Thursday, October 23, 2014

Chinese Green Beans with Pork

I'm back with a new post - finally! I know it has been a full month since I last posted - and what a busy month it was! But now we are back in our routine and even though I haven't posted, I have been doing a lot of cooking so I will be sharing all of those recipes with you over the next few weeks.
The recipe I'm sharing today is another perfect quick and easy weeknight meal - don't we all need those? And with prep and total cooking time being less than 25 minutes, it's on your table faster than take-out. Another plus, and it's a big one - less sodium than take-out and you know exactly what is in it and how it was prepared.
The original recipe called for ground turkey, but I changed that to pork - just a personal preference. I also used regular rice vinegar instead of seasoned. .
Chinese Green Beans with Pork
Adapted from: The Weary Chef
  • 1 c medium grain rice, uncooked
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 small bunch green onions, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 2 pork chops cut into very small pieces (or 1 lb ground pork)
  • 2 Tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp crushed ginger
  • 1 lb washed and trimmed green beans (or Chinese long beans if available)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp (seasoned) rice vinegar

    • Cook rice according to directions (I boil the appropriate amount of water according to the directions, add the rice, stir, reduce to a simmer and cover. In 25 minutes it's always perfect
    • When rice is about 10 minutes from done, heat large skillet over high heat. Add the pork and sauté for 3-5 minutes until the meat is mostly cooked (if using ground pork, crumble the meat as you are cooking it).
    • Add sesame oil; add green onions and garlic and sauté 1 minute
    • Stir in chili garlic sauce, hoisin sauce, and ginger.
    • Add green beans and soy sauce, and stir to coat. Continue cooking over high heat for 7-9 minutes longer, stirring frequently, until beans are slightly tender.
    • Stir in rice vinegar, and cook one minute longer. Serve over cooked rice.
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    Tuesday, September 23, 2014

    Bacon Bourbon BBQ Chicken

    When I'm browsing through recipes pinned to Pinterest, I always stop when I see bacon in the title. That's where I found this one, and it led me to the blog Host the Toast.
    I didn't fully read the recipe at first... I just drooled over the pictures and couldn't wait to taste this chicken. I finally put them on the menu a few weeks ago and that's when I read the recipe to make my shopping list.
    I've used bacon in cooking a lot and sometimes it's used more as a garnish, sometimes I render the fat to give that smoky-bacon flavor, or sometimes it's a big part of the dish. This recipe uses bacon in a way I haven't before. You actually grind the raw bacon into a paste and use it as a rub on your chicken. Interesting, right??
    I have to admit that while I was making this raw rub I was really not sure. I mean, it doesn't look that appetizing, but I kept on going. The rubbed chicken looked even less appetizing but trust me - just keep going. The bacon kind of melts in to the chicken on the grill and gives it the best flavor. Top that with the bourbon BBQ sauce and the chicken is perfectly sweet, salty and smoky.
    Bacon Bourbon BBQ Chicken
  • 16 oz barbecue sauce
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1" pieces (I used thighs and breasts)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 6 slices raw bacon, cut into small pieces
  • Added: 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
    (slightly modified)

    • In a food processor, combine the kosher salt, white pepper, onion powder, paprika, garlic powder, dark brown sugar, smoked paprika, and bacon. Pulse until completely smooth. I had to add some oil slowly to get more of a paste consistency.
    • Put the chicken pieces on skewers (pre-soaked skewers if they are wooden) and then rub generously with the bacon mixture. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes to 2 hours in the fridge.
    • In a small bowl, combine the BBQ sauce and bourbon. Mix well.
    • Light the grill and heat to medium-high
    • Place the kebabs on the preheated grill. Cook for about 5 minutes per side, or until nearly cooked through.
    • Brush the kebabs with the bourbon barbecue sauce and cook for an additional minute on each side.
    • Serve with the remaining BBQ sauce.
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    Friday, September 12, 2014

