Saturday, December 31, 2011

Spicy Orange Chicken

For New Year’s Eve, we had two couples over to help us bring in the new year…Asian style!

Names for the placecards were written in Chinese.
Here was the menu, although I’m only sharing one recipe with you:

Appetizer: Chicken Egg Rolls
Main Dishes: Spicy Orange Chicken over Rice and Vegetable Stir-fry over Egg Noodles
Dessert: Fortune Cookies and Mango Mochi

Spicy Orange Chicken: The star of the meal.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 egg
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
1/2 cup cornstarch, plus
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup flour
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
4 green onion sprigs, sliced diagonally in one inch strips
2 Tbsp rice wine

Orange Sauce
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
7 Tbsp sugar
6 Tbsp white vinegar
Zest of one orange

In a large bowl, combine egg, salt, pepper and 2 Tbsp oil; mix well. Stir in cornstarch and flour. Add chicken pieces and coat with mixture.

In a frying pan, heat 1 inch of oil over med-high heat. Add small batches of chicken at a time and fry 3 to 4 minutes or until golden crisp. Remove chicken from oil with slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towels; set aside.

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients for the sauce. Whisk together; set aside.

Discard oil from pan, wipe it clean and add 1 Tbsp of fresh oil. Add ginger and garlic; cook until fragrant. Add red peppers, green onions, rice wine and orange sauce. Bring to a boil, then turn to low. Stir in chicken to coat with sauce. To thicken sauce, stir in 1 Tbsp cornstarch and cook until sauce thickens.

Serve over white rice and garnish with fresh orange slices.

A simple dessert,

Mediterranean Meatballs over Couscous

1 lb ground beef, pork or turkey (I used beef in this dish)
1 egg
¼ cup breadcrumbs
1 small red bell pepper, diced
½ yellow onion, diced
2 Tbsp Moroccan Gourmet Garden Fresh Blends (found by the fresh herbs)
1 box of couscous (my favorite brand is Near East)
A large handful of fresh baby spinach

In a large bowl, combine meat, egg, breadcrumbs, pepper, onion and Moroccan spice; mix well. Using wet hands to prevent meat from sticking, shape mixture into meatballs the size of golf balls. In a frying pan over med-high heat, drizzle EVOO and cook meatballs. Brown all sides and make sure they are cooked through, about 4 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, make the couscous according to directions on the box. After 5 minutes when couscous has absorbed the liquid and is ready to be fluffed, stir in the baby spinach; cover and set aside.

Serve in a shallow bowl by making a bed of couscous and topping with meatballs. Drizzle with any remaining pepper and onion bits that might be left in the pan.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


I came across this Latin American dish called Picadillo when I was searching for a recipe to make with the ground beef I had. There are several different versions with a variety of different spices and ingredients depending on the region it’s made. After reviewing several recipes, I decided to make a combination of the Costa Rican and Mexican Picadillo.
1 lb of beef or pork
1 small onion, diced
1 russet potato, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
Juice from one lime
1 cup of thick & chunky salsa
1 small can of tomato paste
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp crushed thyme
2 Tbsp freshly minced cilantro, same some to sprinkle as a garnish
½ green bell pepper, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
10 large green olives, pitted
Salt and pepper to taste
*If the mixture seems too thick, add ½ - 1 cup of broth or water

Heat a few drizzles of EVOO in a skillet over med-high heat. Start to brown meat. Add onion, potato, carrot, garlic, lime juice, salsa, tomato paste and spices. Cover, lower heat to medium and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add peppers and olives, cover and continue to cook for another 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. If the mixture seems too thick and the potatoes aren’t cooking, add broth or water. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve Picadillo over rice, sprinkle with cilantro and enjoy!

NOTE: This recipe serves 4. Or you can serve 2 and use the rest for taco or tamales filling. I’m going to try to make Papas Rellenas, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Scampi Style Chicken Pasta

This dish would taste great with some toasted pinenuts too, but I just didn't have any on hand.

