Tuesday, 3 February 2015

General Tso Chicken

Why hello again!
I have given blogging another break (as you can see, my last post was in September!). Keeping up a blog is hard work, and I am a busy woman!
Do you know what else is hard, understated work? Making dinners that everyone likes, on a budget!
Easier said than done.
Meat is expensive. Food is expensive in general! I shop the sales, use my phone app to price match.
I'd say for a new shopper, I'm pretty darn good at it!
I'm not on a strict budget but I can say I try to keep it to under 10 dollars for a dinner for 2 hungry people (plus leftovers of course!). I jumped for joy when I found a pack of 6 chicken breasts for 15 dollars, so I bought it even though I still had some in the freezer. The more, the merrier! Works out to less than 5 dollars for a meal. When I get home, I separate it into little Ziploc baggies, two at a time (insert Noah's ark reference here). That way, whenever I need a quick meal, I just take one out and they're defrosted in no time!
Lately I've been working nights, which forces me to change my usual cooking times and habits. Planning meals which pack away into my lunch box easily and don't taste horrible when they sit for a while is a real task! While it may seem like my best solution would be to survive on pb&j, I won't let myself get to that point! I love cooking way too much.
On that note, here's a great recipe I found which wowed both myself and my husband. No deep frying, cheap, and relatively nutritious. We both think it tastes better than the identically named item from our local Chinese takeout place. Okay, it does have ketchup, not the most authentic recipe out there, but it is really tasty! Best of all, it survived the bus ride over in my Tupperware.
On another note, I was searching for weeks in every grocery store for hoisin sauce, and to my utter joy, I finally found it last week. Yay! Okay here it is... enjoy!

General Tso Chicken
Based off a recipe I actually don't know where it is from, but please if you recognize it, let me know and I will credit the correct author!

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 tbsp flour or corn starch
2 handfuls snap peas or snow peas

2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp ginger, minced (I use fresh and grate it)
1 pinch chili flakes (optional)
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp ketchup
2 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp flour or corn starch mixed with 2 tsp water into a slurry
2 tbsp water (to desired thickness)

In a bowl, combine flour or corn starch and the chicken pieces, mix until all chicken is coated well.
In a large frying pan on medium-high, heat around 1 tbsp canola oil. When hot, add the chicken, and cook until browned on all sides. You may need to add a little more oil, so don't be afraid to do so. Remove from the pan and place in a clean bowl. Add a little more oil, and stir fry the peas until they are bright green and tender. Remove from the pan and add to the chicken. In the same frying pan, add a little more oil, and quickly fry the garlic, ginger and chili flakes. Add the sauce ingredients from the hoisin sauce to the honey. Add the slurry of corn starch/flour and water, and additional water, until the sauce reaches the thickness you desire. Taste the sauce, adding any of the ingredients if you feel it needs a little more. Add the chicken and peas back to the frying pan, heating them up with the sauce. Serve over a bed of Asian noodles or rice, and feel free to sprinkle sesame seeds and/or chopped green onions. For the vegetarians out there, this can easily be replicated with tofu!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Asian Chicken Soup with Beef Wontons

So, as most of you know, we just finished this holiday called Rosh Hashana, which is just the beginning of a month of nonstop eating (minus Yom Kippur of course).
Don'tya just love it?
I hosted my first Rosh Hashana meal this year, and of course overcooked, but it was worth it.
Since some of you might be interested in ideas for Sukkos cooking (or just in general), I'll share my menu with you.

Challah with crumb topping (basically cake, I make this once a year, SO good)
Panko Gefilte Fish
Smoked Herring (bought from store, for the 'head of the fish')
Beet Salad with Lemon and Dill
Simanim Salad with Spinach, Romaine, Pomegranates, Apples and Dates
Asian Chicken Soup with Beef Wontons (Recipe to follow)
Butternut Squash Kugel
Apple Noodle Kugel
Date Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
Garlic Sesame Green Beans
Eggplant Roulades with Zucchini Stuffing
Cilantro Lime Chicken
Orange Herb Roasted Chicken
Kefta Kebabs with Tehini 
Pumpkin Cake
Mini Apple Pies

This list is exhausting to type out! No wonder I have so many leftovers in my fridge and freezer... But I am not complaining, as this means no cooking basically this whole week :P. 
Now onto the main event, the recipe!

