Friday, February 27, 2015

Roasted Cauliflower "Rice" {featuring Thai Chicken & Vegetables}

I've always loved rice.  Growing up I would beg my mom for a simple bowl of rice & soy sauce for lunch, whereas some kids probably wanted mac n' cheese or peanut butter and jelly.  I realize it's kind of a weird thing to love so much.  Since then I've branched out with different types of rice.  Whether it's fried rice, lemon rice, brown rice, wild rice, etc. - I love it all.  Now I have a new "rice" to love - cauliflower rice!  Have you heard of this?  I had not until I was looking up ideas for using cauliflower because I had just purchased two very large heads of cauliflower for super cheap and I didn't want them to go bad.   Much to my delight - I found a recipe for cauliflower "rice" and I instantly knew that it was right up my alley.  

Whether you're looking for low-carb option or just want to try something new, I highly recommend trying this fun, creative, and delicious way to eat cauliflower!  







Roasted Cauliflower “Rice”
Serves 2-4

Ingredients:
1 head cauliflower
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
3/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425F. Cover a large, rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Break the cauliflower into florets, removing the stems. Place the florets in the bowl of a large food processor until about ½ full (you will need to do this in multiple batches to ensure all the pieces chop up nicely and are not overcrowded).  Pulse until the cauliflower looks like rice. This takes about 10 to 15 one-second pulses.

Place the cauliflower rice in a large bowl, add the melted coconut oil and salt. Toss with a spoon until the rice is coated with the oil. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast until tender and beginning to get a few brown spots, about 25 minutes.

Serve with anything that you would normally serve on a bed of rice, such as roasted veggies & chicken with the Thai Peanut Sauce below.    

Note: You can freeze the “rice” before you roast it by sealing it in a Ziploc bag or split into several bags for smaller servings.  When ready to eat, simply thaw, toss with coconut oil and salt and then roast as instructed above.  I had two heads of cauliflower that I got on sale so I roasted some right away and froze 2 other bags for later use.  It worked great when I roasted the frozen cauliflower and tasted just as good.

Chicken & Vegetables with Thai Peanut Sauce
For this particular dish, I pan fried some chicken breast and then sauteed vegetables in the same pan. I've also roasted the vegetables by adding them to the same baking sheet as the cauliflower rice half way through cooking (or less if you want the veggies to stay extra crunchy).  Both ways work great.  You can do peppers, onions, zucchini, broccoli, carrots, and more.  You could also grill the chicken breast, or use pre-cooked shredded chicken that you make ahead in the crock pot. 

Thai Peanut Sauce Ingredients:
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce (Mae Ploy is my favorite brand)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon canned coconut milk
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon creamy peanut butter, melted
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice of ½ lime
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Mix all sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.  Once cauliflower rice, other veggies, and chicken is done – toss everything together with the Thai Peanut Sauce and top with green onions and peanuts.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Creamy Chicken Wild Rice Soup

Isn't soup just the best in the winter?  I think so.
 It's so comforting...filling, yet healthy, and it can last for multiple meals or feed a large group. 
Chicken Wild Rice soup is definitely one of my all-time favorites.  A soft & warm homemade roll beside it also makes me pretty happy I have to admit. 

Whether you're feeling under the weather, or you just want to warm up quickly on a cold winter afternoon or evening - this soup is sure to make you feel better in no time. 

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Ingredients
3/4 cup uncooked wild rice
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
7 Tbsp butter, diced, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
4 1/2 cups l chicken broth or stock (I make my own homemade stock – recipe here)
1/2 tsp of each dried thyme & rosemary
1-2 bay leaves
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked and diced or shredded* (see below for three options for cooking the chicken either ahead of time, or with the soup)  
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp lemon zest

Directions
Prepare wild rice according to directions listed on package.  I recommend using a rice cooker if you have one, but either way I like to make the rice a day ahead or at least leave plenty of time before I plan to make the soup since wild rice can take a while to cook.

In a separate large pot, melt 1 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery and sauté until slightly tender, about 4 minutes, adding in garlic during last 30 seconds of sautéing. Add chicken broth, thyme, rosemary, & bay leaf and season with salt and black pepper to taste.

For the chicken:
You have a few options and every option is good, but it just depends on what you prefer and have time for.
 
Option 1: you can make the chicken breasts a day ahead in the crock pot (or bake in oven).  I like this option because it allows me to make more than I need and then split up for various meals throughout the week, or freeze the cooked chicken that I don’t put in the soup for later use. 

Option 2: you could cook the chicken in the stock pot you will make the soup in at the beginning with a bit of olive oil or but, then remove from the pan and dice into cubes or shred.

