Yum Peaceful Cooking: February 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Chicken with Asparagus and Pine Nuts

Once in a while it just comes together. In my case, its usually by accident, but hey...I take what I can get. I don't remember what inspired this recipe other than the fact that the whole family loves pine nuts, my husband loves asparagus and I wanted to make a quick meal because I'm sure I was tired and worn out. There's something about this flavor combination that really works. I'm not going to try and figure out why....I'm just going to keep making it. :)

First I'll give you the ingredients..and then...I'm going to attempt step by step instructions with (hopefully) helpful photos. We'll see how my first conscious attempt at this whole in depth blog thing works. oook....here goes nothing:

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, chopped. (It doesn't matter how thick or thin or what shape...chunks or strips... whatever works for you.)
6 oz sliced mushrooms (I had buttons but cremini would be even better)
2 garlic cloves minced
1 teaspoon italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 bunch asparagus (you can do the whole bunch and serve some on the side for that added veggie healthy good for you thing)
Olive oil as needed for sauteing

First....you put a little bit of olive oil in the skillet, heat over medium heat and saute your mushrooms until tender. Ok ok...if you're looking really closely at my picture, I knooow...there are some canned mushrooms in there. I only had like 3 or 4 fresh mushrooms and I needed more, so I resorted to the canned ones. sssssshhhhh...don't tell anyone. I don't usually do that. I swear!! Anyways...remove the mushrooms from the skillet and set aside. 

If you need more oil, add it now and heat it up (I think you will need it for the garlic and chicken). Add the garlic and saute for a few seconds. mmmmm....garlic. I have this really cool garlic press that was my mother in laws. Works great and saves time. Can you smell it? Aint no vampires around here!

Add chicken to the garlic and stir. Add salt, pepper and italian seasoning and stir again. Cook chicken over medium heat until thoroughly cooked, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, steam your asparagus lightly. Don't over do it cuz they'll fall apart and get mushy and we really don't want that now, do we? I mean....we do have all our teeth, right? 

Oh...and don't forget to toast your pine nuts. Be very careful here cuz everything will seem fine and then all of a sudden....bam!!! They're done and on their way to burning. So make sure you keep a watchful eye on those little buggers. Oh  man.. I could just eat all of those by themselves.

And now for the grand finale! Add the pine nuts and mushrooms to the chicken and stir to combine. Then gently stir in the asparagus....don't make a mess of the asparagus now!

Tonight I served this dish over white rice. I felt bad because I'd been making potatoes so much lately and my husband isn't a huge potato fan. He prefers white rice. I did contemplate making a simple cheese sauce with pasta...but the rice was just fine. Actually it was probably the better choice because it didn't interfere with this wonderful blend of earthy, rich flavors.

Stir-Fried Chicken with Noodle Cake

Ok...so heres the other part of my daughters birthday dinner that I promised to include. I really like these pan fried noodles. Since then I have made these for dinner as is. It comes complete with protein, veggies and a starch. Isn't that what we learned as children in order to have a balanced meal? I think the required food ratio's have changed since the 70's and 80's but I'm not sure why. Since then, obesity is more of a problem then it is now. I don't think it has anything to do with the food pyramid but more with fast food and msg....etc. etc. etc. Just my opinion. Not that anyone is really interested in it but this is my blog after all and I can say whatever I want, cant I...LOL

Ok...food....this is in two parts. One for the stir-fried chicken and one for the pan fried noodles.

Stir-Fried Chicken:

2 whole large chicken breasts, boneless, skinless (about 2 lbs total)
3 tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional but highly recommended. It ads a depth of flavor)
1/2 of a medium head of bok choy
2 medium carrots
2 cups pea pods
2 cloves garlic
Ginger root
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon cooking oil

Cut chicken into thin bite size strips. For marinade, in a medium mixing bowl combine 1 tablespoon of the rice wine, 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir in chicken. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Or, marinate chicken in a zip lock baggy in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Chop bok choy, (you should have 3 cups.) Cut carrots into julienne strips (lol..have fun with that one). Remove tips and strings from pea pods. You can use a 6 oz package of frozen pea pods if you'd like...then you wont have to remove the tips and strings. Mince garlic. Grate 1 teaspoon ginger root. For sauce, in a small mixing bowl combine chicken broth, cornstarch, remaining 2 tablespoons of rice wine and soy sauce; set aside.

