Adventures in homemade, budget aware cooking.

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Lemon Chicken Orzo

I like strange grains.  I don’t know what it is about me, but I hate spaghetti and white rice.  I love jasmine rice and couscous and orzo.  Maybe I just have expensive tastes…  This past month, I feel like my husband’s comment on most of the meals I prepare for him has been “Well, it’s a new flavour for me…”  Is that his nice way of saying that he doesn’t like it, or that I should make it more often so he gets used to it?  I prefer to believe it’s the latter.

Lemon Chicken Orzo (adapted from “Family Circle)

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1 14.5 oz can of chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 1/2 tbsp sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 8 oz green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces

Sprinkle the chicken with 1/4 tsp of the salt and pepper.  In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the chicken and brown it.  Add the chicken broth and the lemon juice.  Bring to a boil and cover.  Lower heat.  Let mixture simmer until the chicken is cooked through (5 min).  Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Increase the heat to high and cook the sauce for 5 min.  Add the honey and sour cream, salt and pepper.  Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil again.  Add the orzo and cook for 10 min, or until the orzo is soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Add green beans during the final 4 min of cooking time.  Stir in the chicken.  Garnish with parsley.  Serve.

Oreo Cookies to Die For

Disclaimer: These Cookies are NOT from Scratch!  But, they are really really good!  When my husband sits down to eat store-bought oreos with a tall glass of milk, he usually manages to eat 12 or 13 before he stops himself (or I stop him…).  He came home between jobs today, saw what I was making for a family reunion we have this weekend and declared “Those are MINE!  They are all for ME!”  However, after filling himself up with just one, he reluctantly agreed to share them with his family.    These “oreos” are huge and filling.

Oreo Cookies to Die for (from a family friend)

  • 2 pkgs devil’s food cake mix (I did warn you…)
  • 2/3 cup of oil
  • 4 eggs

Combine all the ingredients with a wooden spoon (I tried to use a whisk at first, but the batter was so thick it was impossible).  Roll into 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet.  Leave lots of space between the balls because they flatten and spread out quite a bit.  Bake for 10 min at 350.  Cool on wire racks.

Icing:

  • 1 oz pkg cream cheese (or neufchatel cheese, which is cheaper and has less fat)
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 3 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Cream together in a medium bowl.  Spread a thick layer of icing on one cookie and top it with another cookie, making a sandwich.  I like these best frozen, like ice-cream sandwiches.  (makes 24 cookies)

I thought, as I was assembling these cookies, that it would be very easy to make them with mint or peppermint extract instead of the vanilla for Christmas, or pumpkin flavouring (as my husband suggested) for Hallowe’en.  You could also easily substitute a white cake for the chocolate.

Greek Style Roasted Potatoes

My house is filling with the smell of garlic. It is making my mouth water. We love garlic. If dinner isn’t smothered in about 13 garlic cloves, something is usually wrong! For instance, I made some steak kabobs last week. I marinated the meat in teriyaki sauce, a dash of balsamic vinegar and some pepper. They were juicy and delicious; however, when I asked the husband what he thought, he suggested that something in the marinade’s melody of flavours was missing. “It needs some… garlic” he said. That should be our family slogan.

The Greek-style roasted potatoes currently in my oven (expelling a garlic scent that is tickling my nostrils and making my mouth water) don’t need any more garlic. But the trick with these potatoes isn’t the garlic. It’s the lemon juice. Don’t forget the lemon juice.

Greek-Style Garlic Roasted Potatoes (I am going to leave strict measurement out of this recipe because it really depends on my many mouths you have to feed)

– 5-10 potatoes, cubed (if my mum were cutting them, they would be big chunks, but if you, like my dad and I, like the crunchy parts, cut them smaller.)
– 3-6 cloves of garlic, chopped roughly (big pieces are fine here) – The juice of one lemon
– Olive oil
– Water
– Dash of parsley
– Dash of cayenne pepper (optional) Preheat the oven to 400F. Put the potatoes in a baking pan that is big enough that fit in one layer. Sprinkle the garlic on top. Squeeze on the lemon juice. Pour in enough oil to coat the potatoes and form a generous pool in the bottom of the pan. Pour in water to cover at least ½ of the potatoes. Cook. Stir ones or twice. If they are sticking, add more oil. They are done when they’re brown and crispy (usually around an hour.) Sprinkle with parsley and cayenne pepper.

Ranger Cookies

Yesterday, I gleefully pulled Harry Potter #2 AND #5 off the shelf at my local library.  I was so excited to find these two books available.  Don’t worry that #1, 3 or 4 weren’t available.  I have read the series so many times now it doesn’t matter which book I jump into (it probably wouldn’t matter which chapter either…)  How many times is it okay to read the same book?  Your favourite book?  Seven?

