Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chicken Skewers with Asian Slaw

Here's a great Thai inspired dish without all the noodles and rice starch you'd usually serve it with. The marinade on the chicken is optional, but if you have the time to throw it in a zip lock bag and stick it in the fridge to make best buddies with the sauce while you're at work all day, it's well worth it.

Let's start with the real centerpiece, the Asian slaw that I adapted from this recipe...

For the Asian slaw you'll need:

  • Slaw base:
    • 1 bag of broccoli slaw (should include shredded carrots, broccoli and cabbage)
    • 1/2 cup shelled edamame (thawed from frozen is AOK!)
    • 1/3 cup cashews, crushed
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    • 2 green onions, finely sliced
  • Slaw sauce:
    • 1 1/2 tbs honey
    • 1 1/2 tbs vegetable or canola oil
    • 1 1/2 tbs rice vinegar (white whine or apple cider vinegar would be OK replacements, but rice vinegar really is best)
    • 1 1/2 tbs peanut satay sauce
    • 1/2 tbs Sriracha (more or less can be added depending on your spice tolerance)
    • 1 green onion, finely sliced
    • 1 garlic glove, minced
Add all the slaw sauce ingredients to a medium sized bowl and whisk. Add to the slaw base and toss. Assemble and refrigerate the slaw for about 15-30 minutes before serving for the best results. That's it. You made your slaw. It's going to be super yummy. Congratulations! This serves 3-4 people as a side. 

NOTES: Broccoli slaw can usually be found near the pre-made salad mixes in the produce section. And please go ahead and buy a bottle of Sriracha. One bottle is almost a lifetime supply, so it's a good investment. Add it to some ramen noodles when you're in an end-of-the-month-I-spent-my-paycheck-at-Zara situation with a little bit of peanut butter and thank me later.

Now... onto the skewers!

For the chicken skewers, you'll need
  • 1/5 pound chicken tenderloins
  • Wooden skewers
  • 2 tbs vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 tbs rice vinegar
  • 2 tbs peanut satay sauce
  • 1 tbs Sriracha sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, smooshed
  • 2 green onions, minced/sliced
  • 1 1/2 tbs soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbs onion powder
  • OPTIONAL - 1 1/2 tbs minced fresh ginger or 1/2 tbs ginger powder
  • Additional peanut satay sauce on the side. I recommend Trader Joe's.
Mix all the seasoning ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. Pour into a 1 gallon freezer bag. Add the chicken tenderloins in and toss thoroughly, with the bag sealed shut unless you want to tell a really embarrassing story about getting marinade all over your kitchen because you were super dumb. I've never had anything like that happen to me since I'm perfect, but I'd hate for you to go through what must be a really awkward mistake to make. Refrigerate for at least 90 minutes. 

If you don't have time to marinade, don't bother with any kind of a sauce. I find it just gets burn-y and you barely taste all the spices you're using. If you have a great peanut satay sauced, just coat the chicken tenderloins in a little bit of vegetable oil, salt and pepper. Whatever you do with your chicken, run a wooden skewer through it before you cook it to make dipping easy. Some people soak these before they grill anything, but who has that kind of time?

Either way, this is where I really recommend you have a griddle to place on your stove top. Heat that, or a large skillet if you're griddle-less, over medium and sear the chicken on each side. I usually wait until the chicken looks cooked up the sides before I flip it and cook the other side. This should take about 10-15 minutes. I'll admit I still cut into chicken when I grill it to make sure it's not pink. I'm paranoid, what do you want me to say? I always take the ugly chopped up piece, so I think it all works out. 

Serve together and enjoy. This comes together really quickly and is super healthy. You're welcome!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Five Ingredient Carbonara

This is adapted from a Real Simple recipe that I veggie-fied and made freezer and fridge staple friendly. A simple, quick yet impressive carbonara for a night when you want a fancy dinner but you don't feel like putting in the fancy effort.

You'll need:

  • 4 oz whole grain angel hair or spaghetti pasta
  • 3 strips of center cut bacon
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 1/2 cup of frozen peas
Calories: 815 per serving, recipe makes enough for 2

Steam your peas and set them aside. Cook pasta as you normally would. While it's boiling, fry the bacon in a skillet on medium heat. You'll want it nice and crispy. Pat dry with a paper towel to remove excess grease and keep the remaining bacon grease in the pan. 

Here's a heads up - the trick to all of this is to work quickly. Wait to start making the carbonara sauce until the pasta is completely cooked and it's still warm. The heat of the pasta partially cooks the egg yolks so it is very important to do the next steps in quick succession while the pasta is hot. You've been warned.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the two egg yolks. Stir in two tablespoons of the bacon grease. Add the parmesan and the cooked, strained pasta. Toss liberally, crumble in the crispy bacon, throw in the peas and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

So You Want to Start Cooking Part 1: Pots, Pans and Utensils

If you're going to start any new undertaking, you've got to have the right tools. Buying for your new life as an at home chef can seem overwhelming, but I'm going to break it down to the bare essentials for you.

My own personal perfectly arranged and perfectly clean kitchen and totally not just a picture I drooled over on Pinterest.

