Surviving Pi Day with: Orange Chicken


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It’s Pi Day, and I guess the thing to do is celebrate the day by eating pie (If you don’t know what Pi Day is, read about it here: http://www.piday.org).

In my opinion, it’s a genius, loosely related excuse to gorge on all things pie. My coworkers decided to make an event of it by having a pie potluck at lunch…with a total of 35 sweet and savory pies to share. Strawberry-blueberry thyme pie, chocolate peanut butter pie, lemon mascarpone pie, sweet potato bacon pie, cheese and spinach pie, smore pie…and just about every other pie you could dream up. Amazing, right?

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BEFORE

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AFTER

Well…no. I’m on day 17 of my dessert-free Lent, and I have “bad reactions” to dairy, so I forced myself to celebrate at a safe distance with my veggie curry and spinach. So far I’m surviving OK, enduring just a few difficult times resisting a fudgy brownie cake at a wedding, and a homemade coconut cream pie that my little sister begged me to eat. But, I prevailed!

I’ve refocused my sugar-craving energy on real food, fueling my body with what it needs to run better, and finding inspiration to try new recipes.

I decided to try a new recipe that recently caught my eye—Paleo orange chicken. Except it’s not Paleo, because I used soy sauce, rice vinegar and rice wine. (If you really want to make the recipe Paleo you can go to: http://www.health-bent.com/poultry/paleo-orange-chicken.)

This meal took me less than 30 minutes to make, and it was full of flavor! I served it with sautéed snow peas, mushrooms and zucchini, and a side of brown rice. I barely missed dessert at all.  Well, OK, some ripe mango and juicy pineapple slices also did the trick. 😉

Seventeen more days to go!

Healthified Orange Chicken

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Serves two.

INGREDIENTS: 

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 T ginger, minced

4 T soy sauce

2 T mirin wine

2 T rice vinegar

1 tsp. orange zest

juice of two large oranges

1-2 tsp. spicy chile sauce or Sriracha, or modify to your taste

sliced green onions, optional

1 T sesame oil

pepper, to taste

 In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook chicken in sesame oil until browned on all sides. Scrape up browned bits on the bottom of pan.

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Turn down heat to medium and add garlic and ginger. Mix with the chicken quickly so the garlic and ginger don’t burn to the bottom of the pan.

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Add soy sauce, mirin wine and rice vinegar. Gently stir and let cook for a minute or two. Add orange juice and chile sauce, and simmer until the sauce thickens. This recipe doesn’t really make extra sauce, so if you like to have sauce to spoon over your rice, you can easily double the sauce recipe. When the sauce is thick and the chicken is cooked through, turn off the heat, and add orange zest and green onions. Top with fresh-cracked pepper, if desired.

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Yeees…

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Yeeeeeeeess…almost there..

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Mmmmm.

 

Orange Chicken Recipe

Serves two.

Ingredients:

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 T ginger, minced

4 T soy sauce

2 T mirin wine

2 T rice vinegar

1 tsp. orange zest

juice of two large oranges

1-2 tsp. spicy chile sauce or Sriracha, or modify to your taste

sliced green onions, optional

1 T sesame oil

pepper, to taste

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook chicken in sesame oil until browned on all sides. Scrape up browned bits on the bottom of pan. Turn down heat to medium and add garlic and ginger. Mix with the chicken quickly so the garlic and ginger don’t burn to the bottom of the pan. Add soy sauce, mirin wine and rice vinegar. Gently stir and let cook for a minute or two. Add orange juice and chile sauce, and simmer until the sauce thickens. This recipe doesn’t really make extra sauce, so if you like to have sauce to spoon over your rice, you can easily double the sauce recipe. When the sauce is thick and the chicken is cooked through, turn off the heat, and add orange zest and green onions. Top with fresh-cracked pepper, if desired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rejoicing new Photoshop skills with: Mini, Smoky Turkey Meatloaf and Mashed Cauliflower


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Well hello there. Happy……Halloween, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, New Year, and any other holiday you may have celebrated in the last four months, because that’s how long I’ve been gone from this blogging business. Yeesh.

I’ve still been hard at work in the kitchen, but a new job, marathon #3, and a web design class at my local community college left me with no motivation to pick up my camera. I may have neglected my food blog for months, but at least now I know how to erase the appearance of wrinkles on an old lady’s face in Photoshop. I can also alter an image of my lazy cat in a pink hippo suit on the couch, to appear as if she’s adventurously leaping off Pier 39 in San Francisco.

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Hey. Don’t judge. It’s a valuable skill I might need to utilize someday. If not, well, I still have this blog.

