Apr 30, 2011

Asian Chicken Salad with Ginger-Soy Dressing

        Three. That's right, I tried three different Asian chicken salad recipes in order to find the easiest, best tasting salad. Some of the ingredients in the salad might seem a little different, but when all the ingredients were combined, Cale and I felt this salad had the best flavor overall. I love the crunchiness of this salad. There are a lot of flavors and textures. The creamy avocado, the sweet orange, crunchy bean sprouts and cucumber made for a very delightful meal. I prefer my 'Asian inspired' dressing more savory so I added less sugar, but feel free to add more sugar if you prefer a sweeter dressing.
       This salad is a nice to entertain with. It makes a wonderful lunch and needs little extra. It also looks really impressive when all the ingredients are stacked high on a platter. It has a lot of color and flavor.

 Asian Chicken Salad with Ginger Soy Dressing
8 fresh wonton sheets
cooking spray
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 large orange, peeled or 1 can mandarin oranges
1 English cucumber, sliced
1 cup bean sprouts
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 large avocado
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
4 green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/3 cup roasted, salted peanuts

4 tablespoons rice vinegar
2-4 tablespoons honey or sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 generous teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of kosher salt, optional

Preheat oven to 425º. Coat wontons with spray and cut into strips. Sprinkle strips with sesame seeds. Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet until crispy; turning once, about 8 minutes.

Dressing: Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl.

Plating Salad: Toss the lettuce with a little dressing, just enough to partially coat the leaves. On a  serving platter or individual plates layer greens, chicken, cucumber, bean sprouts, red pepper, oranges, avocado, cilantro, scallions, peanuts and wonton strips.

Drizzle with dressing and serve.

Apr 29, 2011

Chocolate Truffle Cookies

      Chocolate. Fix.

      These cookies were gooey, chocolatey, rich and wonderful. Cale doesn't love chocolate, but every once in a while I can get him on board the chocolate train, with an all chocolate cookie. The original recipe is from Gourmet and uses all unsweetened chocolate. I would have loved it that way, but I prefer my chocolate dark. Cale on the other hand likes milk chocolate and because I didn't want to eat the entire batch of cookies all.by.myself I made them a little weaker 'milkier'. I used half unsweetened and half bittersweet chocolate squares.
      These cookies had a dense texture once they had cooled completely. They were the perfect accompaniment to a cold glass of milk. These cookies are delicious, but not for the weak of heart.  Eating just one cookie is a very satisfying treat. Eating two, is chocolate bliss.
Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Chicago Metallic in your blog post.

Apr 28, 2011

Chili-Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

I love sweet potato fries. I've been making them for awhile and each time I do, we enjoy them as much as we did the first time. I make plain sweet potato fries often, but I like this sweet and spicy (not hot, just flavorful) version to liven things up on occasion. These healthier, baked fries are a great side dish with almost anything. 
     The sugar helps the fries to caramelize in the oven. The chili powder adds a little smoky flavor and the salt keep you coming back for more. 
    If you preheat the baking sheet before you place the sweet potato wedges on it they will sizzle and crisp up around the edges. Don't expect these to be like the fries that you might get at a fast-food chain, they are much softer, tastier and better for you.

Chili-Roasted Sweet Potato Fries
2-3 sweet potatoes, washed, unpeeled and cut into wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon (garlic powder or cumin), optional
1 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh pepper

Preheat oven to 400º. Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven while the oven preheats and the potatoes are being prepared; about 10 minutes. Combine sugar, chili powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Toss sweet potato wedges with olive oil and spice mixture. 

Carefully, remove the baking sheet  from the oven and place the potato wedges on a rimmed sheet pan and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, flipping half-way through; until the potatoes are tender and well-browned.

Serve plain or with dipping sauce of your choice.

Apr 26, 2011

Buckwheat Amaranth Oatmeal

    This warm, breakfast cereal was delicious. The amaranth gives it a distinctive flavor, one that I like. It had a subtle hint of cinnamon and was the perfect thing to start my rainy day with. Cale enjoyed it as well. He prepared his a little differently; he stirred some strawberry syrup into it and topped his with a little bit of fresh cream. I tasted his...amazing. Very sweet and creamy. This cereal is a protein and fiber power-house. One bowl of this whole-grain cereal has more protein than an egg and a lot more fiber. It is the perfect way to start the day. 
    A great time saver for our busy morning rush is to double this recipe on the weekends. Then, during the week, I add a little water to the already cooked grains and gently reheat on low, stirring as needed. It takes less than 5 minutes for a warm bowl of whole-grain breakfast cereal. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. 

