Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sweet & Sour Chicken

So, my husband never asks me to make anything.  I can ask him "would you like anything special for dinner?" until I'm blue in the face, but I never get an answer.  This is generally a good thing because I can take certain liberties (dark leafy greens, for instance).

The first time he ever asked me to make something it was Angel Food Cake.  I promptly when into culinary cardia arrest.  He wants me to make what!?!?!  That involves egg whites and is hard!  Well, I survived that incident and went on to make a "better than mom's" angel food cake.  Turns out, she actually always made hers from a box.  I win. 

Today I experienced symptoms of a culinary cardiac arrest, but was able to avoid a full blown MI.  I asked Aaron how he would like his chicken cooked tonight.  He asked me to make sesame chicken.  "Like the kind at the Chinese place?"  Oh brother.  I ran over to and discovered I didn't really have the right spices to do it right.  I asked him if he wanted anything else.  "Sweet and Sour Chicken."  Oh great.  That requires some special sauce I don't have.  Well, I am courageous.  Thank goodness for All Recipes.  Here is one of their recipes for Sweet & Sour Chicken.  I modified it a tiny bit, and it was TASTY TASTY.  Here is my version.  The numbers are a little weird because the original recipe is for 8 chicken breasts (Seriously!??!!).

Combine in zip top bag:
1/2 c AP flour
1/2 T vegetable oil
1/2 T cornstarch
3/8 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/4 t baking powder
1/4 t garlic powder
1/4 t onion powder
1/2 T egg, beaten
1/4 c  + 2 T water
2 chicken breasts in 1" cubes

Heat oil in a skillet/wok/fryer to 360*.  Use about 1.5-2" (enough to submerge chicken).
Cook chicken in batches (1 layer deep with a little wiggle room) for 10 minutes.  Drain on paper towels. 

While chicken is cooking, make the sauce. 

First, stir together:
1 T cornstarch
1 T water

Bring to a boil:
Juice from 2 oz of crushed pineapple (reserve pineapple)
3 T white vinegar
1/4 c + 2 T sugar
1/4 c + 2 T water
1 drop each red and yellow food coloring

Remove from heat and stir in cornstarch mixture until thick. Stir in pineapple.

Stir together sauce and chicken, if desired.  We liked dipping our chicken.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Smoothie Secrets & Slushie Recipe

I make smoothies in the cheapest blender ever.  Want my secrets?

First, start with plain yogurt, a banana and add-ins (flax seed or protein powder or whatever).  Puree.  This should become pure liquid.  This is the secret.  The liquid will be the conveyer of the frozen fruit.

Next, add frozen fruit (preferably frozen in season so you don't need extra sweeteners).  Pulse this on ice crush mode for a little bit.  Then switch to puree.  It takes a little practice to get the right switchover point.  You should be able to eat this smoothie with a spoon.  Take that, Smoothie King!

So, I was reading a favorite blog and ran across a recipe that helped me use up some watermelon that I was tired of looking at.  I used the ingredient list and completely ignored their directions.  Check out their recipe here

Combine 1/3 c orange juice, 1/2 T lime juice, 1/2 T honey, and 1 1/2 c watermelon and puree.  Use the method above to work in about 1 c frozen strawberries.  Best slushie ever.  Take that, 7-eleven!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sloppy Joes, reinvented

I've never really made sloppy joes because we always had "Beef & Bean" growing up.  It's a similar recipe, but includes baked beans. 

Yesterday I make the recipe here.  It was delicious!  I'll copy it here for convenience or in case Beth ever takes down her site (which would be super sad!).  I would imagine it freezes well too.  If you don't have lentils, I would estimate you should halve the rest of the ingredients or double the meat.  Either would work. 

Suggestions:  Include the Dijon!  Throw in a dash or two of celery seed.  Go easy on the vinegar.  It tastes great, but you definitely don't want to overdo it.

Total Recipe cost: $10.97
Servings Per Recipe: 8
Cost per serving: $1.37
Prep time: 10 min. Cook time: 20 min. Total: 30 min.

3/4 cup dry brown lentils $0.23
1 Tbsp olive oil $0.11
1 medium vidalia (or sweet) onion $0.69
1 medium green bell pepper $0.78
1 tsp minced garlic $0.12
1 lb. extra lean ground beef (93/7) $4.98
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce $0.88
3 oz. tomato paste $0.26
3 Tbsp cider vinegar $0.18
3 Tbsp brown sugar $0.12
1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard (optional) $0.04
1/2 tsp salt $0.03
1/2 tsp chili powder $0.07
8 medium whole wheat buns $2.48

STEP 1 (the lentils): If you are using lentils, begin cooking them first. Sort through 3/4 cup of dry brown lentils to remove any stones or debris. Give them a rinse under cool water. Bring 1.5 cups of water up to a boil and then add the lentils. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Test the lentils to make sure they are tender and then drain in a colander. Set the cooked lentils aside until you are ready to add them to the sloppy joe's. These can be simmering while you make the rest of the sloppy joe's.

STEP 2: Chop the onion into small pieces and add it to a large skillet along with the olive oil and minced garlic. Cook over medium heat.

STEP 3: While the onion and garlic are cooking, cut the bell pepper into small pieces and add it to the skillet as well. Cook until all of the vegetables are soft and transparent (about 5 minutes).

STEP 4: Add the ground beef and continue to cook until no red remains (about 7-10 minutes).

STEP 5: Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, cider vinegar, brown sugar, dijon, chili powder, and salt. Stir well and heat through (about 5 minutes).

STEP 6: Stir in the cooked lentils and heat through if needed (5 minutes). Serve warm on a whole wheat bun!