Monday, January 31, 2011

Greatest thing since sliced bread!

So this past week I got an amazing idea.  So amazing I couldn't stop thinking about it.  I became obsessed and realized I could no longer live in my house happily until my idea was accomplished.  OK, maybe that is an overstatement (but maybe not!) but it was huge!

So those of you that have been to my house before will totally understand what I am talking bout when I say the storage in my house is ridiculously small.  Our home was built in the early 1940's and obviously they didn't feel a need to be able to put anything away, out of sight.  Either that or we just have more (and bigger) things these days.  My bedroom closets are the size of me.  And I am a petite woman.  I can stand inside them, close the door and that is all that will fit.  This is what my kitchen pantry looks like.  This is where they expected me to store all of my boxed, canned, and dried items.  Ridiculous right?!

Yes it really is that small....
I think my 4 year old son could stand inside and just fit, shoulder to shoulder.  

For the past four years I have been struggling with the small spaces.  As organized as I tried to be I just ended up cramming things in tighter and tighter until you were almost afraid for your life when you had to open the door to get something out.  It was almost impossible to find anything unless you removed at least 20 items first.  It was a chore and left me frustrated every single time.  Oh my goodness and if I had someone over that was trying to help me cook- there was no way I was going to send them in there!  Talk about embarrassing!   And since this tiny place was jam-packed with food I had to resort to using a small shelf in one of my cupboards for my spices.  Well this was just as bad.  Spice jars are small so I could fit a ton in there- but again good luck finding anything!  For a girl that LOVES to cook, and there is nothing worse then being unorganized and trying to cook, this was no way to live.  

Well also in our kitchen is a large coat closet.  It was poorly utilized, very unorganized and also jammed packed. A person would scream in horror looking inside- it made no sense! Coats, vacuum, recycling, potatoes, board games... OMG!!!!!   So the other night around 4:30 a.m., after giving Owen his bottle, I laid in bed thinking and *poof* the idea came to me.  What if we transformed the coat closet into a pantry, our skinny panty into a spice cabinet and then I will have a whole shelf in a cupboard that can go to Jackson's cups, plates, etc.  The next day I was so excited to tell Scott about it.  He totally loved the idea and we right away went shopping for the goods.  We picked up a portable closet for in the basement that works great for the coats.  you only use one at a time, why fill up the only good closet we have with a ton of something that is hardly used?

Well here are our finished results....

Top shelf: chocolate morsels, and bulk spice overflow
Second shelf: dried herbs and spices 

Third shelf: home canned goods

Fourth shelf: teas, cocoa and mixers

And now on to my pride and joy... The Pantry! 
drum roll please

Top Shelf: appliences that are not used every day
Second Shelf: red bins filled with place-mats, lunch bags, and other odds and ends

Third Shelf: oils, vinegars, condiments, packet mixes, canned goods
Forth shelf: noodles, rices, nuts and dried fruits, snacks

 Fifth shelf: crackers, oatmeal, cookies and other boxed items
Sixth shelf: flours, sugars, different bread crumbs and other baking items

Floor: paper goods, bin full of onions, potatos and squash, recycling bin and my vacuum in the corner

And on the side wall Scott installed baskets that hold my baggies, foil, plastic wrap and stuff

Now that this is all complete I honestly don't know how I lived so long with such cramped corners!  And the biggest question- how on earth did all that fit in that tiny little pantry?!!  OK, not everything you now see was in there to begin with, but pretty darn close!  I love how i have so much more room to grow in both pantries now.  I know they look pretty full already but I actually have stuff spread out quite a bit.  Because I can.  What a luxury!!  I told Scott that I think I have never been more excited about something, aside from my marriage and the birth of my children.  But seriously, if you lived the way I did for four years you would be excited too!   Haha.

Now that you have seen "inside" my little life a bit, do any of you have pictures or story's to share on your food storage dilemmas?  Or any dreams of better organization somewhere in your home? I would love to hear about them!  Leave me a comment below!

