October 28, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chips

I haven't made these cookies in a while, which is why they haven't been posted before now. I used to love these, but when I made them this time, they didn't seem very peanut buttery, which was surprising and a bit disappointing. As I ate more, I remembered why I love them, but it took me a while. I think I might prefer flourless peanut butter cookies, which have a much strong peanut flavor. I'm really not trying to deter you from making these; they are excellent. I'm just surprised at my change in tastes!

Unlike these peanut butter cookies, it's best to use no-stir peanut butter as it helps hold the cookies together.

Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chips

½ c. granulated sugar
½ c. packed brown sugar
½ c. butter
½ c. peanut butter (must be solid at room temp)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 c. chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375˚. Mix sugars, butter, peanut butter, vanilla and egg in medium bowl. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in chocolate chips.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 3 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Press dough to ¼ thickness with fingers. Bake about 8 minutes or until edges are light brown (centers will be soft). Cool 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.

October 26, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

I think this is the second time in my life I've made macaroni and cheese from scratch. For some reason gooey cheese and pasta sounded so good to me, so I tried this recipe from my mom. She didn't make macaroni much while I was growing up, but she found this recipe in recent years and recommended it. I really enjoyed this dish and will be making it again the next time I dream of macaroni and cheese (which probably won't be too often).

Macaroni and Cheese
from my mother

3 c. whole milk
1 small onion, quartered
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh parsley
½ tsp. oregano
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
8 oz. elbow macaroni, cooked according to package instructions, drained
6 Tbsp. butter
6 Tbsp. flour
1 lb. Cheddar cheese, 4 c. shredded
salt and Tabasco, to taste

Pour the milk into a non-reactive saucepan. Add the onion, bay leaf, parsley, oregano and peppercorns. Heat until scalded. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Strain milk, return to pan and reheat to scalding.

In a heavy medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes without browning. Pour in the hot milk. Whisk until mixture bubbles and thickens. Remove from heat and stir in 3 c. of the cheese, stirring until melted. Season the cheese sauce with salt and Tabasco. Fold in the cooked macaroni.

Pour into a greased 1 ½ quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cup of cheese. Bake in the center of a preheated 350˚ oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly. Serve immediately.

October 23, 2011

Pork Chops with Kale

A friend of mine likes to reminisce about her mother's cooking, and she has mentioned pork and kale on multiple occasions. These conversations inspired me to look for a recipe to incorporate both ingredients. Enter internet search. I gave this recipe a whirl, and it was pretty easy. My favorite ingredient is the fennel seed, so don't skip it.

Pork Chops with Kale
adapted from Dinner a Love Story

1 bunch kale
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
4 pork chops
fennel seed
1 Tbsp. tomato paste

Wash and cut kale into 2-inch pieces. Boil for 15 minutes in salted water. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a deep skillet. Add garlic clove and cook over low heat, just enough to flavor oil without burning, about 2 minutes. Turn heat to medium and add 4-6 pork chops (butterflied, or pounded thin) that have been salted, peppered, and sprinkled with a little fennel seed and brown for 2 minutes on each side. Using a metal measuring cup, scoop out 1 cup of hot water from the kale pot and pour into a heatproof bowl. Whisk tomato paste in the hot water then add this liquid to the pork chops. Cover skillet and simmer until pork is cooked through, about 15 minutes. In final 5 minutes, add kale to skillet, and let it drink in the liquid.

October 22, 2011

Coriander Rice

I'm not one to spend a lot of time on side dishes, and I usually make plain rice, white or brown. I decided to try this lovely yellow-colored rice and was pleased. It was pretty hands-off preparation and adds vibrancy to the dinner plate.

Coriander Rice
from The Fresh Fridge

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large white onion, chopped
1 tablespoon coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups long grain white rice
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup freshly chopped parsley (or cilantro)

Coriander Rice: In a medium pot, heat oil on medium heat and add chopped onions. Saute until the onions turn translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add coriander and turmeric and stir until well mixed for about one minute. Next add dry rice, mix in until fully coated. Then add chicken stock and salt. Bring to a boil while stirring. Cover and turn to low, cook for 20-30 minutes until rice is tender. Remove from heat and add in chopped parsley (or cilantro) and serve.

