Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Creamy Orange Shake

If eating Orange Chicken put you in the mood for more Food Court favorites, you're in luck, because today we're recreating the Orange Julius.  I'm not even sure if Orange Julius exists anymore, but I do remember begging my mom to get me one when we went to the "big" mall in Manchester.  Shopping can be just parching.

This isn't really much of a recipe, so I'll just give you the ingredients.

Creamy Orange Shake
1 orange, peeled, cut into segments and frozen
1 handful ice cubes
1-2 cups milk
Blend until frothy.

Alternatively, you can use frozen orange juice concentrate in place of the orange, or add some sugar if you like.

This completes our walk down mall food memory lane.  Doesn't it just make you want to hit up Claire's for some cheap earrings, the Limited Too for purple leggings,  and the CD store?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Not Your Food Court Orange Chicken

Jon's office building is part of a complex that includes a mall.  In the food court of the mall there is, among other fine dining establishments, a Panda Express.  On occasion in years past he would come home and tell me he had Orange Chicken for lunch.  I was horrified that he ate junk food, but we all want some good Asian style orange chicken once in a while.

I had a bag of oranges in the back of the refrigerator for what may have been weeks.  They were ignored after Jon said they were too juicy to eat at work and I dripped orange all over the baby.  The inspiration for orange chicken was born.

This is far better and healthier than anything you'll get in the food court.  Now I should figure out how to make Orange Julius and Cinnabon.  

Orange Chicken
based on All Recipes

Juice of 3 oranges (~3/4-1 cup)
Juice of half a lemon
1 cup water
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup mirin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Zest of one orange
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons water
1 pound chicken breasts or tenderloins, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper
olive oil
optional garnishes: sliced green onion, sesame seeds

In a saucepan combine orange juice, lemon juice, water, rice vinegar, mirin, soy sauce, orange zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes. 
Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.
Allow to cool.
Marinate chicken pieces in 1 cup of sauce for 2 hours in the refrigerator.
Combine flour, salt and pepper in a bowl or plastic bag.
Remove chicken from marinade and toss in flour mixture.*  Discard marinade.
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Cook chicken in skillet.  Remove to a bowl.
Pour remaining sauce in the skillet and simmer to reduce.
Whisk together cornstarch and 3 tablespoons water and add to the sauce.  Cook until desired consistency is reached.
Add the chicken back into the sauce to heat through.  I added broccoli florets and snow peas at this point because I wanted to keep them crunchy but not raw. 
Serve with brown rice and vegetables.

*The point of tossing in flour before cooking is to give the chicken a slightly crispy crust.  I'd probably skip this step next time, it seemed unnecessary and would save a couple calories. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Crock Pot Beef Stew

Crock Pot Beef Stew is comfort food at it's best. It really is amazing to walk into the house at the end of the day and smell dinner, or walk back into the house after getting the mail, if you're me.  I've become a bit of a recluse in my post-having-a-baby world.  I'm more than ready for warm Spring weather so going outside doesn't involve bundling up in one of Jon's jackets over both me and the baby. 

This takes slightly more prep work than some of my other crock pot meals because it involves searing the beef.  This step is totally worth it, even if you pour wine into your screaming hot skillet and it spatters all over the stove.  Maybe don't do that last part if you can avoid it.

You can, of course, add in different vegetables here.  Sliced mushrooms would be good, and a couple handfuls of frozen peas tossed in near the end.  

Crock Pot Beef Stew

2+ pounds beef (I used pre-cut stew meat because I couldn't deal with meat slicing, but any steak will do)
1/4 cup flour, for dredging
salt and pepper
Canola oil
1 cup red wine
2 onions, chopped
4 carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 cups beef broth
1/4 cup tomato paste

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat.
Toss beef in a mixture of flour, salt and pepper to coat.
Working in batches, add beef to skillet and brown on all sides.
After cooked, put beef back in the bowl you used to dredge with flour.
Pour wine into the skillet to deglaze, using a spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan.  Stand back if your skillet is still very hot, it could spatter.  I'd recommend removing the pan from the heat and giving it a minute to cool down.
Pour wine over beef and set aside while you prepare vegetables.
Into the crock pot add remaining ingredients.
Add in beef and wine and stir.
Cover and cook on high for 6+ hours.  I like my beef stew completely shredded and falling apart, so I cooked on high for 6 hours and then low for 2.  
Serve with bread to mop up the broth.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tamale Pie

Continuing my recent obsession with cornbread, today we have tamale pie.  I've never made tamale pie before, but now that I have it's going into the regular rotation.  Similar in concept to shepherd's pie or leftover Thanksgiving pie, the protein, vegetables, spices and sauce make up the bottom layer with the carbs on top, and the whole thing gets baked together.  In this case, sort of a taco bottom with cornbread topping.  This recipe is merely a starting point, as with many things, you can customize it based on your tastes and whatever you have on hand. 

