Monthly Archives: September 2012

Hoisin Glazed Chicken & Sesame Snow Peas

I’m beginning to think that moments of culinary inspiration aren’t so different from artistic inspiration. Except, fortunately, artists don’t eat their work–for the most part anyway. The inspiration occurs when several different factors combine at once inside your head and bam! you’ve got an idea for dinner. At least that’s how it happens for me.

Last week my dad sent a photo of a dinner he cooked with the caption, “Still got it!” He made this fantastic glazed pork loin with broiled pineapple. It looked so great, in fact, that I made the very same recipe Saturday night while “watching” the Michigan football game with Robert:

I loved every single part of this meal–the sweet glaze combined with the slightly salty pork, the juicy grilled pineapple, and especially the Asian inspired dipping sauce served on the side (not pictured.) Oh…the sauce! I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Hoisin, pineapple juice, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. It’s like the best combination of flavors all in one bowl. Robert and I dipped our pork and pineapple directly into the sauce (it’s totally acceptable to do those kinds of things when there are only two of you sharing a meal.) There was also the fact that I bought an entire 32 oz bottle of organic pineapple juice for the original recipe that only required 2 Tbsp. Clearly I have a tendency to overestimate ingredients. So I was also on a mission to use up the juice.

The pork loin happened to be the impetus to help me overcome my fear of the broiler. Yes, I have a complete nonsensical fear of the broiler that probably stems from the fact that the broiler in my old apartment’s electric oven was no better than tossing meat on a radiator. If you were lucky and the food actually cooked all the way through it was rubbery and chewy. Gross! As a result, I’ve always skipped recipes that require me to broil anything. When I asked my dad if he broiled the pork like the recipe suggests he confirmed that he did and responded, “Be brave my daughter.”

I heeded my father’s advice and with only one snafu (the meat was a little too close to the flame at first hence some charring (a.k.a. extra flavor that no one was complaining about)) and learned that a real gas broiler is actually a very easy, efficient, and tasty way to cook.

And then, in a moment, all of these factors combined and the inspiration for broiled chicken thighs using the dipping sauce as a marinade sprung into my head. From there, the rest of the pieces (i.e. the sesame snow peas) fell into place.

Ultimately, I took a slightly more involved recipe (the pork), which makes for a perfect weekend meal when you have a little more time and turned it into an easy peasy weeknight dinner. Just promise me you’ll try both? Deal.

Hoisin Glazed Chicken

Ingredients
1 to 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
4 Tbsp hoisin sauce
4 Tbsp pineapple juice
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp peeled, minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp hot sauce such as Sriracha (optional)

Preparation
Add hoisin sauce, pineapple juice, soy sauce, mustard, ginger, garlic, and hot sauce in a bowl and stir to combine. Place chicken thighs in a bag, pour sauce on top, and marinate at least one hour.

Heat broiler (on high if it’s an option.) Place chicken on a broil-safe baking sheet lined with foil about 4 inches away from flame and broil about 6 minutes on each side.

Sesame Snow Peas

Ingredients
9 oz snow peas
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp crushed red chili peppers (optional)

Preparation
Steam snow peas for less than 1 minute until they turn bright green. Drain. Toss snow peas in a bowl with sesame oil, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and chili peppers.

Source: Slightly adapted from Recipegirl.com

Chewy Molasses Crinkles

These cookies have such an incredible story I’m giddy with excitement to finally share them with you. The story begins several months ago, in May or June, when Robert’s former roommate, Dan, graduated from business school. Dan’s parents were in town from Kansas and his mom brought these homemade molasses crinkles. I stood at the kitchen counter working my way through the bag of cookies (classy, huh?) They were the softest, chewiest molasses cookies I’d ever had. Between mouthfuls of crumbs, I asked Dan’s mom for the recipe. Time passed and the cookies slipped my mind. (Now that I’ve had them again it’s impossible to believe how that could have possibly happened.)

Fast-forward a few months to early September and we’re in Kansas City celebrating Dan and his now-wife, Anna’s, wedding. About an hour before the wedding Dan comes down to greet his guests who are enjoying pre-ceremony cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. He spots me and, out of his tuxedo pocket, beneath his rose and wheat boutonniere, presents an envelope containing this recipe. His mom remembered I had asked for it and didn’t want to forget to give it to me. At her son’s wedding. So an hour before he was to say “I do,” Dan, the groom, delivered a hand-written index card with the recipe for molasses crinkle cookies.

But that’s not all.

After the ceremony I pulled the envelope out of my clutch to read what ingredients these magical cookies contained. At the top right corner of the recipe card I saw a note from Dan’s mom. The recipe was his grandmother’s. Grandma Eleanor. My heart leaped out of my chest. My grandma, whom I’ve mentioned countless times on this blog…the person I think about every single time I step into the kitchen….the woman I wish I could call to tell about my latest cooking endeavors because I know she’d be “tickled”…her name was Eleanor.

I was tickled.