This soup was definitely a showstopper. I have been craving this soup for a very long time. We don't really have good kosher Asian food in Toronto, so I have to get creative. 
When it comes to cooking for holidays, I am not a big fan of the overly traditional recipes- kugel, kreplach, gefilte fish, etc. Not to say that I don't make them, but I like to give them a modern twist. Chicken soup with kreplach is a pretty traditional Rosh Hashana food. Change the flavours around, and now we're talking Wonton Soup! Most recipes I could find online incorporated pork and shellfish. While tasty, those are kind of big no-no's in kosher cooking. I had to take some ideas but basically start from scratch. This soup turned out so delicious and authentic! My friend who has had her share of non-kosher Wonton soup said it tasted like the real thing. It really is a pretty simple recipe, and its really about incorporating the key Asian flavours together to create something extremely delicious!

Asian Chicken Soup with Beef Wontons

1 package chicken bones
2 green onions
Chicken soup powder and/or salt to taste (I know, it's the devil, but it's the secret ingredient and gives the soup more flavour, especially since nothing else is really going into the soup).
Wonton Wrappers (I buy the double package, and used one of the packs which made 30)
1/2 package ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
1/2 tsp fresh minced ginger (I grate it from frozen)
Splash soy sauce
Splash sesame oil

Place the chicken bones and just the green stems of the green onion into a large crock-pot. Fill the crock-pot until almost the top with water. Set on low and cook for 8-10 hours (I opted for overnight; it made my cooking so much easier without having to worry about making soup with 1000 other things to make. When soup is cooked, skim the top of the yucky foamy looking stuff. If you have a chance, bring the soup to a cool and stick in the fridge, and when it's cold, the fat will solidify. If you don't have a chance, do what you can, and it will be fine. Remove the green onion, and have fun picking the meat off the chicken bones when its manageable/not too hot. Return the chicken to the soup. Now, you could also make this soup in a pot, it was just easier for me in a crock-pot, but regardless how counterproductive this sounds, pour the soup into a pot. Season with salt and/or chicken soup powder( I did a little of both). 
Now that your soup is ready, let's focus on them wontons!
You could easily double this recipe and make the whole pack of wonton wrappers, but I was lazy and wasn't having that many guests that I needed 60 wontons. 
In a medium bowl, add 1/2 pack of ground beef (I used medium but I prefer lean), 2 minced green onions (white/light green parts- remember we used the dark green parts for the soup?), minced garlic, minced ginger, a splash of soy sauce and a splash of sesame oil. Sorry, I did not measure my splashes, but they're somewhere between 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp. Mix the beef and seasonings with your hands, and make around 30 tiny beef balls. Get a small bowl and fill it with a little cold water. Open you package of wonton wrappers, and one at a time, dip your finger in the bowl of water, and line the edges of the wrappers with water, and drop a beef ball in the middle. This is where it is helpful to have someone else in the kitchen, because it gets messy with meat-y hands and trying to fold a wonton. If you don't have someone with you, it may be easier to do a few at a time and then wash your hands in between. My husband is an excellent meatball roller- and dropper! Sh'koyach to him! Anyways, back to the folding: fold the wonton in half so it makes a triangle. Then, fold the outer edges in, so that it is almost 'hugging' the meatball. I know this is a little difficult to explain in text, so you will see in the picture how I did it. Make sure you wet where you are placing the edges, so that it sticks together. Now I will mention, this takes some time to do all of these, but it is definitely worth it. When you are done, you will have 30 adorable wontons, as pictured below:

Now comes the next step. bring your seasoned soup to a rolling boil. Carefully, put the wontons in the pot. Let it boil for a few minutes, stirring as you would pasta. When the wontons float to the top, they are ready. I Cut one in half just to make sure it is fully cooked, because I didn't think just a few minutes would cook meat, but it did! 

This is how they looked right after cooking. So amazing. The mistake I made was getting over-excited and cooking the wontons way too early in the day. The wontons did get a little too puffy from sitting in liquid, but regardless, this soup was delicious. The flavour from the meat mixture seeped into the soup giving it just that perfect Asian flair. 

That's all for now folks!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Gefilte Fish Makeover Time!

