Monday, January 24, 2011

Roasted Chicken Chili

A few weeks ago I made some soup that was the result of wanting to get rid of recently roasted chicken so I could make some home made chicken stock with the bones. I finally got the confidence to make my own chicken stock, thanks to Shauna and Danny Ahern over at Gluten-Free Girl. Shauna and Danny made a video tutorial awhile back, showing step by step exactly how to make stock and ever since I hoard bones and vegetable peelings in my freezer like it were my job.

Back to my soup. It was early morning, by best ideas come out of the early morning hours. I actually had everything I need on hand. My partner was sitting at the dinning room table with her sister, working on her sister's new resume. I was puttering around the kitchen, dicing an onion, mincing garlic, opening a can of ROT*EL, cooking garbanzo beans and pulling roasted chicken off the bones from the previous night's left overs. I heard some talking coming from the dining room, "Wow, that smells good, what's cooking". I felt a little silly telling them I was making soup, after all it was about 9:00 am. A few minutes later I started gasping as I tasted the soup. "Oh my God, this is so good." I offered two small bowls, not wanting to give much away. The two of them sat at the table with small bowls of pipping hot roasted chicken chili, in complete agreement and dismayed that I simply created this soup out of nowhere. Well it wasn't exactly out of nowhere, I had recently enjoyed a bowl of soup at Bonfire that I really enjoyed and was simply trying to copy the recipe. Total success. This unusual version of chicken chili is to die for and a great way to use left over roasted chicken. Beware, it is so good that you are going to find yourself roasting a chicken just to make this soup which is exactly what I am doing again today after some pleading from Tina. This is a really versatile recipe! Use any kind of dried bean you like, add some chopped kale or spinach instead of corn. Heck, toss in anything that sounds good.

Cari's Roasted Chicken Chili

4 cups homemade chicken stock
1 teaspoon of olive oil or so
1 small onion diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of corn
2 cups of garbanzo beans, cooked
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
3 ounces tomato paste
3-4 cups roasted chicken, shredded

Saute the onion and garlic in a scant amount of olive oil, a teaspoon or so. Add the oregano, salt and pepper and saute until translucent. Add the broth, ROT*EL, beans, corn, chicken and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer.

You could really dumb this down using a canned broth, canned beans and a store bought rotisserie chicken, turning it into a 15 minute prep. I prefer the effort of roasting my own chicken, making my own stock and cooking my own beans because I think it elevates the outcome. You will get a perfectly acceptable and delicious soup either way!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Kale Chips

Dang these are good! Kale Chips seemed to be the rage of food bloggers last year. I'll admit, I was skeptical. I love greens, collard greens, mustard greens, spinach, bok choy, Brussels, chard, sweet potato greens, kohlrabi greens, broccoli rabe. The endless list stops short at fenugreek, ick. I love all kinds of leafy greens steamed or sauteed in garlic. The idea of roasting greens into chips didn't quite compute.

My cousin Dina sent me a lovely Christmas package which included smoked sea salt from the Mendocino coast of California, a lovely hand crafted salt made from the pure ocean water off the Mendocino Coast. The harvest of sea water is simmered until delicate crystals of salt appear, then grow and sink to form a salt bed. The salt is raked, drained and layered into open evaporating pans. The sea smoked salt draws its distinctive taste and rich color by smoking the salt in a variety of coastal woods and sea vegetables. After a three day smoke the result is a sea salt that tasted like a bonfire on the beach. If you know me, you know I am crazy about the smell of a bonfire. I can't get enough smoke! I was stymied by the gift, so thoughtful and yet I wasn't sure what to do with such a delicacy. I remembered the blogging rage over Kale Chips and thought they would pair well together.

These are really simple, get a whole bunch of kale, clean it and get it really really dry. Toss the kale in some really good olive oil. I lucked out here because Dina also sent me a lovely bottle of Nelson Family Vineyards extra virgin olive oil from California. Sprinkle with Smoked Sea Salt. Spread the kale in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees, tossing occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the the kale is crisp. Sprinkle with more Smoked Sea Salt, to taste and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Eating Out

Eating out for me is bittersweet.

I am quite particular about where I eat and who makes my food, contacting chefs ahead of time, grilling the restaurant staff and even returning a meal littered with gluten, refusing to allow the kitchen to correct the meal. Serve me gluten in a restaurant, it's over, plain and simple, no second changes. I won't eat anything and I won't go back. Over time I have come to trust only a few spots and usually stick to those places that have a gluten-free menu. More and more places are getting gluten-free savvy, and well they should. When I go out I tote anywhere from 1-8 people with me. Were it not for the gluten-free menu, we would not be there. I understand it is difficult for restaurants, it requires training, retraining and maintaining strict practices in a kitchen to provide safe gluten-free meals. Restaurant owners shouldn't underestimate the economic power of the food allergy community! For more on this subject check out this article. Kudos to those of you who are willing to make the effort and go the extra mile.

