Friday, October 24, 2008

Sweet Chile-Lime Glazed Veggies over Quinoa

A cool new Asian grocery store opened up in Antioch recently called County Square Market. It's right behind the Sizzler on Hillcrest. I went in there and was thrilled to see the variety of choices in condiments, produce, meat and ready-made Asian food. I didn't have a lot of time to browse, but I certainly found some of my favorite Thai cooking ingredients, including Mae-Ploy curry paste, Dragonfly oyster sauce, Golden Boy fish sauce, Chaokoh coconut milk, holy basil, kaffir lime leaves, galanga, and hot thai bird chiles. I even dug out my old recipes and hope to start doing some more Asian dishes for you (and me!).

I saw this recipe over at Vegan Yum Yum, which was my inspiration. I changed some minor things and added more veggies. This was also my first time cooking with quinoa...and I LOVED it! I was imagining a fibrous bland grain, but it wasn't that way at all! I toasted it first which gave it a sweet nutty flavor. My skepticism prevented me from buying more than one cup from the bulk bin, so I will have to pick up more later. It's a nice alternative to rice or pasta - and it has way more protein and fiber!

Sweet Chile-Lime Glazed Veggies over Quinoa

1 T. olive oil
1 cup quinoa
2 cups veggie broth

Heat oil in a pan and add the quinoa. Cook, stirring frequently, until the quinoa is golden and fragrant. You might hear a little popping sound. Add the broth, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, work on the rest of the dish.

3 T. sugar
2 T. lime juice
1 tsp. lime zest
2 T. reduced sodium soy sauce
1 T. Dragonfly oyster sauce*
1 T. water
1 clove minced garlic
2 red thai chiles, chopped fine
1 T. chopped mint

Mix everything in a bowl and set aside.
* Here is a picture of the thai chiles and they oyster sauce that I prefer.

1 T. olive oil
1 block firm tofu
2 japanese eggplants
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. water
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 green onions cut into 1/2 inch pieces

I'm not sure the correct way to cook tofu - I just know how good it tastes when the outside is crunchy and the inside is smooth. I cut my tofu kind of thin, pressed on it with some paper towels and then put it in 1 T. of really hot oil. Use your non-stickiest non-stick pan. Trust me on that. Let it brown on all sides. Put in a separate bowl. Slice the eggplants once lengthwise and then into half inch pieces. Since I used the oil for the tofu, I decided not to on the other veggies. Get your nonstick pan hot and add the eggplant. When its starting to brown too much, add the soy-water mixture. After a few minutes, toss in the chopped bell pepper. The liquid should evaporate about the same time that the veggies are soft. Add back in the tofu and green onions. Pour glaze sauce over the veggies. It should bubble up and get a little thick. That's it.

Honestly, I would have been extremely happy with this dish if I ordered it at a restaurant. And while I was taking pictures, I turned around to see the kids devouring the quinoa. Shhh...I'm not telling them its *gasp* healthy!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Baked Chicken Nuggets

A book called The Omnivore's Dilemma states that there are 38 ingredients in a Chicken McNugget. Can you believe 56% of those ingredients are derived from corn? I thought the chicken percentage would have been a wee bit higher. Read more about it here.

Knowing that nugget of information (forgive the pun), I decided to make my own healthy version. It worked...the kids gobbled them up with the voracity of ants on a lollipop. For children who shun meat in most forms, this was like winning a key battle. And why didn't I think of it sooner??? Duh!

Baked Chicken Nuggets

3 chicken breasts, cut into pieces
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vinegar
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. oregano
salt & pepper

Heat oven to 400. Put a rack inside of a cookie sheet or baking pan. This will allow more even crisping on the underside.

In a bowl, mix the milk with vinegar and throw in the chicken pieces (This would be a tenderizer kind of like buttermilk). Make the breading by mixing up the rest of the ingredients in another bowl. Roll the chicken pieces in breading until coated and put on the rack.

Cook for 15 minutes, then turn them over and turn the oven up to broil. Cook for 5 more minutes. Serve with dipping sauce of choice (we used marinara).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Oh man, it's been way too long since I've been on my blog. Sorry about that! For your patience I'm giving you a yummy little recipe to get you into the Halloween spirit. And if you are a local friend, come knock on my door and I'll give you some! Seriously.

I had this recipe from bookmarked for so long and finally got around to it. And wow, they did not disappoint! These were so moist - just sweet enough and spicy enough to please every palate. I changed the original recipe by cutting the oil in half and adding some applesauce.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

1 ¾ cups pure pumpkin puree (1 small can)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce
4 large eggs
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole- wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
¾ cup mini- chocolate chips

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 Tbs butter, softened
2 tsp milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
½ cup mini- chocolate chips (for topping)

Prepare batter: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray muffin tins with nonstick spray or line with paper cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, applesauce, eggs and sugars until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, ginger and cloves. Toss in mini chocolate chips and stir to combine. Add dry ingredients to the wet and stir until moistened.

Pour batter into muffin pan coated with nonstick spray or paper cups. Bake until the center springs back when lightly pressed in the center- about 20 minutes. Remove and place on wire rack to cool completely.

Prepare frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla. Slowly add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, and mix until smooth. Frost cupcakes and sprinkle with additional mini chocolate chips.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Baked Egg Puffs (with butternut squash)

Okay, so here's the deal. When I first heard about it, I wasn't sure how I felt about Jessica Seinfeld's book "Deceptively Delicious." I think it's important to serve your kids vegetables in their whole form, rather than trying to "hide" them within a dish. I can see arguments for both sides.....and I decided that it's okay to hide the veggies as long as you offer more veggies visibly obvious on the plate as well. Let's face it, every night after scraping green beans, zucchini or broccoli off your kid's plate into the sink, it's hard not to wonder if your child is actually getting all the nutrients they need. Seriously, my kids are professional gaggers when being coerced to "just taste" their veggies. (I have to hold in my laugh at this tactic)

The book was also riddled with controversy because Mrs. Seinfeld was accused of plagiarism and defamation of character from a woman who a few months prior to Seinfeld's release, wrote a very similar book called "Sneaky Chef." It seems that the concepts and recipes were practically identical, but it was Seinfeld's book that raked in the dollars. That is the reason I checked the book out from the library instead of buying it. The Seinfeld Empire does not need any of my cash!

The main concept of the book is cooking and pureeing veggies and freezing them in 1/2 cup portions, so that when you make a recipe like this, you just pull the veg out of the freezer and throw it into the recipe. I can't imagine cooking the squash just for this, but if it was already prepped, then it's is a snap. I may try another butternut recipe since I have several baggies in the freezer now. I could see how you need to build up your stock of purees in order to try more of these sneaky recipes. Try finding time to do that!

I am going to post the recipe exactly as written and I hope nobody accuses me of plagiarism. The book shows theirs all puffed up over the edges, whereas mine fell flat once I turned the camera on. They were still very tasty - fluffy yet substantial and sweet enough for toddler palates. They were so easy, I could even make them on a weekday morning.

Baked Egg Puffs (with butternut squash)

2 eggs

4 egg whites

1/2 cup butternut squash

2 T. grated cheese

2 T. flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 400. Coat 4 (1/2 cup) ramekins with cooking spray and set on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, egg whites, squash puree, cheese, flour, baking powder and salt until combined. Divide the mixture among the ramekins and bake until the tops are puffed up and the eggs are no longer runny in the center when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.