Monthly Archives: June 2009

Pan-Fried Trout and Winner of Giveaway!

P1010019For the past few days, I have truly been craving fish. This is a rarity for me, not because I don’t enjoy fish. I do. But I don’t usually seek it out. In all honesty, we don’t consume as much fish as we probably should, even. So I opted to go outside of the “planned” menu for the week, and I dashed off to the store to pick up some nice fish.

Lucky for me, Sprouts had some fresh trout at a reasonable price. I picked some up, and wandered the produce area in order to determine what would be our side dish. I found some asparagus spears, which I planned to prepare with lemon zest and olive oil (inspired by Elise’s recipe over at Simply Recipes), and some fennel, tangerines, and mixed greens for a refreshing Orange Fennel Salad. This would be a wonderfully light dinner, perfect for a scorcher of a day. (The temperature on the signs at the high school and a church on the way home read 106 and 111 degrees!)

This trout is so easy, it hardly needs a recipe. You could, of course, add additional herbs or spices to the recipe, but we thoroughly enjoyed it with little adornment. Although this was our Saturday night meal, it could easily become a weeknight regular. In a matter of minutes, dinner was ready. And what a delicious dinner too, the fish was light, moist, and flavorful.

1 lb trout fillets (skin-on, preferably)

salt and pepper

zest of 1/2 lemon

1 T olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

Season the fillets with salt and pepper on skin side, and salt, pepper, and zest on other side. Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat, and add olive oil. Swirl olive oil around pan to coat. Add trout fillets, skin side down, into pan. Allow to fry for about 2-3 minutes, or until the edges begin to cook through. Carefully flip fillets and cook for another minute, or until flesh becomes opaque. Remove from pan, and squeeze lemon juice over fillets. Serves 2-3.

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the giveaway! Using a random number generator, the winner of the free yogurt coupons and cookbook was  ValleyWriter over at Adventures in the Pioneer Valley! Congratulations!

Gluten-Free

Carlsbad 062Well, friends, you may notice some changes in the recipes I post in the coming weeks/months. After some consideration and discussions with family and doctors, I have decided to try a gluten-free diet.

You see, for as long as I can remember, I’ve had a “touchy” stomach. I’ve visited doctors in the past regarding it, but have never seemed to find a solution to alleviate my troubles. As I have several immediate family members that are gluten intolerant, I asked doctors about the possibility. They conducted a blood test. It was negative. And so it was decided that this was not the issue (In spite of the fact that many celiacs show negative on the blood tests). The medications that were given to me didn’t work, so I had resolved to “put up with it,” and moved on. My discomfort was an inconvenience, but that was all. 

Over the past year, however, I felt that my body was changing. More “inconveniences” cropped up. Fatigue. Increased “tummy” issues. Heartburn. Tingling, numb fingers. And the brain fog…I couldn’t concentrate. It was like someone had covered my eyes with a blanket. I was eating healthily, loads of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, and I rarely ate processed foods.  But I haven’t felt well. I visited the doctor again. Other than a vitamin B12 deficiency, he did not find anything wrong with me.

After discussing this with family, I opted to visit a gastroenterologist, one that is aware of celiac disease. I have an appointment next month. Hopefully together we can find some answers.

In the meanwhile, since many of my symptoms could point to a gluten intolerance, I opted to go gluten-free. It certainly won’t harm me, and I might just find my way down the road to feeling well again.

What is celiac disease, you might ask? Celiac disease, or gluten intolerance, is a genetic autoimmune disorder of the small intestine. It is caused by a reaction to  gliadin, a gluten protein found in wheat, rye, barley, durum, graham, semolina, bulgur, spelt, farro, and kamut. Commercial oats also contain gluten due to cross-contamination with wheat in processing. (Find out more information at the Celiac Disease Foundation.) The remedy? A gluten-free diet.

What, no wheat? This means no wheat flour, right? No bread? What can you eat, then?

The gluten-free diet for celiacs is a lifelong diet, and many are overwhelmed with the limitations. To go gluten-free, for most people, means re-thinking the way you eat.