Prepare Pan-Fried Noodle Cake as directed below.

Preheat wok or large skillet over high heat; add cooking oil. (Add more oil as necessary during cooking.) Stir-fry garlic and ginger in hot oil for 15 seconds. Add carrots; stir-fry for 1 minute. Add bok choy; stir-fry 1 minute. Add pea pods; stir-fry 2 minutes or till crisp-tender. Remove vegetables.

Add half of the chicken to the hot wok. Stir-fry 2 - 3 minutes or till done. Remove chicken. Stir-fry remaining chicken for 2 - 3 minutes or till done. Return all chicken to the wok. Push from the center of the wok. 

Stir sauce; add to the center of the wok. Cook and stir till thickened and bubble. Return vegetables to the wok; stir ingredients together to coat with sauce. Cook and stir for 1 minute more.

To serve, slide noodle cake onto a serving platter. Spoon some chicken stir-fry over noodles. Pass remaining stir-fry. Makes 6 servings.

Pan-Fried Noodle Cake:

8 oz Chinese egg noodles or fine egg noodles
1 tablespoon cooking oil

In a 6 quart pot, bring 12 cups water and tablespoon salt to boiling. Add noodles; cook till tender; stirring occasionally....about 6 minutes for Chinese egg noodles and 4 minutes for fine egg noodles (or you can just follow the instructions on the package...lol). Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain well.

In a heavy 10 inch ovenproof skillet with non-stick coating (I don't own any non-stick skillets so I just used my cast iron skillet), heat oil over medium heat. Pat noodles in the skillet to kinda flatten them out a bit. Cook, uncovered, for 5 - 6 minutes or till the bottoms of the noodles are light brown. Loosen noodles around the edge, then inver the skillet and noodles onto a large plate.

Slide noodle cake back into the skillet, brown side up. Cook uncovered, for 5- 6 minutes move or till the bottom is light brown. Remove from heat; keep warm in a 300' oven while preparing stir-fry. 

Wontons and Egg Rolls

Last month was my daughters birthday and we usually go out to dinner for these special occasions. But...with the economy the way it is, I made a very special dinner for her at home instead. I got out the wok and spent all day in the kitchen making an oriental dinner.

Before the kids were born, I would do this once a month or so. It's very time consuming. I guess thats why I stopped doing it after I had the kids. The prep work alone takes about 4 hours. Lots of chopping and marinating. The results are wonderfully tasty and worth the work. The clean up is a whooole nuther story all together. 

I wish I had had the time to take pictures of the process, but 7 hrs in the kitchen without even picking up a camera was enough.  The whole meal consisted of Wontons, Spring Rolls, Pan Fried Noodles with Stir Fried Chicken and Vegetables (I will blog about the noodles and stir fry next) and Moo Shu Chicken with Mandarin Pancakes. Now you don't have to be a complete fool like I am and cook all of this for one meal. One or two would be just fine. But I sometimes get obsessive about it all and well, it is what it is. Anyways...the Mandarin Pancakes didn't look the way they should've, although the flavor was fine, so I'm not even gonna blog about that, or show you the mess. I don't want to end up on some blooper site! I mean, I could anyway, but posting that blog would be like asking for it.

I didn't make the sweet and sour sauce shown in the picture. I could have, but I kinda like the jarred stuff. There were plenty of leftovers and the next day when my daughter asked where the sauce was, she was really bummed out that it had come from a jar. She said she was so proud of me that I had made everything from scratch....but the sauce came from a jar? Ok...but really, its just sweet and sour sauce. So now she's disappointed? LOL 


1 lb fatty pork (this was the first time I had used pork. I had always used ground beef in the past and to be honest, I like the flavor of the ground beef a lot better.)
2 tablespoons fresh bean sprouts
1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts, drained
2 green onions, chopped (the recipe says spring onions, but I'm pretty sure it's the same thing)
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger root, grated
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce (I never seem to have that on hand so I've always used the regular soy sauce)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
48 wonton wrappers

Cut the pork into cubes and place in a food processor or blender; grind to a smooth paste. Finely shop the bean sprouts and chestnuts, and add to the pork with the remaining ingredients - excluding the wrappers, of course. Mix thoroughly, kneading until fairly smooth. Wrap in a piece of plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.

