26 April 2012

I wasn't planning on blogging today, as I've got a busy morning, but then I opened up my email and learned that it is National Pretzel Day.  And I just happened to have a pretzel recipe on my "ready to blog about" list.  I couldn't let this opportunity pass by!  These are the food gifts I gave out to all of our family members last Christmas (hence the Christmas trees and red and green M&Ms, oh yeah, and the candy canes!).  They are really easy and really fun to make.  It's something I found on Pinterest.  The idea and method came from The Baker Chick; I added specific ingredient quantities.

Candy-Covered Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods

1 (12 oz.) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips 
1 tbsp shortening
Chopped candy toppings 
15 pretzel rods
White chocolate melts

Prepare a cookie sheet or two with covered wax or parchment paper.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate and shortening for 60 seconds. Remove and stir, and then warm in microwave for 15 second increments until it is smooth.

Start dipping the pretzels right away. Use a spoon to bring the chocolate up to where you want.  Set rods on the cookie sheet.

Dip about 5-10 pretzels and then start placing the toppings on. You will have to do this by hand because if you try to roll or sprinkle them on it really won't work and will end up with a sticky candy-glob mess.

Arrange the candy bits on each pretzel rod. (You have a good 5-7 minute window where the chocolate will still be soft enough to press the toppings in.)

If the melted chocolate in the bowl has started to harden, just give it 15 more seconds to get it back to its nice melty-state.

Repeat with the rest of the toppings.

Place tray in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes until chocolate has hardened.

Melt white chocolate (the same way you melted the chips) and place in a plastic baggie.  Cut off a tiny bit of one corner and drizzle over the pretzels.

Place them back into the freezer to harden and then wrap, eat, enjoy!

Makes 15 pretzels.

I didn't get a picture of the white-chocolate drizzled ones, but they turned out well too.

I used mini M&Ms instead of regular and I thought that worked well.  The third one up there is Heath Bits.  Yum!  They were easy because you can buy bags of those already chopped up in the baking aisle.

Even though I am a total control freak in the kitchen, the holiday spirit got to me and I let my three-year-old daughter, Lena, help me make these.  As you can see, at this point she had already sampled the chocolate!

25 April 2012

 This is a simple weeknight meal that is sure to please your family.  Think of it kind of as a beefy Mexican mac and cheese.  The inspiration for this dish came from Taste of Home, but I changed it quite a bit to better suit our tastes.

Cheesy Chipotle Beef and Noodle Bake

3 cups uncooked egg noodles or other pasta
2 tsp olive oil
½ large onion, chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (10¾ oz.) can condensed cheddar cheese soup
¼ tsp chipotle powder
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups crushed tortilla chips
Shredded lettuce, sour cream and/or salsa, optional

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cook noodles according to package directions; drain. 

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan.  Saute onions until beginning to get tender.  Add beef and cook over medium heat until no longer pink; drain off grease. Stir in the tomato sauce, soup, and chipotle powder. Stir in cooked noodles.

Transfer to a 2½ quart baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Top with tortilla chips. Serve with lettuce, sour cream and/or salsa if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

The original recipe called for nacho cheese soup, green chiles, and olives.  We don't like green chiles, so I changed the flavor profile to chipotle instead.  I also used tomato sauce instead of diced tomatoes because my husband is picky about chunks of tomato in casseroles.

I use chipotle powder in it because the first time I made it I didn't have any canned chipotles on hand.  But you could use the canned version instead of the powder if you like.  One quarter of a teaspoon of chipotle powder might not sound like much for a whole dish, but that stuff is potent!  It really has a nice heat to it, but not so much that my 4-year-old won't eat it.  If you like things hot, add a little more.

You can also use any kind of pasta you like in here, but the egg noodles are my favorite.

It's really good with crushed tortilla chips on it, but I didn't have any the night I took pics.  They add a nice crunchy texture to it.

23 April 2012

It's time to share with you another fabulous meatless main dish that my family loves.  It combines several ingredients that don't seem to go together: sweet potatoes, salsa verde, cream cheese, and black beans, but actually they combine to form this wonderful enchilada casserole in stacked form.  It's an adaptation of one I found at Greens and Chocolate.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchilada Stack

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 large clove garlic, grated
2 cups cooked sweet potatoes, mashed (2 medium)
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
¾ tsp salt
1 cup salsa verde or tomatillo salsa
3 (9”) flour tortillas 
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350°. 