I shared my pantry at this linky party- FUN!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Black Beans and Corn on Rice

Black Beans and Corn on Rice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 can black beans, undrained
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp chipotle chile pepper (more or less to taste.  This is pretty spicy so add a little at a time and taste to make sure it isn't too hot for your liking)
2 bay leaves
1 cup water
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 tsp apple cider vinegar (red wine vinegar or white vinegar will also work)
salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup rice

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot.  Add onions and garlic; cook, stirring frequently until softened, about 10 minutes.  Stir in paprika, curry powder, chipotle chili pepper and bay leaves; cook one minute.  Stir in beans, corn and water.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, stiring occasionally.

Meanwhile, prepare rice according to package directions for 4 servings of rice.

Remove bay leaves from beans.  Stir in 2 Tbsp oil and 3 tsp vinegar.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve beans over rice.

This was a wonderful accompaniment to the Huevos Rancheros I am posting tomorrow (stay tuned!).   But would really go great with any Mexican dish.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Kristen Highland

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Kristen Highland
Kristen and two of her beautiful, sleepy boys at her brother's wedding

Kristen and I have known each other as long as I can honestly remember.  Our mom's are the best of friends so many of my childhood memories include their family as an extension of my own. One silly memory that sticks out in my mind is when our families would all get together when we were kids.  We would spend hours and hours together; all laughing, playing, reminiscing and having a great time.  Toward the end of the day our parents would all of a sudden hurry us up. "Hurry hurry!  Get on your coats, hats, scarves, boots, bags- we need to go NOW.  So there we all are, all bundled up in our coats, hats, scarves, boots, etc.  waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting. You know how your scarf gets after breathing on it for too long as a kid.  Yeah, hot and gross.  But yet we were still waiting.  You see the parents would start laughing and talking again and forget about us.  So we would finally peel off the layers and go play since they were obviously not quite ready to leave yet.  An hour or so later we would hear "Hurry hurry!  Get on your coats, hats, scarves, boots, we need to go NOW."  So there we all are, all bundled up in our coats, hats, scarves, boots, etc.  waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting...... this happened every single time!  But you know what, now that I am an adult I can see how easy that happens with friends that you love so dear.  You never run out of things to talk about.  

Kristen comes from a wonderfully LARGE family.  She has 7 brothers and sisters, the youngest who is a freshmen in college.  Being around all of them is always such fun.  Kristen and her husband Jeff have three adorable boys that I wish I saw more of.  Such cuties!  And she has a talent that I am so jealous of- she is a wonderful baker and decorates the coolest cookies!  I need to get some tips from her, for that is one thing I have never ventured to do.  At least not outside sprinkling lots of sugar or jimmies on them....
For this weeks Fridays, Feasting with Friends I would like to introduce you to my childhood friend Kristen Highland.

What is your favorite thing to cook?
to cook- love to make roasted vegetables. no matter what you do, you can't screw it up! To bake-everything! But what I LOVE the most is to decorate cookies and's my stress reliever (?) and creative outlet.

Beautiful cookies Kristen decorated for a wedding shower

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
I hate to cook meat! In the last 7 years of our marriage I have yet to figure out how to make it right...although, on a side note I can cook any pork chop you give me into the world's best hockey puck!

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
Jeff and I don't go out to eat very often, but when we do we try to go to places we haven't been to before. As I get older, I seem to be more willing to try different foods...which is a huge relief to Jeff!

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
If we were to have a dinner party (which is highly unlikely because I don't do well under party pressure) sadly, the choice of music would probably be Kidz Bop or something equally attrocious so the kids have something to entertain themselves for a while, hopefully giving the adults time to talk and enjoy dinner.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
My mom's lasagna! As many times as I have tried to make it myself it just doesn't taste as good.

What are you currently reading?
Right now I'm reading most of Nicholas Sparks' books, although I have to say I'm disappointed in them. But I have a stack of books waiting for me at the library by Jen Lancaster, so I'm hoping they're good.

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
I couldn't do anything in the kitchen without my little paring knife. I use it for everything!

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
Give me noodles, meat, and vegetables and I can whip a casserole in no time. I love casseroles, especially when the weather starts getting cooler...that and like roasted vegetables you really can't screw it up!

