Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chinese Take In!

What's for dinner tonight?
 CHINESE FOOD!!!!






I  LOVE making ethnic foods. We eat foods from all over the world. Tonight our taste buds traveled to China. I made egg rolls, vegetable lo mien, pineapple chicken (not exactly Chinese but close enough), and steamed brown rice. It was very fun to make and relatively easy. I aslo am very proud to only have burned myself once!  


Vegetable Lo Mien





3 Carrots sliced on the diagonal
3 ribs of celery sliced on the diagonal
1 small onion sliced into half moon slivers
1  small zucchini sliced on the diagonal
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 cup frozen pre sliced multi colored bell peppers (you can find them in most grocery stores in the frozen veggie isle)
1 package of lo mien noodles or 3 packets of Ramen noodles cooked (you can use the seasoning packet but it really ups the sodium content of the dish)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Heat a large skillet on med/high heat. When skillet is hot add olive oil. Do not use extra virgin olive oil, it has a low smoke point and is best used for salad dressings, plain old olive oil is fine. Saute onions, celery, and carrots until slightly soft. add zucchini garlic and peppers. Continue cooking until veggies are cooked, not soft. You want them to have a bite to them. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil. Coat veggies well. Add noodles and toss well. Serve hot.








 Pineapple Chicken





1 quart of veggie oil for deep frying in whatever pot you use for deep frying. I have a 3 quart soup pot that works great. Don't forget a thermometer to be sure your oil is at 350 when it's time to fry the chicken.
2 Boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size chunks
2 eggs well beaten
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 crushed garlic clove
1 cup cornstarch divided
1/2 onion chopped
1 carrot sliced on the diagonal
1 rib celery sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup frozen sliced bell peppers
1 can chunk pineapple drain and reserve juice

Sauce-
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon soy sauce
reserved pineapple juice
2 tablespoons cornstarch

I know it looks like a ton of ingredients... trust me it's not hard, but the recipe does make a lot of dishes, just to warn you. The first thing you want to do in marinate the chicken. in a large bowl mix the eggs, soy sauce, garlic and chicken. Let it marinate for about 10 minutes. I always get the chicken going and while it's hanging out I prep the veggies and make the sauce. Heat your oil to 350. In a second bowl put in half of your cornstarch. With a fork fish out the chicken and toss them in the cornstarch and place on a plate. After you have coated all the chicken put it back in the egg stuff. Put the other half of the cornstarch in the bowl. Repeat the coating so the chicken had two coats of egg and cornstarch. In small batches deep fry the chicken pieces. Since you are using cornstarch the chicken won't get too brown so it's easy to over cook it. about 4 minutes in the oil is long enough. You can put your cooked chicken on a bunch of paper towels to drain but I like putting a cooling rack in a baking sheet and draining it that way. Once the chicken is all fried it's time to move on to the veggies. First make up the sauce. combine all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. In a large skillet(if you have a wok by all means, use it!) Heat about a teaspoon of veggie oil and saute the veggies until they are about done, you want them to have a bite to them. toss in the pineapple and saute until the pineapple is heated through. add the sauce and stir until it thickens up. Cut the heat and add the chicken and toss to coat the chicken. Serve hot!!




I served the meal with plain brown rice that I made in the rice cooker. I thought it would be fun for the kids to kind of decorate the dining room up a bit an eat from nice plate so I pulled out the "good stuff" We ate a=our rice from the finger bowls. I thought it would be cute.







Here is the place setting, simple but elegant.







Our meal was super yummy and oh so fun to eat with chopsticks. I hope you have fun with your own Chinese night. Here is the table. Looks so good I can't wait to make it again. The best part is when it's all done, the hubby did the dishes! What a lucky girl am I!!





