Stir Fry Chinese Cabbage

When I was in college I worked in a chinese restaurant as a waitress and delivery girl.  I had never had chinese food before college.  Okay well maybe never isnt the correct word, intensely infrequently would be a better way to put it, like 5-6 times when we would go into the city for school clothes shopping.  HAHA well anyway.  I learned alot about restaurants and chinese food that year.  I learned that most of what Americans call chinese food is not what the Chinese eat when the place is closed for the night.  Those late nights after closing the store, I was introduced to real chinese food. 

Duck tongue soup and chicken foot stew, were not really my favorites.  I would try them but I had a hard time getting past what they were.  So I ate alot of rice, simple soups and chinese cabbage or bok choy stir fried.  Fai, the owner, called me Honey and used to say to the cooks Gui and Jimmy, “Honey staying for dinner tonight, make extra bok choy, its her favorite”  and he always would.  I have never had bok choy or cabbage made as well as how Gui or Jimmy would make it.  This is pretty darn close. 

This is slightly adapted from this recipe on the website of a fellow Nestie Blogger.  I originally went to her site to find her scallion pancake recipe for Rob but I still havent made them yet.. but I saw this and had just bought some chinese cabbage randomly.. fate took a hand!   I am still not sure what had prompted me to buy the cabbage 3 days ago, especially since I didnt post for a recipe request for pancakes until yesterday….  (enter the Twilight Zone theme).

Ingredients
WW points 0 
1 head of bok choy or chinese cabbage
5 cloves of garlic (or to your taste)
S & P
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp corn starch

Cast of Characters

Start off by mincing your garlic.  I did a kind of haphazard mince so there were big pieces and little pieces to vary the flavor.

Throw it in a pot with a spray of oil.  Saute on low for about 5 minutes, you dont want it to burn but do release its fragrance.

Chop up your bok choy or your cabbage (the original recipe called for baby bok choy, not finding it anywhere, boo).

Once the garlic is fragrant, throw half the cabbage in and let that cook, stirring often, for about 2 minutes to start to wilt.

Then once that is started to wilt, add the rest and cook for another minute.

Add your salt, and pepper.  Go gentle on the salt since there is a ton in the soy sauce.

Then add the soy sauce. 

Cover and let cook for about 3-4 minutes stirring often.

Sprinkle the corn starch on (forgot to take a pic of that part) and stir to combine and thicken the fluid.  Once it is thick enough, plate it up, or in this case bowl it up and enjoy! 

I am so happy that I found this recipe.  It brought back some great memories.  I am finding more and more fun things as I get more and more into this blogging thing.  I hope that you all are enjoying it as well!

Happy Sauteeing!!

Cinnamon Scones

Let me just start out by saying that there isnt a pastry that I dont like.  No really, you name it, I like it.  And I have the midriff to prove it.  Bagel, donut, struedel, danish, bear claw or tea cake.. love them all.  But of all the ones I love, scones was not high on the list.  I didnt like how dry they can be or how crumbly but a good flavor scone has always been something I wouldnt pass up. 

I think scones place on my list may have something to do with the fact I am not a dipper or dunker.  I dont like oreos in milk, or donuts in coffee.  I generally dont like soggy breadlike products.   Though tiramisu is pretty darn tasty…..  Scones are often used for dunking, and that just doesnt do it for me.

Then a few days ago, Pioneer Woman had a scones recipe and it was cinnamon.  I adore cinnamon.  And again… pastry.  And I was still on medical leave at this time so it was time to bake..

Ingredients
yield 4 dozen   WW point for each when made mini-3
3 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
few grates of nutmeg (1/8 tsp)
5 tsp baking powder (funny story about later)
2 sticks (1 cup) butter
3/4 cup half and half 
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Topping
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tbsp half and half

Cast of Characters


Start with a medium sized bowl and add your sugar and flour.

