Pumpkin Spice Syrup, optional (I did not use to keep sugar low, but would give your drink more pumpkin flavor oomph)
1 Cup Boiling Water
1 Vanilla Chai Tea Bag (or use regular Chai Tea and add 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract or Syrup)

1.  Put tea kettle on stove and heat 1 Cup Water.  Pour into mug and add chai tea bag.  Steep for 5 minutes.
2.  Meanwhile, as tea steeps...  In a saucepan (or in microwave, if you want to go faster), combine milk, stevia, and pumpkin pie spice until just steaming.  Remove from heat.
3.  Pour tea into milk mixture.  Whisk rapidly to froth mixture (or use an immersion blender or regular blender).  Pour into one large mug or two small mugs.
4.  Top with lite whipped cream if you prefer and/or sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice.

You could alternatively pour the mixture over ice if you want an iced drink.

If you prefer a Pumpkin Spice Latte instead of Pumpkin Pie Chai Tea, you can substitute 1 Cup Extra-Strong Coffee (or 2 shots of espresso).   And be sure to add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or syrup to the mixture before frothing/blending.