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The Fingerling Is This Year’s Must-Have Toy

The hottest toy this holiday season might just be a five-inch robotic monkey that grabs onto your fingers, passes gas, and sings a tune. The Fingerling is this year’s Beanie Baby or Cabbage Patch Doll. The $15 creature that blinks and snores is coveted by millions of kids, and their parents are scrambling to find them on store shelves and waiting for months for online orders to be filled, the New York Times reports. WowWee, the Canadian company that is responsible for the Fingerling, says that it has increased production after the robotic animals were out of stock on Walmart’s Web site. The company has hired a third factory in China to produce the toys and is now shipping them via airplane, after deciding that container ships were moving too slowly to meet consumer demand.

The Free Press WV

To create the Fingerling phenomenon, WowWee turned to the Internet, sending the toys to YouTube “influencers,“ many of whom shot videos with the toys, videos that were seen by millions of followers. Soon, the Fingerlings were selling out everywhere. But the Internet can take away just as it gives. Today reports that third-party sellers on Amazon have been issuing refunds to customers after failing to send them their toys. And WowWee has filed a lawsuit against 165 companies for selling fake Fingerlings.

Make delicious chicken and rice under pressure - in a cooker

The Free Press WV

Chicken and Rice is having a moment. Whether you make the Spanish staple, Arroz con Pollo or make up your own version, it is soul-satisfying and perfect for the cooler weather.

A few weeks ago, I made a version of Arroz con Pollo that a friend remembered from his favorite childhood restaurant. It was green with cilantro and creamy with cheese and sour cream. I made a casserole that combined three recipes, my Green Rice, Poached Chicken and a creamy cheese sauce. All this was topped with buttered breadcrumbs and took me about four hours to make. It was delicious but it was so much work!

Even the more traditional Spanish Chicken and Rice is a multi-step recipe that takes a lot of time. In my world, I can make rice on the stovetop and grill chicken thighs in less time with less mess, but that is not what most people think of when they think of Chicken and Rice.

Electric pressure cookers are also having a moment. And, until recently, I had never used one. My sister bought one and bragged about making chicken soup in 15 minutes. I thought she was dreaming. or had made a chicken soup so devoid of taste that no one would want to eat it.

But all that changed when I got my hands on a pressure cooker. I chose a simple model from Cuisinart that would let me chose between high and low and set the time. As someone new to pressure cookers, I am not going to bake a cake or make yogurt in one of them.

Thinking about the simple and craveable combination of chicken and rice, I experimented with throwing it all in a pressure cooker and seeing what would happen. I didn’t saute onions_or even use them_or brown the chicken which you could certainly do and it would only make it better. I made it by putting everything in the pressure cooker and turning it on.

I did stack the flavor deck a little. I used chicken stock and white wine to cook the brown jasmine rice and the chicken. I seasoned the chicken thighs with a spice rub and added it to the liquid, and added unsalted butter for flavor and texture. But I also used a bag of frozen vegetables for convenience. I am partial to lima beans, but I figured that most people would prefer peas and carrots so that is what I used. I had some fresh thyme so I added that to the pot, but if you don’t have it you can use dried thyme.

I had a pound of fresh mushrooms that needed cooking so I sliced and sauteed them before putting everything in the pressure cooker_but they could be optional. After 23 minutes, I was rewarded with a surprisingly delicious one-bowl meal that was the very definition of wholesome comfort food. It was bursting with flavor and made me dream of what else I could make in the pressure cooker. With food this good, and this fast, there is no excuse not to cook from scratch.


UNDER PRESSURE QUICKIE CHICKEN AND RICE

Servings 6

Start to finish: 35 minutes

1 pound of mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (optional)

1 1/2 cups brown jasmine rice (White rice cooks too quickly and will be mushy and overcooked)

2 cups chicken stock

1/2cup white wine

1/8pound butter (half a stick)

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2teaspoon ground white pepper

1/8teaspoon cayenne pepper

4-6bone-in chicken thighs, or 8 boneless chicken thighs

1 16-ounce bag of frozen peas and carrots

1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme

Special Equipment: Electric Pressure Cooker

If using mushrooms, saute and set aside. Measure out rice, stock, wine and butter, and place in pressure cooker pot.

