January 30, 2011

... Chicken, Edamame, and Noodle Stir Fry

I love cooking with new ingredients.  I've never used udon noodles until now and now I can officially say that they'll certainly be keeping a place in my pantry.  They have a great texture - similar to linguine - but are a little less nutty tasting than the pasta.  And, how great is it that they come in pre-portioned serving sizes?  Love it.

The bright purple onion and the crisp green edamame make this fresh dish one I'll be making again and again.

Chicken, Edamame, and Noodle Stir Fry
serves 4

coarse salt and ground pepper
8 ounces udon noodles or linguine
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 to 8 ounces each), cut crosswise into thin strips
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 napa cabbage (about 1 pound), thinly shredded
2 cups frozen shelled edamame
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles until al dente, according to package instructions.  Drain, and rinse under cold water; drain again, and set aside.

While pasta is cooking, in a medium bowl, toss chicken with cornstarch; season with salt and pepper.  In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high.  Cook chicken in two batches, until light brown on the outside and opaque throughout, 2 to 4 minutes.  Transfer to a plate (reserve skillet).

Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet; add onion and garlic.  Cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 1 to 3 minutes.  Add cabbage, and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 2 to 4 minutes.

Add edamame, vinegar, soy sauce, chicken, and noodles; season with salt and pepper.  Cook, tossing, until noodles and edamame are warmed through, 3 to 5 minutes.

Taylor's Notes:
Here's another quick and easy recipe that would be perfect for a weeknight meal.  It would be easily adapted with different veggies or meats - or tofu... which is next on my list.  Per the comments on the site where I found the recipe, I added Siracha at the end to spice it up.  Others mentioned red pepper flakes or marinating the chicken, both of which would be good to add a little heat or extra flavor.   

As I'm finding with most recipes, it makes huge serving sizes.  I halved the recipe and could have gotten three servings out of it.  But you know what, that's fine with me because, as with most Asian-inspired dishes, the leftovers taste even better.


January 23, 2011

... White Chicken Chili

When the weather is like this... (which is has been in Kansas City for the last couple of weeks)...

You'll do anything you can to make it feel like Spring.  Brightly colored flowers is one of my favorite ways...

But even with them brightening up my home, there's no changing the single-digit temps outside.  So, in order to warm things up, I made a big batch of chili.

I'm not a huge fan of stewed tomatoes (as indicated here), which makes this recipe one of my faves.  The green chilies and chili powder really heat things up and the ground cumin adds a great smoky flavor.

Let it simmer on the stove all day long and serve it with shredded cheese, sour cream, a few tortilla chips... and a cold beer never hurt anyone.

serves 8-10

1 pound large white beans
6 cups chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, chopped (divided)
1 tablespoon oil
2 4-ounce cans chopped green chilies
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups diced cooked chicken breasts
3 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese

Combine beans, chicken broth, garlic and half of the onions in a large soup pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until beans are very soft, 3 hours or more.  Add more chicken broth, if necessary.  In a skillet, saute remaining onions in oil until tender.  Add chilies and seasonings and mix thoroughly.  Add to bean mixture.  Add chicken and continue to simmer 1 hour.  Serve with topped grated cheese.

Taylor's Notes:
In order to not spend the entire day in the kitchen, I use canned white beans (2 cans).  It'll cut your kitchen time down to an hour-ish.  Other than that, the recipe is very quick and easy.  I typically get the bean mixture going on medium heat and then while the chicken is cooking, I saute the remaining half of onions with the chilies and seasonings.  You can leave it all simmering on the stove for hours - the longer the better as the flavors all meld together.  


January 3, 2011

... Orecchiette with Chicken, Caramelized Onions, and Blue Cheese

Funny story... I love pasta.  Love it.  But I don't love tomato sauce.  I know, it's weird, but it's something about the texture of the stewed tomatoes that gets to me.  Anyhoo... I'm always up for a great pasta recipe with a unique list of ingredients that doesn't include anything mushy.

