Thursday, July 29, 2010

Broccoli and Hoisin-Lime Marinated Grilled Chicken Stir Fry

This was a good, solid recipe, that Kevin and I liked very much. We didn't fall in love with it, but it was definitely a keeper. The chicken, which was marinated for 2 hours in a lovely Hoisin sauce (my first time with hoisin!) with a lot of chopped garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and lime, tasted juicy and flavorful, though a little salty. I loved it. I threw a ton of extra veggies into the rice, and even doubled the amount of rice I was supposed to use, so it made quite a lot. I didn't double the stir fry sauce though, for fear that it would become way too salty. I think this was the right move, because the flavor was mellow, but definitely had a nice light glaze to it. Unfortunately, this dish was quite a kitchen disaster. The following events put a major damper on dindin last night:

1. I opened my bag of 2 broccoli bunches, to find the heads like mush. I bought them only 2 days ago. They were bad. Ugh. See my substitutions below!

2.My grill pan refuses to get clean. It's like a major act of defiance. Kevin has been begging me to stick the thing straight into the garbage.

3. Due to our rebellious grill pan, every time I use it, my house fills with smoke. Ugh.

4. This dinner took me 40 minutes to clean up. Not a fan.

I adapted this dish from a Cooking Light recipe, but I'll post it below, because I made a lot of substitutions, due to personal tastes, lack of ingredients, and just because I felt like it.

Broccoli and Chicken Stir Fried Rice

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 cups)

* 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
* 8 cups broccoli florets (I used a bag of frozen, because of my spoiled broc)
* 2 cups vertically sliced onion (about 1)
* 1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided (I used veggie)
* 2 cups cooked long-grain rice (I used 4 cups of brown rice - I refuse to use white rice, have I mentioned that?)
* 1 tablespoon minced garlic
* 2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger (I used 1/2 tsp of ground ginger)
* 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
* 2 Hoisin and Lime-Marinated Grilled Chicken breast halves, thinly sliced
* 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
* 2 tablespoons oyster sauce (didn't use at all!)
* 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
* 1 teaspoon cornstarch
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* I also threw in 2 yellow bell peppers and some matchstick sliced carrots,just to supplement the veggies!

Hoisin and Lime Marinated Grilled Chicken Breasts


* 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
* 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger (I used a tsp of ground)
* 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
* 1 teaspoon grated lime rind (I used a tbl of bottled lime juice instead)
* 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* 8 garlic cloves, minced
* 6 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (I only used 4, and I butterflied them, so they'd be thinner and easier to cook on the grill)
* Cooking spray


Combine hoisin sauce, ginger, and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator for 2 hours, turning bag occasionally.

Prepare grill.

Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill for 5 minutes on each side or until chicken is done.


Heat canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add broccoli and onion; sauté for 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup broth; cover and cook for 3 minutes. Remove broccoli mixture from pan.

Place pan over medium-high heat. Add rice; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broccoli mixture, garlic, ginger, pepper, and chicken; toss well.

Combine remaining 1/4 cup broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar, and cornstarch; add to pan. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute. Stir in salt.

**Both of these recipes made 4-6 servings, but I didn't post the nutritional information, since I felt it would be very skewed from all my substitutions. If you click on the links to the real recipes, you'll find an idea of the nutritional info!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Maple Balsamic Tofu (and my New Toy!)

My new toy! A meat thermometer!

Kevin was on call tonight, leaving me to fend for myself, and the kids, at dinner time. Usually, if we are one our own, I have high hopes that I will cook something Kevin wouldn't like, because he won't be there to deal with it. In the end, however, I usually rely on leftovers and/or convenience foods that are quick and easy to cook, and, more importantly, easy to clean up. That being said, it occurred to me tonight, that I do not cook just for Kevin - I cook for me. I cook for Maya. I cook for the family, and there is no reason why I shouldn't cook when Kevin isn't home. So, I decided to bite the bullet and actually do what I've always said I would do - I made something that I didn't think Kevin would care for. This maple balsamic tofu was a ridiculously easy dish, that came out look very pretty (in my opinion), and tasted quite good. It was a tad too sweet, so I am sure I should have added more salt and pepper, but besides that, it was very good. I think this would be perfect served chilled, over a lunch salad. It had a nice light flavor, and the texture of the tofu was firm and meaty. I sliced it thin this time, and I broiled it, as opposed to grilling, as the recipe suggested. I was impressed, and will definitely make this again - I think Kevin might even like it. I might add some hot sauce, and up the salt next time, though. Served over brown rice and steamed broccoli, this was a nice "solo-night dish."



Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Meat and Tater Tuesday: Szechuan Chicken Meatloaf with Grilled New Potatoes

I've been meaning to make this chicken meatloaf, from Cooking Light, for a while now. It's really unlike anything I've made in the past, and it sounded like a blend of flavors my family would love. I've never cooked with ground chicken, and I'm not a huge fan of ground meat in general, but I loved this dish. It was a perfect blend of meaty, sweet, spicy, and flavorful. The texture was perfect, too, though I'm curious to see how it reheats (Kevin is taking it to work tomorrow). I made some simple modification to the recipe, based on ingredients I had on hand, and adjusting it to my family's desired level of spiciness. I listed my mods below, in case you're interested in having this dish, the "Marji way." Oh, and the potatoes (courtesy of Paula Deen) were an afterthought, because I needed something on the side. This dish would have been perfect with corn on the cob, but we finished it last night, so we were veggie-less. Anyway, it was a success - I hope to make it again soon. By the way - it was a very easy dish to throw together. The cooking time (50 minutes to cook,and 10 minutes to rest) was a limiting factor, for working folks, but I'd highly recommend it on a night when you have an hour to make dinner.

My loaf pan was too big, so the loaf was sort of flat and wide. Next time, I don't think I'd use a loaf pan - I'll just form a loaf on a cookie sheet.

Szechuan Chicken Meat Loaf

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 2 slices)


  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped carrot
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced peeled gingerroot or 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger (I used ground)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup cooked long-grain rice (I used brown rice)
  • 1/4 cup chopped water chestnuts (I omitted these - blech)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose Szechwan hot and spicy sauce (I used Sriracha - it was so spicy, so only 1 tbl)
  • 1 pound ground chicken or ground turkey (I used chicken)
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted


Heat oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add green onions, carrot, celery, gingerroot, and garlic; sauté 2 minutes or until tender.

Combine green onion mixture, rice, water chestnuts, soy sauce, and Szechwan sauce in a large bowl; stir well. Crumble chicken over green onion mixture, and stir just until blended.

Preheat oven to 350°. Pack mixture into an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan (I used a 9 x 5 pan, and this led to a wide, flat loaf - oops) coated with cooking spray; sprinkle sesame seeds over top of loaf. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until meat loaf registers 160°. Let loaf stand in pan 10 minutes.

Remove loaf from pan; cut into 12 slices. Serve with Chinese hot mustard and sweet-and-sour sauce, if desired.

Nutritional Information

Calories: 163 (27% from fat)
Fat: 4.8g (sat 0.9g,mono 1.5g,poly 1.5g)
Fiber: 0.5g
Cholesterol: 53mg
Iron: 1.4mg
Sodium: 404mg
Calcium: 22mg
Cooking Light, MARCH 1996

The Critique
WOW!!! There are few things that really knock my socks off but this one did. This could be one of my favorite meals that Marji has ever made for me. It's rare for me to have such strong feelings for something that she made that is not soup. But this is a hands down, 5 bowler. These smell like they're made in a high-end Asian restaurant that tends to have at least an hour wait to get in on a Tuesday. They tasted so perfect in every way that I would not dare to make any suggestions to mess with such perfection. I loved the sesame seeds on the top and the seasoning throughout the meat. I'm a huge fan of seasoned meats, especially with seasoned ground meat. The chicken tasted superb and to make it even better, it reheated perfectly! I couldn't ask for more. Definitely a very large 5 bowls.

Cheater's Chicken Soup

My parents and sisters came to visit on Sunday - a lovely last minute playdate. Kevin was on call for most of the day, leaving me at home with the kids, so my mom decided to bring lunch. She brought a ridiculous amount of food, and left us with a big rotisserie chicken, and several ears of corn, and salad. I considered just serving the food as-is, but then thought better of it, and opted to finish up my crisper of wilting veggies (I had carrots, onions, and celery from last week), on a chicken noodle soup.I basically destroyed the rotisserie chicken, and threw it all in the pot, and then added anything I could find, that sounded good in a soup. It was very basic, but this family loves basic. We also polished off the salad, and 5 ears of corn. Maya ate 2 entire ears! She's 2, so this is a tremendous accomplishment.

Gotta love giant egg noodles.

Within 20 minutes, this bowl was FULL of empty ears of corn.

