Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Orange Peel Chicken

Ever have one of those days when you go to make a recipe and you discover one of the headliners your kids ate for a snack the day before? This was one of those days. Thus, my orange peel chicken didn't have orange peel, but it still tasted great. Next time, I'll use orange peel.

This was based off a Pei Wei (PF Chang's fast food little sister) dish. I was a little hesitant about the recipe because it was from a source I hadn't used before (I am learning to take caution on the internet in regards to recipes). However, it turned out great, but I already said that, didn't I. I made some serious adjustments to the recipes between not having oranges and not liking to fry foods. It was a hit though and everyone loved it.

Orange Peel Chicken
adapted from PF Chang (supposedly)

1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 green onions, sliced
1 c tomato sauce
1/2 c water
1/4 c sugar
2 T chili garlic sauce (optional)
1 T soy sauce
4 chicken breast fillets (2 whole breasts), cut into bite sized pieces
peel from 1/4 orange, julienned (18" thick strips), optional

Place olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and green onions and saute for 30 seconds. Add tomato sauce, water, sugar, chili garlic sauce, and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Simmer 5 - 6 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Set aside.

In a wok or large skillet, heat a couple of T olive oil. Add the chicken and stir fry, until chicken is cooked. Add the orange peel and cook 30 seconds before adding the sauce. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring gently a couple of times, or until the sauce thickens. Serve on brown or white rice.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vegetable Enchiladas

It is officially zucchini and summer squash season. It has begun. Unfortunately, I still remember disliking summer squash last summer and just the knowledge that it is in a dish is enough to make me want to go running and screaming away.

I attempted this anyway, knowing there would be large hunks of zucchini in it. It was alright. My kids didn't love it, but Curtis thought it was great and I found it tolerable (which is equal to great when it comes to recipes with chunks of zucchini in it). This recipe is based off of the enchilada's at Mother's Cafe and Garden, supposedly.

I will make this again this summer. For those of you who like zucchini more than me, you will probably love this.

This serves 4 - 6.

Vegetable Enchiladas
adapted from nannydeb on Food52.com

3 red bell peppers, cut into 4 large pieces each, seeds, and stem removed
2 zucchini, cut into 1" chunks
2 summer squash, cut into 1" chunks
1/2 yellow onion, cut into 1" chunks
1 med jalapeno, cut in half, seeds and stem removed (optional)
2 garlic cloves, skin still on
1 (15-oz) can black, kidney, or pinto beans
8 oz sour cream
2 T cilantro, chopped
1 t cumin
salt and pepper
8 - 10 corn tortillas
1 c queso fresco, crumbled (or Monterey Jack cheese will do too).

Spread peppers, zucchini, squash, onion, jalapeno, and onion on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast vegetables in a preheated 400 degrees oven for 20 - 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. As soon as vegetables are tender, remove from oven (you're not going for mush here). The bell peppers and garlic will probably be tender first and browned first. Remove those first if they are. Place the bell peppers in a bag or covered bowl and allow to sweat for 10 minutes. Remove the skins from the bell peppers and garlic. Set the remaining vegetables aside to cool.

Place the bell peppers, jalapeno (if using), and garlic in a food processor along with the sour cream, 1 T cilantro, and the cumin. Puree until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Mix together the cooled vegetables and the can of beans (your choice). Put a large spoonful or two of sauce in a 9 x 9" baking pan. Soften the tortillas by your preferred method--mine is microwaving 4 of them at a time for 15 - 20 seconds (or 30 if I accidently don't get them out in time). Place approx. 1/4 cup of vegetable mixture and a sprinkling of cheese into each tortilla. Roll up as tightly as possible and put into baking pan. Repeat until you use all the filling---I think I made 10 enchiladas. Spread the remaining sauce over top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. (If you want, you can refrigerate until baking at this point). Bake in a preheated 400 degrees oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until hot. Garnish with remaining cilantro, your favorite salsa (especially if you left out the jalapenos because of your children), and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Smoky Minestrone with Cheesy Tortellini and Parsley Pesto

I am coming to learn that Minestrone is the Italian version of stone soup or the Mexican chicken caldo. It works great as a clean out the vegetable crisper soup, which could be why I have so many different versions of minestrone on my blog. This one is great for using zucchini, potatoes, and leafy greens.