*Disclaimer- I do not profess to be a food photographer but that being said the pictures turned out ok. Also the egg rolls were from the store. I do know how to make them but that is a job for another day and another blog post!)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rolls 101


Every time I go to a church potluck I bring rolls. I really enjoy making rolls and everyone loves eating them. On more then one ocasion I have been asked "These are so great! How do you make them?" Well, here you are, step by step directions on how I make rolls... to bad they don't make smell-o-Internet cause these babies are aromatherapy for the soul!!

Ingredients
4 1/2 to 6 cups flour
2 tablespoons yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup warm water (115-120 degrees)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter or margarine



This is my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. A house warming gift from my mother. I don't know what I love more, my mini van or my kitchen aid (wow... did I just say that! Yep I am a mom alright!) This thing is the secret to my success. If you don't have one that is OK. The rolls will still turn out great, I promise!

 


With my trusty 60 hour roll (thank you Jenny!) recipe for inspiration (I kind of don't follow the instructions, I do my own thing) I am ready to get to roll making!


Add the yeast to the mixing bowl and add the water. I plug up my sink and let the hot water run till it's at max hotness and measure the hot water from the tap. (When I bake I have a sink of hot soapy water ready to toss the used utensils in. Helps with clean up.)

 I let the yeast and water proof (hang out) for about 5 minutes or so. While the yeast proofs I combine the milk, (we use soy milk so Bella [my 4 year old] can have the rolls too, she has a severe milk protein allergy) butter, (non dairy margarine) salt, and sugar in a pot and heat it on the stove until it reaches that magical number of 115 to 120 degrees. I use a candy thermometer to be sure it's temp is right. Yeast is pretty picky and if the liquid is too hot or too cold it won't work and you will make a very doughy paperweight.
 This is what the yeast and water look like. When you see bubbles then you know it's time to rock-n-roll. There is an idea out there that if you "feed" your yeast with a little sugar it will work better but I never have and my yeast works just fine.
 Add 2 cups of your flour and mix it with the paddle (regular beaters if using any other stand mixer) for about 35 seconds on med speed until all the dry and wet are combined. Now comes the fun part. Slowly crank the mixer to full speed and let it go for about 2 to 3 minutes. This is my little secret an it really helps to get the gluten activated so you will get a nice rise on your dough. If you are using whole wheat flour I suggest you whip it for 5 to 8 minutes to fully activate the gluten in the flour.
 This is what it looks like after the 2 minutes are up. It should be fairly lump free and smooth. Remove the paddle and replace it with the dough hook.
 add two more cups of flour and let the hook go for another few minutes. If the dough looks wet add more flour a 1/4 cup at a time until the dough clings to the hook and the sides of the bowl are clean. Like this...
 This green bowl is my favorite bowl to rise my bread in. Every bread maker has there favorite bowl and this is mine. It is rarely used for anything else but raising dough in my kitchen. Take your large bowl and oil it (I use olive oil) on the bottom and sides.
 take the dough out of the mixing bowl and form into a ball. put the ball in the bowl and flip it around so all sides of the dough get coated in oil.
 Cover with a kitchen towel and stick it in a warm place to rise. Depending on the time of year I rise my bread in different places. In the summer and fall I rise my bread in the sink. I stopper up the sink and fill it with boiling water about 2 inches deep. I place a cereal bowl upside down in the middle of the sink and put the bowl of dough on the cereal bowl an cove the entire sink with  bath towel. It works great and I get a quick rise. It works because the humidity in the sink helps the yeast to work a bit faster. In the winter and spring I have found that putting the dough in front of the fireplace works great as well.
 Let the dough rise for 15 to 20 minutes. It should almost double in size.
 Punch the dough down and plop it onto a floured counter top. At this point the sky is the limit as to what you can make.
  •  Form it into balls about 3 inches in diameter and place on a cookie sheet to make hamburger buns. Cover and let rise till double, about 25 minutes. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until golden brown on top.
  • Flatten it out into the shape of a rectangle and cut into smaller rectangles and place on the cookie sheet and you have hoggie or hot dog rolls. Cover and let rise till double, about 25 minutes. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until golden brown on top.
  • You can make cinnamon rolls... roll the dough out into a rectangle and spread butter on it. Sprinkle cinnamon and brown sugar on over the butter. starting from the longer end roll the dough up into a log. Slice the log into 2 inch pieces, place in a 9x13 pan. Cover and let rise till double, about 25 minutes bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes. While they are baking make a glaze for them. Mix 2 cups powered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tablespoon milk in a bowl stir to combine. Right after you take them out of the oven pour the glaze over the rolls.
  • Divide the dough in half and roll out to make 2 round pizza crusts. Make sure to prick the dough so it won't get lots of bubbles. When making pizza dough you do not need to let the dough raise a second time. Add toppings and bake at 400 for 15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. When making pizza you can forgo adding the sauce and put the topping and cheese on half of the pizza. Fold the untopped half over the topped half, crimp the edges and you have a calzone. Bake it at 375 for 25 minutes and serve with pizza sauce to dip.
  • Or you can make regular dinner rolls! Of course you can make them any shape you want.