Recently I read a restaurant review by Amy Legar over at If you haven't already discovered her blog, it is a must read for anyone with Celiac Disease. She posts very informative material on the disease, parenting a child with Celiac Disease, and helpful information on maintaining a gluten-free diet. Recently Amy wrote a post, Mad Jacks Gluten-Free Fare, reviewing a local spot that serves up good old American Bar food, noting that Mad Jack's had a dedicated fryer. A dedicated fryer means french fries. I AM IN!

A few nights later my partner and our friends Craig and Kristen, who are always up for a restaurant adventure headed out to Mad Jacks Sports Cafe, in Vadnais Heights, MN. Mad Jack's had something to make everyone happy, including flat screen T.V. in each booth so the football fans in the group could keep their eye on the playoff games taking place. It was warm, cozy and abuzz with business, a good sign.

We started with Szechuan Green Beans and some Spinach Artichoke dip served with crisp tortilla chips. The beans were to die for. I have really missed good spicy Szechuan beans. They were coated in a tangy spicy, almost Asian BBQ like sauce. I'd go back to Mad Jacks just for the beans. Everyone at the table ordered the french fries, just in case I didn't get enough with my Fish Sandwich. The fries were fantastic and of course there were plenty to go all around. My Tilapia sandwhich was wonderful, hand breaded and fried, served on lightly toasted Ener-G, gluten-free bread. It wasn't Udi's but it was really good, Ener-G probably being my second choice for a gluten-free bread. My partner got a Chicken Caesar with gluten-free croutons. It was just so so, but seriously who orders a salad at a sports bar.

The highlight of the evening, a Bucket of Sweet Potato Tots that my friend Kristen ordered. I am not sure I can adequately describe the delight of these delicious bites of fried sweet potato served with a sweet chipolte sour cream. They were sweet and savory at the same time. The bucket was huge, we couldn't finish them. I am going back to Mad Jacks, just for these! In fact, I am going back Friday evening to celebrate my birthday!

If you are gluten-free Mad Jacks is great, bar food at its best. It is festive spot, especially when there is a big televised sporting event and most importantly they take gluten-free diners seriously!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Date Smoothie

I would much rather be sipping a cup of homemade hot chocolate, you know, the kind you get in Paris, thick, rich and warm. The idea of a smoothie in the middle of January in the tundra of Minnesota just doesn't quite appeal to me. However, this Date Smoothie is to die for and since I am trying to make some changes in our diet around here it seemed a better choice for my fireside lunch.

I am sick and tired of this particular winter. Minimal sunshine and maximum snow and no trips to Florida for me in the near future. I am fine not going to Florida, happy to sit home by the fire and plan our next trip to Budapest which will include stops in London and Poland this June. A day at home, planning another trip, trying to find a place to order my packaged bees for the spring, doing laundry, roasting a chicken and looking at pictures of the two little kittens that will join us in about a week, it couldn't get much better.

But it did get better, when I made this Vanilla Date Smoothie! I found the recipe in the Bon Appetit Food Lovers Cleanse. I love medjool dates, especially stuffed with a chunk of good cheese, wrapped in bacon and roasted. I thought about doing the Food Lovers Cleanse, after all I love being in the kitchen, but quite frankly it completely overwhelmed me. Instead I picked out a few recipes to try and this was the first. I made it, exactly as written. I should have cut it in half since it serves two. But hey, don't you always want more smoothie? I should have cut it in half! It was way too rich to drink two servings and without a good way to save it, well I did drink it all and now I feel a little sickish. Seriously, it was good, really good but too rich and too sweet, even if I kept to a single portion. Next round I will back off on the amount of dates, and I will cut it half, but I will be making it again and again!

Vanilla Date Smoothie

1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 cup nonfat milk
1 cup (packed) pitted Medjool dates, about 9 ounces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups ice cubes

Puree everything in a blender until thick and smooth. Divide between 2 glasses and serve.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Garbanzo Beans and Chocolate . . .

How's that for a festive desert? I made this Garbanzo Bean Chocolate cake for a gathering with my nieces and nephews during the recent holidays. They are an adventuresome crowd and eager for anything chocolate. We had a wonderful Indian dinner and then this Garbanzo Bean Chocolate Cake for desert. I didn't tell anyone what was in the cake. You never know, the idea of beans and chocolate might not appeal and even be a turn off, especially to a younger audience.

Well, the cake was a huge success, and my nephew actually guessed exactly what was in the cake which really surprised me! It is a very easy cake to pull together. I thought it was best the day it was made and didn't hold up over time very well. I will make this again! I might use a smaller pan the next time to get a deeper cake. It has great potential.

Garbanzo Bean Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I used Scharffen Berger bittersweet chunks)
19 ounces of canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
confectioners' sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 inch round cake pan with gluten free flour. I used a 9 inch spring form pan which worked well.

Melt chocolate over a double boiler.

Combine the beans and eggs in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Add sugar and baking powder, and pulse to blend. Pour in the melted chocolate and blend until smooth, scraping down the corners of the bowl to make sure the chocolate is completely mixed. Pass the batter through a sieve to remove any bean shells and transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and removed from pan when completely cooled. Dust with confectioners' sugar just before serving, garnish with freshly whipped whipping cream and berries if desired. Enjoy!