Our Most Excellent Blender Salsa

I've been feverishly testing and working on several new recipes to share with you, and my hope was that at least one of them would be blog-ready by now.  But alas, I toil on.  This salsa is by no means a consolation prize though.  It just happened that I made it on Friday, which is not at all unusual, and it occurred to me that I have not yet told you about it.  This is a major oversight for which I apologize with all my heart.   And seeing as how it's the best salsa on the planet, I decided this would be a good time to share.

We're more than a little picky about our salsa here in the Circle B Kitchen.  Living in Southern California for most of our lives, we were very in tune with the reverence with which salsa, good salsa, is regarded.  For me, a Mexican restaurant is firstly judged on the quality of its salsa and secondly on its ability to turn out great rice and beans.

I realize that there are really good jarred salsas on the store shelves these days, and if we buy salsa, we're partial to the Border Grill brand.  But truly and sincerely, there is just nothing like freshly made salsa.  And this here's the way we like it.  

I will now humbly retract the statement in the first paragraph about this being the best salsa on the planet.  No such thing.  We all have our faves and this just happens to be ours.  Here's the recipe...

Our Most Excellent Blender Salsa

(recipe courtesy of Tom, a most excellent son who makes very excellent salsa)

Click here for a printable recipe

This makes a lot of salsa, so it's great for a crowd, but it's super easy to just halve the recipe if you'd like.  Be sure to use crushed tomatoes.  They provide the perfect consistency.  Also, we're not big fans of the flavor of raw garlic, so I place the garlic cloves in the microwave for like 3 or 4 seconds or as long as it takes to heat them through and sort of cook and soften them which takes out that sharp, raw flavor.

2 14-oz cans crushed tomatoes (or 1 28-oz can)
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic (see headnote)
2T white wine vinegar (or lime juice)
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (or more if desired)**
2 tsp salt
a good handful of cilantro sprigs
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Place (1) 14-oz can (or half of the 28-oz can) into the blender with the other ingredients.  Process until smooth. Add in the remaining can of tomatoes and pulse once or twice so the tomatoes stay in little chunks. Taste and add more salt or chipotle if needed.  Keep refrigerated.

** After opening the can of chipotle in adobo, I run the whole thing through the blender and place that in a jar.  It will keep several centuries like this and it's so much easier to use.  For this recipe I use close to a tablespoon, or half that if you're halving the recipe.

Baked Buttermilk Doughnuts

As promised in our last post, we're celebrating the launch of our revamped website by making, frosting, glazing and eating doughnuts!  You may have noticed that list did not include frying. Nope.  No frying took place in the making of that scrumptiously delicious plate of doughnuts. Of course, we won't talk about how much sugar went into the decorating, but we will take comfort where we can, and enjoy the fact that we saved ourselves a bunch of calories and made these a little healthier by baking them.

The Husband and I have more than a few memories of Sunday morning doughnuts in the early years of our marriage; doughnuts and coffee were a weekend favorite for years.  I've forgotten the name of the doughnut shop now, but those old fashioned buttermilk doughnuts still reside in my memory with something close to reverence.  

But over the last 20 years or so we've cleaned up our eating, and doughnuts got dropped from the diet along with most things fried.  <insert crying emoji>.  But life is too short to have to live without a doughnut now and then, you know?   So baking them seemed like our best bet to get doughnuts back into our weekend mornings.  I mean, even the Barefoot Contessa was baking donuts, so I got myself a donut pan. 

Expectations were understandably low, but since cake doughnuts were always our favorites, I thought there might be a slight possibility that I could create a doughnut that would approximate those from the olden days.   We all know that if the yeast-y glazed doughnuts are your favorites, you really aren't going to be able to duplicate those in a donut pan.  But, if like us, you prefer the cake ones, you might find these to your liking.

I started with the recipe that came with the donut pan and we were amazed by how good they were.  I mean, there really was a sort of cake doughnut quality to them.  I've since played with the recipe to try and replicate the buttermilk ones that I love and am pretty happy about the outcome. To do this I swapped out the milk for buttermilk and replaced the shortening with coconut oil. But if you really want a cake doughnut experience, the grated nutmeg is vital. Freshly grated is best, but just don't leave it out.

