Monthly Archives: June 2013

Easy Thai Fried Rice

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Easy Thai Fried Rice

Thai Fried Rice is one of my favorite go-to meals on a busy weeknight. Whenever we make a stir-fry or other dish that calls for rice, I like to make twice the amount of rice we need so I can save some of it to make fried rice another night. Fried rice is best when made from stale, cold rice that has been kept in the fridge. Whenever I’ve tried to make it with fresh rice it just becomes a sticky glob. I wouldn’t recommend it.

I’ll let you in on another secret, too – when the husband and I go out for Thai (or Chinese, or Japanese, or anywhere that gives you white rice), we always say “yes” when they offer us extra rice for the table. Then we box it up, take it home, stick it in the fridge, and make fried rice later in the week. Score!

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You’ll be surprised how quickly and easily this recipe comes together. It’s also a great way to use up any leftover vegetables or meat you have around the house. I’ll provide you with the basic fried rice recipe, and you can feel free to throw in whatever random stuff you have to make it your own. Carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, pineapple, chicken, pork, beef, tofu, Thai chili peppers, and basil are all excellent additions.

thaifriedrice2Here’s the basic recipe:

Makes: 4  servings, 1 1/4 cup each

Ingredients:

  • 4 c. cold, leftover rice (jasmine works best)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce
  • 2 tsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh minced ginger (or use 1/8 tsp. ground ginger)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 4 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions:

  1. Add your oil to a wok or large frying pan and heat over medium-high. When the oil is hot, add your garlic and fresh ginger (if using ground, wait to add it until you add the rice). Saute for 60 seconds.
  2. Add your rice and stir it around to coat it in oil. You may feel like you want to add more oil, but don’t. You need the rice to get some good color and texture on it, and too much oil will just make it…well, oily.
  3. Fry the rice for 30 seconds and then stir it around to expose the un-fried side to the heat. Cook for another 30 seconds, and stir. Add your soy sauce and fish sauce and stir it in.
  4. Move your rice mixture out of the center of the pan, making a little well for your eggs. Pour your beaten eggs into the center and let them cook for a few seconds undisturbed. Now, break up the eggs and stir into your rice, making sure to mix everything together well.
  5. Add your green onions and cilantro and stir well. Taste a bite of it with a spoon to make sure everything is seasoned well and heated through. If it needs more flavor, add a bit more soy sauce, or even some red pepper flakes for some heat.
  6. Serve garnished with a bit more cilantro for color. Enjoy!

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Nutrition (per serving):

245 calories, 4 g. fat, 7 g. protein, 46 g. carbs, 1 g. fiber. WW PointsPlus: 7

One Pot Lentil Dahl & Rice

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One Pot Lentil Dahl & Rice

I adore one-pot meals. Well, technically, the husband does. I cook, and he does the dishes. Obviously, I have the better end of the deal because I love spending time in the kitchen. I try to clean as I go, but it is a rare occasion that I don’t leave the kitchen a mess by the time I’m finished.

Tonight, I kept the mess to a minimum because all of the delicious could be handled by one knife, one cutting board, and one pot. Plus, since it needed to simmer all by its lonesome for fifteen minutes, I had time to get the kitchen in order before the husband got home from grocery shopping for his grandma. It makes me feel very wifely.

I told him not to get used to it.

lentildahl7This was just a warm bowl of hearty, vegetarian deliciousness. The recipe couldn’t be simpler – prep your ingredients, add them one by one, stir it up, and let it simmer.

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Just look at those vibrant spices – cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, paprika, and garam masala.

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In addition to the ground spices, I also used some fresh ginger, coriander seeds, and garlic to really send the flavor profile over the top. To bulk up the dish I added potato, onion, and carrot. Basmati rice and brown lentils make the dish thick and filling.

lentildahl3To add a hint of freshness, I stirred in a bit of chopped pipicha (yep, the same pipicha from the Poblano Chicken Tacos recipe) during the last few minutes which brought a hint of anise to the dish.

Here’s the recipe:

Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c. basmati rice
  • 1/2 c. brown lentils
  • 3 c. water
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 inch ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. oil (I used grape seed)
  • 1 Tbsp. garam masala
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh pipicha, chopped
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. whole coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a 6-quart dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the whole coriander seeds and toast 2 minutes, until fragrant and golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Add onions, garlic, and ginger to the pot and saute until onions become semi-translucent, about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, grind coriander seeds with a mortar and pestle until they reach a coarse pepper texture.
  3. Return the coriander seeds to the pan and add the garam masala, turmeric, cumin, ground coriander, salt, and paprika. Stir vigorously to allow the spices to toast without sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add the potatoes and carrots to the pot, stir, and cook uncovered for 3 minutes. Add the sugar and a splash of water and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables develop a glaze-like spice coating as the sugar caramelizes in the pan.
  5. Add the lentils, rice, and water and bring contents to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until rice, lentils, and potatoes are cooked through and all of the water has been absorbed. Stir in the pipicha during the last few minutes and serve with a side of naan or sauteed greens.