I punch it down and with my hands flatten it down to a rectangle like this...
 Taking a pizza cutter I cut the dough into strips like this...
 Here is a strip of dough by itself
 I smoosh it down a bit and roll it up.
 If the insides are poking out I push it in a bit.
 You can space the rolls out on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart but my family likes pan rolls so I stick them in my roasting pan. That way I can fit more rolls in there.
 I stick the towel back over the rolls and let them rise for 20 minutes or so. While they are rising I heat up the oven. Some people suggest letting your bread or rolls or whatever rise in the oven the taking them out of the oven to heat it up then baking them. This has NEVER worked for me. Every time I take the bread out of the oven to heat it up my dough falls.EVERY TIME!!! So please don't raise your bread on it's second rise in your oven or all your careful water temp checking and yeast proofing will just be a waste!!!
 Bake the rolls at 350 for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top, like this...
 Bread is moist and sweats after it's done baking. So take the rolls out of the pan and let them cool on a cooling rack. If you don't the corners will get all mushy and wet.
 The rolling up method is quite nice looking I think and my kids love putting it apart.
So there you have it; amazing dinner rolls that are done in about an hour give or take. You can use the same process with making bread. Just use different ingredients and longer raising time. I swear by the whipping method. It works so well. If you think I left anything out or if you have questions please feel free to leave a comment. happy roll baking!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Cake

Go into any grocery store at the moment and the first thing you see is California strawberries. Now, being from the Pacific Northwest I am pretty partial to our local strawberries. There is an amazing berry farm here called Spooners Berry Farm and we love there strawberries so much that we buy a ton and freeze them for use all year round. I still have a tub of them in the deep freezer in the garage! But they are not available until June.  But anyway, back to the California strawberries. There are on sale at the moment and I bought a four pounds for Easter. I washed them and topped them and sliced them. I am sure everyone already knows this but you can slice your strawberries with an egg slicer. It works great!! I sprinkled a little bit of sugar on them and divided them up into containers to freeze until Easter. I ran out of containers and still have a few cups of berries left. As I was putting the containers in the freezer I found some rhubarb that I got from a friends garden last summer that I had chopped up and frozen. I was pretty excited to actually have rhubarb and  strawberries available to me at the same time (of course at the time I had totally forgotten I had strawberries in the deep freeze! I should really make another inventory list, but that is a topic for another blog post!!) So I decided to make a cake that Jacob's cousin Ali made for us a few years ago which has been a hit with our family. It's a very interesting cake recipe and before Ali made it for us I never would have thought of combining these ingredients together. The original recipe doesn't call for strawberries but I thought it would be fun to switch things up a bit.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cake

1 cup diced rhubarb
2 cups sliced strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1 4 (four) oz strawberry jello packet
1/2 bag mini marshmallows
1 strawberry cake mix (yellow, white, cherry chip, or even chocolate would work too)
3 eggs
1 cup water
1/3 cup oil

grease a 9x13 pan and preheat your over to 325 F. In a bowl combine strawberries, rhubarb and sugar. pour mixture into pan. sprinkle strawberry jello powder evenly over berry mixture. layer marshmallows on top of jello powder.
In a large mixing bowl combine cake mix, eggs, water, and oil. beat on high with egg beaters or in stand mixer for 2 minutes or so. Pour cake batter over top of the marshmallows. bake for 35 minutes.