    Modernized Ramen Noodle Salad

    When I was younger (let's just say back in the 80s) it seemed like someone always brought a Ramen Noodle Salad to parties. I tried it a few times but was never really wowed by it. I mean, it's raw, cheap, crunchy ramen noodles mixed with some veggies and a sweet dressing. I wonder who first created this recipe and thought it was a good idea to mix these noodles with salad? Hmm, I wonder if it was an accident and the noodles fell in to the bowl. Now I'm really interested in tracing this recipe back to its origins! Does anyone know?
    I made the original Ramen Noodle Salad once about 10 years ago and failed miserably...  I can't believe I'm even admitting that. I mixed the dressing the night before I planned on taking it to a party which  made everything wilt horribly. I didn't even discover my mistake until 25 minutes before we were leaving for the party so I ended up having to pick up a dessert at the last minute so I wouldn't show up empty handed. At least I can blame it on the fact that I had no interest in cooking at all 10 years ago and luckily I now know better.  
    Fast forward to 10 years later when I'm talking to Jon about what to make for dinner and he said "how about that Ramen noodle salad?" I guess he forgot that we never actually ate it, but for some reason he was craving it.
    I didn't feel like running back to the supermarket so decided to wing it using ingredients I already had on hand. I think the traditional recipe calls for Napa cabbage. I already had romaine lettuce so used that. I also added some veggies not in the traditional recipe, and I pulled together a dressing based on some things I have made in the past.
    The end result - a light, fresh salad with great texture from the crunchy veggies and noodles. I'll definitely make this modernized version again! I served it with grilled chicken that had been marinated in a soy/sesame/garlic/sriracha mixture.
    Modernized Ramen Noodle Salad
    • 1.5 heads romaine, chopped
    • 2 green onions, chopped
    • 1/2 red pepper
    • 1/2 green pepper
    • 1/4 cucumber
    • 1/2 c soybeans, cooked and chilled
    • 1 package crunchy ramen noodles, crumbled (not cooked)
     For the dressing
    • 2/3 c vegetable oil
    • 2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
    • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
    • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
    • 2 tsp granulated sugar
    • Mix all ingredients for the dressing and chill. Shake well before serving.
    • Mix all of the veggies for the salad and chill.
    • Before serving mix in the noodles and toss with the dressing.

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    Tuesday, September 9, 2014

    Italian Zucchini and Tomato Gratin

    It's September but we still have great tomatoes and zucchini. My mom found this recipe, brought over the ingredients that my dad picked up from a local roadside stand, and I made the recipe. I love local summer tomatoes and then add cheese to them and bake until hot and bubbly? Heavenly.
    Not only was this a great side for dinner, I heated it up the next morning and served it alongside scrambled eggs and loved it.
    Italian Zucchini and Tomato Gratin
    Adapted from: Gluten Free Mama
    • 1 large zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
    • 2-3 large tomatoes (I love Jersey tomatoes!!), cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
    • 1 Tbsp Italian Herbs Seasoning blend
    • 1/4 c good olive oil
    • 3/4 c shredded cheese - Italian blend (Parmesan, asiago, mozzarella, etc)
    • Salt and pepper
    • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
    • Toss the tomatoes and zucchini (in separate bowls) with the oil, herbs, and a touch of salt and pepper
    • Layer zucchini in a single layer in a large baking dish; I used a 9 inch Corning Ware casserole dish (you want a deep dish). Sprinkle with some cheese.
    • Layer tomatoes over the zucchini in a single layer; sprinkle with some cheese.
    • Repeat with a layer of zucchini, cheese, tomatoes, and the rest of the cheese.
    • Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes until veggies are cooked through and the cheese is melted
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    Thursday, September 4, 2014

    BBQ-Chili Grilled Chicken with a Tex Mex Chopped Salad and Chili-Ranch Dressing

    Wow, that's a mouthful of a recipe title!!

    So our summer has been fabulously cool. I know there are some haters out there, but I have adored this summer. I don't know how many nights we sat out on the patio and I needed a light hoodie or long pants. That is MY kind of weather and I'd gladly take it for 6 months a year.

    But then September approached and all of the heat and humidity came back. I don't even want to be outside (thank goodness the husband does 99% of the grilling!!). This weather is perfect for "it's too hot to cook" meals, like this grilled chicken and salad.

    The night before I made this dinner I trimmed the chicken, put it in a casserole dish and started to hunt for marinade ingredients. I didn't have any idea for sides yet, but decided to give my marinade some tex-mex flavors and spices. And then something made me grab the BBQ sauce and I decided to experiment. Guess what? It worked! Just like using hoisin in an Asian inspired marinade, the BBQ sauce added some sticky sweetness and held it all together.

    The salad and dressing were last minute creations as Jon was heating the grill and cooking the chicken. Sometimes meals like this are the best - spontaneous, creative, simple, easy, and most importantly, delicious.

