Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Vietnamese Chicken with Garlic, Lime and Pepper

Again, another post!  This one surprised me a lot. The flavors were so yummy and made the house smell amazing. I need to stop showing you how easy these are, or else we might make our local restaurantes go out of business! (never!)

So, I was in search of something easy, with chicken and peanuts. I found a recipe that uses beef, but I am not the biggest fan of beef so I made this my own and added chopped Chinese long beans.

1 1/2 lb thinly sliced chicken
1 medium onion, chopped into quarters
3 tbsp toasted chopped peanuts

2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar (I used turbinado)
1 tbsp fish sauce

5 cloves minced garlic
3 tbsp oil (I mixed coconut and peanut)

1. In a small bowl, combine the garlic with half the oil and a tsp of black pepper. Set aside
2. In another small bowl combine the soy sauce, lime juice, sugar and fish sauce. Make sure the sugar is dissolved.
3. The other half of the oil should be mixed with another tsp black pepper.

You now have 3 small bowls.

In a large skillet, heat half of the leftover oil
over medium high. Place half the chicken in the pan and brown. Turn over and brown the other side. Once cooked, remove to a plate and set aside. Do the same with the other half of the chicken.

Next, if you are using a vegetable, add it now and saute for a couple minutes. You might need to add a little water to help steam cook. Next, add the chicken and the garlic and oil and saute for a couple of minutes, just until the garlic is slightly cooked.

Pour the mixed sauces and sugar over the chicken and vegetables until thickened. Once thickened and cooked, add the peanuts and serve.


Vietnamese Chicken Salad

I told you I've been on a Vietnamese kick this summer! It's the fresh taste that Vietnamese brings to us by using herbs like mint and cilantro. Here is a super easy salad to make which most restaurants sell for about $8-10. There is no need to spend that much on one portion and you will see why!

If you are interested in cooking Asian food there a few ingredients that you will have to spring for, and by spring I mean pay $3 or less. Here they are: Fish Sauce, Oyster Sauce, Low Sodium Soy Sauce, Chili Garlic Paste and just a small jar of minced garlic and one jar of ginger. All of these last forever in the fridge so even if you don't use them often that is ok.

Off to the Asian market and here is what I picked up for the salad.

1 Head Napa Cabbage, shredded
Bean Sprouts
Shredded Carrots (2-3)
One Red Bell Pepper, sliced
Chicken breast

Handful of mint and cilantro, chopped

2 tsp chili garlic sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp peanut oil
1/2 medium onion, sliced thin

Mix all of the dressing ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Make sure the sugar is dissolved. Yes, the onion is included!

In a larger bowl, mix the salad ingredients. You can really put what you like in here, but I like this mix, although, in my pic I forgot the red bell pepper. Mix all of the ingredients including most of the mint and cilantro. Dress the salad by pouring the dressing over, including the onions. Top of the salad with the rest of the mint and cilantro and voila!

Super easy Vietnamese Salad!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Vietnamese Made Easy - Summer Roll!

We all love summer rolls, even if we don't love Vietnamese food. But, what isn't there to love about it? A few months ago I tried Vietnamese with a neighbor for the first time. I became addicted. I just had a summer roll and a banh mi sandwich, both were amazing. The flavors of Vietnamese are quite different than other Asian cuisines. I noticed how fresh and cooling the food was. The use of fresh mint surprised me, but in a good way. You know how we call pork "the other white meat?" Well I'd like to call Vietnamese food "the lighter and fresher other Asian cuisine." 
So, after I tried and became addicted to the banh mi, I went back and tried a noodle dish which consisted of vermicelli noodles, grilled chicken, a small egg roll, and a bean sprout and carrot "salad" oh and a light orange toned sauce which is quite delicious. For $8 you can't beat it, plus you know what you are eating is healthier than American-Chinese food.
This past weekend I decided to do it! I was at my local Asian market and picked up the summer roll wrappers. There were so many sizes and a couple of brands to choose from. I picked a size that I thought would work well. 
First step: Arrange your area with the ingredients for your summer rolls. This will make rolling them speedy and  easy. Place a wet paper towel near to the wrappers and water.

