Friday, January 29, 2010

What's for dinner?

I had no idea last night. I hopped in my loaner Mini (standard as well. A little stressful!) and was on the way home when I turned my head and saw "Hebert's Meats" and had a great idea.
They are famous here in Houston for deboned stuffed chickens. Specifically the chicken stuffed with crawfish dressing. So I ran inside, grabbed one for $12, and got back in the car. Less than a 5 min stop.

You put it in a dish, plop it in the oven for an hour, and that's it.

I steamed some potatoes and broccolini to serve on the side.

Lee got home, peeked in the oven, and said "ALRIGHT!"
Needless to say, this chicken is a crowd pleaser.

That was my answer to dinner.

I have found it is beyond helpful to keep your pantry and fridge stocked with basic veggies. This week that has led me to throw together 3 dishes without a visit to the store (ignore the chicken I had to buy above). Along with veggies, i keep chicken in the freezer along with some frozen veggies, and rice and pasta in the cupboard. It really helps you throw together something in a pinch.

Stuffed Poblanos

Monday night, AKA Donald Night, I had everything I needed to make this dish. We had picked up the poblanos the week before and never gotten around to using them. I have a bag of frozen chicken breasts in the freezer at all times for emergency dinners. This week that bag helped me make this and a stir fry, without any trips to the store! I honestly have not been to the store in over a week. Pretty cool...

Anyway, back to this.

First up - preheat the oven to 425. De-seed the peppers and put in a baking dish with non stick spray:These will cook until soft, about 30 minutes-ish.
While those were in the oven, I slowly cooked 3 (thawed) chicken breasts in the skillet with salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder. Once those were just about cooked, I pulled them onto the butcher block and sliced them pretty small.
I added a little oil to the same skillet and thew in some onion. After that got a little brown I added some garlic. My new favorite way to add garlic to a dish is to grate it with my microplane. I like that you get the flavor but you don't end up with a stray chunk of garlic in your mouth. P-yew!After those cook down a bit, add the chicken back in and let it cook a few minutes, till they get to know one another.
By this point, you should have peppers finished up:

Now is the fun part. You will stuff the peppers with the chicken mixture and some cheese. I chose pepper jack, for a little extra kick. Poplanos have a subtle heat, they aren't really all that spicy.
However, after seeding them, i scratched my nose, not pleasant. So still wash your hands well after you deal with these!!
After you stuff them, pop them back in the oven for about 15 minutes, just to let everything get melted together.
Like so:
I had a little extra chicken so i threw it off to the side.
Since I worked all day, I used a little help from Uncle Ben on the rice (the microwave pouch spanish rice!), and I heated up some black beans in a sauce pot, threw in about a 1/4 cup cream and squished them really good with the potato masher.
And whala - pretty simple dinner that is super yummy!
I have a photo of the finished product but it is a little blurry. Don't worry, Donald and Lee demanded I make this again. I will get another photo!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Just a photo

I haven't cooked much this week, but I was just chopping some parsley for something and looked at my butcher block and thought - hmm photo!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Vietnamese Cooking Class

For Christmas, Lee put a piece of paper in my stocking showing he had purchased us a cooking class at Sur La Table to learn Vietnamese Cuisine. How exciting!
First let me show you the kitchen:
Pretty nifty, very tidy. The tv's show what is happening at the prep counter and stove. It is video taped. That's scary when you are up there helping...

Yes we have wine.
Hi have we met?

I dig those huge butcher block tables. I wanted to steal one but our car isn't big enough.
Drats. The chalkboard is fun. I might paint some of our wall in our next kitchen chalkboard.
First we marinated the pork and the catfish for later on in the evening.
Wait let me back up. We had 4 other people there. A 10th grade boy who enjoys to cook, a couple and her client that were all energy traders. The boy was cool.
The energy traders were the most annoying people I have met in recent times.

Her: I can barely boil water! ha!
Me: wtf?

After marinating the meats, we start the fish sauce. This was harder than it had to be because chica could not use a mortar and pestle. I just chugged my wine and watched.
They also didn't seem to realize how sweet fish sauce should be and it got a little fubar'd because she had such a rough time grinding garlic and sugar into a paste.

Me: wtf?

Fish Sauce Recipe:
3 Thai bird chilis or serrano's - or to taste if you are afraid of spicy
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons of sugar
2/3 cup of water
1 1/2 tablespoon lime juice
5 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons shredded carrots for garnish, optional

Cut the chili's into thin rings. Remove one-third of the chilies and set aside for garnish (we didn't do that.) Place the remaining chiles, garlic ,and sugar into a mortar and pound into a coarse, wet paste. Transfer to a small bowl and add water, lime, and fish sauce. Stir well to dissolve. Add carrots and set aside 10 minutes before serving.

I chopped the chili's and got compliments on my knife skills. That made me feel good!

