Monday, April 23, 2018

Asian Chicken and Veggies


  Are you looking for a dish that comes together in just a few minutes?? If so, I think I've found the perfect thing for you! Lately I've been in the mood for take-out Chinese food, but then I thought "Well, I have a wok, I can just make it myself!!" And frankly I could be enjoying a delicious dish LONG before the food would arrive anyway. So here we go!
 I found (and ever so slightly tweaked) a recipe for Sauteed Asian Broccoli, but then I wound up adding chicken and a few other veggies. Actually, I swapped out a couple sauce ingredients and changed a few of the amounts too. Wait, actually, I didn't cook it the same way either. Anyway, this is where I landed! And honestly, it turned out so perfectly, I immediately made another batch, just so I would have leftovers! It's SO tasty!!! And seriously, it cooks so quickly, it's literally ready in less time than it takes to cook the rice. Now that's what I call a perfect week night meal! Even if you don't have a wok, give this recipe a try. Just use a big saute pan! For an even speedier time, you can prep the chicken and veggies the night before!
Hope you like it!


2-3 cups stir fry veggies of your choice (broccoli, peppers, snap peas, carrots, etc)
2 tbs vegetable oil
1/4 cup water, plus a few splashes
2 pc boneless chicken breast, VERY THINLY sliced into small pieces
3 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs cornstarch
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, finely minced or grated
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
 toasted sesame seeds for garnish


Heat the oil in a large pan or wok over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the veggies and stir to coat in the oil. Add a few splashes of water. Cover and let the veggies steam for about 3 minutes, or unto most of the water has evaporated. Add the chicken and frequently give everything a good stir.
In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup water, soy sauce, cornstarch, brown sugar, and garlic. Whisk to combine. Immediately add to the wok and stir to coat everything for about two minutes or until sauce thickens. Drizzle with toasted sesame oil. Serve over rice. Top with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and serve.


Tips:
The original recipe called for crushed red pepper flakes. I wasn't feeling the spice, so I omitted it, but if you're all about the heat, go for it!
Be sure to use just a TINY drizzle of toasted sesame oil. It's only meant to be used as a flavor enhancer, and a little goes a very long way!
If you like a lot of sauce, just double all of the sauce ingredients!
For extra delicious rice, saute a small chopped onion in a little bit of oil, then add your rice to the pot. Instead of adding water, add chicken broth. Then cover and finish cooking as directed. You won't believe how delicious white rice can be!


Monday, April 16, 2018

Cake Mix Blondies


Many people ask me if I ever use cake mix when I'm baking. Well, the answer is yes and no. Yes, I use cake mixes all the time, but no I never use them to just bake a cake. I always use them like an ingredient in another recipe. If I'm using it as a cake, it'll be with other cake ingredients that don't follow the directions on the box.
 So I happened to have a yellow cake mix and decided to do something with it. I found a recipe for blondies on a blog called Like Mother Like Daughter and decided to try it, since I already had all of the ingredients. I did tweak it slightly and it turned out great! It was quick and easy and it was just exactly what I wanted. Perfect for a birthday party or just because you're feeling something sweet and fun and festive!!



1 box yellow cake mix
1 large egg 
1/4 cup oil
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract 
2/3 cup white chocolate chips 
rainbow sprinkles for the top


Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
In a large mixing bowl, combine your cake mix, egg, oil, and milk. Stir in your sprinkles, chocolate chips and white chocolate chips. Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick spray. Spread your batter into the pan evenly. Bake for 18-22 minutes until bars are a light golden color. Cool completely or chill. Slice and serve.
 
Tips:
The original recipe called for 1/3 cup white chocolate chips and 1/3 cup milk chocolate chips, but I decided to do all white chips. It also called for a 1/3 cup of the sprinjkles mixed into the batter, but I decided to just sprinkles them across the top. 
I think I'm gonna try this recipe with other kinds of cake mix and other mix ins. Next time I think I'll do chocolate cake mix with salted caramel chips or maybe peanut butter chips. Do what you like!



Monday, April 9, 2018

The Very Best Gumbo


If you know me, you know that one of my favorite things to do is to cook dinner for my friends. It's a great way to test any new recipes I want to try, and most times my friends are all too happy to be my taste testers. Most times I'll choose a theme, and very often we'll watch a movie that goes with it. This was basically how it came to be for this dish.
 We decided to watch The Princess and the Frog, so of course I needed to make a big pot of gumbo! Now, as far as I can tell, Gumbo in New Orleans is like Sunday Gravy with Italian Grandmothers. Everyone has a cherished family recipe, and of course each one is labeled The Best. So how does one choose the DEFINITIVE gumbo recipe? Basically, I just did what I always do. I looked at several recipes, decided which one is closest to what I had in my head, and then tweaked it to how I like it.
I knew I wanted to start out with a roux (pronounced as RUE), which is just a mixture of fat and flour. Some will argue that it's not a gumbo if you don't start with a roux, so who am I to question it?
 I also knew that I wanted it to have chicken and sausage in it, and I also wanted it to include okra. This recipe from Valerie Bertinelli seemed to hit all the right notes, so here we go! It was basically as easy as throwing everything into the pot and letting it cook!
 I have to say, I think this is one of my very favorite things that I've ever cooked. Like, in the history of ever. And honestly, that's kind of saying a lot! It's SO flavorful, you can make it as spicy or mild as you like, and it can feed a crowd! It was the perfect thing to serve to my gang as we watched Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen. It should also be noted that Kelsie, in particular, was a HUGE fan, and still asks me all the time to make it again. OK, Kelsie, Kels, I promise I'll make it again soon!!!
 Even if you're not having a New Orleans night, you should still give this one a go. It's just so good!


 

 
 
 
 , chopped (plus more for serving, if desired)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 




 Warm 1 cup oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven until hot. Add the flour to the pot all at once, whisking until the consistency is uniform. Cook the roux, whisking occasionally, until it is the color of a tarnished penny, about 20 minutes. Do not let it darken any further. Carefully add the celery, bell peppers, onion, chopped scallions and garlic to the pot, working away from you as the hot roux may spatter. Stir until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add enough stock to just cover the vegetables, about 1 quart, and stir to combine. The roux may separate. Add the tomatoes with their juices, Andouille and smoked sausages, cayenne, bay leaves, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, 1 tablespoon black pepper and the remaining stock, about 1 more quart. Partially cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet over high heat. Add the okra and cook, stirring, until the gel dries out slightly, about 3 minutes. Add to the Dutch oven.
Taste the gumbo for seasoning and adjust as desired. Add the chicken, cook until warmed through and serve, or simmer up to 2 hours more to concentrate the flavors, adding the chicken 20 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with more chopped scallions and serve over rice.


Tips:
It's very important to cook the roux before you add anything else. Some recipes just cook it for a little while, other recipes cook it until it's REALLY dark, almost black. I decided that it doesn't need to be completely black to give a deep rich flavor.
Be sure to saute the okra before you add it to the pot because this helps to get rid of that distinctive stickiness. Actually, I also browned the sausage in the pan for a little bit before I added it to the pot, just to add a little deeper flavor, and then I used the same saute pan to cook the okra.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Pickled Eggs and Beets


 Ok this is one of those recipes I've always heard of, but never really considered trying. But lately it seems that I keep hearing about pickled eggs. I saw them on The Kitchen, and even heard someone mention them in a tv show I was watching. When I was growing up, my Mom always made pickled beets (which I've always LOVED), but she never did them with eggs. Then my brother, Chris, mentioned them so I figured Ok, ok, apparently the Universe is telling me I should make them, so let's give 'em a go.
 OMG they're so good!! Yes yes, I know pickled eggs are considered "pub food" because apparently they go really well with beer, but I like them just as is. Also, they turn such a pretty color that they they're the perfect thing as a party appetizer. And they get darker and darker the longer you let them pickle. I'm not gonna lie, I'm kind of a little bit obsessed with them now. Who knew they'd be so tasty???? Making pickled eggs is definitely an old-timey sort of thing to make, but I definitely think it needs to make a comeback. Who's with me??



2 15oz cans whole (can also use sliced) beets, including liquid
12 hard-boiled large eggs, peeled 
1 cup sugar
1 cup cider vinegar


Drain beets, reserving the liquid. Place beets and eggs in a 2-qt. glass jar. In a small saucepan, bring the sugar, vinegar, and reserved beet liquid to a simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool slightly. Pour over beets and eggs; cool completely. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 5 or 6 hours before serving. To Hard Boil the eggs:Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Cover the saucepan and remove from heat. Let the eggs sit in the water for 15 minutes. Remove egg from saucepan and place in a large bowl of ice water.  Or you can just purchase eggs that are already hard boiled!

Tips: 
Some recipes call for the addition of water. I don't like to dilute the vinegar. I'd rather have a stronger pickling solution, but you do you! I like to let them pickle for at least 24 hours, but you can get away with just 5 or 6. They will last at least a week, probably up to 2 weeks in the fridge. (Honestly, they will will probably be gone long before then anyway!)For a little extra flavor, add a little thinly shaved slices of onion to the jar. You could also add a little pinch of cinnamon, ground cloves, or pickling spice.For a festive and pretty appetizer use your pickled eggs to make deviled eggs and top each one with some chopped chives. Yum!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Pineapple Carrot Cake Trifle


 I was recently invited to dinner with a group of friends, and of course, my first question to Marie, (who is quite the hostess) was "what can I bring?" She said she wanted something chocolate. Perfect. So I decided I would make a deliciously decadent chocolate trifle with layers of cake and chocolate whipped cream. The perfect showstopper dessert! But then Marie said "I'd kill for caramel brownies." Ok, I'll make them, but they weren't the showstopper I was looking for. After taking a quick survey of the ingredients I had on hand, I thought OH! A carrot cake trifle!! Great idea! But baking an entire cake would have been more than I needed for the dessert. So then I found this recipe for carrot cake squares on a blog called Eat Cake For Dinner, and decided to layer them with spiced pineapple and cream cheese whipped topping. THIS was the showstopper I had been looking for! HUGE hit!!  Everyone loved it!
 Now, if you don't want to make a trifle, you can easily just make the squares, cover them with cream cheese icing and call it a day. They're fabulous all on their own! But if you're looking for a showstopper, this is it!

For the carrot cake squares:
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour 1 tsp. baking powder 1/4 tsp. baking soda 1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon pinch of nutmeg, opt. 2 eggs, slightly beaten 2 1/2 c. shredded carrots 3/4 c. packed light brown sugar 1/4 c. sugar 1/2 c. canola or vegetable oil 1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350ºF.  In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg; set aside.  In a medium bowl combine the eggs, shredded carrots, brown sugar, sugar, oil, and vanilla and mix until well blended.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir together until just combined.  Do not overmix.  Pour batter into a greased 9x13-inch baking pan and spread out evenly.  Bake for 20 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

For the trifle:
Drain a 20oz can of pineapple chunks, then chop them up a bit smaller. Place them in a small bowl and add 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice and 1 tbs of sugar. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine 1 large container of Cool Whip (or your favorite store brand non-dsiry whipped topping) and an 8oz package of cream cheese.

Now make layers in a trifle bowl or any high-sided glass bowl:
Start with a little bit of the whipped topping mixture on the bottom. 
Then do 3 layers of cake then pineapple then topping. (refer to the picture if you need to!)
Chill until ready to serve!

Tips:
Instead of using the spiced pineapple, you can just use a jar of pineapple preserves. Just add a tbs of water to loosening it up a bit. You can also use crush pineapple, or chopped fresh pineapple, or any combination. It will all work!
When you're making your layers, take extra care to make perfectly clean layers around the outside of the bowl. This will make it a showstopper!
Btw, when I made the carrot cake squares, I used pumpkin pie spice instead of just cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg. why? because I like it!!!