Hye Thyme Cafe: October 2010

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Giada's Roman Style Chicken

I saw this on Food Network at some point and had it on my list of things to try for ages! One night, I noticed an open jar of capers in the fridge, so it finally popped into my head to try it.  It was definitely well received and has been added to our rotation of chicken dishes for future reference. Thanks Giada!!  :)

The original recipe calls for chicken on the bone and dark meat, but since both totally skeeve most of my family, I stuck with the boneless white meat. Giada also uses fresh Oregano, but so little that I wasn't going to bother buying it and having the rest go to waste. I don't think I've ever used fresh oregano to know how different it might taste from dried, so I omitted it completely rather than swapping. We're also red wine drinkers, and she uses white, so if you don't like white wine, or want to use it for cooking but can't find a single-serve bottle and don't want the rest to go to waste, feel free to substitute with additional chicken broth. I also added some lemon juice and, since we all like a little heat, substituted her diced tomatoes for the Delmonte Zesty Jalapeno, and her cloved garlic for jarred minced garlic with red pepper. Those are two pantry items I am NEVER without!!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 t salt, plus 1 t
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper, plus 1t
1/4 c olive oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
3 oz prosciutto, chopped
2 t jarred minced garlic with red pepper (or 2 cloves, minced)
1 (14.5 oz) can Delmonte Zesty Jalapeno Petite Diced Tomatoes
Juice from half a lemon
1/2 c+ white wine
1 T fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 c chicken stock
2 T capers
1/4 c chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Start by slicing your peppers and chopping your prosciutto, herbs, and garlic -- if you're using whole cloves. Set that aside and trim any excess fat, etc. off your chicken, give it a rinse, pat it dry with a paper towel, and season it with the original 1/2 t each of salt and pepper. Not mandatory, but I usually cook with Kosher salt.

Heat olive oil over med heat. When oil is hot, brown the chicken on both sides, then remove it from the pan and set aside for now.

Still over med heat, add the peppers and prosciutto to the same pan, until the peppers have browned and the prosciutto is crisp, about 5". Add the lemon juice and garlic and cook for 1" more. Add the tomatoes, herbs, and wine (or broth), being sure to get all the way to the bottom of the pan to scrape down any browned bits hiding there. If you're using a non-stick pan, use a wooden spoon so you don't scratch the surface. 

Return chicken to pan; add 1/2 c stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until chicken is cooked through, 20-30".

Add in the capers and parsley during the last few minutes, reserving a little fresh parsley for garnish.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mexican Shepherd's Pie

Mexican Shepherd's Pie : Hye Thyme Cafe

I was standing in front of the fridge on night thinking OK, we've had chicken already this week, we've had potatoes, rice, pasta ... and there's ground beef in here.  Hmmmm, need to come up with something different.  I jumped online for ideas and came across a version of this easy dish.  I liked the idea that the topping was cornbread mix rather than mashed potatoes, and we all love tacos and anything leaning in the direction of spicy.

1 1/2 lb ground beef
1 onion - chopped
1 small yellow or orange bell pepper - chopped
salt and pepper to taste
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (I used Delmonte Zesty Jalapeno) - slightly drained

1.25 oz pkg taco seasoning
1 T flour
11 oz can whole kernel corn - drained
8.5 pkg corn muffin mix (I used Jiffy)
1 c shredded cheddar or pepperjack
2.25 oz can sliced black olives 

optional - sour cream and fresh cilantro for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 and lightly spray casserole dish with non-stick spray.

Prepare muffin mix according to package and set aside for now.  (If you want a little extra kick, try stirring in some diced jalapeno).

Mexican Shepherd's Pie : Hye Thyme Cafe

Brown the beef with the onion and pepper, drain the grease, then season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the tomatoes and let that cook down for a few minutes, then add in the taco seasoning.  Mix in the olives  (reserving some for garnish) then, sprinkle in a little of the flour and mix well to thicken - adding more as needed - although you're not trying to turn this into a pudding, you don't want it to be really soupy.  Kinda depends on how much liquid your veggies give off.

Mexican Shepherd's Pie : Hye Thyme CafeMexican Shepherd's Pie : Hye Thyme CafeMexican Shepherd's Pie : Hye Thyme Cafe

Transfer for baking dish and sprinkle with cheese, then layer with corn.  

