Sunday, March 24, 2013

Asian Chicken Salad with Homemade Peanut Dressing

Lately I've been craving (and therefore consuming) Asian food like nobody's business. I've always liked Asian food, but lately it seems I just can't get enough of it! So when I spotted this recipe on Pinch of Yum, it didn't sit on my "must make" list for long before graduating to my "have tried" list.

I more or less followed the recipe, except had to come up with some creative substitutions for Chinese five spice seasoning in the chicken marinade and hoisin sauce in the dressing. I also left out the edamame that she called for because the texture and taste of edamame don't sit quite right with me. But if you like edamame, then by all means add some in!

This salad was great on its own as a full meal as well as in smaller servings as a side dish. It was pretty filling with the seeds and nuts, chicken, and healthy fats in the dressing. When I packed some to take for lunch on a work day, I put a helping of the chicken and veggies in a Tupperware, nestled an itty bitty Tupperware container of dressing inside, and laid a small baggie of the nuts and Ramen on top. Right before eating I just tossed it all together, so everything was nice and crunchy and tasty.

Asian Chicken Salad

Adapted from Pinch of Yum
Yield: 2-3 servings, depending on if it's your whole meal or just a side dish.

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. Chinese five spice seasoning (Pinch of Yum substituted part Garam Masala and part Cajun seasoning; I substituted about 1/2 Tbsp. Garam Masala, 1/4 tsp. cumin, and shots of cinnamon, ground ginger, and black pepper)
1 chicken breast
1/8 cup chopped green onions
1 to 1-1/2 cups slaw or shredded lettuce (I used broccoli slaw)
1 cup shredded carrots
1/8 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 cup crumbled up dry Ramen noodles (or chow mein noodles)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
Asian dressing of choice (recipe below for peanut dressing)

In a quart-sized plastic zip bag, combine the soy saucegarlic, ginger, sugar, and seasoning. Add the chicken and marinate for 1 hour. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Cook the chicken in the sauce, covered, for 5-10 minutes, or until cooked through. (Or bake chicken in the sauce at 400 degrees, for about 20-30 minutes, turning occasionally, until cooked through.) Allow the chicken to cool, then shred or chop.

Build the salad by tossing together the green onions, slaw/lettuce, carrots, cilantro, and shredded chicken. Right before serving, add in the almonds, Ramen noodles, sunflower seeds, and dressing.

Homemade Peanut Dressing

This recipe will likely make about twice as much as you need for the Asian Chicken Salad recipe above; it all depends on how heavily you dress your salad.

2 Tbsp. sugar (I used half white, half brown)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup oil (I used about half coconut oil,* half canola; some sesame would be good if you have it)
3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
Sprinkle of garlic salt (I probably used 1/8 to 1/4 tsp)
Sprinkle of ground ginger
Squirt or two of honey
A few cracks of black pepper
Scant 1/3 cup water (as needed)

Whir together all ingredients in a small blender or food processor, such as a Magic Bullet. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. *Note: if you use coconut oil, the dressing will solidify if you refrigerate it. Just zap it in the microwave for a few seconds to liquefy it. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Cookies

It was 92 degrees today where I live, but my friends in the Northeast got snow. So it's not too late for pumpkin recipes, right?

I've never been consistently good at cookies--and more often than not have been consistently bad at cookies--but I'm proud to say I've successfully made these babies twice. Both times elicited much praise and many happy sighs from my coworkers, and both times I confess I ate far more cookies than someone who's trying to maintain her weight should.

Most grocery stores carry cinnamon chips in the same section as chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. If you want a chewier cookie, make the cookies a little larger; if you want crispier, make them smaller. I recommend the chewy option, myself.

Whether it still feels like winter where you are, already feels like summer, or is somewhere in between, I hope you enjoy these little bites of pumpkiny oatmeal goodness.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Cookies

Slightly adapted from Eats Well with Others
Yield: 3 dozen

1-1/4 cups flour (I use 1 cup all-purpose, 1/4 cup whole wheat)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1-1/2 cups cinnamon chips

Whisk flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a second bowl, use a mixer to cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Add in the egg and vanilla and mix until well-combined, scraping down the sides as necessary. Stir in the pumpkin puree.