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area?
I really don't venture up to Cleveland that often anymore, but the one thing I do miss is impromptu trips to the lake. I do, however, love to drive around and get lost (much to Jeff's dismay) in Medina and Wayne counties. There are so many farms and neat things to look at. (I think it's the secret dream of mine to have a farm that always draws me out there. Of course I'd have to hire someone to do the actual farming since I have two black thumbs and enough kids to clean up after let alone animals...but wouldn't it be cool though!)

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
For some reason I remember tuna casserole the most from my childhood. Why, I have no idea. I don't make it too often because I think I'm the only one in my house that would eat it. But with each of my pregnancies it was the one food that I craved. Weird.

Top 3 Movies of all time?
My favorite movies of all time - Beauty and the Beast, Tommy Boy, and Forrest Gump. I could probably recite the lines for each one of them!

What was your happiest moment in life?
There's no way to pick just one day - so I'll pick four: my wedding day, and each of the boys births!

her three wonderful boys, Blaise, Gavan and Jace

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
I shop where ever the sales are-we have to really stretch our budget with three growing boys and one big boy (and only 1 income). I have to say my new favorite place is Aldi's. I can get a whole cart full of groceries and spend half of what I normally would at the grocery stores in town. Unfortunately the closest one is 20 minutes away - so I usually have to psych myself out for a trip because it's just so much easier to go to the stores in town.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
CHOCOLATE!!! (and peanut butter with chocolate if the situation calls for desperate measures)

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
My family - all of them. I wouldn't be who I am today without my parents, Jeff, my boys, and all my siblings. My parents have blessed me with their love, wisdom, and guidance and I am doing my best to instill the same beliefs in my children.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
Same resolution as always - learn how to cook meat without turning it into a deadly projectile weapon!

One word that best describes you is:
One word huh? Well I guess the one word that sums it up is ME! :)
Kristen, her husband Jeff and their son Jace

Here is my mom's recipe for lasagna:
Mrs. Westerburg's Lasagna
1 lb ground beef (more or less depending on how meaty you like it)
1 box lasagna noodles
1 package each mozarella and ricotta cheese
1 can spaghetti sauce
1 teaspoon each parsley, salt, and pepper
1 egg

Brown and drain ground beef, add spaghetti sauce. Cook noodles accordingly. In separate bowl mix the cheeses, parsley, salt, pepper, and egg. Layer in dish starting with sauce, noodles, sauce, cheese. Try to end with a layer of sauce and cheese mixture. Cook at 350 for 1/2 hour.

And tell anyone who is willing to make this that I will be happy to come over to try it to see if it's as good as mom's. ;)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stuffed Anaheim Peppers

Stuffed Anaheim Peppers
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 pound ground meat or sausage
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup freshly chopped parsley leaves, reserve some for garnish
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1/4 cup bread crumbs
6-8 anaheim peppers (banana peppers can also be used, but you will need more. I used a combination of the two)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon grill seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tsp fresh)
marinara sauce and parmesan cheese for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a saute pan over medium-high heat add the oil. Once heated add onion and saute for about 8 minutes. Add meat and garlic and saute until meat is browned.  Season with oregano and grill seasoning.  Add cream cheese and stir until melted. Take off heat and stir in parsley, hot sauce and bread crumbs. Salt and pepper to taste.  Let cool.

Slice peppers in half long-ways and remove all seeds and ribs.  Stuff peppers with meat and cheese mixture and bake for 20-30 minutes or grill until char develops.   Plate and top with warm marinara sauce and grated parmesan cheese.  Garnish with reserved parsley.  Enjoy!

These were a total play-around dish that I am so happy turned out the way that it did.  This filling was super yummy and would also work wonderfully stuffed inside tomatoes, zucchini, or large bell peppers.   I think they would also be cute as jalapeƱo poppers for a party appetizer.  The extra spice would be delicious.   These peppers tasted exactly how I had hoped they would and will easily become a staple in our household.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


As I mentioned yesterday, this past Saturday we entertained Sandy and Don, or should I say my boys entertained Grammy and Pop!   It was my birthday and Sandy didn't want me to cook, so they decided to bring dinner for us to enjoy together.  Boy was I excited when I found out that the menu consisted of Cioppino!  It is one of my most favorite foods, reminds me of the beach and really packs a punch on your taste-buds.  Thank you Sandy and Don for putting together a lovely evening and making such a special dinner for my birthday!  

