Kung Pao Chicken Tacos

Do you guys get as excited as I do to try new recipes?  I can read a cookbook like a novel, drinking in details, picturing how the flavors will meld together and hoping when I make the dish it’ll be better than I imagined.  Each week I shift through cookbooks, and notebooks full of recipes waiting for something to jump out at me and say “This is the week!  It’s my turn!”.  These tacos shouted loud and did not disappoint.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, October 2012.

Substitutions made, noted below.

Kung Pao Chicken Tacos

Kung Pao Chicken Tacos

6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs – cut into bit sized pieces
3 tblsp low-sodium soy sauce, divided
1/4 c plus 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch, divided
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 tblsp canola oil, divided
1 1/2 tblsp honey – I used agave syrup
1 tblsp dark sesame oil
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 tblsp coarsley chopped dry-roasted peanuts
3/4 c diagonally sliced celery
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas – I used flour tortillas
1/3 c sliced green onions
1/2 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 lime wedges

Place chicken in a large zip-top plastic bag.  Add 1 tblsp soy sauce to bag; seal.  Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade.  Place 1/4 c cornstarch in a shallow dish.  Sprinkle the chicken evenly with salt.  Add chicken to cornstarch in dish and toss chicken to thoroughly coat.  Shake off excess cornstarch.

Heat a large skillet over med-high heat.  Add 1 tblsp canola oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add half of coated chicken; saute for 6 minutes or until done, turning to brown.  Remove chicken from pan using a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels.  Repeat the procedure with remaining oil and chicken.

Combine remaining 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch, remaining 2 tblsp soy sauce, honey and next 3 ingredients (through sambal oelek) in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth.  Microwave at HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring twice.  Stir in garlic.  Combine soy sauce mixture, chicken, peanuts, and celery; toss to coat chicken.

Toast tortillas under broiler or on a griddle until lightly blistered, turning frequently.  Place 2 tortillas on each of 4 plates; divide chicken mixture evenly among tortillas.  Top each taco with green onions and bell pepper strips; serve with lime wedges.

cartoon-strawberry-9Oh man was this a killer meal.  We all loved these tacos and the boys are ready for me to make them again.  I just have to remember the 30 minute marinade ahead of time so we’re not eating a super late dinner. 😉

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Pecan Streusel Bread

A sweet friend and her husband just finished building their dream home.  When going over to see the new diggs, I wanted to bake something special to celebrate.  She and I sat, talking for hours, enjoying the gorgeous view and each having two generous pieces of this bread.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, October 2012.

Substitution made.  The original title for this recipe is Walnut Streusel Bread.  I just don’t do walnuts, so pecans (the better nut) were substituted.

pecan streusel bread 1

Pecan Streusel Bread

Streusel:
1/3 c packed brown sugar
1/3 c old-fashioned rolled oats
1 tblsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
dash of salt
2 tblsp butter, melted
2 tblsp chopped pecans

Bread:
9 oz all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 tblsp butter, softened
2/3 c granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c fat-free buttermilk
Baking spray with flour (such as Baker’s Joy)

pecan streusel bread 2

Preheat to 350 degrees.

To prepare streusel, combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Add 2 tblsp melted butter, stirring until well combined.  Stir in nuts, set aside.

To prepare bread, weigh or lightly spoon 9 oz flour in to dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk.  Combine 5 tblsp butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at med-high speed until well blended.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition; beat in vanilla.  Beating at low speed, add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat just until combined.  Scrape half of batter into a 9×5-inch loaf pan coated with baking spray; sprinkle with half of streusel mixture.  Spread remaining batter over streusel; swirl.  Sprinkle remaining streusle on top of batter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center come out with moist crumbs clinging.  Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack.  Remove from pan; cook completely on wire rack.

pecan streusel bread 3

cartoon-strawberry-9 This quick bread is a buttery, crumbly coffee cake.  Meant to be enjoyed with a hot cup of coffee and a dear friend.

Pork Ramen Soup

I wasn’t someone who lived off of Ramen in college, so I was excited to try out this recipe.  The funny part was trying to figure out where the Ramen is kept in the supermarket.

This recipe is from Real Simple, October 2012.

