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Friday, July 24, 2015

Orange Chicken with Stir-Fried Veggies

This is one of those recipes that I make when I don't know what to make for dinner.  

I usually have all of the ingredients on hand. The veggies I make will vary depending upon what is in the fridge, I may make white rice instead of brown, or use beef instead of chicken, but the prep method and the sauce ingredients work well no matter what!  
Think of this as preparing your own take-out! You could make this in the same amount of time that you would spend discussing where you should order from, calling in your order, and picking it up.  And I think you'll like this more!
Today's Playlist
  • "Steady, As She Goes"...The Raconteurs
  • "Say Hey (I Love You)"...Michael Franti & Spearhead
  • "Breakfast At Tiffany's"...Deep Blue Something
  • "Run Around"...Blues Traveler
  • "Kick Drum Heart"...The Avett Brothers
  • "Fell In Love With A Girl"...The White Stripes
  • "Original Prankster"...The Offspring
  • "Got To Move"...Cake

Orange Chicken with Stir-Fried Veggies (serves 4 to 6)

  • 6 cups veggies cut into bite-sized pieces (celery, onions, peppers, broccoli, carrots, snow peas, etc...)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided 
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breasts (or tenderloins), cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/3 cup corn starch
Sauce ingredients:
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 generous teaspoon ground ginger
  • pinch red pepper flakes

Gather your ingredients.  Missing from this picture: sesame oil.

Put the corn starch into a large (1 gallon size) zip-lock bag.  Add the chicken chunks.

Shake the bag to coat the chicken with the corn starch.  Set aside.

In a large frying pan, heat one tablespoon of the coconut oil over high heat.

Add the veggies.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Allow the veggies to sit for one minute without stirring.

I know you want to stir them.  I like to let them sit so they can develop a little bit of browning and flavor, and one minute is usually all that it takes.

Okay, one minute has passed, go ahead and give them a good stir!

Now...wait one more minute.  

After the second minute has passed, stir and toss the veggies with the teaspoon of sesame oil.

Remove the veggies from the pan.  I put them into an oven-proof serving plate and covered them with foil.  

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.  (After you prepare the chicken you will pop the veggies & chicken into the oven when you prepare the sauce.)

Lower the heat of your pan to medium/high.  Heat up the last tablespoon of coconut oil.

After the oil is hot, place the chicken (in a single layer) into the pan.  

It's best if you don't crowd the pan! My pan is a bit crowded because I had a bit more chicken than the recipe calls for.

Do not stir the chicken while it cooks.  You want to brown the bottom a bit before you flip it.

While you're waiting, prepare the sauce.

Whisk all of the sauce ingredients together.  You can see my "generous" teaspoon of ground ginger in the picture above.  It's not level, it's not heaping, it's simply generous!  If you want to be precise, I suppose you could say it's 1 1/4 teaspoons.

When the chicken starts to turn white around the edges, it's time to flip it and cook the other side, which has hopefully started to brown.

Whew.  Yep, started to brown.

I find that it's easiest to get them all on the flip side by stirring them first, and then only taking the time to flip the ones which haven't been upended.  It takes a lot less time that way!

Let the chicken sit (without stirring) until it's cooked through, about 3 minutes.

After the chicken is cooked, place it onto an oven proof dish.  Place the chicken (uncovered, so that it will not get soggy) and the veggies (which you've covered with foil) into your preheated 300-degree oven to keep warm.  And turn the oven off!  You just want the chicken & veggies to stay warm while your thicken the sauce, you don't want them to continue to cook.

Return the pan to high heat.  Pour in your sauce.  Stir it constantly until it reduces and thickens.

Make sure you scrape up all of those browned bits while you're stirring the sauce!  After a few minutes, if you feel that it isn't thickening enough, combine 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of cold water and stir it into the sauce.  The cornstarch mixture should thicken the sauce right up!

Remove the chicken from your oven and return it to the pan.

Stir to coat it with the sauce.

Serve the chicken and veggies with rice.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Peppermint Ice Cream

One of my kids (who shall remain nameless) is absolutely crazy about ice cream. Her friends are also obsessed with ice cream and it seems that they can't get together without ending up at an ice cream shop (oops, I said HER.  So now you know that Sean is not the child I am talking about).