There are several things I love about this soup. Thing 1 is the tortellini. In my humble opinion, one can never go wrong with cheese tortellini. Ever. Thing 2 is the parsley pesto. Although we are starting basil season her in CenTex, I used store bought parsley that was languishing in my crisper drawer. I like the slight bite of parsley better and had no desire to use the basil that was also languishing in my crisper drawer.

We all love this soup. The kids even ate the zucchini in this without a complaint. Being swim season and all these days, M ate three servings. I was pleased to be able to pull a leek from my little raised garden to use in this soup. The vegetable amounts are estimates--since I had small carrots and potatoes, I used 6 small carrots and 4 small potatoes.

This serves at least 6 and possibly 8. It is equally good on a warm, muggy early summer (yes, the end of May is early summer here) afternoon as it is on a cold winter's evening.

Smoky Minestrone with Cheesy Tortellini
adapted from WinnieAb on Food52

3 T olive oil
2 oz bacon or pancetta, chopped into small pieces (both chop easier if partially frozen)
1 lg onion, peeled and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 medium-large potato, peeled and chopped
4 c chicken stock
1 (15-oz) can chickpeas
1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes
1 c kale, chard, or collards, roughly chopped
1 (9-oz) pkg cheese tortellini

1 c packed parsley leaves
2 T pine nuts, toasted
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T Parmesan cheese, grated
1 T olive oil

Heat 1 T of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon or pancetta and cook until they have started to brown. Add 2 more T of oil, if the pot looks dry, along with the onion, leek, and garlic. Continue to cook over medium heat until softened. Add the celery, carrot, zucchini, and potato. Stir for a minute or two. Add the stock, chickpeas, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or so, or until the potatoes are tender (that will depend on how small you cut the potatoes).

If you are making this soup ahead of time, stop here. Finish right before you are ready to eat.

While the soup simmers, make the pesto. I find it easiest to do this by hand, based on the small recipe. Chop the parsley until it is very, very fine. Chop the toasted pine nuts and garlic. Add to the parsley, along with the Parmesan. Stir in the olive oil. Set aside.

Add the kale and tortellini to the soup(if you are using chard, add that a minute or two after the tortellini), and cook 7 minutes, or until cooked through. Taste and add more salt. Serve and garnish individual bowls with a nice spoonful of parsley pesto, as desired.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Boston Creme Pie

It was my birthday the other day. I made my own birthday cake.

That's right. For the past couple of years, I have requested to make my own cake. My daughter tells me that's just wrong, I can't make my own cake. However, I am a cake snob. I don't like grocery store cakes and bakery cakes tend to get right pricey. So, I make my own. That means I get to choose the kind of cake I get and generally, I know I will like how it tastes. Granted, if my husband volunteered to make me a cake (which he has before), I would let him. I also have many friends who I would let make my cake. At this point though, based off of all of our busy lives, it's just easiest to make my own.

The past two years, this is the cake I've requested. Growing up, my mom would always make her chocolate cake. Boston Creme Pie has replaced that cake though, thanks to the layer of pudding in the middle (those who know me well, know I am a total sucker for pudding) and a rich bittersweet chocolate ganache on the top. The only downfall is that it doesn't serve as many people as a traditional three layer cake because of it's size. I tend to cut these pieces much larger than a chocolate cake because overall, it isn't as sweet or as rich.

Boston Creme Pie
from my mom (who got it maybe from Betty Crocker cookbook) plus a few adaptions of my own

Chiffon Cake
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 c sugar, divided
2 1/4 c sifted cake flour
3 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 c milk, divided
1 1/2 t vanilla

Beat egg whites until frothy to soft peaks stage (easiest to use a rotary beater---my large kitchenaid doesn't beat just two egg whites very well). Gradually beat in 1/2 c sugar. Continue beating until very stiff and glossy. Set aside. In a bowl of a mixer, blend flour, 1 c sugar baking powder and salt. Add oil, 1/2 c milk, and vanilla. Beat one minute at medium speed. Add remaining milk and egg yolks. Beat another minute, scraping sides of bowl frequently. Fold in beaten egg whites. Divide batter evenly between two greased, floured 9" round pans or split between 12 cupcakes and 1 greased, floured 9" pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 - 35 minutes for round pan and 17 - 20 minutes for cupcakes.

