Baked Sesame Chicken

It has been such a busy and eventful week, and I must admit that I am super excited for this weekend as well – but mostly because I get to finally meet my best friend’s baby! I am so excited to meet the sweet little bundle of joy. I have been basically chomping at the bit for the past two weeks to do so. ;)

In less exciting and non related news, my husband and I had our good friend over for dinner a few weeks ago and made this baked sesame chicken by Oh Sweet Basil.
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Originally I was going to make Thai Chicken Soup (which I still need to post on the blog), but after I dumped everything into the slow cooker, I realized that the chicken broth contained an ingredient that our friend can’t eat. So, after a momentary freak out, I whipped up the dish by Oh Sweet Basil, and my husband and I enjoyed the soup on a different night. I must admit, this whole “be flexible” thing is kinda hard, but I’m doing what I can.

I did have a few issues with this recipe. I had to substitute flour instead of cornstarch, due to my friend’s food restrictions, and it just was a big clump. When I mixed it into the saucepan, it just stayed clumpy, no matter how hard I whisked it, so I ended up just spooning out the flour clumps. I’m sure it would be better with cornstarch.

Also – please only use low sodium soy sauce! The original blogger specifies to not use regular soy sauce. I only have regular soy sauce (thanks to buying in bulk at Costco), so I combined 3 parts soy sauce and 1 part water (my mom has always sworn that low-sodium soy sauce is just watered down), and that worked out really well. Even so, it was almost to the border of “too salty.” I know I’m infamous for being a salt-hater, but even my salt-loving husband said that any more salt would have been unpleasant. I guess the blogger really knew what she was talking about!
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Baked Sesame Chicken

serves 4-6

Ingredients:
For the chicken:
-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
11.5cu panko breadcrumbs
-canola oil for drizzling
-Salt and pepper, to taste
For the sesame sauce:
-1tbsp sesame oil, divided
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-2tsp ground ginger
-1tsp chili paste, or 1tsp sweet chili sauce
-1 pinch red pepper flakes
-1/2cu chicken stock
-3/4cu low sodium soy sauce
-1/3cu honey
-1/4cu rice wine vinegar
-1/3cu brown sugar, packed
-2tbsp cornstarch
-2tbsp water
-sesame seeds, toasted for garnish

Directions:
-Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees.
-Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Season the chicken with a little salt and pepper and then dredge in the panko bread crumbs until they are evenly coated. Place on the baking sheet, drizzle with a little oil and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until cooked through.
-Meanwhile, in a sauce pan over medium heat, add the sesame oil, ginger, chili paste, and pepper flakes and stir for a few seconds then quickly add the stock, soy sauce, honey, vinegar and brown sugar. Let it come to a boil while stirring frequently. In a small dish, whisk together the cornstarch and water. Once the saucepan mixture is boiling, slowly add the cornstarch mixture, stirring until thickened. Once thick, pour over chicken and top with sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Sloppy Joe Tacos

I have weird tastes. I am fully aware of this. So much so, that I had no shame while making (and devouring) these sloppy joe tacos by Gimme Some Oven.  I love sloppy joes and I love tacos and I love fusion! This happened because I was going through my Pinterest recipes one day, deciding what to make for dinner (I’ve been really bad at meal-planning ahead lately), and realized I had basically all of the ingredients at home already. I decided to forego the red bell pepper, because they were really expensive at the grocery store and my husband doesn’t like them anyway.
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This recipe is really good!!  You can basically make anything into a taco (or pizza, as I have done many times before, as well!) and the outcome is almost always fabulous. For my friends that don’t like sloppy joes (yes, I mean you, Alysha!), I highly recommend that you give it a shot and throw it into a taco! It has some normal fixings you’d find in tacos (ground beef, onion, etc.) plus the addition of the sauce that makes it a “sloppy joe” and topped with shredded cheese. Seriously – how does that sound bad? ;) ;)
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Sloppy Joe Tacos

serves about 6

Ingredients:
-1tbsp olive oil
-1lb lean ground beef
-1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
-1 small red bell pepper, cored and diced
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-2cu tomato sauce
-2tbsp packed brown sugar
-1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
-1tsp chili powder
-pinch of salt and pepper, to taste
-hard crunchy taco shells
-optional toppings: shredded Mexican cheese, chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream, diced avocado, etc.