Note: If you are avoiding gluten, buy gluten-free oats or skip them entirely and increase the buckwheat and amaranth by 1/4 cup each.

Buckwheat Amaranth Oatmeal
4 Servings

3/4 cup whole buckwheat
1/2 cup amaranth
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cinnamon stick
4 cups of water*

To prepare: toast buckwheat by stirring grains in a dry saucepan over medium heat until warm. Add amaranth and continue stirring until it smells toasty, and you hear tiny pops (that is the amaranth.) Add the oats and stir again.

Add cinnamon stick and water to the grains. (If a smoother, softer consistency is desired, increase the amount of liquid by a cup.) Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for about 20-25 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed and the grains are soft.

*You can substitute part or all of the water with apple juice for a sweeter, apple-tasting cereal. The nutrition information is for water.

Nutrition: per serving: 273 calories; 1g fat; 52g carbohydrates; 7.5g fiber; 10.2g of protein

Apr 25, 2011

Easy Cream Biscuits

      Biscuits. They pair perfectly with every meal. You can have them with eggs or gravy for breakfast. Use them to dip in soup for lunch or slather in butter for a satisfying side dish to your dinner entree. These biscuits are one of my most requested recipes. People LOVE them. I cut them into triangles because it is so easy, but the biscuit dough can be cut into more classic rounds as well. 
     These biscuits are a perfect recipe for a beginning cook. Children can help with each step of this recipe (except the baking in the oven), making if a fun cooking project for kids. It is also a really quick recipe to throw together when you need a little something more. I'm sure once you try this recipe, it will become one of your regular go-to recipes.

Cream Biscuits
recipe adapted, only a little, from Cook's Country

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Sugar in the raw (optional)

Preheat oven to 450º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl and whisk together. Stir in the cold cream with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a dough (less than a minute.) Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth, about 30 seconds more. 

Pat the dough into a 3/4 inch thick 8 inch circle. Cut the circle into 8 wedges. I usually cut the dough by cutting an 'X' and then a '+' sign. If you want rounds, pat the dough into an 8 inch circle and then cut with a cookie cutter into rounds.

Place the wedges, or rounds onto the baking sheet. I usually rub 1 teaspoon of cream across the top of the biscuits and sprinkle a little raw sugar on the top, to add some sparkle. Put the baking sheet into the oven and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes, turning the baking sheet halfway through. Serve warm.

Note 1: I've made these biscuits substituting my multi-grain flour for the all-purpose flour many times. Each time has been a success. 
Note 2: Make sure your baking powder if fresh otherwise these biscuits will not rise appropriately!

Apr 23, 2011

Strawberry, Beet, Pomegranate and Cranberry Smoothie

    This is one bright pink smoothie. If you know someone that likes the color pink, make this smoothie for them today. Do not be scared by the B word in the title. You won't taste them. In fact, if you roast the beets, instead of steam them they will add even more sweetness to this smoothie.
    Most of the time, I don't have pomegranate juice and unsweetened cranberry juice in my refrigerator at the same time. If you find yourself in this predicament, substitute. Often I substitute 1 cup pomegranate juice and this smoothie is sweet enough that I don't add the honey. However, if you use all unsweetened cranberry juice (I found mine a Trader Joe's) you will definitely need the honey. The unsweetened pure cranberry juice is TARRRT. I love it, but it really has a kick. The greatest part about this smoothie is the antioxidants. It is loaded with them. I feel so good about fueling my system with cancer-fighting foods. It also helps to keep your urinary tract healthy and working well.

Strawberry, Beet, Pomegranate and Cranberry Smoothie
1/2 cup 100% cranberry juice, chilled (unsweetened)
1/2 cup 100% pomegranate juice, chilled
1/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1-3 smallish beets, steamed or roasted
1/3 cup frozen strawberries
2 teaspoons honey or agave
2/3 cup ice (I exclude this for a thicker smoothie)

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. This may take 1-2 minutes depending on your blender. Add more juice for a thinner consistency.