Step 2: Have a small skillet of water on low, lightly simmer, but not boil. Try to have your filling station as close to the water as possible. You'll need to transfer your rice paper to a wet paper towel in seconds.

Step 3: Begin!  Dip a rice paper into the water, swish around with your fingers, maybe about 20 seconds. You will start to see it change consistency quickly. Take it out before it is too soft or jello-y. If you leave it in too long, it will rip easily. These are delicate, but not too difficult to handle. If you leave them in the water for just the right amount of time, its almost as if they are slightly al dente, then move them to the wet paper towel so they don't stick or dry out.

Step 4: Move fairly quickly, the rice paper is still absorbing water at this point, so throw in your beautiful ingredients. For your first couple, don't worry about the way it looks just yet. Try to get the feel for this. I usually place the fillings closer to my body, then fold them over, tuck under tightly and fold in the sides as you would with an egg roll. The hardest part will be trying to find where to separate the wrapper from the paper towel, but with practice, its easy!

Filling the wrappers
 Rolling the rolls
 And here are the final products! Since you will be making more than one, and when you see how addictive easy it is, you will want to make many for leftovers. But, its not easy to keep them as they stick to almost everything. If making these for a party, you might want to have a damp paper towel at the base of your serving dish, and then use romaine leaves to secure each roll. Using the leaf like this will be sure to protect it from touching the others and creates an edible vessel to serve with!
Of course you will need to make plenty of Vietnamese Peanut Dipping Sauce to go with these!

Summer Rolls Ingrediets:
Rice paper 
hot water

shrimp or boiled chicken
fresh basil leaves
fresh mint leaves
rice or tofu noodles
Shredded carrot
thinly sliced cucumber
Shredded lettuce
thinly sliced green onion

Monday, April 7, 2014

Swedish Meatballs with Gravy

Who doesn't love Swedish Meatballs? They remind me of the 1970s, although, I wasn't alive then it just seems like something that was on every 1970s table. Yeah yeah, but now its 2014 and guess what, the little balls of heaven are STILL blessing our tables, especially thanks to IKEA. Sure, you could spend a small fortune for IKEA supper or you can just make it yourself and since I don't live near an IKEA, I made it myself, minus the lingonsylt which I can't make :(

Anyways....I made my gravy with non-fat greek yogurt and a little arrowroot and it came out DIVINE. You must try! If you can't find arrowroot, just use cornstarch.

1.5 lbs ground beef, chicken, pork (any mix you like. I used chicken and beef)
1/4 cup egg whites
1/4 cup matzo meal (or bread crumb)
1 tbsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp all spice
Olive oil

Mix all together and shape into small balls. I usually make them slightly smaller than a golf ball, it lets me eat more! Heat enough oil to lightly cover a skillet and drop the balls in. DO NOT move them around or they will break apart! Fry the meatballs gently for a couple minutes on each side. Remove from pan when done and golden. Don't scrape or drain the pan unless there is a ton of fat.

1 15 oz can chicken or beef stock
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour (or can skip the roux all together)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup greek yogurt
2 tbsp corn starch or arrow root

This is the tough part. Over medium heat melt the butter and then add the flour.
Whisk gently adding a little water at a time. Your roux should be smooth and creamy, not lumpy. Adding more water and whisking should smooth it out. Let the roux cook for a minute or so. Next, turn up the heat a little higher and add your stock while whisking vigorously, you want to get all the browned meat off the bottom of the pan. Add the vinegar.

