Monthly Archives: December 2013

Quinoa Pilaf with Shredded Chicken

Who here knows how to pronounce quinoa? Hint…it’s a little tricky: keen-wah. It’s worth knowing how to say though, since it’s worth eating. It’s technically a seed but is considered to be a whole grain and it contains all 9 essential amino acids so it’s a great source of protein and can be subbed in nicely for rice in many recipes, as with this one. Some people eat it for breakfast like oatmeal too.

I first heard of quinoa about 10 years ago but my first experience with it wasn’t great so I avoided trying it again, until I had a newborn son and learned that quinoa is a galactagogue meaning that it helps with breast milk production (no, it won’t cause you to lactate so don’t worry guys). So I decided to give it another try with this easy recipe with minimal hands-on attention needed, perfect for a new mom, or anyone busy, really. Using supermarket rotisserie chicken and frozen veggies cuts down on the prep work quite a bit too.

We’ve made this dinner a bunch of times since my son was itty bitty. In fact he ate some of it tonight too. It tastes a bit like fried rice but with slightly nuttier flavor. For vegetarians this would be great with tofu or as a side dish without the chicken. Since it is a complete protein you really don’t need the tofu or chicken but I think it would feel a bit incomplete without something else if serving as an entree. Enjoy! And feel free to bring a batch to a new mom. I bet she would appreciate it! It reheats really nicely too so you can enjoy leftovers for lunch the next day.

Quinoa Pilaf

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Quinoa Pilaf with Shredded Chicken (adapted from allrecipes.com)

2 tablespoons coconut oil (refined does not have a coconut flavor)

1 small onion, diced

2 cups mixed frozen vegetables (such as carrots, peas, corn, and green beans)

1 cup uncooked quinoa

2 cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence (or Italian seasoning)

1 cup shredded cooked chicken meat (such as rotisserie chicken meat)

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Heat the coconut oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

2. Once melted, add the onion and other vegetables and cook until soft.

3. Add in the quinoa, broth, and Herbes de Provence and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover the saucepan, and let simmer for 20 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa is soft.

4. Stir in the chicken and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Chocolate Mint Cookie Bites

I’ve been scoping out recipes for the holiday cookie season for a while and this one definitely caught my eye. Chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. Yippee! These little chocolate-y cups looked so appetizing to bring to my potluck luncheon at work. I modified the original recipe just a little bit to make them more festive by adding hints of mint to each stage of the baking process.

Chocolate Mint Cookie Cups

First I made the dough, which had 2 types of chocolate, both unsweetened cocoa powder and mini chocolate chips, which added moistness and extra rich chocolate flavor when they were baked. The mint here was from a half teaspoon of peppermint extract. After chilling the dough, I divided it into 48 portions and rolled each one into a ball, which I placed in a mini muffin tin.

Chocolate Mint Cookie Cups

After baking the cookies for 11 minutes, I let them cool in the pan briefly, then carefully removed them to cool further. A slight indentation for the topping started to form during cooling.

Chocolate Mint Cookie Cups

Once cooled, I topped the cookies with a little bit of minty frosting (could add an extra festive touch with a drop of green food coloring) and decorated with the mint M&Ms. The frosting helped the M&Ms to stick better, since I had to transport the cookies to work.

Chocolate Mint Cookie Cups

The recipe makes a whole bunch of cookies so it’s also great for a cookie exchange. These cookie cups are super rich and cake-like and were well enjoyed by the crew at work.

Chocolate Mint Cookie Cups

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Chocolate Mint Cookie Bites (adapted from Alida’s Kitchen and Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2009)

Yield: 48 cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon peppermint extract, divided

2 eggs

1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

nonstick cooking spray

2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

mint chocolate M&M candies

Directions:

1. Mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream 2 sticks (1 cup) of butter and the granulated and brown sugars until fluffy. Then add in the vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract. Add in the eggs one at a time, and beat after each addition.

3. Add the dry ingredients gradually to the the mixing bowl, beating on low until just combined. The dough will be thick. Add in the mini chocolate chips.

4. Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 30 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a mini-muffin pan with nonstick spray.

6. Divide the dough into 48 pieces and roll into balls. Place one ball into each muffin cup.

7. Bake for 9-11 minutes until the cookies are cooked through. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before carefully removing from the muffin tin.

8. While they are cooling prepare the frosting by combining the powdered sugar, 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of melted butter, 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract, and the milk in a small bowl.

9. Once the cookie cups are cooled, spread with frosting and decorate with M&Ms.

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Honey Glazed Chicken Stir Fry

Have I mentioned that prior to my blogging (okay, so prior to about a month ago) I took notes in the margins of my cookbooks? At first it felt a little taboo, you know, because you’re not supposed to write in books. But I’ve been doing it for a while actually. I have a cookbook my grandmother gave me in 1988 and I have notes in it from way back then. A little less wordy than here perhaps, but then again the internet has a little more room for words than the margins of that little book. Aside from the fun memories that come flooding back when look at one of those old books, my note taking has come in more handy as an adult actually cooking for myself, because as I’ve mentioned, I have nearly 150 cookbooks and I can’t remember what I’ve made before half the time and whether it was any good and worth making again. This recipe has one of those notations. It was 2009 when we last enjoyed this meal (May 18, 2009: “Veggies were tasty. Smelled like “real” Chinese food, but chicken was a little dry”) and it was worth reviving.