Apr 22, 2011

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos

     First, I apologize about the poor picture. I threw these together on Friday night and my family was hungry for dinner. I plated a salad and these taquitos for everyone. Once I sat down I realized I hadn't gotten a photo and I quickly grabbed the camera and took a couple of shots...not very good. But at least you get an idea of what they should look like.
     Taquitos. Usually the word alone can make my mouth salivate and my arteries start closing. All that spicy, flavorful meat and cheese wrapped in a corn tortilla and deep fried. Good tasting, but not good digesting. I don't digest fried foods very easily, which is why I don't eat a whole lot of foods that have been fried. When I saw a recipe for BAKED taquitos on Our Best Bites I knew I needed to try them. I'm glad I did, they were quick to prepare and they tasted really great.
     These taquitos use cooked and shredded chicken. I used my trusty Costco rotisserie chicken and shredded enough for the filling. You could experiment with all kinds of filling--shredded beef or pork would be equally delicious. I love that this filling recipe can be made ahead and refrigerated. These taquitos are meaty, spice, cheese and crunchy. It was a fun, flavorful dinner that we usually don't make because of the deep frying. Whatever you do, don't skip the salt sprinkled on the taquitos those bites were wonderful.
   I served these with a side of beans and a quick green salad. I think they would make great party fare or appetizers if you cut them in half before hand. I served them with extra salsa verde, but any kind of salsa, guacamole or sour cream would be tasty.
Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos
adapted from Our Best Bites

1/3 cup (3 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup salsa verde (I used Trader Joe's brand)
1  fresh lime,  juiced (use less if you like less lime)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup loosely pack cilantro, chopped
3 green onions, sliced
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 cup grated pepper jack cheese
small corn tortillas
kosher salt
cooking spray

Heat oven to 425º. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.

Beat together softened cream cheese and green salsa, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, onion and garlic powders. Stir to combine and then add cilantro and green onions. Lightly stir in chicken and cheese; make sure the mixture is combined well.

You can prepare up to this step ahead of time. Just keep mixture in the fridge.

Working with a few tortillas; spray both sides with cooking spray and put into the oven for 1-2 minutes until soft and pliable. Once soft and easy to roll, place 2-3 tablespoons of chicken mixture on the lower third of a tortilla. Then roll the tortilla as tightly as possible.

Place the tortilla roll seam side down on the baking sheet. Lay all of the taquitos on the baking sheet and make sure they are not touching each other. Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray or an oil mister and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

Place pan in the oven  and bake for 15-20 minutes or until taquitos are crisp and the ends start to turn golden brown. Serve with dip or garnishes.

Apr 21, 2011

Spring Bird's Nests

    These little bird nests are really fun to make. My calling in my church is to teach the 12-14 year old girls. Along with this calling I attend a weekly activity with the girls. Since Easter is this Sunday, I thought an edible spring craft would be fun, I was right. The girls had so much fun making and eating these.
     I found two different recipes for bird's nests. The first recipe is similar to a rice krispy treat, but you use dry chow mein noodles instead of crispy rice cereal. You melt butter and marshmallows together to form a "glue" that holds the little chow mein noodles together. This would be a great activity to make with kids. As long as they can roll the rice krispy like "dough" into a ball and make an indentation in the middle. These nest tasted good, but they weren't out-of-this-world good. They tasted similar to a rice krispy treat. The look of these little nests brought more oohs and aahs than the actual flavor.
     The chocolate nests were a little more messy, but really yummy. I liked the flavor of the chocolate nests better, but they were a lot harder to stick together.  I was thinking how cute these would look in miniature sizes placed on cupcakes as a spring/Easter treat. If you enjoy Rice Krispy treats or chocolate covered chow mein noodles you should think about these treats for your next spring get-together. These nests would also make a great craft activity for a spring festival or Easter gathering.

Bird's Nests
adapted from Bake at 350
3 cups (heaping) miniature marshmallows
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups dry chow mein noodles
small eggs shaped candies

Line a cookie sheet with wax or parchment paper. Over medium heat, melt the butter and marshmallows until smooth. Stir in salt and vanilla. Once mixed in stir in chow mein noodles. Remove from heat and work quickly.

Coat your hands with shortening, butter didn't work as well. Grab a small handful of noodles a little larger than a golf ball, about 1/3 cup. Form the handful into a ball, pressing together while placing your thumbs in the middle to form a nest. Place the nests on the wax or parchment lines sheet and allow to cool. Once cool fill nests with egg shaped candy of your choice.