The Critique
You know I love soup and this is no exception. I love chicken soup and this one is particularly scrumptious. There is little sodium but a lot of flavor. After eating this I don't feel hyperosmolar and that's important to me. Love the noodles and the vegetables and chicken. I really like when the chicken is taken from a pre-cooked chicken because the seasoning seems to be perfect. Love it. 4 bowls

Monday, July 26, 2010

Peanut Butter - Chocolate Chip - Oatmeal Cookies

These cookies, from Sunset Magazine (November 2003) really have a lot of goodies in them. Peanuts, peanut butter, oatmeal, chocolate chips, cocoa... What more could you ask for? My family was coming for lunch yesterday, so I decided to be the dessert maker, since my mom was bringing lunch for everyone. I whipped up these babies pretty quickly, while my daughter sat in her high chair and giggled at me for making such a disastrous mess. One thing I'll say about these cookies, is that they had a very sensitive cooking time, which seems to be the reason that all my cookies tend to fail. I ended up cooking these a tad too long, resulting in sadly crunchy cookies. They weren't burnt, but looked overdone, which was not helped by the fact that there was cocoa in them, so they were dark to begin with. Anyway, I'm sure this will be a redundant tip to most people, but an excellent solution to the problem of crunchy cookies (that are supposed to be soft), is to put them in a closed container, with a piece of bread. Within a fairy short amount of time (an hour is fine, but more time is better), the cookies soften tremendously. It is truly amazing. You can do this with stale cookies, or fresh cookies. The only problem with this strategy, is that it can cause the cookies to become so soft, they break at the lightest touch. Anyway, the cookies seemed to be a hit, though I'm sure no one would tell me if they didn't like them! I liked them, too, though I think I'd rather have a cupcake...

The Critique
I've not been the biggest fan of Marji's desserts, but this one truly blew me away. These cookies tasted great! They were really like professional cookies. They were just the right consistency and the chocolate chips were soft and gooey in the middle. I loved the flavor of the cookie itself and the only problem I have now is limiting my intake. I would like to try them without peanuts, since I'm not the biggest fan of nuts in my cookies, but it worked well.

4 bowls

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pizza Night!

Kevin is on call tonight, so I thought I'd try my hand at something "easy." We have made pizzas at home before, but today I decided to make my own whole wheat pizza dough, which I've never tried in the past (I usually buy it by the bag at the grocery store). I am so glad I made it myself, because it was much better than any of the dough I've purchased, and it was really easy to make early in the day, and use later on. I was even able to freeze a ball of dough for use later. Anyway, pizza is a hit in our house, because Kevin doesn't eat cheese, and I don't love meat, so I make individual roasted vegetable pizzas, and I put cheese on mine, and grilled chicken on Kevin's. I really liked these pizzas. I thought the dough rolled out nice and thin, and had a nice texture, and by baking them in the bottom of the oven at 500 degrees, the crust was crispy, but not overcooked. The vegetables roasted nicely, and you could barely see the dough underneath, for all the veggies on top. Even Maya liked it. She kept saying, "Put the chicken/bread/broccoli in my mouth - it's too sticky!" She didn't want to get messy hands, I guess. These were definitely fork and knife pizzas.

Kevin's Pizza: Grilled Chicken, broccoli, orange peppers, vidalia onions, mushrooms, and tomato sauce

Oh, and lots of roasted garlic.

Marji's Pizza: Most of the broccoli (I'm a broccoli hoarder, I admit it), peppers, onions, mushrooms, sauce, and CHEESE!!!

Our little pizzas at our little table.

Almost done eating, but a messy plate is a pretty plate!

Sweet and Spicy Citrus Tilapia with White and Wild Rice Pilaf

I have never cooked fish. That's right - never. Honestly, I don't care for it, and would never have it if I didn't have to. Kevin has been requesting it lately, though, so I thought I'd take a stab at this citrus tilapia dish I found in Cooking Light. It was one of the easiest things I've made, and it truly took no time at all to prepare. Kevin didn't feel that the marinade penetrated the dish enough, but I followed the recipe exactly, and I'm not sure there was any way to change that. I personally think he should have used the Roasted Pepper Walnut Sauce from the night before, to liven up the flavor, but that's just me. He liked it - he just thought it was a little mild. I didn't try it. I wasn't interested, so I had a tofu repeat from the night before. The rice pilaf was tasty, but it was just one of those boring, basic, solid dishes you make on a weekly basis, because you have all the ingredients, and can throw in anything you have on hand. Nothing special. I am going to try my hand at fish again soon, but since I'm definitely not used to the flavor, texture, or cooking time of fish, I'm going to need to keep experimenting.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tofu Steaks with Roasted Pepper Walnut Sauce

I haven't done too much experimentation with tofu, but I decided to make these tofu steaks because they looked delicious in Cooking Light (but doesn't everything look good in Cooking Light?). Let me start by saying that this recipe was a pain in the neck to make. It had a lot of steps and ingredients, and it took a lot of time and planning (letting tofu "sit," marinating time, roasting peppers, toasting walnuts, etc.). My mom was coming to visit right around dinner prep time, so I thought it would be easier to find the time. I decided to roast my own peppers, instead of buying the bottled kind, since I just bought peppers in bulk. Since the roasted pepper walnut sauce ended up being the highlight of the dish, I'm happy I used fresh. Anyway, after all the marinating, dredging, and pan frying, we sat down to a very chaotic dinner. We had 2 fussy babies, and the food didn't go over very well. Basically, the tofu was relatively bland, and I found the pieces to be way too thick for my liking. Next time, I would slice thinner, or at least slice differently. The roasted pepper sauce was excellent, and if we had liberally poured it over the tofu, I think it would have tasted much more flavorful. I served this with Spanish Brown Rice, which was very good, and added a nice spiciness to the dish. I like tofu, and would happily try this recipe again - just a bit differently. I'm not sure my family would be willing to give it another chance, though...

