Friday, August 31, 2012

Asian Style Slaw

I think that this salad was our favorite of the barbecue.  I'm not usually a big cole slaw eater.  I prefer my cabbage cooked!  My husband wanted a cole slaw though so he picked this recipe out and made it.  Like I mentioned, I ended up loving it!  I really enjoyed the asian flavors that you don't normally associate with a cole slaw.  I wasn't a stickler for having the kids try bites of everything with all of the company over.  They were too busy playing with the other kids to really want to settle down and eat with the adults.  They really aren't cabbage or onion fans so we kind of knew that they wouldn't eat this.  However, I couldn't let their tastes deter others from trying this out.  This was really light and refreshing and surprisingly tasty.  I can totally see us making this again for another barbecue. 
Asian Style Slaw
recipe slightly adapted from courtesy of Dave Lieberman

Yield:  12 servings

1 bunch (6 large) scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 head of cabbage, shredded
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger (from about a 1-inch piece)
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, optional
1 teaspoon salt
20 grinds black pepper

Rough up the scallion slices a little with your fingers so all the little layers of the scallion whites separate. Toss the cabbage, the red onion and scallions together in a large bowl until everything is thoroughly mixed. You can make the slaw up to this point up to a day in advance as long as you keep it refrigerated. Before serving, simply bring the slaw back to room temperature, make the dressing and toss.

Stir the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl until blended, then pour over the vegetables. Serve within 1 hour of dressing or the cabbage will get wilty and sad.

Mommy & Daddy Rating: 2 thumbs up.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Spinach, Strawberry, and Hearts of Palm Salad

For the barbecue I didn't want to make a garden salad.  There were several guys and salad just doesn't seem like "man" food.  I'm not so sure Spinach Strawberry salad does either but this was the one that I ended up making.  I've made Spinach Strawberry Salad before and the family has enjoyed it.  I had a can of Hearts of Palm in my cabinet that I had bought intending to make a recipe and then I never did.  When I saw that I could use them in this recipe I was happy.  I honestly didn't know what a heart of palm was to tell you.  But according to Wikipedia, hearts of palm are the vegetables harvested from the inner core of certain budding palm trees like the coconut tree, Acai palm, and sabal. The flavor and texture remind me of a canned artichoke.  They added a nice flavor and texture to the salad and was definitely a "different" addition. 

Spinach, Strawberry, and Hearts of Palm Salad
recipe slightly adapted from courtesy of Paula Deen

1/3 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 small red onion, grated
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 pounds baby spinach, washed
1 can hearts of palm, drained and chopped
2 cups strawberries, stemmed and sliced

For the dressing, combine the vinegar, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a small non-reactive saucepan and heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Remove pan from heat and let cool to room temperature. When cooled, whisk in the oil, onion, poppy seeds, dry mustard and paprika until thoroughly combined. Set dressing aside. In a salad bowl, combine the spinach, hearts of palm, and strawberries. When ready to serve, add some of the dressing, and toss gently. Serve the remaining dressing alongside the salad so diners may add more, if desired.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Texas Ranch Potato Salad

I'm sorry to my husband (and anyone else who reads this blog daily!) for the recent lack of posts.  Unfortunately, we had some internet connection problems and were several days without internet access.  It was actually a nice little mandatory break from the blog for a few days.  But I'm back now with lots of recipes to share.  Even though I couldn't access the internet I was still busy cooking in the kitchen! 

A couple of weeks ago we had some of my husband's old co-workers over for a barbecue.  Along with hotdogs for the kids, marinated london broil, and sausage and pepper wedges we made several salads.  The first was a potato salad.  I'm always looking for new potato salad recipes.  This one had ranch and bacon so I thought it couldn't be bad.  Unfortunately, I forgot to swap some of the mayo for sour cream which I had meant to do.  I knew I had bought sour cream for a reason but couldn't remember what it was for!  And the fact that the potatoes were a bit crunchy and not totally cooked all the way through probably didn't help either.  However, I wasn't a big fan of the flavors and probably won't be making this again. 

Texas Ranch Potato Salad
recipe from by 8BREAK

Yield:  16 servings

1 (1 ounce) package ranch dressing mix
2 cups mayonnaise
3/4 cup chopped green onion
1 pound bacon slices
5 pounds unpeeled red potatoes

1.Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add whole potatoes, and cook until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, run under cold water to cool, and chop into 1 inch cubes. Transfer to a large serving bowl, and refrigerate until completely chilled, about 2 hours.

2.In a small bowl, stir together the ranch dressing mix, mayonnaise and green onion. Cover, and refrigerate for about 2 hours to blend flavors.

3.Wrap bacon in paper towels and place on a plate. Cook in the microwave until crisp, about 15 minutes depending on the power of your microwave. Cool.