Then add your baking powder.  Here is the funny story.  When I got the email from Pioneer Woman, the recipe said it was 5 tbsp, I thought that was alot but I almost always try to do the recipe exact the first time.  We made them and thought they were a bit too much so I went to her site since I was already on it and that said 5 tsp so I figured I had a slap-my-forehead moment and went on with my day.  The next day I looked at the email again.. and it did in fact say 5 tbsp.   She had a typo in her email update.  HA  So dont do what I did, as you can see by the picture from the 5 little piles of baking powder.. LOL   Soo only add 5 tsp of baking powder!

Then your cinnamon and the nutmeg.  Her recipe didnt add nutmeg but I love how it works with cinnamon!

Mix together thoroughly.

Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or two knives.

Crack an egg into your half and half.  And this a good time to turn your oven onto 350.

Add the vanilla.

Then dump it into a bigger bowl cause you are making a mess otherwise.. haha  Then beat the mixture until it is well mixed.

Add the chips to the flour mixture and combine and then add the wets.

Mix together just until the wet is not visible, do not over mix, it will make them crumbly and tough.

Now turn out onto a lightly floured surface or my pastry board.  Like the perspective shot, Rob is very proud of it. 

Form into the shape you want, I did a rectangle because I knew I wanted mini scones.

Next mix up your crumb topping, you can omit this and they will still be fantastic but this adds some crunch and a touch of sweetness.  Add the cinnamon to the sugar in a small bowl or coffee cup.

Add the half and half.

Mix until crumbly.

And put over the top of a rectangle, trying to be even.  Cut into the size and shape you want.

Rob trying perspective shots again.  I think he is trying to be like Millie and see up onto the table?   Or maybe he is the perspective of the baking sheet??

Gently lift off the pastry board…

And arrange so they are not touching on the baking sheet.  They will expand some but not too much.

Into the oven for 18-25 minutes depending on the size.  These came out after 18 minutes.    Serve with milk or coffee or tea… or as you are walking out the door, or in the door, or by the handful as the kids did.

Even though these had 3 times the baking powder needed they were VERY good.  Because I am on WW and trying to be good, I only had maybe, 4.  I made them on a Wednesday.  They were gone by Friday afternoon.   Rob had none (doesnt like alot of cinnamon) so that means the kids had 3 1/2 dozen in two days.  

Other than the mess up with the baking powder.. I wonder how many others did the same thing and went by the email?….  these were a nice treat and a huge hit in my house.   I hope you enjoy them.

Happy Baking!!

Braised Pork with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Rob doesnt like pork.  Well he likes ham, sausage and bacon, but not pork loin, or chops or a roast.  Then last week,  he randomly asks for pork chops.  Which he has not done in like 2 years.  Literally.  So when he asked I got some pork chops at the next grocery visit.  

I had seen a couple of recipes that I wanted to combine and make into something new.  One was on some show on Food Network.  I cannot for the life of me remember which show cause I was one day post op from my surgery and I was pretty much feeling no pain on Vicoden.  The other was an article about braising meat in tomato sauce and how the acid in the tomato was great for tough meat.   Then Pioneer Woman posted her braised short ribs recipe and it was incredibly similar.  That kind of was three strikes you were out and I knew what I wanted to do!  So this is an combination of all those elements.

I have to say one thing.  I am a strong lover of low and slow but there is a fine line for me.  I am not one who can handle crock pot meat or things that have been cooked for 15 hours cause it tends to get too overcooked.  That being said I have had bbq that was cooked forever but wasnt icky but not too often.  So this recipe was a test to see what was the best time and the best temp so that the meat was tender but not too over cooked for me. 

I am happy to say that I did a good job, Rob loved it and the kids, well they are not a good indicator, I have seen Nik eat a hotdog off the ground outside.  And not when he was a kid either, this was last summer.    Even I ate a whole pork chop!  I usually dont get through a whole plate of food.  LOL

Ingredients
Total prep and cook time: 4 hours
3 pounds pork country short ribs thicker cut
1 large onion
4-5 cloves garlic
14 oz can of petite diced tomatoes
28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp chili powder
S & P

Cast of Characters (notice the onion and garlic are missing.. I always forget something.