To fill wontons, place a teaspoonful of the mixture in the center of a wrapper and pinch the edges together encasing the filling. The edges must be brushed with a little water in order to seal. (I just keep a small bowl of water at hand and dip my finger in the water, run it along the edges and seal it up). 

Wontons can be made in a variety of shapes. (now this is where I wish I had more pictures for you, but I'm sure you can do an image search in google and find some examples. I just didn't want to steal someone else's pictures) The Purse has its edges all drawn up together into a point at the center of the top. The Goldfish is formed by folding three edges one over the other to give a smooth ball shape on top, and the remaining corer is fluted out and down to form a tail (I personally have never used that shape...seems too time consuming). To make a Swimming Fish, pull three corners up and over the filling in the center, and the remaining corner is fluted upwards and outwards in a tail shape. (Ok, seriously! When you're eating a wonton do you really know which way is up and which is down? Besides, the pictures I've seen of these two Fish wontons look nothing like a fish. Oh but its all about the art and presentation, right? My bad.). To make the Bon Bon, the wrapper is rolled around the filling and the ends are twisted to resemble a wrapped candy.

Now...time to cook these suckers! Heat oil for deep-frying until fairly hot. Fry about 8 at a time until golden (about 2 1/2 minutes). I try and turn them over so they're evenly golden but they don't always want to cooperate. They like to float back over....argh. Drain and serve hot. 

Egg Rolls:

8 dried mushrooms
1 whole medium chicken breast (about 12 oz) skinned and boned
1 tablespoon rice win or dry sherry (you can use broth if you want to)
 1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 teaspoons grated ginger root
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
2 medium carrots, shredded
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional, but I highly recommend it!!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 egg roll wrappers

In a small mixing bowl soak mushrooms in enough hot water to cover for 30 minutes. Rinse well and squeeze to drain thoroughly. Chop finely, discarding stems.

Cut chicken into thin strips; cut strips into matchstick size shreds. (If the chicken is partially frozen, its sooooo much easier to cut, especially when you have to cut it so tiny!!). In a mixing bowl sprinkle rice wine or dry sherry (or broth) over chicken.

For filling, preheat a wok or large skillet over high heat; add 1 tablespoon cooking oil. (add more oil as necessary during cooking, but don't over do it. You don't want it to be greasy. Been there, done that...not good! LOL). Stir-fry ginger root in hot oil for 15 seconds. Add chicken; stir-fry for 1 1/2 minutes. Add bean sprouts, carrots, green onions, and mushrooms. Stir-fry for 2 minutes or until chicken is done and vegetables are crisp-tender. Stir in sugar; sesame oil and salt. Remove filling mixture from heat; cool.

In a wok, deep-fat fryer, or 2 quart saucepan, heat 1 1/2 to 2 inches of cooking oil to 365'. Fry egg rolls, 2 or 3 at a time for 2 to 4 minutes or till golden brown, turning once. Remove from oil and drain. Keep warm in a 300' oven while frying the remaining egg rolls. To serve, cut into thirds. Serve with sauces.

Ok....if you don't want to disappoint your child (or whoever else you may be making this for), here is a recipe for Sweet and Sour Sauce:

3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar or vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons soy sauce (OMG...it didn't require light soy sauce!!)

In a small saucepan stir together all ingredients. Cook and stir over medium heat till thickened and bubbly; cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Serve warm or at room temperature.  

Monday, February 23, 2009

Turkey Style Crab Cakes with Dill Dip

You probably won't see many, if any recipes for fish here. I'm allergic to all fish....ya, bummer for me. I've never had the pleasure of eating a crab cake but I've seen lots of them that looked really good. Well, I know these turkey patties taste nothing like crab cakes (mostly cuz they certainly don't smell like 'em)...but I used a combination of a few crab cake recipes and came up with a delicious alternative (for me at least).

