Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stir-Fry, revisited

Last Wednesday I made this tofu stir fry: http://loveoatmeal.blogspot.com/2011/06/garden-vegetable-stir-fry-with-tofu-and.html

This time around, I used sliced chicken instead of tofu, and chicken broth instead of beef broth. I also used basmati rice instead of brown rice.

I identified that it was too much rice wine vinegar that was making the tangy taste I didn't enjoy. This time, I reduced the vinegar to 1 tsp instead of 1 tb.

Once again, I used the Costco frozen stir fry veggies.

It was AMAZING :) It will definitely be part of my regular rotation. Don't you love it when you work with something and it turns out amazing?

So, here is the final modified recipe:

2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
1/2 to 1 lb chicken, diced
3 cups hot cooked long-grain rice
4-5 cups frozen stir fry veggies or 1/3 of the Costco Frozen Stir Fry Veggie bag

Combine water and cornstarch in a bowl; stir with a whisk. Stir in broth and next 6 ingredients (broth through crushed red pepper). Heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; stir-fry 8 minutes or until golden brown. Remove chicken from pan. Add 1 tb vegetable oil to pan. Stir-fry the frozen veggies until heated through, about 8 minutes (OR you could microwave them if you want to keep them crisper). Add chicken and broth mixture. Bring to a boil, and cook 5 minutes or until sauce is as thick as you like. Serve with rice.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Magic Muffins

These muffins are what I serve with my Gumbo; they also go well with beef stew or another hearty dish. They are not exactly a "whole food", but they are delicious, and everything in moderation, right?

I got the idea from these muffins from watching Rachael Ray's 30 minute meals.

1 box corn muffin mix (I like Jiffy)
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
Cheddar Cheese

Coarsley chop up some scallions (I use about one stalk), some cheddar cheese (about 2 oz?) and fry up and crumble some bacon (1-2 slices). Feel free to add more to make the muffins more indulgent :)

Mix the muffin mix as directed - with Jiffy, you add an egg and 1/3 cup milk. Let it sit for a minute - this would be a good time to spray your muffin pan with nonstick spray - it makes 6 regular sized muffins or about 16 mini muffins. Add in the scallion/bacon/cheese and divide among muffin cups. Cook at 400 (or 350 for mini muffins) for about 15 minutes - as soon as they start browning they're ready!

You can thank me later :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The best Gumbo

I am about to share with you one of my best recipes. This is my usual "company is coming over recipe". In the past 6 months, I have made it for Michael & Jessica, CJ & Meagan, Lauren & Jeb, my parents, Adam's parents, Adam's uncle & aunt, and ourselves at least twice. I hope I'm not forgetting anyone. What can I say, it's good!!

This recipe is from Cooking Light. I love it because I barely had to modify it. It makes 8 hearty servings. It takes awhile to make... about 1.5-2 hours... so plan ahead.

Cooking spray
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided - I use BUTTER!
1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces - I use about a pound of chicken breast - from you guessed it, Costco
1 pound low-fat smoked sausage (such as Healthy Choice) or turkey kielbasa, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds - OK, Adam nearly killed me when I brought home my turkey kielbasa, especially when CJ & Meagan came over. "They are from MEMPHIS, get REAL CAJUN SAUSAGE!". So yea, use real Cajun sausage. It's what makes it REAL.
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper - or more, if you like it spicy :) I use 3/4 tsp and it gives it a nice bit of heat, but not too much
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can no salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
3 cups (1-inch) slices fresh okra - use fresh, not frozen - HUGE difference
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 2/3 cups hot cooked long-grain rice - I use 2 cups uncooked basmati rice

Heat a large Dutch oven or a really big pot over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add 1 teaspoon oil (butter), chicken, and sausage; sauté for 3 minutes or until browned. Remove from pan (leave drippings in pan). Add onion, bell pepper, and celery to pan; sauté 4 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and red pepper; sauté 4 minutes or until onion is tender and garlic is fragrant. Remove from pan.
Add remaining oil (BUTTER) to pan. Add flour to pan, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook about a minute or until roux is light brown, stirring constantly with a whisk (the original recipe has 10 minutes, but the roux was way to dry to cook for that long). Gradually add broth, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add chicken and sausage, onion mixture, tomatoes, okra, and bay leaves; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in parsley and shrimp; cook 5 minutes or until shrimp are done. Discard bay leaves. Serve over rice.

This is delicious and makes great leftovers. 5 stars. I make it along with my MAGIC MUFFINS - to be blogged about soon :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Garden Vegetable Stir-fry with Tofu and Brown Rice

The other day I went to Costco and bought a HUGE bag of frozen stir-fry veggies (broccoli, onion, baby corn, water chestnuts, bell peppers) for like $9 and decided it's about time I find a good stir-fry recipe to use these fabulous veggies. I have to admit I am not very familiar with cooking with traditional Asian staples (rice wine vinegar, sesame oil), and this one looked simple enough to try.

I found this recipe from Cooking Light. The results were pretty good, not great - but good enough to attempt to modify and work with again. I know that my tofu could have been a little crispier and in bigger chunks; maybe I'll even use chicken next time.