Directions:
-Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and cook until browned, breaking up the beef and stirring occasionally. Drain off as much excess fat as you can and discard it.
-Return the skillet to the heat, and add the onion, red bell pepper and garlic to it. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent, stirring occasionally.
-Meanwhile, While the veggies are cooking, whisk together in a bowl, the tomato sauce, brown sugar, worcestershire, and chili powder until combined. Once the veggies are done, add the tomato sauce mixture to the ground beef and stir until combined. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes (you may need to cover the pan to avoid red sauce splattering the stove). Season with salt and pepper, then remove from heat.
-Place the sloppy joe filling inside the taco shells and top with your desired accompaniments.

Teriyaki Tuna Steaks w/ Wasabi Dipping Mayo

Tuna (unless it’s from a can) seems most indicative of a fancy restaurant menu, and less so of being seen on a plate at your own kitchen table, amirite? But seriously – who doesn’t love classy meals from the comfort of their own kitchen? And for a fraction of the cost!
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Not too long ago, I made these Teriyaki Tuna Steaks with Wasabi Mayo by Reel Flavor and it was AMAZING. It was such an easy and simple recipe, and aside from the marinating, it was so quick! I love that. I really do not have a single bone to pick with this recipe, as it was, like I said, amazing. Seriously. Well…I must admit that I did cook the tuna a bit longer than the original blogger recommends to do. I made seared ahi tuna awhile back, and it was, well, disgusting inside, so I had to cook it a few minutes longer, to the desired raw-ness (if that makes sense). I recalled that this time around, and instead of searing for 30-45 seconds on each side, I seared for about 1.5 minutes on each side (as an aside, Reel Flavor does not say what temperature to sear at, so I chose medium-medium high).
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As you can see in the pictures above and below, even cooking a few seconds longer kept it pink and somewhat raw in the center. Unless your stove varies heavily from mine (which could be the case), it will not overcook it. I also made sure the pan was already hot before setting the steaks into.

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Also, I would say it is perhaps just easier and cheaper to buy wasabi mayo, instead of making your own. In any case, I have basically an entire tube of wasabi paste in my fridge now…I should look up how long it takes to go bad…
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Teriyaki Tuna Steaks with Wasabi Mayo

serves 4

Ingredients:
For the tuna
-1cu teriyaki sauce
-4 green onions, chopped
-1/3cu olive oil
-3 cloves garlic, chopped
-1tsp ground ginger
-ground black pepper, to taste
-4 tuna steaks
For the wasabi mayo
-wasabi paste, to taste
-mayo, to taste

Directions:
-Mix together all ingredients in a bowl, then add tuna. Marinate for 30 minutes or more.
-Sear the tuna steaks in a skillet on medium to medium high heat for about 1.5 minutes on each side (more or fewer minutes to your liking). Pour sauce over the steaks as they are cooking.
-Mix together wasabi and mayo to your liking and set aside.
-Serve tuna hot, with the wasabi mayo for dipping.

Homemade Zuppa Toscana

I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I really do love the Olive Garden. My husband and I usually only go there when we get a gift card, or if we are randomly craving soup, salad, and breadsticks. Speaking of the breadsticks, we have debated several times which is better, OG breadsticks or Red Lobster biscuits (which, we also only go to Red Lobster when we get a gift card, which seems to be often…). Mmm. Totally craving all of that right now.
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Also speaking of soup at the Olive Garden, while I love most of them, zuppa toscana is just my FAVOURITE. I mean, how could it not be? It is fully of amazingness – ground sausage, not too overly cooked kale, potato, cream…oh so heavenly. I also have been discovering several knockoff (aka homemade) zuppa toscana recipes, which I just love! This sausage, potato, and kale soup from The Pioneer Woman is no different – and who doesn’t adore the pioneer woman? ;)

Does it still count as a different recipe, if each version is basically the same, just tweaked very slightly to that particular chef or blogger’s taste? I think so. Yes. Because I would like to keep making it all the time! ;)
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I made a few minor changes, but basically to suit my own needs – I used regular ground pork sausage (it was leftover from my brother’s pig – mmmm homegrown pork) and russet potatoes (as they were given to me by my M-i-L and I needed to use them up). I also altered the milk, cream, and half’n’half ratio, as I didn’t have the appropriate amounts of them all (I think I mixed heavy cream with the half’n’half, and used nonfat milk). Also, I used only one head of kale, since I actually reduced the liquid ingredients a little (it calls for 12 servings). I will post the instructions as originally written, and feel free to alter to your own needs! =)