My daughter's favorite ice cream flavor is peppermint.  Yesterday, I had time to make a batch of ice cream.  There was no doubt which flavor I would make!

Today's Playlist

  • "The Pretender"...Foo Fighters
  • "Love You Madly"...Cake
  • "Welcome To Paradise"...Green Day
  • "Gotta Get Away"...The Offspring
  • "What I Like About You"...The Romantics
  • "Should I Stay Or Should I Go"...The Clash
  • "Creepin' Up The Backstairs"...The Fratellis
  • "Joker & The Thief"...Wolfmother
  • "On My Way"...Billy Boy On Poison

Peppermint Ice Cream (makes 1 quart)
Printable recipe

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 1/2 cup crushed peppermint sticks, starlight peppermints or candy canes

Gather your ingredients.

Separate the egg yolks into a small bowl.

Stir the yolks briskly using a fork.

Set up an ice bath with two large bowls.  If you have a set of nesting bowls, use the two largest bowls.

You want to be sure that there is not a huge discrepancy in size of the bowls, because if the inner bowl is too small it may end up submerged in water.  You could also use a saucepan instead of a bowl, letting the handle hang over the edge so it doesn't submerge below the water line.

Heat the milk in a large saucepan over low/medium heat until it reaches 175 degrees.  (I use a thermometer to check the temperature. If you don't have a thermometer, you should heat the milk just until you see bubbles start to appear around the edges.  Do not let the milk boil!).

Add a pinch of salt and whisk in the sugar, stirring until completely dissolved.

Temper the eggs by whisking in about 1/3 cup of the hot milk mixture.

Whisking constantly, add the tempered eggs into the pan.  

Continue to whisk over low/medium heat,  until thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon and the thermometer reads between 160 and 175 degrees.  Do not allow the mixture to boil!

When the mixture has thickened and reached the desired temperature, pour it into the ice bath.  Do not scrape it out of the sauce pan!

I pour it through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl just to catch any tiny bits.

This is why I don't want you to scrape the mixture out of the saucepan.  It's only natural that it would thicken at the bottom of the pan, and you only want the liquid to transfer into the ice bath.

Allow the mixture to sit in the ice bath for a few minutes, stirring occasionally to dissipate the heat.  You don't necessarily want it to chill completely, you just want to bring the temperature down so that it is no longer hot.

(The more you bring the temperature down now, however, the quicker it will chill completely when you put it into your refrigerator.)

Whisk in the heavy cream.

And the peppermint extract.  I use 1 1/2 teaspoons of extract, but adjust the amount according to your taste preference.  Between 1 and 2 teaspoons is the perfect range.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate to chill; it needs to be cold when you put it into your ice cream machine.  One hour is usually enough; the mixture will be fine overnight, however, so if you don't have time in your schedule to prepare the ingredients, give it time to refrigerate and then churn in your machine, you can break it up over two days.  If you are going to put it in the fridge for an extended period of time, however, be sure to press the plastic wrap onto the surface of the mixture when you refrigerate it so that a skin does not form.

After the mixture has chilled, pour it into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.  It took about 30 minutes in my machine.

Once the ice cream has finished you can add in the crushed peppermint. (Adding it before the ice cream has finished will only dissolve it and/or it will sink to the bottom.)

Pour the crushed candy into the machine while it is still running and let it churn for about 30 seconds, until it is thoroughly mixed in.

I decided to make a few ice cream sandwiches.  It's easy to spread the ice cream before you freeze it!

Just spoon it onto one cookie, top it with another and then place the cookies into a freezer-safe container before putting them into the freezer.

Transfer the ice cream into a container for freezing.

Whether you prefer your ice cream in a sandwich,

...or in a dish, it's the perfect treat during the summer heat!  Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Baked Soft Pretzels

Do you ever get a craving that won't go away until you give in?

I'd like you to meet my craving.  I wasn't craving pretzels, I was just craving something to go with spicy brown mustard.  

I'd been craving mustard since the fourth of July, when I saw a vendor at Fenway Park hold up a fistful of mustard packets to go with the pretzels he was selling.

Nine days later I found myself still craving spicy brown mustard, only now I wanted fresh-baked pretzels as well.  Giant fresh-baked pretzels, like they sell at the Red Sox game!

So I made my own.