Another thing I'm a big fan of is fresh herbs.  And really, who isn't?  In a few shorts months, I'll be growing some on my own, but for now I'll pay the well-worth-it price for store-bought.

The caramelized onions were a sweet addition to the woodsy Rosemary and the earthy, nutty blue cheese.

There's nothing fancy about this grilled chicken, but it always makes you feel better eating pasta and cheese when there's something remotely healthy to accompany it.

Oreccheitte with Chicken, Caramelized Onions, and Blue Cheese
serves 4-6

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 yellow onions, quartered and thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1 pound orecchiette pasta
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) crumbled blue cheese

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter and 4 tablespoons of the olive oil.  Add the onions, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft, richly browned, and caramelized, 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove from the heat and keep warm.

While the onions are cooking, prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high.  Pound the chicken lightly between 2 pieces of plastic wrap to a uniform 1/4-inch thickness.  Rub the chicken with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken about 4 inches from the broiler or directly over the fire.  If using a grill, cover it and cook on one side for about 4 minutes.  Flip the chicken breasts over and continue cooking, covered if using a grill, until tender and the juices run clear when the meat is pierced with a knife, about 4 minutes longer.  Set aside while the pasta cooks.

Fill an 8- to 10-quart stockpot two-thirds full of water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the boiling water, and then add the pasta.  Stir and cook the pasta until al dente (cooked through, but still slightly chewy), about 10 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, cut the chicken into 1/2-inch wide strips and place in a large, warmed serving bowl.  Sprinkle the chicken with the rosemary and toss to combine.  Drain the pasta in a colander, but do not rinse, then add to the bowl along with the blue cheese.  Toss to combine, cover, and set aside briefly until the cheese partially melts.  Add the caramelized onions to the bowl, toss to combine, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Taylor's Notes:
I don't know what it is about serving sizes, but I always feel like they must be determined based on feeding a pack of hungry large men who haven't eaten in days.  This recipe is supposed to serve four to six, however I halved the recipe and I guarantee I could have fed at least five.  So... do what you will, but be ready for leftovers.

Over all, the recipe was very easy to make and took about an hour from start to finish.  Definitely start with the onions as they'll take a good 25-30 minutes to cook down and caramelize.  You absolutely don't want to rush them or take them off too early.  The caramelizing gives them that great sweet taste.  While they're hanging in the skillet, prep the chicken and start the pasta water.  Once the water is boiling, put the chicken on the grill.  Since it's January and way too cold to use my outdoor grill, I used my grill pan and it worked perfectly.  The chicken truly takes only a few minutes per side if it's pounded thin and by the time the second side is getting its grill marks, the pasta will be done.

Serve it with a full-bodied red wine and some great crusty bread (speaking of 'love'...)


... Chocolate-Swirl Gingerbread

Today was the last day of my holiday vacation and I realized that, besides the could-have-been-a-catastrophe-cupcakes, I haven't baked much lately.  Well, friends, I took care of that situation today and made the epitome of holiday desserts... gingerbread.  This recipe was so quick and easy and I was so happy to find that I had all of the ingredients in my pantry.  Hello!

The cake came out a little dense, but pair it with some light, airy whipped cream and it's a little taste of holiday heaven.

Chocolate-Swirl Gingerbread

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup molasses
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Butter an 8-inch square pan.  In a bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, ginger, baking powder, salt, pepper, and cloves.

Melt the butter in 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat, and stir the mixture into the dry ingredients until smooth.  Stir in the molasses and lightly beaten egg.

Pour half the batter into the prepared pan.  With a spoon, drizzle half the chocolate over the batter.  Pour the remaining batter on top, and drizzle the remaining chocolate over the batter in a decorative pattern.

Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Taylor's Notes:
Ready for a shocker?  I don't own an 8x8 pan.  I know, right?  I thought I had a 9x9 pan, but it seems to have grown legs.  Looks like I know what I'll be putting on my birthday list :)  So... I ended up using a small rectangular glass pan that I have that measured about 7x11.  Random, yes, but did it work?  Yes.  I'm sure the cake would have been thicker than it is, but it still came out just fine.