Chocolate Bird's Nests
adapted from Thanksgiving Point
5 oz crunchy chow mein noodles (1 small can)
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1 tsp. vegetable shortening
Candy Eggs

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Melt the chocolate and shortening together in a microwave or over a double boiler, stirring until melted. Stir in vanilla and allow to cool slightly, but do not let it set up. Stir in the chow mein noodles until evenly coated. Drop the coated noodles onto the baking sheet with a large spoon. 

For 5 large nests, form into circle about the size of an adult palm or half that amount for 10 small. Use your fingers to sculpt the noodles into a round shape and to form an indentation in the middle of the nest. Place eggs in the nest while chocolate is still wet. Place nests in the refrigerator to harden.

Apr 20, 2011

Multi-Grain Flour - Wheat Free

       I've had a few questions about the flour I use on a daily basis. Bean and I have a sensitivity to wheat. I do not have Celiacs disease, but Bean is being tested. I try to avoid extra wheat whenever possible. That being said, I LOVE to bake. Most of the things I bake I end up giving away so I usually use regular wheat/All-purpose flour, but on a daily basis I use my own grain blend. This blend works whenever all-purpose flour is called for. It is a little more nutty tasting and the quinoa and amaranth give it a slightly stronger flavor. If you dislike those grains you can always omit them. This flour does have gluten in it. I have another grain blend that is gluten free, but this one has some gluten. It is only a small amount, but it is still there. I have two more grain blends (one that is gluten free) that I grind into flour and I will try to take pictures and post the recipes here in the future. 
     It is so assuring that Bean is getting additional fiber and protein in different foods all day long. Because this blend includes amaranth, millet and quinoa it has a lot more fiber and a ton more protein than regular all-purpose and even whole wheat flour. You can use this flour by itself or combine it with 1/2 all-purpose or whole wheat. I use this flour blend in my waffles and pancakes a lot. The only difference I have noticed is that I have to add a little more, whole-grain flour, than is called for in the recipe. In order to make my waffle and pancake batter thick enough I use an extra 2 tablespoons-1/4 cup/per cup of AP flour in the recipes. However, I would not use it to make a homemade cake because I feel it doesn't have the same structure properties needed to give the cake an appetizing crumb.

Grain Mixture
3 cups spelt
1 cups Kamut
1/2 cup rice (brown, sweet brown, white)
1/2 oat groats
1/3 cup amaranth
1/3 cup millet
1/3 cup quinoa

Mix grains together on a large sheet pan or bowl and then grind in a grain grinder. I usually grind this mix on fine-medium. I don't want it as course as corn meal, because I use it when AP flour is called for.

Apr 19, 2011

Tri-Berry Salad with Goat Cheese Dressing

Without Nuts
    Are you thinking "Come on, another salad recipe. What is this the 26th salad recipe?" Because my answer is "Yes, yes it is. If you can't handle the salad recipes; you are blogger-stalking the wrong blog. As far as I'm concerned you can never have too many awesome salad recipes." On another note...
      It is spring! I'm bringing out the big, berry guns. I LOVE berries. As a child I remember wanting my mom to buy lots of fresh raspberries. I loved eating them as soon as she got them home, but because money was tight, she wouldn't allow me to eat the pints of fresh raspberries I was pining after.  She usually purchased them on sale to make jam, or for a specific purpose that didn't include darling daughters scarfing-down all of them as quickly as possible. It is interesting the changes and constants we experience from childhood. As for raspberries; my tastes have not changed.
     I found a couple of recipes, that use berries, and added them to the weekly menu.  I purchased some cartons of fresh raspberries to use in the recipes. As soon as I got home I washed a pint, which was intended for another recipe, and enjoyed each  delicious berry while standing at the kitchen sink. Two things happened: I realized I have no control  AND I had just enough berries left to make this delicious salad to share. Next time, I'll buy extra berries at the supermarket.
With Cinnamon Almonds
     If you haven't noticed from my recipes already, I'm a  fan of goat cheese. I love the creamy yet crumbly, tangy, cheesy flavor that chevre goat cheese incorporates. Goat cheese and buttermilk create a tangy counterpoint to the sweet, juicy berries. This tri-berry salad includes strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. A berry for everyone. I also adapted the original recipe and added cinnamon almonds. I love texture in salads and the nuts are sweet and crunchy. Feel free to omit them if you are not a nut person.