Mexican Shepherd's Pie : Hye Thyme CafeMexican Shepherd's Pie : Hye Thyme CafeMexican Shepherd's Pie : Hye Thyme Cafe

Top it all off with the cornbread batter and bake for 20" until golden. Serve garnished with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of black olives, and some fresh cilantro.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Stuffed Meatloaf

Stuffed Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Growing up in the Boston area, I don't remember this show, so I'm not sure if it's because it was before I was really into cooking, or it came along after I left the state. What I do know is that whenever I visit friends there now, I love to stay in on Sunday mornings and watch The Phantom Gourmet. The Phantom visits and rates restaurants and bakeries around the area, conducts product testing, etc., and the findings are reported on the show. When I noticed that they have a website, I started browsing through the recipes and found one I was just dying to try! I was told in no uncertain terms that the BBQ Meatloaf we make is the best meatloaf ever, so there was no reason to mess with it. I couldn't resist and sneaked this in one night. It was very well received! Glad I didn't listen to the Peanut Gallery!!

The only "complaint" I have about this is the bacon element - sorry about the picture - can't remember if it fell off or I helped it off and ate it before taking this shot. There are two problems with this - first is that the cooking time stated doesn't actually cook the bacon through. I'm afraid of drying out the rest, so I do leave it in for a few extra minutes, but then I put the broiler on to finish off the bacon. Second - either I need to find longer bacon, or I stuff it too much, because mine pops open. I've made it three times now, so I'm thinking maybe next time, I'll try the basket weave technique.

1/2 pound bacon slices 
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
2 eggs
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 T mint -- chopped
1/2 T garlic -- minced
1 t salt and pepper -- as needed
2 T parsley -- minced
4 oz prosciutto -- sliced thin
4 oz mozzarella cheese
4 oz roasted red pepper -- sliced
10 oz spinach -- cooked and drained  

Combine beef, pork, egg, crumbs, cheese, mint, garlic and seasoning. 

Stuffed Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe
Stuffed Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe 

Lay out two overlapping sheets of plastic wrap to serve as your work surface. It will later help you to roll the meatloaf.

Lay slices of bacon side by side along the top half, then spread the meat mixture along the bottom half.

MMMMMMMM, bacon!

Stuffed Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Stuffed Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Next you want to sprinkle half of the mozzarella over the meat, cover that with the prosciutto slices, and another layer of mozzarella.

Stuffed Meatloaf : Hye Thyme CafeStuffed Meatloaf : Hye Thyme CafeStuffed Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Next you're going to spread the cooked spinach over the cheese, and arrange the pepper slices over that. Season with salt and pepper, and you're ready to roll - literally and figuratively.  😉

Stuffed Meatloaf : Hye Thyme CafeStuffed Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Pick up the plastic wrap closest to you and use it to help roll the loaf into a spiral - like you would use a bamboo mat to roll sushi. Then transfer to a lightly sprayed tray (I put down foil first for easy clean-up).

Stuffed Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Stuffed Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe 

Season the top with black pepper and bake at 350 for about 30" (internal temp of 145). As I mentioned above, I ended up letting it cook for a few extra minutes, then turning the broiler on to finish off the bacon. Remove from oven and tent with foil - let rest for about 10" before slicing.

Stuffed Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Stuffed Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Squares with Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Squares with Cream Cheese Frosting : Hye Thyme Cafe

Whether spooky or tame, this is one sweet fall treat you don't want to miss out on! I was never a big Pumpkin Pie fan growing up. I was the one making a bee line for the Apple Pie or Angel Lemon Pie (my favorite - kind of a reverse Lemon Meringue). But when my Mom first started making these, I was hooked on pumpkin! They're super easy to make, and always something to keep in mind for bake-sales and fundraisers to offset the 600 trays of brownies that will be showing up.

She doesn't remember where she got the recipe, so sadly, I can't give proper credit, but I've seen variations of this pop up all over the place, from catalogs to junk mail. Some versions include clove and nutmeg, but this one only calls for cinnamon. I'm looking to enhance the pumpkin, not hide it, so although those spices certainly pair well, I never bothered to increase the spice in this particular recipe.  

The only kind of "trick" to making these is when you spread the batter in the pan. You want to make it as smooth as you can on top, because if it goes in the oven with any dips, it's gonna come out with them. That will make someone either very happy or very sad. If they're not a huge pumpkin fan, they'll be happy about the extra frosting on theirs, but if they don't have a sweet tooth, they'll be missing the pumpkin. 

