Monday, January 21, 2013

Kung Pao Ramen

3 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2-3), cubed
1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced thin
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 (3-ounce) package ramen noodles, discard seasoning packets
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
4 scallions (green onions), sliced thin

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the canola oil over medium to medium-high heat until it is hot and rippling. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Add the cubed chicken to the pan in a single layer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is browned and cooked through, 5-7 minutes. Remove the chicken to a medium bowl.

Add the last tablespoon of oil to the skillet and heat until hot and rippling. Add the red bell pepper and the peanuts and cook until the pepper is softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the mixture into the bowl with the chicken, trying to leave as much oil as possible behind in the skillet.

Add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes to the remaining oil in the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds to 1 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth. Break the bricks of ramen into small chunks and add them to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, tossing the ramen constantly with tongs to separate, until ramen is just tender but there is still a bit of liquid in the pan, about 2-4 minutes.

Stir in the hoisin sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil and continue to simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Stir in the chicken, peppers and peanuts. Sprinkle with green onions before serving. Serves 4-5.

*As written, this dish was too spicy for my kids so next time I will definitely cut down on the red pepper flakes.

Recipe Source: from Mel's Kitchen Cafe, originally adapted from The Best 30-Minute Recipe 

Crispy Chicken Wraps

1/3 cup mayonnaise, light or regular
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 scallions, sliced very thin
2 celery ribs, chopped fine (optional)
2 tablespoons sour cream, light or regular
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 rotisserie chicken, skin discarded, meat shredded into bite-sized pieces (about 3 cups)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
4 (12-inch) flour tortillas

Whisk the mayonnaise, cilantro, scallions, celery, sour cream and hot sauce in a large bowl. Add chicken and toss to combine. Sprinkle cheese over tortillas, leaving 1/2-inch border around edges, then arrange chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll stuffed tortillas, leaving edges open. Spray the tortillas all over with cooking spray. Heat a large non-stick skillet (or griddle) over medium heat for 1 minute. Arrange 2 wraps, seam-side down, in pan and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining wraps. Serve.

*To prevent the wraps from unrolling during cooking, be sure to start them seam-side down in step 3.

Recipe Source: from Mel's Kitchen Cafe, originally adapted from Cook’s Country

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lighter Chicken Parmesan

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 large egg whites
1 tablespoon water
vegetable cooking spray
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and cut into halves (4 pieces total)
2 cups marinara sauce, warmed (or use tomato sauce recipe below)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position.  Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.  Combine the breadcrumbs and oil in a 12-inch skillet and toast over medium heat until golden, stirring often, about 10 minutes.  Spread the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish and allow to cool slightly; when cool, stir in the parsley, Italian seasoning, and parmesan.

In a second shallow dish, combine the flour, garlic powder, salt, and pepper together. In a third shallow dish whisk together the egg whites and water.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, place a wire rack on top, and spray the rack with vegetable oil spray.  Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper.  Lightly dredge each chicken piece in the flour to coat completely, shaking off the excess.  Then dip into the egg whites and finally coat with the breadcrumb mixture.  Press on the breadcrumbs to make sure they adhere. Lay the chicken on the wire rack.

Bake until the chicken is no longer pink and feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven.  Spoon 2 tablespoons of marinara sauce over the top of each piece of chicken and top with 2 tablespoons of the shredded mozzarella.  Return the chicken to the oven and continue to bake until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with the fresh basil and serve as desired, with extra Parmesan and marinara sauce.

Tomato Sauce:
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
4 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves
table salt and ground black pepper

Pulse the tomatoes in a food processor until mostly smooth, about ten 1-second pulses; set aside. Cook the garlic, tomato paste, oil, and pepper flakes in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in the pureed tomatoes and cook until the sauce is thickened and measures 2 cups, about 20 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and set aside until needed.

Recipe Source: adapted from Annie's Eats, originally from Cook’s Illustrated, October 2006

Monday, January 14, 2013

Shrimp Etouffee

4 tablespoons Margarine
1/4 cup flour
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning
2 cups shrimp stock or chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Steamed white rice, for serving
1/8 cup thinly sliced green onions, for garnish

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the flour and stir continuously to make a roux. Stir the roux over medium heat until the color of peanut butter, about 5 minutes. Add the onions, bell pepper, celery, and garlic to the roux, and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Whisk the stock into to the pot and season with the bay leaf and 1/2 tablespoon creole seasoning

Bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook the etouffee, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Season the shrimp with the remaining creole seasoning and add them to the pot, stirring to evenly distribute. Cook the shrimp for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they are cooked through.

Serve immediately over steamed white rice and garnish with sliced green onion tops. Serves 5-6.

*For a lower sodium option, substitute half of the chicken broth with water. Also, only use 1 teaspoon of regular creole seasoning and add 1/2 teaspoon of Emeril's Essence (minus the salt) if additional flavor or heat is desired.

Emeril's Essence Creole Seasoning:
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt (omit for low sodium option)
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in airtight container.

Recipe Source: adatped from Emeril Lagasse

Pasta al Forno

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 (14-ounces each) cans diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound penne pasta or other tube-shaped pasta
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

In a large pot of lightly salted water, cook the pasta until al dente according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, in a 10- or 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the tomatoes (undrained), oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is slightly thickened.
Add additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

After draining the pasta, return the noodles to the pot and pour in the sauce. Toss to combine. Lightly coat a 9X13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Place half of the pasta in the dish. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan and half of the mozzarella cubes over the top. Top with remaining pasta. Sprinkle remaining cheeses over the top. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes until hot and bubbly. Serves 6.

*Note to self, blend the tomatoes and seasonings together so kids don't gawk at chunks of tomatoes sprinkled with basil and oregano.

Recipe Source: from Mel's Kitchen Cafe, originally from Pasta by Dorling Kindersley

Whole Wheat Blender Pancakes

1 cup wheat berries/kernels
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 teaspoon salt

Combine the wheat berries/kernels and the buttermilk in a blender and blend on high for 3 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and thick. Add the 1/2 cup milk and continue to blend for 2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until the batter is smooth. Cook the batter on a hot griddle for pancakes or in a waffle iron for, well, waffles! Makes 12-18 pancakes.

*Note: Wheat berries are the full kernel of wheat and in this recipe, there aren’t any substitutions (as in, you can’t substitute 1 cup whole wheat flour, etc., although you can definitely play around with different kinds of wheat: hard white, soft white, hard red, kamut, and on and on). 

**For a lower sodium option; omit the salt (or reduce to 1/8 tsp), use sodium free baking powder, and make your own buttermilk using lemon juice/vinegar and milk.

Recipe Source: from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Stuffed Bell Peppers

6 medium bell peppers
1 cup onion, diced
1 lb ground beef
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups cooked rice
4 ounces (about 1 cup) cheddar cheese

Remove and discard the tops, seeds, and membranes of the bell peppers. Slice the bottoms of the peppers if necessary so that they will stand upright in your baking dish. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add peppers and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Place beef, onion, and garlic in a large skillet. Cook over medium heat until evenly browned. Reduce heat to low and stir in all remaining ingredients except cheese; heat until warmed through. Turn off heat and stir in cheese.

Heat oven to 350°F. Spoon beef mixture into peppers. Stand peppers upright in ungreased glass baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Uncover and bake about 15 minutes longer or until peppers are tender.

*For a low sodium option, reduce the salt to 1/4 teaspoon and use no salt added tomatoes and tomato sauce.  This comes out to about 213mg sodium per serving. Each pepper equals one serving.