Meanwhile, mix salt and dried spices together. Season chicken and set aside. Add remaining spice mixture to rice and stock. Stir to mix. Add the mushrooms, if using, and the frozen vegetables and place the chicken on top. Add the sprigs of fresh thyme.

Lock the pressure cooker according to manufacturer instructions. Make sure the valve is in the pressure position. Set the pressure on high and set time for 23 minutes.

Chef’s Note: The pressure cooker will take about 20 minutes to build pressure. After that, it will begin to time the cooking process so the whole cooking time is 43 minutes.

Once the pressure cooker has cooked for 23 minutes, let it release naturally. Open and stir to make sure the rice is done. If it is too al dente, continue cooking on simmer or pressure cook for another 3-4 minutes.

The chicken skin will not be brown or crispy. If you want the skin crispy, place in a heat proof serving piece and crisp the skin under the broiler.

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Nutrition information per serving: 397 calories; 103 calories from fat; 12g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 85 mg cholesterol; 705 mg sodium; 48 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 22 g protein.

Veggie-filled spring rolls offer the perfect holiday detox

The Free Press WV

If you are up to your eyeballs in eggnog, you’re probably in desperate need of a detox. And by detox, we mean a truckload of fresh fruits and vegetables prepared as minimally as possible, because you have things to do! And we’re not just talking any vegetables. We’re talking super cruciferous vegetables, full of the good fuel that your body needs to rev up for the new year.

Though the term may be unfamiliar, cruciferous vegetables are not. Arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and radishes are among many vegetables in the cruciferous family, which are prized for their flavor, texture, and nutrients. Chef Katherine Polenz says, “Cruciferous vegetables are underutilized, but are so rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients. Dark leafy kale is high in minerals and proteins, and provides a great textural addition.”

This Vegetable Spring Rolls recipe is packed full of these super-vegetables, which means it’s also full of antioxidants; fiber; vitamins C, E, and K; and folate. We’ve added some creamy hummus and the ultra-flavorful dukkah spice blend.

An aromatic spice blend with Egyptian roots, dukkah is unique because it includes seeds and nuts, like hazelnuts, pistachios, and sesame seeds, which adds a welcome richness to vegetarian recipes. Dukkah is commonly used as a seasoning on traditional flatbreads, but once you try it, you’ll be hard pressed to find something that couldn’t use a sprinkle. It should be easy to find at your local grocery store or specialty market.

To pair with the spices, we’ve added some of our favorite crunchy cruciferous veggies, which also happen to be vibrant in flavor and color. Each vegetable, from the kohlrabi (kind of like radish/broccoli) to the watermelon radish, lends a new flavor and texture to the spring roll, so each bite is unique. The beauty of this recipe is that you can mix and match your favorite flavors, adding broccoli, shredded cabbage, or even tofu.

We call for most of the vegetables to be julienned, which is a cut in the shape of a thin matchstick. This cut is perfect for a spring roll, because it’s big enough to be crunchy, but thin enough to bite through. The best way to cut a julienne is to slice each vegetable about 1/8-inch thick, then cut those slices into matchsticks. A mandolin will do it twice as fast, if you have one.

Once you have your juliennes in order, it’s time to give the kale a little extra attention. Kale is a needy vegetable_though to be fair, it really does a lot of work for us, and we probably owe it a good massage from time to time. If you’ve ever declared, “Ugh, I hate kale,” it’s probably because it wasn’t properly coaxed and coddled into a good mood.

For sciency reasons (enzymes, compounds), kale benefits from a literal massage, where you take the leaves and rub them together until they soften. You will see a notable change in the appearance of the leaves, which will turn a more vibrant shade of green, and they will also be much softer and more tender. The kale will also be sweeter.

Serve these spring rolls as a light lunch, on a platter as a party snack, or alongside a nice veggie soup for a satisfying dinner. And if a raw, vegetarian spring roll is going a little too cold turkey, we’ll look the other way if you want to add some grilled shrimp or chicken. Maybe just not that leftover prime rib.


