Savory Chicken Wontons

March 5, 2008

wonton07.jpgMy husband and I love fried potstickers, so I thought I’d try making some from scratch. We were both impressed by the results. This recipe calls for the following:

1 chicken breast

~8 pieces of thinly sliced salami

2 small red potatoes

1/2 cup diced red cabbage

2 cloves roasted garlic

1/2 cup diced onion

fresh oregano

fresh rosemary

ginger powder

dried chives

teriyaki sauce

soy sauce

peanut oil

Mince the meats into small bits. Dice the vegetables into cubes. Grease your skillet with 3 tblspoons of butter melted over medium heat. Add the chicken to the skillet and sear until the meat is mostly white. Press the garlic into the pan. Add the salami and vegetables, using vegetable oil as necessary to prevent drying. Sprinkle about 1/8 teaspoon of each of your herbs and sautée until the vegetables are soft and shiny.

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Pour enough teriyaki over the dumpling filling to just barely wet the ingredients. Simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat.

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Wonton wrappers can be found in most grocery stores. They are little pastry dough rectangles measuring about 2 X 3 inches. Lay the wrappers on a flat surface 2 layers thick. I like to double the layers of pastry because it keeps the dough from tearing when fried.

Place about 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of the wonton square. Wet your fingers and run them along the outer edges of the dough. Fold the dough over the filling and press the edges together to seal them. You’ll be left with a triangle shaped wonton.

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Pour peanut oil into your skillet, so that it’s about 1/2 inch deep. Heat the oil over medium. When the oil is hot, take a wonton and lay it in the oil on one side. Add as many as you can fit in the pan without overlapping edges. When the edges of the dough begin to brown, flip the wontons and fry the other side. Transfer to a basket with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.

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To make the dipping sauce, you’ll need a small bowl for each person being served. Fill the bowl with 2 parts teriyaki and 1 part soy sauce. Stir in about 1/8 teaspoon of ginger until it is incorporated into the sauce. Top with a sprinkling of dried chives, and serve.

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Honey Glazed Fried Bananas

November 17, 2007

friedbananas07.jpgFried bananas are a wonderful dessert to serve alone or with ice cream (I like Haagen Dazs Hawaiian Lehua Honey & Sweet Cream). A good drizzle of honey sweetens this dessert to suit your taste. I made this one on an impulse when we had a lot of bananas left over from smoothies, and we were instantly sold.

You’ll need bananas (1 banana makes 4 pieces), sugar, peanut oil for frying, and a light tempura batter.

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Peel the bananas, cut them in half, and slice each half lengthwise.

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Firmly press each slice with your fingers to soften the banana. Lay the banana pieces out evenly and cover them with a generous layer of sugar. You really want to coat the bananas in a good layer of sugar, which will caramelize into a sweet crust when fried.

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Roll the bananas over and coat the other side, so the sugar covers the entire surface.

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Roll the bananas in tempura batter.

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Using an appropriate fryer, heat the peanut oil to 400 F. Make sure not to overload the fryer, or the bananas won’t be crispy. Do a few batches if you have to. Let the bananas fry until they take on an even golden brown.

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Serve the fried bananas with a generous coating of honey, drizzled over the plate. Top it off with a dusting of powdered sugar.

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Chicken Curry Cous Cous

November 8, 2007

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Chicken Curry Cous Cous is my husband’s creation. It’s his most famous dish, and everyone who’s tried it has raved. I got him to stand in the kitchen and direct me to make it just like he does. Here’s what he said:

You’ll need the following ingredients:

3 chicken breasts

1/2 a vidalia onion

1 green pepper (red also works)

1 bag of spinach

6-8 cloves of roasted garlic

Cous Cous (get the “Mediterranean Curry” flavor of “Near East” brand or add 2.5 tbl spoons of curry to some plain cous cous if you can’t find the boxed brand).

Kosher Salt

Sugar

Chili Oil (look in the Asian Foods section of your grocery store. “Mongolian Fire Oil” is the best)

Fish Sauce (look in the Asian Foods section of your grocery store)

Black Pepper

Cayenne Pepper/Paprika

Dried Chives

Ginger

Chopped Basil (from a jar. If you want to use fresh basil, just double the amount called for)

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Heat about 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a medium sized pan (enough to coat the surface). Roll the oil around so that it covers the bottom of the pan. Chop the onion and pepper into long, thin slices and let them simmer in the oil. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of chili oil over the top (using a bottle, crisscross the veggies with the oil until they’re well coated, as shown below).