Of course, I made the recipe as soon as I could. I made it twice in two days to be exact. I had to get it right. The thing is, I noticed the recipe contained a secret ingredient that lends the cookies their fluffy chewiness: Shortening…3/4 cup of it. I can’t really explain why, but I couldn’t bring myself to use shortening. I had to use butter. Because butter’s practically a health food, right? See, there’s no explaining my logic.

For the first batch of cookies I replaced the shortening with an equal amount of butter. Although buttery and delicious (you could see the butter melting into the hot cookies), they came out of the oven and quickly deflated into flat pancakes. These were not the pillowy cookies I remembered. After some Google searching I learned that unlike butter, shortening doesn’t contain water, which is why it makes food fluffy. Still, I was determined. So I tried again–this time with less butter. See the cookie below? That did the trick.

But this story may not be entirely over just yet. While there’s no doubt in my mind these cookies were chewy, ginger-y perfection I may be making another, different batch this weekend. When I relayed the story to my mom about Dan’s Grandma Eleanor’s molasses cookies she pulled out my Grandma Eleanor’s recipe for molasses cookies. Although it’s very similar (shortening and all) there are a few changes such as more molasses and different spices. So stay tuned, folks. My parents are headed to Chicago this weekend and you can bet there will be some hardcore cookie taste testing going down in this kitchen. After all, we’ll take any excuse to eat more cookies.

Dan’s Grandma Eleanor’s Molasses Crinkles

Ingredients

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup molasses

Preparation

Combine flour through ginger in a bowl and whisk to remove any lumps. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand-held electric mixer), cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix until combined. Add molasses and mix until combined. Add dry ingredients in three separate additions, mixing until combined after each one. Cover and chill dough in refrigerator for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into balls and then roll in sugar. Place dough on cookie sheet and bake for 8 minutes.

Chicken with Artichokes & Snap Peas

How on earth is it possible that I’ve never shared this recipe with you before? I was so certain I had that I almost didn’t blog it. Luckily, I happened to snap a few photos while cooking so when I realized you’ve never seen this delicious dish I knew exactly what to do.

This recipe is one of my favorites for many reasons. First of all, you can’t beat a one-pot meal. The fact that you can create a completely satisfying dinner and dirty only one pan is pretty impressive. I need more of those meals in my life (especially with the fiance traveling for work during the week. sigh.)  I also love the variety of textures, flavors, and ingredients going on within this single dish: There’s the tender, golden brown chicken, crisp snap peas, layered artichoke hearts, and crunchy bean sprouts. Plus, the mustard-y sauce and drizzle of tangy champagne vinegar at the end takes things to a whole other levels. Like restaurant quality level.

This meal is also a little nostalgic for me. When I moved from Utah to Vermont in 2008 I lived with my parents for about a year and a half. And you know what? It was awesomeI know not every 20-something who lives with his or her parents can say that, but I’m so grateful for the time I got to spend with them. Sometimes I miss silly little things like watching Dancing with the Stars with my Dad (yes, he’s into it and he’s a tough judge so the contestants who start this week better watch out.) Sometimes I miss the three mile loop my mom and I walked together nearly every single day, rain or shine (or snow, sleet, or hail). And I definitely miss sitting down to dinner with my mom and dad most nights of the week. This meal was one of our favorites and we enjoyed it countless times when I lived with them. Every time I make it I think about those months that I believe played as big a role in who I am today as the 18 years I spent living with them before I went to college.

Now they’re living in New York City and I’m in Chicago and so much has changed since then. But I can always count on this dish tasting exactly the same as it did and bringing back some pretty wonderful memories of the three of us–all a little misplaced and yet somehow totally in the right place–in Colchester, Vermont.

Chicken with Artichokes & Snap Peas
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
3 tsp plus 2 Tbsp flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound chicken breast cutlets or chicken tenders
1 Tbsp olive oil
12 oz sugar snap peas
1 14 oz can quartered artichoke hearts in water, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup bean sprouts
3 tsp champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar

Preparation
In a bowl, whisk broth, mustard, 3 tsp flour, and salt and pepper.

Sprinkle both sides of chicken with 2 Tbsp of flour. Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Cook the chicken in batches until cooked through and light brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil. Increase heat to high, add broth mixture to pan with snap peas, artichoke hearts, and bean sprouts. Bring to a simmer and stir to release any browned bits. Cook until snap peas are just a little tender, about 3 minutes total. Add chicken back to the pan in between the veggies. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in vinegar.

Adapted from Eating Well for a Healthy Heart

Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Shrimp and Tomatoes

Do you have a go-to healthy meal? The thing you make on Monday after you’ve been stuffing your face with all kinds of good stuff for days on end? I do. It’s almost always salmon. Salmon, something green (usually steamed kale), and another veggie (roasted tomatoes in the summer, baked sweet potato in the winter.) It’s just an easy, satisfying, completely whole food, no-doubt-about-it good for you meal.