Cioppino: A Fine Kettle of Fish
1/4 cup (3 turns around the pan in a slow stream) extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 to 3 flat fillets of anchovies, drained
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup good quality dry white wine
1 (14-ounce) container chicken stock
1 (32-ounce) can chunky style crushed tomatoes
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed (about 1 tablespoon)
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 1/2 pounds cod, cut into 2-inch chunks
Salt and pepper
8 large shrimp, ask for deveined easy-peel or peel and devein
8 sea scallops
16 to 20 raw mussels, scrubbed
A loaf of fresh, crusty bread, for mopping

In a large pot over moderate heat combine oil, crushed pepper, anchovies, garlic, and bay. Let anchovies melt into oil. The anchovies act as a natural salt, the pepper flakes will infuse the oil, providing heat.

Chop celery and onion near stove and add to the pot as you work. Saute vegetables for a few minutes to begin to soften and add wine to the pot. Reduce wine a minute, then add chicken stock, tomatoes, thyme, and parsley. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to medium low.

Season fish chunks with salt and pepper. Add fish and simmer 5 minutes, giving the pot a shake now and then. Do not stir your soup with a spoon after the addition of fish or you will break it up. Add shrimp, scallops, and mussels and cover pot. Cook 10 minutes, giving the pot a good shake now and again.

Remove the lid and discard any mussels that do not open. Carefully ladle stew into shallow bowls and pass bread at the table.

Recipe courtesy Rachael Ray

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chicken with Mustard Mascarpone Marsala Sauce

For my birthday this year I got to celebrate with not one but 3 amazing dinners!  On friday I went on a very special date night (our first since having Owen!) at Jonathan Sawyer's restaurant, Greenhouse Tavern down on East 4th Street.  It was cozy, special, and easily our new favorite restaurant.  We can't wait to go back! Saturday evening we entertained at our house with one of my lovely sets of in-laws, Sandy and Don (check back tomorrow for the wonderful Cioppino recipe!).  And on Sunday I celebrated my birthday along with my sisters at my parents home.  A fun tradition we have with my family is that on our birthday's we get to choose what our birthday dinner will be.  Bonnie and I collaborated and we came up with Chicken Marsala.  Neither of us have had this dish in ages but both just love it.  My mom and dad did a wonderful rendition of Giada De Laurentiis' recipe, Chicken with Mustard Mascarpone Marsala Sauce.  The addition of the mascarpone cheese made the sauce deliciously creamy and soooooo good.  Thank you mom and dad for yet another perfect birthday.  Love you!

Chicken with Mustard Mascarpone Marsala Sauce
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, each breast cut crosswise into 3 pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons butter, divided
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup dry Marsala wine
1 cup (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves, plus whole sprigs, for garnish
12 ounces dried fettuccine

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken and cook just until brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate and cool slightly.

While the chicken cools, melt 2 tablespoons of butter to the same skillet over medium-high heat, then add the onion and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic and saute until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 12 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until it is reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Stir in the mascarpone and mustard. Cut the chicken breasts crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through and the sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped parsley. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fettuccine and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain. Toss the fettuccine with 3 tablespoons of butter and season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Swirl the fettuccine onto serving plates. Spoon the chicken mixture over top. Garnish with parsley sprigs and serve.

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spiced Coconut Mushrooms

I discovered a new recipe for mushrooms.  Oh boy they are seriously good.  It is originally meant to be a side dish for any Asian meal, but I also think they would be so wonderful as a topping for a nice steak.  These mushrooms are earthy, creamy and have the best combo of sweet and spicy.  I have found a new favorite!