Option 3: After adding the chicken broth to the stockpot with the veggies, increase heat to medium-high, add raw chicken breasts and bring mixture to a boil. Cover pot with lid and allow mixture to boil 12 - 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through (rotating chicken to opposite side once during cooking for thicker chicken breasts - if they don't fully immerse in broth). Remove chicken and set aside on cutting board to cool 5 minutes then shred into small bite size pieces.

If you are not cooking the chicken right in the broth (option 1 or 2), simply simmer the broth & veggies for 12-15 minutes.  

After chicken is cooked (with any of the options), then reduce heat to low and add cooked rice. Add shredded chicken to soup. Remove bay leaf.

In a separate medium saucepan, melt remaining 6 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook 1 1/2 minutes, whisking constantly. Then, while whisking vigorously, slowly pour milk into butter/flour mixture. Cook mixture, stirring constantly until it thickens. Add milk mixture to soup mixture in pot and cook about 5 minutes longer, or until soup is thickened. Stir in heavy cream and lemon zest and serve.

This soup is great as leftovers or you could freeze half of it and save for a later meal. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Cooking Classy

Friday, February 20, 2015

Chilled Spicy Noodles {Momofuku Inspired}

A little over a year ago we went to New York City to visit our good friend and get a little escape from the cold Wisconsin weather.  Although New York was not a lot warmer, 40+ degrees felt like a mini heat wave to us back then, and with the below zero temperatures lately, I would gladly take 40+ degrees again.  
 It's probably no surprise that I fell in love with New York, if for nothing else, for the food.  It's also no secret that New York is known for their excellent cuisine and seemingly endless supply of fantastic dining options.  However, I never thought it could be that good.  Every meal I had was the best version of that meal that I'd ever had.  Best sushi, best burger, best dessert, best fried fish, etc.  

One of the best meals we ate there included a dish that I can still practically taste even now a year later - Momofuku's Chilled Spicy Noodles.  Momofuku Noodle Bar is one of David Chang's famous creations and very popular among locals and tourists alike.  This was one of the restaurants we stood in a long line outside to even get in the door...but it was so worth it.  


In recreating this dish, I tried to find copycat recipes online as well as simply look at the ingredient list on the Momofuku menu. It was actually really hard to find anything that looked and sounded similar to the dish but I think this came super super close.  Just to warn you, if you have the dish at the real Momofuku,it is so so SO spicy. The kind of spicy that makes the waitress double check to make sure you actually want to order it.  The kind of spicy that makes you want to keep eating because it's so delicious, and you almost feel that if you keep eating your mouth will somehow magically stop being on fire - but it continues to burn.  Again...so worth it (in my opinion).  However, sometimes things are too spicy to really enjoy, so I toned this version down just a bit - it's still spicy enough to make your nose run but not quite enough to make you drip with sweat.  I know - what a yummy description, right? :)  

A few things make this dish unique: the combination of pork sausage, crispy roasted shallots, candied cashews, the spinach, and of course - ramen.  But it's also unique because it is served chilled - although you can certainly eat it warm or cold and it will still be tasty.  The one thing that I know it's lacking from the Momofuku version is sichuan peppercorn.  I couldn't find it at my grocery store but I only checked my usual place so if anyone knows where I could get some, let me know.  
Lately I've discovered the joy (and sometimes pain) of cooking with whole dried red chile peppers.  The first time I cooked with them they filled the kitchen with what felt like poisonous gas and gave the effects of pepper spray to our lungs.   After adjusting the amount of chile peppers and the timing of adding them to the pan, I think I've developed a less lethal method...so that's a plus. Word to the wise - start with only a few , take all the seeds out, and add other ingredients in the pan quickly after.  They definitely add an unmistakable flavor and kick to any Asian dish and I feel that's what mine have been lacking.  

If you aren't a fan of spicy food - fear not, you can simply omit the chile peppers and still enjoy the flavors in this dish.  But whatever you do - you should definitely go to New York.  

Chilled Spicy Noodles
Serves 2-4

There are quite a few components to this dish but you can make a lot of it ahead of time and since it is a dish that is meant to be served chilled, it won’t matter if things are cold by the time you serve them. 

FLAVORED OIL: (make at the beginning and let sit)
Take about a quarter cup of sesame oil and add one tablespoon of dried red chilies, and one half teaspoon of ground ginger and one clove of garlic, minced.  Let it sit.

CRISPY TOASTED SHALLOTS: Thinly slice shallots, toss with oil, and roast in a 400 degree oven, stirring often to avoid burning. They should be crisp, so about 15 minutes or more should be good.   