No substitutions were made.

pork ramen soup 1

Pork Ramen Soup

1 tblsp canola oil
2 boneless pork chops (1/2 inch thick; about 1/2 lb total)
kosher salt & black pepper
8 scallions, sliced, white and green parts separated
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
6 c low-sodium chicken broth
2 3oz packages ramen noodles (discard the seasoning packets)
1 tblsp soy sauce
1 large carrot, grated
2 radishes, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 c fresh cilantro leaves – I omitted this

pork ramen soup 2

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over med-high heat.  Season the pork with 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper and cook until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Let rest for 5 minutes before thinly slicing.

Add the scallion whites and ginger to the drippings in the Dutch oven.  Cook, stirring, until softened, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Add the noodles and boil, stirring occasionally, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in the soy sauce.

Serve the soup topped with the port, carrot, radishes, cilantro and scallion greens.

pork ramen soup 3

cartoon-strawberry-9Gosh this is some good soup, loved the ramen noodles.  The ginger and scallions add a sweet and slightly pungent taste to the broth.  I added the pork and carrots into the soup before serving, and topped with the radishes and scallions.

Roasted Vegetable Frittata

We love quiche in our house, but haven’t really tried a frittata before.  I’m glad I finally decided to try.

This recipe is from Food Network Magazine, September 2012.

Substitution made, noted below.

frittata 1

Roasted Vegetable Frittata

1 small zucchini, 1 inch sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and 1 1/2 inched diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and 1 1/2 inch diced
1 red onion, 1 1/2 inch diced
1/3 c good olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp minced garlic (2 cloves)
12 extra-large eggs – I used 14 large eggs
1 c half-and-half
1/4 c freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 tblsp unsalted butter
1/3 c chopped scallions, white and green parts (3 scallions)
1/2 c grated gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Place the zucchini, peppers and onion on a sheet pan.  Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with  1 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper and toss well.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Add the garlic, toss again and bake for another 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and turn the oven to 350 degrees.

frittata 2

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, parmesan, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.

In a 10-inch ovenproof saute pan, melt the butter and saute the scallions over med-low heat for 1 minute.  Add the roasted vegetables to the pan and toss with the scallions.  Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and cook for 2 minutes over med-low heat without stirring.  Transfer the pan to the oven and bake the frittata for 2- to 30 minutes, until puffed and set in the middle.  Sprinkle with the gruyere and bake for another 3 minutes, until the cheese is just melted.  Cut into 6 or 8 wedges and serve hot.

frittata 3

cartoon-strawberry-9This puffed up and was beautiful.  The changes I make next time?  Less oil on the veggies.  1/4 c or less would be fine.  Stir the veggies and the eggs when added to the pan.  Since I didn’t do this, the veggies all stayed at the bottom like a vegetable crust; which isn’t bad, but it didn’t match the picture.  Another great recipe for a special Saturday breakfast!

Peanut Butter Cup Blondies

When the temps get down to single digits and you’re stuck in the house all day, it’s time to bake.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, September 2011.

Substitution made, noted below.

PB cups 1

Peanut Butter Cup Blondies

5.6 oz all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 c)
1 c granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c creamy peanut butter
1/4 c butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tblsp 2% milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c semisweet chocolate chips
4 (.75 oz) peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped – I used 1/3 c mini PB cups

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt), stirring well with a whisk.  Combine peanut butter and next 4 ingredients (through eggs), stirring well.  Add peanut butter mixture to flour mixture; stir until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Scrape the batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan lightly coated with cooking spray, and arrange the peanut butter cups over batter.  Bake at 350 for 19 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging.  Cool in pan  on a wire rack.

PB cups 2

cartoon-strawberry-9Chocolate and Peanut Butter, what could be better?  When said chocolate and peanut butter are wrapped in a chewy blondie!  We always have mini PB cups on hand in the freezer, so this was the perfect treat on a very cold evening.

Macaroni Monday

I use this Macaroni Monday feature purely to give into my first love of Mac n Cheese.  The problem is each new recipe becomes my favorite.

This recipe is from Mac & Cheese – 80 Classic & Creative versions of the Ultimate Comfort Food.