To create the 'decorative pattern' that the recipe mentions, just drizzle the chocolate in a zig-zag pattern across the cake and drag a knife through the lines.  

Now, go enjoy what little last bit of the holidays you can.

January 1, 2011

... Strawberry Champagne Cupcakes

My Aunt Steph saw these scrumptious little gems on Oprah and gave me the heads up.  I decided they'd be a perfectly festive treat to share with friends for New Years Eve, but they'd also be great for Valentine's Day, Fourth of July, or, you know, any old day that you want to indulge.

Tasty bright red strawberries soaking in pink champagne and then folded into delicious vanilla cake batter.

This was the first time I've ever used an actual vanilla bean.  It was really easy to slice open the bean and scrape out the seeds.  Not very pretty, but the aroma was amazing.  And see those little black specs in the batter?  That's fresh vanilla, folks.


Not so pretty.

Take note, when the recipe recommends to take the cupcakes out of the paper baking cups when you take them out of the oven, do it.  Don't think (as someone who shall remain nameless did) that you can let them cool and then take them out of the cups or they won't come out looking too lovely.  Luckily, after you put them in the champagne flutes and layer them with Champagne Buttercream Frosting, Champagne-soaked Strawberries, and Chocolate Ganache, they become pretty once again.

Strawberry Champagne Cupcakes 
36 mini cupcakes, 3 per champagne flute)

For the cupcakes:
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, diced
1/2 cup good Champagne (sweet rose Champagne suggested)
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsweetened applesauce
1 3/4 cups Splenda
2 large eggs
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract, plus seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1 1/4 cups skim milk

For the Champagne Buttercream Frosting:
16 tablespoons (8 ounces) unsalted butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup good Champagne (sweet rose Champagne suggested)

For the strawberry layer:
24 fresh strawberries
1 cup good Champagne (sweet rose Champagne suggested)

For the Chocolate Ganache*:
2 cups high-quality dark chocolate

Step 1: Baking the Mini Strawberry Champagne Cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 mini cupcake pans with 36 mini baking cups or grease pans with butter if not using baking cups.

Dice 1/2 cup of fresh strawberries (I used 8 strawberries) and soak in 1/2 cup of Champagne.  Set aside.

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl.  Set aside.

Place the unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer.  Add the sugar; beat on medium speed until well incorporated.

Mix in applesauce slowly.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing slowly after each addition.

Combine the vanilla extract, vanilla bean seeds, and milk in a large liquid measuring cup.  Set aside.

Reduce the speed to low.  Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then gradually add one-third of the milk mixture, beating until well incorporated.  Add another one-third of the flour mixture, followed by one-third of the milk mixture.  Stop to scrape down the bowl as needed.  Add the remaining flour mixture, followed by the remaining milk mixture, and beat until just combined.

Gently fold in the diced Champagne-soaked strawberries, just until incorporated.  (do not include the champagne)

Scoop batter into baking cups and bake for 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.  If using paper baking cups, peel off all the paper baking cups from the cupcakes at this time.

Step 2: Making the Champagne Buttercream Frosting:
Place the unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer.  Add the powdered sugar; beat on medium speed until well incorporated.

Add the vanilla extract, milk, salt, and Champagne, and beat on high speed until light and fluffy.  Place frosting in a disposable piping bag with a large round tip. (I put mine in a ziplock baggie and snipped the corner.)