1 lb egg noodles
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 lb chicken tenders, cut in thirds
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 small zucchini, diced
Juice of one lemon, plus zest of one lemon, save some zest for the garnish
1/2 cup white wine
5 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, minced
Salt & Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Crumbled feta cheese

In a medium pot, cook pasta in salted boiling water per directions (about 10 minutes).

Meanwhile, preheat EVOO in a sauté pan over high heat. I used a wok pan since you’ll be tossing the pasta with the chicken mixture afterwards and it provides more room. Add chicken and sauté for a couple minutes until browned. Remove from heat to a bowl; set aside.

Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and zucchini to the pan; sauté for about 1-2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and white wine; turn heat to high. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes and let liquid reduce and zucchini to cook. Add butter, parsley, lemon zest and a couple spoonfuls of pasta cooking water and return the chicken. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Remove from the heat.

Drain the pasta and add to the pan. Toss with chicken mixture.

Serve in a shallow bowl, sprinkle with feta cheese, top with a little of lemon zest and parsley.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Chicken in Spicy Vegetable Sauce

A healthy dish that's quick and easy to make. Perfect for those new year's resolutions of starting to eat right.

4 thin chicken breast filets
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 large carrot, diced
1 small onion, sliced
3 baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
3 garlic cloves
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced
Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt (optional)

In a sauté pan, heat a couple drizzles of EVOO over high heat. Season each side of chicken with salt and pepper. Quickly sear each side until browned, but do not cook through. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Turn heat to medium, add vegetables to the same pan; sauté until tender. Add vegetables to a blender and puree until smooth. If necessary, add water to help it get started. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Over low heat, return chicken to pan, add vegetable mixture, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked all the way through. Before serving, stir in a couple tablespoons of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt to make sauce creamy (optional).

Serve over rice or pasta.

- To give dish a stronger garlic flavor, don’t sauté with vegetables and instead add to blender raw.
- To make dish spicier, don’t sauté jalapeno with vegetables and instead add to blender raw. Or if you don’t want a spicy sauce, omit the pepper entirely.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Baked Brie with Cherries, Pecans and Rosemary

I made this delicious appetizer for our Christmas appetizer. It was a huge hit and was gone in about 15 minutes. Everyone was asking for the recipe. I should have made three!

1 egg, beat in a small bowl
1 tablespoon water
1/3 cup dried cherries, soften in warm water for 20 minutes, then drain
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 puff pastry sheet (1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package), thawed
1 (15-ounce) Brie cheese round

Heat the oven to 400°F. In a small bowl, mix together the cherries, pecans, honey and rosemary.

Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Spoon the cherry mixture in the center of the sheet. Top with the cheese. Fold the pastry corners up over the cheese, pressing corners of sheet together. Using a spatula, carefully flip the wrapped cheese and place seam-side down onto a baking sheet. Brush the top with the egg mixture. (Optional, decorate the top with the any extra pastry scraps and additional rosemary.)

Bake for 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Let stand for 45 minutes (otherwise the cheese will just pour out if you cut into it too soon). Serve with the crackers or a sliced baguette.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lentil Chili

This dish was really tasty. Next time, I'll probably add kidney and mung beans then call it 'three bean chili'. 
1 cup lentils
1 lb of ground beef or turkey
2 celery ribs, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes (with jalapenos if you want to add some spice)
1 8 oz can of tomato sauce
1 Tbsp chili powder
½ tsp cumin

In a pot over high heat, add lentils and cover with water - about one inch over lentils. Bring to a boil then turn to low and simmer; cover and cook for about 30 minutes until lentils are tender. Drain any excess water and set aside.

In a sauté pan, brown meat; drain any excess fat. Add veggies and cook together until vegetables are soft. Stir in diced tomatoes, sauce, chili powder, cumin and lentils. Cover and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes.

Serve with a few dashes of hot sauce for an extra kick.