4.Stir the mayonnaise mixture into the bowl of potatoes. Crumble bacon into the bowl, and stir to distribute. Serve.

Family Rating: So-so.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Meatless Monday: Pasta with Creamy Roasted Pepper Sauce and Bocconcini

I'm always on the lookout for tasty pasta recipes.  I love fresh mozzarella and when I found this recipe it was an excuse for me to buy those expensive marinated mozzarella balls!  Unfortunately ,this recipe looks a lot better than it tastes.  I found it to be rather tasteless.  My son, who loves cheese, wasn't a fan of the marinated cheese and he doesn't like peppers.  Neither does my daughter. So they ended up eating pretty plain-tasting pasta.  I ended up cutting the bocconcini into quarters to get more cheese in every bite!  Overall, we didn't really enjoy this dish very much. 

Pasta with Creamy Roasted Pepper Sauce and Bocconcini
recipe from One Perfect Bite

4 sweet red and yellow peppers, halved, cored and seeded
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound rigatoni
1/3 pound small marinated bocconcini
1/2 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced

1) Heat broiler. Line a large broiler pan with foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray.

2) Place peppers on prepared pan, cut side down. Broil for 9 to 10 minutes, about 4 inches from heat source. Place in a paper bag or covered bowl for 5 minutes. Peel skin off peppers and discard; thinly slice peppers.

3) In a large nonstick skillet bring broth to a simmer; add garlic and simmer 2 minutes. Stir in cream, salt and pepper and simmer for an additional 2 minutes.

4) Meanwhile, cook pasta following package directions, about 10 to 14 minutes for al dente. Drain and return to pot. Add cream mixture and sliced peppers; stir to combine.

5) To serve, spoon into a large serving bowl and fold in bocconcini and basil.   Family Rating: So-so.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Peach and Gorgonzola Chicken Pizza

My children love fruit.  I love the summer when they can eat their fill of peaches, plums, watermelon, and berries.  Although I always give them fruit at breakfast, I've been trying to incorporate it into dinner too.....since they're not the biggest veggie eaters.  Our family loves pizza and I'm always trying out new pizza recipes.  I can't remember the last time that I had a pizzeria slice of pizza!  My son enjoyed this pizza but he loves cheese of all kinds.  I made half of a plain pizza for my daughter, my non-cheese loving child.  My husband and I loved this pizza!  The tang of the gorgonzola with the sweetness of the peaches and balsamic reduction was delicious!  I'm definitely going to be making this again.  I only had one piece of the pizza and my husband "accidentally" took the piece I was saving for lunch the next day to work with him for his lunch. 
Peach and Gorgonzola Chicken Pizza
recipe from Cooking Light, May 2011

1 refrigerated pizza dough
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup shredded cooked chicken breast
1/3 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1 medium unpeeled peach, thinly sliced
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat pizza stone in oven to 400°.

2. Shape pizza dough to desired shape and thickness. Place on heated pizza stone Brush 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil evenly over crust. Top evenly with 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, chicken, Gorgonzola cheese, and peach slices. Top with remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella. Bake at 400° for 11 minutes or until crust browns.

3. Place vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; cook until reduced to 2 tablespoons (about 5 minutes). Drizzle balsamic reduction evenly over pizza.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Weekend Chef: Honey-Molasses Chicken Drumsticks

This was a recipe that I was planning on making later in the week but the weekend came, we got busy, and my husband thought that he had time to make homemade steamed pork buns.  Needless to say, I had all the ingredients for this recipe and told him to just make it. I'd figure something else out for dinner the night I had planned to make this.  Now, I know this dish doesn't look like much from the picture below.  I'm not a big chicken on the bone eater and my husband was nice enough to take all the chicken off the bones, as seen below.  The sauce was super tasty and we all really enjoyed it!  This recipe was meant to be served cold, picnic-style.  However, we enjoyed it warm. I'm thinking this recipe can be adapted for a slow cooker.....hmm, may have to try it out again!

Honey-Molasses Chicken Drumsticks
recipe from Cooking Light, March 2005

1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
6 chicken drumsticks, skinned
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine first 7 ingredients, stirring with a whisk.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan, browning on all sides. Add honey mixture to pan, turning chicken to coat. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook 15 minutes or until chicken is done, turning chicken every 5 minutes. Uncover and cook an additional 1 minute or until mixture is thick and a mahogany color, and chicken is well coated. Remove from heat; cool 15 minutes. Cover and chill.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Muffins

I went in the muffin freezer bag the other morning and there was only one muffin left!  It was definitely time to make some more.  I had this recipe bookmarked for awhile.  This was definitely one of those dessert for breakfast type muffins! These were easy to make. My son, who didn't have camp the day I made these, wanted to play instead of help me make the muffins.  I was fine with that.  Of course as soon as they came out of the oven he was by my side ready to have a taste.....which, by the way they were delicious!  We didn't really taste the graham cracker chunks/crumbs in the muffin.  My daughter was able to identify that the muffins contained cinnamon, although I don't think the flavor was too overwhelming.  It was more cute, "Mom, did you put cinnamon in the muffins?" I didn't give these a 2 thumbs up rating though because when we had these for breakfast the next morning, my son didn't finish his muffin!  I couldn't believe it!  He LOVES breakfast so it was so surprising! We'll try a new muffin recipe next week!

Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Muffins
recipe from Michelle's Tasty Creations and Crafty Ideas

Yield:  15 muffins

2 cups flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup milk
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 large egg, at room temperature, slightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the topping:
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbs. butter, melted

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin tins with liners or spray well with cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, 1 cup graham cracker crumbs until blended and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the milk, oil, egg, and vanilla and beat until incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Add the chocolate chips and stir in by hand.

Using an ice cream size scoop, fill each muffin liner or tin with one scoop, about 2/3 full.

Make the topping:
In a bowl mix the flour, brown sugar, graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon and stir to combine all the dry ingredients well.

Add the melted butter and mix well until crumbly and looking like wet sand.

Top each muffin with 1 heaping Tablespoon of crumb topping.

Bake for 16 - 19 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pepper Jack Chicken and Peach Quesadillas

My parents love to buy me small kitchen appliances that take up a lot of space.  We have a waffle maker, a quesadilla maker, and a chocolate fountain among many that are taking up real estate in our cabinets and closets!  Although many of the gadgets are rarely, if ever used, we do use our quesadilla maker a lot......or we did.  After I made this recipe, my husband was cleaning the quesadilla maker and ended up dropping it and it broke.  Quesadillas aren't too difficult to make in a pan, so I posted the original recipe with directions on making them in a pan.  This is the way I'll have to make them in the future because the kids love quesadillas!  They loved this recipe too!  The sour cream sauce was so tasty! Who knew that a little lime and honey could add so much flavor!  Quesadillas are a really quick and easy dinner to make.  Although the ingredient list is simple, these were really tasty.  I would definitely make these again since everyone love them so much.  I served them with yellow rice, which my son loves so much!

Pepper Jack Chicken and Peach Quesadillas
recipe slightly adapted from Cooking Light, August 2010

1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup chopped skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
1 cup thinly sliced peeled firm ripe peaches
4 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro

1. Combine honey and lime juice in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Stir sour cream into honey mixture; cover and chill until ready to serve.

2. Place tortillas flat on a work surface. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons cheese over half of each tortilla; top each tortilla with 1/4 cup chicken, 1/4 cup peaches, and 1 teaspoon cilantro. Fold tortillas in half.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Place 2 quesadillas in the pan, and top quesadillas with a cast-iron or other heavy skillet. Cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until tortillas are crisp and lightly browned (leave cast-iron skillet on quesadillas as they cook). Remove quesadillas from pan; set aside, and keep warm. Repeat procedure with the remaining quesadillas. Cut each quesadilla into wedges. Serve with sauce.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mouth-Watering Stuffed Mushrooms

It's time again for the Eating The Alphabet Challenge, hosted by Brenda at Meal Planning Magic.  This month's letters were M, N, & or O.  There were just so many veggie, fruit, and grain options to choose from for this month's challenge that it was hard to choose!  I finally decided on stuffed mushrooms.  I love mushrooms in all forms but unfortunately my kids really dislike them.  Although I like stuffed mushrooms I rarely get a chance to eat them.  And I've never made them until now!  Knowing the kids wouldn't eat these I ended up making them as an afternoon snack for myself.  They were surprisingly easy to make.  I had always assumed that they took a lot of work to prepare, one of the reasons why I never made them.  This recipe that I found did not use bread crumbs.  I think that the stuffed mushrooms that I've had and enjoyed in the past used them, so these weren't totally satisfying.  But now that I know how easy stuffed mushrooms can be to make I'll definitely be trying out new variations in the future.

Mouth-Watering Stuffed Mushrooms
recipe from by Angie Gorkoff

12 whole fresh mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Carefully break off stems. Chop stems extremely fine, discarding tough end of stems.

2.Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and chopped mushroom stems to the skillet. Fry until any moisture has disappeared, taking care not to burn garlic. Set aside to cool.

3.When garlic and mushroom mixture is no longer hot, stir in cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, black pepper, onion powder and cayenne pepper. Mixture should be very thick. Using a little spoon, fill each mushroom cap with a generous amount of stuffing. Arrange the mushroom caps on prepared cookie sheet.

4.Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the mushrooms are piping hot and liquid starts to form under caps.