Start off my adding some oil to a large dutch oven or in my case my Pampered Chef wok.  Preheat the oven to 275.

Trim all the fat you can off the pork ribs.  Rob hates fatty meat.  I have seen him throw away half of what I give him because it has a molecule of fat on it.  So I always look for the leanest of any meat possible and cut off more if I can.

Rob loves to take pics of me while I am cooking and I usually delete them but this one isnt too bad, its only bad, not too bad.  HAHA  I am so glad I am working on my double chins!  And please ignore the attire and hair.  I am only 4 days out from surgery at this point and I am cold, tired and still on pain killers.. I should be happy I didnt burn the house down. 

Back to the recipe.  I mean it is why I am here, right?   Salt and pepper your ribs.

Layer your ribs in a blistering hot pan so they are not crowded and brown them to a nice golden brown.  This may take only doing half at a time.

Turn on all sides to get browned evenly.

While they are browning, chop up your onions and garlic.

Once the ribs are done set aside on a plate, turn your pan down to medium and add the onions.

Once the onions are translucent add your garlic.  If you add the garlic too soon it can burn.  I have found that I personally like the taste of the garlic better when it has been almost steamed by the fluid released from the other veggies. 

Once the garlic has cooked for a minute or two add the diced tomatoes.

Then your spices and salt and pepper to taste.

Add the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.


Bury your ribs into the sauce.

Then any juices lost on the plate.

Throw on the cover and get it into the oven.  For 3 1/2 hours.  Do NOT peek.   Do not try and take a test bite while it is in the bubbling sauce and burn your tongue during the cooking process.  Just dont do it.  Trust me.   When it is done take it out and behold your big pot of yumminess.

There will be some wells of fat, skim them off.  Or you can do what Ree of Pioneer Woman does and make it the night before and chill it to get the fat chunks out but for me, I prefer it the night it is cooked, so I just skimmed.  And then plated it up with some pasta and veggies.

I love meals like this.  They are warm and filling and the house smells fantastic.  This whole meal with egg noodles and veggies cost about $15 to make and it served me three meals, Rob one and the boys the equivalent of two each cause they eat almost two full servings that night.  I am sure this would work well with other forms of pork and certainly beef as well.  Chicken and slow cooking are not something that I really enjoy since I use primarily breasts.    Maybe I should try it with thighs.. wait Rob doesnt like dark meat.  Oh well.

Happy Cooking!!

Subcribers

I hate to admit it but I love subscribers!  This week I have had 4 new subscribers!  These are people who are signing up to hear about the things I like to make.  They are signing up to hear about my family and my familys journeys in the kitchen.  It amazes me someone outside my circle of loved ones would think that my life, is anything remotely resembling interesting.  Then I remember that my blog is about one of the great equalizers.. food.  HAHA  and then it all comes into focus. 

So on that note, I tell all my subscribers.. all 9 of you.. one of which is my darling husband Rob…..  to tell all your friends about me if you like my recipes and my warped sense of life.  It is good for my ego and honestly with all that is going on in my life and in the world, I could use it!  Keeps me honest.    If you have ideas or thoughts about recipes you might like to see, let me know and if I have one, I will try to get it out there.. but no guarantees until school is over! 

Happy Reading!!