Note: If you don’t have chili powder or cumin, you can add a package of chili mix instead of the individual spices.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chicken Vegetable Soup with Lentils

A warm, hearty soup for a cold day.

1 whole chicken
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 cup of dry lentils
3 celery ribs, sliced
3 carrots, sliced
2 garlic gloves, minced
¼ cup minced parsley
1 tsp minced Rosemary
2 Bay leaves
1 tsp all spice
Salt & pepper

In a large pot, add chicken and thyme, cover with water and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 ½ hours. When the chicken easily comes off the bone, it’s done. Give the drumstick a little wiggle to test it. Remove chicken and place in a bowl; set aside and let cool. Remove and discard the thyme stems.

Add lentils, celery, carrots, garlic, parsley, rosemary, bay leaves and all spice to the pot of chicken water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer; cook for about 40 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Shred chicken and add bite sized pieces back to soup. When the lentils are tender, the soup is done.

Serve with a nice crusty bread and enjoy on a cold day!

Note: If you don’t want to cook a whole chicken or don't have the time, use chicken broth and start the recipe where you add the lentils.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mexican Casserole

I couldn’t decide if I should call this a Mexican Lasagna or a Mexican decide!

1 can of enchilada sauce
About 10 small corn tortillas, sliced into pieces
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
1/2 can of corn, drained
Cheddar cheese, shredded
9x9 casserole dish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Layer the casserole dish with enchilada sauce, tortillas, chicken, peppers, onion, corn, cheddar cheese and repeat layers, ending with the cheese.

Cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10-15 more minutes. Broil for last 2 minutes to get a crunchy top. Let the casserole rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Top with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with avocado slices. Serve with rice and beans or a side salad.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Shrimp Alfredo Pesto Pasta

3 servings

8 oz Fettuccine pasta
1 large tomato, chopped
1 large zucchini, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
½ lb large cooked shrimp, remove tails and cut in thirds
8 oz Alfredo sauce (my favorite kind is the little Buitoni tub by the refrigerated pasta)
4 oz Pesto (my favorite jarred brand is Classico)
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Boil pasta in salted water according to directions on package.

In a sauté pan, heat EVOO over medium high heat. Add tomatoes, zucchini and garlic. Sauté until zucchini is slightly tender. Stir in shrimp pieces and heat through. Cover and remove from heat. Do not overcook shrimp, just heat through so they remain tender.

Once pasta is cooked, drain, return to pot and toss with Alfredo and pesto sauce.

Plate pasta and top with vegetable and shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Serve with grilled salmon or eat alone with garlic bread.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Philly Cheese Steak Potato

You might remember me talking about my eatery idea, Spuds, my gourmet potato bar. It’s my make-believe restaurant that I create recipes for and then try then out on the hubby at home. Here’s one of Spud’s specials.
1 large russet potato
¾ lb beef loin
1 small green bell pepper, sliced
½ small yellow onion, sliced
2 mushrooms, sliced (I used baby Bellas)
2-3 slices of Provolone cheese
A couple slices of butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Clean one large russet potato, cut in half, pierce with a fork, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35-45 minute minutes. You can use one whole potato per person but we usually just split a large one, especially since this dish contains meat, which is really filling.

Slice beef into thin slices and season with salt and pepper. Heat a few drizzles of EVOO in a pan over high heat. Sear each side of beef for 30-45 seconds, just until browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add a little more EVOO and sauté veggies for a few minutes until tender. When veggies are ready, lay slices of cheese on top, cover pan to let steam melt the cheese a little.

Remove potatoes from oven, unwrap, push ends together to insides open up. Sean with salt, pepper and a slice or two of butter. Using a spatula, scoop veggies topped with melted cheese from pan onto potato.

• Place beef in freezer for about 30-45 minutes so it hardens and is easier to slice thin.
• Melt cheese over veggies once potato is prepared to prevent over melting and it becoming runny.