But there is a lot I can eat. It’s easiest to start with whole, unprocessed foods. (The way I enjoy eating anyway!) Fresh, all-natural chicken. A juicy, meaty steak. Fresh eggs. Steamed broccoli. Baked squash. And this time of year, sweet strawberries, blackberries, or a peach, dripping with sweet juice. Steamed brown rice, or a creamy risotto, can be comforting. I do feel lucky, however, that due to the presence of this condition in my family, I have already educated myself on what is gluten-free, for the most part. I’m also thankful that I have a great blog family that includes a wealth of gluten-free people – I may be relying on you all for support and answers to questions!

Fortunately, many retailers are becoming savvy about gluten-free diets, and are selling many gluten-free products. There are rice pastas, gluten-free cookies and crackers, and baking mixes. One day soon, I hope to delve into gluten-free baking with the wealth of alternative flours available.

So, my friends, you will see plenty of gluten-free recipes appear on this blog. In fact, I have already categorized quite a few existing recipes as gluten-free.  Many will be naturally gluten-free, some will be altered in order to accomodate my needs. But I will promise you one thing. Those recipes definitely won’t be compromising on taste.

Salmon Cilantro Burgers

041So the other day, I’m flipping through my magazines and MyRecipes.com, looking for easy weeknight dinners. (This is a recurring theme on the weekend for me, just prior to the weekly grocery trip.) I came across this recipe. A recipe that for whatever reason, I would normally pass by without a second glance. What made me pause and consider it this time? It’s all about mindset, I suppose. I was in the mood to break out of my rut. (The rut that has, at times, caused my husband to tease me, saying “Chicken, again?”) This recipe looked intriguing to me when I read it, so I made it a point to add it to the following week’s menu. We don’t normally have a lot of seafood, aside from shrimp, so this was definitely a change of pace for us. And change is good, right?

I thought so, I thoroughly enjoyed these! The burgers were light, with flavorful punches of cilantro and just the slightest bit of heat from the jalapeños. And the dressing was cool and refreshing, a perfect compliment to the juicy salmon burger. John wasn’t so enthusiastic. (Then again, hamburgers, for him, mean beef, with cheese on top, maybe some chili, but a burger shouldn’t be made from salmon or have “weird” stuff on it.) Oh well, more for me! I ate leftovers the following night – and wasn’t disappointed in the least. They made a perfect summer meal.

These burgers work well cooked on a George Foreman grill, a grill pan, or in a frying pan with a touch of oil or cooking spray. They are delicate patties, however, so take care when turning. We enjoyed them with a simple side of steamed broccoli, but a side salad would also work really well here.

For the dressing:

1/4 c mayonnaise

1 T chopped fresh cilantro

1 T fresh lime juice

pinch salt

pinch ground black pepper

Combine ingredients for dressing in small bowl. Cover and chill.

For the patties:

1 lb salmon fillet, skinned and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 c dry breadcrumbs

2 T chopped fresh cilantro

2 T chopped green onions

1 T chopped seeded jalapeño pepper

2 T fresh lime juice

1/2 t salt

1/4 t ground black pepper

Place salmon in a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Add breadcrumbs and remainder of ingredients and pulse 4 times or until well blended. Divide salmon mixture into 4 equal portions. Shape into patties, about 3/4 inch thick each. Refrigerate until pan is heated and ready.

Cooking spray

4 whole wheat hamburger buns

12 slices (1/4 in thick) cucumber

4 leaf lettuce leaves

Heat a grill pan to medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add patties to pan and cook 2 minutes. Carefully turn patties, cook 2 minutes or until done.

Spread about 1 T mayonnaise mixture on each bun, spreading it more thickly on the bottom half. Top each with salmon patty, 3 cucumber slices, 1 lettuce leaf, and then top of bun.

Serves 4.

Don’t forget! You only have until June 27, 2009 to enter your comments for your chance to win in my giveaway! Check it out!