Absolute Essentials:
  • 2 non-stick frying pans - 1 large, 1 medium
  • 2 casserole pans (Pyrex is ideal) - 1 9x13 and 1 8x8
  • Pot with a lid
  • Set of wooden spoons for stirring
  • Set of plastic mixing bowls (3 is a good start)
  • Spatula
  • Large whisk
  • GOOD kitchen knife for chopping (my recommendation)
  • Food processor (I love my Ninja blender and food processor set)
  • Hand held grater
  • Salt and pepper grinders
  • Peeler (I like this one because it's a monkey
  • Colander
  • Pizza cutter
  • Ladle 
  • Tongs
  • Measuring cups (I have these and yes, they're adorable)
  • Measuring spoons
  • Basic Tupperware set for leftovers
  • Baking sheet

Next Step Up:
  • Refillable olive oil bottle (olive oil is cheaper in bulk, spouts allow for a perfect drizzle)
  • Storage containers for dry basics (flour, sugar, etc... I have these)
  • Microplane (for zesting citrus fruits, fresh cinnamon, etc.)
  • Garlic press
  • Handheld juicer
  • Additional knives (seriously, hold off on buying more knives until you know your cooking style, I have a set but I use the same one over and over)
  • Small whisk (great for dressings)
  • Serving spoons
  • Pie pan (Pyrex recommended, again)
  • Blender
  • Electric mixer
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Ramekins
  • Ice cream scoop
  • Small and large slow cooker (small for dips, large for chilis, meals, etc.)
  • Salad bowl and serving spoon and fork set
  • Set of serving platters
  • Rice cooker
  • Pizza stone (I actually prefer the AirBake)
  • Spoon rest
  • Muffin pans
  • Small oven safe bowls (french onion soup, egg bakes, etc.)
  • Griddle (I prefer stove top to electric)

Shopping Tips
  • The dollar store has great basics like spoons, plastic bowls, etc. Also giant wine glasses that make you feel cool and you don't mind if you break them. Go there first to see what you can stock up on for nothing.
  • Ikea, Target, Walmart and the usual will take care of you from there.
  • For more expensive purchases, keep an eye on department stores like Macy's for sales or troll your local TJ Maxx/Home Goods for luxury brands on the cheap. Even Goodwill can be a source for a great $5 rice cooker. Take the time to search and you can have a perfect kitchen arsenal without spending the equivalent of a new Tory Burch bag.
  • Do I talk about my Ninja blender and processor set too much? No, I don't. It's amazing. Trust me. Worth the $50 investment for the onion mincing alone. 
  • I mostly steal things from my mom when she replaces her own things or takes pity on me.
  • I love CB2 for inexpensive "fun" serving and dinner plates. Ditto for Anthropologie's big sales.
  • Get married and you'll get so much free stuff, it's crazy. The divorce might end up being expensive, but if you're in a time and financial crunch, just get hitched. 

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Did California Pizza Kitchen invent the BBQ Chicken Pizza? I'm not sure, but whoever it was, I'm forever in their debt. One of the foods I used to survive on in college was Lean Cuisine's pocket sized version, but here's a recipe for a grown up one, from scratch!

You'll need:
- 1 batch homemade pizza crust (see below)
- 1 red onion
- 2 tbs olive oil

- 2 chicken breasts or 4 chicken breast tenderloins
- 1 cup BBQ sauce
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
- 1/4 cup jarred, sliced jalapenos

Calories: about 300 for a slice (1/8 of pizza)

First and foremost, start by caramelizing the onions. It wil take some time but it's well worth it. Slice the red onion and add them to a large pan over medium heat with 2 tbs of olive oil. Add a liberal amount of cracked sea salt. Let this cook for 20 minutes - DO NOT STIR. Then turn down the heat a bit and cook for another 5-10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes or so. I'm still perfecting my caramelization techniques to try to get an evenly cooked batch, but here's about what they should look like when they're done:

While the onions are caramelizing, poach the chicken breasts. How do you poach chicken? Place them in a pot and add water so the breasts are just covered. Bring the water to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer. Simmer for about 6-8 minutes and then remove the chicken. Let them cool and you'll have easy to shred chicken. Add 1/3 cup of BBQ sauce to the shredded chicken in a bowl and mix together. Set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cover the pizza crust with 2/3 cup of BBQ sauce. Then add the chicken and onions on top, distributing evenly over the crust's surface. Repeat that process with the mix of shredded cheeses. Add jalapenos randomly for a nice kick. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the crust is golden and the cheese is melty. OPTIONAL - add fresh cilantro to the finished project. 

Here's what it should look like going into the oven.

Mom's Perfect Easy Pizza Crust

You'll need:
  • 1 package of fast rising yeast
  • 3/4 cup of warm water
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups of flour
1) Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir it until there are no clumps of yeast in the mixture.
2) Stir in salt, sugar, oil and 1 3/4 cup of flour until the dough is evenly mixed.
3) On a floured surface, knead in an additional 1/4 cup of flour. 
4) By hand or using a rolling pin, stretch the crust to get your desired thickness and size. Place in a 400 degree oven for 8 minutes before you add the toppings for your desired pizza. This will keep the crust from getting soggy. 

You can also use this recipe for calzones or add more oil and herbs to make a focaccia style flat bread. If you're in a time crunch, feel free to use store bought pizza dough, but this recipe is super easy and will save you some dough. (Sorry, I had to.)

Calories in one crust: 1140, or about 140 calories for 1/8 of a pie