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Allow the peppers and onion to simmer over low to medium heat until they’re softened. Add 1/2 tbl spoon of curry powder and a teaspoon of sugar, and cook for another few minutes without stirring. When the sugar begins to caramelize on the veggies and they want to stick when you scrape them from the pan (they’ll look slightly brown in spots), remove from heat. They should look something like this:

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Cut the chicken breasts into wide, flat pieces. Slice the roasted garlic. Fill a large pan with cooking oil about a half an inch deep. You want just enough oil to cover the chicken when you add it to the pan. Add 2 tablespoons of fish sauce to the oil. Fish sauce is really stinky when added at this point, but it mellows into a wonderfully mild flavor when heated. When the oil has warmed over low heat, add the chicken and garlic. Simmer until the chicken is no longer pink. This can take a little longer, but you want to cook the chicken slowly over a low heat setting for more tender, juicy bites.

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When the chicken doesn’t appear pink anymore, remove the pan from the heat and pour off the excess oil, removing as much as you can. Return the pan to the burner and turn the heat up to medium. Don’t stir the chicken for a couple of minutes, allowing it to sear slightly. Stir, then allow it to sear again. When the chicken has been seared, add the spices. You’ll want to add 2 pinches of kosher salt, 1 pinch of sugar, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 teaspoon of ginger powder or freshly shaved ginger, 1 tablespoon of freeze dried chives, 1 teaspoon chopped basil, and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. If you don’t like spicy foods, then substitute 1 teaspoon of paprika for cayenne.

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Following the directions on the box, make the cous cous (bring water to a boil, add cous cous and allow to sit off the heat for 5 minutes, usually). Fluff the cous cous with a fork.

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Chop up the bag of spinach into long shredded pieces.

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Combine the peppers, onions, and lettuce with the cous cous, tossing it so everything is evenly distributed. Dole out a generous portion of cous cous on a plate, and cover with chicken. I eat it as is, but my husband has a thing for insanely hot foods. He covers his plate with a good dusting of cayenne pepper. Try this for yourself, but be warned. It’s hot!

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Greek Quesadillas

November 8, 2007

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Quesadillas are always a great appetizer. This recipe includes feta cheese, kalamata olives, and roasted garlic to create a distinctive Greek flavor. You’ll need tortillas, melting cheese (I used pepperjack), a few cloves of roasted garlic (sliced thinly), crumbled feta, and diced kalamata olives.

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Spray your pan with a cooking spray, turn on burner to medium heat, and lay the tortilla in the pan. Before the tortilla gets too hot, use your fingers to slide it around the pan, so the the oil is evenly distributed. Next lay down a layer of your melting cheese, then sprinkle the olives, garlic, and feta over the top. You should cover half the tortilla with your ingredients, leaving the other half free to fold over.

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Using a pair of tongs, grab the free edge of the tortilla, and flip it over the the cheesy half to make a semicircular quesadilla. The bottom should be the perfect shade of golden brown, but if it isn’t as thoroughly browned as you’d like, then let it simmer a minute longer, flipping it once to get the other side.

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This makes a great snack for 1 person as it’s described above. If you plan to serve Greek Quesadillas as an appetizer for a larger party, then you can modify the recipe as follows:

When laying down the ingredients, cover the entire tortilla (as opposed to half the tortilla). I added cilantro to this one, which was really tasty.

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Then cover this cheesy layer with a second tortilla. Flip to brown the top layer.

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Transfer to a cutting board. Slice the quesadilla like a pie into 6 even slices and serve.

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Shrimp Tempura for Sushi Rolls

November 7, 2007

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The first few times I made sushi, I wasn’t quite happy with the fried shrimp. It naturally curls up when cooked, and you want to use nice straight ingredients when rolling sushi. I’ve tried a few different things, and this is the best way I’ve come up with to fry the perfect shrimp for sushi.

Begin by selecting large high quality shrimp (4 shrimp per roll). Remove the shell and tail and devein the shrimp.

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Skewer the shrimp with a wooden skewer (they’re longer than toothpicks).

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Sprinkle the shrimp generously with salt and pepper.

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Scramble 3 or 4 eggs and 2 tablespoons of water together in a medium sized bowl. Dip the shrimp in the egg and roll them in breadcrumbs. You can find the right kind of breadcrumbs in the Asian Foods section of your grocery store.