Spicy Balsamic and Feta Pasta Salad

So it is in the dead of winter here in NH.  Okay maybe not dead but it is cold and snowy and dreary out.  And I want pasta salad.  I want something that reminds me of summer and pasta salad does that.  Well so does potato salad but especially pasta salad.  I love them anyway I can have them, creamy mayo based, oil dressing based, I have even had a weird cheesey based one.  That one was weird and I am not too upset that I never learned the recipe.  LOL   But there is something to be said about the mix of veggies and pasta and something to bring it all together.  And I am totally on Robs side that there is just something fun about cold pasta.  Yum

So two days after my surgery Rob and I were sitting and chattin about pasta and about a conversation that had been on a cooking board I am part of.  We had talked about where people got their recipes from and if people actually just make things up anymore?  So I said to Rob, well I do.  I said (with a little Vicoden induced bravado) that I could make up a recipe for something right then.  And this was born.  I was thinking of the grocery list and I needed feta, we had been out for 3 whole days!  And I needed salad fixings like cucumber and scallions and ohhhhh I want some of my spicy garlic.  Ohhh goodness a caprese salad sounds delightful.. well actually what sounds yummy is the balsamic reduction…….  so this was born.  It was born from a grocery list, balsamic reduction and Vicoden. 

I had a wait a few days to make it since we didnt get to the store that day.  And dont let the Vicoden fool you!  This is good!!  Since WW kind of limits my pasta intake I was not able to partake as much as I would like but Aaron ate almost the entire bowl by himself.  He loved it.  Rob liked the flavor but I had cooked the pasta a bit much.  Nik is weird, he doesnt like pasta salad, with the exception of my italian dressing one.

Ingredients
yield is about 12  3/4 cup servings.   WW points plus is 5 per serving
1 lb whole wheat rotini
1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar boiled down to 1/2 cup
2 tsp sugar or 2 packets splenda
1/2 an english cuke  (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup red onion
4-5 scallions
3/4 cup quartered grape tomatoes
Spicy garlic from the olive bar to taste, I used 6 cloves
2 tbsp spicy oil (this was good for us, if you want just a subtle taste go with 1)
S & P
1/2 tsp ground mustard
3/4 cup crumbled feta

Cast of characters


Start by getting your balsamic vinegar in a medium sauce pan and add the sugar/splenda.  Reduce until it is about 1/2 cup, no need to be exact just get close so you can get the intensity of the reduction.  This may take about 1/2 hour and it will need to cool so unless you do a cold water submersion once complete you will need to start this before hand.  Or you can be a dork like me and have some on hand.  I use it for dressing on salads.   Next get your pasta cooking.  Salted water is important! 

While this is going, peel and seed your cuke and dice into pieces.

Dice the scallions.

And the onion

Quarter and seed the tomatoes.  Rob didnt like tomatoes until last year.  He still doesnt like the “slimy bits” in the middle so I get those out of there too. 

Mince up your garlic, or slice it if you would like it a bit chunkier.

Throw all the veg into a bowl and set aside.

Next take the cooled down balsamic reduction and add the spicy oil and some S & P to taste.  Add the ground mustard and whipped them together until the oil and vinegar were combined.

Add the feta to the cooled off pasta.
And then the veggies.

And then the balsamic vinegrette!

And mix thoroughly.   Chill completely.  Serve in a chilled dish.

So very good. Balsamic reduction is slightly tart but with a sweet finish at the end.  The spicy from the oil is subtle and adds a depth.  The veggies are not swimming in dressing so they stay crisp.  The feta is a creamy contrast and I LOVE feta with balsamic anyway so this just works for me.    I hope it does for you too.  Comment if you have any ideas for serving options.

Happy Cooking!!

Gingerbread Cheesecake

I realized as I was looking over my blog posts that I have very few sweets on here.  This is to help alleviate this travesty.   I have had this recipe for years.  I think my Mom got it from a magazine and then gave it to me.  I have made it 5-6 times and it is always a huge hit.  I dont make it often cause I would eat it all by myself.  I adore anything with molasses, ginger or cinnamon.. and this has all three!!  I think cheesecake is heaven on earth anyway but this is a crossing of two forms of greatness.

Making cheesecake can be tricky.  You can over cook it and it is dry, under cook it and it is mucky (Robs favorite word, mushy and yucky mixed), or have it crack or the crust be too crumbly.  I personally dont really need much crust but Rob and the kids love crust.   For me a dusting to keep it from sticking to the pan and we are good.  Rob especially, want the crust almost as thick as the cheesecake portion. 