In large bowl, combine the beans, garlic, sweet potato, cumin, chili powder, and salt.  Set aside.

To assemble the casserole, coat the bottom of a 9" round casserole dish or cake pan with ¼ cup of the salsa verde.  Spread ⅓ of cream cheese onto each tortilla.  Place one of the tortillas on top of the sauce.  Top with ⅓ of the sweet potato filling and top with another ¼ cup of the salsa verde.  Repeat to make three layers and top with cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Cut into slices and enjoy!

Makes 4-6 servings.

Here are a few pics of the process.

Bottom: salsa verde, aka tomatillo salsa.  I use the Meijer Gold brand.

 Cream cheese.  This kind of holds everything together and brings a nice creaminess to the dish.

 Sweet potato and black bean mixture.

 Topped with cheese, of course!  My favorite is the Kraft Mexican blend.

 Isn't it pretty?

This dish is a huge hit with my family.  I love it because it contains ingredients that I almost always have on hand at any given time.  It's very filling and nobody misses the meat when I serve this.


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20 April 2012

Today is my birthday, so I brought cupcakes!  Actually, these are the cupcakes I made for my daughter on her birthday in February, but I thought today was the perfect day to share them with you.  My daughter, Lena, is four and mentions at least 10 times a day and tells everyone she knows that her favorite color is blue, so I made her Blue Velvet cupcakes to take to preschool on her birthday.  I found the recipe at One Particular Kitchen.

Blue Velvet Cupcakes

1 cup sugar
½ cup butter, room temperature
1 egg
½ cup buttermilk
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tbsp vinegar
1¼ cups cake flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tbsp Wilton Royal Blue gel food coloring
1 small dab of Wilton Violet gel food coloring 

Preheat oven to 350° and line a cupcake pan with liners.

Cream sugar and butter in mixing bowl until light and fluffy, then add egg, buttermilk, vanilla, and vinegar, mixing well.

In another bowl, mix flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined.  Add food coloring and mix gently until color is evenly distributed.

Scoop batter into cupcake liners, filling about ⅔ full.  I got 14 out of it. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove cupcakes from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Makes 14 cupcakes.

These are really good! I had actually never made cupcakes from scratch before, but I had made a couple of cakes from scratch, so the cupcakes weren't a big deal.  The buttermilk and vinegar gave them a very faint tang that is really good.

I could have just made regular cupcakes and topped them with blue frosting, but this was way more fun.  And the blue cake doesn't stain lips and tongues like blue frosting does.

The original recipe called for making a paste out of the cocoa powder and food coloring, but I just used the traditional muffin method and stirred in the food coloring at the end.  I couldn't find the Wilton gel food coloring, so I used the regular Wilton food coloring instead, and I think it turned out just fine.

Lena loved taking these to school and sharing them with her friends.  And if the blue obsession continues, I will probably have to make them again next year!

19 April 2012

I am so excited to share with you my creation for this month's Improv Challenge.  The premise of this challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.

This month the assigned ingredients were peanut butter and jelly.  Interesting!  As a mom of two small children, I make my fair share of pb and j sandwiches, and I do cook and bake with peanut butter a lot, but I have never made anything with peanut butter and jelly in it.  I did some looking around online and found some interesting sweet treats using pb and j, but I was really wanting to find something savory.  I didn't find anything, and after several days of trying to think of something on my own, I was resigned to the fact that I would have to do something sweet.  Then, all of a sudden, an idea popped into my head.  I honestly have no idea where this idea came from, but I thought it was pure genius.  I again looked around online to see if anyone else had done it and found only one recipe that was vaguely related to what I had in mind.  It used different ingredients and a different method, though, so I went my own way and made up this recipe myself.

I coated chicken tenders in a mixture of peanut butter and coconut milk, then breaded them with crispy Panko breadcrumbs.  I baked them in the oven until juicy on the inside and crunchy on the outside.  Then I whipped up a spicy sweet dipping sauce made with apricot jam.

Crispy Peanut Butter Chicken Fingers with Apricot Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce

1½ cups Panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp sesame seeds
⅛ tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup coconut milk (I used light)
⅛ tsp salt
½ tsp Bangkok Seasoning (Thai seasoning)
¼ -½ tsp cayenne
1 – 1½  lb. chicken breast tenders, about 8 tenders
½ cup sweet chili sauce
¼ cup apricot preserves or jam

Preheat oven to 400°.  Combine the Panko, sesame seeds, salt, and oil in a medium skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Spread the bread crumbs in a shallow dish and let cool.  