The best part of making so much amazing soup? LEFTOVERS!!!
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Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup (aka Homemade Zuppa Toscana)

serves a lot

Ingredients:
-2 bunches kale, cut into bite-size pieces
-12 small red potatoes, sliced thin
-1 onion, chopped
-1.5lbs Italian sausage
-1/2tsp red pepper flakes
-2cu low sodium chicken broth
-2cu whole milk
-4cu half-and-half
-splash of heavy cream
-fresh or dried oregano
-black pepper, to taste

Directions:
-Rise and chop the kale, then set aside.
-In a medium pot. boil sliced potatoes until tender, then drain and set aside.
-In a large pot, crumble and brown the Italian sausage, drain the fat, stir in the red pepper flakes, oregano, chicken broth, milk, and half-and-half. Simmer for 30 minutes.
-Taste the soup and adjust the flavouring as needed. Then add the potatoes, a splash of heavy cream for richness, and stir in the kale. Simmer an additional 5-10 minutes, then serve.

Chicken and Dumplings

A few days before Christmas Eve, I decided to make these chicken and dumplings by Eat at Home for dinner. My nieces were staying at my mom’s house, and they came over for a bit so that my mom could go grocery shopping. It turned out to be a huge blessing, as my 9 year old niece is the reason this dish even turned out semi-successful!
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First of all, I have never made dumplings before. But I saw the short and simple ingredient list and thought this would be a great home-cooked meal to throw together, with ingredients that most people already have on-hand. I cooked the chicken ahead of time, sprinkled with garlic salt (which was a really smart choice, since the rest of the dish would be somewhat bland without – though ours had a bit of salt, since I wasn’t using low-sodium broth). Oh, and the chicken got both of my nieces stamps of approval. ;)
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But…the dumplings. First of all, cutting butter into dry ingredients then mashing with a fork doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. Don’t even pretend it does. I tried SO MANY TIMES (including rolling out into dough, realizing there were just huge chunks of butter, then mashing more). In the end, there were still chunks of butter in the rolled out dough, but after the huge mess of all the flour, etc., I just didn’t care enough to fix it that time. Also, it was so sticky. Like, REALLY STICKY. No amount of flour in the world would fix that. But my sweet, little niece, she worked at it and worked at it and was able to spread out the dough and then we were able to cut it, though it started to get overly sticky again, and I had to heavily flour the knife.
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Also, my niece had a great time shredding the chicken and arranging it on the plate. I should hire her or something! She is quite the kitchen helper.

In the end, it was more like chicken’n’dumpling-mush. That sounds gross, but it wasn’t. It actually did end up being pretty tasty, but it was not quite the way it should have been. Have any of you made dumplings before? I am quite intrigued now!
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Homemade Chicken and Dumplings

serves

Ingredients:
-2cu cooked chicken (I baked with garlic salt)
-4-6cu chicken broth
-2cu flour
-2tbsp butter
-1/2tsp baking powder
-about a cup of milk

Directions:
-In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or pastry blender. Stir in the milk, mixing with a fork until the dough forms a ball (better idea – use a hand beater or electric one).
-Heavily flour a work surface, then roll the dough out thin with a heavily floured rolling pin. Dip your cutter in flour and cut the dumplings in squares about 2″x2″.
-Use a floured spatula to put them on a heavily floured plate. Just keep flouring between the layers of dumplings.
-Bring the broth to a boil and drop the dumplings in one at a time, stirring while you add them. The extra flour on them will help thicken the broth. Cook them for about 15-20 minutes or until they not doughy tasting (mine took 25 or so minutes). Add the cooked chicken to the pot and heat through, then serve.

-Tip: You can also freeze the uncooked dumplings for later!