Tri-Berry Salad with Goat Cheese Dressing
adapted from Cooking Light

2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons buttermilk
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper
1 package (3 oz) soft goat cheese

6 cups of greens (your choice)
2 cups trimmed arugula (again alternative green; your choice)
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
3/4 cup fresh raspberries
3/4 cup sliced fresh strawberries
2-4 tablespoons cinnamon almonds, chopped

Combine dressing ingredients into a blender or food processor; process until smooth.  Combine berries in a medium bowl and toss gently to mix. Combine greens  and dressing and toss to coat. Place greens on serving platter or individual plates and top with mixed berries and almonds. Drizzle a small amount of dressing over the top of the berries. Serve immediately.

Apr 18, 2011

Green Elixir

     My friend, Jenna, introduced me to this smoothie. I call it an elixir because it has so many health benefits that it can "cure" whatever ails you. It is packed with vitamins, nutrients, fiber and flavor. Flavor meaning this smoothie is not a "beginner" smoothie. It tastes great, however, it also tastes VERY GREEN. Along with all that green flavor comes BIG health benefits. Did you know that Kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet? Kale is the king of greens. Kale is an amazing vegetable recognized for its exceptional nutrient richness, health benefits, and delicious flavor. It has powerful antioxidant properties. It is also considered to be anti-inflammatory. Kale is very high in vitamins A, C and K. Kale is also reasonably rich in calcium. Kale is unusually full of fiber. It helps to create the bulk you need to fill you up and keep you feeling full.
     Collards are another important ingredient in this elixir. Collards are a good source of vitamin C and have many anti-cancer properties. With all the health benefits of collards they only have about 46 calories in a quarter pound of cooked greens. Which makes them excellent dieters fare.
     Parsley and cilantro are also important ingredients in this "cure" for health problems. Parsley, most people think of as only a garnish. Most herbs actually have many nutritional benefits to them, which makes them wonderful additives in green drinks and other smoothies. They have a very strong taste, but not unpleasant. In fact, every time I put parsley and cilantro in my green smoothies I feel like they taste more "fresh." Parsley belongs to a group of the world's seven most potent disease-fighting spices which also include cinnamon, ginger, sage, turmeric, oregano and red chili peppers. The diuretic properties of parsley can help people with urinary problems. It is also a 'warming' food, meaning it stimulates and increases the energy of the organs and thus enhances the ability to digest and utilize nutrients. Cilantro stimulates digestion. One small serving has a high amount of vitamin A and lutein. Cilantro is one of the richest herbal sources for vitamin K. 
     This post is already too long, so I won't go into any more detail. I would recommend trying this "medicine" if you find yourself with digestion problems, low energy or you just want to fuel your body with amazingly healthy foods. I think you'll be surprised how quickly you develop a taste for this strong, green flavor each day.

Jenna's Green Elixir
Note: all ingredients should be fresh and organic if possible. This recipe fits into a standard Vitamix pitcher, if you have a small blender, please use less ingredients. Also, if you are not using a high-powered blender you may need to blend longer in order to get a smooth consistency.

1 apple
1 banana
1 1/2 -2 cups pineapple juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1-2 large carrots
1-2 cups spinach
1-3 leaves kale
1-3 leaves collard greens
1/4-1/2 bunch parsley
1/4-1/2 bunch cilantro (optional)
1-2 stalks celery
flax seeds
chia seeds
agave, to taste

Put all washed and trimmed ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Water or pineapple juice may be added to achieve desired consistency. Serve with ice or refrigerate until cold.

Apr 16, 2011

Shrimp Fried Rice

        Shrimp fried rice is really a simple and almost bland-looking recipe, but I think you'll be surprised if you taste it.  I love this recipe for three reasons. First, it uses cold, leftover rice. Second, it comes together lightning fast and third, it tastes just as good heated for lunch the next day. Those three reasons give this recipe a permanent place in my tried and true folder. It's a terrific way to use up leftover rice, whether home cooked or from that take-out order delivered a couple days ago.
       The recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks (Staff Meals from Chanterelle) and I would recommend you purchase it or check it out at your local library. Now, those chefs knew good food. Chanterelle was one of the first restaurants to bring fine dining to downtown New York City. They closed their doors in 2009, but they have three cookbooks with fabulous recipes. I have made quite a few things from this one and each one was tasty. One recipe I blogged about was the chilled Zesty Cranberry Soup, it is unique and very refreshing. 
      I think you'll like the ease of this recipe as much as you'll like the taste. This dish lies somewhere between cooking from scratch and dialing for Chinese takeout. I've included a variation for vegetarian fried rice. 