There are some tricks to helping with the cracking issue.  Here is what I have learned and they work for me everytime.  When you are done mixing the batter, beat the bowl on the counter to bring up any air bubbles, hence using metal bowls.  Bake at 300, it may take a bit longer but the cake sets better.  When it is done, dont take it out of the oven, turn the oven off, open the door partly and let is stay in the oven for 40 minutes so that it cools slower.    Now that being said, who knows if these are all the reason why my cheesecakes dont crack but it works for me.  HAHA 

As you know if this isnt your first time reading my blog, I am on Weight Watchers.  And I love dessert.  And they dont mix well.  Which sucks.  BUT being the good girl I am, I put it in the recipe builder on WW.com and cringed the entire time.  For 1/16th of a 10 inch cake, it was 6 points.  Which isnt bad.  I used low fat cream cheese and a slight change in the crust to bring the points down but for the most part I left it as is.  If you do any tweaking (which you know I am a strong advocator for) let me know of your result in a comment!   This originally had a gingersnap crust (which is heavenly) but in an attempt to make it a bit healthier, I changed it up.

Ingredients
yield: 1 10 inch cheesecake   serving 1/16th    WW points  6
16 saltine crackers
4 whole graham crackers (try flavored if you want)
3 tbps sugar
1/4 cup butter
24 oz cream cheese at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs at room temperature
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup molasses

Cast of Characters

First preaheat your oven to 350.  In a food processor, grind up your crackers into fine crumbs.  I use saltines because they are lower in points and less sugar then graham crackers. They cut down on the intense sweetness.  Rob, the crust king, even likes it this way.

Put them in a bowl with the 3 tbsp sugar.  Melt your butter and pour into the cracker and sugar mixture. 

Mix the butter in thoroughly. 

Press into a 10 inch springform pan, making sure you go up over the lip of the springform and bake for 15 minutes in the 350 degree oven.

When the crust comes out turn the oven down to 300.  Take the 24 oz of cream cheese and the 2/3 cup of sugar and put it in your kitchenaid, or with a hand mixer, beat on medium speed for about 30-45 seconds stopping once to scrape down the sides.

Add the eggs one a time, mixing for about 10-15 seconds between.

Add the flour, spices and the molasses. 
Mix for about 30 seconds more, scraping down sides.

One last final mix to make sure you are fully combined, pound on the counter until bubbles are released and then scrape into the pan.

Smooth the top and put in the oven on the middle rack.  I know alot of people like to foil wrap it and put it in water.  I have never had luck with that and found this works just fine. 

Bake for about 50 minutes and check for done ness.  I have no particular way to explain how I know it is done other then the center is not giggly and it looks dull rather than shiny and doesnt feel spongy when touched lightly.  Once you have determined it is done, turn off the oven, prop open the oven a good 5-6 inches and leave in for 40 minutes to an hour.
Run the knife around the edge and losen the pan.  Take off the ring and you can present this way. 

Then garnish as you like.   I like strawberries with just about everything.

Trying to take this picture made me realize how badly I need a new camera.  I dropped it yesterday, for like the 10th time and this was the best of the 9 pictures I took. 

But about the cheesecake…… 1 1/16 is not enough of this yumminess but it is also just the right amount.  This is incredibly rich and flavorful.  It is sweet and has the bite of the ginger and molasses without being too sweet.  I served this when Rob and Nik were having the guys over and it was a huge hit.   It has always been a hit in this house so I shouldnt have been surprised that it went quickly.

Happy Baking!!

French Onion Chicken Casserole

Last week on the Nest cooking board; Whats Cooking, there was a post for a a recipe swap.. for chicken.  Just ask Aarons girlfriend Corrie, we eat alot of chicken in this house.  The poor girl came over last summer alot and 8 meals in a row, had chicken.  So a chance to spice up and try a new chicken recipe was right up my alley.  So I sent my recipe for Parchment Chicken and hoped that the person had access to an olive bar.

