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Monday, August 24, 2015

Cooking Show....Chinese Food!

We filmed an episode of the cooking show this week.

Dan, the awesome camera man, went to China for a couple of weeks in late June/early July.  Donna, the producer of the show, had called me while he was away.  Our conversation went something like this:

Donna: When Dan gets back from China, you should cook Chinese food
              with him for the show.
Me:       REAL Chinese food?  I've heard that the food in China doesn't
              resemble American Chinese takeout...
Donna:  No, just cook Chinese food Fran-style!
Me:       Okay, I'll cook some Asian-inspired dishes and he can talk about
              the actual food that he ate in China.
Donna:  I'm going to ask him to bring back some hats and Chinese-style
              clothes for you to wear.
Me:       Frannie don't do that!  NO. WAY.

So I put together a menu, and decided that we needed a beverage.

A meal at a Chinese restaurant just isn't complete without a fun beverage!  Especially if it has a little umbrella in it.

I usually order a Mai-Tai when we go out for Chinese food.  

I've never made actually made one.  Not a problem, though.  Thanks to Google we can pretty much get any info we need, right?

Not so fast.  I googled "Classic Mai Tai Recipe," and "Traditional Mai Tai Recipe." As it turns out, the typical fruity Mai Tai that is served in Chinese restaurants bears very little resemblance to a classic or traditional Mai Tai.  Much like the food served in Chinese restaurants bears little resemblance to the food they serve in China.

After reading through a couple of the recipes (no fruit juice!  no grenadine!), I thought I would have to just keep looking until I found one that I liked.  

As I clicked on the next recipe, the first sentence of that recipe effectively ended my search:  
The Mai Tai is an original tiki classic that is neither neon-colored nor overly sweet.

Oh, well.  Continuing with the theme, I will just have to make them Fran-style, like Donna said at the beginning.

Here they are, in all their fruity, neon-colored glory.

I kept it simple.  2 parts pineapple juice, one part orange juice, one part rum and 1/4 part grenadine.  Served over ice, garnished with fruit and an umbrella.

Fortified with a Mai Tai, Dan and I went right into preparing our next dish.  Here's the printable recipe.

Dan informed me that this beef dish bore no resemblance to the food he tried in China.  He then went on to talk about a snake dish that he tried, which he declared, "I felt as if I were chewing on a pencil eraser!"  

 Here's the printable recipe.

Again, Dan informed me that this did not at all resemble the food he ate in China.  Or rather, it did not resemble the food that he didn't eat.  He couldn't bring himself to eat the large horned beetles.  And other creatures that I will not mention...

Dan did a great job helping me to prepare these dishes, though he did emphatically state when we were through, "And from now on, I shall remain behind the camera!"

Whichever side of the camera he's on, he still gets to enjoy the fruits of our labor at the end of the shoot!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Asian-Inspired Beef & Broccoli

Our upcoming episode will feature Asian-themed cuisine!

Here's a sneak peak at one of the recipes!  

Ginger & garlic & soy sauce--what's not to like?

Today's Playlist
  • "So Far Away"...Social Distortion
  • "On The Road Again"...Me First & the Gimme Gimmes
  • "Holiday"...Green Day
  • "When I'm Gone"...Three Doors Down
  • "Perfect Situation"...Weezer
  • "Last Night"...The Strokes
  • "Are You Gonna Be My Girl"...Jet
  • "Hypnotize"...The White Stripes
  • "Sixteen Saltines"...Jack White

Beef & Broccoli with Garlic/Ginger Sauce (Serves 6)
  • 2 lbs flank steak, sliced across the grain
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil (plus 1 teaspoon for sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 large carrots, peeled into ribbons
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 6 scallions, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces

Gather your ingredients.  Slice the steak. Wash and slice the veggies.

Place the corn starch and sliced steak into a Ziploc bag.  Zip the bag and shake until the beef is coated.

It doesn't have to be perfect, as long as the pieces are coated you're good to go.  Set aside while you mix up the sauce.

To make the sauce:  heat 1 teaspoon of canola oil in a small saucepan on medium/high heat.  Crush in the garlic, add the grated ginger and give it a quick three-second stir.  

Immediately add the water, soy sauce, brown sugar and pepper flakes.  

Stir until the brown sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute.  This is a quick process, don't worry about cooking or thickening the sauce--it will thicken later when you add it to the beef.  Right now, you just want the sugar dissolved.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a large skillet over medium/high heat.  Add the beef and cook until it is browned, stirring constantly.

When the beef has browned (it's okay if there is a bit of pink showing, it will cook as you continue), add carrot ribbons and the broccoli into the pan.  Give it a stir.

Pour in the sauce.  Increase the heat to high.  The sauce will begin to boil and start to thicken.

Continue to stir for 3 to 5 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and the beef has reached your desired doneness.

Stir in the scallions at the last minute.  Serve with rice.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Sonoma Chicken Salad (Whole Foods Knockoff)

Considering that it's summer, and we're all looking for shortcuts at dinner time, and it's been a really long time (about six months!) since I've posted a recipe that requires a rotisserie chicken, ---here you go!
This salad is a riff on Whole Foods' Sonoma Chicken Salad.  Nuts and celery for crunch, grapes and honey for sweetness...I hope you enjoy this as much my family does!

Today's Playlist

  • "50 Ways To Say Goodbye"...Train
  • "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life"...Green Day
  • "Blister In The Sun"...Violent Femmes
  • "Re-Education"...Rise Against
  • "The Zephyr Song"...Red Hot Chili Peppers

Sonoma Chicken Salad (A Whole Foods copycat recipe, makes 4 to 6 servings)
Dressing Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Salad Ingredients:
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (toast in a 350-degree oven for 3 minutes)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 cup red seedless grapes, halved

Gather your ingredients.  In the back row of this picture are the dressing ingredients, and in the foreground are the salad ingredients, already prepped.  Halve the grapes, dice the celery, remove and dice the meat from the chicken, and chop the pecans.

I like to toast my pecans, it gives them a nice flavor.  Three minutes at 350 degrees is all that it takes.

Prepare the dressing:  in a small bowl, combine the mayo, cider vinegar, honey...

...poppy seeds, salt and pepper.

Stir to combine.  You can make this ahead of time, if you like, and refrigerate it until you are ready to make the chicken salad.

To make the salad: put the celery, grapes and pecans into a medium-sized bowl.

Add the chicken.

Gently toss.

Add the dressing.

Stir to combine.

It's yummy just as it is!

Or wrap it up with a few spinach leaves.


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.