    BBQ-Chili Grilled Chicken with a Tex Mex Chopped Salad and Chili-Ranch Dressing

    Marinade Ingredients
    • 3 trimmed chicken breasts
    • 1/4 c light olive oil
    • 1/4 c BBQ Sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's Original)
    • 1 Tbsp chili powder
    • 2 tsp garlic powder or 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or more for more heat)
    • 2 Tbsp lime juice
    Salad Ingredients
    • 2 heads of Romaine lettuce, chopped
    • 1/2 each green and red bell pepper, chopped
    • 2 Tbsp chopped red onion
    • 1/2 c corn - I used frozen (thawed and brought to room temp), but if I had more time grilled corn would have been great!
    • Handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped
    • Crushed tortilla chips or fried tortilla strips
    • Cheese  - shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar or crumbled queso fresco
    • Chopped green onions
    • Other ingredients you could add include black beans, cilantro, sliced jalapenos
    Dressing Ingredients
    • 1/4 c of your favorite Ranch dressing
    • 1/2 tsp chili powder
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne (optional for some heat)

    • Mix the marinade ingredients (except the lime juice) and pour over chicken in a shallow dish. Cover and marinate at least 8 hours. Add the lime juice about 30 minutes before you plan on grilling the chicken.
    • Mix all of the salad ingredients (except the chips and cheese) and chill at least 30 minutes.
    • Mix the dressing ingredients and chill.
    • Grill the chicken until done; slice
    • Serve the salad topped with some of the chips, cheese and green onions followed by the dressing and alongside the sliced chicken.
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    Friday, August 29, 2014

    Shrimp in a White Wine, Garlic and Lemon Sauce

    I am thrilled that my 4 year-old LOVES shrimp. She tried one a few months ago and since then can't get enough of them. I'm a little jealous, actually. I wish I liked shrimp but I just don't, but at least my daughter gets to eat all of the yummy shrimp recipes my husband makes. All of the shrimp recipes on this blog are his.

    A few weeks ago he made shrimp a little differently than his usual spicy shrimp or Cajun grilled shrimp. He used wine, garlic, and lemon for a simple light and fresh dish. He loved it and our daughter loved it, and I loved watching him create it and then seeing her devour it.

    The shrimp only took about 10 minutes to make so this is a quick and easy meal that looks and tastes fancy.

    Shrimp in a White Wine, Garlic and Lemon Sauce
    Original Recipe by Jon

    • 1/2 lb 21-25 or 26-30 count shrimp (if frozen, defrosted), peeled
    • 1 tsp olive oil
    • 1/2 Tbsp butter
    • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • Black pepper
    • 3 Tbsp dry white wine
    • Parsley for garnish
    • Heat olive oil and butter in a sauté pan over medium high heat
    • Add the shrimp and cook about 1 minute per side, (you don't want them cooked through yet)seasoning the shrimp with black pepper as you cook them
    • Add the lemon juice and simmer 2 minutes
    • Add the garlic and simmer 1 minute (reverse this step with the lemon juice step if you don't want the garlic to be too strong)
    • Add wine and simmer 2-3 minutes until shrimp is cooked through
    • Garnish with parsley and serve (over rice or pasta)
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    Tuesday, August 26, 2014

    Jalapeno Popper Dip

    Jalapeno poppers without all of the work - that's exactly what this dip is! Creamy, cheesy, spicy with some crunch. Yum.

    I made real jalapeno poppers once before and they were great, but it took a lot of work to get them just right. Then I made Jalapeno Popper Bites and they were really easy and yummy so I thought they'd be my go-to recipe for a jalapeno popper inspired appetizer. But then I saw this dip and everything changed. Dips are my guilty pleasure and my weakness so this one didn't sit in my favorites tab long before I made it.

    We were having friends over for dinner several weeks ago so I immediately put this dip on the menu. It was easy to make and everyone loved it. I ate a lot of this dip. And just in case you are wondering, it does reheat well later if you happen to have any left over! Confession... I may always make extra when I'm making a hot and bubbly dip JUST so I'll have leftovers to heat up later. Or the next day.

    I made one major change to the recipe. Instead of using canned chilies and jalapenos, I used a mix of fresh jalapenos and freshly roasted jalapenos. I can get a bag of jalapenos at my local produce store for a lot less than 2 cans of chilies, and fresh is always better in my opinion.

