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.

Blog Template by - Header made with PS brushes by
Sponsored by Free Web Space