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Nutrition (per serving):

237 calories, 3 g. fat, 4 g. protein, 50 g. carbs, 3 g. fiber. WW PointsPlus: 6

Note: This dish is VERY full of spices. If you prefer something a bit more tame, I’d recommend scaling back on the whole coriander seeds (or taking them out altogether), particularly if you aren’t sure whether or not you like coriander.

Nutella Fudge

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Nutella Fudge

Fudge is scary.

I remember trying to make fudge from scratch at Christmastime just to end up, year after year, with a disgusting, burnt mess stuck to the bottom of my mom’s nice cookware. For the last few fifteen years, I’ve made fudge at Christmas using the good ole’ Eagle Brand recipe, which is basically sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips melted together. Decent, but not like the real stuff. I’ve avoided trying many fudge recipes in my day, partially out of fear of ruining my cookware, and partially because I keep forgetting to buy a candy thermometer.

When I saw this recipe for Nutella Fudge, I was intrigued. I’ve adjusted the recipe a bit to suit my own needs, but you should head over to Not Your Momma’s Cookie to check out the original.

Now this recipe isn’t a classic scratch fudge recipe, either – it is something deliciously new to my world of fudge. I highly recommend that you go make it. Right now.

Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Oh, you’re out of Nutella? Okay, well here’s a little inspiration to get you on your way to the grocery store.

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Oh, yeah. That’s some good fudge.

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Here’s how I made it:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. butter, salted
  • 1/2 c. half & half
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • Caviar from one vanilla bean
  • 1 c. Nutella
  • 2 1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted (make sure you sift it!)
  • Optional toppings (which I didn’t think of until after I made the batch above): chopped hazelnuts, pretzel pieces, white chocolate chips, toasted coconut, or crushed candy canes.

Directions:

  1. Sift your powdered sugar into a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper, letting the edges hang over on two opposing sides to make a sling. This makes removing and cutting the fudge a LOT easier once it has set.
  3. Melt your butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat.
  4. Add your brown sugar, vanilla bean caviar, and half-and-half and bring the mixture to a boil. Let it boil, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
  5. Move the pan to a cool burner and stir in the Nutella. I’d recommend spritzing your measuring cup with a little non-stick spray before putting the Nutella in there, which will make it less likely to stick.
  6. Once the Nutella is thoroughly mixed in, transfer the contents of the pot into the bowl with the powdered sugar in it. Mix quickly and thoroughly until all of it is combined. It will be pretty thick – if it seems thin, add more powdered sugar.
  7. Dump the whole mess into your baking dish and stick it in the fridge for 2 hours. Remove by grabbing the excess parchment paper and lifting. Transfer to a cutting board and cut it up!

Enjoy!

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Brazilian Mojito

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Brazilian Mojito

As promised, here is my recipe for a delicious and refreshing drink to go along with yesterday’s Poblano Chicken Tacos with Pipicha.

I’ve dubbed it the “Brazilian Mojito” simply because it’s a fusion of a classic mojito and Brazil’s national cocktail, the Caipirinha.

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The husband and I honeymooned in Brazil last September and sipped Caipirinhas like they were going out of style. We also camped out in a grocery store to borrow some WiFi so we could look up how many ounces of liquor we could stash in our suitcases and still make it through airport security.

The Caipirinha is made from Brazil’s national liquor, Cachaça, which is similar to rum but made with cane sugar instead of molasses. We brought back a few bottles of Cachaça and have been slowly working through them, saving this sweet nectar for special occasions and worthy dinners. You can purchase Cachaça at lots of liquor stores here in the U.S. – try asking at the counter if you can’t find it.

A Caipirinha  is made by muddling lots of fresh lime wedges with sugar, then topped off with Cachaça and ice. If it sounds like a strong drink, that’s because it is. Really strong. And full of sugar, which makes for a fun morning the day after you’ve had a few.

I played off this basic formula by incorporating some mint I picked up at the Farmer’s Market, and a splash of triple sec as a substitute for some of the plain sugar to add a bit more flavor.

Here’s the recipe:

Makes: 1 “Brazilian Mojito”

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. Cachaça (subsitute rum if you can’t find it)
  • 1 oz. Triple Sec
  • 10 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar (brown sugar works nicely, too)
  • 1/2 lime, cut into 6 wedges
  • Ice
  • Water (I used still, but sparkling would be lovely, too)

Directions:

  1. Using a muddler (or the back of a wooden spoon), work the mint leaves and sugar together in the bottom of a rocks glass. When you think you’re done, muddle it for another 30 seconds. You want it really, really, muddly.
  2. Throw in the lime wedges and muddle for another 60 seconds. Muddle, muddle, muddle.
  3. Fill the glass with ice, and pour the Cachaça and triple sec in over the top. Top it off with water and give it a few swirls with a stir stick. Alternatively, you can make this in a cocktail shaker and pour the whole thing over ice, but I just didn’t see the sense in dirtying another dish.
  4. Garnish with an extra lime wedge, and drink up!