VEGETABLE SPRING ROLLS

Servings: 12

Start to finish: 45 minutes

1 cup plain yogurt

Zest and juice from 1 lemon

Sea salt, to taste

6 to 8 leaves lacinato (or Tuscan) kale

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

12 spring roll wrappers

1 cup hummus

1 kohlrabi, peeled and julienned

1 watermelon radish, peeled and julienned

2 tablespoons Egyptian dukkah spice blend, plus more as needed

4 green onions, thinly sliced

3/4 cup cilantro or mint leaves

1 daikon radish, peeled and julienned

4 red radishes, julienned

3 small (or 1 medium) beets, peeled and julienned

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Toasted black sesame seeds

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine, then cover and refrigerate.

Trim the stems from the kale leaves and cut the leaves into 4-inch squares (you will need 12 total). Transfer the kale to a large resealable bag and add the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Seal the bag and gently massage the leaves to tenderize the kale.

Fill a large shallow bowl with warm water. One at a time, dip the spring roll wrappers into the water and soak until just pliable, about 10 seconds. Remove from the water and lay on a clean work surface and blot the wrap to remove any excess water.

Starting at about 1 inch from the lower edge, place a square of the massaged kale, then spread about 1 tablespoon of hummus across the kale. Top with a thin layer of kohlrabi and watermelon radish. Sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon of dukkah, about 1 tablespoon of green onion, and about 1 tablespoon of herbs. Top with a layer of daikon, red radish, and beet, then season with additional dukkah or salt and pepper, to taste.

Dampen your fingertips. Carefully, but firmly, pull the lower edge of the wrap up and over the filling to start the roll. After the first full rotation, fold in each side of the wrap to close in the ends and continue to roll closed, ending with the seam-side down.

Transfer the completed roll to a platter, and then continue to form 12 rolls. Do not stack the finished rolls, as they will stick together if touching. Cover the finished rolls with lightly oiled parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve the spring rolls, use a very sharp knife to cut each roll in half. Drizzle with the reserved lemon yogurt sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Chef’s Note: If kohlrabi or watermelon radishes are unavailable, substitute with an equal amount of prepared broccoli slaw mix, jicama, or chayote squash.

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Nutrition information per serving: 193 calories; 57 calories from fat; 6 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 6 mg cholesterol; 399 mg sodium; 32g carbohydrate; 10 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 5 g protein.

Black Lentil and Butternut Squash

The Free Press WV

Black lentils have so much drama to them, especially when they are paired with anything that is contrasting in color ... which is pretty much anything that isn’t black as well.

If you prefer to cook the lentils in chicken or vegetable broth, you will have a more flavorful dish all around. If you use vegetarian broth and skip the anchovies, you will have a vegetarian dish, but if that’s not of consequence to you and yours, do keep the anchovies, no matter what liquid you pick. They bring depth and umami and a something-something to the dressing.

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BLACK LENTIL AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH PROVENCAL VINAIGRETTE

Start to finish: 50 minutes

Serves 8

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1 butternut squash

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 cups black lentils

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce or to taste

2 anchovies, rinsed and mashed to a paste with a fork

2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves

2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Fresh thyme sprigs to garnish (optional)

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Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Peel the butternut squash well (this often takes a couple of passes with a vegetable peeler to get to the bright orange flesh), then trim the top and bottom off. Cut the bottom bulb off the squash, then cut both the top part and the bottom part of the squash in half vertically. Use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy bits from the bottom bulb. Slice the squash into slices about two inches in each direction, and 1/4-inch thick.

Place the squash on a rimmed baking sheet and toss it with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and spread it out on the baking sheet so that it is mostly in a single layer. Roast the squash for about 20 minutes until tender, and perhaps slightly browned in a spot or two.

While the squash is roasting, add the lentils to the boiling water or broth. Return to a boil, then adjust the heat so that the liquid is at a simmer, and simmer uncovered for about 20 to 25 minutes until the lentils are tender but not mushy.

While the squash and lentils are cooking, in a small container add the remaining tablespoon olive oil, rice vinegar, Sriracha, anchovy paste, thyme, Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and shake to blend well.

When the lentils have finished cooking, spread them out on a plate or baking sheet and let them cool to warm or room temperature. Place them in a large bowl with the squash, and drizzle the dressing over. Gently toss so they are well coated, and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with the thyme sprigs if desired and serve warm or at room temperature.

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Nutrition information per serving: 224 calories; 37 calories from fat; 4 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 1 mg cholesterol; 327 mg sodium; 39 g carbohydrate; 9 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 11 g protein.

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