Mommy & Daddy rating: So-so.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ham and Pineapple French Bread Pizza

My family loves bread.  We are big carb lovers in this house! I originally found a recipe for Ham and Pineapple Pizza subs in Cooking Light.  This recipe was inspired by the one that I saw in my magazine.  The original recipe called for refrigerated crusty French bread dough.  I thought to myself, why don't I buy a loaf of French bread instead and cut out some cooking time.  We recently went through a brutal heat spell and I wanted the oven on as short of a time as possible.  However, when I went to the grocery store, they didn't have any French bread!!!  They were having a one-day sale on Italian bread and the worker at the bakery counter told me that they were only baking Italian bread.  I did score a warm, fresh-out of the oven loaf though from her.  Honestly, it was very difficult for me not to rip into that loaf and eat the bread right there.  While we are big pizza eaters in our house I don't think that the kids ever had "french" bread pizza before now.  Like I said, they love bread....and they loved this pizza!  This was a big hit and was super quick and easy to make. I may have to try making some other versions of this type of pizza.

Ham and Pineapple "French" Bread Pizza
recipe inspired by Cooking Light, November 2011

1 loaf Italian bread
1 cup tomato sauce
1 ham steak
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 can (8 oz) diced pineapple, drained

1.Heat ham steak in small saute pan, cooking 2-3 minutes on each side to brown and heat through.  Once warmed, dice ham into small cubes.

2. Preheat broiler to high. 

3. Cut bread in half laying both sides open on foil-lined cookie sheet.  Spread tomato sauce evenly over both sides. Sprinkle ham, shredded mozzarella, and diced pineapple on top. 

4.  Broil approximately 3 minutes until toasty and browned.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Around the World: Cantonese Style Shrimp with Napa Cabbage

This recipe is our last dish on our Around the World tour of China.  Prior to making this dish and doing a little research I didn't really know the differences among the Chinese styles of cooking....minus Szechuan, which I know is spicy hot!  I discovered that Cantonese "style" is the Chinese food that Americans are accustomed to and includes stir-frying, steaming, and roasting and the well-known dim sum.  According to Wikipedia, especially when cooking seafood, Cantonese cuisine uses light seasoning just to bring out the sweetness of the seafood.  Unfortunately, I think in this dish, the seasoning was just too light.  To me it tasted kind of bland and didn't have the normal flavors that I associate with Chinese food.  This of course may not be due to the recipe but more to my experience with Chinese food.  Prior to making this, I hadn't cooked with shrimp in a long time.  The kids like shrimp and ate all of theirs up.  However, the cabbage was another story.  I was lucky to get them to try a bite.  I served this with white rice and some frozen egg rolls (this was a weeknight meal!  I definitely didn't have time to make home made egg rolls!).  So, we bid farewell to China, though this definitely won't be the last Chinese dish that I make.  Stay tuned as we travel around the world to our "D" country soon!

Cantonese Style Shrimp with Napa Cabbage
recipe slightly adapted from Cooking Light, November 2011

1/3 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons medium dry sherry
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
2 teaspoons peanut oil
1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
4 cups shredded Napa cabbage
1/3 cup diagonally cut green onions

1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a whisk.

2. Heat a wok or skillet over high heat. Add oils to pan; swirl to coat. Add shrimp; stir-fry 1 minute. Add garlic; stir-fry 30 seconds. Add broth mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until mixture thickens. Stir in cabbage; cook 1 minute. Top with onions.

Family Rating: So-so.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Around the World: Chinese-Barbecued Pork Tenderloin (The Weekend Chef)

Again, I'm not sure if this pork recipe is authentic Chinese, but I had a pork tenderloin in the freezer and saw this recipe in Cooking Light.  Based on the ingredient list it definitely had Asian flavors so we went with it.  The Weekend Chef (my husband) prepared this dish to go along with the Vegetable Lo Mein that I posted yesterday.  This was quick and easy to prepare and was surprisingly flavorful!  The kids enjoyed this too and ate all of their pork.

Chinese-Barbecued Pork Tenderloin
from Cooking Light, July 2000

1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil

Preheat oven to 400°.

Trim fat from pork. Combine sugar and next 3 ingredients (sugar through pepper). Rub pork with spice mixture.

Place pork on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray; insert a meat thermometer into thickest portion of tenderloin. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes. Combine hoisin, orange juice, and oil in a small bowl; brush over tenderloin. Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until thermometer registers 160° (slightly pink).