Step 3: Preparing the strawberries:
Slice 24 strawberries lenthwise and soak in 1 cup of Champagne for approximately 10-15 minutes.  (don't soak for longer than that as you don't want the strawberries to get soggy)

Step 4: Making the Chocolate Ganache:
Break the dark chocolate into small pieces.  Fill a medium saucepan with an inch or two of water and place over medium-low heat.  Place the dark chocolate pieces in a medium glass bowl over the saucepan and melt slowly.  Stir occasionally until the chocolate is completely melted.  Remove the bowl of melted chocolate from the saucepan.  Pour the melted chocolate into a plastic squeeze bottle.
*I read a comment on Oprah's site about this ganache not being very easy to pipe and the commenter gave another recipe.  Here's what I did:
Bring 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 1/3 cup sugar (I used Splenda), 1/3 cup light corn syrup, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract to a boil.  Stir constantly so the mixture doesn't burn.  Once it boils, remove it from the heat and add 12 ounces of dark chocolate chips.  Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.  I used a ziplock baggie as a piping bag for this, too.

Step 5: Assembling layers in Champagne flutes:
Line up 12 Champagne flutes.  Insert 1 mini Strawberry Champagne Cupcake in the bottom of each glass.  Next, pipe a swirl of Champagne Buttercream Frosting on top of each cupcake.  Add several (or two) slices of Champagne-soaked strawberries (again, just the berries... not the Champagne) and a drizzle of Chocolate Ganache.  Repeat layers.  Finally, place a third mini Strawberry Champagne Cupcake at the top of each glass, pipe with a final swirl of Champagne Buttercream Frosting, and top with a final drizzle of Chocolate Ganache.

Taylor's Notes:
These little guys are very festive and were a hit with the people I shared them with, which makes it all worth it.  That said, though, they are pretty time consuming, kind of pricey when you consider all of the ingredients, and, maybe it was just me, but my kitchen was a mess!

The recipes (there was a standard recipe and a low-fat recipe) that were posted on Oprah.com were a little confusing.  Some of the directions didn't exactly tie in with the ingredients and there was some confusion with the amounts of some of the ingredients.  I followed the low-fat recipe to the best of my ability and the end result was good.  The cupcakes, however, were kind of dense and I wonder if that might be because one recipe called for 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and the other called for 2 1/2 teaspoons.  I opted for 1/2 teaspoon and I think that could be why the cupcakes weren't too fluffy. All in all, though, they tasted good.

I finished these up at about noon and delivered them around 3:30pm.  I kept them in the refrigerator until then and even had one at midnight with our Happy New Year! toast.  I don't think they'd keep much longer than that, though.  Also, I had enough batter to make 48 mini cupcakes and could fill 16 flutes.

If I make these again, I think I'll try full-size cupcakes and then cut the cupcake in half and layer the frosting, strawberries, and ganache that way.  They'd be a mess to eat, but probably pretty cute!

Enjoy and Happy New Year!!

And... for those of you who like to refer to me as 'Martha' or 'Betty'... I thought you might enjoy seeing what happened with almost half of the batch of Strawberry Champagne Cupcakes after they were all dolled up and ready to be delivered...

Man down!  The box missed the counter by about an inch.  Oops.  After I cleaned up the mess, I decided I deserved this...

Happy New Year!  I hope you all have a fabulous 2011!

...Spicy Shredded Chicken

Ok, kiddos, who's ready for a super quick and easy recipe?  All of you?  That's what I thought!  This little concoction has been around for quite a while, so I'm not sure who to give credit for.  I learned it from Mom, though, so we'll go with that.

Three ingredients, one crock pot, walk away for eight hours, and dinner is ready.  Told you it was quick and easy.

Spicy Shredded Chicken
serves 6-8

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (thawed or frozen, yes, you can put them in frozen - yea!)
1 jar picante sauce (spicy-ness level of your choice)
1 can chopped green chilies

Put all three ingredients into a large crock pot.  Turn the crock pot on low and let it cook for 8 hours.  When you get home from work, or shopping all day, or lounging by the pool (Summer... I miss you...  please come back soon!), shred the chicken breasts with a couple of forks and mix it all together.

Serve on top of chips for tasty chicken nachos or in tortillas for a spicy spin on chicken soft tacos.  Add cheese, sour cream, guacamole, anything you like.