SPINACH:
Wash, dry and put aside one handful of spinach per person.

CANDIED CASHEWS:
½ cup of cashews
¼ cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of water

Throw cashews, sugar & water together in a sauce pan and heat it over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Once that happens, you continue to cook it, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until the sugar crystallizes.  The cashews will look like a pile of mush with the sugar but as long as it’s crystallized that’s okay – they will get crunchy in the oven next. J

As a final step, scrape the cashews onto a cookie sheet and roast in a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until they are slightly browned and crisp. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Put aside to cool.

PORK:
1 lb. ground pork
2 shallots
1 tablespoon red chiles (about 4 dried whole chiles, seeds removed)
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
Splash of fish sauce
Splash of soy sauce
1-2 scallions, chopped

Fry ground pork until nicely browned and cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.
Drain excess oil and add sliced shallots (or onions) and cook slowly so that they caramelize. When they are done, add them to the bowl with the pork and mix.

In the same frying pan, add some sesame oil and when it gets warm, add some dried red chilies to your taste.  Wait a 5-10 seconds and then add three cloves of garlic to the pan and continue to sauté them until they become fragrant. Then add 1/3 cup of water, tablespoon of sugar, and two splashes: one of fish sauce, the other of soy (or just soy if you don’t want or have fish sauce). And when that gets to bubbling up, return the pork and shallots to the pan with a big handful of chopped scallions and stir until well mixed. Put aside.

ASSEMBLY:

When you are ready to eat, prepare ramen noodles (I used the good ol’ 25 cent/package instant ramen and just didn’t add the seasoning packet). Drain and toss with the oil and a little bit of soy sauce. Then, into a big bowl drop a handful of spinach leaves, a pile of noodles, a pile of pork, and some candied cashews. Finally, sprinkle the top with the crispy shallots. 

Enjoy!

Recipe adapted and inspired by Momofuku & Stacey Dewolfe

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Oatmeal Cream Pies {revisited}


I am always making new things, trying new recipes, rarely ever making the same thing twice.  These Oatmeal Cream Pies are the exception.  This is the one dessert that I have made more times than any other - the one that I make if I want to do something extra special for guests or co-workers, the one that I make for Ryan's birthday because he requests it, the one I would put on my menu for the bakery I would love to own someday. 
  In fact, I've made this dessert so much that I even blogged about it before...I mean...c'mon...who posts a recipe twice on the same blog?  Seems excessive.  But whatever, I don't care - it's just that good.  Plus, the first time was four years ago, I didn't even put the whole recipe on here, and I've made some tweaks since. 
 If you're fan of the "Little Debbie" version of this treat then you will really love these.  If you like fluffy marshmallows, sweet brown sugary oatmeal, subtle hints of molasses, and oh yeah, if you like things in sandwich form...you will like these.
It's always tricky making sure that I have an even amount of cookies to make the cookie sandwiches, but Ryan is always quick to remedy an odd number and I'm always quick to object.  I get protective of my cookies - I'll admit.  But Ryan also gets protective and never wants me to bring treats to work so I have to find a balance. :) 
 I should really stop blogging about things that we've already eaten all up.  Now I really want an Oatmeal Cream Pie...ugh.  I guess I'll just have to make them again soon!

Oatmeal Cream Pies

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. molasses
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups flour 
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 cups quick oats 

Cream Filling:
2 tsp. very hot water
1/4 tsp. salt
1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow cream
1/2 cup shortening (this is one of the few times I use shortening but I wouldn't substitute butter for this)
1/3 cup powdered sugar (heaping if you want it a little sweeter)
3/4 tsp. vanilla

Directions:
Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a bowl.

In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add in eggs, beating after each. Finally beat in molasses and vanilla.

Add to the flour mixture to creamed mixture and beat until just blended; mix in the oats with a wooden spoon.

Drop dough by tablespoons on parchment lined sheets, with plenty of space in between.  They will spread out and if you want to get more bang for your buck because there will be two cookies used for every cream pie, you could make them fairly small.
 
Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, or until just starting to brown around the edges. Try not to overcook so make sure to check after 10 minutes and add more time if needed. Let sit on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

While the cookies bake prepare the filling. In small bowl, dissolve the salt in the hot water. Set aside and allow this to cool.

Combine marshmallow cream, shortening, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a bowl; mix on high until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the cooled salt water and mix well. Spread filling on flat side of one cookie, press 2nd cookie on top.

Enjoy and try not to eat them all in one sitting....

Recipe adapted from Back to the Cutting Board