Friday, May 30, 2014

Marinated Vegetable Salad

Need a new salad to go with your dinner?  Tired of the same ol', same ol' green salad?  I certainly was . . which is why I came up with delicious creation.  The crisp/tender vegetables marry perfectly with a homemade vinaigrette dressing.  I'm sure you could swap out some of the vegetables for whatever you have in your fridge or garden.  Asparagus was on special at the store this week and it was beautiful . .nice and thin stalks that were very tender.  Yum!  Serve the salad alongside your favorite hunk of grilled meat for an easy summer supper.

Marinated Vegetable Salad
Serves 4-6

Salad Ingredients:
1 LB Asparagus, trimmed
1 Carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/2 Cup Sugar Snap Peas or Peapods
1/2 Cup Mushrooms, sliced
1 Cup Fresh Broccoli Florets

Vinaigrette Dressing Ingredients:
1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/4 Cup + 2 TB Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Chopped Garlic
1 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1 Teaspoon Sugar

Step 1:  Blanche the veggies. Haven't done this before?  It's pretty easy - bring a pot of water to boiling, add the veggies and boil for about 3 minutes . . until desired tenderness.  Why blanche?  This partially cooks the vegetables so that they are somewhat crisp yet tender . . .but not fully cooked.  And, they retain their color.  For a great tutorial - check out this site.

Step 2:  Once your vegetables are blanched and well drained, place them in a large bowl.  It's now time to prepare dressing.

Step 3:  In a small bowl, add all ingredients for the dressing.  Whisk together until well combined.  Let stand for 15 minutes or so to let the dried seasonings rehydrate.  

Step 4:  Pour the dressing over the vegetables and using tongs, gently toss the vegetables to coat them with the dressing.  Cover and chill for a minimum of two hours to combine all the flavors.    

Friday, May 23, 2014

No-Bake Coconut Quickie

No-Bake Quickie - what's that you ask?  Well, it's a quick dessert that doesn't require baking!  It's layers of cookies, pudding, coconut and whipped topping.  What's not love?

No-Bake Coconut Quickie
Serves 9

1/2 Bag of Tea Cookies/Biscuits (or a couple sleeves of graham crackers)
1 Box of Coconut Cream Instant Pudding 
3/4 Cup Milk
1 Cup Shredded Coconut (optional)
8 oz Whipped Topping (small tub)

Step 1:  Prepare the pudding by pouring the powder in a bowl and adding the milk.  Whisk for 2 minutes. Set aside.
Step 2:  In a 9x9 square pan, line it with cookies.  I used tea biscuits.
Step 3:  Fold in a generous 1/2 cup of whipped topping into the pudding.  Then, spread about 1/2 that mixture over the cookies.
Step 4:  Sprinkle the pudding layer with coconut.  I toasted mine, but you don't need to.  Heck, you can even omit the coconut all together and this would still be yummy!
Step 5:  Now, create another layer of cookies.
Step 6:  Spread the remaining pudding over that layer.
Step 7:  Sprinkle 1/3 of your coconut over the pudding.
Step 8:  Create yet another layer of cookies.
Step 9:  Spread the remaining whipped topping over the cookies.
Step 10:  Sprinkle with the remaining coconut.
Step 11:  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let set for 4-6 hours before serving.

Don't let all these steps deter you!  It's a very simple, yummy dessert.  The layers will go:  cookie, pudding, coconut, cookie, pudding, coconut, cookie, whipped topping, coconut.  Super simps!  Here is a quick visual for you:

As well, these are the tea biscuits I like to use.  They are not super-flavorful, but just a enough sweet.  They are sturdy too.  I find them in the dollar section at the grocery store and use about half for this recipe.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Healthier Sweet and Sour Chicken

Chinese / Asian food is by far my most favorite gendre of food.  However, I really don't care for the sweet, gooey pink sauce that is so commonly used for sweet and sour dishes.  Truth be told, what's in that sauce??  This recipe rids itself of that sauce and is packed full of veggies and pineapple.  Then, it's simmered down and the sauce forms itself.  And it tastes amazing.

Healthier Sweet and Sour Chicken
Serves 4

1 lb Chicken Breast, diced into bite size pieces
2 TB Vegetable Oil
1 Green Bell Pepper, washed and sliced
2 Bunches of Green Onions, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 and 1/2 Cups Pineapple Tidbits, drained
1/2 Cup Apricot Jam
5 Cloves of Garlic, minced
1 Three-Inch Piece of Ginger, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
3 Tablespoons White Vinegar
1/4 Teaspoon Sriracha Sauce (optional)

Step 1:  Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat with oil.  Once shimmering, add the chicken and season with salt.  Cook for 5 minutes until beginning to brown.