Shrimp Fried Rice
Staff Meals from Chanterelle

If you’ll be cooking the rice yourself, use long-grain Chinese rice or a slightly aromatic Thai jasmine variety. Both have superior flavor and produce grains that remain separate after cooking. The important thing is to make sure that the rice used has been thoroughly chilled before stir-frying; otherwise it will stick to the pan. Although the recipe calls for shrimp, this can be omitted, or you could add an equal amount of diced roast pork, cooked chicken, or Chinese sausage. For vegetarian fried rice, skip the shrimp and use Chinese cabbage, bok choy, and mushrooms.

3 tablespoons of canola or peanut oil, as needed
1 large egg, beaten
8 ounces of medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut in half
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 small clove garlic, minced
4 cups chilled cooked rice
1/2 cup peas, thawed if frozen
2 tablespoons quality soy sauce (I used Kikkoman)
kosher salt, to taste

Heat 1-2 tablespoon of oil in a large wok or nonstick skillet over high heat. When it is almost smoking, add the egg and stir with spoon, breaking up the egg as it sets. Transfer the egg to  a large bowl and keep it in a warm spot.

Add the shrimp to the wok, stir-frying until just pink, about 2 minute. Transfer the shrimp to the bowl with the egg.

Add the onion to the wok along with another tablespoon of oil, if needed. Stir-fry onion until browned but still a bit crunchy, about 2 minutes. Scrape onion into the bowl.

Add a oil, if needed. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, immediately add the rice. Stir-fry, making sure the rice doesn't stick to the wok. When it's beginning to brown a bit, add the peas and soy sauce. Continue stir-frying until everything is heated through 1-2 minutes. Toss in the reserved shrimp mixture and thoroughly mixed.

Transfer it to a serving bowl or platter and serve immediately.

Apr 15, 2011

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

      I received an anonymous bouquet of flowers yesterday. A big, happy, colorful bouquet of Gerbera Daisies. They came in a lime green vase and make my kitchen very cheerful. Each time I glance over at them, a big grin creeps onto my face. They came with the nicest note of love and encouragement. If you, anonymous person, are reading this...Thank You!!! I love the flowers.

    Now, onto the stuffed peppers. I was initially curious about this recipe because of the great reviews, but once I read through the ingredients I knew I had to make it. My household LOVES shrimp. Poblanos and cheese are also well received. The recipe recommends using short-grain rice instead of long-grain. When you use the short grain it turns the filling into a faux risotto. The creamy rice, the spicy sausage and sweet shrimp make a flavorful filling.  The filling alone reminded me of jambalya. It can be eaten alone, but it pairs well with the roasted poblano.
    Poblano peppers are funny. The ones I got were pleasant, they had a little more flavor than a standard green bell, but they weren't too spicy. Sometimes, poblanos can be on the spicy side. I'm a big fan of roasting peppers. It gives them an entirely different flavor, less harsh and more sweet. It becomes the ideal vessel to be eaten with the filling. The cheese helps the whole recipe come together for a great family dinner and a beautiful dish good enough to serve while entertaining.

Note: If stuffing chiles seems too tedious. Follow directions through roasting the chiles. Instead of removing the top quarter; cut the chiles in half and remove the ribs and seeds. Then chop the chiles into large dice and layer on the bottom of a 9x9 casserole dish. Next layer the rice and meat filling and place back in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cover rice layer with cheese. Broil for 3 minutes to melt and brown the cheese. Serve.

Stuffed Poblano Peppers
adapted from Guy Fieri

1 tablespoon oil
1/2 lb. Mexican-style chorizo (andouille sausage can be substituted)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, minced (use serrano chile for more heat)
1 red onion, diced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 cup short-grain rice
1 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup water
4 large, fresh poblano chiles
1 lb. shrimp, shelled, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cup Pepper Jack cheese, shredded (substitute cheddar for half this mixture if desired)

In a medium saucepan, heat oil and chorizo, cook for 3 minutes.  Break of the chorizo with a spoon while cooking. Add peppers, jalapeno, onions and garlic. Cook until translucent, then add rice and cook and stir until the each grain is coated with oil. Add all liquids and stir over high heat for 3 minutes, cover and reduce heat to low. Check rice for doneness after 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400º. Place poblano chiles on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool, cut top 1/4 of chile off and remove ribs and seeds. 