In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, coconut milk, salt, Bangkok, and cayenne.  Pour mixture into another shallow bowl. 

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, place a wire rack on top, and spray the rack with vegetable oil spray. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Dip each tender in the peanut butter mixture, then coat with the Panko mixture.  Press on the bread crumbs to make sure they adhere. Lay the chicken on the wire rack.

Bake until the meat is no longer pink in the center and feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the sweet chili sauce and the apricot preserves.  Serve chicken fingers with dipping sauce on the side.

Makes 4 servings, 2 tenders each.

It was a success!  Yay!  It seems like it's been a while since I came up with an original recipe, so I was quite proud of myself with this one.  The peanut butter flavor on the chicken is subtle, but definitely there.  If you eat the chicken by itself, without the dipping sauce, you notice it a lot more.  I went with Thai seasoning because using peanut butter with chicken is quite common in Thai-style food.  That's why I used coconut milk to thin it out.  

For the breadcrumbs, I used the same method as my regular Baked Chicken Fingers.  Pre-toasting the Panko was a trick I learned from America's Test Kitchen.  It is pure genius.  When using small or thin cuts of chicken, the chicken would be completely overcooked and dry by the time the breadcrumbs were golden brown, so browning them ahead of time makes for a perfectly browned and crispy coating while keeping the chicken tender and juicy.  To keep with the "Thai" theme, I added sesame seeds to the coating.  You'll notice in the picture above that they are white; it's because I didn't think to add them until after I had toasted the Panko.  But next time I'll toast them right along with it.

The dipping sauce is so good!  It's sweet, but has a nice little kick from the chili sauce.  My four-year-old couldn't get enough!

Come back next month to see what I make with strawberries and cream!  Will I go savory again? 

15 April 2012

I have joined a new monthly blog challenge.  Yes, another one!  This brings me to four.  They are just so much fun.  I hated  homework in school, but when it comes to food blogging, having "assignments" really makes things interesting.  This new (to me) challenge is a lot fun and I think you will really enjoy it.

It's called "Eating the Alphabet" and it's hosted by Brenda at Meal Planning Magic.  Each month the participants are assigned two letters of the alphabet and are challenged to make and post a new recipe using a fruit, vegetable, grain, bean, or legume that starts with one of the assigned letters.  The whole point is to encourage the eating of healthy foods.  Considering how many recipes I have on my blog, not very many of them are vegetable recipes, so I thought this would be a good way to branch out and increase my vegetable repertoire.

I missed the first two months, so this month the assigned letters are E or F.  What a month to begin!  There aren't too many options with those letters.  Brenda really encourages choosing foods that are in season, and trying food that are out of your comfort zone.  I found out that fava beans are in season in the spring, and since I had never cooked with them before, I thought they would be the perfect choice.  I called around to a few area grocery stores and none of them had fava beans in stock, but one, Meijer, offered to order them for me.  Great!  Meijer really does have a superb produce section with great variety.  When I went to pick them up, I was informed that they tried to order them, but they weren't available.  :(  Bummer!  Then I got to thinking that edamame is similar to fava beans and those are available year-round in the freezer section.  I have cooked with edamame before, but it's been a while.  So I switched gears a little bit and got into an edamame state of mind.

I found a recipe for an edamame dip with goat cheese.  I had tried an edamame dip a few years ago and failed, so I was kind of eager to try it again.  And I had never cooked with goat cheese before, so that was interesting to me.  This dip recipe originally comes from Food and Wine magazine.  I changed it a bit; here's my version.

Herbed Goat Cheese Edamame Dip

1½ lbs. shelled edamame, thawed if frozen
4-5 oz. herbed goat cheese, crumbled
½ cup sour cream
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, grated
¾ tsp salt
1 tbsp dill, chopped
Pita chips

In a large pot of boiling salted water, boil the edamame until very tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a food processor. Add the goat cheese, sour cream, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and puree until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Stir in the dill and transfer the dip to a serving bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Serve the dip chilled or at room temperature with the pita chips.

Makes 4-5 cups.