2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup canned vegetable broth - I thought I was opening a can of chicken broth and discovered it was a can of beef broth so went ahead and used it; I think this would have been better with vegetable or chicken
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce - I used Bragg's Aminos but should probably have used Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
1 (12.3-ounce) package reduced-fat firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes - when I went to the store they only had it pre-cut in smaller cubes; I would have liked it in bigger cubes or even strips. Maybe in the future I'll use chicken??
1 cup cilantro sprigs - I omitted these.. I thought I had cilantro in my garden but I apparantly had killed it... I am no green thumb :(
3 cups hot cooked long-grain brown rice - suggestion: use Basmatic or sticky rice. As much as I love whole grains I just can't embrace cheap brown rice
About 4-5 cups, or 1/4 of the Costco Frozen Stir Fry Veggie bag. I used this in place of the following from the Cooking Light Recipe:
--1 cup thinly sliced onion
--1 cup red bell pepper strips
--3 cups sliced zucchini (about 3/4 pound)
--1 cup snow peas, trimmed
--1/2 cup diagonally sliced carrot
--1 (8-ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained

Combine water and cornstarch in a bowl; stir with a whisk. Stir in broth and next 6 ingredients (broth through crushed red pepper).
Heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu; stir-fry 8 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Remove tofu from pan. Place tofu on several layers of paper towels.
Add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil to pan. Stir-fry the frozen veggies until heated through, about 8 minutes. (If you are NOT using frozen veggies, do this: Add onion and bell pepper, and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add the zucchini, snow peas, carrot, and water chestnuts; stir-fry 1 minute.)

Add tofu and broth mixture. Bring to a boil, and cook 2 minutes (mine took longer- about 5 minutes - to thicken). Stir in cilantro. Serve with rice.

Finally: this had a slightly tangy aftertaste that I did not particularly enjoy (the husband didn't seem to mind it, I think it's just my own personal preference); I am not sure if it's from the sesame oil or maybe even from one of the veggies (I have a love/hate relationship with bell peppers). I don't think it's the Oyster sauce because I've used that several times before. If you are familiar with Asian flavors, please comment to enlighten me on what that tangy aftertaste was and what I can do to prevent it.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Superfood recipe!... plus bacon

My friend CJ and I often discuss what we're planning for dinner. The other day he shared a recipe from http://www.closetcooking.com that I just had to try. In the name alone it mentioned 5 "super foods"... and bacon: White Bean and Spinach Quinoa Salad with Bacon, Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms, and Blue Cheese in a Bacon Pan Sauce Dressing.

What is Quinoa (keen-wah)?... I talk about it here.

The first thing the husband said when I told him what we were having was that if this becomes a regular meal, we'll have to come up with a shorter name - how about The Bacon Salad :)

I have to say, although it SOUNDED absolutely amazing, it left me a little underwhelmed (except for when I hit a piece of bacon). I'm not giving up on it yet, though. If I make it again, there are a few things that I would want to change. Below is the recipe with my comments. Note that this recipe makes enough for 4-6 people without my suggested changes - we'll be eating off of this for a few days at least!
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed - this made a LOT of quinoa. I wondered if maybe he meant 1 cup COOKED quinoa - in the future, I would halve this to make the spinach more of the focus. Also, make it with chicken broth instead of water for more flavor
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces - I used smoked - it turned out well
  • 1 cup red onion, sliced - I use Vidalia, it's what I had on hand... I prefer them anyway
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, sliced - I had 8 oz so I just threw all of them :)
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small clove garlic, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 (6 ounce) package baby spinach
  • 1 (19 ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup mild blue cheese, crumbled - We used Feta... Goat cheese may also work
(My modified) Directions
  1. Cook 1/2 cup dry quinoa as directed on the package - use chicken broth for more flavor!
  2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a pan. Save the grease, mmmm delicious
  3. Caramelize the onions and mushrooms in the remaining bacon grease for about 20 minutes - scoop into a separate bowl and set aside.
  4. Add the vinegar to the pan and deglaze it.
  5. Mix in the sugar, mustard, garlic and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Add the spinach and white beans and cook until the spinach wilts
  7. Mix in the bacon, onions and mushrooms, and quinoa
  8. Serve garnished with cheese of your choice

Monday, June 6, 2011

Slow Cooker

I've never, ever owned a slow cooker. This came up in conversation with my aunt & uncle and they just happened to have 3 in the house and gave one to me - thank you Jay and Sarah!

I've been having fun experimenting - we tried a coconut chicken curry and a pot roast... they were good, but nothing to write home... or blog about. One thing that was really spectacular was our Kitchens of India Butter Chicken made in the slow cooker - I added in spinach, hot pepper, and some diced bell peppers... delicious :) Now I just need to find more recipes from scratch!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

New Year's Resolution Update

Well hello!

I've been completely neglectful about updating, but apparently I am in demand... (Hi Brittany!)

You might remember that I made a New Year's resolution to walk 500 miles this year... that's about 1.67 miles each day (which would work with my goal of 2-3 miles, 4-5 times a week).

My goal point (1.67 miles/day) as of 6/5/11: 208.24
My actual miles walked: 94.4 - ouch!

I *do* have some good excuses - back in February I had a cold-turned-sinus infection that put me out for 2 weeks. In April I had surgery that put me off for an entire month - so now I'm starting to get back on track! I don't know if I'm going to be able to make up the difference but I have been kicking up the intensity lately (maybe I'll even start running again?).

It's helping that now I've got the hubby involved (he's up to 70 miles, which is good considering he started later in the year). We've been trying to go on a hike every weekend but it's been difficult because it's been HOT lately!

New recipes soon... if I can find inspiration :)