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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Kung Pao Chicken


This is an original recipe.  It took me a long time of trying, but I finally got it right, and now I am hooked on this dish.  I figured out how to do it without chopping loads of ginger and garlic - which to me was the most annoying part of the prepping for a stir fry - and it doesn't taste like it's missing anything.  I also know that I could easily throw in any other vegetables I want to use and exchange the chicken for another protein.  This recipe is a streamlined, healthy, and delicious stir fry with all the signature ingredients of Kung Pao Chicken - carrots, celery, onion, water chestnuts, peanuts, a bit of heat, and...um...chicken.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Kung Pao Chicken
serves 4

Marinade for chicken:
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. corn starch
1/2 tsp. rice (wine) vinegar

Sauce:
1/4 cup hoisen
2 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup of water

2 Tbsp peanut oil, divided
1 lb chicken breast, diced small
4 dried sichuan peppers, broken up, with seeds
2/3 cup carrots, diced small
2/3 cup celery, diced small
1 small or 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
1 small can of water chestnuts, diced
2 scallions, thinly sliced (optional)
1/4 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts


Marinade the chicken in the baking soda for 20 minutes.  Then rinse well and dry completely.  Add the rice vinegar and cornstarch to the chicken, combine well, and let sit for another 15 minutes.  While the chicken is marinating, whisk together all the ingredients for your sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

Once your chicken is ready, heat 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil in a wok or skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink.  Remove from the wok and set aside.  Heat the remaining tablespoon of peanut oil.  Add the peppers and simmer until fragrant.  Add the carrot, celery, and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the carrots are no longer hard, about 10 minutes.  Add the water chestnuts and combine.  Then incorporate the cooked chicken.  Add the sauce and mix everything together.  Lastly, add the scallions (if using) and the peanuts.  Serve with your favorite rice.





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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Raspberry Chia Jam


I am not a vegan - I eat absolutely everything (except radishes...I hate radishes.)  I am, however, at the risk of making my husbands eyes roll, a foodie.  So I am willing to try almost anything if it has visual appeal and uses amazing ingredients.  It is because of this (and a fellow food lover/vegan friend) that I have recently fallen very much in love with the Oh She Glows Cookbook.  (I am linking to her web site where she uses the following jam recipe to make jam filled oat bars...I will definitely be trying that one day.)  Just yesterday, I made three of the recipes - all delicious - but this jam is nothing less than stunning.  If the pictures haven't won you over, let me continue to try.  The jam was so easy to make that words can't do it justice, and it is waaaaaay more delicious than any jam you'll ever get at the store.  I hate the fact that jarred jams have so much sugar in them - and some of those sugars are as unnatural as it gets.  Well this jam is too easy, too healthy, and too delicious to eat any other type of jam ever again.

Raspberry Chia Jam
recipe from Oh She Glows

makes 1/2 cup
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (I used fresh)
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, heat the raspberries and maple syrup over medium-high heat.  Once the mixture comes to a simmer, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Then mash up the fruit with a fork or spoon, mix in the chia seeds, and cook for another 15 minutes or so, stirring frequently, until it is a good consistency.  It will firm up more as it cools.  Lastly, stir in the vanilla.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.


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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Classic Apple Crisp




It's the first weekend after the first week of school.  I survived.  The students survived.  We all survived.  Only 40 or so more weeks to go until summer.  Not that I'm counting or anything.  Luckily the start of school also means the start of some pretty amazing fall activities...most of which revolve around food...and also the cooler weather.  How I wish fall weather was all year long.

So for our first fall activity, of course we went off apple picking - its one of the best things about fall.  (It also usually leads to a pretty amazing and lengthy baking spree.)  The apple cider doughnuts at Parlee Farms are crazy good, and their apple crisp is even better.  However, I told Jim that instead of us buying the apple crisp there, I would just make some of my own with some of our apple loot.  I began to regret that halfway into apple peeling.  Some delicious Parlee Farm apple crisp would have been way easier.  So now I know.  Yet this did come out delicious (and pretty.)  It was worth the work.  The filling may have been a little bit too lemony for me...I would take down the lemon juice to 1 tablespoon.  The crumb topping was perfection.  If anything, I don't think I'm used to anything this sweet anymore, but I can still recognize a delicious - even if a bit indulgent - dessert.

Apple Crisp
recipe from Ina Garten

For the filling:
5 pounds McIntosh or Macoun apples (I used a mix of Gala and Macs)
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Peel, core, and slice the apples.  In a large bowl (I had to use two bowls), mix the apple slices with the rest of the filling ingredients.  Pour the mixture into a buttered baking dish.  In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix all of the topping ingredients until crumbly and the butter pieces are pea-size.  Pour the crumb topping over the apples.  Place your baking dish on a aluminum foil lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for 1 hour, until the apple filling is bubbly and the crumb topping is golden.  I highly recommend serving this with vanilla ice cream.