After spending four days in Kansas City  last week (for a wedding and visiting Robert’s family and friends), I’d seen my fair share of meat and, well, booze. It was time to clean things up on the food front. I was *this* close to jotting the ingredients for my default super-healthy Monday meal on my shopping list when I spotted a spaghetti squash sitting on the counter. It had been there since August. I knew it was time for the squash to become food instead of countertop decor. A quick Pinterest search landed me on a recipe similar to the one above. I upped the health factor by adding steamed broccoli and roasted tomatoes to round things out. It was light, filling, and easy to make (the squash takes a bit of time to cook — about 45 minutes — but as a whole the meal doesn’t require much labor.) There’s no denying it also makes for a colorful meal (hello antioxidants!)

I hope you don’t mind if I take just a moment here to indulge in a little food rant. A good kind of rant. A kind of rant that you’ll thank me for later. You see, spaghetti squash isn’t a substitute for pasta. It’s just not. In my search, I saw tons of recipes online that sub the squash in for the wheat-based stuff. From experience, I just want you to know that no matter how much you try to convince yourself of it, squash will never be spaghetti. Not even spaghetti squash. I’m just looking out for you because I don’t want you to be disappointed. Yes it’s thin and noodle-like in appearance, but that’s where the similarities end. Spaghetti squash has just the slightest bit of crunch and an earthy squashy flavor. It’s really delicious, I promise, but if you what you really, really, really, really want is spaghetti have spaghetti. And when you want squash, well, eat this!

Moral of the story: if you take spaghetti squash for what it is–and this recipe is a great introduction to cooking with it– I think you’ll be totally delighted.

Spaghetti Squash, Shrimp, and Roasted Tomatoes
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 small to medium sized spaghetti squash
1/2 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 head broccoli
Olive oil
1 lemon
2 Tbsp Fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Preparation
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Halve the squash lengthwise. Season the cut side with salt and pepper. Place squash cut side down in a 9×13 glass baking dish. Add 3/4 cup of water. Cook about 45 minutes until tender when poked with a fork.

After the squash has been cooking for about 20 minutes, place tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle lightly with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for about 25 minutes.

When the squash has 10 minutes left, place the shrimp on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast for about 10 minutes until pink.

After you remove squash from oven allow it to cool so you can hold it.

Steam the broccoli.

Once the squash is cool, scoop out the seeds and discard. Using a fork, scrape the flesh of the squash into a bowl. Add shrimp, tomatoes, and broccoli to the bowl. Squeeze about 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, season with salt and pepper if needed to taste, add parsley, toss to combine and serve.

Source: Martha Stewart

Spiced Tilapia, Pineapple Salsa, and Brown Jasmine Coconut Rice

Do you ever have one of those weeks? One of those weeks where, for absolutely no reason at all, you seem to dwell more in your head than in your heart? I try to do everything I can to keep those weeks to a minimum, but last week….last week was one of those weeks. The thing I’ve learned about those weeks is you’re the only person on the planet who can bring yourself back into balance. So you have to dig deep into your arsenal of those things that make you feel like you even if it means reaching for every single tool you have. Eventually one will do the trick.

See that dinner above? That’s the one that did the trick. Although it was totally delicious that was just a bonus. A side effect of my pleasure. What truly did the trick was cutting the pineapple into tiny pieces, squeezing the last bit of juice from the perfect little limes, experimenting with simmering brown jasmine rice in coconut milk (a creamy, tropical-tasting success!), and getting lost in the stories of country crooners pouring from the speakers throughout our apartment.

I don’t know why and I don’t know how it worked. I just know that by the time I sat down to dinner it just did. My heart felt a little lighter. The room seemed a little brighter. And everything tasted a little sweeter.

I’m absolutely certain that this meal will bring you whatever you need. For some that may be dinner and for others it may be something more. I can also guarantee that even if the Sugarland Pandora station isn’t your thing it will still taste just as good : )

Spiced Tilapia with Pineapple Salsa
Serves 2

Ingredients 
1 pineapple, skin removed and flesh cut into small bite-sized chunks
1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, chopped
1 jalapeno, ribs removed, chopped, and keep as many seeds as you want for heat
1/2 cup cilantro, minced
1/2 red onion, chopped
Juice of 2 limes
Sprinkle of salt to taste
4 tilapia filets
Olive oil
Caribbean seasoning (my favorite is 365 Caribbean Barbecue Seasoning from Whole Foods)

Preparation
To make the pineapple salsa, combine ingredients pineapple through salt in a bowl. Mix with a spoon. Set aside.

For the fish, heat a pan on medium heat. Pat tilapia filets dry with a paper towel, brush one side of each filet with olive oil, sprinkle with seasoning. When pan is hot, place fish in pan seasoned side down. Brush the other side with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning. Cook two to three minutes, flip, and cook two to three minutes on the other side until fish is cooked through and flakes easily. Serve with pineapple salsa.

Brown Jasmine Coconut rice
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 cup brown jasmine rice
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup water

Preparation
Combine rice, coconut milk, and water in a pot. Bring to a boil. Stir, cover, and simmer for about 40 minutes until liquid is absorbed.