Now that it’s 2013, life is back to normal and I’m starting off the year with healthy, satisfying, complete meal ideas––in preparation for my Caribbean cruise vacation next month.

To start, I decided to make mini turkey meatloaves and mashed cauliflower. It’s much lighter than traditional meatloaf and mashed potatoes, but still tastes like comfort food. With this meal, you’ll be able to survive through chilly, dreary January, without packing extra poundage. It’s so tasty, you won’t even miss the mashed potatoes! Serve with a side of salad greens with balsamic vinaigrette and you’ve got one tasty weeknight dinner.

Mini, Smoky Turkey Meatloaf 

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Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

19 oz. ground turkey (That’s just the odd, prepackaged amount I bought. I’d highly recommend substituting half the turkey for ground chicken sausage, for more flavor.)

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 of a medium onion, diced

1/2 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)

1/2 – 2/3 cup quick-oats oatmeal

1 egg

1/2 tsp. liquid smoke (optional)

1 can tomato sauce

a pinch of cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. salt (or to your taste)

generous amount of fresh cracked pepper

ketchup (optional)

You can add seasonings such as basil, oregano, thyme or parsley if you want to add extra flavor.

You don’t have to do this if you want to save time, but I started by sautéing the onions until they started to caramelize, just for some added depth of flavor. In a large bowl, mix together spices. Add the oatmeal, egg, milk, onion, liquid smoke, and mix. I got too excited and threw everything on top of the meat…but then the flavor doesn’t distribute as evenly. Don’t do what I did. Ha.

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Don’t do this.

Add the ground turkey to the mixture (and the ground chicken sausage if you choose, which please do), and mix well. Add about 3 tablespoons of the tomato sauce to the meat, and mix in. If for some reason you find that your meat mixture is too wet, you can always add more oatmeal.

Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray.  Press some of the meat mixture into each of the muffin cups, leaving a little bit of room at the top of each cup, to add sauce later.

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Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Add the remaining tomato sauce and/or ketchup to the top of each mini loaf, then cook for another 10-15 minutes. Serve with mashed cauliflower (recipe below). Enjoy!

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Mashed Cauliflower

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Makes about 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower, washed

1/4 cup cheese (Trader Joe’s vegan cheese for me!)

1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

2-3 cans chicken or vegetable broth

2-3 cloves garlic

1/4 tsp. garlic powder (optional)

Cut a whole head of cauliflower into big chunks, and put in a large pot.

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Add 2-3 cans of chicken or vegetable broth, garlic and water.  The cauliflower doesn’t have to be completely covered by liquid, but most of it should be.  Cover the pot with a lid to keep moisture in, and boil for about 15 minutes or until soft enough to mash easily with a potato masher. When cauliflower is soft enough, pour out most of the liquid, leaving just a little for moisture and flavor. Mash until creamy like mashed potatoes.

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You can get creative with your seasonings. I like to add Cajun seasoning, salt, pepper and vegan cheese to keep it simple.

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P.S. I am now making it much easier for you to follow my recipes without having to scroll up and down through the images. Hope that helps!

Mini, Smoky Turkey Meatloaf

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

19 oz. ground turkey (That’s just the odd, prepackaged amount I bought. I’d highly recommend substituting half the turkey for ground chicken sausage, for more flavor.)

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 of a medium onion, diced

1/2 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)

1/2 – 2/3 cup quick-oats oatmeal

1 egg

1/2 tsp. liquid smoke (optional)

1 can tomato sauce

a pinch of cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. salt (alter to your taste)

generous amount of fresh cracked pepper

ketchup (optional)

You can add seasonings such as basil, oregano, thyme or parsley if you want to add extra flavor.

You don’t have to do this if you want to save time, but I started by sautéing the onions until they started to caramelize, just for some added depth of flavor. In a large bowl, mix together spices. Add the oatmeal, egg, milk, liquid smoke, and mix. I got too excited and threw everything on top of the meat…but then the flavor doesn’t distribute as evenly. Don’t do what I did. Ha. Add the ground turkey to the mixture (and the ground chicken sausage if you choose, which please do), and mix well. Add about 3 tablespoons of the tomato sauce to the meat, and mix in. If for some reason you find that your meat mixture is too wet, you can always add more oatmeal. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray.  Press some of the meat mixture into each of the muffin cups, leaving a little bit of room at the top of each cup, to add sauce later. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Add the remaining tomato sauce and/or ketchup to the top of each mini loaf, then cook for another 10-15 minutes. Serve with mashed cauliflower (recipe below).