Family Rating:  1 1/2 thumbs up.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Around the World: Vegetable Lo Mein (The Weekend Chef)

I have to admit this is a recipe that I've made before.  Many years ago, but nonetheless, I have made this.  My husband, "The Weekend Chef" wanted to make a noodle dish to go with the pork tenderloin he was making (see tomorrow's post).  I remember making this dish and it having a sweet and tasty sauce.  I didn't remember the recipe having a little heat, which my daughter didn't like! We adapted the recipe to use a can of baby corn and straw mushrooms that we found in our cabinets! Although probably not authentic Chinese, we enjoyed this tasty noodle dish.

Vegetable Lo Mein
recipe adapted from by ANGCHICK

8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 can straw mushrooms
1 can baby corn
1 cup shredded carrots
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1.Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

2.Heat oil in a large wok or saute pan. Stir fry mushrooms, carrots, corn, onion and garlic until tender. Stir in green onions; cook one minute. Mix cornstarch and chicken broth in a small bowl and add to stir fry. Stir in hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce, ginger, cayenne pepper and curry powder. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.

3.Add cooked spaghetti, and toss. Serve immediately.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Children's Book Review: The Empty Pot

The Empty Pot

The Empty Pot
Written and illustrated by:  Demi
Published by: Henry Holt and Company, 1990

This is a story about a boy who loves flowers but is unable to grow one in the emperor's contest. Demi's exquisite art and beautifully simple text show how Ping's seeming failure is turned around in this satisfying tale of honesty rewarded.

* In this story, a young boy in China named Ping has a green thumb.  When the emperor is looking for a successor he has all the children come to him and gives them each a seed to plant.  In a year whoever can show him their best will become successor.  Ping lovingly attends to his seed but nothing grows.  When it comes time to bring his flower pot to the emperor, what will he do?  This was a story with a great lesson.  My husband read this to the kids and they all enjoyed it a lot.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Around the World: Chinese Broccoli Beef

About once a month or so we usually order Chinese take-out.  Although we like to try different things we have our favorites that we like to order.  Growing up my family always ordered Chicken with Broccoli.  We rarely order it now and I don't think we've ever ordered Beef with Broccoli.  Broccoli is one of the kids' favorite vegetables so I thought this would be a good dish to make.  I found some beef already prepped for stir-fry at the grocery store.  Although it may look like a lot of steps/ingredients, this was really quick and easy to put together.  Beef doesn't have to be cooked very long and the broccoli is steamed so it still has crunch to it.  The sauce was really tasty.  My daughter, who loves steak loved this dish.  My son, who dislikes most meat tried a bite and found it too chewy, only ate his broccoli.  We served this with rice for a complete meal.

Chinese Broccoli Beef
recipe from New Asian Cuisine

1 lb top sirloin or flank steak, sliced into 1/8-in (3-mm)-thin strips

For the marinade:
1½ teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon cooking oil

For the Stir-fry Sauce:
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
2 teaspoons black vinegar (can substitute dark balsamic vinegar)

For the Broccoli:
1½ lb broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic

Marinate the beef in soy sauce, cornstarch and the ½ teaspoon of oil for 10 minutes at room temperature.

In a small bowl, mix together the stir-fry sauce ingredients.

In a wok or large frying pan, add 1 inch of water and salt and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli and cover to steam for 3 minutes. Broccoli should be bright green, crisp tender and you should be able to pierce the stem with a fork. Drain.

Discard the water in the pan and dry the pan well. Heat the pan over high heat and when hot, add the 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and swirl to coat. Add the garlic and fry for 15 to 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the steak strips, keeping them in one layer and fry 30 seconds. Flip the strips and fry the other side.

Pour in the stir-fry sauce and stir to combine. Simmer until the sauce is thick enough to coat a back of a spoon, about 30 seconds. Add the cooked broccoli back into the pan and toss to coat well.

Family Rating:  1 1/2 thumbs up.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Children's Book Review: The Seven Chinese Sisters

The Seven Chinese Sisters
Written by:  Kathy Tucker
Illustrated by:  Grace Lin
Publishsed by: Albert Whitman & Company, 2003

Once there were seven Chinese sisters who lived together and took care of each other. After baby Seventh Sister is snatched by a hungry dragon, her loving sisters race to save her. In Kathy Tucker's delightful update of a classic Chinese folk tale, exuberantly illustrated by Grace Lin, each sister uses her talent in a surprising way to rescue baby Seventh Sister--and even Seventh Sister turns out to have an unexpected skill.

* This book is based upon the classic Chinese Folk tale The Seven Chinese Brothers.  Unfortunately, I don't think the kids or myself are familiar with that tale.  In this story there are seven Chinese sisters who each have a special talent.  When a hungry dragon takes the Seventh sister, the other sisters must come up with a plan to get her back.  This was an okay story for us.  The illustrations were colorful and detailed with each sister having a unique hair style and design on her dress. 