Turkey Cakes (or Anti-Crab Cakes :P)
1 lb ground turkey (if you use those frozen tubes of ground turkey, try and get as much of the liquid out of them as you can)
3 tablespoons plain yogurt (or mayonnaise)
2 green onions chopped
1 - 2 tablespoons fresh italian parsley chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Dales Seasoning (or worcestershire sauce, although it has anchovies in it so I couldn't use it)
1 egg beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
1 teaspoon creole seasoning
1 cup fine bread crumbs (if the meat is very moist, more bread crumbs will be needed)
vegetable oil for frying

Combine all ingredients except for the oil:

Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of your skillet (about 1/8"), over medium heat. Shape meat mixture into 8 cakes:

Brown the cakes until golden brown and cooked through, turning once:

What I've also done is brown the cakes in a hot pan turning once, then popping them into a 350' oven so they continue to cook and I know they're cooking on the inside, not just burning on the outside.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce. I served mine with dill dip:

Dill Dip
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon dill weed, finely chopped
1 - 2 teaspoons onion or shallot, minced (you don't want to use too much as the flavor will over power the dill) or just chop up a couple green onions and call it a day
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

Mix all ingredients, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour for flavors to blend.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Beef Stew

Ya...I had plans when I made that bread in the previous post. It was to go with tonight's dinner....Beef Stew! Oh...and the reason the picture is such a close up? Well, I forgot to take a picture before we all ate and I didn't want to dirty another bowl. Sooooo I took the picture of the stew in the storage bowl and I didn't want you to see that ugly thing...LOL

1 lb beef boneless chuck, tip or round, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon shortening
3 cups hot water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 large potato, diced
1 medium turnip, diced
1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced 
2 medium carrots, cut into pieces
1 medium stalk celery, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon bottled brown bouquet sauce
1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste
Garlic to taste
1 tsp beef bouillon 
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoon flour

Cook and stir beef in melted shortening in a dutch oven until beef is brown, about 15 minutes.

Add hot water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper and garlic. Heat to a boiling, reduce heat. Cover and simmer until beef is almost tender, about 2 - 2 1/2 hours.

Stir in vegetables, bouquet sauce, worcestershire sauce, beef bouillon, bay leaf, and more salt and pepper if needed. At this point you may find that more water is needed. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes or so.

Shake 1/2 cup cold water and the flour in a tightly covered container; stir gradually into stew. Heat to a boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute.

The beauty of beef stew is that you can add what ever veggies you prefer. You can change the seasoning to your own taste....and no matter what...it's great!

No-Knead bread

When it comes to home baked bread, I suck! The bread comes out dense and flat....I have good yeast, bread flour....I don't know what the problem is. Is it the room temperature so the bread isn't rising during the given time? Am I kneading it wrong? Argh!! Its too stressful. Untiiiiil.... I was turned onto this recipe by a very sweet lady in BakeSpace named Ronda. This bread is idiot proof! PERFECT!!!

3 cups bread flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
Covered pot (5 quart or larger...cast iron, pyrex, ceramic, enamel...something that can to into a 450' oven.)

The night before, combine all ingredients in a big bowl with a wooden spoon until the dough just comes together. It will be a shaggy, doughy mess (if you don't know what that means, its ok cuz neither did I until I actually did it. It perfectly describes what the dough looks like). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit 12-20 hours on the countertop.

The dough will now be wet, sticky and bubbly:

With a wet spatula, dump the dough unto a floured surface. (I prefer one of those thin flexible plastic cutting boards). Fold the ends of dough over a few times with the spatula and nudge it into a ball shape:

You can use your hands if you want; just keep your hands wet so that the dough doesn't stick. Trust me...the wet spatula works fine! 

Cover the dough with a cotton towel (not terry cloth). Let it nap for 2 hours. When you have about 30 minutes left, put your covered pot into the oven and preheat to 450' F.

Now that the 2 hour nap time has passed, your dough should have doubled in size. Remove pot from oven. Dump your wobbly dough into the pot. It doesn't matter which way it lands. Shake it a little to even the dough out. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Uncover, bake an additional 15 - 20 minutes or until the crust is beautifully golden and the  middle is 210'. Remove and let cool on wired rack. 