Slowly add in the flour mixture. Fold in the oats and cinnamon chips.

Preheat oven to 375 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop the dough by the Tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies are set and golden. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

per cookie, from My Fitness Pal

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mustard-Herb Panko-Crusted Chicken

I enjoy eating meat but have never enjoyed handling raw meat. It's kinda gross-feeling and cold, but I think the main reason for my raw meat aversion is that it takes a lot of effort to keep the germs in check. When handling raw meat, I wash my hands every five seconds, spray everything with copious amounts of bleach, and use tongs to minimize how much I have to actually touch the raw meat. My high school culinary arts teacher would be proud!

Despite having to handle raw chicken and douse my kitchen in bleach afterward, this crusted chicken was worth it. It had a nice balance of flavor--the mustard was a star player but not overwhelming, and the Parmesan and herbs were great additions to the breading. The end result was flavorful and moist.

Toward the end of the cooking time my chicken wasn't as browned as I thought it should be, so I spritzed on a bit of olive oil for the last 5-10 minutes of baking time, and I think that helped. During preparation, the Dijon mixture tried to slide off the chicken before I could dunk it in the breading mixture, so I'd suggest patting your chicken breasts dry with paper towels before seasoning them and rubbing/spreading them with the Dijon mixture (I'm adding that step to the directions below).

I served this chicken with some Brussels sprouts that didn't do too well and some rice pilaf from a box.

Mustard-Herb Panko-Crusted Chicken Breasts

From Prevention RD
Yield: 2 servings

2/3 cup panko crumbs
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
2 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried thyme
1-1/2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated (the powdery kind)
2 (6-oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/8 tsp salt and freshly cracked, pepper, to taste
3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic, minced
Cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 450. Coat a baking sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking spray.

Pour the panko crumbs, Italian seasoning, parsley, Parmesan, and thyme onto a plate or wide, shallow bowl; mix until well combined. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Mix the mustard and garlic together then rub evenly all over each chicken breast (I spread it on with a spoon). Roll each chicken breast in the panko mixture until coated; place on the baking sheet.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 170 degrees. Let the meat rest for 3-4 minutes before slicing and serving.

Nutrition Information (per serving; from Prevention RD)
279 calories; 3.5 g. fat; 87 mg. cholesterol; 583 mg. sodium; 13.0 g. carbohydrate; 0 g. fiber; 42.5 g. protein

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Savory Bread Pudding

This dish was lovely, light, creamy, and brunchy. I felt like I should be sitting out on a sunny veranda eating this with a glass of juice and a side of fruit, perhaps with an ocean or lake on the horizon. The flavor was very light and mild. One reviewer said it was bland, so that's why I added a bit of Rocky Mountain Seasoning. You could add virtually any herb that strikes your fancy, or perhaps a bit of garlic and/or Parmesan.

The original recipe called for goat cheese, which I don't always care for, so I used queso fresco instead. I imagine Feta would also be good in this.

Savory Bread Pudding

Printer friendly version
Adapted from Cooking Light
Yield: 4 servings

1/2 lb. white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (I used half of an Italian loaf)
1/2 cup (2 oz.) crumbled queso fresco cheese
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup 1% low-fat cottage cheese
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. Rocky Mountain Seasoning (optional)
1 large egg
2 egg whites
1/8 cup sliced green onions

Spray an 8 x 8-inch pan with cooking spray, and arrange bread in it.

Combine half of the queso fresco, milk, cottage cheese, pepper, Rocky Mountain Seasoning, egg, and egg whites in a bowl, whisking well. Pour mixture evenly over bread; press bread down into the liquid, if needed. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup queso fresco over the top. Let stand for approximately 30 minutes. (Alternatively, you could cover and refrigerate over night, then remove from fridge about 30 minutes before baking.)