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Around the World: Chinese Boiled Pork Dumplings

Last month during our Around the World trip to Brazil I decided that most, if not all of our country cooking would be done on the weekends, preferably cooked as a family.  Of course when choosing China we had to make dumplings.  Especially since my daughter loves them so much!  This was a great dish that we were able to make as a family.  My husband and I got the filling together and then we all sat at the table and filled the dumplings.  This made so many, we were eating dumplings for days!  I wish I had thought of freezing some before cooking.  This was a great weekend project for us to do together as a family but I do not recommend trying to make these on a weeknight unless you have a lot of time!  I could not find round dumpling wrappers so we had to make do with square wonton wrappers.  These were definitely not as good as the ones you get from the Chinese restaurant.  If we fried them, they would remind me a lot of Korean Mandoo (dumplings).  However, they were tasty enough and we all ate them (minus my son!). 

Chinese Boiled Pork Dumpings
recipe from Steamy Kitchen

Yield: approximately 50 dumplings

12 ounces napa cabbage leaves, roughly chopped (or regular cabbage)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (use microplane grater)
1/4 cup minced green onions (white and green parts)
2/3 pound ground pork
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 package frozen round dumpling wrappers (gyoza/potsticker wrappers), defrosted at room temperature for 30 minutes

for the slurry: 1 tablespoon cornstarch + 1/2 cup water

1. To make the filling, put the cabbage in a food processor and process until cabbage is finely minced. Remove the cabbage to a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Let cabbage sit for 10 minutes. In the meantime, return the food processor bowl to the stand and add the ginger,onions, pork, pepper, soy sauce, sherry and sesame oil. Pulse 4 times to mix the ingredients well. Set aside.

2. Use your hands to grab a handful of the cabbage and squeeze and discard the excess moisture out into the sink. You can also spoon all of the cabbage onto a cheesecloth and then squeeze all the water out. Place the dry cabbage back into the large bowl and add the pork mixture. Fold the cabbage into the pork mixture.

3. Mix together the slurry. Take one dumpling wrapper, spoon scant 1 tablespoon of the pork mixture onto the middle of the wrapper. Dip one finger into the slurry and “paint” the edges of the dumpling wrapper. Bring up the bottom side of the wrapper, fold up and press to shape into a half-moon shape, encasing all of the filling. Place on baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap and repeat with rest of dumplings. Make sure that the dumplings do not touch each other on the sheet.

4 When all dumplings assembled, you can cook immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to several hours. To cook, half-fill a large pot with water and bring to boil. When boiling, and gently slide in 1/3 of the dumplings. When water returns to a boil, turn heat to a simmer and gently cook for 6-8 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and repeat with remaining dumplings. Serve with hot chili sauce.

Family Rating:  1 1/2 thumbs up.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Around The World: China

Even though we are only up to our third country in our Around The World series with our children it has already been a fun experience.  Even more so recently with the recent summer Olympics. Although we did see Afghanistan in the Parade of Nations, we haven't seen much of them since.  However, we've been watching a lot of the swimming races and it's so cute (and makes us proud!) when my just turned 4 year old son says, "We know that flag!" when we see the Brazilian flag. 

Our next stop in our trip around the world is letter "C" for China. We've seen a lot of the flag of China during the Olympics!  Choosing this country was really easy.  As soon as we said we were up to a "C" country our daughter said China since "it's my favorite food."  However, choosing what to make wasn't so easy.  I know American Chinese food and China Chinese food can be very different.   Then we had to choose dishes that we knew (or hoped!) the kids would enjoy.  I hope you enjoy these next few days of "China" recipes as much as we did, whether they are authentic Chinese or not! 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Crazy Cooking Challenge: Oreo Cookies and Cream Cheesecake Bars

It's time again for the Crazy Cooking Challenge hosted by Tina at Moms Crazy Cooking.  This month's theme was cheesecake.  I remember growing up I loved cheesecake.  As I've gotten older, I enjoy cheesecake, but it's definitely not one of my top favorite desserts.  So I don't really make cheesecake.  When I heard the theme I knew I was going to make a cheesecake bar of some sort.  To me, bars seem more casual and easy to eat.  After thinking about it I thought I'd try an oreo cookies and cream cheesecake bar.  I found my recipe at Thats so Yummy a new blog that I came across in my search for a recipe.  Boy am I glad that I made these bars!  They were really good and the kids were super excited since they don't get to eat Oreos very often!  Plus, they love cheesecake.  So these were definitely a hit in our house.

Oreo Cookies and Cream Cheesecake Bars
recipe from Thats so Yummy


1 lb package Oreo cookies
4 Tbs (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Three 8 ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup (5.25 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 9 x 13-inch pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides, spray with cooking spray.

Place 28 Oreos in a food processor and process until finely ground (or crush in a ziplock baggie with a can of soup like I did!). Pour the crushed Oreos into a large bowl.

