Oct 6, 2010

Wonton Bites and Steak with Peppers over Rice

Todays’ recipe may seem a little daunting, but I promise it’s really not difficult. There are a lot of ingredients on the list, but most of it is prep work. As long as you follow the steps, you’ll be eating yummy food in no time! Most of the ingredients also don’t have measurements this time. That’s because it just depends on how hungry you are! All the measurements for tonight’s dinner are estimates. (Ignore the eggs in the picture, they didn’t make it in tonight.) And please ignore the dryer/prep table. Mine are in the kitchen and do double duty as counter space.

  • Cornstarch
  • 1 small can of beef broth
  • 1 small steak
  • Peppers (I used 4 peppers, one of each color, but you can use whatever kind you like.)
  • Instant rice
  • 1 lb sausage (I buy the frozen roll and let it thaw.)
  • 1 small can of mushrooms
  • Soy sauce
  • 1 package of wonton wrappers
  • 1 package of egg roll wrappers
  • 1 package of cream cheese
  • Crispy chow mein noodles (if you want them)
  • About 4 bowls

Start by cutting the steak into bite size pieces. Place in a bowl and set aside. Cut the stem out of the peppers, slice into thin strips (julienne) and then put in a bowl. Set this to the side to.

The way I cooked the rice was to heat water to boiling and then put with an equal amount of rice into a bowl with a tight lid. That way, the rice cooks on it’s own while I do the rest of the food and I don’t have to watch it.

Crumble and cook the sausage. Drain and place into a bowl with the cream cheese. Brown the steak in the same pan. I used my handy cast iron skillet for this one. While the steak is browning, you can mix the sausage and cream cheese together. After the steak is done, split in half. Add mushrooms to one half and leave the other half in the pan.

Use the wonton wrappers and place about a teaspoon of the cream cheese mix in the middle. Wet down the edges of the wrapper and fold in half to make a triangle. Place on a plate and set aside. With the egg roll wrappers, place about a tablespoon of the steak and mushroom mix in the middle. Roll up however you want it. Just be sure that with both the egg rolls and the wontons that you have the edges all closed so that the filling doesn’t come out while it’s cooking.

Boil water in a large pan. Heat your fryer up and set up your station. You’ll have the wontons and potstickers close to hand. The potstickers can be either boiled or fried. *Hubby likes them boiled, I like the fried crispy!* Drop a few of the potstickers in to boil, being careful not to crowd the pan. They will be done when they float to the surface.

Turn the pan with the steak onto medium high. Add the peppers to the pan and about half of the beef broth. While the peppers are cooking, you can start the wontons. They will only take about 30 seconds to fry. Cook on one side until it is very lightly browned, it will get darker after they are taken out. Flip them to the other side, cook. Remove from oil and place into a strainer or on a plate covered with paper towels.

Now that the peppers have had time to soften, add in the rest of the beef broth. Mix about 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into a coffee cup of cold water. Once the broth starts boiling, add the cornstarch and stir continuously until it thickens.

Serve the beef and peppers over the rice with wontons/potstickers on the side. This is an easy dish, even if it seems complicated.  

Oct 4, 2010

Cheater's Chicken Parmesan

I call this recipe “Cheater’s Chicken Parmesan” because it’s basically made using convenience foods. It’s really simple, really delicious, and easy on a budget.

1-2 boxes of penne rigata pasta (number of boxes depends on how much you need to make)
1 large bag of pre-cooked chicken nuggets
1 large can of spaghetti sauce
1 bag of your favorite shredded cheese (I used Mozzarella with Sun Dried Tomato and Basil from Sargento.)
Grated Parmesan (also known as parmesan powder in a can, usually labeled Kraft)

From your spice rack: Basil and Parsley

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta according to directions. This means boil water in a big pot, add a touch of vegetable oil (keeps the pasta from sticking) and then add the pasta. Cook until al dente, or until it still has a little bite to it. It will cook a little longer later, so you can leave it just slightly underdone for this step. Drain pasta.

In medium to large casserole dish, layer ingredients in the following order; chicken nuggets, pasta, sauce. Continue to do this until all the pasta is used. You may have some chicken left over (yeah, lunch for tomorrow!) and that’s ok. You want the last layer to be sauce. Top with the shredded cheese.

Your not going to need to cook this very long and the times will vary. This is one dish you’ll have to keep an eye on. For me, it took about 20 minutes. The cheese will be just slightly browned and the casserole will be heated all the way through. You can test this by digging out a nugget somewhat close to the middle (from the top down, not the middle of the pan) and seeing if it’s all the way heated. Sweet! Chef’s get to taste test!