Anyways, the whole situation got me thinking about my cooking philosophy.  I often scour cookbooks in search of new recipes to try and new things to make.  When I find something that the husband and I love, I tend to file the recipe away the same as I do for the mediocre ones I come across.  To me, food isn’t like books.  I really struggle to re-make things!  I think it’s a disease, really.

I made the BEST ranger cookies ever a few days ago.  I need to remember to treat this recipe like one of my favourite books.  I need to make it again.  These cookies were gooey in the middle and crispy around the edges.  The brown sugar and butter gave them a caramel flavour.  And, unlike the last Ranger Cookie recipe I failed with, they were FLAT!  Maybe you don’t like your cookies flat, but that’s how mum’s always were and that’s how I think they should be.  (If you don’t want flat cookie – the horror – refrigerate your batter between uses and avoid putting your batter on hot cookie sheets.)

Ranger Cookies (Makes 4 dozen… don’t worry, they are THAT good.  You’ll eat them all)

  • ¾ cup butter
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 small eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • ½ chopped walnuts

*Instead of the raisins, coconut and nuts, feel free to put in whatever you like.

Cream the butter.  Add the sugars and cream.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  Mix.  Stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Combine.  Stir in the remaining ingredients.  Drop batter onto ungreased baking sheets.  Cook for 8-10 minutes at 375F.  Let sit for 1 minute, then remove them to cooling racks.

I took my out of the oven when the middles were still uncooked.  They firmed up on the cooling racks.

Garlic-Cumin Black Beans

I was under the impression that rice is tricky to cook.  Then I tried to make beans.  My impatient cooking-style did NOT co-exist very well with the lengthy process of cooking dried black beans.  It took me several months, but I finally built up the courage to try again.  This time, I left the beans on low and went to an appointment for a few hours.  I think that helped.  I also started to cook them well before it was dinnertime, and well before I was hungry so I didn’t even feel the need to rush them along so I could eat.  My beans don’t hold a candle next to real ones, cooked by Latin Americans who know what they are doing, but they weren’t bad.

Garlic-Cumin Black Beans (adapted from Mark Bittman’s “The Best Recipes in the World”)

  • 1 lb dried black beans
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • ½ cup minced onion

Soak the beans overnight in water.  Drain them, put them in a pot and cover them with fresh water.  Cook on medium-high heat.  When they boil, add the crushed garlic and the cumin.  Partially cover and simmer until they are tender, 2-3 hours (or maybe 5 if your beans are like mine…)  Add the salt, pepper, minced garlic and more cumin if you like.  Cook another 5 minutes.  Stir in the onion.  Serve warm.

These are great with any Mexican dish.  You can also follow this basic recipe with pinto beans as well.

Oh, and anyone have a good recipe for Baked Alaska?  The prospect of baked ice cream intrigues me…

Bruschetta

I have written this post three times now, but every time, my computer dies or fails in one way or another.  So, I’ve given up on the stories and anecdotes.  This is good.  Make it and eat it.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh chives, minced
  • 2 gloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and spoon over toasted slices of baguette.

Thai Peanut Chicken

The first time I had curry, I was in the H-shaped airport in Taipei, Taiwan. The experience taught me one thing: Airport food is universally bad. Since then, I have avoided curry religiously. I was convinced I didn’t like it. You can imagine my trepidation as I ventured today’s recipe: Thai Peanut Chicken with a large helping of yellow curry powder. It turns out that I don’t hate curry after all. Here’s the recipe that changed my mind:

Thai Peanut Chicken (adapted from Mark Bittman’s “The Greatest Recipes in the World”)

– 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
– 1 tbsp curry powder
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
– 1 small onion, sliced
– 1 tbsp cooking oil
– 1/2 head of broccoli, cut
– 1 scallion, cut into 1 inch pieces
– 1/3 roasted peanuts, chopped
– 1 tbsp sugar
– 1 tbsp Nam Pla (Thai Fish Sauce)
– 3/4 cup coconut milk*

Cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes. Marinate it with the curry, ginger and garlic. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the broccoli and scallion and cook for 3 minutes. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the oil. Cook the onion until it’s tender, 3-4 minutes. Strain the vegetables and run them under cold water for 30 seconds. Add the chicken to the skillet. Add the vegetables to the skillet. Cook on medium-high until the chicken is just browning, 5-10 minutes. Add the peanuts, coconut milk, Nam Pla, and sugar. Heat 5 minutes until the sauce is thickened. Season with salt. Serve over jasmine rice.