I'm sure most people's memory of gefilte fish is a round white disc with a carrot nicely plopped on top. Don't forget the chrayonnaise!
Now, not to say there is anything wrong with this classic Shabbat appetizer. Au contraire! I love gefilte fish so much, but I have gotten bored of the same old presentation and cooking technique (boiling being the usual way).
I must say, I can get pretty creative at times!
And desperate to satisfy my creativity, I have thought up some interesting combinations.
Being said, here is a list all the different ways I have made gefilte fish.
P.S. not one of these include boiling :).
These are not all my inventions, some are recipes I have gotten from other people.
Gefilte fish shnitzel (can fool the biggest fish haters!)
Salsa gefilte fish (easy crowd pleaser)
Gefilte fish Crab Cakes
Baked gefilte fish sticks
Matbucha baked gefilte fish
Asian sesame gefilte fish (probably the wackiest idea)
Crispy Corn Flake Baked Gefilte fish
Panko topped Italian gefilte fish
Dill baked gefilte fish

9 different ways!!!

I'll start with posting just one recipe, but will slowly be adding more as the summer comes to an end. Can't believe I'm even saying that!
The problem with posting recipes is I don't measure to begin with, so I have to go by what I remember doing, as being a recipe developer is not my day job. Having said that, my memory is pretty good, so don't worry!
Also, I must note, I only use the sweet gefilte fish because that's the only kind I like!

Crispy Corn Flake Baked Gefilte Fish

1 defrosted loaf Gefilte Fish (the sweet kind! very important!)
1- 1 1/2 cups Corn Flakes
Italian herbs (dried basil and parsley)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Spread defrosted gefilte fish in a glass or Pyrex dish (smaller than 9x13 but still rectangular). Make sure it's not too thin, it should be a good layer of fish. With your hands, crush Corn Flakes over the gefilte fish, in an even layer. I like the corn flakes to still have a good texture, so don't crush them too finely.  Sprinkle Italian herbs, salt and pepper over the crumbs. In hindsight, I forgot that I wanted to drizzle some olive oil on top, so you can try doing this as well to make it crispier, but mine turned out just fine without that addition, so it's up to you. Put the pan in the oven, and bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned and fish is firm. Reheats well for Shabbat lunch! Also, now that I think of it, it might be yummy with marinara sauce but that's pushing it!

Note: I didn't grease the pan (because I forgot to) but probably might be a good idea to grease with an oil spray.

What do you think?
Ready for more?

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Tangy Tomato Basil Chicken

Oh, hello there!
It's been a while, but I'm not sorry.
My last post was in October 2013! I have some explaining to do.
I've been very busy, you know, with the usual school, work... oh and the whole getting married bit :).
Planning a wedding and then having a husband take a lot of time and energy, but I'm not complaining!
Now that I'm basically settled and have a few minutes, I want to let you know that I've been doing a lot of cooking! I would like to share a few recipes over the next few weeks that I hope you will enjoy.
This new recipe is something I invented for this week's Shabbos dinner. I have to apologize, I didn't think to take a picture; but you will have to trust me on this! It was so good, easy and flavorful! My husband said it was delicious and couldn't stop eating it!
Bon Appetit! Or as the Italians say, Buon Appetito (or something like that).

Tangy Tomato Basil Chicken

1 package Chicken (I used about 12 drumsticks but you could use whole chicken cut into 8ths)
1 onion, thinly sliced in half-moons
1 Tomato, chopped
3 cubes frozen basil
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 big splash Balsamic vinegar (maybe 2 tbsp)
1 smaller splash Extra virgin olive oil (maybe 1 tbsp)
 salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a 9x13 glass dish, preferably with parchment paper (helps with cleanup big time!). Lay chicken inside dish, and sprinkle with onions. I keep the skin on, as it keeps it moist, you can take it off after. Put the rest of the ingredients in a bowl with high sides. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth. You can also do this in a food processor or a regular blender. Pour this mixture on top of the chicken and onions. Cover the pan with tin foil, and pop in the oven for an hour. At the end of the hour, crank up the oven to 400, remove the foil and cook uncovered for about half an hour or until it browns nicely and cooks to your liking.
Serve over couscous or rice.