Mashed Cauliflower

Makes about 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower, washed

1/4 cup cheese (Trader Joe’s vegan cheese for me!)

1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

2-3 cans chicken or vegetable broth

2-3 cloves garlic

1/4 tsp. garlic powder (optional)

Cut a whole head of cauliflower into big chunks, and put in a large pot. Add 2-3 cans of chicken or vegetable broth, garlic and water.  The cauliflower doesn’t have to be completely covered by liquid, but most of it should be.  Cover the pot with a lid to keep moisture in, and boil for about 15 minutes or until soft enough to mash easily with a potato masher. When cauliflower is soft enough, pour out most of the liquid, leaving just a little for moisture and flavor. Mash until creamy like mashed potatoes. You can get creative with your seasonings. I like to add Cajun seasoning, salt, pepper and vegan cheese to keep it simple.

Screwing up in the Kitchen with: Bunny Butt Cake


I appreciate a forgiving recipe. It’s comforting to know that if you screw something up, just a little bit of this…or a little bit of that, can save it.

So when I was at my cousin’s house last weekend for an early Easter dinner and she was panicking about forgetting to add the milk to her scalloped potatoes after it had been baking an hour, I told her not to fret. “Just add the milk anyway, mix it around a little, and top it with a ton of cheese. You can’t go wrong with more cheese. Cheese can save anything!” I said. Sure enough, the potatoes were still delicious and I ate way too much of it.

When she accidentally added a whole cup of oil to the boxed carrot cake we were making for dessert–instead of the 2/3 cup the recipe called for–she frantically started spooning out the excess. I told her not to worry. “More oil can only make it taste BETTER and moist!” I proclaimed. Yes, it made the cake a little more soft and crumbly than was ideal, but it all worked out and we made the cutest little bunny butt cake ever (see below).

And when I accidentally drowned the Baked Spinach Dip Mini Bread Bowl appetizers with so much spinach dip that you couldn’t find the bread part…well. OK. We just decided not to bake that batch.

The point is, we made the cutest bunny butt cake ever, and you should make it too. (It’s made using boxed cake, shhhh) It’s fun, easy, and the kids love it.

Until you tell them it’s a butt…

Aiden's reaction when he found out it was a "butt"

Bunny Butt Cake

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker: http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/bunny-butt-cake/09cd82c8-ada0-4de7-bd85-2cd60ef67b7f

Ingredients

1 box cake mix of your choice (we used carrot cake)

(Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box)

1 container white frosting  (cream cheese frosting is great)

Red food coloring

Green food coloring

1 jumbo marshmallow, cut off two ¼-inch slices (for bunny feet)

3 cups shredded coconut

10 pieces small round candies for bunny toes (I’m not entirely sure what kind of candy we used)

Jelly beans to decorate “grass” (optional)

A couple toothpicks

Construction paper

Heat oven to 325°F. Grease 1 1/2-quart oven-safe bowl (8 inches across top) with shortening; coat with flour (do not use cooking spray). Lightly grease 3 muffin cups in regular-size muffin pan. Make cake batter as directed on box. Pour cake batter in 3 muffin cups, filling two-thirds full.

Pour remaining batter into 1 1/2-quart bowl.

Bake cupcakes 17 to 21 minutes, bowl 47 to 53 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove cakes from muffin cups and bowl; place rounded sides up on cooling racks. Cool completely, about 1 hour. If necessary, cut off rounded tops of cakes. Place cake on a large plate or tray.

Spoon frosting into large bowl. Add red food color to make desired pink color.

Spread 1/3 cup frosting over cake.

Use toothpicks to adhere cupcakes to bowl cake for feet and bunny tail.

Spread remaining frosting over cake.

Sprinkle cake with 2 cups of the coconut, making sure every part of the “bunny” is nicely covered; press gently to adhere.

Clearly we weren't done here...

Using toothpicks, adhere marshmallow slices to bunny feet. Press on round candies for toes.

Tee hee. I think I gave the bunny too many toes...

Shake 1 cup coconut and 3 drops green food color in tightly covered jar until evenly tinted (or just carefully mix in a bowl).  Surround bunny with tinted coconut.

Cut ears from construction paper.  They don’t have to be perfect. We made one ear that was longer than the other, oops.

Wrap ends that will be inserted into cake with plastic food wrap or aluminum foil. Insert into cake, or place underneath cake.

Yay!

The kids were amused...

Enjoy!

Steak Fajitas taste like Kraft Handi-Snacks? Call me crazy!