Then we moved on to spring rolls. These were freaking tasty!
Let's star with the recipe:

3/4 cup dried ear mushroom (or whatever you can find)
1/2 cup dried shiitake mushroom
6 ounces ground pork
6 ounces medium prawns, pureed in a food processor until minced
2 ounces bean thread noodles (glass noodles)
5 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 carrot, peeled and cut into julienne slices
1/2 small onion, very thinly sliced
4 small shallots, minced
4 small garlic cloves, minced
1 handful cilantro and mint leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
12 crushed peppercorns, crushed in a mortar and pestle (i am sure you can just use coarse pepper)
2 eggs lightly beaten
Vegetable oil (or canola or peanut) - for frying
1 package 8 or 9 inch thin, round rice paper wrappers
3 tablespoons sugar

Soak mushrooms in warm water for 15 minutes

Combine pork and prawns in a large bowl. Cover bean thread noodles with warm water and soak until soft. Once soft, drain well and cut into 2 inch lengths using scissors, add to pork mixture.

Add green onions and carrots into mixture.

Remove the tough center from the wood ear mushrooms and slice into very thin strips. Slice shiitake into thin strips, transfer mushrooms to bowl with pork. Add sliced onion, shallots, garlic, fish sauce, crushed peppercorns, and eggs. Stir until very well combined.

Fill a large bowl with warm water. Add the 3 tablespoons sugar into water and stir to dissolve. Dip the rice paper into water and turn to moisten completely. Lay rice sheet on a damp kitchen cloth. Wet another rice paper sheet and place it side by side - this allows you to work with one while the other sets.

Place one tablespoon (or a little more, eyeball it) of filling at the bottom of the wrapper, about 1 inch from the edge. Fold the sides and roll into a tight cylinder, about 2 1/2 inches long. Continue until all of the mixture has been used. Do not stack rolls. If a wrapper has a tear, reinforce it by patching with another small piece of rice paper.

Add enough oil to a large skillet with straight edges until it is 1 1/2 inches deep. Heat over medium heat until oil is 350 degrees. The oil is hot when you place the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil and bubbles develop quickly around the tip. Add the spring rolls without crowding and fry until evenly golden, 5 to 6 minutes

Transfer rolls to a paper towel lined tray and drain.

Serve with:
Lettuce leaves, sliced cucumber, bean sprouts, carrot, and mint leaves. You can use the lettuce and other veggies to wrap around the roll. Dip in fish sauce.

Here is my roll - I was proud!

Lee's is the one on the end... He needs a little practice!

After we snacked on those, we moved on to the pork dish. This was YUM!

Lemongrass Pork with Noodles and Herbs

2/3 pound small dried rice vermicelli (bun)
2 cups shredded red or green leaf lettuce
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
1/3 cup cucumber, seeded and cut into matchsticks
1/3 cup shiso or mint leaves, or a mixture of both, julienned
1/3 cup Asian basil leaves, julienned

2/3 pound country-style pork ribs, thinly sliced into bite-sized strips
2 tablespoons minced lemongrass
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce

Bring large pot of water to boil. Add the rice noodles and stir gently to loosen. Cook until the noodles are white and soft but still slightly resilient, about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Gently fluff the noodles and set them aside for at least 30 minutes. The noodles should be dry and sticky before serving.

Combine pork, lemongrass, oyster, and fish sauce in a medium bowl, let marinate 20 minutes.

Gently toss together the lettuce, bean sprouts, cucumbers, shiso, and basil leaves, Divide the salad mixture among 4 bowls. Top each one with one-quarter of the rice noodles. Set aside.

Preheat a grill pan over medium high heat. Brush with oil and grill the pork until cooked through, about 4 - 5 minutes total, depending on thickness.

Divide the pork over the 4 prepared bowls. Garnish with peanuts if you wish, and spoon fish sauce (from the spring rolls above) over the bowls for desired amount.

I omitted the bean sprouts, I just don't like them at all!

I didn't photo the fish meal because - it honestly wasn't very good. It was basically like the meal above, with catfish.

I can't wait to make these things again at home, and now I am hungry!!