I was so excited when I saw the highlighted email sitting in my inbox all shiny and darker than the others.  It was something new and I get so happy with new recipes to try!!!  Before I met Rob, this was a bit easier because Nik and Aaron will eat anything.  And I am not exaggerating.  Really I am not.  Once I dropped a batch of Butternut shells on the floor while taking it out of the oven, they scooped it up and ate it.  I was so upset I had ruined dinner, I let them.  Mother Of The Year here let me tell you!   Nik had mopped the floor that day, that is my reasoning and I am sticking to it!

But then there is Rob.  He is learning to try new things and that is wicked exciting but damn he can be picky.  I was worried when I saw what the recipe was.  It has alot of onions in it.  I mean alot and the bacon wouldnt be uber crispy after being in a gravy.  So it was with some concern I read the recipe.  Then I put on my bright and perky cheerleader voice and with the real excitement I was feeling for the recipe, I read the ingredients off to Rob.   I waited with bated breath as he mused it over!  I could see the battle of the old Rob who ate like 5 things, with the new Rob who has tried more things in the last year than he probably had in the 15 prior.  I am surprised he didnt look at me funny when I let out my breath explosively as he said.. “Sounds good!”

So here is my slightly changed version of French Onion Chicken Casserole.  Thanks Kylee, fellow Nestie, USA Kiwi!!  I loved it.  The kid loved it (Aaron was out tonight) and Rob picked out the bacon, and gave it to me, which made me like it better.  Then said the chicken was too juicy (there is no such thing) and ate the rest. LOL  I had to double the recipe since it was to feed 5 people so the original is slightly different.

Ingredients
recipe by: USA Kiwi, aka Kylee!  
Made 10 servings  5 oz of meat and 1/3 cup gravy     WW points  6
3 1/2 lbs of chicken breast, trimmed
1/4 cup flour
2 packets of onion soup mix
3 slices of bacon (the original this would be 6 slices but that is huge points wise with WW!)
1 large onion
2 1/2 cups water
S & P
(the original called for adding sour cream which Rob cant have, or plain yogurt, as you can see I was going to add greek, but forgot, next time will add the 4 tbsp of greek yogurt, I promise)

Cast of Characters

Trim the chicken and cut into 5-6 oz servings (about 10 sections).  Pound the thicker portions with a meat tenderizer to make them all the same thickness.
Put the flour and the soup packets in a shaker bag.

Chop up your onion.

Spray the heck out of a large 12 inch frying pan, heat it to medium high and shake the chicken one piece at a time, placing in the frying pan as you go.  Save the remaining flour and soup mix.

Try to not have them touch too much. 

“Fry” on each side until browned, about 3 minutes.
Lay in a casserole dish, in a single layer if possible, which unfortunately it was not for me.  LOL  Too many mouths to feed. 

Turn the frying pan down from medium high to medium and cut up the bacon into pieces with kitchen shears.

And add the onion…

And saute until the onion and bacon are both done.  The onion should be tender and the bacon should be slightly crispy.

Take the remaining flour and soup mix and add it to the water.

Pour over the onions and bacon and stir to incorporate.  Will thicken into a sauce. 

Add salt and pepper.

Pour over the chicken, cover and bake for 35-50 minutes or until the gravy is bubbly.  (If you remember the greek yogurt, you would take the chicken out and add to the gravy, and then put the chicken back in, but it is yummy without).

Plate up with noodles, rice, or potatoes.  Add your veggies and serve. 

I have to say, I liked it.   Nik loved it!! He ate two pieces in about 3 minutes.  Rob kept picking on the wobbly bacon and the amount of onions but he ate it.  Normally if something isnt palatable to him, he will push it aside and have PB&J.  He ate it, and said it was good but a bit too juicy for him!   I will be making this again.  I think I might add a couple spices but I have not decided which yet!  I am very happy I got this recipe and look forward to trying more recipe swaps!! 

Happy Cooking!!

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