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Fry the shrimp until they’re golden brown.

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Let the shrimp cool for 1-2 minutes and pull the skewer out. The result is perfectly straight shrimp that will easily roll up to make delicious, crispy sushi.

Mango Margaritas

October 16, 2007

margarita05.jpgWe love drinking margaritas, especially in the warmer seasons. After many tries, this is our idea of the perfect margarita.

First of all, get some margarita salt at the grocery store. It’s basically like course rock salt, but it’s a nice shape for dipping a glass rim into. You can always refill it with kosher salt when you’re running low.

Wet the outer rim with lime juice, then press it into the salt.

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Remove the glass from the salt, and give it a few shakes over the sink to avoid getting loose salt all over your house. Fill the glasses with ice, and set aside.

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Put a few ice cubes into a mixed drink shaker, and add:

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2 shots of tequilla

1 shot of Grand Marnier (Triple Sec works too)

2 shots of mango nectar (look in the Latin Foods section of your grocery store)

3 shots of margarita mix (I like

a squeeze of lime juice to give it a nice bite

Shake the mixer well and pour into the glasses. It makes a very pretty margarita!

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Serve as is or with a splash of color.

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Fruit Smoothies

October 15, 2007

smoothie04.jpgWe’ve had a heat wave here lately, just when our air conditioning was undergoing maintenance. So anything cold has seemed like a great idea! These fruit smoothies are an easy way to make a delicious treat using fresh fruits and juices.

You will need 1 banana, 4 strawberries, 1/4 cup mango nectar, 2 tbl spoons coconut milk, 1 mango, 2 tbl spoons honey, yogurt (I used peach), sorbet, and ice. Add a shot each of vodka, tequila, and rum for a great party drink.

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Combine the ingredients in a blender, adding the ice last, so you can fill the blender the rest of the way with ice.

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Turn the blender on high and mix for about 4 minutes. You want a nice smooth texture without lumps of fruit and ice.

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Pour into a nice tall glass, serve, and enjoy!

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Making the Perfect Egg for Breakfast Biscuits

October 14, 2007

My husband and I love to sleep in on Saturday, then wake up and make a huge Big Boy Breakfast. Sometimes this consists of making biscuits and stuffing them full of bacon or sausage, cheese, and egg. Getting the egg to fit nicely into a small biscuit, however, has proven itself quite difficult. This weekend, I tried something new and produced the perfect egg for breakfast biscuits.

All you need for this recipe is a round biscuit cutter, two slices of thick bread, eggs (about 1 egg per biscuit), butter, and any other fillings you’d like in your biscuit.

First, combine your eggs, and scramble them in a bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside. Use the biscuit cutter to slice the center out of each piece of bread. Remove the centers and set them aside for later. Now grease your pan and lay the bread crusts in the sizzling butter. Slowly pour the scrambled eggs into the hole in the center of each bread slice. To keep the egg from leaking out, you may want to pour a bit, wait for it to firm up, then add more. I kept the heat between medium and low on my gas stove.

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Once the tops look relatively firm, as shown above, flip the entire piece of toast and fry the other side for about a minute. Remove the toasted slices from the pan and use a small knife to cut around the edges of the egg. Carefully press on the egg to remove. You can reuse the bread molds about 4 times each, making 8 egg circles. Place the egg on your biscuit, and add your other ingredients.

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We used english muffins, muenster cheese, egg, and fried chicken slices on ours. They were yum yum yum!

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Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers

September 26, 2007

jalapenos05.jpgThis is a really easy, surprisingly delicious appetizer that’s one of my favorites. All you need is a package of bacon (I like center cut), fresh medium sized jalapeño peppers, and cream cheese.

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Wash the peppers and cut off the stem. Slice lengthwise, so that each pepper makes 2 little boats. Rinse and remove the seeds.

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Spread the cream cheese inside the jalapeño half.

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Slice the strips of bacon in half, and wrap each piece around the pepper, securing the ends with a toothpick.

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You can use a typical oven to cook the poppers, but I like to use my small convection oven/toaster. It doesn’t heat up the room, and it cooks the bacon more evenly for a more crispy finish to complement the soft cream cheese.

Preheat the oven to to 450 degrees and bake the poppers for 15 minutes, or until the bacon looks done and the cream cheese is beginning to brown. Allow them to cool for a few minutes, then serve.