It turned out really well.  The original recipe said to boil the edamame for 8 minutes, but the problem I had the last time I tried an edamame dip was that it didn't get soft enough and instead of forming a puree, it just got chopped up into little pieces.  So this time I really boiled the heck out of it!  I put 15 minutes in the recipe, but I probably did mine longer than that; I forgot to time it.  I boiled it until it mashed well with a fork.  The original recipe also called for chipotles in adobo, but that didn't sound like it went well with the other ingredients, and I didn't really want a spicy dip, so I left that out.  I also decreased the sour cream and cut back on the lemon just a tad.  Oh, and the recipe called for 2 tsp of salt.  That's a lot!  I started with just one, and it was a teeny bit on the salty side, so next time I will only do ¾ tsp.  The recipe also called for spiced pepitas to go on top, but I couldn't find pepitas so I just left them off.

I don't have a full-sized food processor, just a little 3 cup one, so my method was a little bit different.  I pureed the edamame by itself in batches, then combined it with all of the other ingredients in a bowl.  I had trouble pureeing the edamame by itself; it's a little dry for that, so I added a little bit of water to each batch.  That probably made the finished dip a little looser than it was meant to be, but that's why I cut back on the sour cream.  So in the end it probably evened out.

I really like this dip.  The herbed goat cheese flavor is really good combined with the vegetal flavor of the edamame.  And it's really quite filling!  I had some with my lunch and ended up really not having any desire to eat when dinnertime came around.  I had it at room temperature and then later tried it cold and I liked it both ways.  I ate it with pita chips, but it would be good on crackers, or even with veggie sticks as a crudité.

This recipe makes a lot, I totally should have halved it.  Anybody want to come help me eat it?

12 April 2012

I mentioned on Facebook last week that I was making cheesy potatoes in the slow cooker for my Easter dinner.  One of my fans asked for the recipe.  I hadn't posted it before because it's a pretty basic recipe and I wasn't sure it was interesting enough to post.  These potatoes are often called "funeral potatoes" and yes, I have made them for funeral dinners!  They work well for potlucks because they stay warm in the slow cooker and I love them for Easter dinner because the oven is tied up with the ham and roasted asparagus.  You can find this recipe a million places online, but here's how I make mine.

Slow Cooker Cheesy Potatoes

32 oz. bag frozen cubed potatoes, thawed
¼ cup butter, melted
1 can condensed cheese soup
1 cup French onion chip dip
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Place thawed potatoes in a slow cooker.  Combine melted butter, cheese soup, chip dip, and shredded cheese in a bowl and then pour over potatoes.  Stir to combine.  Cover and set to low.

Cook for 4-6 hours.  Mine take 6 hours, but start checking them at 4 just to make sure they aren’t over cooking.  Stir them every hour or so during the second half of cooking.  

Makes 8 servings.

Super easy, but I did manage to find a way to mess them up.  I accidentally bought "fat free" chip dip instead of regular, but didn't have time to go back to the store.  So I used it anyway.  Here's the result:

It actually took me a while to realize why they turned out so dry and clumpy looking.  They weren't creamy at all like they usually are.  Then I remembered about the chip dip.  Duh!  They were still edible, but not as good as usual.

You can certainly use sour cream instead of the chip dip, but I love the oniony flavor the chip dip lends without having chunks of onion in there.

I have only ever cooked these on low, so I don't know how long they would take on high.  Maybe I'll do them on high next time and see how long that takes.

11 April 2012

 This is a dessert I've been making for a while now.  It's so easy to make, and I love how it can (and really should be) made ahead of time.  That made it the perfect dessert for my Easter dinner on Sunday.  I also love how you can switch it up by using whatever flavor of pudding you like or fits the occasion.  I have made it with vanilla and butterscotch, but for Easter dinner, I used lemon for a bright, springy touch.  You could use pistachio for St. Patrick's Day, chocolate for any day, the possibilities are endless!  This is another Taste of Home recipe.

Cool and Creamy Layered Pudding Dessert

1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
½ cup sugar, divided
6 tbsp butter, melted
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
3 cups cold milk, divided
2 (3 oz.) packages instant pudding mix, any flavor
1 (8 oz.) carton frozen whipped topping, thawed

Take a couple of pinches of the graham cracker crumbs and place in small bowl and set aside.  In another small bowl, combine the remaining cracker crumbs, ¼ cup sugar, and butter. Press into a 9x13” dish coated with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, ¼ cup milk, and remaining ¼ cup sugar until smooth. Spread over crust.

In another bowl, whisk remaining 2¾ cups milk with the pudding mix for 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft-set. Gently spread over cream cheese layer. 

Spread whipped topping over the top.  Sprinkle the extra graham cracker crumbs over the top.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. 

Yield: 24 servings.

