Thursday, January 9, 2014

Broccoli Chicken Couscous Salad

Lean chicken breasts pan-fried till golden, lightly steamed broccoli, tomatoes and radishes in a quick lemon yogurt dressing with red chili makes a tasty, healthy meal after weeks of indulgence. 

This salad is made up of the vegetables I had on hand so please use the ingredient amounts as a guide and feel free to substitute your favorites, add more or omit whatever doesn’t suit you.

Ingredients (to serve two as a main course or four as a starter)
For the salad:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
Olive oil
1 cup or 150g couscous (medium grain)
1/2 medium-sized head of broccoli
9-10 small sharp radishes
9-10 cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup or about 50g sprouted mung beans
Large handful cilantro or fresh coriander leaves

For the dressing:
Juice 1/2 large lemon (about 1/8 cup or 30ml)
1 small purple onion
1-2 small hot red chilies
2 heaping tablespoons plain yogurt
1/8 cup or 30ml olive oil
Sea salt

Cut your chicken into bite-sized pieces and season liberally with salt and the ground cumin.  Stir it around so the pieces are seasoned all over.

Heat up a non-stick skillet and pan-fry the chicken until golden on all sides using just a tiny drizzle of olive oil.   Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Put a pot of water on to heat for steaming your broccoli.

Cut the broccoli into florets then cut the florets in quarters.

Steam them until they are still crunchy.  This takes just a few minutes.  Remove your steamer with broccoli from the hot pot and set aside to cool.  Reserve the water for making the couscous.

Put your couscous in a pot or metal bowl and add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Add just enough boiling water (From the broccoli steaming pot, if you’ve plan ahead!) to cover the couscous plus a bit extra.  Put the lid on and leave it while you get on with the rest of the salad.

Slice your radishes and halve your cherry tomatoes.  Chop the cilantro very roughly.  You want some nice big leaves still.  Finely mince the red chilies and thinly slice your onion.

In a bowl that will be big enough for tossing your whole salad, add in lemon juice, the onion and the chilies.  Let them steep for a few minutes.  This takes the sharpness out of the onion and infuses the juice with the heat of the chilies.

Add in the plain yogurt and stir.   Now drizzle in the olive oil and stir well.  Give the whole thing a small sprinkle of salt.  Set aside.

By now your couscous should be done.  Remove the lid and fluff it up with a fork.  Leave the lid off and allow it to cool further.

Add your radishes, tomatoes and mung beans to the salad bowl.

Heap on the couscous.

Toss well to coat everything with dressing.  Now add in cooled broccoli and the cilantro.  Toss again.

Finally, add in the chicken pieces and toss for the last time.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Sweet Potato Brown Sugar Muffins #MuffinMonday

Mashed, buttered sweet potatoes add flavor, natural sweetness and moisture to these delicious muffins.  The hint of vanilla and cinnamon, along with the brown sugar, make these perfect for breakfast or a midmorning snack.

As this recipe goes live, I will be flying back to Dubai after enjoying more than three weeks of fun and family in Rhode Island.  What a beautiful state, truly.  When our elder daughter first mentioned Rhode Island School of Design, back in spring of 2008, and we visited the school that summer, I had no idea what a precious part of our lives this place would become.  That was further cemented when her little sister was accepted at RISD two years later.  It has been our pleasure to explore New England from our little rented home in Tiverton in the south, to as far east as Plymouth and west to Newport, with a little Providence and Boston thrown in for good measure.

If you haven’t visited New England before, I highly recommend it, especially Rhode Island, even in the wintertime.

1 whole sweet potato (about 5-6 oz or 140-170g)
1/4 cup or 60g room temperature butter
2 cups or 250g flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2/3 cup or 130g dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 cup or 240ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Scrub your sweet potato and poke it all over with the tip of a sharp knife.  Microwave on high for three minutes, turning it over halfway through.  Give it a gentle squeeze to see if it feels soft.  Microwave for another minute on the first side if necessary.  Remove the peel and mash the inside with a fork.

Add in the butter and stir it around so it melts.  Set aside and allow to cool.

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and prepare your muffin pan by greasing it or lining it paper muffin cups.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.

In another bowl, whisk together the cooled, mashed sweet potato, milk, eggs and vanilla.

Pour your wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold them together until just mixed.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake in the preheated oven about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool on a rack for a few minutes and then remove the muffins to cool completely.


For those who are interested, I leave you with some random shots from our fabulous three weeks in New England.

Tiverton House - highly recommended  - hosts are wonderful.  Link here.
And, no, I have not been compensated in any way for saying this!

Christmas parade in Newport - complete with Santas riding Harleys

Newport Harbor

Quaint shops in Newport.
Roasting marshmallows at home

Every sunset seemed to outdo the next

Sailboats on the river by our house

The purported Plymouth Rock.  We've been told since that the real rock is underneath this one.

Mayflower II.  This is a reproduction of the Mayflower, built in England and sailed across in 1957.
If you come in the summer, you can climb aboard and imagine the voyage.

Fancy columns commemorating Plymouth Rock

The First Baptist Church in all of the United States, Providence, RI (1638)

Playing in the snow!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

No-Knead Christmas Pudding Cinnamon Rolls for #TwelveLoaves

Leftover rum-soaked Christmas pudding makes a fabulously rich filling, along with more cinnamon and brown sugar, for classic cinnamon rolls.  If you don’t have leftover pud, feel free to use just brown sugar and cinnamon.  

