Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lighter General Tso's Chicken

I love Chinese food and am always looking for new recipes. I found this in a recent issue of Everyday Food, that it was a lighter version of one of my Chinese buffet favorites was a bonus.

I chunked the chicken and added it to the egg white and corn starch, while the pan was heating. Then I started the rice in the cooker. While the chicken was frying I put together the sauce and it was ready to go when the chicken was done. Everything came together right on time. This is about a 30 minute meal.

The light coating on the chicken was excellent. It was substantial enough to hold the sauce, but it didn't have the flour taste or heaviness of the normal breading. I hate it when I bite into a piece of chicken and instead get a big gob of semi-cooked breading.

The sauce was very flavorful. You could taste all the components, soy, garlic, ginger all in the traditional sweetness expected of General Tso's, finished with a kick from the pepper flakes.

This is definitely a keeper. Next time I think I will substitute some broccoli for some of the pea pods, not much maybe just a crown, and maybe add just a few red pepper strips. I could also replace some of the sugar with some pineapple, and use thighs instead of breast, or maybe I should just leave it alone.....nah.

Since I haven't adapted it yet, the recipe can be found here at Everyday Food.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Mini Java Monkey Muffins, Peach Muffins

I love muffins. I prefer the moist dense muffins as apposed to the light airy cakey muffins, something more substantial. I ran across this recipe for Java Monkey Muffins while checking out My Own Sweet Thyme. This recipe intrigued me as it used coconut milk in place of oil and it only had 3 tablespoons of sugar.

Since the temperature has been in the 90's all week and I didn't feel like firing up the big oven I made mini-muffins in my little convection oven. These turned out well and had great texture. The coconut and the coconut milk added a lot of moisture and texture without imparting a lot of coconut flavor.

After The Little Buddy and I scarfed down the mini-muffins I decided to experiment with the recipe. All I had on hand at the time were some peaches. Using the same recipe only substituting 1 cup of peaches in place of the bananas. For the frosting I exchanged cinnamon for the coffee. They were pretty good, I must admit peaches are not my first or even second choice in muffins.

I think this base recipe has a lot of room for experimentation. I'm going to try apple next. One of my favorites, or maybe pear and candied ginger.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Jalepeno corn

Fresh corn isn't really ready around here until next month, so I picked some up at the store. After shucking, it didn't look as juicy and plump as good corn on the cob should. So I threw a couple of tablespoons of butter in a skillet and added a diced jalapeno and sauteed on low while I cut the corn off of 5 small ears. Toss the corn in the pan with a little salt and pepper to taste and cook on lowish heat for about 5 minutes. You don't want to fry the corn just add some moisture back in with the butter and soften it up a bit. The best way to describe it would probably be al dente. You can add a bit more butter if doesn't look moist enough.

This is really good, the predominant taste is the corn, then the butter and then just enough heat from the jalapeno for a little kick but it doesn't detract from the corn taste.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookies

This recipe came in a seasonal Kroger recipe booklet a few years ago. I thought it looked good, stuck it in my recipe box and forgot about it. I have a lot of recipes like that, and I'm sure I'm not the only one out there with a stash of recipes that have never gotten around to being made.

This is my goal now, to make these forgotten recipes. Of course some of them can be weeded out automatically for not meeting my recipes criteria; fresh ingredients, not a lot of ingredients, relatively quick and fairly frugal. I'm sure there will be a few that aren't quick and may have a few more ingredients than I would like, but you have to have a few of those "extra effort" recipes for rainy or cold days when you feel like puttering around in the kitchen.

If you like dark chocolate this is the recipe for you. I loved the texture of this cookie, shiny and crackly on the outside, cakey and fudgy on the inside. They were very fudgy right out of the oven and turned a little more cakey as they cooled. I'm not really a bittersweet chocolate person, they were just a tad to strong for me. I think I will try them again using semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips instead. When they say it's a soft dough they aren't kidding, I had to refrigerate it before I could form it into logs. My eggs were on the large side so that may have been a contributing factor. After a little tweeking to my tastes, I think this will be a keeper.

Ghiradelli Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookies
Yield: 24 cookies

12 ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
11 1/2 ounce 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
6 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts

In double boiler over hot water, melt bittersweet chocolate chips and butter. In large bowl with electric mixer or whisk, beat eggs and sugar until thick; stir into chocolate mixture. In small bowl, stir together flour and baking powder; stir into chocolate mixture. Gently mix in semi-sweet chocolate chips and walnuts. Using a sheet of plastic wrap, form dough into two logs, each 2 inches in diameter and about 12 inches long. As dough will be quite soft, use plastic wrap to hold dough in log shape. Wrap tightly; refrigerate at least 1 hour or until firm. (Dough may be frozen; thaw in refrigerator before proceeding with recipe.) Heat oven to 375°F. Unwrap dough; with sharp knife, cut into 3/4-inch slices. Place slices 1 1/2 inches apart on greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until shiny crust forms on top but interior is still soft. Cool on baking sheet; store in airtight tin up to 1 week.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Vegetable Tian

This is a Barefoot Contessa recipe. I like Ina Garten's recipes because they are usually fresh ingredients and not that many. The older I become the less likely I am to make a recipe with a big long list of ingredients. My attention span seems to be shrinking.

The recipe in Barefoot in Paris had enough for a 9 x13 pan. I've downsized to a 9" pie plate. That is still enough to serve 4, I think. I also didn't have any Gruyere, so I substituted Parmesan, which worked fine but next time I want to try it with the Gruyere. But as usual with spur of the moment recipe decisions I was missing an ingredient and didn't want to drive to town for 1 item. When I retire I'm going to find a rockin' retirement home next to a grocery store.