Your gravy will be very fluid at this point, add enough arrow root or starch to thicken it. I like my gravy VERY thick so I add quite a bit. Whisk until smooth and re-add the meatballs. Simmer for about 5 minutes and then TURN OFF THE HEAT (This part is super important). Let the gravy cool for about 2 minutes BEFORE you add the greek yogurt or it will curdle and look yucky. Whisk the yogurt into the gravy, taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

I served my meatballs with German Spaetzle, but you can use any flat egg noodle you like. I also added peas to the bottom of my bowl because I needed a vegetable and I didn't feel like sauteeing cabbage tonight.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Chutney and Cheddar Chicken

If you are like me, you make the same chicken recipes day after day, week after week. Don't get me wrong, they are yummy recipes, but can't we just try something NEW for once? The answer is yes! We can!
My mother makes a lot of fruit glazed chicken breasts and I was actually craving that tonight. Of course, I didn't have any fruit jam, but I did have one jar of a special gem that I made a few months ago, English Christmas Chutney. This chutney is not jelly like at all, but is a mix of chopped, vinegary and savory, sweet and dried fruit. I will post my recipe as soon as I make it again.

Anyways, I remembered that I had one jar left, and while I love to eat it spooned atop a nice sharp cheddar, I figured I'd try it out atop chicken covered with cheddar. The results were awesome!

I marinated my thinly sliced chicken breasts in lemon juice and Trader Joes 21 Spice Salute, salt free seasoning. If you can't find it, use Mrs. Dash or your favorite herb blend. Sprinkle the juice and herb blend of chicken and let stand for an hour or two. I sliced the chicken thin as if I were making marsala or piccata.
If you can't find chutney, use a thick jam or preserve that has chopped fruit in it. Apricot, cherry or blueberry would be awesome in this.

1-2 large and thinly sliced chicken breasts
lemon juice (half lemon)
Herb seasoning
cheddar cheese
1 small jar of chutney
coconut oil
salt to taste

1. Heat a skillet and add some coconut oil. When pan is heated add chicken.
2. Brown chicken on both sides, add some water to the pan and let the chicken steam for about 3 minutes
3. Spread the chutney on each piece of chicken and top with cheddar. Add more water to the pan if needed. Cover and let steam for another 3 minutes.
4. At this point, chicken should be thoroughly cooked through. Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

English, Cooking and Fun!

Welcome ESL students to my blog! Did you know that you can learn a lot of English through cooking? Here is a list of things you will learn:

Giving directions (and potentially following directions!)
Food Vocabulary (includes spelling)
Count/Non-Count Food Nouns
Food packaging
US weights and measurements
Short story writing

It doesn't matter what level you are at, cooking brings all of us together and allows us to share something about each of our lives while learning a new language.

Assignment #1 - I want you to look through my blog and pick a recipe. In the comments section of that recipe, please list the imperatives that were used and write their definition.  Next, I usually include a short story about the recipe, please summarize the story in 2-3 sentences. Due February 28, 2014.

Assignment #2 - Who cooks in your family? Ask that person for their favorite recipe to cook for your family and post the recipe to your blog. Tell me about the recipe, is it from your country? An old family recipe? Write an interesting story in 2-3 paragraphs or more! Due March 7.

Assignment #3 -  I did this when I was in high school for French class and it was a lot of fun, before blogs existed. Because this takes planning, the due date will be in March 20th, 2014.

1. Choose another recipe or the same one from my blog. You will prepare it for your family. You will need to follow the directions and use the correct measurements when given.

2. Re-write the recipe on your blog. Add a photo. Write a short story about your experience (was it fun, boring, difficult, easy?). If you changed any steps or ingredients, please write about it.

3.  I'd like your family members to comment on the blog by giving you a grade and some comments about what you cooked for them. If they have a smart phone, show them how to use it!

***As always, if there are any issues that might keep you from being able to do part of the assignment, always let me know in advance!

These are supposed to be fun assignments, so if you come into any trouble please let me know!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Shiritaki, Shirataki, Yam Noodle...WHAT?!