    So the next time you are having people over or even if you are just craving poppers, try this dip. I don't see how you could be disappointed ;)

    Jalapeno Popper Dip
    Adapted from: Tablespoon

    • 2 (8-oz) packages of cream cheese at room temperature
    • 1/2 c mayonnaise
    • 1/2 c sour cream
    • 1 c shredded Mexican cheese
    • 1 c grated Parmesan cheese, separated
    • 4 jalapeno peppers
    • 1 c Panko breadcrumbs
    • 1/4 c butter

    • Finely chop 2 of the jalapenos (seeds removed). Put the other 2 jalapenos over an open flame - I use my gas stove but you can also use an outdoor grill. Roast them until the skin is completely charred, and then transfer to a paper bag or bowl covered with plastic wrap. Let sit for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the bag/bowl and peel off all of the charred skin. Finely chop the jalapenos, removing the seeds and being careful as the juices inside will be pretty hot.
    • Mix the cream cheese, mayo, sour cream, Mexican cheese, half of the Parmesan and all of the chopped jalapenos. Spread in a baking dish.
    • Melt the butter in a small pan. Add the panko and toss until coated. Remove from the heat and add the remaining Parmesan cheese. Pour the panko mixture over the dip and spread evenly.
    • Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes until bubbly, turning on the broiler for the last few minutes to brown the top.
    • Serve with tortilla chips

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    Friday, August 1, 2014

    Chinese Pork and Mushroom Wraps

    Eating leftovers - yes or no? Do you like cooking enough to have leftovers? Or do you try to cook just enough for one night?
    The way I feel about leftovers depends on what's leftover... Thanksgiving dinner - I'm all over it. Soups, stews, and most comfort food - most of these things are better the next day so I love having leftovers. But if I make something like grilled chicken or pork, I can't just eat it the same way again the next day. Over the past few years I have gotten really good at re-purposing leftovers and that has come in handy for me since I always cook too much food :) 
    These amazing pork wraps were the result of leftovers. We grilled 2 pork tenderloins one night, and the next night I sliced the leftover tenderloin, added some ingredients and had a completely different dinner with not that much effort. So when you are planning your meals for the week and you write "leftovers" for one night, look around for some recipes that use your original ingredients while giving you a new dish. One of these days I plan on writing a blog post with lots of ideas for leftovers - stay tuned!
    Chinese Pork and Mushroom Wraps
    Slightly adapted from: Fine Cooking
    • 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
    • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
    • 2 tsp sesame oil
    • 1 tsp rice vinegar
    • 1 small grilled or roasted pork tenderloin. The one I used had been marinated in teriyaki sauce and garlic before grilling it. Slice the tenderloin into 1 inch thick slices, and then slice into strips.
    • 2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
    • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
    • 1 bunch scallions chopped, green and white parts separated
    • 1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 1/2 head Napa cabbage sliced into strips
    • 2 tsp fresh minced ginger
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 6 to 8 medium tortillas, warmed
    • Additional hoisin sauce for serving
    • Mix the hoisin, soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar. Set aside as you will use this at the end.
    • Heat half of the oil in a large sauté pan. Add the pork and cook (to reheat) until it starts to brown on the edges, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large plate.
    • Add half of the remaining oil to the pan. Add the mushrooms and scallion whites and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until they brown and soften, 2-3 minutes.
    • Push the mushroom mixture to one side of the pan and add the eggs. Cook, scrambling and breaking up into small pieces with a wooden spoon or spatula, until just set, about 1 minute. Transfer everything to the plate with the pork.
    • Add the remaining oil to the pan. Once it's hot, add the scallion greens, cabbage, ginger, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes.
    • Add the hoisin mixture and the pork mixture to the pan and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute to mix the flavors.
    • To serve - spread some hoisin sauce in the center of the tortilla. Top with a generous amount of the pork mixture, and wrap burrito style.
    These wraps were so good that I may just make a pork tenderloin this weekend JUST so I can have these leftovers on Monday! I served them with this Napa Cabbage and Cucumber Slaw.
    Happy Weekend!
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    Thursday, July 24, 2014

    Summer Tortellini

    I really wish I had a green thumb. I dream of having a large vegetable garden in our yard where I could grown all of our produce and be totally self sufficient in the summer... I just can't see it happening. I don't really enjoy working in the garden (heck, I barely remember to water my potted flowers on the front step) but I want the benefits of having a garden at home. Like I have said for the past 10 years, maybe next year...

