Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chinese Night!

Who doesn't love a fun theme night? We've always been fans of Mexican night (with katie-ritas), breakfast for dinner, and homemade pizza night. I decided to start a new theme night, and I wish you could have see Josh's smile when I told him my plan! 

Who doesn't love Chinese take out? My only complaint - the grease, the sodium, and the swollen fingers - YUCK! I feel terrible the day after, what I've dubbed the "chinese hangover". Why not make good Chinese food at home? I started out by making Alton Browns baked brown rice (here is the link) - it's easy and the rice is perfect every time. 
Here are a few other tips I found to make great fried rice:
  1. A hot wok - flick drops of water on your wok, beads of water should evaporate in 1 to 2 seconds when the wok is heated. Add the peanut oil to the wok initially OFF the heat and swirl the oil around on the wok. If the wok smokes like crazy then it's too hot - start over. Otherwise, add aromatics first (ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, red chiles) off the heat so the aromatics do not burn. Return the wok to heat and add veggies. 
  2. Leftover cold rice - at least a day old
  3. Preparation/Organization - cut all your ingredients to a uniform size before your wok is hot and have them organized around your wok. 
  4. Ground white pepper 
  5. In China fried rice is peasant food and a way to use up leftovers, so there are no rules. Have fun, be adventurous, and use what's in your fridge or garden. 
  6. HOT wok! 

Chinese Chicken Fried Rice
3 large eggs
peanut oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into thin strips
2 tsp sesame oil
kosher salt 
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup peas and carrots, thawed (I used a frozen bag)
4 cups cold, cooked rice (I use brown rice and followed this cooking method)
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
2-3 Tbsp soy sauce

Beat 3 eggs with a whisk and add salt and pepper. Heat a splash of peanut oil in hot wok and make an omelette using half the beaten eggs. Turn onto a plate and repeat with remaining eggs. Place one omelette on top of the other and coarsely chop. Set aside. 

Toss chicken strips with 1 teaspoon sesame oil and season with salt. Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil in hot wok and stir-fry the chicken strips until lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, peas and carrots and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until onion has softened. Pull mixture into bowl with chopped egg and keep beside wok. Add 2 more tablespoons of peanut oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil to hot wok, and then add the cooked rice and green onions, tossing and mixing until very hot. Sprinkle with soy sauce and mix together. Return chicken, vegetable and egg mixture and mix well. 

Garnish with scallions and serve with Sriracha. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Robin's Super-Healthy Lentil Soup

I was bent on getting in my kitchen over the weekend and chopping. Discovering the action of cooking again - with a sharp knife and cutting board, my favorite pandora station, and a glass of cab, all the while shimmying around the kitchen in my Ugg slippers. I'd been looking forward to an afternoon off, a little "me time" in the sanctuary that is my kitchen. 

I've been on a Shauna Niequist kick lately, and just ordered two more of her other books from Amazon Prime (cold tangerines and bittersweet). My very favorite is Bread & Wine, and it holds a special place in my heart. When I'm in a funk, a couple of chapters will get me back on track, and remind me that we are all human and we all struggle. She tells us to open the front door, bring in friends, drink bubbly champagne, laugh, cry, and be our real selves. Be present over perfect. Such solid advice. 
one of my favorite quotes on canvas - for sale on Lindsay Letters

I decided that I wanted to chop mirepoix - a fancy word for a mixture of chopped onions, carrots, and celery, which is the base of every hearty lentil soup. Shauna just so happens to have a recipe for lentil soup in Bread & Wine, so I called it serendipity and made a loaf of homemade rye bread on the side. Remember to add the splash of balsamic at the end! 
Robin's Super-Healthy Lentil Soup
from Bread & Wine (p. 137)

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups onions, chopped
1 cup celery stalks, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups lentils
1 (14.5) ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic; saute until vegetables begin to turn brown, about 15 minutes.

Add broth, lentils, and tomatoes with juice, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken

All of us get stuck in a rut from time to time, and I am emerging from a major cooking rut. I used to love cooking us dinner on my days off, but in my new life that includes a 4 month old, I am fizzling out on energy and enthusiasm come 6pm. By the time Josh walks in the door, I really just want a giant hug and a dirty vodka martini. We scrap together dinner - and some nights it's my favorite popcorn with truffle salt and parmesan cheese, or triscuits and dubliner. 

A few weeks ago, Blue Apron came to my rescue. My friends have raved about BA, and basically the complete recipe is delivered to your doorstep, with all ingredients on ice and step-by-step instructions and pictures to walk you through the recipe. We signed up for 2 weeks (3 meals per week), and made every meal together in the kitchen. Needless to say, it was a BLAST. We cooked together while Charlie napped in the evening, and the instructions were very easy to follow. It didn't feel like work, it was just fun. Our favorite recipe was center cut pork chops with beet, heirloom carrot and hazelnut salad. The beets made the recipe shine, and the pork chops were seared to perfection and continuously topped with herb-infused butter while sizzling in the skillet. Our least favorite was fried rice, because the rice was cooked right then and the ONLY way to get good fried rice is to use day old rice. But, in the end, it was just what I needed to get back in my kitchen. 
If there is one thing that I want to teach Charlie it's how to regroup, get back up,  and get back in the game. We all fall down from time to time. One of my favorite quotes is if you're not failing, you're not trying. It's the getting back up that matters, with a new plan and fresh outlook. I am now back on my feet, with a new approach for our life that I'm optimistic will work. On weekdays that I am on baby duty while Josh works, I am going to use my slow cooker and make recipes in the morning when I have the most energy. I have an entire "crockpot" pinterest page with tons of recipes that look amazing. Here is a link back to my very favorite slow cooker white chicken chili

Shredded chicken in the slow cooker is a no brainer. It takes just a few minutes to set up, and the chicken is so moist and easy to shred. We used this chicken in burritos topped with pico de gallo, black beans and avocado, and in salads and ramen soup. We love spicy food so I used a jalapeno and added Tapatio hot sauce at the end. It would also be perfect in enchiladas  or a Chipotle bowl with brown rice. 
If you have any favorite slow cooker recipes, please share them with me! 

4-Ingredient Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken
from Gimme Some Oven

6 boneless chicken, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups salsa verde
1 (12 oz) bottle of beer (I used Miller Lite)
2 teaspoons cumin
salt and pepper
1 jalapeno, diced (I left the seeds in for extra spice)

Add chicken to the slow cooker. Top with salsa verde and beer, and sprinkle with cumin and season with a few generous pinches of salt and a pinch of pepper. Use a pair of tongs or a spoon to turn the chicken so that both sides are coated. Cover. Cook for 3-4 hours on high heat, or 7-8 hours on low heat.

The chicken is ready when easily shreds with a fork. Shred the chicken in the slow cooker, and toss with the juices. Then remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and serve warm. Or, store the stredded chicken in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.