Sautéed Fresh Okra with Jalapeños

075In case you haven’t already guessed, I am a native Texan. Born and raised. However, my parents are not. My mother spent most of her childhood in Washington, Montana, and Colorado, and my father grew up in the Denver area. No offense to them, but they have never truly understood the delight of certain southern and Texan foods. Biscuits and gravy? Dr. Pepper? Grits? Blackeyed peas? All foods I have grown to adore, but to my parents? These are strange foods that are, let’s say, just not among their favorites. Another food of controversy is okra, which I happen to love.

Most okra around here is served battered and deep-fried. Coming from a part of the country that deep-fries everything, including Coke, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and ice cream, that’s not much of a surprise. Not that I’m knocking fried okra. Believe me, I could eat bucketloads of this stuff. But when I pick up some fresh, whole okra pods from the farmer’s market, they usually beg for me to enjoy them in a simpler, (also healthier) way. A quick sauté in olive oil, garlic, and jalapeños produces crisp-tender okra pods that are bursting with flavor. The best part, in my opinion, is that preparing the okra in this manner allows the okra to cook without becoming slimy and mushy. (Both not positive attributes, unless you’re preparing a gumbo.) It also takes just a few minutes to prepare, making it an excellent last-minute side dish.

So excellent, in fact, you might be able to convert some non-okra-lovers!

2 T olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small jalapeño, sliced

1 lb fresh okra pods, rinsed and stems trimmed

Salt and pepper

Heat a large frying pan to medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat, only for a minute. Add garlic and sauté for a minute, and add jalapeños. Sauté for another minute or two, and add okra pods. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, or until okra pods are tender enough to pierce with a fork. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Serves 4, unless you really, really love okra, (like I do) and then it might serve 2.

Don’t forget! You only have until June 27, 2009 to enter your comments for your chance to win in my giveaway! Check it out!

Rosemary Roast Chicken

Food 1817I have a love/hate relationship with Texas summers. The hate part – it’s not even July yet and we’re already dealing with near-100 degree temps. I’m not ready yet for the heat. You would think, after spending my entire life in Texas, I would get used to it, but I never do. I simply wish I had a swimming pool in our backyard so I could spend my days lazily relaxing in the cool water. Until then, I retreat to the cool A/C in our house and hope October arrives soon.

Then there’s the love part. What’s to love? The farmer’s markets are overflowing with so much bounty, I feel like it’s Christmas! There are squashes galore, onions, beets, blackeyed peas, herbs, and even the tomatoes are beginning to arrive with regularity. I have to exercise control when I visit, so that I don’t purchase more than I can handle, but boy, it’s a treat!

One of my new favorite vendors at the McKinney Farmer’s Market, though, is not a farmer. You see, there is a little ranch not too terribly far from me called Rehoboth Ranch. Rehoboth Ranch raises grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured poultry and Berkshire pork, without antibiotics or other drugs, without growth hormones, without chemicals. There are no confinement houses for any of the animals, and the beef and lamb are never fed grain. These are happy animals, folks. And happy animals mean happier (’cause the meat is so delicious!), healthier people. The quality of the meat and poultry that comes from Rehoboth Ranch is simply superb. On Saturday, I purchased a fresh chicken.

How do you prepare superb chicken? This is the time that simplicity is key. You don’t need to season with a lot of complex spices, and you don’t need a heavy sauce. Pastured, happy chicken such as this is tender and flavorful without much adornment. So, as much as I realize I have already posted a recipe on roast chicken, I think I need to share one that is simpler, but perhaps even more tasty. This recipe is perfect for a premium chicken such as the one I had on hand. It takes virtually no time to prepare before throwing in the oven. And the flavor? Unbeatable. The skin turns out so perfectly salty and crisp, and the bird is incredibly juicy. (Whatever you do, please don’t throw away the skin. I don’t care that you’re on a diet, this is the best part!) Since I have the oven on already, I usually roast some fresh squash or zucchini to serve on the side. (I manage to squeeze in a small dish alongside the chicken!) With very little work, a perfect dinner is served. And it was well worth heating up the kitchen, even in the summertime!