    Even though I don't have a big vegetable garden, I always grow tomatoes. This year I just have one pot of tomatoes and a pot of basil growing on my patio. The tomato plant doesn't look all that great but the tomatoes I have gotten from it have been so sweet and juicy. Two of those tomatoes inspired this summer tortellini dish.

    When I posted the picture of this dinner on Instagram I used the hashtag #tasteslikesummer. Sweet and juicy tomatoes paired with basil are a classic summer combination - don't you agree? It's one of my favorite things about summer so I hope my little potted tomato plant keeps on giving me perfect tomatoes!

    Summer Tortellini

    • 1 Tbsp olive oil
    • 2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1/2 c vegetable broth
    • 6 leaves of basil, roughly chopped
    • 8 oz cooked cheese tortellini
    • A few handfuls of fresh baby spinach
    • Salt and pepper
    • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    • Optional: crumbled ricotta salata
    • Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat
    • Add the garlic and tomatoes; sauté for about 4 minutes
    • Season lightly with salt and pepper, add a little more than half of the basil and add the broth. Let simmer for a few minutes (this is the perfect time to cook your tortellini)
    • Once the tortellini has cooked, remove it from the water with a slotted spoon and transfer it to the sauté pan.
    • Add the spinach and toss everything to wilt the spinach.
    • Add the Parmesan cheese and adjust salt and pepper, if needed.
    • Serve garnished with some basil and ricotta salata, if desired.

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    Wednesday, July 9, 2014

    Chicken Tostadas

    Today is my baby girl's 4th birthday!!!
    I feel like I was just writing the post about the peach cobbler I HAD to bake just before she was born, and here we are 4 years later. Time is going way too fast! It is so hard to remember my life before she was in it. She has brought so much joy, love, and craziness to our life and home - I just wish time would slow down.
    Since today is going to be a fun day (actually, a fun day to kick off several days of fun birthday things!), I'm sharing a fun dinner - Chicken Tostadas.
    I've had these a few times in Mexican restaurants and when trying to think of what to do with shredded chicken, tostadas came to mind. We all loved them and I'm sure I will turn to these often when looking for something fun and easy. So much prep can be done beforehand and everyone can assemble their own tostadas and choose their own toppings.
    I read a recipe on the Food Network site and followed the basic instructions on how to fry the tortillas and spread on the beans. As far as toppings, I chose to make some of my Pico de Gallo - I knew my husband would like that a lot better than chopped tomatoes. What I liked best about making this dinner was that I cooked and shredded the chicken the night before so when it came time to make dinner, all I had to do was fry the tortillas and assemble them. Definitely an easy weeknight meal! 

    Chicken Tostadas
    Source: loosely adapted from The Food Network
    Ingredients (per tostada)
    • 1 flour tortilla
    • Vegetable oil
    • 2 Tbsp refried beans (want to make your own? Try these)
    • 1 Tbsp shredded cheddar cheese
    • Shredded chicken (you will need chili powder, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder for cooking the chicken)
    • 2 Tbsp fresh pico de gallo
    • 1 tsp chopped jalapeno (optional if you like heat!)
    • Shredded lettuce
    • 1 Tbsp sour cream
    • 1 Tbsp crumbled queso fresco
    • Other ideas for toppings: tomatoes, Monterrey Jack cheese, avocado slices, green onions, tomatillo salsa, chunky salsa
    • Cook the chicken: place chicken breasts in a pot and cover with water. Season the water generously with chili powder, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder and onion powder. Cook over medium heat until chicken is done. Transfer to a KitchenAid mixer and shred or shred using 2 forks. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use; I warmed the chicken in a pan with just a small amount of broth.
    • Preheat broiler in your oven
    • Pour a layer of vegetable oil - about 1/3 inch deep) into a frying pan and heat over high heat. Add the tortilla and cook about 45 seconds per side, or until golden brown and crispy. Transfer to a dish lined with paper towels and let excess oil drip off.
    • Transfer the tortilla to a baking sheet and spoon refried beans on, spreading them in an even layer. Top with the shredded cheddar cheese and place under the broiler until the cheese is melted, about 30 seconds.
    • Add your toppings - chicken, pico, jalapenos, lettuce, sour cream, queso fresco, and anything else you like.
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