Step 2:  Add the green bell pepper, green onions, pineapple, apricot jam, sriracha, garlic and ginger.  Continue to cook until  chicken is cooked through, approximately 3-4 minutes.

Step 3:  Add the vinegar and stir to coat.

Serve with rice and enjoy!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Buttermilk Pie

Sundays . . .pie day.  At least that's what it was during my youth.  Every Sunday we would have pie for dessert (after our big chicken dinner).  I've been trying to reinstate that tradition with my own little family (sans the big chicken dinner). Long gone are the days of the fried chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes and mixed veggies.  However, pie every Sunday?  Yeah, I think I can do that.

Fast forward to the most recent weekend . . .what kind of pie should make?  Not really in the mood for a fruit pie.  Not really in the mood for a pudding pie.  I'm out of nuts.  But I have this dang buttermilk in the fridge that needs to get used . . .wonder if I can conjure up a pie with buttermilk.  You betcha.  And it is amazing.  

The pie is super simple to make.  You will need an unbaked pie shell.  Use your favorite recipe or purchase one at the store.  I am not a pie crust hero.  Mine are ugly, but taste good.  Here is a link to the recipe I typically use for pie crust.  The filling for the pie is made in one bowl . . .lots of eggs and sugar and butter and . .. Y-U-M.  Did I mention that it get's all mixed up in one bowl??  Hooray!  Less clean-up :)  

Once baked, it totally reminds me a bit of a creme brulee . . .but better.  The edges and top get a little caramelized and center is so smooth and delicious.  I am definitely adding this to my regular rotation of pies!

Buttermilk Pie

1 Cup Buttermilk
8 Tablespoons Butter (1 stick), melted
2 Cups Sugar
2 Tablespoons Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
4 Large Eggs
4 Egg Yolks
2 Teaspoons Vanilla
1 Unbaked Pie Crust (bottom crust only)

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit and place the rack on the lowest level.  
Step 2:  In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients:  sugar, flour and salt.  
Step 3:  Add the buttermilk, eggs, egg yolks and vanilla.  Mix until smooth. Slowly add in your room temp melted butter and whisk until smooth.  
Step 4:  Place the pie pan on top of a cookie sheet.  Carefully pour the buttermilk pie filling into the prepared pie shell.  Place in oven on the lowest rack and bake for 55 to 60 minutes.  The filling should be barely set in the middle and top will be golden brown.  Cool to room temp before serving.

Storage:  Cover any leftover pie tightly with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.  Please note, this pie should be eaten within 3 days.  Otherwise it starts to taste like the fridge . . eww!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

Need something super-simps for Cinco de Mayo?  Tryout these cupcakes.  I adapted the recipe from the book "Cupcakes! from the Cake Mix Doctor".   I frosted mine as flowering cacti, but don't let that scare you away from making these cupcakes!  They are so delicious . .. lightly flavored with cinnamon and very airy.  No need to frost them all fancy-like if you don't want to :)

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting
Yied 22-24 Cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:
1 package (18.25 ounces) Chocolate Cake Mix
1 Cup Buttermilk
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
3 Large Eggs
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
Basic Buttercream Frosting 

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare you cupcake pans with liners and set aside.

Step 2:  In a large bowl, add the cake mix, buttermilk, oil, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon.  Blend with an electric mixer on low for 3 seconds, until slightly moistened.  Stop the mixer, scrape the sides down and then mix again with the mixer for 2 minutes at medium speed.  

Step 3:  Distribute the batter among the cupcake liners and bake for 16-20 minutes or until they spring back when lightly pressed with your finger.  Remove from oven and let cook completely before frosting.

Basic Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:
8 Tablespoons Butter (1 Stick) at room temperature
3 Cups Powdered Sugar
3 - 4 Tablespoons Milk
1 Teaspoon Vanilla

Step 1:  In a large mixing bowl, add the beat at low speed until fluffy (roughly 1 minute).  
Step 2:  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the powdered sugar, vanilla and 3 tablespoons of the milk. 
Step 3:  Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is incorporated.  Increase to medium speed and beat until light and fluffy.

Yield:  Frosting for 24 cupcakes.  However, if you plan pipe or decorate your cupcakes (such as I did) - you may want to double the frosting recipe.