What you’ll need:

1 chicken, preferably naturally raised

salt and pepper

2-3 sprigs rosemary, broken into small 1-2 inch pieces (you could also use a different herb, such as thyme or sage, if you choose)

To prepare the chicken for roasting:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator, and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels. Do a thorough job, as water will only steam the chicken, and you won’t get a crispy skin. Season all over with salt and pepper, seasoning a bit more on the fleshiest parts, such as the breasts and thighs. Place rosemary sprigs all over chicken, gently patting them so that they “stick” to the skin. If you have extra sprigs, you’re welcome to throw them in the cavity at this point. Truss the legs, and tuck the wings under.

Place the chicken on a roasting pan, with a rack, breast-side up. (if you don’t have a rack, you can place the chicken atop some celery and carrot sticks, just so long as the chicken has the opportunity to get some air underneath it. More air underneath chicken = more even browning and more crispy, delicious skin.) Place in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, or until skin is browned. Turn oven down to 375 degrees, and continue roasting until juices run clear, about another 30-45 minutes or so. Check it regularly as it’s nearing done, you don’t want to overcook the bird, or the breast will be dry. Remove the chicken from the oven.

Rest the chicken for 15 minutes, tented with foil. Carve and serve.

Don’t forget! You only have until June 27, 2009 to enter your comments for your chance to win in my giveaway! Check it out!

Organic Greek Yogurt, Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Cake, and a Giveaway!

042That’s right, my first giveaway on this blog! I am as excited as you are, let me tell you! Recently, a representative at Stonyfield Farm contacted me to ask if they could send some coupons my way, and to ask if I would be interested in trying Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt, and letting you all know what I thought of it. Let’s see…Free yogurt? As I already incorporate Greek yogurt into my breakfast routine on a regular basis, of course my answer was a resounding YES!

But of course, I am always thinking of you, my readers…so I asked if I could share the love, and if Stonyfield Farm would be interested in sharing some free yogurt with you as well. And guess what the answer to that was? (Yes, of course.) More details at the end of this post on that, but be sure to read and enter comments for your chance to win!

To be honest, I love yogurt. But let’s be clear…I don’t love the artificially colored and flavored junk. I don’t care if it has less sugar, less calories, etc. It also has less taste. And you know, life’s too short to eat crappy yogurt. I get up way too early in the mornings to want to face a less-than-tasty breakfast.

Enter Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is strained, making it thicker than regular yogurt. Not only does that make it more versatile in recipes, (such as the cake recipe I’ll also be sharing with you) but it also gives it an incredibly creamy texture. This means that even the fat-free yogurt has the texture of a silky, sinful dessert. And Oikos Organic Greek yogurt is organic, (hence the name…) so it is made without artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners, not to mention it is free of pesticides, antibiotics, chemical fertilizers, and artificial growth hormones. What could be better than that?

I picked up a few containers of the fat-free Oikos Greek yogurt, and immediately served myself up a portion of it. My current favorite way to eat it? Just a little drizzle of honey, and topped with some fresh raspberries and blackberries. Yum. Creamy, silky, and with just enough tang to perfectly compliment the sweet honey and the sweet-tart berries.

Of course, Greek yogurt is good for more than just eating. You can use it in place of sour cream or mayonnaise in a lot of recipes. I haven’t used yogurt in a lot of my cooking previously, so I thought I’d look around a bit for a few ideas. Deb at Smitten Kitchen  posted a lemon blueberry cake that sounded so perfectly delicious, I immediately knew I had to bake that ASAP. The recipe originally comes from Ina Garten. I happened to have an overabundance of blueberries (I went a little overboard at the farmer’s market), so decided to go ahead and make the recipe pretty much as written, substituting the fat-free Greek yogurt for plain whole-milk yogurt.