I know it sounds super sweet but the rhubarb really helps counter the sweetness. The marshmallows and the jello powder make this kind of gel that soaks up int to the cake so it's almost pudding like. I find the cake taste the best if you bake it in the evening and let it sit in the fridge overnight so the cake can soak up the yummy marshmallow  goodness!I have not experimented with any other substitutions other then adding the strawberries. you can always just add 3 cups rhubarb. It's really yummy and make enough cake to feed a crowd! I am pretty excited to share this recipe with you. Let me know what you think!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Product Review...The Shark Steam Mop

In my quest to have a clean home that is not coated in chemicals I came across this little gem. I give you the Shark Steam Mop. I got it a Wal-Mart for $49.00. Not a bad price!
When I got it home I took it out of the box and put it together.

Assembly was pretty strait forward. I did however have a hard time snapping the portions of the handle together. But after strong arming it for a minute or two I got it lined up OK. I thought it would give this steam mop a good try out on a pretty grimy place in my kitchen. I almost can't believe I have a place this grimy in my house but after moving the spice cabinet I found this...



EEWWW!!! I thought this would be a great test area. So here is the before picture. I went to work with my steam mop. It was a lot of fun but a bit of effort trying to scrub the yuckier parts. But in the end the steam got down in the little crevasses of my linoleum floor and...



TA DA!!! The after shot!! Pretty cool huh?! I was very much impressed. I didn't want to stop with the little test spot so I did under my stove and under my fridge. But don't worry about me overdoing it! I had a helper... too bad she slept the whole time!! 
So over all I loved the steam mop and I highly suggest you get one. It cleans and sanitizes your floor without chemicals and it dries quickly too. You can order a rim to fit over it to do your carpets. I am totally going to get it. With a potty training toddler in the house, that would very much come in handy!

I am still trying to figure out what kind of rating system to use but for now I will give the steam mop a huge thumbs up! 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

And the Winner is...

Ok so like a good blogger I went to random.org to do the number generator thing to pick the winner of the giveaway. For some reason I am not as smart as the website. I can not for the life of me figure out a way to post the results on the blog. I am sure it is something super easy and I am just being retarded but I have been trying to figure it out for 30 minutes now and I just don't have the time to keep messing with it. So I hope you all trust me when I tell you the results. I numbered all the entries and there were 33!! I was so excited! So the Number generator spit out the number...



 29. Pam Kirkwood




Congrats Pam!! I am so excited for you. Please e-mail me your address so I can mail you your new cookbook. Thanks so much to everyone who entered!



So, this week is the last week of my dinner challenge and I have been so excited to post the menus that I have neglected to post any recipes! And for that I am truly sorry. So I thought I would give you two that were pretty big hits!


Chicken Pot Pie

Filling-
2 cups shredded roasted chicken
1 cup frozen mixed veggies
1 can evaporated milk
1 can cream of whatever soup, I use chicken but have also used cream of celery or mushroom
1 cup milk
1 chicken bouillon cube (I use the Mexican ones)
1 tsp garlic powder
1tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper (the ONLY pepper I use. I don't even have the pre ground stuff in my house!)

Crust-
There are a few options for crusts. You could use a pie crust recipe, a biscuit recipe or a pastry crust recipe. I have used all three but by far our favorite is the pastry recipe. It's a little tricky but I think it is sooooo worth the effort! I love the Cuisinart recipe. I found it at this website.