Honey Glazed Chicken Stir Fry

The nice thing about stir fries in general, and this one in particular, is that they’re a great way to use up odds and ends of produce hanging out in your fridge. When planning our dinners for the week this one was particularly appealing because it helped clean out the produce drawer and we already had all the ingredients on hand. This time around the chicken wasn’t dry, maybe because we used chicken thighs instead of breasts (or because I’m more comfortable with cooking chicken now such that I don’t overcook it to avoid giving my family Salmonella). Anyway, this meal is quick and really very healthy so I’m thinking I probably won’t wait 3 1/2 more years before serving it again. Next time I’m going to add some sautéed garlic and ginger to the veggies to boost the flavor further.

Honey Glazed Chicken Stir Fry

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Honey Glazed Chicken Stir Fry (adapted from Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook)

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves or thighs

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons orange juice

4 teaspoons soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4-6 cups cut up vegetables (such as broccoli, bell pepper, onion, carrots)

minced garlic and ginger to taste

rice, for serving

Directions:

1. Cut the chicken into small strips or cubes. Set aside.

2. Make the sauce by combining the honey, vinegar, orange juice, soy sauce, and cornstarch in a small bowl. Set aside.

3. In a large wok or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add in the cut up vegetables (plus garlic and ginger if using) and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until the vegetables are cooked but still crispy. Remove the vegetables from the wok.

4. Add the chicken to the wok and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink. Add in the sauce and stir continuously until the sauce thickens and bubbles slightly. Then add back in the vegetables and cook together for another minute.

5. Serve over rice.

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Crispy Tofu and Vegetables

The weekend totally got away from us with rainy weather, Gymboree class, work, and a birthday party and we never did make it to the supermarket. So I tried to plan our weekly menu around what we already had on hand, which included tofu and several bell peppers. This recipe is a longstanding favorite of ours. It’s quick and easy to make, even for tofu beginners. The tofu crisps up nicely and the soy sauce marinade with the cornbread crust has a great salty tang to it. The vegetables are crisp with mild flavor from the soy sauce and sesame oil, but you still enjoy their natural crunch and taste. Plus this is really nutritious and low in calories and fat so it’s a great light dinner.

Crispy Tofu and Vegetables

The original recipe calls for snow pea pods and 2 bell peppers; I omitted the snow peas and used an extra half bell pepper to bulk up the dish and add more color and flavor. Teriyaki sauce could be used in place of the soy sauce too, depending on which flavor you prefer. Definitely get everything prepared in advance so you don’t need to worry about cutting/coating/cooking all at once. Top with black or white sesame seeds and serve over rice. I was hoping for some leftovers for lunch tomorrow but no such luck. We love this dinner!

Crispy Tofu and Vegetables

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Crispy Tofu and Vegetables (adapted with minimal changes from Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook)

Yield: serves 4

1 12-16 ounce package extra firm tofu, drained

3 tablespoons soy sauce or teriyaki sauce, divided

1/4 cup yellow cornmeal

1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne pepper)

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided

2-3 bell peppers, assorted colors, sliced into thin strips

8 green onions, cut into 1-2 inch pieces

2 cups snow pea pods (optional), with strings/tips removed

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon white or black sesame seeds

Directions:

1. Cut tofu into slices, about 2 inches long. Place them in a baking dish and pour 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce over them. Flip to coat with the soy sauce and let marinate for 15 minutes.

2. In a shallow bowl, mix together the cornmeal and red pepper. Coat each piece of tofu with the cornmeal mixture and set aside.

3. Heat 1 teaspoon of sesame oil in a large wok over medium-high heat. Stir fry the peppers for 2 minutes then add the green onions and snow pea pods if using and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. They will still be crisp.

4. Remove the wok from the heat and add in the remaining tablespoon of soy sauce. Transfer the vegetables to a serving dish and ensure the wok is clean.

5. Heat another teaspoon of sesame oil in the wok, as well as the vegetable oil, over medium heat. Cook the breaded tofu for 2-3 minutes on each side; it will be crisp and golden. Serve over the vegetables and top with sesame seeds.

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Eggnog Muffins

This time of year eggnog starts gracing the shelves in the dairy case at the store. I like the flavor of eggnog but generally don’t drink a whole lot of it since it’s so rich and heavy. I’ve never used it for baking before but decided to try it out. My original plan was just to replace the milk or cream in regular muffins with eggnog but then I found this recipe for eggnog muffins and decided to give them a whirl. Success!