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This cake? OMG. First of all, I am partial to any baked goods that involve fruit, and particularly lemon, but this? This was amazing. So moist, and just enough tang and tartness from the lemon and blueberries, but with just enough sweetness to balance everything out. Don’t be fooled by its humble appearance. It’s not just any ol’ loaf cake. This cake is the type of cake that if you happen to bring it over to someone as a “Oh, I just happened to bake this for you” cake, you’ll be begged for the recipe. (or begged to make the cake again and again!) It’s the “Okay, I’ll have just one more piece” cake. It’s that one kind of cake that you’ll crave that isn’t chocolate. Yes, my friends, it’s that kind of cake.

Of course, you could change up this recipe to incorporate just about any kind of fruit. Don’t like blueberries? Omit them, maybe add some poppyseeds, and make a lemon poppyseed cake. Or add raspberries, or pitted cherries. Omit the lemon and make it a plain cake. Change it up by using almond extract instead of vanilla. It’s difficult to mess this one up. Let your imagination run wild!

1 1/2 c + 1 T  flour (if you’re skipping the fruit, you can also skip the last tablespoon of flour)
2 t baking powder
1/2 t kosher salt
1 c fat-free Greek yogurt
1 c plus 1 T sugar
3 large eggs
2 t grated lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons)
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 1/2 c blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and rinsed (the smaller the berries, the better)
1/3 c freshly squeezed lemon juice (approximately 2 lemons)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, being careful not to overmix. Mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 (+) minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before flipping out onto a cooling rack. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in (a pastry brush works great for this, as does using a toothpick to make tiny holes that draw the syrup in better). Cool.

And of course, as promised, the giveaway! Stonyfield Farm has so generously offered to give the winner a coupon for 1 free 16 oz. Oikos yogurt, 2 free 5.3 oz. Oikos yogurts, and $4 worth of other Stonyfield coupons. But as if free food isn’t already cool enough, I’ll sweeten the deal a bit more! I will also send the winner a very, very gently used copy of Marian Burros’ Cooking for Comfort: More than 100 Wonderful Recipes That Are as Satisfying to Cook as They Are to Eat. Marian Burros is a veteran food writer/columnist for the New York Times, and definitely has a soft spot for comfort foods. (so many of us do!) There are some delicious recipes in this book that you’re sure to enjoy.  

How to enter: Please leave a comment for me, and tell me your favorite way to eat yogurt, or your favorite way to use it in cooking. I will choose a winner from the comments using a random number generator, and will email the winner to obtain their mailing address at that time. Deadline is June 27, 2009. Good luck everyone, and I can’t wait to hear some yummy ideas for Greek yogurt!

Kids in the Kitchen: Steak with Parsley Garlic Herb Butter

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This week, it was Brandan’s turn to cook dinner. The excitement building, Brandan has changed his mind a few times over the past few weeks on what to prepare. Lasagna? Steak? Lobster? Steak AND lobster? (Okay, so I vetoed the lobster. Gotta keep these “Kids in the Kitchen” things under budget!) After deliberation, (and explaining why we couldn’t do lobster) we finally agreed on a simple, but satisfying meal of grilled steak, baked potatoes, and green beans.

Honestly, I don’t usually prepare a lot of steak for the kids. Two of them are not big steak fans, so we end up having leftovers. (To me, leftover steak just is never as good as it was the first time.) Besides, good steak is usually pretty pricey. However, I was lucky to find some decent T-bone steaks on sale. Brandan, needless to say, was excited. So was I. After a late-night soccer game, (I play amateur indoor soccer, and this Friday night our game was at 12:30 am. Yes, 12: 30 AM. Guess that’s technically no longer Friday night.) and working for a few hours Saturday, I was tired. This meal was simple. So simple, in fact, it hardly needs a recipe. Good choice, Brandan!

Lately, I have been making a lot of herb butter. My most common creation involves parsley, not only because it is versatile, but also because my garden is overrun by it at the moment. Butter, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper – it’s as straighforward as that. The best part of taking a few moments to create an herb butter? It adds another dimension of flavor to your dish, without over-complicating it. Whether it tops your steak, your baked potato, (Brandan and I chose to use it for both!) or anything else, it imparts a fresh “summery” taste that’s sure to please.