October 20, 2011

Chipotle Bean Burritos

These bean burritos are zesty, fresh, and light, unlike the hot, cheesy traditional burrito. The preparation was pretty easy, and I will definitely be making these again.

UPDATE:  The second time I made these I laughed when I noticed they do call for cheese.  The first time I made them, I unintentionally left out the cheese.  They taste great either way!

Chipotle Bean Burritos
from Tide and Thyme

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chile powder
2 teaspoons minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup water, chicken broth, or vegetable broth
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
6 tablespoons fresh salsa
6 12-inch flour tortillas, warmed in microwave for 10-15 seconds
1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, pepperjack, monterey jack, or a mixture)
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
6 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions
6 tablespoons sour cream

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, chile powder, chipotle chile, cumin, and salt, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the beans and broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and allow to simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in salsa, and mash lightly with a slotted spoon or fork.

Spoon about 1/3 cup of the bean mixture down the center of each tortilla. Top each serving with about 2 1/2 Tablespoons shredded cheese, 1/4 cup tomatoes, 1/4 cup lettuce, 1 tablespoon green onion, and 1 tablespoon sour cream. Roll tightly and serve immediately.

October 18, 2011

Key Lime Cheesecake

I made this refreshing cheesecake for my friend's birthday. I made her mini cheesecakes in small ramekins, and then with the leftovers, I made this pie dish of cheesecake. The cheesecake came out of the ramekins pretty cleanly, thankfully. A while ago, I made another recipe for key lime cheesecake, but it was much too tart. This one was just right - a little tart, but still creamy.

Key Lime Cheesecake
adapted from Simple and Homemade

10 graham crackers
6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

14 oz cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup sour cream
3 large eggs + 1 large egg white
2 freshly grated lime zest, preferably Key lime
1/2 c fresh lime juice, preferably Key lime

To prepare crust: Preheat oven to 325° F. Put a kettle or pot of water on to heat for the water bath. Coat a 10 or 11″ springform pan with cooking spray. Tightly wrap the bottom and outside of the pan with a double layer of foil [fold a sheet in half lengthwise].

Process graham crackers in a food processor until fine crumbs form (or put in a ziploc bag and pound them with a meat tenderizer). Transfer to a medium bowl. Add butter and toss until evenly moist. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

To prepare cheesecake: When the crust is almost cool, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth — in a large bowl with an electric mixer or in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Add yogurt, eggs, egg white, lime zest and juice; beat until well blended. Pour the batter over the cooled crust.

Place the cheesecake in a roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come 1″ up the outside of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake in the center of the oven until set around the edges but the center still jiggles, about 45 minutes. Turn oven off and let sit in the oven with the door ajar for 1 hour. Let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour more. Place in the refrigerator with sides still in tact.

Once ready to serve, remove the sides from the springform. Top with zest and slices of Key lime, if desired.

October 12, 2011

Won Ton Soup

My husband loves his mother's wonton soup. Unlike me, lots of things she makes she just throws together without a recipe, or at least, that's my impression. Early on in our marriage, she gave me the directions for making this soup, but I didn't have the magic touch, so it just ended up so-so. With more experience, I am improving in my creativity and confidence in the kitchen, but I still prefer to have a recipe in front of me as a guide, even though I might not use strict measurements or may use ingredient substitutions or additions.

About a year and a half ago, a friend showed me how she makes scrumptious wontons. They can be fried, pan-sauteed, steamed, or boiled. Also once formed and not cooked, they can be frozen to be cooked and eaten later.

I paired those wontons with my mother-in-law's instructions for wonton soup and the recipe on the wonton wrapper package. Now I have a wonton soup I am proud of.

Side note: Oh, man, I am hungry right now and I can't do anything about it right away. Give me some wonton soup, please.

Gyoza (or Won Tons)
adapted from AB

1 package won ton wrappers
1 lb. ground pork, cooked through and drained (or try sauteed, crumbled tempeh)
4 leaves bok choy, finely chopped (or 2 heads of baby bok choy)
3 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
small bowl of water
oil, for frying

In a large bowl, add cooked pork, bok choy, green onions, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Mix well.