So here we are, blissfully back to starting our weekend mornings with coffee and doughnuts, and if that sounds pretty good to you, here's the recipe...

Baked Buttermilk Doughnuts

Click here for a printable recipe

I think the best doughnut pan for making baked doughnuts is made by Norpro.  It produces doughnuts that look the most like bakery doughnuts.  I started with the recipe that came with the pan and then made some changes.  Our favorite way to eat these is with a simple cinnamon sugar topping, but feel free to frost or glaze these however you like.  I've given you a couple of glazing ideas below.  If making the cinnamon sugar doughnuts, be sure the doughnuts are still warm from the oven before applying the cinnamon sugar.

Recipe adapted from Norpro

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2  tablespoons coconut oil (warmed briefly in the microwave)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and spray your doughnut pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt.

In a smaller bowl, stir together the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and the softened coconut oil with a whisk until smooth.

Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture.  Mix until well blended and then fill each doughnut cup about 3/4 full.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes until the doughnuts spring back when touched (this took closer to 12 minutes in my oven).  But do not overcook or they will dry out.

Allow to cool slightly in the pan before removing.  Glaze or frost as desired.

Cinnamon-sugar Doughnuts
Mix together 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.  Place in a paper bag.  Place a warm doughnut in the bag and shake until the doughnut is completely covered with cinnamon sugar. Place on rack to cool.

Vanilla Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla together, starting with just 1 tablespoon of milk.  You want the glaze to be fairly thick.  Microwave for about 8 to 10 seconds, stir well and then drizzle over the doughnut.  Dip in finely chopped walnuts, if desired.

Maple Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon milk

Mix the ingredients together until you have a fairly thick glaze.  Microwave for a few seconds until it's warm.  Stir well and then drizzle over the doughnut.


It's a Circle B Kitchen Makeover!

I've mentioned a few times in recent posts that the Circle B Kitchen has gone through some extensive upgrading and remodeling (photos available on the photos page), but coincidentally, the blog has also been the recipient of a much-needed facelift.

I'm pretty sure I was about 5 years behind on my Squarespace update, but seeing as how I knew it would mean a total revamping of the blog, I sort of procrastinated by telling myself I would wait until I replaced my ancient laptop and then get everything all upgraded at once. When I did get around to replacing the laptop with this sleek new macbook pro, I had to call my own bluff and admit that I was still too chicken to re-do the website without some professional assistance.

And by professional assistance, I mean that I waited until my son and his family were here for the weekend and then put myself at his mercy.  Actually, he was totally willing to help out and actually sort of likes this stuff.  Squarespace is an awesome web hosting platform, and it's pretty tech-y, but Thomas sat down in front of my computer and I watched as the cursor went screeching across the screen and pages were flipping and flying, my head was spinning, but in no time I had this beautiful new website that I absolutely love.  

I hope you find the new site easier to use, more fun to read and way easier to navigate on your mobile device.  Please let me know if you encounter any issues or have any questions.  One downside is that the photos on older posts won't look all that terrific.  I could go back and replace each one, but then I would have no time for new posts or recipes.  That's not gonna happen.

I'll be back very soon with a new recipe (which may involve donuts), and in the meantime, take a look around and let me know what you think.  

Till then...

Claypot Chicken and Rice

No, you're absolutely right, that's not a clay pot.  Although I'm thinking that even if it were, this couldn't have tasted any better than it did right out of my rice cooker.  And we have Lucky Peach to thank for dreaming up this totally inauthentic rendition of a recipe that was originally designed to probably slow cook in a clay pot over the ashes of some communal fire, while this version is one that we can throw in a rice cooker or any lidded vessel (more on that later) for a super quick and easy one-pot wonder of a meal; just throw it all in, let it cook and you have dinner.  Like, a really really good dinner.