Taste of Home calls it "Butterscotch Bliss", but I didn't want the name to be so specific to one flavor of pudding.  And "cool and creamy" is the perfect description for this dessert.  The original recipe calls for rum extract to be mixed into the Cool Whip, but I have never bothered with that step.

 This is a pic from another time when I made it.  If you want to halve the recipe, use an 8x8" dish.  Topping it with graham cracker crumbs was my idea.  I think it gives it a nice finishing touch.  I forgot to do that with the one I made for Easter (above).

This is one made with vanilla pudding.  

The other great thing about this recipe is that it's super easy to lighten up.  You can use Splenda (or a Splenda blend) instead of the sugar, reduced-fat cream cheese, skim milk, sugar-free pudding, and non-fat whipped topping.  It might not set up as well with reduced-fat cream cheese and skim milk, you might have to dish it out with a spoon instead of cutting out squares, but it would still be pretty darn tasty.

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10 April 2012

This is the dish I made for our Easter breakfast at church this year.  At first, I couldn't decide what to make, but then Pinterest helped me out!  I get an email whenever someone repins one of my pins, and this recipe was constantly getting repinned, so I really wanted to try it out.  Usually I like to chose "tried and true" recipes when cooking for church events, but I decided to take a chance with this one, and I'm glad I did. It was the perfect Easter brunch dish and it turned out beautifully.  It's a Taste of Home recipe.

Eggs Benedict Casserole

10 oz. Canadian bacon, chopped
6 English muffins, split and cut into 1” pieces
8 eggs
2 cups 2% milk
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika, divided
1 tsp shallot salt
4 egg yolks
½ cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp Dijon mustard
½ cup butter, melted

Place half of the Canadian bacon in a greased 9x13” baking dish; top with English muffins and remaining bacon. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, onion powder, garlic powder, ½ tsp smoked paprika, and shallot salt; pour over the top. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 375°.  Sprinkle with remaining ½ tsp smoked paprika. Cover and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover; bake 10 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

In a double boiler or metal bowl over simmering water, constantly whisk the egg yolks, cream, lemon juice, and mustard until mixture reaches 160° or is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Reduce heat to low. Slowly drizzle in warm melted butter, whisking constantly. Serve immediately with casserole. 

Makes 12 servings.

The only thing I changed was that I added a little bit more seasoning to the egg mixture, because some other reviewers said it was a tad bland.  I really loved the Hollandaise sauce and will probably use it the next time I need Hollandaise sauce for another recipe.  It was really easy to  make.

 If I was making this at home, I would put the Hollandaise sauce in a gravy boat and let each person pour out as much as they wanted.  But since this was being served at a buffet, I just poured it all over the top of the casserole and served it that way.  That worked out really well.

The casserole was a hit at the Easter breakfast.  One lady told me it was the best dish there.  There was only enough leftover for me to have a little bit for breakfast the next morning.  Sounds like a success to me!

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09 April 2012

Happy Monday!  It's Secret Recipe Club reveal day.   The Secret Recipe Club is a group of food bloggers who secretly make one of someone else's dishes and post them all on the same day at the same time.  It's really fun, choosing a recipe to make, making the recipe, then reading about everyone else's recipes.  It's a great way to "meet" other bloggers and check out some great blogs that you never knew about before.

Secret Recipe Club

So true, as this month I was assigned a blog I was not familiar with.  Culinary Adventures with Camilla is a very interesting food blog.  Camilla is mom to two boys who love to get into the kitchen with her.  Her blog is filled with pics of her boys cooking.  That is so fun!  I also love how international her blog is.  She does a series of posts called "Cooking Around the World with Camilla", where she makes dishes from all kinds of different countries.  She's got 42 of these so far!  She is actually going through all the countries of the world, alphabetically.  That's pretty impressive!

The recipe I chose to make from Camilla's blog is from one of these international posts.  It's the dish she made about Bhutan, Bhutanese Chile Chicken.  Now, I am no dummy (I do have a Master's degree, after all!), but geography has never been my strongest subject, and to be honest, while I had heard of it before, I had no idea where Bhutan actually was or anything about it.  So I was very interested to learn that it is a "small, land-locked nation that is sandwiched between India and China in the foothills of the Himalayas."  The dish Camilla chose to represent Bhutan sounded really good and was something I knew my family would eat, so it was the perfect choice.

Camilla says that the recipe is traditionally made with chunks of chicken, but she used drumsticks because that's what she had on hand.  I had boneless chicken, so I went with the chunks.  She also said that it's traditionally served with Bhutanese red rice, but I used brown jasmine instead.  I made a few other adjustments to the recipe, based on ingredients I had on hand, so here is my adaptation.