Tamale Pie
Serves 6-8

Olive or canola oil
1 package ground turkey (mine was 20 oz.)
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 chiplote peppers in adobo sauce, minced
1-2 teaspoons cumin
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 14 oz. can tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1 recipe cornbread
1 jalapeno, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large pan, heat oil over medium. 
Add in the ground turkey and brown until cooked through.  Drain.
Add additional oil if needed.
Cook bell pepper and onion for a few minutes until slightly softened.  Add in garlic.
Return the ground turkey to the pan.  Mix in beans, chipotle peppers and spices.
Pour in tomato sauce and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes until slightly thickened.
Transfer mixture to a 9x11 casserole dish that has been prepared with cooking spray.
In a separate bowl, prepare cornbread batter.  Stir in diced jalapenos. 
Pour cornbread batter over ground turkey mixture.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until cornbread is golden brown on top.

I ate mine topped with hot sauce and cilantro.  Jon went with hot sauce and sour cream.  Cheese and avocado would also be delicious.  Load it up with all of it if you're feeling crazy.   

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Easiest Cornbread Recipe Ever

This cornbread recipe is so easy that I let Jon make it while I was holding the baby, and only gave him instructions once or twice.  I can be a little bossy in the kitchen, as you may have guessed.  This isn't one of those puree your fresh corn and grind cornmeal and use buttermilk kind of recipes.  One step up from an instant mix, it's ready to eat in 25 minutes and I'm sure you have all the ingredients in your pantry right now.  Except maybe cornmeal, but you should pick that up for making homemade pizza anyway.

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup milk
1 egg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a bowl, mix together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
In a separate bowl (I just use a 2 cup measure to minimize dishes), whisk together oil, milk and egg.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until combined.
Pour into a 9x9 baking dish coated with cooking spray.
Bake for 20 minutes.

You can easily take this up a notch by adding some fresh corn, jalapenos or cheese, but it's also delicious as is. 

I'm thinking I might have to try it as a topping for tamale pie.  As soon I figure out how to make tamale pie.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Crock Pot Red Beans and Rice

I've shared my version of red beans and rice with you before.  But that was almost a year ago, and I found a way to simplify it even further.  My crock pot (are you not supposed to say crock pot? Is that like kleenex and scotch tape?  I can't be bothered) has come in very handy in the past few weeks.  I don't know when I'll have time to cook during the day, but I can almost guarantee it won't be between 6-7 in the evening.  Around 11 in the morning my little guy is usually asleep in the sling, so I can carry him and work in the kitchen at the same time.  Perfect timing for setting up the crock pot.  Of course, you can do all the prep the night before or first thing in the morning if you're fancy and have a job that requires you to dry your hair and wear clothes not made out of yoga material. 

Crock Pot Red Beans and Rice
Serves 6 as a Main Course

1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
12 oz sausage (I used spicy mango and jalapeno chicken sausage)
2 cans red beans, drained and rinsed
14 oz crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Tabasco sauce (to taste)

Combine all ingredients except rice in the crock pot.  Say "set it and forget it" as many times as you want.  Or maybe that's just me.
Cook on low for at least 6 hours, but you can let this go as long as you want, or as long as is convenient.
About 25 minutes prior to serving, steam brown rice in 2 cups of water.

What you see there on the edge of the bowl is a piece of the world's easiest cornbread recipe.  I'm on a major cornbread jag and have made it three times in the past month.  Recipe to come. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

Colin had his first play date yesterday, so I made some cookies to bring along.  He's lucky enough to have two cousins within 5 months of his age (he's the youngest), and I'm lucky to have two other girls in our family to have mom chats with.

This is one of my fail safe cookie recipes. I almost always have all the ingredients on hand, it only takes about 20 minutes start to finish, and is always delicious.  Borrowed from the lid of the Quaker Oats canister, it's also available online.

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies
recipe from Quaker Oats

  • 1/2  cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4  cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2  cup granulated sugar
  • 2  eggs
  • 1  teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 3  cups Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
  • 1  cup dried cranberries (the original recipe calls for raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together the butter and sugars in the bowl of a mixer.
Add in the eggs and vanilla and beat until fully combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
Add to the mixer and beat on low speed until combined.
Stir in oats and cranberries on the lowest speed.
Portion cookies onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes.
Allow to cool on cookie sheets for one minute, and then transfer to wire racks.