Now, here's a vote- who would be interested in 3 new, different ways to reinvent gefilte fish?

Monday, 21 October 2013

Thai Coconut Carrot Ginger Soup

Mmm... Thai! I don't know about where you live, but the kosher food situation in Toronto is pretty destitute. *Sadface*. All we have is burgers, falafel, pizza, shawarma, and... oh some more falafel! Don't get me wrong, I love all of these things, but where's the Indian and Thai??? Whenever I talk about the food situation, I end the sentence by saying 'this is why I cook!' If I didn't cook, I think I would be seriously depressed!! And no, I do not want to open a restaurant. Not for me, I'll stick to Social Work, thank you very much! I am quite content cooking at home and sharing wonderful recipes with the world on my blog!
This recipe was inspired by a delicious soup I tried in this amazing restaurant Thai Treats in Miami! It's called Tom Kha Gai, and it is a creamy coconut chicken soup with ginger/galangal and lime (understated by me so look it up!) I dream about it sometimes at night; it's that good! As much as it is sad that there is no good quality kosher food in Toronto, I am comforted by the fact that I can make authentic dishes like this at home, and hope to share more with you soon! This soup is quite simple to make, but will definitely impress your guests! 'Nuff said, lets get to it!

Thai Coconut Carrot Ginger Soup
Serves 4
2 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil (coconut gives it a nice Thai flavour)
1 red or white onion, diced
2 stalks celery (optional), cut small
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 birds eye chili, minced (optional, or pinch chili flakes)
1/2 tsp minced garlic
6 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
4 1/2 cups water
1 tsp (or so) salt
1/3 can coconut milk
Slices of fresh lime to garnish
In a large pot, melt coconut oil on medium-high heat. Saute onion and celery until softened. Stir in ginger, garlic and chili if using. After another minute of cooking, add in carrots. Cook for five minutes, stirring often. Pour in water and season with salt, to taste. Bring to a boil, and then cover and lower heat to a simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until carrots are soft. Puree soup, adding a little water if too thick. Once pureed, pour in coconut milk, and stir until combined. Serve soup hot with a wedge of lime to squeeze on top! So yummy!!!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Tomato-covered pesto tilapia

Hello world! (again!!) Sorry for my absence, I have been thinking a lot about blogging and wishing I had more time for it, but I don't :(... Anyways, I have another great recipe for you, which was inspired by my insane brain trying to think of what to make with leftover pesto I made the week before!!! My brain takes me places I never knew existed before! Actually it is similar to a recipe I made before with olive tapenade instead of pesto... I'll link you to it as it is also quite yummy! Anyways, I love to explore different nationalities when I cook. This pesto took me to... Italy! I served this tilapia with zucchini risotto! All I needed was a glass of wine and I was there! Oh the possibilities of cooking! Enjoy this recipe and don't be afraid to improvise!

Tomato topped pesto tilapia:

4 fillets tilapia, skin optional
5 tbsp parsley walnut pesto, recipe below
2 tomatoes, sliced thinly
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 400°. Pour olive oil in the bottom of a glass pan. I didn't have a big enough pan or oven (I used a toaster oven), so I had to split it into two, which was fine. Using your hands, smear the oil all around the bottom of the pan. Place tilapia skin-side down in the pan. Spoon pesto onto the tops of the fish, and use the spoon to smear it all over. Don't be too afraid to use a lot, because it gets less strong when cooked. Cover fish with thinly sliced tomato rounds. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put in oven for 15-20 minutes, until fish is firm and cooked, and tomatoes are cooked well. Broil on high for a few minutes to get some colour, but make sure not to overcook the fish, otherwise it will be dry. Enjoy!!

Parsley walnut pesto:
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, washed and cut up
1/3 cup walnuts
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a blender, put in parsley, walnuts and garlic. Add a little cold water to help the blending process, and slowly drizzle in the olive oil through the hole in the top of the blender. Add salt and pepper and blend until consistency is smooth. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. You can use pesto in almost anything! You can put it in sandwiches, pasta, salads, grilled chicken, the opportunities are endless! Busy in brooklyn did a great post on the endless varieties of pesto, and here it is:.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Pop poppin some popcorn!