You can actually hear the crust crackle as it cools! Oh man..and the smell.... pure heaven. 

Now spread that slice with a little butter. Talk about comfort food!!

Mushroom Soup

Wow...I have never had homemade mushroom soup before. The only mushroom soup I've ever seen or used is the cream of mushroom soup that comes in a can, and who wants to eat THAT?? I love mushrooms. I had some cremini and portobello mushrooms in the fridge that weren't going to last too much longer and I really didn't want to waste them. Sooo...I searched for a mushroom soup recipe. I came across one in BakeSpace.com that was easy and so good. It's really rich so you want to have this as an appetizer. I'm going to look into using it as a base for a cream of mushroom soup instead of using the canned crap. It really irritates me that so much of our processed foods have MSG...but thats a whole other bitch session. Now, I'm going to give you this recipe but I take no credit for it what so ever. 

12 oz button mushrooms, cleaned (quartered if large) 
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
5 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided (I didn't have any so I just used regular butter)
4 cups chicken stock
several sprigs of fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 - 2 tablespoons dry sherry

In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tablespoon butter over medium heat until the foaming ahs subsided. Add onion and sweat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 8 minutes (if the onions are taking on color, lower the heat). Add the remaining 3 tablespoons butter and the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes (the mushrooms will become softer and cooked through but still retain their shape - no browning!!).

Add salt, chicken stock and parsley sprigs. Bring to a boil, stir, then reduce heat. Simmer gently for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Remove pot from heat. Let cool for 15 minutes. Take out and discard the parsley sprigs. Using either a regular blender or an immersion blender, puree the soup until it is a fine consistency and the liquid has thickened. Return the soup to the pot. Add the dry sherry (to taste), salt and pepper.

Bring soup back to a simmer, stirring, to heat through. Serve and enjoy.  It's a rich and full bodied mushroom soup.

If I figure out how to use this as a base for cream of mushroom soup, I will add it to this blog. 

Caramelized Crackers

When my sisters were young my parents moved to Alabama while I stayed here in California. (I was 19 at the time). There was a cute little old lady that lived next door to them and she use to make these Caramelized Crackers. They are easy to make and perfect for when you need that little something sweet after dinner. Not to mention ..... the kids looove them.

1 sleeve of saltine crackers
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat over 350'

Line a cookie sheet with tin foil or parchment paper. Line crackers up, making sure the touch each other

Melt butter along with the brown sugar and nuts. Drizzle over the crackers. Don't worry if the crackers aren't covered perfectly....as it heats, the liquid will spread. If you want to... sprinkle a couple handfuls chocolate chips over the crackers as well.

Cook for 12 minutes. Let cool before removing from pan as the brown sugar mixture is very very hot.

Break into squares and enjoy!!!

Cheesy, Garlicy, Crispy Potatoes

My sister has been telling about these potatoes for a long time. I'm not sure what took me so long to try them! Yum Yum Yum! Part of the trick is getting the potatoes sliced really thin. Not as thin as a potato chip, but you know....not a wedge either. I used one of those slicers and they came out perfect. Not to mention the time it saved!!! I picked up a plastic mandoline at the grocery store for only 6 or 7 bucks! If I only use it to slice potatoes, its well worth the price I paid.

3 or 4 potatoes (I used good sized russets) scrubbed and thinly sliced, with the skins on
2 garlic cloves, minced (more or less to your taste..I'm a garlic lover and 2 large cloves was fine)
6 - 7 tablespoons of butter, melted
Coarsely ground pepper to taste (recommended that you go on the heavy side)
Salt to taste (once again, don't be stingy with the salt, you're dealing with potatoes LOL)
1/2 onion, chopped. (not too small)
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400'
Except for the cheese, mix all ingredients together.
Lay the potatoes in a light greased cookie sheet. You want a fairly thin layer so the potatoes cook evenly and the edges get kinda crispy. It wont be a single layer, but you don't want it to be a casserole. 
Bake for 40 minutes, until potatoes are thoroughly cooked and some of the edges are crispy.
Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle the cheese over the top of the potatoes. The heat from the potatoes will melt the cheese so you don't have to put them back in the oven.