I like to use my cookie scoop for this because it's so easy, you have less waste, and it makes perfect little mini cookies.  The recipe says the yield is 48 cookies.  I have a few more since they are small.

A delicious outcome every time, even though I had to take a break in the middle because my mini helper had a meltdown.  Jon tried to step in, but ended up just eating dough straight from the bowl.  My baking is slightly less organized than it used to be.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Spaghetti Squash

I'm not sure why it took me so long to cook spaghetti squash.  I have a vague memory of my mom feeding it to us when we were little, but I went through a pretty long anti-squash phase, so I'm sure I turned my nose up at it.  In any case, roasting spaghetti squash is beyond easy, and it serves as an excellent alternative to pasta.  I can eat a huge bowl of pasta and it doesn't really keep me full for long, but the squash provides good fiber and protein with a far lower calorie count.

To roast the squash, simply prick all over with a sharp knife so steam can escape, place in a baking dish and cook in a 375 degree oven for an hour.  Allow to cool slightly so you can touch it, slice in half, and scoop out the seeds in the middle.  Use a fork to scrape the flesh of the squash into spaghetti-like strands, and serve topped with sauce. 

I made a simple tomato and meat sauce to go with our squash.  I've shared a recipe for Meaty Tomato Sauce before, and used a similar technique this time.

Tomato Meat Sauce
1/2 pound ground beef
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine (the end of the bottle)
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2 can (2 oz.) tomato paste.
1/4 cup sherry
Basil (I had some pureed basil mixed with olive oil in the freezer.  Fresh or dried works as well, whatever you have around)

In a large pot, brown the ground beef.  Drain off the fat.
Add in the onion and garlic and cook for a couple minutes.
Pour in the wine. 
Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, sherry, basil and salt.
Cover and simmer over low heat for as long as you like, at least 5-10 minutes.  I give mine at least an hour if I have the time. 

I served the squash over a bed of baby spinach, topped with sauce and asiago cheese.  Since you aren't carbing up on pasta, this means you can eat it with lots of bread for scooping up extra sauce.

Monday, February 6, 2012

One month later and Pico de Gallo

It's been a whole month since I've checked in, I hope a few of you readers are still around!  I took my little guy to his one month checkup today.  He's in the 84th percentile for weight, this kid likes to eat!  Just like his mom. 

My sidekick doesn't always feel like hanging out in the kitchen, so I've been doing a lot less cooking these days.  I have been doing a lot of one-handed eating, however.  New mom tip: Drink your soup out of a mug.  Don't bother trying to mess with a bowl and a spoon, you'll never get to eat lunch.

Yesterday I did a little cooking for the Super Bowl (we will not be discussing the outcome...).  On the menu was buffalo chicken nachos with blue cheese, pico de gallo and guacamole.  Sadly I didn't get a chance to photograph the nachos due to the aforementioned sidekick who was feeling a little fussy, but they were delicious.  I made the chicken in the crock pot.  One package of chicken breasts into the crock pot with enough hot sauce to cover.  Cooked on high for 1 hour and low for 5 hours.  Shred with two forks and add additional hot sauce as needed.  I'm looking forward to eating the leftovers in a wrap tomorrow. 

For the pico de gallo, I took some inspiration from The Pioneer Woman's Food Network show.  Her recipe is essentially equal quantities chopped tomato and onion, some jalapeno, plenty of cilantro, lime juice and a little salt.  Are you in the love it or hate it camp on cilantro?  I'm currently loving it, can't get enough.  Jon does not share my level of enthusiasm.  My quantities were as follows:

Pico de Gallo
1 pint grape tomatoes, chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 large handful cilantro, minced
1/2 lime, juiced
kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

PW also recommended making guacamole using avocadoes, lime juice, salt, and a couple scoops of the pico de gallo you already made.  It was delicious, and couldn't have been easier!

Even though I ate my weight in nachos last night, we still have a fair amount of leftovers, so I made this little concoction for lunch today.  Layered on a piece of toast (a corn tortilla would have been good here), one fried egg, a big scoop of pico de gallo, hot sauce and some crumbled goat cheese.  It was delicious!

Will try to check back in more frequently now that I'm getting better at one-handed typing.  I discovered the wonders of spaghetti squash this weekend, and will share that next!

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