Serve hot and add parmesan to individual servings. This way, everyone gets the amount of cheese they like and it doesn’t turn all gluey from being in the sauce to long. This is a super easy meal that is absolutely tasty!

Sep 27, 2010

Tempura (Battered) Chicken Bites

I used to be very picky when it came to eating things I wasn't used to. I didn't care for Chinese food because in my mind, it was all bamboo shoots and baby corn. I'm happy to say that the notion didn't last long. Now that I've learned a little more about Asian cuisine, I love it!

One of my favorite things when I would go out to our local Asian buffet is these little chicken bites that were battered. There would be either sweet and sour or peanut sauce to go with them. (I used ranch, lol.)

I had to find out how to make these lightly battered bites. If they are made correctly, they are not greasy and taste so much better than traditional fried chicken. Think Long John Silver's type of batter, only much lighter and crisper.

  • 1/2 Cup flour
  • 1/2 Cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 Cup ice cold water

Mix the dry ingredients. Beat the egg and add to the water. The water needs to be cold in order for the batter to turn out right. Add to the dry ingredients and stir just until mixed. (There may be some lumps left and that's okay.)

I used 1 lb. of skinless chicken tenders. I cut them into small, bite size pieces. You can also leave them in strips and they will turn out well. After the chicken is cut, dredge it in flour (coat it in flour) and let rest for about 5-10 minutes while you are heating up your oil. Dip the coated chicken in the tempura batter, being sure to coat the entire piece. Don't worry if there is extra batter because those will drip off and make those crispy little munchy pieces that we all love but refuse to admit we love.

After you dip in the tempura batter, carefully place into the oil. Do not drop into the oil because it will splatter! I used about 3 inches of oil in my cast iron skillet. After one side was lightly brown, I turned to the other side. My chicken was done when it just barely floated to towards the top. You will need to check your first couple of pieces so that you can decide when they are done. There will be no pink left in the middle of the chicken.

These bites are good by themselves or with a dipping sauce. They go great with the Onigiri that I wrote about in the last post. Enjoy!

Sep 23, 2010

Onigiri and Octodogs

My kids and I were recently watching some of our favorite anime. This got us interested in onigiri, which are Japanese rice balls. Onigiri is a staple in traditional Japanese cuisine and is used most often in lunches but can be for any meal, even breakfast!

The basic onigiri is a simple rice ball made from sushi rice. This can be found at nearly any grocery store. It does not have to be name brand or specifically say “sushi rice”. You need to get a short grain rice (Not instant rice!!) and it typically does not cost much more than regular white rice.

Now, I have a rice cooker which makes my life a bit easier, but you can still cook the rice on the stovetop. You just have to be sure that you check it often as it has a tendency to stick to the bottom of the pan.

Make the rice according to the package directions. There are no fancy instructions here. Many recipes call for using rice wine vinegar, white vinegar, extra salt, etc. I didn’t use any of that, although you are more than welcome to.

The Onigiri can be filled with a variety of ingredients. My kids’ favorite was broccoli and pork. I got a small package of thinly sliced pork chops and cut them into small strips. The broccoli has to be cut from the stem. You can either blend the broccoli straight into the rice or stuff the middle of the rice ball with it. I seasoned my pork chops with a mix of soy sauce, Worcestershire, and garlic. My favorite was the most recent, where we used pre-made meatballs and wrapped the rice around them. YUM!

When the rice is done, allow it to cool just enough that you can handle it without burning yourself. Fill a bowl with lukewarm water and add about 3 tablespoons of salt. This will be for you to dip your hands in. Dipping your hands helps you make the rice balls without it sticking to your fingers and will also help season the rice ball.

Form the rice into a ball and create a dent with your thumb. Put whatever fillings you want into the dent and then shape the rice over it. Keep in mind that Onigiri are not typically shaped like “balls”, they can be triangles, squares, or even rectangles, the choice is yours. Mine are balls because it’s easier. LOL.

Nori (Japanese seaweed) is usually used to cover the Onigiri and is used to hold it in the hand. My family hated the Nori, but yours may like it. If you want to try your hand at making sushi, you would also use Nori, but roll it into a tube shape and then slice it. We sliced up cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower and cheese as sides to our Onigiri. For the kids, we made hot dog Octopi which turned out really cute and are super fast and easy.