To prepare our steak dinner, we simply baked the potatoes. Rubbed a little olive oil and salt on the skin first – makes it nice and crispy. (Brandan loved getting his hands oily!) Next, we went out to the garden to gather a little parsley for our herb butter (recipe below). Once that was in the refrigerator, it was time for the steaks.

It has taken me a while to properly grill a steak. (Yes, I’ve charred a few steaks in my day!) Now, I can generally grill a steak without much stress or worry, and that’s even on an aging gas grill with its fair share of hot spots. Of course, every grill cook has their methods – here is what I stick to:

Bring steak to room temperature before grilling. (This allows you to more accurately feel how “done” the steak is without a thermometer – see below.) Season with your favorite rub or seasoning blend. (I prefer seasoning with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.)

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Heat the grill to high heat. Add steaks, and grill for about 3 minutes, and flip. Turn heat down to medium or medium-low (if steak is really thick) and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until steak is cooked to the temperature you desire. Rather than cutting into the steak, or poking it multiple times with a meat thermometer, I have an alternate method of testing the “doneness” of my steaks, courtesy of Gordon Ramsay. With your index finger, press your cheek lightly. That’s what rare feels like, if you were to press the steak. Press your chin lightly for medium, and your forehead for well done. Once your steaks are done, remove from grill.

Slice the herb butter into rounds, and add a pat or two of herb butter to the top of each steak. Tent with foil, and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes, allowing the juices to return to the center of the steak.

Brandan’s favorite part to eat, undoubtedly, was the steak. He finished off his steak, plus a bit of his brother’s.

Herb Butter:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1/4 c flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 small clove garlic, minced

Pinch of salt and crushed black pepper

 Mix butter, garlic, and parsley together until well blended. Add salt and pepper and mix. Using plastic wrap, roll herb butter into a log (about 1 1/2 inches in diameter) and refrigerate until firm.

Brandan chopping parsley for the herb butter

Brandan chopping parsley for the herb butter

Pork Lettuce Wraps

Food 1813Rarely do I buy iceberg lettuce. In fact, I can’t think of the last time I did. Two years ago, maybe? I prefer darker leafy greens, such as romaine, green leaf, or even spinach and arugula. Besides, iceberg is the true “anti-gourmet” lettuce, right? Well, an article in Saveur magazine last month made me think outside of my little “I’m-too-good-for-iceberg-lettuce” box. Although iceberg may not pack as much nutrition as some of the other lettuces available, it does have its merits. It’s amazingly crisp, for one, making it an ideal textural contrast for your sandwich or tacos. Unlike other (sometimes bitter) greens, it’s very mild. And it’s not like iceberg is unhealthy -  with zero grams of fat, and about 15 calories per serving, it’s hardly anything to worry about. But it’s iceberg’s cool, crunchy texture that made it the ideal choice for these wraps.  

Lettuce wraps are something I’ve never made at home. I never really gave them much thought, honestly. Sure, I enjoy them at restaurants, but usually, I look for something more substantial to prepare for dinner at home. However, it’s nearing summer (they are predicting temperatures in the mid-90s this weekend!), and I’m craving lighter fare. So when I came across the recipe in Saveur for Saang Choy Bao, or Chinese Minced Chicken Wraps, I immediately started scribbling down iceberg lettuce on my grocery list. After all, the recipe sounded so delicious! And then, to find out that Bee Yin Low over at Rasa Malaysia wrote the recipe? Definite bonus, as her blog is amazing, and I’ve made a few of her recipes in the past…they definitely do not disappoint! Another added benefit: this recipe takes almost no time to prepare, making it a perfect weeknight dinner.

And a perfect weeknight dinner it was. I substituted lean ground pork for the ground chicken, as it was what I had on hand, and it worked perfectly. The oyster sauce and shitakes added a nice savory note to the dish, but the sweet Asian chile sauce, in my opinion, was what truly kept you coming back for more. And the iceberg lettuce? It lightened the whole dish, and added that necessary snap! that took this dish from “Pretty Tasty” to “Yum!” My husband (the skeptical one) really enjoyed this dish, and suggested we put it into regular rotation. As Asian fare is not usually his favorite, I consider that to be a great compliment. Iceberg lettuce just might be making a comeback!