4 eggs
1 2/3 c sugar
3/4 c canola or veg oil
1 can pumpkin
2 c flour
2 t baking powder
2 t cinnamon
1 t salt
1 t baking soda

3 oz cream cheese
1/2 c butter
1 t vanilla
2 c powdered sugar

Beat together the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the dry ingredients, then add to the pumpkin mixture, a little at a time, just until incorporated. If you beat it to death, it will probably turn out like lead. You're shooting for a nice airy texture. Spread into un-greased 15x10 and bake at 350 for 20-25", or until a toothpick tests clean. Let cool completely on a rack.


Pumpkin Squares with Cream Cheese Frosting : Hye Thyme Cafe

While your bars are hanging out and cooling down, you can leave your cream cheese out to soften. When you're ready to frost, just beat it all together and slather it on. I usually drop big blobs of frosting lengthwise down the center and then work my way out to the edges.  

Cut them into the desired shape - I usually go with squares - and decorate with whatever strikes your fancy. If I'm going to be putting the whole tray on a table, I usually checker board the top with pecan or walnut halves, so every other square has a nut. If it's closer to Halloween, I'll decorate with candy corn or black and orange sprinkles. If I've got too much time on my hands, I'll pull out some stencils or cookie cutters and use those to set designs for me to decorate. If you've got the time, have fun with it!!

Pumpkin Squares with Cream Cheese Frosting : Hye Thyme CafePumpkin Squares with Cream Cheese Frosting : Hye Thyme Cafe

Monday, October 25, 2010

Coconut Quinoa Pudding

Coconut Quinoa Pudding : Hye Thyme Cafe

In trying to come up with new uses for Quinoa recently, and knowing you can use it in place of rice in many recipes, I thought about trying a Quinoa Pudding. I had also been thinking about making a Coconut Flan, so I decided to take a stab at a Coconut Quinoa Pudding. It actually had a consistency more like Tapioca than Rice Pudding, but I definitely liked it. Of course, I love Tapioca, so that makes sense. The only downside is how often am I gonna wanna stand around cooking up a batch of quinoa? It's one thing if you're making it as a side dish, since you're already in the kitchen working on the entree. Hmmm...I think I just answered my own question. I made this one night on a whim, when I wasn't doing anything else, so I was bored waiting for it to cook down. If I made it while I was making dinner sometime ...  

Being Armenian, we almost always make Pilaf, so the only time we ever really think to make Rice Pudding is if we order Chinese takeout and have leftover rice that nobody will end up eating otherwise. You don't really want to make Rice Pudding with rice that's been cooked in butter and chicken broth and has noodles in it!  😉

I wasn't sure how this was going to turn out, so I only made a small batch - 4 servings.

Bring to a boil ...
Coconut Quinoa Pudding : Hye Thyme Cafe
1/2 c quinoa
1 can coconut milk
1 can milk (I just poured it into the coconut milk can) 

Stir in ...
1/2 c sugar
1/4 t salt 

Lower to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the quinoa just starts to bloom. Put about 1T of cornstarch in a measuring cup and pour in a little of the liquid, stirring to make a slurry. Add that to the pot and continue to cook until the mixture thickens.

Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 t vanilla and 1/2 t coconut extract. Pour into 4 ramekins and chill to set.

Coconut Quinoa Pudding : Hye Thyme Cafe
Coconut Quinoa Pudding : Hye Thyme Cafe

Serve topped with pineapple and toasted coconut. I didn't have any fresh pineapple or pineapple tidbits, so I popped open a can of pineapple rings and just diced up a few. For the coconut, I toast it in a dry non-stick pan over medium heat - just remember that it will continue to cook when you remove it from the heat, so don't let it get too brown, and pour it onto a paper towel or plate so the residual  heat from the pan doesn't burn it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Beef and Bean Chili

Beef and Bean Chilii : Hye Thyme Cafe

Growing up, chili was one of those things that I never liked. I'm not sure if it was the kind of beans used in the ones I tried, or maybe the cuts of beef? Anyhow, it wasn't until my Mom came home with a version of this recipe that I finally started eating chili. I love this!!  Then, two years ago, I was introduced to White Chicken Chili!  We'll save that for another day.