Open a package of regular hot dogs and cut them all in half. Using a small paring knife, cut the “tentacles” by making cross cuts to the bottom of the hot dog. On the flat side of the hot dog, cut two eyes and a smile. Boil until done. The hot dog will blossom in the pan and it is fun to eat! You can also pan fry the hot dogs, but they seemed to spread out better when boiled.

The possibilities are endless with Onigiri and the octodogs are a lot of fun for the kids. You can pick any of your favorite vegetables to go with or in the Onigiri.

Coming next...Tempura Chicken!

Basic sweet bread (without a bread machine!)

This bread is sweeter than regular white bread and shaped like an Italian loaf. It is the basis for many of my other recipes, including garlic bread, pizza bread and bread pudding.

Prep time: 4 hours
Servings: 6 loaves

  • 2 packages of active dry yeast
  • 3 cups of warm water
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 10-11 cups (yes, you read that right!) all purpose flour
First, in a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. I usually use about a teaspoon of the sugar here as well. I start mixing in a bowl by placing about 5 cups of flour in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add in the yeast/water mixture. Make sure to mix this very well. When you have a very sticky ball of dough, turn it out onto a floured counter. I continue adding in cups of flour as I knead the dough until it forms a soft ball that no longer sticks to my fingers. This will take at least another 5 cups of flour, but make take 6 cups.

Once I have a dough that can be formed into a smooth ball, I knead it for another 10 minutes. Spray a bowl with non-stick cooking spray. Place dough in bowl and turn to coat the dough. You can either cover the bowl with a towel to let it rise, or do what I do. Place a casserole dish on the bottom rack of your oven. Put the bowl with the dough on the middle rack (make sure you leave enough room for the dough to rise without sticking to the top of your oven) and pour boiling water into the casserole dish. This helps proof the dough. It will need to rise for at least 2 hours.

Punch down the dough, turn in bowl and let rise for another 45 minutes.

Turn dough onto counter. Cut into 6 equal portions. Shape into loaves and let rise, covered with a towel, for 10 minutes. After this, flatten the dough, pressing out any air bubbles and place on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Let rise for yet another 60 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the loaves for about 20-25 minutes. Tops will be brown and the bottom will make a "thunk" sound when you flick it with your finger.

The majority of the prep time for this recipe is for the rising, although with the oven proofing method, you may be able to shave some time off. This bread is yummy with just about any Italian dish or to make pizza bread. The best way to eat it though is fresh out of the oven with a dab of butter!

Kitchen Staples

As an introduction to my blog, I thought it would be helpful to describe myself a bit. When I was 18, I was a new mom. I couldn't even boil water without burning something. Anything I made had to be from a box or can and I had to follow the directions to the letter. It has taken me 10 years to relax and trust myself to cook. I have used both an electric and gas stove and have gone without a stove for a couple of years to.

I can cook on nearly every kitchen gadget known to man and most likely have at some point. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was dirt poor and still have to watch my pennies. An expensive meal was one that included any type of meat. You will find that I do have a great deal of recipes that are meat free. This is partly because of the economy and partly because I simply don't care for meat that much.

The majority of meals that I post here will be made completely (or as close) from scratch as possible. Once you get the hang of making certain basics, like pasta dough or pie crust, you will find that you can make just about anything for much cheaper than you can buy it. For example, a loaf of bread here can cost anywhere from $1.00 to $3.00 or more, I can make at home for about $0.40 if not less. That is because the basic ingredients are staples that most people already have in their kitchen.

Here are a few of the staples that I always try to have on hand. As long as I have these, I can come up with some type of meal.

  • All purpose flour
  • eggs
  • active dry yeast (It's more economical if you buy it in the jar instead of the little packets, but most recipes will say packets. The conversion is usually on the jar. )
  • baking soda
  • baking powder
  • sugar
  • salt

That's it. You can make a variety of things from just these few items. Anything from bread to quick quiche.

One of the things you will learn from my blog is that I am a bargain shopper at all times, but just because I like to pay less for food does not mean I have to give up quality.

So stick with me, and let's see what kind of things we can cook up!

Welcome to my food blog!

This blog is intended to act similar to a recipe box. I am constantly on the lookout for new recipes to try out on my guinea pigs (aka, the kids) and try to take pictures whenever I can. If I use a recipe I found somewhere online, I will always try to credit the original writer. If you happen to see a recipe on here that is yours and you did not get credit, please write me and let me know so that I can see you do so.

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