Sunday, January 31, 2010

Breakfast Burrito the best way to use leftovers

Like most people, Bryan and I can only stand so many days of eating leftovers time and time again. But lucky for him (and me), I try to get creative with ways to use whatever remains.

My suggestion to you: Don't make three pounds of Taco Meat for two people. At the time, it seemed worth the savings of 50 cents per pound, but in retrospect I could have been a little less compulsive. On the bright side, we actually managed to finish the Mexican Rice I made as an accompaniment, which despite my superpower is actually a rare occurrence.

The worst part is, we missed out on a chance to eat at Mom's. She invited us over last night, but I said we had to stay home and eat leftovers. LAME!!!

But not so lame is this beautiful breakfast burrito I made with the leftovers. Although I've always scrambled the eggs in the past, I thought it would be much less messy if I just cooked it like an omelet, except without folding it over. Then I slid the un-omelet right onto the middle of a tortilla that was just slightly bigger, spread the heated Taco Meat, Mexican Rice and refried beans in the middle, and topped it all with shredded cheddar, sour cream, salsa and Tapatio, and voila! Beauty and flavor, all wrapped in one.

The following Taco Meat and Taco Seasoning recipes are adapted from Greg Atkinson's "West Coast Cooking" (the Mexican Rice is mine!):

Taco Meat
1 T. canola oil
1/2 c. onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. Taco Seasoning (recipe follows)
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 c. canned diced tomato
1 t. kosher salt

Heat the oil in a cast iron or nonstick frying pan. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic for last minute, then add Taco Seasoning until thoroughly mixed. Crumble ground beef in pan and continue to cook until brown. Then mix in tomatoes and salt.

Taco Seasoning
1/4 c. ground ancho chiles, deseeded
1/4 c. smoked Spanish paprika
1/4 c. dried oregano
1 t. ground cumin

Grind it all up in a blender, coffee grinder or my favorite, the Magic Bullet, and store tightly covered for up to three months.

Mexican Rice
1 T. canola oil
1/2 c. onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced (seeds removed if you don't want it too spicy)
1-1/2 c. chicken broth
1/2 can diced tomatoes
1/2 t. kosher salt

Saute onion in canola oil for about 5 minutes; add garlic and jalapeno for the last minute. Pour chicken broth and tomatoes into the pan, add salt and mix well. Bring to a boil, then turn to low and cook for 20 minutes.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sweet mustard zests up corned beef

With all of my different freelance gigs fighting for my attention, I admit I've gotten a bit lazy about cooking lately. I'm starting to realize why so many people go out to eat or make prepared meals. No, I'm not going to stop cooking, but there may be less lasagna and beef burgundy in my repertoire while I figure out my life.

So in the meantime, I like things like corned beef that can just go in the Crock-Pot all day long while I slave over the computer. This time, I didn't make it to the store early enough to use the slow cooker, so I tried the oven method instead and found it just as tasty. But I was longing, again, for that sweet and savory combination, so I whipped up a batch of honey mustard using equal parts Grey Poupon Dijon and light brown sugar.

After the corned beef was done, which I cooked covered with water in a Dutch oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit with carrots and red potatoes (an hour per pound of meat), I took out the meat, slathered it with the mustard and broiled it for about 15 minutes, until the mustard was bubbly and starting to brown.

It did the trick. It never hurts to spice things up a bit, does it?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The perfect pancake for any meal

Seriously, who doesn't love a little breakfast for dinner? Especially when there's bacon involved. No, I didn't just hop on the bacon bandwagon because of Bacon Salt, although I am a fan and the Mmmvelopes idea is intriguing indeed. But my doctor mentioned something about how bad butter is, so I've been substituting bacon fat instead (and no, I did not run that by her first!).

The combination of sweet and savory is just so dang nummy. I mean, how good does this Maple Bacon Bar look?

So when I decided I couldn't stand to look at those apples that have been in my fridge for I don't know how many months, I just couldn't get this always-perfect Big Apple Pancake from Gourmet out of my head. But why use 1/4 c. of butter when you can use bacon fat instead? It even melts faster and has less risk of burning, and it made my cast-iron skillet happy, too.

As for the flavor, delicious. Not much bacon flavor, but enough to give it an edge. And it smelled so good on the stove!

By the way, Sunset magazine just published its version of a similar Apple Oven Pancake, which I haven't tried yet. Sounds like it's time for a compare and contrast party!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Barbecue Chicken Pizza from scratch

Every time I make homemade pizza, I get so excited to eat it that I forget to take a picture first. But after meeting with the Dans over the weekend and discussing the joys of food blogging, I shamed myself into remembering at least this once. And I'm sort of glad that I've waited until now to finally get a shot of my pizza, because this one is the most beautiful yet.