Housewarming party menu…continued…featuring my friend PJ as guest chef for this recipe…

Do you remember those plastic packets of crackers and highly processed cheese that you used to eat as a kid? You know the ones, with the little red stick to scoop up the said “cheese”? I believe they’re called Handi-Snacks.

Handi-Snacks!

I don’t know if it’s just me, but these steak fajitas taste like that cheese. And I mean that in a wonderful, delicious way, the taste nostalgically bringing me back to elementary school. I know it sounds crazy to say that marinated steak tastes just like fake cheese, but please give it a try and tell me if I’m right. If it doesn’t, well I promise it’s delicious anyway. There’s a good chance that I’m just cheese-deprived due to my allergy of milk products, and hallucinating the taste. Or it could be the fact that I haven’t had a Handi-Snack in at least 15 years. Ultimately, you can be the judge.

Fawkes wants to be the taste tester...

Steak marinade

2 pounds flank steak

4 to 6 cloves garlic

1 T paprika

1 to 2 T cayenne

3 T olive oil

1/3 cup water

1 T kosher salt

1 to 2 T liquid smoke (a few glugs of it says PJ)

3 juiced limes

1/2 T pepper

1 T light soy sauce

1 to 2 T worcestershire sauce

Fajita veggies

A few red/green/yellow/orange bell peppers, sliced thin

1-2 onions, thinly sliced

1-2 jalapenos, thinly sliced

drizzle olive oil

Put all marinade ingredients in a large ziplock bag and marinate overnight. Let meat come to room temperature before grilling.  This will ensure more even cooking. Grill meat to desired doneness (we prefer medium or medium rare). This will depend on the thickness of the meat and cooking ability of the grill.

PJ’s technique: I just keep poking the meat with my finger, until it feels done (feels medium-rareish). If it feels like pushing on your cheek, it’s rare or raw. If it’s like pushing on a desk or dense foam rubber, it’s well done.  If it’s somewhat soft, like pushing on the front of your chin, then it’s medium rare.

When cooked to desired doneness, take the meat off grill and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes before slicing against the grain.

While meat is resting, saute onions in pan with olive oil over medium-high heat until soft. Add bell peppers and jalapeno and saute until they just begin to soften but are not mushy.  Serve with sliced steak pieces, tortillas and guacamole, or the Spanish rice coming soon in my next blog….stay tuned.

Filipino Chicken Adobo


Chicken Adobo is one of those staple dishes you’ll find at any Filipino gathering, and one of my favorites growing up. It’s a versatile dish in that it is perfect to feed to a crowd, but also perfect for an easy weeknight meal. Chicken Adobo is a simple dish with really strong flavor, using just garlic, soy sauce and vinegar.

When I was a kid my mom would take me to Filipino potlucks, and it was common to find four or five adobo dishes on the table, but they all tasted different (mom would always comment that hers was the best). That’s the tricky thing about adobo…the soy sauce to vinegar ratio. Some people like it salty with less vinegar, and others—like me—prefer it on the spicy, vinegary side. After years of practice and experimenting with making adobo, I think I have finally mastered it to where even my mom’s Filipino friends say it’s the best they’ve ever tasted!

I use a Filipino spicy vinegar with chili peppers to add an extra kick, which can be found at Asian grocery stores.

I also add in dried lily flowers (sounds weird, I know, but really delicious!) in the last 10 minutes of cooking because that’s how my mom taught me to make it, but it will still taste great without it.

You can really “adobo” anything, including vegetables, but it’s traditionally made with pork or chicken. Adobo is a very forgiving dish, so if you find you don’t like the soy sauce to vinegar ratio in this recipe, you can add one or the other to adjust it to your taste. You can also add water to dilute the sauce to your taste if it’s too strong.

Try it, and let me know what you think!

Ingredients

2 tsp. canola oil

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup spiced vinegar

6 pieces chicken legs or thighs (bone in)

1 cup water

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 medium onion, chopped

fresh cracked pepper

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup dried lily flowers (optional, and can be found only at an Asian grocery)

In a large pot, add canola oil and brown chicken pieces over medium-high heat. Turn heat down to medium and add onion; saute a few minutes. Add soy sauce and vinegar, water, garlic and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low so the sauce just simmers, cover and cook until meat is tender and falling off the bone. This can take up to an hour so if you’re short on time, you can throw all the ingredients into a slow cooker in the morning and cook on low until you get home from work! If using lily flowers, add in the last 10 minutes of cooking. Add fresh cracked pepper, and serve chicken over rice with lots of adobo sauce! (To make the dish healthier, I served over red rice with steamed snow peas and baby bok choy). Serves 2-3.