The marinade for this tofu was just beautiful. I was able to use my leftover basil!

My first batch of toasted walnuts burned, so I made a second PERFECT batch!

Roasted orange and red peppers. Mmmmmm.

Roasted Pepper and Walnut sauce. Looks a little murky in the photo, but it was very beautiful in color and texture.

Pre-pan fried tofu (after dredging in flour, egg, and panko).
These got a tad charred, but I wanted them overcooked, to ensure that the tofu was very firm.

Tofu, rice, and steamed broccoli.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Banana Chocolate Surprise Muffiins and Corn & Basil Cakes

These Gluten Free Banana Chocolate Surprise Muffins were a last minute decision, based on the fact that I had all the ingredients right here in the house. I've been experimenting with different types of flours lately, and this recipe was an adaptation of the recipe on the back of the Bob's Red Mill, Gluten Free AP Flour bag. The recipe was easy to throw together, even with 2 whiny kids in the background, but, unfortunately, it did not receive rave reviews. Kevin said they tasted "very healthy," and this was actually the first time ever, that Maya handed it back to me and said, "I don't like this, I need milk." Oh well. I thought they were okay, especially with the little chunk of dark chocolate I hid in the center. The fact is, you have to get used to the taste of different types of flours. I won't make these again, because I don't want to be the only one eating them, but I will try again with the GF flour - the bananas will have to take a hike. Chocolate is always foolproof in our house, so I guess I should stick to what I know.

These muffins looked very pretty, and smelled really good.

I think these had too much xantham gum. The dough was a bit too elastic for my taste, but I suppose that's where experimentation comes into play.

I rarely cook with fresh basil - well, I rarely cook with fresh herbs at all, actually. I always end up with leftovers that go in the trash, because I don't know exactly how to use them. What can I say? I'm a beginner... Anyway, I've had my eye on this recipe for Corn & Basil Cakes, courtesy of Eating Well Magazine, for quite a while, so I was really excited to try it. In fact, I trekked out in the pouring rain and hurricane-like winds, to Stop and Shop, to pick up basil. It was worth it. This recipe is really easy, it looks beautiful, and it tastes delicious. As previously mentioned, we have a lot of leftovers in the house, so my mission last night, was to create something that could be used as a side dish, so we could also eat leftovers (we have approximately 12 cups of beef barley soup in the fridge). These corn cakes are very easy and quick to whip up on the stove top. They have a very interesting flavor - a mix between a real pancake, and a fresh, herbal, savory taste. They also look colorful and summery, though it took me a couple of batches to get the hang of the timing. They would go really well with grilled chicken or steak, or even roasted or steamed vegetables.
The batter to these cakes is a snap to put together.

I have a lot of leftover basil, so the wheels are turning for tonight... What should I make?

I was shocked (again) that this gloppy batter made such perfectly moist cakes.

The first batch was alittle "light," but I perfected my next couple of batches!


Corn patty thingies
- I've never been more apprehensive about trying something that looks like something I would not like. But, I ended up loving this meal. The basil was so fresh and it tasted like a professionally cooked meal prepared by a seasoned chef. They were light and healthy tasting but the corn really brought out a nice flavor to them. I gobbled them down very fast. I could only slightly taste the egg, so it was really nice. I would like to try this again at breakfast. I tried reheating one of these and they also tasted great, and even Maya loved them. I was so proud of her for trying. 4 bowls!

Gluten-free Muffins -
OK, now understand that these were made for Marji only, and I was not the intended target audience of the muffin. That being said, they tasted much like the name sounds - like something trying to pose as a dessert that has something very important missing from it. I'm a tough cookie to please when it comes to dessert and when you try to make it healthy, it's nearly impossible to make it past 2 bowls. This is no exception. It tasted like you're eating air with some weird flavor in it. The chocolate really tasted good, but the stuff around it wasn't that great. I love my wife and I love her cooking. I'm not the biggest fan of healthy desserts - made by anyone. So it's really nothing personal to Marji. If I want a healthy dessert, then I'll eat fruit. 1 bowl.