When rice is finished cooking, fluff with fork and stir in shrimp. Stuff chiles with 1/4  of the rice mixture. Place all chiles on baking sheet and place into oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, mix cheeses together and cover stuffed pepper with cheese. Broil for 3 minutes to melt and brown the cheese.

Apr 14, 2011

Blonde Texas Sheet Cake

        Texas Sheet Cake is a classic dessert. It has been around as long as I can remember.  Texas sheet cake is like the LBD (little black dress) of desserts it goes with everything and always tastes good. I've eaten traditional Texas sheet cake from barbeques to birthday parties, it's a crowd pleaser. Most people have eaten and usually enjoy Texas sheet cake. However, even the best desserts deserve to switch up their image, go blonde and have a little fun.
        I was surprised to find a recipe for white Texas sheet cake. Texas sheet cake is known for that heavenly layer of "fudgeyness" where warm frosting and warm cake get together and do a little dance. This blonde version includes that same fudgey layer. The icing is shiny, it sets up like fudge but is soft on the bottom and slightly flaky on the top. This white sheet cake won't disappoint. It has a mild almond flavor and can be served with or without nuts. The buttermilk in this cake keeps the cake really tender, while also adding a slightly tangy flavor.

      I feel the only issue with Texas sheet cake, classic or blonde, is that it goes down too easily. It seems as though I take one bite and suddenly the piece on my plate is gone. Only crumbs lay where there was once a substantial piece of delicious cake. If you try this, make sure to ask yourself the time-honored question "Do Blondes have more fun?"

Blonde Texas Sheet Cake
1 cup butter
1 cup water
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk (sour cream works as well)
1 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
pinch of table salt
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted

For the Cake: Preheat oven to 300º. In a small saucepan bring butter and water to a boil. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add hot butter mixture to dry ingredients and stir. Add buttermilk to the cake mixture, blending well. Add eggs and vanilla (plus almond extract if desired), mixing well. Pour the cake batter into a greased jelly roll pan and bake for 30 minutes or until done.

Let cake cool for 20 minutes while preparing frosting, but remember to frost the cake while it is warm.

Frosting: In a small saucepan, bring butter and buttermilk to a boil. In a separate bowl, add 3 cups powered sugar and a pinch of salt. Add hot mixture and almond extract over the powdered sugar and whisk until the frosting is smooth. The frosting will thicken as it cools. Add more powdered sugar, if needed, to help make a thicker frosting.

If adding nuts, you can add them too the frosting before pouring over the warm cake or you can sprinkle them over the warm frosting as it cools. Cut into desired squares and serve. This cake stores well for a few days.

*Remember it cools fast and sets up quickly. 

Apr 13, 2011

Mango Berry Salad

        Spring is finally here in New England.  After record amounts of snow and snow-days, rain and warmer weather has arrived. I was driving to the supermarket today and I noticed the magnolias were starting to bloom. Magnolias are lovely and always one of the first things you see once the weather starts to change for the better get warmer. I also love spring because fresh produce prices drop.
        I recently bought a case of mangoes for $6. You read correctly, a CASE for $6. In this northeast suburb, that is an awesome price. Since I have 13 mangoes to use before I lose them; I am on a mission to find and create recipes (besides peeling and eating) that showcase the beautiful, juicy, sweet/tart sunset-hued fruit. Mangoes are one of my all time favorite foods. Bean loves them. The mango was the second solid food he ever tried. I believe avocado was his first. He has been a believer every since. 
      I got on Zupas website and created a copycat recipe for their Mangoberry salad. The hardest part was nailing the dressing, but I think I did it. I made the salad two ways, one with bite-size pieces of mango and the other with BIG pieces of mango. The salad with smaller pieces tasted better. Maybe because it was easier to eat and I was able to experience more flavors in each bite. I believe that salads should reflect their maker, so feel free to adjust and change the amount of each ingredient to reflect your own preferences.