Eggnog Muffins

These muffins are really quick to throw together for a weekend breakfast or brunch and were so light and fluffy, and quite moist too with lovely hints of eggnog and nutmeg. My son was a huge fan as well..but no, I’m not going to start putting eggnog in his cups instead of milk though based on this, he’d probably like it if I did! While these muffins weren’t overly sweet to serve for breakfast, if you topped them with some kind of frosting, perhaps a spiced cream cheese frosting, or maybe even something with rum extract if you want to get really creative, you could probably get away with serving these as cupcakes at a holiday party.

Eggnog Muffins

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Eggnog Cupcakes (adapted with minimal modifications from Oberweis.com)

nonstick cooking spray

1 1/4 cup eggnog

5 tablespoons butter, melted

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated if available

2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

The Recipe

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Place 12 muffin cups into a muffin pan or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3. Whisk in the eggnog, butter, egg, and nutmeg. The batter should be mostly smooth, though may have a few lumps.

4. Divide the batter among the 12 muffin cups. Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.

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White Chocolate Peppermint Blondies

We’ve moved from pumpkin to peppermint around here, folks, and here’s a quick and easy recipe for a yummy dessert to share with friends or bring to a holiday party (or heck, enjoy for yourself). I previously shared a delicious blondie recipe in my Brownie Blondie Swirl post and decided to modify it slightly to fit the flavors of the current season. The great thing about this recipe is it basically uses one bowl, I don’t need to break out the Kitchen Aid mixer (hence fewer dishes to wash), and I was able to easily get it prepared after my son’s bedtime, leaving me more time for sleep watching Carrie Underwood in The Sound of Music. I love the original Sound of Music. I could (and do) watch it at least once a year on TV even though I own the DVD. But I digress…

White Chocolate Peppermint Blondies

This recipe is really a keeper. What a great use for White Chocolate Peppermint M&M’s! These blondies are thin and soft, chewy and buttery, with crisp M&Ms in each bite. Plus they look quite festive with the bright red and white candies dispersed throughout. I made them to give away but I’ll tell you, fresh out of the oven they were so good I halfway contemplated staying up even later to make another batch right away…thankfully I’ve got another bag of the M&Ms at the ready!

White Chocolate Peppermint Blondies

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White Chocolate Peppermint Blondies (modified slightly from Averie Cooks)

nonstick cooking spray

1 stick unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

1 large egg

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

9.9 ounce bag white chocolate peppermint M&M’s, divided

The Recipe

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line an 8×8 inch cake pan with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick spray.

2. In a mixing bowl, mix together the butter, egg, sugar, vanilla, and peppermint with a fork. Then stir in the flour until just combined. Add in 1 cup of the M&M’s.

3. Pour the batter in the pan, evening out the top with a spatula. Press the remaining M&M’s on top of the batter.

4. Bake for 23 minutes. They will still be soft and moist. Let cool in pan before slicing.

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Potato Latkes

When I was a little kid I used to count how many latkes, or potato pancakes, I could eat over the 8 days of Hanukkah; between school and various parties and home my annual latke count was pretty high! Now I don’t have the desire (or cholesterol) to indulge in quite so many latkes each year so the ones I do eat really need to be worth it. These latkes are my favorites by far, my Grandma Belle’s recipe. I can’t remember a Hanukkah yet where these weren’t part of the celebration at some point over the 8 days. I don’t know that there’s anything particularly unique about this recipe, but sometimes things are a tradition for a reason, right? No need to modify anything about these in my opinion. The only thing I’ve changed from Grandma’s recipe is I don’t grate the potatoes and onions by hand anymore. I used to, thinking it was sacrilege not to, but really, there’s nothing in the bible about skinned knuckles being part of the holiday, plus I really don’t have the time. Grating the potatoes in the food processor changes the appearance of the latkes a bit but there’s no difference in flavor. Enjoy with applesauce or sour cream.

Potato Latkes

And a side note, if you’ve never made latkes before…after you make the latkes, you’ll get to enjoy the smell of Hanukkah for several days as the fried latke scent permeates your home. It’s not Hanukkah without it though!

Potato Latkes

Potato Latkes

Yield: about 15 latkes

2 eggs

1 tablespoon vegetable oil plus more for frying

1 small onion

4 medium potatoes

1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

applesauce or sour cream for topping

The Recipe

1. In a large bowl beat together the eggs and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.

2. In a food processor, grate the onion and add to the bowl with the eggs. Then peel the potatoes and grate them in the food processor. Both the onion and potatoes can be grated by hand if no food processor is available. Drain the potatoes thoroughly; squeezing as much liquid out as possible will result in crispy latkes. Add the drained potatoes to the egg mixture.

3. Stir in the flour, salt, and baking powder until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

4. Heat 1/4 inch of vegetable oil in deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Test the oil to see if it is hot enough by putting a small amount of the batter in; if the oil sizzles it is ready. Spoon heaping tablespoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil and flatten slightly. Cook until golden on one side, then flip and cook until golden on the other side.

5. Place on a paper towel to soak up any extra oil. Serve with applesauce or sour cream.

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