On a clean surface, separate won ton wrappers and lay flat. Spoon a small spoonful of pork mixture into middle of a won ton wrapper. You'll get used to how much filling each wrapper can hold, and it's probably less than you think. Working in batches of 6 or so wrappers, using your finger dipped in water, wet the edges of the wrapper. Fold and seal each wrapper (the folding options are endless - start by folding in half or on the diagonal, then gather up the outer edges in a decorative fashion). Place folded won tons under a damp cloth or paper towel on a plate.

If making won ton soup, skip the rest of the directions.

Heat 1-2 T of oil in a heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Place completed won tons in hot oil and fry on both sides until nice and brown. Serve immediately with rice and a sauce made of soy, sauce, rice wine vinegar, and a little water.

Or check out this method for cooking won tons. I'm going to try this next time.

Won Ton Soup

half a recipe for won tons (above)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp. grated ginger
8 cups chicken broth
2 T soy sauce
3 quarts boiling water
thinly sliced carrots
sliced spinach or shredded bok choy
thinly sliced green onions
hot cooked rice
soy sauce
sesame oil

Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add a splash of oil and garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the chicken broth and raise heat to high until boiling. Add carrots and spinach or bok choy and cook 2 minutes. Meanwhile, drop filled won tons, 15 to 20 at a time, in 3 quarts of boiling water. After they rise to surface, simmer 4 minutes. Drain won tons and place a scoop of rice and several won tons in individual soup bowls. Ladle hot broth and vegetables over won tons. Garnish with green onions and season with soy sauce and sesame oil, if desired.

October 9, 2011

Teriyaki Chicken

Last post was General Tso's chicken, and now it's teriyaki chicken. I love Asian food, in all its varieties. There are probably a million recipes for teriyaki chicken, and a lot probably aren't very good, though I can't speak from experience. I was impressed with this marinade - very easy and yummy.

Hoisin sauce is a sweet, prepared sauce found in the Asian section of the grocery store. Buy some and use the leftovers in General Tso's chicken. Sriracha hot sauce is also an Asian product, but you could substitute other hot sauce in this recipe.

Teriyaki Chicken
adapted from The Fresh Fridge

6-8 boneless, skinless chicken tenders or 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
2 tablespoons sriracha hot sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Prepare marinade by mixing all ingredients. Pound chicken thighs, if using, with a mallet to thin them out a little and tenderize them. Place prepared marinade and chicken into a ziploc bag and refrigerate a few hours up to overnight. Heat cast iron skillet over medium heat and cook chicken for 5-7 minutes per side, until cooked through.

October 4, 2011

General Tso's Chicken

Why are all the best Chinese dishes fried? Everything about this recipe is very tasty.

General Tso’s Chicken
adapted from Appetite for China

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 peanut or vegetable oil for frying, plus 1 tablespoon for stir-frying
8 dried whole red chilis, or substitute 1/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds, for garnish
Scallions, green parts thinly sliced, for garnish

1 tablespoons soy sauce
2 egg whites

1/4 cup chicken stock, or substitute water
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon chili paste
1 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch

1. Prepare the marinade: In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce and egg whites. Coat the chicken to the marinade mixture and let sit for 10 minutes.

2. Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, combine the chicken stock, tomato paste, sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, chili paste, sesame oil, sugar, and the 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. Stir until the sugar and cornstarch are dissolved. Set the sauce aside.

3. In a large bowl or deep plate, toss the 1 1/2 cups cornstarch with the salt and pepper. Coat the marinated chicken in the cornstarch and shake off any excess before frying.

4. Heat 3 cups of peanut or vegetable oil in your wok until it registers 350°F on an instant-read oil thermometer. Working in 2 or 3 batches, add the first batch of chicken cubes and fry until golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.

5. Drain the oil into a heatproof container and save for discarding. Wipe the wok with a paper towel to remove any brown bits, but don’t wash.

6. Reheat the wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add another 1 tablespoon of oil and swirl to coat the base and sides. Add the dried chilis and garlic to the wok and stir-fry until just fragrant, about 20 seconds. Pour in the sauce mixture and stir until thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes.

7. Return the chicken to the wok and stir well to coat with sauce. Transfer the chicken to a serving dish. Garnish with white sesame seeds and scallions. Serve with white rice and vegetables.