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Poblano Chicken Tacos with Pipicha

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Poblano Chicken Tacos with Pipicha

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Our neighborhood Farmer’s Market opened up this past weekend so we dropped by to pick up some goodies. I brought home fava beans, Mexican mint, and Pipicha (pictured, above right). While I’d never  heard of Pipicha before, the farm owner selling the herb explained to me that Pipicha is an herb commonly used in Mexican cooking. It tastes like a cross between cilantro and mint, with hints of lemon and anise. I brought home a bundle of it and had to try it out right away.

I also had to use up some of my mint by making drink’s I’ve dubbed “Brazilian Mojitos.” Recipe to come in a few days!

I recently bought a tortilla press and have been dying to try it out by making homemade tortillas. I was shocked at how fast it was to make my own corn tortillas at home. If you don’t have a press, you can still easily make your own tortillas using the bottom of a glass pie plate or simply with a rolling pin. No matter what you use, make sure you flatten the tortilla dough between two pieces of parchment paper for easy handling.

To make the tortillas, just buy a bag of Masa Harina (on the Hispanic foods aisle) and mix it with water. The bag will typically say what ratio to use; I mixed 1 & 3/4 cup masa harina to 1 & 1/8 cup water, which made about 12 small corn tortillas. Mix the dough, let it rest for 3o minutes while you prep the rest of your meal, divide the dough into 12 portions and form it into balls, then press using your method of choice into round tortillas. Simply cook them in a skillet over medium-high heat for thirty seconds per side and keep them warm in the oven until you are ready to eat them.

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These tacos really hit the spot. I roasted some Poblano Chiles under the broiler and mixed them with some chicken I grilled up in a skillet. I added some of the pipicha to the pan and then de-glazed it with tequila. I added the pipicha to the chicken and poblano mixture and kept it warm in the oven while I fried up the tortillas.

Poblano Chicken Tacos with Pipicha

I assembled my little tacos and topped them off with fresh cilantro, more pipicha, and crumbled cotija cheese. This was meant to be enough for four servings (12 tacos, so 3 tacos per person seems reasonable, right?) but the husband and I ate all 12 of them in one sitting. Whoops.

honeypoblanotacos3Here’s the recipe:

Makes: 12 tacos (2-4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Poblano Chiles
  • 1 1/2 lbs. chicken breast (two small breasts; or, use leftover rotisserie chicken)
  • 3 Tbsp. pipicha, roughly chopped (substitute cilantro and/or mint if you can’t get your hands on any pipicha)
  • 1 3/4 c. masa harina (or, use store-bought tortillas if you’re into that sort of thing)
  • 1 1/8 c. water
  • Cumin, salt, and pepper to taste
  • Splash of tequila
  • Cilantro and cotija cheese for garnish

Directions:

  1. Make the tortilla dough by combining the masa harina and water in a medium bowl. Mix with your hands and form it into a large ball. If it is crumbly, add a little more water. If it is sticking to your hands, add a little more masa harina. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place a heavy pan (preferably cast iron) on the stove and heat to medium-high. Season your chicken breast with salt, pepper, and cumin. Once your pan is hot, add a bit of oil to the pan (olive oil works great) and add your chicken breasts. Let them sear for one minute, then turn them over, turn the heat down to low/simmer, and cover the pan. Set a timer for ten minutes and leave the chicken alone – don’t open the lid!
  3. While your chicken is cooking, preheat your oven’s broiler on its highest setting. Place your poblano chiles on a baking sheet and place on the highest rack in your oven. Check on your poblanos every minute or so, turning occasionally so the peppers become charred and roasted on all sides. You want the skin to blister but not to burn and turn black. Once they have finished (about ten minutes or so), remove from the oven and turn your oven down to 200 degrees. Place the peppers in a bowl and tent them with tin foil. About this time your kitchen timer for your chicken will go off. Turn the burner off and re-set your timer for another ten minutes. Once this second timer goes off, your chicken is done and ready to be shredded. Remove it to a cutting board and shred with two forks.
  4. Now, remove the tin foil from your poblanos and bring them over to your sink. With the cold water running (just a mild stream), peel off the broiled outer skin. It should rub off easily as it has been steaming under the foil. The cold water will also help it peel off. Once you have the skin off, pull the stem out, open up your pepper, and rinse all of the seeds out. Once both peppers are skinless and seedless, move them over to your cutting board and chop them up. Place in a oven-safe bowl with the shredded chicken.
  5. Turn your pan back onto medium-high heat and add your chopped pipicha. Stir it around with a wooden spoon to get it mixed in with all the yummy leftover chicken goodness. Keep it moving so it does not burn. Once the pan is nice and hot, pour in some tequila and let it bubble in the pan. Keep working the bottom of the pan with your wooden spoon until the liquid is reduced. If you don’t have any tequila, you could just use a little chicken broth or water. Empty the pan’s contents into the bowl with the chicken and poblanos. Place the bowl in your oven to keep it warm.
  6. Divide your tortilla dough into 12 equally-sized balls, rolling with your hands to ensure the dough doesn’t have cracks. Get that dirty pan back on your stove and put the heat back on medium-high. One by one, place a ball into your tortilla press (or under a pie plate) between two pieces of parchment paper. Press into tortillas. As each tortilla is pressed, drop it directly into your hot pan and cook for 30 seconds per side, or until golden brown with spots. Place cooked tortillas on a plate in the oven to keep warm.
  7. Once all of your tortillas are cooked, pull all of your goodies out of the oven and assemble into tacos. Start with the tortilla on the bottom, top with some of the chicken-poblano mixture, and garnish with cilantro, pipicha, and cotija cheese.