No substitutions were made.

chick n broccoli macncheese 1

Chicken and Broccoli Mac and Cheese

2 c chicken stock
1/2 lb fresh broccoli crowns, cut into 3/4 inch florets
1/2 lb cavatappi
1/4 c unsalted butter
3 tblsp all-purpose flour
3/4 c half-and-half, warmed
1/2 c heavy cream, warmed
2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon (sub 1 tsp dried)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
5 oz Emmental, grated, divided
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan
4 oz diced cooked chicken or turkey
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/2 c panko breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 13×9 baking pan. (I used a 9-inch baking dish.)  Have a bowl of ice water handy.

Place the stock in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil the stock until it is reduced by half.  Set aside.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the broccoli and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until crisp-tender.  Remove the broccoli from the pot with a strainer and plunge it into the ice water to stop the cooking action.

Bring the water back to a boil.  Cook the pasta until it is just beginning to soften to the al dente stage.  Drain the pasta, run it under cold water, and return it to the pot.  Drain the broccoli, and add it to the pot with the pasta.

chick n broccoli 4

Heat the butter in a saucepan over med-low heat.  Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, or until the mixture turns slightly beige, is bubbly and appears to have grown in volume.  Increase the heat to medium, and slowly whisk in the reduced stock, warm half-and-half and cream.  Bring to a boil, whisking frequently.  Reduce the heat to low, stir in the tarragon and nutmeg, and simmer the sauce for 2 minutes.

Reserve 1/2 c of the Emmental.  Add the remaining cheese to the sauce by 1/2 cup measures, stirring until the cheese melts before making another addition.  Pour the sauce over the pasta, add the chicken and stir well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and transfer the pasta to the prepared pan.  Mix the reserved Emmental and breadcrumbs together, and sprinkle it over the top of the dish.

Bake the casserole for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the cheese sauce is bubble and the crumbs on top are a deep brown.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then serve.

chick n broccoli 5

cartoon-strawberry-9Mac n Cheese with protein AND veggies?  It’s so good.  I served it with some salad on the side, just to add a little crunch.  I’d never heard of or had Emmental cheese before, its a light Swiss cheese.  Thankfully, Trader Joes carries all the cheeses I haven’t heard of and might need.

Zesty Chicken Enchiladas

I’m searching for the perfect – To. Die. For. enchilada recipe.  Because of this, I’m up to try any enchilada recipe I can find.

This recipe is from Real Simple, May 2009.

Substitution made, noted below.

chick enchilada 1

Zesty Chicken Enchiladas

1 tblsp canola oil
1 lb tomatillos (papery skins removed), chopped
1 onion (preferable white), chopped
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp cumin
kosher salt & black pepper
1 c heavy cream
2 to 2 1/2 lb rotisserie chicken, meat shredded
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/4 c grated Monterey Jack (5 oz)
8 6-inch tortillas – I used 10-inch tortillas

chick enchilada 2

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over med-high heat.  Add the tomatillos, onion, poblano, garlic, cumin and 1/2 tsp salt.  Cook stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 10 to 12 minutes.  Transfer to a food processor, add the cream and puree.

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, tomatoes, 1 c of the cheese, 1/2 c of the tomatillo sauce, and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper.

chick enchilada 3

Warm the tortillas according to the package directions.  Spread 1 cup of the remaining sauce in a 9×13 baking dish.  Roll the chicken mixture in the tortillas and place them in the dish, seam-side down.

Top with the remaining sauce and cheese.  Bake until beginning to brown 10 to 15 minutes.

chick enchilada 4

cartoon-strawberry-9I made this for our New Year’s Eve dinner (just a quiet night at home).  I expected it to be much spicier than it was, and there was SO MUCH of the chicken mixture.  I could have rolled two or three more 10-inch tortillas.  I think to bump up the spice, I’d either roast the Poblano, add in a minced Jalapeno, or make the sauce the day before and let the flavors really ripen.  I’d also bump up the cheese to at least a cup and a half.  But all in all, it’s a great flavor and was so much fun to finally cut into a tomatillo!

Ravioli with Spinach and Bacon

At some point in the last month and a half, I made this recipe for dinner.  Probably because the heading is ’20-minute meal’, and the ingredients are easy to come by.

This recipe is from Real Simple, May 2009.