So let me back up a second and tell you that the flavors here are Asian in origin but the miso-based marinade for the chicken from the folks at Lucky Peach didn't quite do it for me.  It's not that I didn't like theirs, it's just that the flavors seemed muddled and not all that interesting or as scrumptious as I was hoping for.  So on the next go-round I pulled out the ingredients for my go-to Asian marinade and not surprisingly, it was a home run.  The flavors brightened up and we had depth and sweet and spicy and salty and this is the way I've made it ever since.  Lots of times.

So what, you might ask, is the deal with my go-to Asian Sauce and Marinade?  Well, it was born out of laziness (only 4 ingredients) and my undying love for these flavors...

I'm fairly certain that you've seen or probably have all of these ingredients in your pantry/fridge, except perhaps for the Gochujang, which is a Korean chili sauce that I've been crushing on recently.  If you're familiar with it, you know that it's not too terribly spicy, but kind've sweet but not.  It's just so good.  I got that bottle of it at Target, but it's not the original stuff which looks like this...

If you can't get your hands on Gochujang, then any Asian chili paste like Sambal would work or just use your favorite hot sauce or whatever.  Improvise.  But it does lend some great flavor and I encourage you to hunt it down and then use it on everything.  Think of it like spicy Korean catsup.  Only waaaay better.

Anyway, those are the ingredients in the marinade I used for the chicken part of this recipe and I'm going to encourage you to make up a batch and save the leftovers in a jar in the fridge to use on salmon or to season your next noodle bowl.  Add some peanut butter to it and you've got a scrumptious dipping sauce for dumplings and egg rolls.

So, back to our Claypot Chicken and Rice that doesn't cook in a clay pot, unless you have one and want to be totally authentic and adventurous, have at it.  This version is more like your weeknight quickie that cooks up beautifully in your rice cooker OR if you don't have a rice cooker, just use your heaviest pot; a small Dutch oven would work well, and is what I used.

If you have a tight-fitting lid for your pot, then you're set, otherwise you're going to have put a couple layers of foil over the top to seal it up really well.  You really need a good seal so the rice won't dry out and the chicken will absorb all those flavors and aromas.  As it cooks, the rice on the bottom gets all dark and crunchy and yum and it all cooks into one incredibly awesome mess of deliciousness.

To get it made, you're just going to sort of dump everything into your pot or rice cooker and enjoy the heavenly aromas while it cooks. And when it's done (25 minutes on the stove; more like 45 in the rice cooker), you won't even believe that something this easy could possibly taste this good.  I like to drizzle it with a little more sauce before serving it, a few more green onions and if ambitious, some chopped cilantro.

A word about the rice.  I'm sure you guys all wash/rinse your rice before cooking, but I just have to say it anyway.  Wash/rinse your rice before cooking.  If you like your rice to taste perfect and awesome, you've got to get that starchy stuff off it.  It's simple and easy and makes all the difference.  Here's how I do it...

Grab a strainer and then find a bowl that it will fit into perfectly.  And then set your bowl and strainer in the sink and put your rice in the strainer.  Run some water over the rice and when it's completely submerged, turn off the water and swish the rice around with your fingers for about 15-20 seconds.  

You'll see the water get all cloudy.  Pick up your strainer with the rice and let it drain while you dump the water out of the bowl.  Place the strainer back into the bowl, add more water, swish and repeat. You will notice that the water is much clearer by the 3rd rinsing.  I then set the strainer in the sink so the rice can dry out a bit before cooking.  It only takes like 5 minutes.

I'm looking back at this post and shaking my head.  Only I could turn the simplest of meals into a 9-page treatise on more topics than I'm sure you were even interested in.  But there it is, once I get going....

And even if none of it was helpful or the least bit interesting, you might just go ahead and make this anyway.  Your people will thank you.  Here's how to do it... 

Claypot Chicken and Rice

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe Adapted from Lucky Peach

Serves 4

This cooks up so great if you have one of those rice cookers with the lid that locks down.  But no worries if you don't have one, any small Dutch oven kind of pot will work as well.  