Pudding Filling
1/2 c sugar
2 T cornstarch
1/2 t salt
2 c milk
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 T butter
2 t vanilla

While the cake bakes, make the pudding filling. Mix together the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepan. Gradually stir in meat. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil one minute, continuing to stir constantly. Remove from heat and slowly stir in 1/2 of hot mixture into the egg yolk in a heat proof bowl or measuring cup. Blend egg mixture into remaining hot mixture in saucepan. Boil one additional minute. Remove from heat, add butter and vanilla, stirring to combine. Push pudding through a sieve to prevent any lumps (like any egg whites that may have ended up with the yolks). Cool, stirring occasionally.

Chocolate Ganache
1/4 c heavy cream
2 T water
2 T sugar
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, cut into large chunks

Once the cake and pudding has cooled, prepared the chocolate ganache. Bring the cream, water, and sugar to a full boil. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Pour the boiling cream mixture over the chocolate and let sit for 30 seconds. Stir with a whisk to melt chocolate. Allow to cool slightly so it can pour in a thick ribbon.

To assemble cake: Cut the 9" round cake in half. Top bottom half with about 3/4 of the pudding (you can use it all if you want, but I only use about 3/4 of the pudding. I eat the rest of the pudding plain). Put top half on the pudding layer. Pour the ganache over the top, smoothing with an offset spatula. If you are so inclined, you can attempt to drizzle the ganache down the sides of the cake as well. (I usually only drizzle accidentally).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pork and Shrimp Dumplings with Bok Choy and Noodles

My children are getting older. That is a "Well, duh, Melani" comment if there ever was one, but sometimes, these observations are more evident than others.

Take this meal for instance. For a change, cooking supper was made infinitely easier because of my daughter's help. Going on 6, M is becoming quite a commis (don't be impressed, I had to wikipedia it to find the right word). We have found some recipes that she can almost make by herself now that she can read recipes. For this meal, I did the chopping and M did the mixing and shaping of the dumplings.

Making dumplings are perfect for little hands that want to help in the kitchen. Being the non-artistic, non-perfectionist that I am, I wasn't concerned what the dumplings looked like. This could have to do with the fact that the recipe I was using had no instructions on how to shape dumplings except: "seal and shape." Hmm. Thus, I basically went for sealed.

We loved this meal. M particularly loved it because she had such an integral part of making the meal. The recipe makes twice as many dumplings as we used. I froze the leftovers dumplings and will pull them out next time I have some bok choy that I need to use. Easy dinner.

While making dumplings may seem daunting and time consuming, on a whole this recipe wasn't terribly difficult to make or that time consuming. I am sure it helped considerably that I had M doing all the dirty work. :)

Pork and Shrimp Dumplings with Bok Choy and Noodles
adapted from Cindy Lee Roberts on Food52

1 lb ground pork
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and chopped
1/4 c spring onions or scallions, chopped
1/2 inch piece of ginger, finely grated
3/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 t sesame oil
1 t Mirin or white cooking wine
1 packet dumpling or wonton wrappers (you'll need 50)
8 oz somen, soba, or udon noodles
a bunch (approx 8 oz) of bok choy, sliced into 1" ribbons and roughly chopped

1 1/2 T fish sauce (Nuac Mam or something similar)
1 T soy sauce
2 t white vinegar
1 t chili garlic paste (optional)
1/2 t sesame oil
1/3 c spring onion or scallions, finely chopped
1/3 c cilantro, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced

Mix together the pork, shrimp, spring onions, ginger, salt, pepper, sesame oil, and wine in a medium bowl. Place about 1 T of the mixture into the bottom half of a dumpling or wonton wrapper. Using your index finger, make a border of water around the filling. Fold the top half over and seal (the water is necessary for the dumpling to seal shut).

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. The following will depend on what kind of noodles you use. If you use a fast cooking, thin noodle like somen or rice threads (vermicelli), add the dumplings to the boil water first and add the noodles when there are two or three minutes left. If you are using a slower cooking, thicker noodle, like udon, add the noodles first, cook for a couple of minutes, and then add the dumplings. The dumplings need around 8 minutes in the boiling water to cook through. The easiest way to test to see if the dumplings are finished is to just break one open.

Meanwhile, mix all the sauce ingredients together and set aside.

Add the bok choy to the noodles and the dumplings and cook a minute or so more, or until the bok choy has wilted. Drain the noodles, et al. Pour the sauce over top and gently combine, being careful not to break the noodles. Garnish with a little cilantro and serve. (If you left out the chili garlic sauce because of children's sensitive tastes, you can put a little bit on top of each serving, as desired).