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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Crispy Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies



My friend Bonnie fed me these cookies a week ago and I knew immediately I would be making them.  She got them from the Oh She Glows cookbook (but I'm adding the link to Angela Liddon's web site with the same recipe - aside from using peanut butter instead of almond butter.)  These cookies are really delicious, but also really easy to put together, so it feels like I will whip them up often on a whim in the future.  Also, let it be noted (despite the fact that I don't really care all that much about omitting certain food groups, these cookies are vegan and - as long as you use gluten-free oats - they can also gluten-free.  As far as "crispy" cookies go, these were super crispy...so much so that I cooked them for less time than the recipe called for.  However, Bonnie's cookies came out soft and fluffy when she made these (I cannot for the life of me understand how and, since she is currently on a family vacay, we have yet to compare every single part of our cooking procedure down to the finest of details.  I will update with answers if we discover how this happened.)  I am usually not a fan of such a crispy cookie, but these did come out incredibly tasty...addictively so.  In fact, these cookies were so tasty - along with being convenient and easy to make - that I just ordered the Oh She Glows cookbook.  It is very rare that I order cookbooks anymore...only if they speak to me from a health standpoint and have more than a handful of recipes that seem quick and easy to make.  The internet full of food blogs is truly my oyster, but hopefully this cookbook will prove to be a fun and useful reference.

Crispy Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
recipe from Oh She Glows
makes 2 dozen cookies

1 Tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 3 Tbsp water (this is called a flax egg)
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup natural cane sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt  (recipe called for fine sea salt...I used kosher)
1 cup rolled oats, ground into a flour
1 cup slivered almonds, ground into a meal
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the almond butter and coconut oil using a hand mixer.  Add both sugars and beat for a minute.  Then add the flax egg and vanilla and beat until combined.  One by one, beat in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Then add the oats and almond meal and combine.  Lastly, mix in the chocolate chips.

Put 1-inch balls of the dough on the baking sheet about 2 or 3 inches apart.  Bake in the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.  (The recipe gave a longer cook time, but I let them go for the suggested minimum of 12 minutes and the bottoms burned...boo.)  Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack for another 10 minutes.  Try not to eat them all at once.  (I have had 3 today.)



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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Chorizo and Potato Tacos



Tonight's supper was a surprise keeper.  I am always amazed when I work completely off recipe and my instincts prove to amazingly be correct.  I have always been a self-doubter, but tonight I figured you can't go wrong with potatoes and chorizo...how could it turn out bad???  It wasn't just not bad - it was soooooo good.  My quickie guacamole didn't hurt the cause either, but I don't have a recipe for that one.  I just eyeball and taste until I get it right.  Let's see...in case it will help you...2 avocados, a big pinch of salt, about a tablespoon of minced onion, not even a teaspoon of minced garlic, juice of about half a lime, some chopped cilantro, and done.  I have overdone it with both the garlic and the onion on separate occasions and it actually dissuaded me from attempting guac for a very long time...it was awful.  That's what you get when you follow bad recipes.  So fearful of making noxious guacs, instead I would just slice avocados and leave all the other flavors to the main dish.  I finally got back on the horse.

So have I told you how much I love cooking in my new kitchen?  Well not only to I love cooking in my new kitchen, but I also love taking pictures in my new kitchen!  At my old house, I would need to put the plates on the floor most of the time to be able to get (a) enough good lighting and (b) a background without children's toys.  My husband has actually taken pictures of me taking pictures for the blog (how meta...and super embarassing) because of how ridiculous me crouching over plates of food on the floor in front of our glass door looked...not cool, Jim...so not cool.

So to summarize...I love tacos and taking pictures of tacos.

Chorizo and Potato Tacos

1 lb chorizo, casings removed and diced small
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 yellow onion, diced small
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
big pinch of salt
1 lb yukon gold potatoes, cooked. skins removed, and diced small (it is easiest to do this on a plate in the microwave)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 package of your favorite tortillas

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  Add the chorizo and cook until the fat renders and it turns brown and a little crispy, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Turn the heat down to medium and add the canola oil to the pan.  Then add the onion and saute until translucent.  Add the garlic and saute a minute more.  Add the chili powder, cumin, and salt and stir until combined and fragrant, 30 seconds or so.  Then add the potatoes to the pan and stir until they are heated through..  Return the chorizo to the pan along with the chopped cilantro and combine.  Serve with cheese and guacamole on a tortilla. visit page

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Healthy Eggplant Parmesan


So the move is over and we have been unpacking non-stop and one of my favorite people in the whole world came over and helped me unpack my entire kitchen - so thanks to her I am finally ready to cook a meal.  I am coming from a house with a tiny kitchen that lacked counter space and well, really just space in general.  It was less of a kitchen and more of two galleys that had a dining room next to it.  As much as I love cooking, that's how much I hated my kitchen.  I always had bowls and pans all over the dining room table.  (But it was a ginormous step up from our apartment in Medford - so who knew it would still be tight?)