Spiced Coconut Mushrooms
2 Tbsp peanut oil (or any vegetable oil)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 fresh red chilies, seeded and thinly sliced into rings (or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried chili flakes)
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 cups cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced (button mushrooms also work nicely)
2/3 cup coconut milk
2 Tbsp cilantro or chives, chopped
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a wok or deep skillet.  Add the garlic and chillies, and stir-fry for a few seconds.  Add the shallots and stir-fry for 3 minutes until softened.  Add mushrooms and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes.  Pour in the coconut milk and bring to a boil.  Boil rapidly over high heat until liquid is reduced by half and coats the mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle the cilantro over the mushrooms and toss gently to mix.

from Wok and Stir-Fry edited by Linda Doeser

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Meghan DiCocco

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Megan DiCocco
Meghan looking absolutely stunning in her awesome new kitchen

I am a firm believer that everything in life happens for a reason.  God has His plans for me, and I don't also know what those plans are until much later in the game.  Back in 2006 we were looking to buy our first home.  After months and months of house hunting, right when we were just about ready to throw in the towel for a while, Scott stumbled upon this sweet little home that had just gone up on the market.  It was in one of the cities we were looking in, had a huge backyard and even a creek that our son (who I was pregnant with at the time) could stomp around in, like most little boys love to do.  The only downfall was that it was on a busy street.  I was really hoping to find a home in a place where I could feel that sense of community.  I dreamt of a place where we would know our neighbors, where there would be other young children for ours to grow up with and build lasting friendships with.  I know how uncommon it is to get to know neighbors when you live on a busy street.  But there was a sidewalk so I was hopeful that I might pass some neighbors on the street while on a walk.

Well we ended up buying the house.  And not only did we meet wonderful neighbors- we are surrounded by them.  And they all have children the exact same age!  I feel so very, very blessed to have each of these wonderful women as friends.  We make sure to get together at least once a month, alternating houses for playdates with our children.  We are watching each of them grow before our eyes and are even welcoming new "members" into our little club with the babies that are being born.  It is so hard to make new girlfriends once you are an adult, and here God planted me right smack-dab in the middle of four amazing ones!

Meghan is one of my lovely neighbors and friends.  She lives behind my house, kitty-corner to our backyard.  She has two fantastic little boys, Jack and Enzo that are just a delight to be around.  True proof of how wonderful Meghan and her husband Jack are as parents.  My son Jackson absolutely adores these boys.  They are so good at playing "Bad Guys", and to Jackson that is a big deal.  Meghan has this calming quality to her that I just love.  I can be completely frazzled and just minutes with her I feel more at ease and peaceful.  To me that is a big deal.  So for today's Fridays, Feasting with Friends I am happy to introduce you to one of my beautiful friends and neighbors Meghan DiCocco.

What is your favorite thing to cook?
Turkey in my roaster and Garlic Lime Chicken

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
I am an impatient person.  I shy away from recipes that take too long to prepare. I like meals that I can prepare in 30 minutes or less.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
I enjoy the calamari and mussles from D’Agnese. I like the shrimp fajita from Cozumel and we like pizza from Rosa’s Pizza. For date nights, we like Pickle Bills in Mentor and Beau’s Grille in Fairlawn. I would like to try Lola and Dante.

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist? Enya

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth? Beef Tenderloin, Twice Baked Potatoes, bacon wrapped brussel sprouts and Key Lime Pie

What are you currently reading? Just finished three books: The Help, Nurture Shock and Labyrinth.

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget? My Pampered Chef Garlic Press

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
Crispy Crunchy Chicken

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area?
The Metroparks, the variety of cultural institituions, the theater and our proximity to so many other fun places to visit.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
Chicken Divan. I have cooked it once. It was not as good as my Mom’s

Top 3 Movies of all time?
Gladiator, Goonies, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,

What was your happiest moment in life?
Tie for my wedding and the births of my boys

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Marcs, Giant Eagle, S and K Produce and Fresh

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
I love making and eating Guacamole

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
My wonderful husband and beautiful boys, and earning my Certified Financial Planner designation

Meghan and her husband Jack

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
I would like to visit the West Side Market. Additionally, I would like to get more familiar with my spices and use a broader range of them.  After 5 months of kitchen renovation, I am finally able to cook in my home so I am excited to just start using my new stove and range.