2 lb ground beef
Beef and Bean Chilii : Hye Thyme Cafe
2 lg onions, diced
2 cans Delmonte Zesty Jalapeno Petite Diced Tomatoes
2 cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can tomato paste
1/4 c Heinz Ketchup
1 T light brown sugar
2 beef bouillon cubes
4T + chili powder
1 heaping T cumin
1 t cayenne pepper

In a large pot, start off by sauteing your ground beef and onions over medium heat with a little salt and pepper. When the onions are translucent and the beef is just about cooked through, it's time to start adding in the goodies ...

Beef and Bean Chilii : Hye Thyme Cafe

You can drain off any fat if you want before proceeding, but I don't bother anymore. I figure if you cook with fat for flavor, why not let it lend it's flavor all the way through the process? It will rise to the top anyhow, so you can skim it later if you want. Besides, there are so many lean cuts of beef available now, you don't have to use a full-fat version. I usually buy 80% lean. There's also the clean-up factor. If you plan to drain off the beef, that either means trying to pour it into another container and risking the mess of splashes or losing some of the beef along with it...or, you saute the onions and beef in a pan and transfer it to a pot, which means extra clean-up. I just keep one of the empty cans handy, and if there's any fat to skim off the top later, I scoop it into the can.

I'm sure it's fine if you just add everything now, but I like to add the bouillon and brown sugar first to give the heat a chance to break them down before adding everything else. Then I add the tomatoes and ketchup to loosen things up so the beans don't get mashed when I stir them in. When it comes to the beans, I used to dump them into a strainer and run water over them until the goop was gone - you know, that slimy stuff in canned beans that makes it smell like cat food. Ewww! I figured the strainer was something extra to clean too, so now I just put my hand over the top of the open can pour out the gunk through my fingers and run water over it, repeating until rinsed.

I always start off with 4T of chili powder and 1 heaping T of cumin, then adjust toward the end. You may be using a different beef or have an extremely potent or mild onion that you want to adjust for, etc. It's all a matter of taste. Turn it down to a simmer and let it run for about an hour, uncovered.

While some people like their chili plain, and others prefer it over rice, I like mine over some sort of small pasta, with shredded cheese melted on the top and a dollop of sour cream.

Beef and Bean Chilii : Hye Thyme Cafe

Oooh, then there are the Fritos Scoops !! 

Beef and Bean Chilii : Hye Thyme Cafe

Soooooooo good!!

Got leftovers? Sure you can go ahead and freeze the rest, but maybe you've got kids who come home looking for an after-school snack ... or maybe you're planning a Superbowl party or something. Here's what I did when we were having a party and I had a batch of homemade chili in the fridge ...

Buy a tube of refrigerated biscuit dough, the kind with layers. Peel the layers apart and press them into lightly sprayed mini-muffin cups, pressing the round into the bottom and up the sides. Fill the cup with chili and bake them off until the biscuit puffs up and browns around it. Go ahead and top them with a variety of options - a dollop of sour cream, a jalapeno round, little tortilla strips, diced tomatoes, crumbled bacon, chopped cilantro, etc.  Just put your imagination (the the contents of your fridge and pantry) to work for you.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Don't try this at home ... seriously! Apple Pie with Peanut Butter Crust


So yesterday, I was walking through the kitchen and realized that we had three bags of apples that have probably been sitting around too long. I have eaten several Macoun, but there were a bunch of McIntosh and Cortlands as well. I figured I'd roll them around so they weren't sitting on the same spot, reached in the first bag and came out with a handful of gross!! I was apparently too late. I had to throw away three or four apples, so I decided I better do something with the rest of them before we lost them all...but what?

Everyone in our family leans toward Apple Crisp, but we've had it so much, I'm kinda over it. I haven't baked an apple pie in a while, so I was wondering what I could do with a pie to change it up. My brain first went to the standards - raisins, cranberries, cheddar (my last apple pie had a cheddar crust). Then I thought of apple slices with peanut butter on them and wondered how a Peanut Butter crust would work out. I looked online to see if that has been done a million times but only saw one recipe. I didn't want to cheat and use theirs, so I figured I'd wing it and try to adapt my go-to crust recipe. I should have tried theirs!!