Bhutanese Chicken

3 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp flour
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp salt
2 boneless chicken breasts, cubed
2 tbsp olive oil
¼ large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
3 tbsp sesame seeds
¼ - ½ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 servings cooked rice

Combine cornstarch, flour, paprika, ginger, and salt in a large resealable bag.  Add the chicken to the bag, seal, and toss around, making sure all pieces are totally covered. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  Add chicken and cook until browned on one side, then stir and cook again until pieces are browned on all sides and slightly crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add onion, garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes (if using) and stir-fry until softened.  Add soy sauce and tomato paste. Cook until a thick sauce forms. If it gets too thick, thin out with a couple of ounces of water.  Taste for seasoning.  If too tart, add a pinch or two of sugar.  Return chicken to pan, cover in the sauce, and heat through. Serve over cooked rice.

Makes 4 servings.

Camilla calls this "Bhutanese Chile Chicken", but her recipe didn't include any chiles.  I wonder if this was an oversight because she also calls it a "spicy stir fry".  I didn't know what kind of chiles would be best, so I made it without, but I put red pepper flakes in the recipe above as an option if you want it a little bit spicy.

I used tomato paste instead of fresh tomatoes because it's hard to get decent tomatoes this time of year.  I thought it was pretty good that way, and my husband isn't a big fan of chunks of tomato in his food anyway.  

This dish was a huge hit with my family.  My husband said, "I could eat this all day long."  That's a pretty good compliment!  We loved how crispy and flavorful the chicken was before it was even tossed in the sauce (yes, we sneaked a bite or two to see how it tasted!).  The flour and cornstarch coating not only gives it a great crispy texture, but it keeps the chicken so incredibly moist and tender on the inside.  

Thanks so much for educating me about Bhutan, Camilla, and for introducing me to a great dish!

07 April 2012

 It's time once again for the Crazy Cooking Challenge!  In this challenge, all the participants make and blog about the same dish each month.  Each blogger is to scour other blogs for a unique version of whatever that month's dish is.  The goal is to highlight and promote personal food blogs. This month's assigned dish was blueberry muffins.  So we were to find a unique blueberry muffin recipe, make it, and blog about it.


Confession time: I don't like blueberries.  I know, I know, they are super healthy and stuff, but I just don't like the flavor of them.  I much prefer raspberries and usually substitute them whenever a recipe calls for blueberries.  So while I love making muffins, I wasn't too excited when I found out that this month's Crazy Cooking Challenge theme was blueberry muffins.  I started scouring blogs for a recipe that sounded fun and unique.  What's the best thing to do when you have to bake something you're not crazy about?  Add chocolate to it, of course!  I got to thinking about how blueberries are good for you because they have a lot of antioxidants and that dark chocolate also has lots of antioxidants, so why not put them together?  I searched for a blueberry chocolate chip muffin recipe and found one over at Cupcake Muffin.  She actually used blueberries, regular chocolate chips, and white chocolate chips.  I left out the white chocolate chips so I could add more dark chocolate ones!   I used Nestle Dark Chocolate Morsels and they were perfect.  I thought the tops needed something, so I threw together a chocolate streusel.  The streusel really makes the muffins, in my opinion.  Here's the recipe.

Dark Chocolate Chip Blueberry Muffins with Chocolate Streusel

1½ cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
⅓ cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup milk
½ cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
½ cup dark chocolate morsels
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp butter, cold

Preheat oven to 375° and coat a muffin tin with baking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the 1½ cups flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the ⅓ cup sugar, brown sugar, eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla.  Carefully stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring until just barely combined.  Batter will be lumpy.

If you’re using frozen blueberries, toss them in about 1 tbsp flour.  Pour the blueberries and dark chocolate chips into the batter and fold in gently.

For the streusel, combine the ¼ cup sugar, ¼ cup flour, and cocoa powder in a small bowl.  Cut up the butter and place it in the bowl.  Using a pastry blender or fork, work the butter into the cocoa mixture until it is crumbly.  

Divide batter between muffin cups.  Top each muffin with a generous amount of streusel.  Bake 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Let cool before removing from muffin tin.

Makes 12 muffins.

I can honestly say that these are the best blueberry muffins I have ever had!  The chocolate morsels really do make you forget the fact that you are also eating blueberries.  :)