This is a pretty frugal meal, especially now that it's garden season. Even though it has a longer cooking time, the prep is supper easy. The main thing to remember is to get vegetables about the same size in diameter so they will cook evenly and make a nice presentation. If you want to make the original recipe in a 9x13 the recipe can be found online at the Food network site.

Vegetable Tian
adapted from Barefoot in Paris

Good olive oil
1 medium to large yellow onion, cut in half and sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium round russet potatoes, unpeeled
1 6-8" zucchini
1 6-8" yellow squash
3 plum tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 scant tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus extra sprigs
2 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Brush a 9" pie plate with olive oil. In a medium saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the onions over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the pie plate.

Slice the potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes in 1/4-inch thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly, making only 1 layer. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme leaves, and thyme sprigs and drizzle with 1 more tablespoon of olive oil. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Uncover the dish, remove the thyme sprigs, sprinkle the cheese on top, and bake for another 30 minutes until browned. Serve warm.

Check out Friday's Recipe sway on the Grocery Cart Challenge

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Simple Ginger Applesauce

We haven't had anything notable this past week. There was a ton of leftover meatballs from a carry-in and I haven't been that hungry, so it was a boring week.

Yesterday I did cook some loin chops with lemon pepper and broccoli. The Little Buddy likes applesauce with pork, really who doesn't like it with pork, it's one of those no fail pairings.

I went to a class a few years ago and the chef made a large pan of smashed applesauce that he cooked in the oven along with a crown roast of pork, it was excellent. I made it once and it was way to much for the two of us. Now I just use a few apples and cook it on the stove, takes a lot less time and doesn't heat up the kitchen. The thing I liked the most about the recipe was the addition of ginger. I had always used cinnamon in applesauce and had never thought of ginger. The ginger goes great with the apples and adds a bit of heat.

When I made this yesterday I did throw in a few pinches of cinnamon to see how it would go with the ginger. It was ok, but both of us preferred it without.

For just the two of us I use:

2 large Granny Smith apples
1 tsp of grated fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp of dry ginger (I prefer the fresh)
2 tsp of brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup water

Core and peel the apples. Quarter the apples and chop each into 3-4 pcs. Place in sauce pan with ginger, sugar and 1/4 cup of water. Cook, covered on low heat stirring a few times, until water is absorbed and apples are soft enough to smash with a spoon. Add more water if it gets to dry before the apples are soft enough. Smash with spoon. This is good served warm or chilled.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

I'm still here

I haven't abandoned the blog, just been sick this past week. I will be back to posting in a day or two.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Chungking Pork

I take cooking classes at the kitchen store in the college town about 25 miles away. I like going to the classes for different cuisines. One of the first cooking classes I went to years ago was by Helen Chen who is the daughter of late restaurateur Joyce Chen. Helen, like her mother, has her own line of Asian products, Helen's Asian Kitchen. I have her large wok and it works great.

I really enjoyed her class, not only was I finally able to cook Chinese food that tasted like Chinese food, but I learned a lot about the reason the Chinese eat like they do. Why they don't eat much beef, why they stir-fry and why they don't have ovens. It was most interesting. If you ever have the opportunity to see Helen Chen in person, do it.

I am fortunate that the college close to us has a huge Asian population. So there is a great Asian market close by. This recipe is adapted from Helen's Chen's Chinese Home Cooking. There is a chapter in the beginning that's all about ingredients and gives good recommendations of what brand to buy if you're close to an Asian market. There is quite a difference between the products you buy there and what you get from an American grocery store. The dark soy sauce is thicker and richer, the hoisin sauce is not as sicky sweet. If you don't live near a market, there are sources on the Internet.
I'm just glad my Chinese food tastes better now.

Chungking Pork
adapted from Helen Chen's Chinese Home Cooking

1 lb. pork tenderloin
3 tsp. cream sherry or dry
4 tsp. cornstarch
2 tbls. fermented black beans, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, if you want it a little hotter add some Sriracha hot chili sauce
3 tbls. hoisin sauce
2 tbls. dark soy sauce
4 tbls canola oil
1/2 small head cabbage, about 4 cups cut into 1 1/2" chunks
1 medium red bell pepper cut into 1 1/2" chunks
4 slices unpeeled ginger root, 1 x 1/8" each
3 cloves garlic, sliced

Slice the tenderloin crosswise 1/8" thick. You can freeze briefly to firm up and make it easier to slice. Place in a bowl, stir in sherry and 2 rounded tsp. of cornstarch and mix well so all pork is coated. Set aside. Dissolve remaining cornstarch in 1/3 cup water.

Stir the black beans and crushed red pepper together in a small bowl and set aside. Combine the soy sauce and hoisin sauce in another small bowl and set aside.

Heat 2 tbls. of the oil in a wok or stir-fry pan over high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the cabbage; it should sizzle. Stir-fry for about 3 minutes. Add the peppers and cook for 2 minutes. The cabbage may brown slightly. Remove the vegetables to a plate.

Pour the remaining 2 tbls. oil into the same pan and place over high heat. Add the ginger root and garlic and stir around the pan until they become fragrant and begin to sizzle. Do not brown. Mix the pork up again and add to the pan, stirring briskly, until the meat is no longer pink, about 2 or 3 minutes.

Stir in the black bean mixture, stir around a few times, add the sauce mixture, and stir a few time to mix. Return the vegetables to the pan, stir, then ad the cornstarch slurry, and stir for 30 seconds. Discard the ginger root.

Happy eating,