That being said...I was even nervous about the space in our new home before we moved in...what if it still presented problems?  However, I love love love love love love love love love my new kitchen!  Words do not do it justice.  The best way I can put it...It gave me joy.  So now please let me share with you our first out of countless meals in our new, happy home.

Healthy Eggplant Parmesan
adapted from a recipe by Mario Batali

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
tomato sauce (find the recipe here - and this is enough sauce to have plenty left over to serve with a pound of pasta)
1 cup of shredded cheese of choice (I used a mozzarella, asiago, provolone blend from Trader Joe's)
1 Tbsp romano cheese
ricotta cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, spread with the 2 Tbsp of olive oil and then lay out your eggplant slices in a single layer.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes until golden in color.  Then, flip them over and bake for another 10 minutes.  When done, remove from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Cover the bottom of a large baking dish with a thin layer of your tomato sauce.  Then place some eggplant slices in the dish.  Cover the slices with another thin layer of tomato sauce and then top with some of your shredded cheese and about a teaspoon of the romano.  Begin another layer of eggplant and continue this patter until you run out of ingredients.  I added a few dollops of ricotta to the top before placing in the oven uncovered for about 20 minutes until the cheese melted.

Serve hot with a side of pasta and extra cheese.






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Monday, July 21, 2014

Rosemary Lemon Bars


So some of you may know and some of you may not...I am a part of a wonderful food group.  A friend from work and I met three other lovely ladies at a class we took discovering the food cultures of different Boston neighborhoods.  During that class we decided to continue to regroup for dinner parties in which we would all cook a dish that centered around the same main ingredient.  (Like Iron Chef, but the ingredient is not a secret, there is no real time constraint, and we don't need to cook on-site unless we need or want to.)  For the first dinner, we chose to use bacon for the reason of versatility to all courses as well as pure indulgent deliciousness.  I made this bacon potato pizza (which is awesome.)  By the end of that dinner party, we had already picked our next date and ingredient...citrus!

So yesterday was our Iron Chef citrus night.  It was amazing...these ladies can certainly cook.  Everything was truly delicious.  This was what our menu looked like...

Apps: Lemon Steamed Artichokes with Basil Lemon Cream Dipping Sauce
          Lemon and Grilled Onion Feta Dip
          Tilapia Ceviche

Main Course: Lemon Parmesan Crusted Chicken over a Pine Nut Arugula Salad with a Lemon Vinegarette

Dessert:  Key Lime Pie
              Rosemary Lemon Bars (these were mine!)

I stumbled upon this recipe a long time ago and placed it in my memory bank.  As soon as we decided citrus, I knew I was making this.  I have never attempted any lemon bar before, so I didn't have the slightest idea as to what to expect, but just the idea of rosemary in the crust of these made me need to find out.  They were awesome.  If you have a thing for lemon desserts and a sweet tooth, then you'll need to make these.  The rosemary is not overwhelming at all - it is extremely subtle and I think added the perfect special touch.  Try them out if you are looking for something different and love a good lemon bar.  Since I don't really eat lemon bars, I can't tell you how they compare as far as the sweetness level goes, but I compared it to other recipes and it seemed to use about the same ratios of sugar to egg and flour.

On a totally different note, I would have loved to take a different kind of photo of these.  They would have looked amazing with a dark background, but unfortunately, I already had packed away my slate board.  I didn't even have my cake pan to use for these because I had packed it up not thinking about making lemon bars at the time.  I had to buy a disposable tin to use instead.  I can't wait to be moved already!  I'm cooking my last meal in this house tonight...so sad and happy at the same time.  My love of food and cooking blossomed in this house.

Rosemary Lemon Bars
recipe from Gimme Some Oven

for the crust:
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 24 small pieces
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon the flour into measuring cups and sweep off the excess)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt

for the filling:
6 eggs
2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 cup all-purpose flour (same as above)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a 9  x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, or grease with cooking  spray.  To make the crust, pulse all ingredients aside from the butter together in a food processor until combined.  Then add the butter and process until a crumbly dough has formed.  Remove the dough and press into the bottom of prepared baking pan in a flat layer.  Bake the crust for 15 minutes, until lightly golden.  Remove and set aside.  While the crust bakes, make the filling...Whisk together all of filling ingredients until there are no longer any lumps.  Then, once the crust is done, pour it over pre-baked crust.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until filling is set in center (mine took 30 minutes.)  Remove bars and let cool to room temperature.  Then refrigerate for another 2 hours before slicing.  Dust with powdered sugar if desired.  Add a spring of rosemary if you'd like to make it pretty, but don't eat it.  (I'd get yelled at for the inedible garnish if I were on a cooking show.)





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