One word that best describes you is: Adventurous. 
I like trying new things, visiting new places and taking up new hobbies
Meghan and her eldest son Jack at Sesame Street Place

Here is my recipe for Crispy Crunchy Chicken:
It is from Take Five For Every Occasion: A five Ingredient Cookbook by Debbye Dabbs

½ c mayonnaise
3 tablespoons mustard
½ c (1 stick) butter, melted
8 boneless chicken breasts
8 ounces herb-seasoned stuffing mix, crushed (or just use Italian bread

Mix the mayonnaise, mustard and butter in a shallow dish. Dip the chicken into the mixture. Roll the chicken in the stuffing mix. Arrange in a single layer in a baking dish. Stir the remaining stuffing mix into the remaining butter mixture and then spoon over the chicken. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes longer or until the chicken is cooked through.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sesame Chicken Rice Noodles

One of my other obsessions when it comes to Chinese food is the dish Cow Mei Fun.  It is a noodle dish made with thin rice noodles, Chinese vegetables and Chicken.  Last night I came up with my own play on this recipe and was super happy with the results.  Scott and I both agreed this was a definite Do Again.

Sesame Chicken Rice Noodles
14 oz thin rice noodles
1 carrot, cut into long fine strips
8 oz cabbage, cut into long fine strips
4 scallions, cut into one-inch sections
3/4 cup fresh shiitake or button mushrooms, thickly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 oz skinless, boneless chicken breast, finely sliced
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

For the sauce
3 Tbsp rice or sherry vinegar
5 Tbsp soy sauce
4 Tbsp sesame oil
6 Tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger or 1/2 tsp ground
salt and freshly ground black pepper 

To make the sauce, combine all the ingredients except the olive oil in a small bowl with a pinch of salt.  Slowly while mixing with a whisk, add in your olive oil to emulsify.  Set aside.  

Soak the noodles in warm water for ten minutes.  Stir them occasionally to separate.  Drain well and pat dry. Turn into a bowl.  While you are soaking the noodles, saute the mushrooms in a little olive oil until they turn golden brown.  Add the rest of the veggies for just a minute or two, stirring to combine.  Add the vegetables to the noodles.  Pour in just over half of the sauce, then toss the mixture well.  Adjust the seasoning according to taste.  

Heat the oil in a large frying pan.  Add the chicken, and stir-fry for three minutes, or until cooked and golden brown.  Remove from the heat.  Add the sesame seeds, and drizzle in some of the sauce.  

Arrange the noodles on individual plates, making a nest on each plate.  Spoon the chicken on top.  Sprinkle with additional sesame seeds for garnish.  Serve any remaining sauce on the side to add as desired.  

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sesame Shrimp Toasts

Remember my addiction to Chinese Take-Out, especially the appetizers?  Well I decided to try my hand at another one- Sesame Shrimp Toasts.  These little guys are sooo delicious; creamy, crunchy, and golden brown.  They are incredibly addictive and for the flavor you get you would think they were difficult to make.  But oh my goodness, simple as pie!  (Probably easier actually!)

Sesame Shrimp Toasts
8 oz raw shrimp, shelled and deveined (do not use cooked shrimp because they will not stick to the bread while frying)
2 Tbsp shortening (I accidently used only one Tbsp and they worked fine.  Although I think the 2nd would help it adhere a bit stronger.  But I think I will still reduce the amount next time to make it a smidge healthier...although being that it is fried, what does a little more shortening matter?!!)
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tsp scallions, finely chopped
1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger root (or 1/4 tsp ground)
1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp water
salt and pepper
6 slices white bread, crusts removed
5/8 cup sesame seeds
peanut oil or canola oil, for frying

Place the shrimp and sortening on a cutting board and chop them together to form a paste.  Scrape into a bowl and stir in the egg white, scallions, ginger, and rice wine.  Mix the cornstarch and the water together until a smooth paste forms, then stir into the shrimp mixture and season with salt and pepper.

Spread the shrimp paste evenly over one side of each slice of bread.  Spread out the sesame seeds on a flat plate or parchment paper and gently press the spread side of each bread int othe seeds to coat.

Heat the peanut oil in a preheated wok or large skillet.  Add half the slices of bread, spread-side down, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Continue cooking the remaining slices of bread.  Cut each slice into fingers and serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Easy No Rise Pizza Crust and Dessert Pizza Recipes

Last night was my monthly Girl's Night In with Bonnie and Dawn, and it was Pizza Night!  The menu was  a garden salad with homemade beer bread croutons, garlic toast, pizza featuring a No Rise Pizza Crust and tying things all together with a dessert Pizza with strawberries, blueberries and bananas.  Everything turned out super delicious!  Bonnie provided the crust recipe and we were all super excited that it was such a success.  Not only did it taste great, but it couldn't be any easier.  I am providing the basic recipe we used, but I am already thinking up how I can add spices, garlic, and other yummy things the change it up from time to time.  This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Print this Recipe

Easy No Rise Pizza Crust
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast (if you don't use the packets, but the bulk 2 1/4 tsp= 1 packet yeast)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)

Combine flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Mix in oil and warm water. Spread out on a large pizza pan. Top as desired.