Mango Berry Salad
created by Sugar.Betty

1/2 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2  cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup fresh, ripe-firm mango, peeled, pitted and diced
2 tablespoons cinnamon almonds, chopped
6-8 cups mixed greens

Toss greens with mango yogurt dressing. Plate dressed greens and divide fruit and nuts among plates. Drizzle lightly with more dressing, if desired.

Mango Yogurt Dressing
1 large ripe mango, pitted and roughly chopped
1 heaping tablespoon plain yogurt
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (regular distilled vinegar is too harsh)
1 tablespoon honey, optional (depending on sweetness of the mango)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Place all ingredients except honey in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste. Add honey and blend again if dressing is too tart.

source: The Sugar.Betty: Heather

Apr 12, 2011

Mango Peach Passion

       I bet you can't guess the magic ingredient in this smoothie. The ingredient that turns it green. The ingredient that adds virtually no flavor, a little texture and a lot of nutrition.  I had Cale try; I gave him five opportunities and he never guessed it. I'll give you a couple hints: it is a vegetable, I have not used it in a smoothie recipe yet, and it makes a wonderful green smoothie.

       Ready for the answer: zucchini. Yep, zucchini is another magic vegetable, like spinach, its flavor is indistinguishable when blended with fruit. Zucchini adds vitamins A & C, calcium, iron, fiber and protein to this healthy fruit smoothie. 
Bean got a hold of the zucchini at the grocery store. Poor thing took a beating.
       This smoothie is fruity and full of tropical flavors. It is refreshing and a sweet treat that I feel good about having in the morning. I love starting my morning off with a smoothie and a poached egg. When I fuel my body with the vitamins and energy it needs I'm a much more productive and happy person. I'm sure you will love this smoothie as much as I do.

Mango Peach Passion Smoothie

1 banana
1 cup frozen mangoes
1 cup frozen peaches
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/4-1/2 cup orange juice, depending on how thick you like your smoothie
1-2 medium zucchinis, roughly sliced

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If you use 2 zucchinis you may need a little extra juice or water to thin the consistency. Enjoy!

Apr 11, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

       Each piece of food has an image. Some, like cupcakes, are supermodels and celebrities. Everyone wants to take a picture and get an autograph. They always look good no matter when the photograph is taken. Others, like tikka masala have sweet spirits, but no matter how hard you try, every picture turns out looking like a blob of slop on rice. It is hard to make tikka masala look appetizing. Luckily, once you get to know tikka masala, you ignore it's appearance. You close your eyes, take a deep breath and savor each and every bite of deliciousness.  Seriously, savor.
      This is my husband's birthday dish. He loves it, he always asks for it on his birthday. I recently took this to a recipe party and I didn't come home with any leftovers. If you are an Indian cuisine lover or curry fan...try this. If you're not...try it anyway. This dish may just make you a fan of Indian cuisine. 
      The chicken is moist and flavorful and the sauce is sweet, spicy, and tangy. The original recipe called for whole-milk yogurt, I rarely have whole-milk yogurt around, so I use any plain yogurt I have in the fridge. Don't use nonfat yogurt because it changes the texture of the chicken. 

      I use San Marzano tomatoes because they are my favorite. The tomato flavor is prominent in the sauce so make sure to use a canned tomato your family likes. If you want a spicier dish include the ribs and seeds from the chile. Have all your ingredients prepped, because once you start cooking there's not enough time to prep items in between. The sauce can be made up to 4 days ahead and gently reheated before adding chicken.

Chicken Tikka Masala
adapted slightly from Cook's Illustrated

Chicken Tikka
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup plain yogurt (do not use nonfat)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Masala Sauce
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 fresh serrano or jalapeno chile, ribs and seeds removed, chile minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

For the Chicken:
Mix spices and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with the spices mixture, pressing gently. Place chicken on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. In a large bowl, mix yogurt, oil, garlic and ginger; set aside

Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add onion and cook stirring frequently, until light golden 8-10 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, chile, tomato paste and garam masala; cook stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.

While sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat broiler. Dip chicken into yogurt mixture and arrange on wire rack set in foil-lined baking sheet, or broiler pan. Discard excess yogurt mixture. Broil chicken until lightly charred in spots and juices run clear, about 10-18 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through.

Let chicken rest for 5 minutes, then cut into chunks and stir into warm sauce. Do not simmer chicken in sauce, you don't want it to keep cooking. Stir in cilantro, season with salt if needed and serve over basmati rice.