1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/3 cup Asian Sauce (see recipe below)
1 1/2 cups jasmine rice (rinsed and drained)
1 1/2 cups stock or water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 slice of fresh ginger (1/4" thickness)
4 scallions, sliced (2 for cooking, 2 for serving)
1/4 cup chopped, fresh cilantro, optional

Combine the chunks of chicken with the 1/3 cup Asian sauce in a medium bowl and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Combine the water or stock, the rice, ginger and salt in a rice cooker or small Dutch oven.  Add the chicken and all of the sauce to the top of the rice and scatter 2 sliced scallions over the top.

If using a rice cooker, close the lid and cook for one cycle.  The chicken was cooked perfectly in my rice cooker, but if yours isn't, just give it another 5 to 10 minutes.

If cooking it stove-top style, place the pot over medium heat and bring to soft boil and then reduce the heat to low.  Make sure the lid is on tight and cook over low heat for about 25 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.

If desired, drizzle the chicken with a little more of the Asian sauce, add a couple more sliced scallions and some chopped fresh cilantro before serving.

Circle B Kitchen All Purpose Asian Sauce and Marinade

The beauty of this sauce is that you can use it to baste salmon shrimp or chicken, dress Asian noodles, use as a dipping sauce or any other application that calls to you.  You can substitute the gochujang for another Asian chili paste, but I would recommend you get your hands on some gochujang.  The flavors are so amazing.  

Makes about 1 cup of sauce

1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons (or more) gochujang (Korean Chili sauce)

Combine all of the ingredients and let sit for a few minutes before using.

To make an Asian Peanut Sauce, eliminate the sesame oil and stir in 1/4 cup peanut butter.

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Rosemary Ranch Chicken Kabobs

Just when we thought life was sort of maxed out, what with the kitchen remodel still ongoing and all, it became apparent that it was time to get Dad moved into assisted living.  He was in complete agreement and ready for the move which made this a much easier endeavor, but oh my ever lovin goodness, what a project it turned out to be!  

I may or may not have procrastinated just a bit in getting Mom's things moved out of their place after she passed away last year so when it came time to get Dad moved, I had a real mountain to climb, I'll tell you.  Of course, there was the emotional component of disassembling a lifetime of memories and treasures and everyday belongings, which many of you already know can be a bit draining.  But then there's the organizational component of what goes where and to who, and then the physical component of actually moving everything.  A big shout out to my brave, unselfish and amazingly generous family who were there for me through it all with exactly the help I needed at exactly the moment I needed it.  Grandkids too...

Some were more help than others...

But, of course, the Husband was a constant through it all and he knows he has my undying love and appreciation for like ever and ever.

And now Dad is happily ensconced in his beautiful new digs and we're all just so glad he's where he needs to be.  And we can all now return to our lives and the parts and pieces that have been neglected, and for me, that includes cooking.

As you can imagine, there has barely been time to cook and it goes without saying that there has been no time for real photography, but none of that is going to stop me from putting out a post, so here's a little something that I've been diggin' lately and thought you might too.

Both of my daughters have made these kabobs and every time they have, I've been like "why are these so freakin good?"  I mean, boneless chicken breasts on the grill are notoriously dry and uninteresting, but these have flavor and char and they're so tender you'd never know they were white meat.

And the main reason that I'm posting them is because they're just so dang easy, that even I could throw em together after a long day of moving stuff.  It was a beautiful evening so I threw them on the grill and we took a few minutes to savor a good meal and a quiet moment (photography courtesy of my always at the ready iphone).

We all need a few simple, scrumptious and inexpensive meals in our arsenal, and this one's been added to my list.  Here's the recipe...

Rosemary Ranch Chicken Kabobs

Click here for a printable recipe

These kabobs can easily be grilled on the stove on a grill pan instead of a barbecue - they're super delicious either way.  And the longer they marinate, the tenderer the meat will become, but they'll still be great if you only have 30 minutes.

Serves 4-6

5-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ranch dressing
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
1 tablespoon white sugar

In a medium bowl, stir together the marinade ingredients (everything but the chicken).  Let stand for 5 minutes. Place the chicken in the bowl and stir to coat with the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill to medium-high.  Thread the chicken cubes onto skewers and discard the marinade.

Lightly oil the grill grate and grill the skewers for 8 to 10 minutes, turning the skewers every couple of minutes to get all of the sides cooked.

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment