main dish

hoisin chicken with green beans and sticky rice

I’ve been thinking a lot about this guy lately.

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He’s starting at a new school this fall and will experience all kinds of change during this time called adolescence and junior high. It’s brought back all kinds of memories from my own adolescent years – everything from remembering locker combinations to who to sit by at lunch to what to wear. Ugh. I know he’ll do great, but it’s so hard to be a parent and go through all these transitions again with your kids. Especially when the transitions and years seem to be passing at lightning speed. I still think of him as a toddler some days, and long for cuddling with him, reading him bedtime stories, or playing dinosaurs and trains. He has been known on occasion to hover over my shoulder and listen when I’m reading a picture book to my youngest. I love that.

School starts in one day, and I’m about as ready as I’ll ever be. Back-to-school for us means busy evenings with homework and sports. My head is spinning thinking about managing our schedules, as I’m sure many others can relate.

Need a quick dinner recipe? This one’s so very simple and easy to throw together. Great for those nights when you feel like Chinese takeout, but prefer to make it yourself. It’s complete with protein and veggie and is easily customized with your favorite substitutes, i.e. shrimp, peppers, beef, broccoli, etc.

My version, which I sort of tossed together with whatever we had in our refrigerator, turned out to be a keeper. I like to serve this with a sticky rice, which is Jasmine rice, rinsed until the water runs clear and made in a rice cooker. All while you prepare the main event. Everything is ready to serve in less than 30 minutes. Feel free to add additional sides like potstickers, cream cheese wontons or egg rolls, or to keep it healthy – more sauteed veggies. An after-dinner lucky fortune cookie doesn’t hurt either.

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Hoisin Chicken with Green Beans and Sticky Rice

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 lbs. chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fresh green beans, ends trimmed
1 cup fresh mushrooms, cut in half
2-3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
Few dashes of tamari

Heat oil in wok or large skillet over med-high heat. Add chicken and stir fry for 5-7 minutes, until no longer pink. Add garlic and continue to stir fry until fragrant. Add green beans and mushrooms and continue to stir fry until green beans start to wrinkle and vegetables become tender. Add hoisin sauce and a couple dashes of tamari and stir to combine. Serve with sticky rice and soy sauce.

Enjoy!

A little fact about me – I’m fascinated by dinosaurs and have been known to name all of them in our collection. Pterodactyls, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Bronchosaurus, Triceratops, etc… Do you know yours? Happy back-to-school, crazy schedules and all!

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a meat-less asian saute – gone totally right

Well, hello there! I’ve been gone for a while. Still cooking like crazy, but most posts have remained in the drafts folder. I’m hoping to get a few quiet moments more regularly, but most days, it’s just pure busy around the house. Wake up, get ready, work, leave work, pickup kids, do the homework/dinner scramble, leave for activities (often conflicting and in opposite locations), watch activities, return, showers/baths, book time, kids bedtime, and often I’m the next in line. Repeat. If I’m really good, I manage to get myself on the treadmill in the morning.  That’s the usual “during the week schedule” for us.

I’ve dabbled in the past cooking with tofu, and most times, I’ve been disappointed with the results. Not this time. This recipe is fantastic, and could easily be swapped out with various meats, if you wish. The sauce fills in the flavorless void of the tofu, and the vegetables are just the right addition.

The key to this dish is making sure the tofu is completely drained of excess moisture. Also, having patience, the right level of heat, and not disturbing the saute pan yields golden-brown, crispy tofu perfection. Try it for yourself, and you may enjoy just as much as I did … Another bonus? My kids were convinced they were eating chicken. Perfect for a Meatless Monday, or any day of the week.

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Hot and Sour Seared Tofu With Sugar Snap Peas (and Red Pepper)
Adapted from NY Times
2-3 servings

1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu (and drained well)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 small jalapeño chiles, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce (use tamari for gluten free version)
1 1/2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons peanut oil, more if needed
6 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed and thinly sliced (I’ve also made with haricots verts/green beans, broccoli or whatever vegetable you choose)
1/2 red pepper, diced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
Crushed red pepper, as desired
Sesame seeds, as desired
May garnish with chopped cilantro or basil.

Drain tofu well, wrap it with a clean dish towel or several layers of paper towels and place on a rimmed plate; top with another plate and some extra weight. Let drain further. (This step is key to golden brown perfection.)

To make the sauce, combine garlic, chiles, soy sauce, ginger, lime juice, sesame oil, fish sauce and honey in a small bowl. Unwrap tofu and cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Pat slices dry. Heat a large skillet over high heat until hot. Add peanut oil and let heat for 30 seconds, then carefully add tofu. Don’t touch tofu for 2 to 3 minutes, letting it sear until golden brown. Flip and sear for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Move tofu to one side of pan (or temporarily remove from pan and keep warm). Add vegetables and, if needed, a few drops more peanut oil. Stir-fry vegetables for a couple of minutes, being careful not to overcook them. Add sauce and stir well, cooking until vegetables are done to taste, 1-2 minutes. Return tofu to pan and coat with sauce. Sprinkle sesame seeds over tofu and vegetables. Can also garnish with cilantro or basil, if you wish.

Serve with cooked jasmine or brown rice. Enjoy!

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cauliflower steaks with jalapeno corn relish

Inspired by a similar Food & Wine recipe, and motivated to reduce the amount of red meat from our diet, here’s a steak recipe that proves to be hearty, healthy, and meatless.  This one caught my eye, as we love to make roasted cauliflower as a side for many of our meals.  But, why not make it the main event?  A vegetable topped with more vegetables, and a little spicy heat – brilliant as a main course.

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Slicing the head of cauliflower into 3/4 inch steaks was a little tricky with the size I had, but I worked with it anyways.  And, it’s prepared very similar to a real steak.  Hot skillet (add a little canola oil and salt and pepper), sear/brown each side for about 3 minutes, or until nicely browned.  Roast for about 20 minutes.

Yum.  I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!

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Cauliflower Steaks with Jalapeno Corn Relish

inspired by this Food & Wine recipe

2 large heads of cauliflower, stems lightly trimmed
1 1/2 cups corn (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and minced
4 scallions, chopped
1 medium tomato, diced and drained
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°. Cut three 3/4-inch-thick center slices from each head of cauliflower to form “steaks.” Use the rest of the cauliflower for something else.

In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the jalapeno and cook over moderately high heat for 30 seconds. Add the scallions and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Stir in the corn and tomato and season with salt and pepper.

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until shimmering. Add 3 cauliflower steaks and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes per side; transfer to a large baking pan. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and 3 cauliflower steaks.

Press the jalapeno-corn relish into the spaces between the cauliflower florets. Bake the cauliflower steaks for 25 minutes, until tender and richly browned. Top with additional relish, if desired.  Enjoy!

busy schedules, life and asian chicken

I’m back, after a much necessary break. Life happens, and so does the reality of busy schedules!  In early April, my family visited my sister Whitney, in Austin, Texas! Left Minneapolis at 6 am and drove straight through to Austin. 19+ hours in the car, all 6 of us! We had a blast! Lots of road food and convenience store snacks on the way down, but lots of amazing food in Austin – Shipley’s Donuts (a donut shop way too close to my sister’s place), Kebabalicious (an amazing food truck serving falafel, chicken shawarma, etc.), Chuy’s (a Mexican restaurant), Moonshine (a great night out with my sisters and husband), and many others. The end of April marked the beginning of summer sports, and three colliding schedules. Oh, and a coaching husband. April and May were pretty much a blur.

In June, I visited my sister Kortney in California for a shopping, eating and dining trip. We indulged in amazing foie gras just weeks before a state-wide ban for restaurants. So fortunate to have been one of the last to have this and other amazing dishes at a quaint, French restaurant on Balboa Island in Newport Beach called Basilic. We also visited Palm Springs for a day/evening during Restaurant Week. Amazing place. Must go back with my husband! We had amazing Mexican food and margaritas at a place called Las Casuelas Terraza. Dinner at a place called Zin American Bistro – yum. And, brunch at the Ace Hotel / King’s Highway. Great food and gorgeous drinks. Kortney and her boyfriend visited Minneapolis the following weekend, and we cooked at home and dined at a local place called the Little River Inn and Bar. We also celebrated my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding in June. Busy and fun times!

In late June and early July we traveled back to Bismarck, ND for my husband’s 20 year class reunion and a week’s vacation over the Fourth of July. And, in August, celebrated a family reunion with amazing cousins from California, Kansas, Texas, North Dakota and Minnesota. It’s been a great summer spending time with family and friends, hanging out in the backyard with amazing neighbors, enjoying my patio heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs, and creating wonderful meals at home.

September means back to school month, and a search for quick fix, easy dinner ideas…

Here’s a great healthy, Asian recipe I adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food General Tso’s Chicken. A hit for us and the kids too! Love the light (almost non-existent) batter of the pan-fried chicken, combined with chopped veggies and tossed in a slightly sweet, touch of heat sauce. We added red and green pepper, sugar snap peas and green onions.

Asian Chicken / Healthy General Tso’s Chicken
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food
Serves 4

1 1/4 cups long-grain brown or jasmine rice – (We made our own fried rice.)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
1/4 red pepper, chopped
1/4 green pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated and peeled
3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 large egg whites
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower (we used canola oil)

Cook rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water until smooth. Add vegetables, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine, and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Lift half the chicken from egg-white mixture (shaking off excess), and add to skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining oil and chicken, and set aside (reserve skillet).

Add vegetable mixture to skillet. Cover; cook until snow peas are tender and sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet (with any juices); toss to coat. Serve with rice.

Enjoy!!

pesto and rotini

An amazing, simple, healthy dish. Use store-bought pesto, or make your own (like I did.) Serve with a sautéed chicken breast, a veggie and a nice glass of white wine.

Pesto
3-4 cups of packed, fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (I toasted mine in a saute pan over low heat, just enough to warm them and see a hint of golden)
1-2 garlic cloves (to your liking)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
1-2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Blend/puree all ingredients in a food processor until the pesto is blended and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Serve with cooked whole wheat rotini pasta.

Prepare whole wheat rotini per package directions. Toss pasta with pesto and freshly grated parmesan cheese and whole pine nuts (if desired.)

rigatoni with spicy sausage, arugula and tomato

This one’s a keeper.  Mmm.  Served it to a group of friends for a weekend dinner, pre- Superbowl and pre- Valentine’s Day.  Friends+pasta, salad, bread and dessert+red wine = a great time.  We even discovered that a couple of our friends may be distant relatives…and a search for Icelandic ancestors may be in their future.  🙂

Love the addition of arugula and fresh herbs in this dish.   And, freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Add crushed red pepper to your preferred level of spice.

Rigatoni with Spicy Sausage-Tomato Sauce, Arugula, and Parmesan
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield: Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 pounds fresh hot Italian sausages, casings removed
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree
16 ounces rigatoni
2 cups (packed) fresh arugula, stemmed
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tsp crushed red pepper (or more to taste)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion; sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add sausage; cook until browned, breaking up with back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Drain drippings from pot. Add wine, diced tomatoes with juice, and crushed tomatoes; increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes to blend flavors, stirring occasionally. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cool, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over medium heat before continuing.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.

Stir pasta, arugula, basil, and oregano into tomato sauce. Simmer until arugula wilts, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Serve with a salad and garlic bread.

deep-fried heaven

The minute I got my February issue of Bon Appetit, I knew I had to make the cover – skillet fried chicken. The kind I have maybe once or twice a year. The kind that’s “oh so bad for you”, but a must have indulgence on occasion. A personal, Iron Chef kind of challenge and a first stab at frying at home. A messy endeavor, a not so nice cleanup and the lingering aroma of peanut oil – but, so worth the deep-fried wonder.

The suggested overnight rub mixture is genius, and true to the chef’s word – resulting in flavorful meat seasoned to the bone. Dipped in a mixture of buttermilk, egg and water and coated in seasoned flour, then carefully bathed in hot oil.

We had drumsticks and breasts on hand, so we worked with what we had. However, next time, I will make sure to have more drumsticks – the declared favorite among the kids and me. The tender, juicy dark meat and crispy, brown skin are indulgence at its best. And, there’s just something barbaric about picking up a drummy with your bare hands, eating the meat off the bone. Love bending the table manners. Everything goes out the window here on no eating with your hands or don’t pick at your food… (My sister would love that one too, right K?) The chicken breasts were also very yummy. Yes, the chicken tastes great immediately after being fried, but cold fried chicken is just as good. Mmm.

OK, some essentials are key here. Did I say this was messy? Yes… and then some. I covered the kitchen floor with old towels (to catch most of the splattering grease, and make clean-up a little easier.) I also draped kitchen towels around the nearby surroundings – countertops, cabinets. Aprons are also encouraged. Other essentials: a set of metal tongs, a large cast iron skillet, a deep fat fry thermometer, an instant read thermometer, plenty of peanut oil, a wire baking rack set on top of a large cookie sheet. We set our oven temp at about 275 degrees to keep the chicken warm once it was fried, and to be sure the meat was cooked through, as we fried 3 separate batches. Amazing. You must try it yourself.

I’m still searching for remedies to rid the frying smell in the house, so let me know if you have any tried and true secrets… already tried boiling vinegar/water mixture – nada.

Skillet-fried Chicken
adapted from Bon Appetit

2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
3–4-lb. chicken (not kosher), cut into 10 pieces, backbone and wing tips removed
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Peanut oil (for frying)

• Whisk 1 Tbsp. salt, 2 tsp. black pepper, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl. Season chicken with spices. Place chicken in a medium bowl, cover, and chill overnight.

• Let chicken stand covered at room temperature for 1 hour. Whisk buttermilk, egg, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl. Whisk flour, cornstarch, remaining 1 Tbsp. salt, and remaining 1 Tbsp. pepper in a 9x13x2″ baking dish.

• Pour oil into a 10″–12″ cast-iron skillet or other heavy straight-sided skillet (not nonstick) to a depth of 3/4″. Prop deep-fry thermometer in oil so bulb is submerged. Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 350°. Meanwhile, set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet.

• Working with 1 piece at a time (use 1 hand for wet ingredients and the other for dry ingredients), dip chicken in buttermilk mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Dredge in flour mixture; tap against bowl to shake off excess. Place 5 pieces of chicken in skillet. Fry chicken, turning with tongs every 1–2 minutes and adjusting heat to maintain a steady temperature of 300°–325°, until skin is deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 165°, about 10 minutes for wings and 12-15 minutes for thighs, legs, and breasts.

• Using tongs, remove chicken from skillet, allowing excess oil to drip back into skillet; transfer chicken to prepared rack.

• Repeat with remaining chicken pieces; let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Thanks Bon Appetit!