Ingredients


3 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking powder

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in ½-inch pieces, well chilled

2 tablespoons shortening (Crisco), cut in ½-inch pieces, well chilled

5 to 8 tablespoons ice water





Instructions

Insert the metal blade. Process the flour, salt and baking powder to sift, 10 seconds. Add the well chilled butter and shortening. Use short rapid pulses until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal and no pieces of butter larger than a “pea” remain visible, 15 to 20 pulses. Sprinkle half the maximum ice water on the flour and butter mixture, then pulse 5 or 6 times. The dough will be crumbly, but should begin to hold together when a small amount is picked up and pressed together. Sprinkle on more water, a teaspoon (two for the two-crust recipe) at a time, with 2 to 3 quick pulses after each addition, adding just enough water for the dough to hold together easily when pressed into a ball. Add the liquid sparingly so that the dough is not sticky. Do not over process or the pastry will be tough, not tender and flaky.



Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Press together into a ball, then flatten into a disk about 6 –inches in diameter (two disks for the two-crust recipe). Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour before continuing to allow the glutens in the flour to rest. The dough will keep refrigerated for up to 3 days, or may be frozen (double wrapped) for up to a month, thaw at room temperature for an hour before using.



To bake the pastry blind for a single crust filled pie or tart, roll out pastry 1/8-inch thick to fit pan, crimp and seal edges. Prick bottom all over with a fork. Chill for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400ยบ F. Line with a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights, dry rice or beans. Bake for 15 minutes.

 

I have a half a pound of dry beans that I use over and over to weigh down crusts. I keep the beans in a quart jar above my pantry so I don't accidentally cook them.

For this recipe you do not pre-cook the crust.I also roll in into a rectangle that is 10x14 inches.  I combine all of the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix well. I then pour the chicken mixture into a well greased 9x13 pan and top with the pastry. Bake for 35 mins or until the chicken is bubbly and the crust is nicely brown.


Spanish Rice

This is a super simple recipe that gets rave reviews whenever I make it. So simple that it's almost not even a recipe at all.

2 cups uncooked brown rice
3 cups water
2 tomato/chicken bouillon (found in the Mexican foods aisle at the grocery store)
3/4 cup mild salsa
1/4 cup butter

in a rice cooker combine rice, water and bouillon cubes. When rice cooker finishes add butter and salsa. stir to combine and serve hot. It is amazing!!


Again, CONGRATS PAM!!! Thanks so much for everyone who is following the blog. I have a lot of fun stuff planned and I hope you all stick around!

P.S. I had a blast doing this giveaway so I think I am going to do one a month for a while!! YAY! So even if you didn't win this time you will still have a chance next month.

Until next time... Get cookin!



Monday, April 4, 2011

Dinner Challenge Week 2

I enjoyed my first week so much that I was very much looking forward to the second week. Here is what I came up with :

-Turkey Chili and cornbread
-baked potato bar with all the fixin's
-corn chowder and rolls*
-chicken enchiladas and Spanish rice with salad
-Chicken fried steak and potatoes with roasted veggies
-tomato macaroni (our Friday night tradition but only doing it once this month. It's just macaroni noodles, canned Italian style tomatoes and diced up string cheese) with salad*
-calzones yep you guessed it... more salad! It's a big hit at our house
*Vegetarian meals

I never realized how much chicken we eat around here. I like to buy chicken breast on the bone. Not only is it cheaper but I love working with it. I place about 5 or 6 of them on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 425 F for 25 mins. It comes out tasting just like I roasted a whole bird but without having to deal with the dark meat which we are not a fan of around here. I let it cool for a while and de-bone the meat and divide it into freezer containers for use in tons of different meals. You can often times find bone in chicken breast on sale and a little prep work goes a long way! It;s awesome to have a freezer full of chicken I can add to so many things.

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