Wow, it's taken me a long time to figure out what to write about this except for DON'T DO IT!! Now, I want everyone to try it and use my advice...

With the United States so concerned about diet and carbs and this and that, there are so many products available that claim to be delicious like pasta!  Gluten free this, low carb that....Well, please follow my advice and don't waste your time or money on any of those products. The sad truth is, nothing can compare to good ol pasta. Or can it....?

Back in the early 2000s I found this miracle pasta, bin after bin of this strange reddish brown stuff claiming to be edible. Since this was before we had too much information on the internet, I had no way of researching this stuff, and since it was so low carb EVERY ONE was going to find out about it and buy it, especially at 50 cents a lb right?  Well, there was a good reason that case after case was sitting there unsold at a national liquidation store. Not because the store was in a strange location, but because that pasta was down right the most disgusting thing I have ever put in my mouth, and I am so sorry for any of those whom I may have fed it to.

This reddish brown, inedible pasta shaped crap tasted and felt nothing like pasta. Even 10 years later I am still haunted by it. While I was so excited that I found it, after spending $20 on (you do the math) x packages, I was so livid with myself...what was I going to do with the rest? I had to throw it away, its not even something that you could donate.

I tried cooking it for HOURS, it was still hard and tasted horrid. I tried dousing it in cheese and butter. Nope, just wasted some good cheese on that. Never ever ever again! So for the next 12 years I continued to eat regular pasta, high fiber pasta, rice pasta, spelt name it pasta!

One day while browsing a large local Asian market, I stumbled upon some refrigerated noodles packed in water. I had briefly heard about them before and at $1.29 a package I figured I'd try some. I got two shapes, one angel hair and one butterfly. I brought them home and researched and found out that these aren't all that new and have been around in Asian cuisine for thousands of years, and made from the Konjac or Konnyaku plant root.  If you've ever heard of the "rotting corpse plant" its pretty similar to that...makes you want to try it now huh, but very interesting looking plant!

Not only are these noodles low in everything bad and high in everything good, there is an abundance of glucomannan in the konjac plant that is supposedly helpful with weight loss. Read all about Konjac HERE!

First thought: ugh, these noodles never get soft and kind of smell fishy!  WASH THEM IN HOT WATER and don't sniff them!
Second thought: these are no substitute for pasta, but are excellent in Asian cooking!
Third thought: a whole package has something like 10-50 calories (depends on the brand, and DON'T Trust Asian packaging to tell the truth), a lot of fiber and almost zero carbs.

Next, which kind to buy? Like I said, the straight up konnyaku are semi crunchy and really can't be used as spaghetti or anything similar. They would be excellent in soups and stir fries though and soak up the flavors in your dish wonderfully. I also recently read that you can soften then noodle by dry frying it in a pan for a couple of minutes. I haven't done this yet. I mentioned I bought butterfly was the second most disgusting thing I put in my mouth...the texture was just....bad. Too thick of a noodle to do with anything. It wasn't even good in soup!

There was also another kind, which was speckled with seaweed flakes. I just tried these today and they were slightly softer and virtually no nutrition at all, a few calories and a lot of fiber. Bland and not bad, but there are better brands.

But the overall winner are the Shirataki brand tofu noodles. I am not a fan of Hungry Girl, but the package with her on it is the one you should get. The calories are slightly higher, the carbs are about 6 per package and I honestly think you can EASILY substitute this product for pasta. Again, DON'T smell these noodles right out of the package!  Boil for about a minute after rinsing and then enjoy.

I usually eat the whole package, its something like 40 calories, 1g fat, 6 g carb and 4 g fiber that makes this brand the overall winner!

Stay tuned for some recipes using House Foods Shirataki Tofu Noodles (and don't be afraid of the word tofu! It makes the noodle soft).

konnyaku fiber choice (left), Shirataki Yam noodle (top), House Foods Shirataki (bottom)