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

I had a fun and food-filled weekend (more on that in coming posts!)…and also discovered the British comedy Coupling (which is a far raunchier version of Friends, if you will). My husband, our good friend, and I watched the first two episodes on Saturday night, and I think we are hooked! Well, our friend was already hooked, but now my husband and I are, too.
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It has also been raining a lot here (welcome to the Pacific Northwest, amirite?). Dreary weather really does call for delicious comfort food, and who doesn’t love homemade mac’n’cheese? Seriously, if you don’t, then we can’t be friends. ;);)

I made this skillet creamy macaroni and cheese by Life as a Lofthouse last month and it DID turn out so creamy and yummy! Mac’n’cheese can be difficult sometimes, but this actually worked pretty well. I decided I didn’t want to overload too much on carbs (please ingore the hotdog bun…at least it’s whole wheat!), so I turned this into a side dish and made our favourite Aidell’s chicken sausages as the main dish. I also got to use the pretty bowls my mom got me! Win-win.
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Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

serves about 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side dish

Ingredients:
-3.5cu water
-1 (12oz) can evaporated milk
-12oz elbow macaroni
-1/2tsp salt
-1tsp cornstarch
-1/2tsp dry mustard
-3cu shredded sharp cheddar cheese
-2tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
-ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
-Bring 3.5 cups of water, 1 cup of the evaporated milk, the macaroni, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a simmer in a large skillet over high heat. Continue to cook at a vigorous simmer, stirring often, until the macaroni is tender and the liquid has thickened, about 12 minutes.
-In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining evaporated milk, cornstarch and dry mustard. Stir that mixture into the skillet, then continue to simmer for another minute or so, until it begins to thicken.
-Remove the skillet from the heat and gradually stir in the 3 cups of cheddar cheese, just a handful at a time. Stir well until the cheese is melted, then stir in the pieces of butter and season with black pepper. Serve immediately.

Lighter Chicken Enchiladas

I love Martha Stewart. She’s basically a cooking and organizational goddess in my book. But recently, she kinda failed me. A few weeks ago, I made these lighter chicken enchiladas by good ol’ MS, and later referenced to it on Facebook.
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To be clear, the recipe and dish itself was not a failure – the final product was quite good – and you’d truly never know that it’s “light.” BUT, her instruction on how to cook the chicken failed miserably and ended up taking forever to make this dish. She said to basically steam the chicken, and I had never done that before, so I followed her instruction to a tee, and ended up with not even half-done chicken. Like…the ENTIRE center was still raw and pink. Therefore, I had to kick up the oven and bake for about 30 more minutes until it was done. It really irritated me for several reasons. One, baking chicken is not unhealthy, so it would have been just as easy to do that in the first place. Two, it wasted a lot of time. I spent 20 minutes on the steaming method, then had to spend an additional 30+ minutes actually cooking the chicken, when it didn’t work. It would have been so much easier, and less time consuming, to just bake it to begin with.
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In any case, I digress. As long as you don’t steam your chicken (or maybe you have a tried-and-true steaming method – if so, please share!!), you will be fine, because like I said, the final product was truly quite delightful! Also, I omitted the chiles, because I didn’t want to buy a whole can just to use a small amount (hate that), plus my husband doesn’t like peppers.

Side note: I apologize for the terrible pictures. It’s kind of difficult to take a flattering photo of enchiladas!
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Lighter Chicken Enchiladas

serves 4

Ingredients:
-coarse salt and ground pepper
-3 small boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I used 2 large ones instead)
-2tbsp vegetable oil
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-1/4cu all-purpose flour
-1tsp ground cumin
-1 to 2tbsp minced canned chipotles in adobo
-1 can (14.5oz) reduced-sodium chicken broth
-corn tortillas (6-inch)
-1/2cu grated Monterey Jack cheese

Directions:
-To cook the chicken, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook chicken for about 30-40mins, or until done (I like to cut my chicken into smaller pieces about halfway through, to cook better, and makes it easier to shred/cut later). I lightly seasoned mine with salt and pepper.
-While chicken is cooking, make the sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Then add flour, cumin, and chipotles in adobo and cook, while whisking, for about 1 minute. Then whisk in the broth and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce it to a simmer, and cook, whisking occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
-Once the chicken is done, shred it with your hands or with forks, and toss it with 1/2 to 1 cup of the finished sauce, making sure to fully coat all of the chicken.
-Pour 1/4 cup sauce into bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish and set aside. Stack tortillas, and wrap in a double layer of damp paper towels; microwave until hot, about 1 minute (this helps make them pliable – you can also follow package instructions or your own method for making corn tortillas pliable). Fill each tortilla with chicken mixture, roll up tightly, and set it, seam-side down, in the baking dish. Do this for each tortilla, then cover with the remaining sauce, and top with cheese.
-Bake until hot and bubbling, about 15 to 20 minutes. Let it cool 5 minutes before serving.