There's definitely a steep learning curve when it comes to throwing pizza dough, and it's taking me a long time to master the skill. But without this tutorial from the Seattle P-I (pdf), I might not have even bothered to try. It keeps getting easier each time (even if I did end up with flour practically from head to toe!), so I'm determined to keep trying until I make the perfect crust.

As far as the pizza itself, there's not much to the recipe. I started by shredding the last two leg quarters from the Orange Chicken for a Crowd that I made on Friday. Look how pretty that dish turned out!

But unfortunately, chicken quarters are actually a bit difficult to eat. And I thought I was being really brilliant because using breasts and legs cut down on the chicken pieces I had to glaze. But it just doesn't seem worth it if I'm completely inconveniencing my guests at the dinner table. I think next time I'll use chicken thighs and drumsticks, or maybe even follow the recipe and simply use two whole cut-up chickens!

Anyway, since I was too lazy to go to the store and we didn't have tomatoes, pizza sauce or mozzarella cheese, I used Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce as the base, covered it with the chicken, cheddar cheese and about four slices of diced, cooked bacon, then baked it on our new pizza stone (thanks Stephen!) at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes. After it came out of the oven, I topped it with some sliced green onions.

And the end result was absolute deliciousness.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Spices make Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Well, I finally found a good way to put that chicken broth to use (although I apologize for the shoddy photo -- still need to get used to the new camera). It's actually from a recipe Mom and I stumbled upon separately, but considering her love for the Food Network, it came as no surprise when she made a rendition of one of the same dishes I had made for Thanksgiving in 2008. And when I say rendition, I mean it.

That was a fun Thanksgiving feast. With help from my turkey-brining brother, I believe that might have been the first I hosted that felt like a success. Because of the importance of soup in Asian cuisine, I made this Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, which actually made me extremely nervous because it's so different from the veggie-laden soups my family typically serves before meals. (Stephen has been bugging me to share a recipe, but it's one of those kitchen-sink situations that I'm not sure could actually be translated into the English language. Stay tuned).

But my aunt loved it, and Mom obviously liked it enough to at least make the Roasted Winter Squash part of the soup recipe, which was one of the delightful additions to our meal the last time Bryan's mom was in town. I knew exactly what it was because of the flavorful spices, even though her version was altered beyond recognition. Here's the recipe she used, except she mixed in a medium chopped onion, sauteed in extra-virgin olive oil, before serving the chunky goodness:

Mom's Roasted Butternut Squash
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed (I prefer the 2-pound packages of pre-cubed squash, but that's our little secret)
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. molasses
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
2 T. finely chopped fresh sage, or 2 t. dried sage
1 T. sugar
2 t. Toasted Spice Rub (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all the ingredients together in a 9x13 glass pan, making sure squash is in a single layer. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, tossing once about halfway through.

Toasted Spice Rub
1/4 c. fennel seeds
1 T. peppercorns
1-1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/4 c. chile powder
2 T. kosher salt
2 T. ground cinnamon

Toast the fennel seeds and peppercorns over medium heat. When the fennel turns light brown, quickly add the red pepper flakes and toss constantly under the fan for less than a minute. Immediately turn spices onto a plate to cool.

After spices have cooled, blend in a food processor or blender (or a Magic Bullet if you have one!) with the chile powder, salt and cinnamon until evenly ground. Store in a glass jar in a cool, dry place, or freeze.

(Yes, this makes a bit much, but consider it an excuse to make the dish over and over again!)

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
6-8 c. chicken broth
Mom's Roasted Butternut Squash, pureed in a blender

Saute onion, carrots, celery and cinnamon stick with oil over medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper, then add 6 c. chicken broth. After mixture comes to a boil, let simmer for 5 minutes, then stir in pureed squash. Bring back to a boil, and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick, then puree in blender. If soup is too thick, add more broth or half-and-half if you like your soup creamy.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Orange Chicken puts my superpower to work

Have I told you about my superpower yet? I can't take all the credit since it was inherited from Mom, but it still takes effort to master such skills.

It's kind of an embarrassing story, actually. At a career workshop last year, we were asked to name a "superpower" that didn't have to be related to work. Of course, everybody else chose something that had to do with writing, or editing, or meeting deadlines, or something along those lines. But all I could think about was food, so for my superpower I said with a blush, "The ability to look in the fridge and make a meal out of anything."

I suppose it can translate into the work force somehow. Perhaps it shows off my ability to put all the pieces of a puzzle together -- or that I should be in charge of the office recycling committee. Sigh.

And the superpower itself? Well, it's not quite as great as I make it out to be. I can't lie and say I don't use's ingredient search fairly often to help me find a recipe that includes all those ingredients. But the bottom line is, nothing gets wasted. If I have some leeks or carrots that need to get eaten, I will find a way to cook them with something in my pantry or freezer. It's not always a masterpiece, but it'll usually fill us up.