Preheat oven to 350. Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes or until set and golden. Sprinkle with green onions before serving.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 
261 calories; 6.1 g. fat; 65 mg. cholesterol; 629.9 mg. sodium; 34.7 g. carbohydrate; 1.4 g. fiber; 17.4 g. protein; 2.6 g. sugar

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Smoky Sweet Potato Sliders with Garlic Cream Sauce and Avocado

Not too long ago I discovered the blog Eats Well with Others. Not only was I instantly captivated by her abundance of hearty winter squash dishes, but I felt an odd kinship with the blogger, Joanne. You see, her dad died of cancer last fall. While I didn't lose a dad to cancer, I lost a dear friend who was kinda like a second dad to me.

Charles fought his cancer tooth and nail--complete with a bone marrow transplant, numerous hospitalizations, and twice-weekly trips to the cancer clinic for infusions and blood draws and the like. He fought hard for nearly three years, and those of us close to him fought right alongside him for those three years.

Joanne's dad, on the other hand, did the opposite--he lived with cancer for two years without telling anyone, because he wanted to live fully the life he had left, and didn't want his life and family's lives to be tainted by cancer treatments. His family didn't find out until his last two weeks of life.

I think both ways are awful ways to grieve, because grief is awful no matter how you look at it. Although everyone's grief is different, I think there's a sameness to all our grief. I don't know quite what anyone else's grief feels like . . . but at the same time I know exactly what their grief feels like.

I feel this connection with Joanne, and I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who turns to cooking for therapy.

Speaking of cooking therapy, let's talk about sweet potato sliders. They're quite yummy: smoky from the smoked paprika, a touch of sweet from the sweet potatoes and maple syrup, creamy from the avocado and yogurt, with this amazing punch of roasted garlic. And, if you use more chipotle than I was brave enough to sprinkle in, you'll get some nice heat, too.

Joanne did home-made whole wheat buns/rolls for her sliders. I went the easy route and bought a pan of Sister Schubert's rolls. I imagine Hawaiian rolls would also be good with these.

I do recommend that you use smoked paprika rather than plain paprika. If you don't already have some in your spice collection, it's worth purchasing, as it adds this wonderful smoky flavor that's so good in this dish.

Smoky Sweet Potato Sliders with Garlic Cream Sauce and Avocado

Adapted from Eats Well with Others
Printer friendly version
Yield: 12 sliders

For the Patties
2 large sweet potatoes
1 cup cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1-1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Dash of cumin
Sprinkle of chipotle powder

For the Garlic Cream Sauce
2 bulbs garlic (as in bulbs, not cloves)
2/3 cup plain, fat-free Greek yogurt
1 tsp. maple syrup
Salt and pepper, to taste

For Cooking and Assembling
Olive oil
1-2 avocados, sliced
12 small dinner rolls

Preheat oven to 400. Cut the top quarter off of the two bulbs of garlic. Drizzle 1 tsp. olive oil over each bulb. Wrap in aluminum foil and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes.

Pierce potatoes all over with a fork. Wrap each in a paper towel and then microwave for 5 minutes. Flip over and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove from the microwave, slice in half, and let cool until you can scoop out the flesh.

In a bowl, coarsely mash the cannellini beans with a fork. Add in the sweet potato flesh, then mash together. Mix in the panko, flour, egg, smoked paprika, salt, black pepper, cumin, and chipotle powder. Place the bowl in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.

While the mixture is chilling, combine the sauce ingredients in a food processor and pulse until pureed. If needed, add a tiny splash of milk.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add a swirl of olive oil (or spray with olive oil spray). Remove the burger mixture from the fridge and form into 12 equal patties. Place them in the skillet once it is hot. Let them cook until they are fully set and golden on one side, about 5-7 minutes. Flip and cook for another 5 minutes.

Assemble by topping the dinner rolls with a burger, roasted garlic sauce, and avocado slices. Serve as a snack or appetizer, or turn them into a meal by serving 3-4 sliders per person.