As for locating the harder to find ingredients, such as oyster sauce and sweet Asian chile sauce: both can be found in an Asian market, or in the Asian section of most grocery stores.

 

1 lb lean ground pork

20 cashews, roughly chopped

3 dried shitake mushroom, softened in hot water, stemmed and finely chopped

3 scallions, 2 finely chopped, the green part of 1 finely julienned

4 t soy sauce

1 T oyster sauce

1 T rice wine or dry sherry

1 t cornstarch

1/2 t sugar

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 T peanut oil

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

16 iceberg lettuce leaves

Sweet Asian chile sauce

Put pork, cashews, mushrooms, and chopped scallions in a bowl. Combine soy sauce, oyster sauce, wine, cornstarch, sugar, and pepper in a bowl. Pour over pork and toss. Let marinate for 15 minutes.

Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add garlic, cook for 10 seconds. Add pork mixture, and cook, stirring and crumbling with spatula, until browned, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer pork into a bowl. To serve, spoon a little of the pork into each lettuce leaf. Garnish with julienned scallion and a little chile sauce.

Serves 4 as a first course. Pair with fried rice and steamed veggies for a complete meal.

From Grandma’s Recipe Box: Apple Coffee Cake

Food 1691

Lately, I have been waking up on Saturday and Sunday mornings craving something different for breakfast. As I lie there in bed, I think to myself  “If I get up now, I could start cinnamon rolls, or a strudel, or a Danish…” And yet, I roll over and try to get another hour of shut-eye. By the time I get up, have a cup of coffee, and start seriously considering baking something for breakfast, it is too late for time-consuming cinnamon rolls or anything of that sort. Usually, this means we have the usual weekend breakfast of fried or poached eggs, toast, cheese grits, and a bit of bacon. (Not that I’m complaining about the usual breakfast choice - it’s quite delicious and usually keeps me satisfied until around 3-4 PM.) But one particular weekend, I was determined to do something different. I was going to bake something for breakfast, but what? Coffee cake, maybe?

What better place to find a suitable coffee cake recipe than from my beloved recipe box that my Grandma gave to me? It has been a while since I’ve searched through the box, so we were due for another “visit.” I thumbed through the options (Grandma had quite a few coffee cake recipes, some of which were too time-consuming, but I will definitely have to try soon!) and came across a newspaper clipping. The only hint as to its origin was at the top, stating that it is “From Heart Recipe Collection.” Whatever that means. Maybe it’s supposed to be healthy? The newspaper clipping suggested that there were approximately 200 calories per serving. In my mind, white flour, white sugar, and vegetable oil don’t equal “healthy”, but who knows. Regardless, it looked simple, incorporated fruit, (I love fruity baked goods!) and I had all of the ingredients on hand. Ta-da, we found a winner!

This cake was not the most extravagant or elegant of coffee cakes, for sure (I think you tend to sacrifice elegance for quick-and-easy), but it definitely hit the spot. I loved the simple, comforting blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and apple, and the crumb was nice and delicate, but it didn’t fall apart. The best part (well, almost) was the aroma that floated through the room as it was baking. Couldn’t hardly wait until it was done! With a nice, steaming cup of java, this was a great way to start the morning. Grandma’s recipe box doesn’t disappoint, that’s for sure!

 

2 c flour

1/2 c plus 1 t sugar

1/2 t salt

2 t baking powder

1 t cinnamon

1 egg

1 c milk

1/4 c vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)

5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

grated nutmeg to taste (A little goes a long way. I only used a pinch or so.)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, 1/2 cup of the sugar, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, blend egg, milk, and oil. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and mix with a few quick strokes. Pour half of batter into a lightly greased, 9-inch round cake pan. Arrange the apples over the batter in the pan. Sprinkle with nutmeg, if desired. Pour remaining batter over apples and sprinkle with nutmeg and remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar. Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve warm.

Serves 8-10.