Today's Playlist
  • "All My Life"...Foo Fighters
  • "No Rain"...Blind Melon
  • "Hypnotize"...The White Stripes
  • "Badfish"...Sublime
  • "Everybody Talks"...Neon Trees
  • "The Girl Got Hot"...Weezer
  • "Short Skirt/Long Jacket"...Cake

Baked Soft Pretzels
  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 degree) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • vegetable oil, to coat the bowl
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
maldon sea salt flakes or other large-granule salt for topping the pretzels
mustard, for dipping

Gather your ingredients.  All of the ingredients are pictured; you will need to wait for the pretzel dough to rise for an hour before using the four ingredients on the left. The ingredients to the right are the ones that you need to prepare the pretzel dough, which will then need to rise for an hour.

So let's get started!

Put the warm water into the bowl of your stand mixer.  Stir in the sugar and the sea salt.

I did this with a spoon, no need to use the dough hook yet.

Sprinkle the yeast on top and allow it to sit for about 5 or 6 minutes, until it starts to become foamy.

Melt the butter in your microwave (1 minute on HIGH) while you're waiting.

When the yeast has started to foam, add the flour and the melted butter.  Using your dough hook, mix on low speed until combined.  

Once the flour is incorporated, increase speed to medium and knead for about 5 minutes.  You'll know the dough is ready when it starts to pull away from the side of the bowl, and the texture will change from dry and lumpy-looking... smooth and silky.

Use about a teaspoon of vegetable to oil the inside of a medium-sized bowl. 

Place the dough into the bowl and turn it over so that all surfaces are covered with the oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.

When the dough is ready, bring a large, shallow saucepan of water to boil.  The saucepan should be 6- to 8-quart size; make sure it's wide enough to easily submerge the pretzels.  Fill the pan with about 2 to 3 inches of water, being sure to leave plenty of room above the waterline.

While you're waiting for the water to boil, lightly beat the egg and tablespoon of water with a fork.

Place the dough onto your counter.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces.  One piece at a time, form the dough into long strips.  I just hold each piece up high and rub the dough between my hands until I have a rope-shaped strip.  

They don't have to be perfect.  My strips were somewhere between 21 and 24 inches long.  As long as the width is consistent, it's okay if the lengths aren't exactly the same.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Form the dough strips into pretzel shapes.  I lightly press down in the spots where the dough intersects, in the hopes that shape will hold when I boil the pretzels.

It doesn't always work, the pretzel shape often separates.  But that doesn't stop me from trying!

Continue to shape your pretzels, placing 4 on each baking sheet.

Clyde was very interested in the pretzel process.

When the water starts to boil, add the baking soda.  Be careful, it will foam up when you add it, but it will quickly retreat.  Give it a quick stir; now you are ready to boil the pretzels.

Carefully place one pretzel into the boiling water.  Let it boil for one minute.  By the end of the minute, it should begin to float to the surface, as you can see by looking at the upper-right corner of the pretzel in this picture.

Use a large slotted spatula to remove the pretzel from the boiling water.

Place the now-boiled pretzel back onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.  The pretzel in the upper left corner is the one that has been can see how it rises a bit when it boils.  If the ends of the pretzels become loose during the boiling process, simply re-shape the pretzel as you place it back onto the parchment.

Repeat, one at a time, boiling all of the pretzels for one minute each.

The boiling also helps to sort of "seal" the exterior of the pretzel, and when it bakes will create a crunchy crust.

After you've boiled the pretzels, lightly brush the tops with the egg/water mixture.

Sprinkle the salt onto the pretzels.  

I like to use Maldon sea salt's just so pretty!  Use any large-granule kosher or sea salt that you like.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until they are a dark golden brown.

Can I let you in on a little secret?  These pretzels are even better when you reheat them the next day!  Oh, they're fabulous when you first bake them...don't misunderstand me.  How can warm, fluffy, fresh out of the oven baked goods be anything but good?  But when they're twice-baked--they get an extra-crunchy exterior, yet they're still chewy and soft inside.  To reheat them, just place them in your oven as you preheat to 350 degrees, by the time the oven is ready the pretzels will be ready and extra fabulous.

 Serve with mustard for dipping.  Mr. Terrific helped himself to a pretzel before I could even take this picture.

Caitie tried to snatch one, but I protested that she had to wait until I photographed them!