Melt 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a small bowl. Add the melted butter, and stir crumbs and butter are all combined.

Place the cookie-crumb mixture in a foil-lined pan. Using your fingers, press the mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack while you make the filling.

Crush up the remaining Oreos in half, so that your oreos are roughly chopped.

 Combine in a large bowl the cream cheese and sugar. Beat the combo with an electric mixer on medium speed for about two minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula and beat again until uniform. Beat in sour cream, vanilla and salt. Scrape down the bowl and mix again.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. After beating in the last egg, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat one more time, to make sure the mixture is fully combined.

Pour in the chopped/ crushed oreos into the filling mixture. Stir in chopped Oreos with the same rubber spatula. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the baked cookie crust. Smooth the top with the rubber spatula, and bake for 40 minutes or until the filling is set around the edges but still slightly wobbly in the center.

Remove the pan to a wire rack to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour or longer.

When the cheesecake has set and cooled cover it with aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or more.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Meatless Monday: Ricotta Banana Pancakes

We were due for another breakfast for dinner.  Lately, my go-to has been pancakes.  They're really easy to make and the kids love them.  I had ricotta for another recipe and a frozen, really ripe banana that was perfect for this recipe.  When my daughter found out that I was making "ricotta" pancakes she was quick to tell me that she doesn't like ricotta.  I told her to wait until she tried them before she told me that she didn't like them.  After eating them her response was, "Oh, I do like these!"  I think the ricotta is used to add moistness because you really don't taste it.  This recipe was in an issue of All You Magazine that I subscribe to.  It was listed as a dessert, but if you don't add caramel sauce it definitely works as a breakfast (or in this case dinner!) dish. 

Ricotta Banana Pancakes
recipe from All You, March, 2012

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole-milk ricotta
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 small ripe banana

1. Preheat oven to 200ºF. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together ricotta, egg, milk, butter, vanilla and banana. Gently stir flour mixture into ricotta mixture until just blended.

2. Grease a large nonstick skillet over medium heat with cooking spray or melted butter. Drop tablespoonfuls of batter into skillet. Cook pancakes, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes total. Keep pancakes warm on a plate in oven while cooking remaining pancakes.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Picnic Potato Salad with No Mayonnaise

For our supper club picnic theme I had a difficult time choosing between making a pasta salad or a potato salad.  I finally decided on a potato salad.  I chose this one because there was no mayo in it and I thought that we'd be out in the hot sun picnicking.  Like I mentioned in my previous post, the weather wasn't very cooperative, so we ended up having our picnic inside.  I've made a couple of different potato salads now and I have to say that this is one of my favorites.  The blue cheese and bacon definitely helped make this so tasty! 

Picnic Potato Salad with No Mayonnaise
recipe slightly adapted from by Maridele

2 pounds small new potatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped red onion
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled

1.Place potatoes into a large pot and cover with lightly salted water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, 10 to 15 minutes; drain.

2.Whisk vinegar, olive oil, mustard, basil, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl; add the potatoes and onion. Toss gently to coat. Let stand until cool, about 30 minutes.

3.Fold blue cheese and chives into potato salad until blended.  Sprinkle bacon crumbles on top.
    Mommy & Daddy Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Blueberry Corn Salad

This month's supper club theme was "picnic."  Last year we did this theme too and got together at a local park.  We enjoyed it alot but it was fall and a bit chilly. We thought it would be nice to do the theme again while the weather was warmer.  Unfortunately, last Saturday it poured right when we were supposed to be picnicking!  Luckily we had a back-up plan and went to one of the couple's house for our dinner.  My husband made this salad.  We were late picking what we were going to make and needed to fill in the menu with sides.  He really wanted to make some kind of corn salad and I had just seen this posted the other day.  It sounded a lot better than the salad that he picked out!  I'm glad that he made it because it was light and tasty with a hint of spice.  It was easy enough to make and I can see us making this salad again for a family get-together before the summer is over.

Blueberry Corn Salad
recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod

6 ears fresh sweet corn, husked
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cucumber, sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. In a large pot, bring water to boiling. Add corn. Cook for 5 minutes, or until tender. When cool enough to handle, cut corn from the cobs. Discard cobs.