No substitutions were made.

spinach ravioli

Ravioli with Spinach and Bacon

1 lb ravioli (fresh or frozen) – I used frozen cheese ravioli
6 slices bacon
2 tblsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 bunches fresh spinach, thick stems removed (about 8 cups)
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 tblsp fresh lemon juice

Cook the ravioli according to the package directions.  Drain and divide among bowls.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a skillet over med-high heat until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes; transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.  Crumble.

Wipe out the skillet and heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the spinach, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Cook, tossing, until just wilted, 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir the bacon and lemon juice into the spinach.  Spoon the mixture over the ravioli.

cartoon-strawberry-9Easy, yummy and only 20 minutes!  I tossed in some pine nuts to add a little crunch.  Put this recipe in your dinner rotation.

Chicken Teriyaki

Years and years ago a friend gave us a bottle of Sake.  I’m not a huge fan, and husband doesn’t really drink.  So it traveled with us from CA to TN, and sat atop the fridge waiting till I figured out what to do with it.

Nigella to the rescue, with her Chicken Teriyaki recipe.

This recipe is from Nigella Kitchen.

Substitution made, noted below.

chicken teriyaki 1

Chicken Teriyaki

2 tblsp sake
1/4c mirin – I used white cooking wine with 1/4 tsp sugar added
1/4 c soy sauce
2 tblsp light brown sugar
2 tblsp grated fresh ginger
splash of sesame oil
1 3/4 lb chicken thighs, cut or scissored into bite sized pieces
1 tsp peanut oil

Mix the sake, mirin, soy sauce, sugar, ginger and sesame oil in a dish that you can steep the chicken in.  I use an 8-inch square Pyrex, but anything similar would do.  Add the prepared chicken pieces and leave for 15 minutes.

Heat the peanut oil in a large, shallow frying pan or Dutch oven (that has a lid) and, using a perforated spoon, transfer the chicken pieces from their dark marinating liquid to the pan, and saute until they look cooked on the outside.

Pour the marinade over the chicken pieces in the pan and bring to a bubble, then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer, put the lid on and cook for about 5 minutes – cut into a piece of chicken to make sure it’s cooked through.

chicken teriyaki 2

Remove the cooked pieces with a perforated spoon (you could keep them warm in a bowl covered in aluminum foil) and turn the heat up under the pan to let the liquid boil down to a thick, dark syrup.

Return the chicken pieces to the pan, stir well so that they are all coated in the sticky, savory syrup, then serve with a comforting pile of sushi rice and perhaps some steamed baby bok choy or green veggies of your choice.

cartoon-strawberry-9I served this chicken with chow mein noodles and steamed broccoli, just like the teriyaki place I love in CA does.  This one takes awhile, but it well worth the effort.

Italian Wedding Soup

The temps have hit all time lows here in Nashville this week, the perfect time for warm and nourishing soup.

This recipe is from Food Network Magazine.

Substitution made, noted below.

Italian Soup 1

Italian Wedding Soup

1 tblsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 sm onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp chopped fresh sage – I used dried sage
3 c fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 Parmesan cheese rind, plus 1 tblsp grated Parm, plus more for topping
1/2 lb ground pork – I used ground chicken
3 tblsp breadcrumbs (preferaly panko)
3/4 c orzo
8 oz baby spinach (about 8 cups)

Heat olive oil in a large pot over med-high heat.  Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 4 minutes.  Add half of the garlic and 1 tsp each Worcestershire sauce and sage; cook 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, 3 c water and the Parmesan rind and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 7 minutes.

Italian Soup 2

Meanwhile, mix the pork, breadcrumbs, 1 tblsp grated Parm, the remaining garlic, Worcestershire and sage in a bowl.  Form into 1-inch meatballs.

Increase the heat to med-high and bring the soup to a boil.  Stir in the orzo and cook 6 minutes.  Add the meatballs and cook until they are firm and float to the top, about 4 more minutes.  Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 more minute.  Ladle the soup into bowls and top with Parm.

Italian Soup 3

cartoon-strawberry-9The sage lends a rich flavor to the broth and to the meatballs.  I would cut the orzo down to a half cup, and add in a healthy dash of salt and pepper.  Healthy and hearty soup ready in about an hour!