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Now a lot of people expect these poppers to be too spicy to enjoy. While its true that jalapeños vary in hotness, most peppers lose their heat during the baking process. I find that the peppers are almost sweet, and I don’t like my food too spicy. If you like your peppers hotter, try leaving in the seeds or cooking them for less time. If you are particularly sensitive to hot foods, then cook them for a longer period on 400 degrees F. A soft, well cooked jalapeño pepper shouldn’t be too spicy.

Sushi Rolls (Makizushi)

September 10, 2007

sushi16.jpgMy husband and I have had an appetite for sushi lately. It’s not the type of cuisine I’m familiar with preparing, so I wondered how difficult it would be to recreate. After researching techniques and trying out the methods on my own, I’ve come up with a pretty easy, healthy, impressive dish that’s versatile enough to suit everyone’s tastes.

Sushi is made with a few simple tools and ingredients. To begin with, you will need a makisu, which is a bamboo mat that is used to roll the sushi into a tight even cylinder. On my first attempt, I didn’t have one and used a thick cloth place mat wrapped in plastic wrap. This definitely worked, but the bamboo mat that I tried next was easier to work with. Wrap the makisu completely with plastic wrap so the rice won’t stick to the mat when you are rolling the sushi.

Next, you will need:

sticky sushi rice (1 cup made 3-4 rolls)

rice vinegar

salt

sugar

nori (sheets of dried seaweed)

sesame seeds

caviar

wasabe paste

pickled ginger

soy sauce

fillings (cucumber, avocado, carrots, peppers, imitation crab meat, tuna, calamari, shrimp, etc)

Rinse the sushi rice in cold water until the water runs mostly clear. I do this by pouring the rice into a deep bowl and filling it half way with water. Once the grains have settled, pour off the excess water. Repeat about 6 or 7 times, and the water you pour off should be fairly clear.Rinsing Sushi Rice

Strain as much water off as possible, then combine the rice with 1 and 1/4 cups of water, bringing to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and cover the rice. Do not lift the lid, and allow the rice to simmer for 18 minutes. Without lifting the lid, remove the rice from the heat, and allow it to sit for 15 minutes. At this point, transfer the rice to a non-metal bowl and let it cool for at least 10 minutes.

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Mix 1/4 a cup of rice vinegar with 2 teaspoons of salt and sugar. Drizzle the mixture over the rice, just enough to add some moisture to keep the grains from sticking too tightly and losing their texture. Cut the liquid into the rice with a spatula. Stirring the rice will not distribute the vinegar as evenly and leaves you with a clumpy mess. Next, fan the rice for about 5 minutes (an electric fan is nice). This gives the grains a nice shiny finish.

Take a single sheet of naki and place it shiny side down on your mat.

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Before touching the rice, dip your fingers in a bowl of cool water. This keeps the rice from sticking to your fingers. You’ll want to rinse again as you notice the grains sticking again after a minute or so. Take about a half cup of rice in your hand and spread it evenly over the naki. Make sure it reaches the edges, and don’t press too hard.

Next, sprinkle sesame seeds over the entire surface of the rice, followed by a wide stripe of caviar.

Nori, Rice, Caviar, Sesame seeds

I like to start off with a Hosomaki roll, which has the nori on the outside, so you can continue by adding ingredients lengthwise along the stripe of caviar. I thinly sliced avocado, cucumber, and carrots lengthwise, and fried shrimp to stuff my sushi.

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The side closest to you should be near the edge of the mat. Lift the edge and flip it over the mound of fillings.

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Pull towards you to tightly wrap the roll.

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Lift the mat as you turn the roll away from you, wrapping until the last of the sheet is folded into the cylinder. Peel back the mat, and you should have a roll that looks something like this:

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Run a sharp knife under water keep a damp towel close by to wipe the blade when necessary. Cut the roll in half, then halve each of the pieces twice, leaving 8 slices of sushi.

Next, I modified this technique to make a Uramaki, or inside out roll. These rolls have the rice on the outside. To do this, you will prepare the naki, shiny side down, just as before. Spread the rice, sesame seeds, and caviar stripe. This time, however, flip the naki over, so the rice is on the bottom. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise in a stripe across the naki, followed by the fillings.

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Fold the edge over as before, and roll the sushi up into a cylinder.

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Slice into 8 pieces and serve.

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Garnish with pickled ginger slices and wasabi paste.

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