I have no idea where I got this recipe, but it has to have been more than 20 years ago, because I've been really good about documenting origins since then. Whenever I make a pie and someone comments on this crust, when I give it to them, they get mad at me for not having shared it sooner because it's so easy. Kinda therapeutic actually - just throw everything in a covered bowl, put the lid on, and shake the crap out of it until it all comes together. 

2 c flour
3/4 c Crisco shortening
2 T melted butter
6 T cold water
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking powder
1 t sugar

In trying to decide how to accommodate the peanut butter, I decided to cut back on the shortening because of the oil content in the peanut butter, and the water because of the moisture. I also wanted to include vanilla, so that translated to 1/2 c Crisco, 1/2 c peanut butter, 1t vanilla and 3T cold water. It turned out way too dry!

Start off by peeling, coring, and slicing your apples. I always slice mine, never chop. I'm not sure if this has anything to do with it or not, but sooooo many people end up with huge peaks on their pies, I wonder if it's because they cut their apples into chunks, and when they cook down, they end up with potholes in their crust??? I normally leave mine on the thick side, but they're still slices, so they settle in nicely. I cut them smaller today though, because I have some mini pie tins I hadn't gotten around to using yet, and thought this would be a good opportunity to take them out for a spin.

Mose people seem to use some sort of filler in their fruit pies - flour, tapioca, etc. I like to keep it simple. I stick to just cinnamon and sugar. I have no idea how much. It's the love that goes in the pie; how can you measure love?!? I just pour in some sugar, then keep adding cinnamon and stirring until it's all coated and pretty much just a color I like. How's that for precision?

Set that aside while you put your crust together. That way, if you've got some juicy apples on your hands, they'll have a chance to drain. You want your filling to be juicy, but not soupy. If you've got a lot of juice at the bottom when you get there, and don't want to waste all that sugary-apple goodness, try pouring it into a cup of tea!

For the crust, I put everything but the water into the food processor and gave it a whirl to incorporate, then added in the water, one T at a time. I was thinking about what to use to cut out my mini crusts, then decided not to bother doing it that way. I just pulled off a meatball sized portion of dough and rolled it between sheets of waxed paper.  Actually, that's what I was going to do, but I was having a hard time with the bottom crusts for some reason, so I just pressed the dough into the tins and rolled out the dough for the top crusts. Make sure you bring the bottom crust all the way out to the edge of the pan so you can pinch the top crust onto it to seal.

Fillerup ...

Aren't they cute? 

OK, so this is when the waxed paper comes in very handy! Once you've rolled out your dough, lifting it by the paper, center it over the pie, then peel the paper away. Be sure to slice steam vents in the top. If I'm doing a full-sized pie, I'll sometimes cut out a shape - maybe a leaf and place it elsewhere on the pie with a few more cut out from scraps.

I always brush my top crust with egg. Some people use cream or jam. I'm always afraid the jam will burn because of the sugar. Sometimes I brush scones with cream or milk, but never my pies. I baked them on the pizza tray because they're so small, I figured it would be easier getting them in and out of the oven that way - and in case they decided to bubble over.  

I don't know about your grandmother, but when I was kid, whenever my grandmother was baking pies, she would take her crust scraps, roll them into a rectangle, sprinkle on some cinnamon, sugar, and finely diced walnuts and roll it into a log to be baked with the pie. Sometimes, I would rather have that than the pie! In deference to some of my BakeSpace Nutella junkie buddies, I remembered we had a jar in the cabinet and decided to roll that inside my crust scraps! Tastes good with the Peanut Butter, but sadly, as I've said, too dry!

Sooooo, I baked them off for about 40" at 350. Of course I later realized that most fruit pies get baked at 375, but all I had with me at the moment was a list of ingredients. Whatever temp you bake at, look for a golden top, bubbles, and for your nose to tell you it's done. Especially when baking cookies. I don't think I've ever used a timer before. My nose will tell me they're ready, and if they're still a little glossy, I'll give them another minute or so.

OK folks, comments, ideas, jokes...I'm thinking maybe a peanut butter cookie dough crust, or maybe putting the peanut butter in with the apples and using a little plain or vanilla yogurt to thin it a bit. I definitely like the PB/Apple combo, so it's just a matter of figuring out how to translate that to pie!

As for the rest of the apples (because, in case you couldn't tell, I cut up way more than four mini pies would account for), they are safely nestled in a ziplock bag in the freezer for future reference.
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