* To make your own coconut milk:
In a blender, combine 1 cup shredded coconut with 2 cups hot water. Pulse 3-4 times. Blend for 15 seconds. Strain the milk and discard the chucks. (makes 2 cups)

Meal Planning #3

I know that I haven’t blogged about most of the things I cooked since last time I planned, but I’m pretty sure it’s a million times harder to think of things to make than to find viable recipes and make them, so here is next week’s menu:
Saturday: Taco Salad and Lime Sherbet for dessert
Sunday: Thai Peanut Chicken
Monday: Sopes (if you, like my spellchecker, do not recognize Sopes, you are in for a TREAT!)
Tuesday: Homemade Mac & Cheese, Grilled Steak Kabobs and Steamed Broccoli
Wednesday: Perogies (which I will buy at the store pre-made like normal people)
Thursday: Greek Feast! aka: Grilled Chicken Kabobs, Homemade Pita Bread, Pilaf and Greek Salad
Friday: Italian Wedding Soup

Potstickers

Yesterday, my husband and I had a friend over for Mexican food.  We got to talking about food.  What else do you talk about when you’re eating after all?  My husband attempted to explain about all the ethnic foods I am introducing him to, but he got stuck on “Tzatziki.”  I don’t really blame him.  Finally, he abandoned searching for the word and instead brought up the potstickers we enjoyed a few days prior.  But our friend was baffled at our considering potstickers ethnic, because to him, they are a “Utah thing!”  Potstickers, as it turns out, are a Chinese thing.  I am happy they are accessible here though!

Most people eat these at Chinese food restaurants (My mum, for one, loves them).  If people do attempt to make them at home, they generally use the store-bought wrappers.  I made mine from scratch, using a recipe from “Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch” and they are so easy (and CHEAP) that I will never buy them again.

Potsticker Wrappers:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup water

Combine flour and water in a medium bowl.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface.  Knead the dough for 3-4 minutes until it appears smooth.  Form the dough into a 9 inch cylinder with your palms.  Cut the dough in half lengthwise.  Dust both pieces with flour and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let them rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile make the filling.

There are a million fillings that you can use for potstickers.  I used the traditional ginger pork filling adapted from “Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch”

  • 8 oz finely shredded napa cabbage (or regular cabbage)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 8 oz ground pork
  • 2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 scallion (green onion) finely sliced
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp rice wine (apple juice)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil (you NEED this to make it taste Chinese!)

Toss the cabbage with the salt in a large bowl and let it stand 30 minutes to remove excess water.  Rinse the cabbage, and squeeze out all the water you can.  Preheat the oven to 200F (this is so you can keep batches of cooked potstickers warm while you cook the rest).  Mix the pork, ginger, scallion, soy sauce, apple juice, sugar and sesame oil in a large bowl.  Mix in the cabbage.  Refrigerate anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours.

To assemble the dumplings, roll the cylinders out to 12 inches each (one at a time).  Cut out 3-3 1/4 inch circles.  Put a tsp of filling in the center of the dough.  Bring the top and bottom of the dough to the center of the filling and pinch shut forming a lip.  On one side of the dumpling, pinch 4 1/4 inch pleats in the dough along the lip.  When you have 10 or so ready, heat 1 tsp of oil in a skillet over medium heat.  When the oil is almost smoking, drop in the dumpling.  Fry for 2 minutes (only on one side).  Add 1/2 cup of water to the skillet.  Cover and let the dumplings cook for 5 minutes.  When the water is just about gone, remove the lid and let the potstickers cook until they are light brown and stuck.  Repeat until all the dumplings are cooked.  Serve hot with Soy Vinegar Dip.

Soy Vinegar Dip

  • 1/8 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar

Heat ingredients with 1 tbsp water over low heat for 1 1/2 minutes.  Remove from heat and spoon into small dishes.  Top with a scallion sliced paper-thin if desired.

ps. The Spring Rolls were mediocre so I will not give you the recipe here.  Do you have a delicious spring roll recipe?

Broccoli Pesto

Ever since I saw a recipe for this on stoveria.blogspot.com, I’ve been dying to make it.  Staring into the green goo, my husband was a little bit skeptical, but as soon as he realized the pesto had cheese in it, he was happy.  I was happy too.  Broccoli pesto makes everyone happy apparently.

Broccoli Pesto (adapted from stoveria.blogspot.com)

  • 1 head of broccoli, steamed
  • 1/2 chopped walnuts (or blanched almonds, or I suppose if you wanted to spend $19.38/lb, you could use pine nuts too!)
  • 1/2 shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese (the texture is about the same, but the price is vastly different, at least in cities where Mexican ingredients abound)
  • 1 lb cooked pasta, with the starchy water reserved
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, combine the broccoli, nuts, and cheeses.  Pulse until the sauce is thick and combined.  Add the oil and seasonings.  Combine.  Pour over warm pasta and using a bit of the starchy water, combine until the pesto is creamy.