This is what turned up in my most recent search, when I had half an orange that I thought would be a tasty addition to the frozen chicken breasts I always have on hand. So I typed in "chicken" and "orange," and up popped this Orange Island Chicken recipe from Kathy Bliesner. I took another look in my fridge and made some adjustments to include the veggies I had, and this is the moist and tasty chicken dish I ended up with:

Orange Island Chicken with Veggies
2 chicken breasts, sliced in strips
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/6 c. orange juice
1/2 t. ginger powder
1/4 t. onion powder
1 t. orange zest
1/4 c. flour
1 T. canola oil
Half a red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 oz. snap peas, ends and string removed

Mix soy sauce, orange juice, ginger powder, onion powder and zest in a zip-top bag, then add sliced chicken breasts and allow to marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; heat a large skillet to medium high.

Remove chicken from the bag, reserving marinade, and coat with flour. Add oil to the skillet, and fry the chicken until brown, about 5 minutes. Place in a small casserole dish, then cover with the reserved marinade.

Top with foil and cook for 30 minutes. Remove foil and mix in bell pepper and snap peas. Bake uncovered for 15 more minutes.

Monday, January 4, 2010

King Oyster Mushrooms balance out the meal

And I bet you were thinking that I was a disgusting person for eating ribs on the first day of the New Year. But we actually started 2010 off just right, with a healthy balance of nutrition and fun. We even went to the gym that morning, which as far as I'm concerned gives me free reign to eat whatever I please afterward.

Well, within reason, which meant the ribs of gluttony needed to be canceled out a little more than through a simple trip to the gym. So I took a page from Mom's multi-dish meals by adding some antioxidant color to the meal, and I also left the fat out: The sugar snap peas got a quick saute in nonstick spray, garlic powder and salt, and we also held off on buttering the yams and simply mashed them with salt and pepper.

Now the mushrooms get a little more play. Have you ever seen king oyster mushrooms? Check these bad boys out:

Unless you frequent the Asian grocery, these probably look like something you'd expect to see your old hippie neighbor sneaking around with. But they actually are simply giant oyster mushrooms with a mildly sweet flavor. For a time, Mom sauteed some of these along with Chicken Gizzards nearly every time I came over solo. We seem to be the only ones in the family who love to eat both dishes, so why not?

But with the holidays comes the whole family, which meant I was cut off from the source as Mom made more crowd-pleasing dishes. It was time for me to finally try my hand at making king oyster mushrooms myself, and as usual, it was a learning lesson. No, my beloved cheap chardonnay is not an appropriate substitute for dry Chinese cooking wine. Guess I'll be expanding my pantry even more with some salted rice wine, whatever that is, the next time I go to the Asian grocery.

Sauteed King Oyster Mushrooms
2 king oyster mushrooms
2 t. canola oil
Dash salt
2 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 c. salted rice wine or vermouth

Cut oyster mushrooms in half lengthwise, then slice in 1/4-inch pieces.

Heat nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add canola oil, then cook garlic for 30 seconds. Add salt and oyster mushrooms, and saute for about 5 minutes, until soft. Add wine or vermouth and close lid for 30 seconds. Lift lid and stir for about a minute so the wine evaporates a bit before serving.

Friday, January 1, 2010

I want my baby back baby back baby back ribs

So I finally gathered the courage to make baby back ribs ... but instead of making Mom's tried and true recipe, I chickened out and made one I found on the Internet. It was under the heading "The Best BBQ Ribs in the World," so how could I resist?

As silly as it sounds, I guess I just wanted to make sure I could make baby back ribs at all before tackling something that I'm sure to be overly critical about. Besides, it probably will work out in my favor since I ended up buying more ribs than we could use for one recipe. That means Mom's ribs are next on the agenda, so at least I'll be comparing them to this recipe instead of to hers.

Don't get me wrong, this recipe turned out great. But from a personal taste perspective, I'm simply not sure how much of a fan I am of the dry rub. It probably has something to do with the fact I grew up eating moist Asian-style ribs, and the dry rub was just a little, well, dry. But it's still worth trying. Let me know what you think, and I'll let you know the verdict after I finally make Mom's recipe.

Baby Back Ribs in a Dry Rub
2 racks baby back pork ribs
1/2 c. each lime, lemon and orange juice
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 T. cinnamon
Dry rub:
1/4 c. each paprika, dried sage, oregano, cumin and freshly ground black pepper
2 T. or more dried chile powder
2 T. honey or brown sugar
1/2 c. lime, lemon and orange juice

Rinse the ribs and dry them with paper towels. Cut them to fit a 2.5-gallon zip-top bag. Mix the marinade ingredients, then place ribs and marinade in the bag and marinate overnight or up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 220 degrees F. Mix dry rub ingredients. Remove ribs from zip-top bag and discard marinade. Pat the dry rub on both sides of ribs, then place on a roasting pan with water underneath, but not touching the ribs.

Bake for five to six hours, then mix the glaze ingredients and baste on both sides of the ribs during the last hour of cooking.