As expats, we’ve moved around a lot.  Most houses had company furniture and the carpets and paintings and personal effects were the only things that made them feel like ours.  We’d tell our girls, “Home is where we are all together.”  This got more challenging when both girls went off to university and their father and I continued to move.  They have bedrooms with some of their stuff in our current house in Dubai, but it would be a far stretch to say it’s home for them since they’ve never really lived there, except for holidays.  This year we are taking that mantra to extremes, celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve in a rented house, found on Airbnb.  We didn’t know if our elder daughter would have any time off from her job and, so, if Christmas was going to be spent as a family, as it must be, we would have to come to her.  We flew in from Dubai, collected younger daughter from her school housing, elder daughter from New York, and then both grandmothers flew up from Texas.  The house is full!  It's now a home.

This is a big, long prelude to telling you that we find ourselves in the small Rhode Island town of Tiverton where the only grocery store didn’t have any yeast on Christmas Eve.  And younger daughter wanted to make cinnamon rolls to bake on Christmas morning.  In desperation, I went into the small pizza place across from the grocery store and asked if they could sell me some yeast.  The kind owner did better than that!  He handed over a large chunk of fresh yeast with a hearty “Merry Christmas!”  We had traditional cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning and then I made a pan of these non-traditional ones to bring to Classic Pizza as a thank you.  It makes the perfect recipe for my first post for #TwelveLoaves, a group dedicated to bread in all its forms.  This month’s theme is Keep It Simple, and what could be easier than a yeast bread that doesn’t requiring an electric mixer or any kneading?

Credit for the traditional cinnamon roll recipe goes to Baked Bree.


For the dough:
2 tablespoons fresh yeast cake or 1 package (1/4oz or 7g) dried yeast
1 cup or 240g milk
1/2 cup or 115g sugar plus 1 teaspoon for proofing the yeast
1/3 cup or 75g room temperature butter plus extra for greasing pan
1 teaspoon salt
2 room temperature eggs
4 cups or 500g flour plus extra for rolling out the dough

For the filling:
About 1 cup chopped up leftover Christmas pudding, preferably one infused with rum
1/2 cup or 100g dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/4 cup or 60g room temperature butter
1 cup or 200g brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/3 cup or 75g room temperature butter
1 tablespoon flour

Warm your milk to about 125°F or 52°C.  If you don’t have a thermometer, just warm it until it’s hot but you can still put your finger in it comfortably for 15 seconds without wanting to pull it back out and shout, “Ouch.”  Pour it into a small bowl and then crumble in the fresh yeast or sprinkle on the dried yeast.  Add one teaspoon of sugar and give the mixture a gentle stir.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk your eggs, butter, sugar and salt until well combined.

Check on your milk/yeast mixture.  It should look frothy on top.  If it’s not, your yeast is dead and you need to buy more.  Let’s assume yours is frothy.

Pour it into the bowl with the egg mixture and whisk well.

Add in 1/2 cup or 125g of flour and mix well.  You will have a thick batter.

Now add in the rest of the flour 1 cup or about 250g at a time, mixing with a wooden spoon or stiff spatula.

You will have very soft dough and it may look like the flour won’t all mix in.  Never mind.  We are keeping it simple!

Just trust and cover the bowl with cling film and a towel and put it in warm place for one hour.

Meanwhile, make your filling by combining all of your ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and stirring with a fork until thoroughly mixed.

Grease your baking pan liberally with butter.  Choose one that will comfortably hold about 12 or 13 large cinnamon rolls.  Mine was 11 3/4 x 9 1/4 in or  30 x 24cm.

When the hour is up, punch down the dough and sprinkle your work surface lightly with flour.

After the first rise.

Roll the dough out in a rectangle about 12 x 18 in or 30 x 45cm.

Sprinkle on your filling of choice and make sure you get some all the way out to the edges.  Roll the dough up from the long side.

Cut the roll into 1 1/2 in or 3 3/4cm slices and put them cut side up in your prepared baking pan.

Cover the pan with cling film and a towel and put in a warm place to rise for another hour.

After the second rise.

When the hour is almost up, preheat your oven to 400°F or 200°C.

Bake your rolls in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.

Serve plain or with cream cheese icing.


Or give the whole pan to someone who saved Christmas breakfast for you and wish them a Happy New Year!

                                          Twelve Loaves

If you love bread but have found the holidays hectic, this is the #TwelveLoaves month for you!  Check out all of our recipes that Keep It Simple!

If you’d like to join us for this month’s #TwelveLoaves Keep It Simple challenge, choose a recipe that is not overly complicated, whether in technique or ingredients.

Then share your January Keep It Simple Bread (yeast or quick bread) on your blog.

If you’d like to add your bread to the collection with the Linky Tool this month, here are the rules!
1. When you post your Twelve Loaves bread recipe on your blog, make sure that you mention the Twelve Loaves challenge in your blog post; this helps us to get more members as well as share everyone's posts.
2. Post your Twelve Loaves bread on your blog by January 31, 2014.
3. It must be a bread inspired by the Twelve Loaves Keep It Simple theme, baked between January 1, 2014 and January 31, 2014.

#TwelveLoaves is a monthly bread baking party created by Lora from Cake Duchess.  #TwelveLoaves runs so smoothly thanks to the talented and brilliant help of both Paula from Vintage Kitchen Notes and Renee from Magnolia Days.