White Chili

Last week, trying to take advantage of this cold snap, I made Pioneer Woman's White Chili.
It was ok. It was bland. I had to add Lawry's.
But it was hearty and warm and filling.
I don't think it will be made again, though.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Canopy - my review

Yesterday for Sunday Brunch - we tried out a new place that I have heard a little buzz about - Canopy.
When I first walked in, I was thrilled. I loved the decor, it was fresh and inviting and modern. The hostess was super friendly and we were seated right away.
My friend Lizzy and I both ordered the Eggs Benedict, and Lee ordered the Omlette. I was extremely happy with mine. I have recently been on an Eggs Benedict kick and this is one of my favorites. The sweet potato pancake underneath gave a hint of sweet and then the ham and chipotle flavors brought in a smoky balance.
Lee was happy with his Omlette, but said what he always says "it was good, but just an omlette."
Maybe he should branch out?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Saturday Night Football Dinner

Still trying to stay on track for the Puerto Rico 15 pound challenge... last night we had grilled chicken and grilled veggies.
Lee basically grilled the chicken and basted it with BBQ sauce, and we have this cool wire basket that you can grill veggies or shrimp in.
While he was busy, I decided to cutesy up the table a bit and suprise him. This was one of those days where we spent the whole day together and I was feeling a little sweet on him.The lemon thing came to mind while in the store, and I thought of The Breakup. Didn't really like that movie, it was depressing, but the lemon thing was funny.
The barbeque sauce Lee used was Sweet Baby Rays and we really liked it. It was sweet and tangy, and not real smoky.

When all was said and done, dinner was wonderful and we ate it while we watched the Cowboys whip the Eagles!After dinner I whipped up some strawberry shortcake. The other day I pulled out the Betty Crocker cookbook, opened it to a recipe of Yellow Cake, and had all the ingredients. The store had strawberries on an awesome sale, and I had some whipping cream in the fridge.
Turned out YUMMY!

How to deal with leftovers

At HEB they had this great deal - buy the fajita meat, get all the stuff on the side for free! So Monday night we had fajitas, but for leftovers on Wednesday, we did Fajita Salads.
Basically we heated up the meat and I sauteed a little more onion and pepper. Then we just put it over lettuce with a sprinkle of cheese and a dollop of guacamole. The dressing was just plain ole salsa. It was really good!

Sortof a diet dinner..

Depends on how you look at it!
NY Strip Steak (small portion)
Sauteed Baby Bok Choy
Whole Wheat Penne pasta alfredo

So maybe if you ignore the alfredo (butter, cream, and cheese... oh shit!) then it's healthy? I mean you need a little fat in any diet..I split a steak with Lee's sister, so that kept the portion down. That was a good move because Lee did a FANTASTIC job on these steaks and I could have eaten 3 of them.
The bok choy is so easy. You throw it in a skillet with some olive oil and garlic and sautee it until it's very wilted. Lee likes it very cooked.
Then the alfredo... not healthy. But I had the pasta and not any other real good ideas. So I thought this to be the equvilant of french bread on the table with butter.

Stop looking at me like that.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ok - that's it.

Damn you 15 pounds that likes to hand around my midsection and laugh at me when I try putting on my skinny jeans! I declare WAR!

Lee and I got a Wii Fit Plus today and I am going to do at least an hour on it when I get home from work each day. Hopefully on weekends, weather permitting, I can also do some bike rides. Lee and I are trying to be less Couch Potato!

Also, this month's Martha Stewart Food is a good one to pick up. It's all light meals with the calories for each meal out to the side. So far I have tried 3 from the book and all got rave reviews.
Tonight I tried the Honey-Ginger Stir Fry. The only thing I changed was adding about a 1/2 tablespoon of chili-garlic sauce to add some spice. I also added Baby Bok Choy because it was at the grocery store, super cheap, and it is one of Lee's FAVORITE things!

Here is my butcher block before:
Super cute yellow bowl - part of a set I got at Target for $12 and they are all different colors.
And then here is the finished product:This was GREAT. I liked how you would get a little bite of ginger that would refresh your mouth, and then some sneaky heat from the chili sauce would get you - all wrapped up in a subtle sweetness from the honey.
There is a shrimp stir fry on the same page I need to try - but then again - I really only like shrimp 2 ways - BBQ'd and boiled (peel and eat) so we'll see.
And I am so not made of money these days.

Chicken Brocooli Cassarole - Deconstructed

A few weeks ago (sorry!) I wasn't sure what to make for dinner. I started rummaging around the house and came upon all the ingredients for classic chicken, broccoli, cheese casserole. However, I didn't have the time to make the actual dish.
I remembered an episode of Top Chef where they made deconstructed dishes - basically having all the elements on your plate that make a classic dish.
I was a little short on broccoli so I threw in some french style green beans - and I don't think the taste was affected.
I used Campbell's Cheddar sauce for the cheese and I have to say I was disappointed. It just didn't have a good cheesy flavor. So next time, I am trying to think about what I would use for the cheese sauce - probably making my own!
But in the end - it was a good dish, filled us up, and was made from things just laying around in the fridge/freezer. This is the #1 reason I keep all kinds of veggies in the freezer! You can put together just about any dish you want.I basically cooked the chicken with salt, pepper, and cajun seasoning (Tony's!) very slowly in a skillet with the lid on it. The rice cooked in another pot, and then the cheese sauce, and then the veggies. Lots of pots. At one time, i had all 4 burners going! That was a downside to the "deconstructed" idea.