Bake at 375 degrees C (190 degrees C) for 20 to 25 minutes.

My notes:
I started out mixing the ingredients with a spoon, but had a lot more success once I removed it from the bowl and kneaded it with my hands.  Whenever I have used yeast in the past I have always let it proof in water before adding it to the rest of the ingredients.  This recipe doesn't call for this, but I think I will try it next time just to see what happens.  What proofing is, is allowing the yeast to dissolve in warm water and let it bubble up.  Once this happens it is ready to use.  I thought the crust was great as is, but I am just curious if allowing the yeast to proof will change the texture, making it a chewier crust, or crunchier, etc.   I also think I will try prebaking the crust for 5 minutes and then adding my toppings and continue baking it for the additional 15 minutes.  I will be sure to let you know my findings :)

Dessert Pizza

The Dessert Pizza is one of those semi-homemade desserts that is great to have in your back pocket when you want to throw together a delicious dessert really quickly.  It looked pretty and tasted great!  What Dawn did was used a tube of store bought sugar cookie dough, unrolled it and spread it out on a 9x13 cookie sheet.  Bake according to directions and allow to cool completely.  Once cooled, spread with whipped topping and decorate with fresh berries of your choice.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Loaded Potato Soup

For Christmas this year, my sister got me something that I have wanted for a very, very long time- a Dutch Oven.  This is a type of cookware, either cast iron or aluminum, that produces a wonderful slow cooked, one pot meal.  These are very widely used while camping, but have also become quite popular in indoor cooking as well.  The great thing about them is that they can go from the stove top to directly into your oven to complete cooking.  They are also very commonly used over an open fire, which make them ideal for camping or other outdoor cooking.  You can saute, roast, grill and even bake a cake in a dutch oven!  They are such a versatile cookware, I have been dying to have one to play around with.  So first of all, thank you so much Bonnie!  This thing is going to get a lot of use!

This evening I decided to give this a whirl with a nice homey classic- Potato Soup.  You of course don't need a dutch oven to make this soup.  A stock pot works just fine.  Having a three and a half year old, you have to make food fun.  So I like to serve this with all the toppings on the side so Jackson can add in as much bacon and cheese as he likes.  It gets him involved and will then be more likely to enjoy eating!  I like to serve this along with nice bread for sopping up all the yummy goodness.  It would also be wonderful served right inside a bread bowl.  Yum!  

Loaded Potato Soup
4 strips of bacon
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup chopped onion
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
4 cups chopped and peeled potatoes
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 cups milk (I used almond milk to make it a bit healthier, but any milk you have will work)
cheddar cheese, shredded for garnish
4 scallions, sliced

In a dutch oven or a 5 to 6 quart stock pot, fry bacon over medium heat until lightly browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Once cool, crumble and set aside for garnish.  Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease from the dutch oven.  Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pan drippings and saute until soft but not brown. Add the potatoes and chicken broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

Cool slightly. I like a chunky soup so I reserved 2 cups of the potato mixture and set aside. We will add these back in later on. Blend remaining potato mixture until smooth. If you don't care for chunks in your soup, puree the entire mixture. This will make more of a cream of potato soup this way.

Stir together the flour and butter to make a roux. Add milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thick and bubbly. Carefully add back both of the potato mixture's to the milk. Season with salt, pepper and paprika and simmer until heated through.

Top with the shredded cheese, crumbled bacon and sliced scallions. Serve with nice crusty bread to wipe your bowl clean. Enjoy!

*pardon my icky pictures.  My camera's LCD screen broke over Christmas, so I can't see what it is I am photographing or play around with any of my settings.  I just have to guess at what I am taking a picture of and hope for the best!  Thankfully I have a fun new DSLR camera on the way- I can not wait! 


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