Friday, May 20, 2011

Simple Orange Chicken with Broccoli

recipe adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Serves 4

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp minced or grated fresh ginger*
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch strips
Salt and Pepper
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
1/4 c water
1/2 c low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 c orange juice
3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or Bragg's Liquid Aminos
1 tsp sugar
1-2 tsp freshly grated orange zest
2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tbsp water

In a medium nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the skillet.  Saute until cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.  In the same skillet, combine the broccoli florets and the water, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Cover the skillet and cook until the broccoli is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes (the broccoli will continue to cook as you are boiling the sauce, so don't over-cook).  Return the chicken to the pan and stir in the broth, orange juice, soy sauce, sugar and orange zest.  Add the dissolved cornstarch mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce boils and thickens slightly. Serve over hot, cooked brown or white rice.

*When you buy ginger root, you can put the unused portion in a freezer bag and it will store very well in the freezer.  Also, I buy the great big bag of garlic cloves from Costco and store the bag in my freezer.  When I need fresh garlic, I just take out however many cloves the recipe calls for and let them thaw on my counter for a few minutes and then mince.  It is so nice and convenient.

Creamy Lime-Cilantro Dressing

                                                    recipe from Our Best Bites
1 packet (1 oz) Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix (ignore directions on the packet)
1 c mayonnaise (*I have found it doesn't taste as good with light, so use the real stuff!)
1/2 c milk
1 lime (*I tried using bottled lime juice, and it also doesn't taste as good so use a real lime)
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 c roughly chopped cilantro
1/4 c La Costena green salsa

Place milk, mayo and ranch in a blender.  Juice the lime into the blender (you should get about 2 Tbsp juice).  Toss in the garlic, cilantro, and green salsa and blend.  Make it several hours ahead of time to allow it to thicken.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

French Bread Rolls

recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
*Makes about one dozen rolls.  You may want to double or triple this recipe because these rolls are yummy and will get gobbled up quickly.

1 1/2 c warm water
3/4 Tbsp instant yeast (or 1 Tbsp active dry yeast)
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp salt
4 cups flour, give or take a few tablespoons

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl by hand, combine the warm water, yeast, sugar, oil, salt and 2 cups of flour (if you are using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, let the yeast proof in the warm water and sugar for about 3-5 minutes until it is foamy and bubbly before adding the oil, salt and flour).  Begin mixing and continue to add the rest of the flour gradually until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Judge the dough not by the amount of flour called for in the recipe, but in how the dough feels.  The dough should be soft and smooth, but still slightly tacky to the touch.  On Mel's website, she gives an awesome tutorial on working with yeast doughs.  If you are new to yeast doughs, I would definitely recommend checking it out!

Knead the dough in the stand mixer or by hand until it is very smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes in a stand mixer or 8-10 minutes by hand.  Lightly spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it has doubled (this usually takes about an hour).

Lightly punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly greased counter top.  Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and form the dough into round balls.  Place the rolls on a lightly greased or silpat lined baking sheet about an inch or two apart. Cover the rolls with lightly greased plastic wrap taking care not to pin the plastic wrap under the baking sheet or else the rolls will flatten while rising. Let the plastic wrap gently hang over the sides of the pan to fully cover the rolls but not press them down. Let the rolls rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly browned and cooked through.

*Freezable option:  Once these rolls are baked and cooled, you can place them in a Ziplock bag and put them in the freezer. When ready to use, take them out a few hours before you need them, or take them out frozen and microwave them for about 2-3 minutes on 70% power.

*Note:  These rolls would be great buns for pulled pork sandwiches, sloppy joes, hamburgers etc.

Sloppy Joes

                                                            Recipe from
*Makes 8-12 Sloppy Joes

2 Tbsp canola oil
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 1/2 lbs ground beef (preferably 93% lean  or greater)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2/3 c smoky BBQ sauce (or whatever BBQ sauce is in your fridge)
1/2 c ketchup
1/4 c Worcestershire sauce
1/4 c soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper (I just did a dash of black pepper)
8-12 rolls

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they start to turn translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the beef and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat, until it is finely crumbled, the liquid boils off and the meat begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Drain the grease off the meat and onions.  Stir in the tomato paste, and keep stirring until the meat is coated. Add the BBQ sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cook until the sauce is slightly thickened, 4-5 minutes.  You can make the sloppy joe meat up to 2 days in advance and reheat it over low heat or in the microwave.

Wrap the rolls in aluminum foil and warm in the oven for about 10 minutes.  Serve the sloppy joes hot with the warmed rolls.

*Freezable Meal:  The leftover sloppy joe meat can be frozen. Store it in a freezer-safe container and then thaw in the refrigerator prior to serving.  Reheat on medium-low in a saucepan on the stove.

*Note:  When I made these, I wanted to cut down on the meat, so I did a pound of lean ground beef and cooked 1 c of quinoa and added it at the very end.  My husband said he couldn't even tell there was quinoa in it by taste, although it does look a little bit different. See if you can tell from the picture! I also only used about 1/8 c soy sauce. I used Mel's recipe for French Bread Rolls for this recipe and they were delicious.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Banana Bread

                                                 Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook 12th Ed.
I know that everyone has a banana bread recipe that they are loyal to, but the thing that makes this recipe special is the Streusel-Nut Topping. So, if you want, keep your own tried and true recipe, or try this one, but if you want to really up your banana bread game, add this topping before baking... it is delicious!

2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 c mashed ripe bananas (about 5 medium)
3/4 c sugar
1/2 c canola oil
1/4 c chopped walnuts or chocolate chips (optional)

*Note: The original recipe calls for 1 c sugar, but I think it tastes fine reduced to 3/4 c. Plus, the topping adds a little extra sugar.  But, if you are a purist, add the whole cup.

*Note:  The walnuts are optional at my house and we "opt" not to use them, but my husband begs me to put chocolate chips in my quick breads.  If you decide to add chocolate chips, give them a rough chop or use mini chips and toss them in a little bit of flour before stirring them into your batter.  This will keep them from sinking to the bottom of the loaf while baking.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one loaf pan and set aside.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine eggs, bananas, sugar, and oil.  Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture.  Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy).  Fold in nuts or chocolate chips if desired.  Spoon batter into prepared pan.

Sprinkle **Streusel-Nut topping over batter (**see recipe below)

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. (If necessary, cover loosely with foil the last 15 minutes of baking to prevent over-browning).  Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.  Wrap and store overnight before slicing. (if you can stop yourself from eating a slice right away after your house is filled with the delicious smell!)

**Streusel-Nut Topping:
1/4 c brown sugar (packed)
3 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp butter (chilled)
1/3 c chopped walnuts (again, optional)

In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and flour.  Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the chopped walnuts.

Note:  If you don't add the walnuts, your topping will not be quite so crumbly, but it still adds a fun texture and taste to top off your banana bread.