2. In a large serving bowl, combine corn, blueberries, cucumber, red onion, cilantro, and jalapeno. To make the dressing, whisk together lime juice, oil, honey, cumin, salt, and pepper. Pour dressing over salad and stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  Mommy & Daddy Rating: 2 thumbs up.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Turkey and Onion Grilled Cheese

Normally, when I think of grilled cheese I think of the plastic wrapped yellow cheese on melted on some bread.....not a big fan.  So I don't really consider myself a grilled cheese lover.  I think I'm in the minority though as I recently saw a grilled cheese fast food type place at a rest stop last month!   My daughter has gymnastics on Wednesday afternoons which also coincides with shower nights so Wednesday dinners have to be easy and fast.  Besides caramelizing the onions, which is a bit time consuming, this recipe is really easy.  My 6 year old daughter can now make pretty good scrambled eggs on her own with adult supervision.  After this dinner, she can add grilled cheese to her repertoire!  She really wanted to help me make dinner so I had her do pretty much everything but cut the onions.  I didn't put onion on the kids' sandwiches and my daughter wanted the yellow American cheese in the plastic wrapper on hers. My hsuband and I had these sandwiches with the onions and all.  All I can say is yum!  But I think anything with caramelized onions gets a yum from me!  I could definitely eat a lot more of these. 

Turkey and Onion Grilled Cheese
recipe from SteakNPotatoesKindaGurl

Yield: 2 sandwiches

1/2 of a red onion, sliced
2 tbsp butter
4 slices of bread of your choice
3 tbsp or so of butter, melted or softened
4 slices of maple turkey
4 slices of smoked gouda cheese

In a medium skillet, add 2 tbsp butter until melted. Then add sliced red onion and saute until softened and golden brown.

Spread the bread slices with 3 tbsp softened butter. In a large skillet on medium-low, add 2 bread slices. . Top one slice of bread with 2 slices gouda. Then add 2 slices of maple turkey, then some sauteed red onions. Top with the other slice of bread. Press down with a spatula or heavy object. Once golden brown and delicious, flip and cook other side. Repeat with 2nd sandwich.

Mommy & Daddy Rating: 2 thumbs up!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pasta with Roasted Garlic, White Cheddar & Wine Sauce

To me this recipe shouted grown-up mac and cheese....roasted garlic, cheddar, and wine sauce.....yum!  The original recipe called for broccoli and chicken.  I adapted the recipe to make it vegetarian and use some different veggies.  As much as I love roasted garlic I'm not sure that I ever did it myself before this recipe.  Instead of turning on the oven in the summer heat to roast two heads of garlic I ended up using my toaster oven.  It took a little longer but it got the job done and didn't make my kitchen a steam box!  The kids enjoyed this and ate everything including the one bite of mushroom that  I made them eat.  Overall, I thought it was just okay.  You definitely tasted the garlic paste, which I think overpowered some of the other flavors. 

Pasta with Roasted Garlic, White Cheddar & Wine Sauce
recipe adapted from Annie's Eats

8 oz. tube shaped pasta
1½ tbsp. butter
¼ cup roasted garlic paste*
1½ tbsp. flour
¼ cup dry white wine
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
2 ears of fresh corn, cooked and cut off cob
1 8 oz. pkg. sliced, fresh, mushrooms
Salt and pepper, to taste

*To make roasted garlic paste, peel the outer papery skins off two heads of garlic, leaving the heads still intact. Slice about a quarter off the top of each head so that all of the cloves are partly exposed. Wrap the heads in foil and bake at 350˚ F for one hour. Remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool enough to touch, squeeze the garlic cloves out of the peels and smash with a fork to make roasted garlic paste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the roasted garlic paste and cook just until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Whisk the flour into the mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to turn golden brown, 1-2 minutes. Stir the white wine and broth into the pan. Add mushrooms to sauce.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the cheddar and stir until melted. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Mix in the corn and cook just until heated through. Mix in the cooked pasta until evenly coated with the sauce. Serve warm.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Italian Meatball Sliders

This recipe got moved up on my "to make pile" sooner after I saw a reader's rave review in my most recent issue of Cooking Light.  It worked out perfectly also that I had 8 ounces of leftover pork from another recipe and 2 sausage links in the freezer!  I was able to use our own basil that was grown on our deck.  These were really easy to make and tasted soooo good!  The kids enjoyed them too, another plus.  I would definitely make these again!

Italian Meatball Sliders
recipe slightly adapted from cooking light, March 2012

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 shallots, finely diced
1/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 ounces lean ground pork
2 (4-ounce) links turkey Italian sausage, casings removed
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups lower-sodium marinara sauce
12 slider buns, toasted
12 basil leaves

1. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat; swirl to coat. Add garlic and shallots to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until shallots are softened, stirring frequently. Combine shallot mixture, ricotta, and next 6 ingredients (through egg) in a medium bowl. Shape mixture into 12 (1-inch) meatballs; flatten each meatball slightly.

2. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to pan. Add meatballs to pan; cook 6 minutes, turning once. Add marinara sauce; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes or until meatballs are done. Top bottom half of each bun with 1 1/2 tablespoons sauce, 1 meatball, 1 basil leaf, and top half of bun.

Family Rating: 2 thumbs up.