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Nutrition (per 3-taco serving):

411 calories, 9 g. fat, 42 g. protein, 38 g. carbs, 3 g. fiber. WW PointsPlus: 10

What are you looking forward to picking up at the Farmer’s Markets this summer?

Spring Asparagus Pasta Marinara

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Spring Asparagus Pasta Marinara

For the past four months or so I’ve been coercing the husband into eating vegetarian at least one night per week. We’ve been pretty good about sticking to this plan, even though he doesn’t quite understand why we do it. Personally, I think it’s a good idea for three reasons:

1) It’s healthy.

2) It’s cheap.

3) It’s good for the environment.

I also think it forces me to try new things and get creative with our meals. I introduced tofu into the house by hiding it in some fried rice but I don’t think the husband really appreciated that one. I love eating vegan and/or vegetarian and find most protein “substitutes” to be delicious, but my better half has zero interest in tofu, tempeh, soy curls, or seitan. So I’m typically stuck with fruits, vegetables, dairy, and grains on vegetarian night. Sigh.

That  brings me back to last night’s dinner: Spring Asparagus Pasta Marinara.

Spring Asparagus Pasta Marinara

Spring Asparagus Pasta Marinara

Yum! I found this to be perfectly filling; enough to satisfy my appetite, but not so heavy that I felt overly full.

I blanched one bunch of asparagus in boiling water until tender-crisp, then removed it to a cutting board and chopped it. I used the same pot of water to cook my whole wheat pasta, then drained it reserved about a cup of the (green) cooking liquid. I cranked the heat to high and added some chopped onions and garlic to the pot with a splash of oil until the whole mess was golden brown. I then de-glazed the pan with red wine, brought it to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, and added marinara sauce (I used Gina’s version over at SkinnyTaste, who inspired this recipe, but feel free to use the store-bought kind if you have some) and a little balsamic vinegar. I returned the asparagus and pasta to the pot, gave it a stir, and added a little of the cooking liquid back into the pot to make sure the sauce coated every little morsel. I folded in some freshly grated Parmesan cheese to really send it over the top.

Again… Yum!

Here’s the recipe:

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz whole wheat pasta (I used baby shells, but you could try penne or maybe bowtie)
  • 1 bunch asparagus, tough ends trimmed
  • 1 half onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. red wine
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Boil 6 cups of water in a large pot. Add the asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes until it is tender-crisp (it will be bright green and tender but not limp)
  2. Remove asparagus from pot but reserve the water. Add your pasta to the water and cook according to package directions, or until al dente.
  3. Meanwhile, dice your onion, mince your garlic, and chop your cooked asparagus.
  4. Once cooked, drain your pasta and set aside. Reserve about a cup of cooking liquid.
  5. Add the oil, onion, and garlic to your pot and cook on medium-high until golden brown, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the red wine to de-glaze the pan. Let the wine come to a boil and use a wooden spoon to scrape any good brown bits from the bottom of your pan. Reduce the heat to simmer and add your marinara sauce and balsamic vinegar. Stir to combine.
  7. Return the cooked pasta and chopped cooked asparagus to the pan. Add a little cooking liquid if the mixture is too thick, and stir in your Parmesan cheese. Adjust salt and pepper if needed.
  8. Serve topped with additional Parmesan cheese.
Spring Asparagus Pasta Marinara

Spring Asparagus Pasta Marinara

Nutrition (per  serving):

269 calories, 5 g. fat, 13 g. protein, 42 g. carbs, 4 g. fiber. WW PointsPlus: 7

What are your favorite vegan or vegetarian dishes? How do you avoid the beans-and-rice rut?