I feel like every few weeks I have to apologize for my lack of posting! It's hard to maintain a blog when I have tons of other stuff to do! Who doesn't? Well something I've wanted to do for a while is post a bunch of great popcorn recipes! Popcorn is something that's generally unappreciated. The humble, tiny kernel that literally explodes into airy goodness; what's not to love? It's extremely economical, thats for sure! If you pop it yourself, a bag of kernels can cost under 2 bucks, and it makes so many batches! Done right, it's perfect to bring to a party or if fancy enough, as a present or an addition to a dessert table! You can go sweet or savoury, simple or extravagant, healthy or... sinfully unhealthy. I bring you a mix of all these things! Many of these recipes are my go-to for Shabbat, as many of my friends know, and are insanely addictive!!! Some are easier and less complicated than the others, and some more 'patchkedik' and laboursome. It all depends what youre looking for and how much time you have!
Whenever I mention that I make the popcorn on my stovetop, people are in shock! They simply can't believe its possible and it must take me forever! I know, I live in the stone age. Have I mentioned that I don't own a microwave?
Anyways, it's really not as hard as people think, you just need patience, and once you get poppin, it doesnt take much time at all!
I'll start off with a basic recipe for plain popcorn, as most of the recipes call for this.

Plain popcorn:

1/2 cup popcorn kernels (or enough to cover the bottom of the pot)
Salt, to taste

Heat a large pot until bottom is hot. Haha, rhymes... Add kernels, and put the lid on. Every so often, carefully shake the pot so the kernels move and get toasted on each side. This may take a while (the first batch always does, but don't get disenheartened, it's a labour of love!). Once you hear the kernels start popping, shake the pot more often, so the kernels at the bottom don't get burnt. When you hear that the popping starts to slow down, leave it on for a few more seconds, continuing to shake the pot, even turning down the heat, and then, carefully pour into a bowl. You may notice that I didn't add oil in the beginning. You may choose to if your pot isnt very good, or if you're eating it plain, but a)it isn't necessary and b) most toppings include oil or margarine. While it's still hot, shake salt over the popcorn to your liking, making sure to mix it well! I do this with my hands, my favourite cooking tools! Depending on how much you need, you may need to make multiple batches of this. For big crowds, I've made 5 pots worth! It is really quick after the first batch, so it's not that bad! If you're eating it plain, pour a few tablespoons of canola oil or olive oil if you like the taste, and mix well!

Ok so once you've mastered the art of popping dat corn, it's time to take it to the next level!

Sexy popcorn:
Sorry for the language, it's the only word I can use to describe this!

recipe borrowed from my friend N.S! Sanks yous!!!

2 batches of salted popcorn (1 cup unpopped kernels)
6 tbsp olive oil
6 tbsp honey
1 tsp chile powder

That's it, I know, it's absurdly simple, but it covers everything you need! Sweet, salty, spicy amazingness! Once you put the popcorn in a bowl and salt it, return the pot to the stove and add the remaining ingredients. Let them bubble and dissolve. Pour over popcorn and mix really well. It's a bit of a sticky mess, but that doesn't stop us from demolishing the bowl every time. You also have the option of omitting the chile powder, its still really good!

Sweet and spicy kettle corn:
Someone told me this was the best popcorn they've ever tasted! This is pretty similar to the previous recipe, except that it's made differently and also is not sticky, which makes it good for taking on trips. Also extremely addictive!

1/2 cup unpopped kernels
3 tbsp canola oil
3 tbsp white sugar
Salt and chile powder, to sprinkle

Heat a large pot... until hot! Add kernels, oil and sugar, stir til theres no random sugar and kernels, lets say combined-ish?? Keep stirring til it starts to look really hot. Close the lid and shake very often once it starts popping. Pretty much follow the same directions as regular popcorn. Pour into a large bowl carefully (very hot!!) Sprinkle salt and chile powder over to taste, making sure to mix well! P.S. this only makes one batch!

Chocolate peanut butter drizzled popcorn:
This kinda tastes like nutella, looks pretty, and is quite amazing actually! This can be really dressed up for fancy events, is a little more work than the average batch, but is worth it!

2 batches lightly salted popped popcorn
2 tbsp margarine or butter, you could try coconut oil to make it healthier
5 tbsp smooth peanut butter
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Pour your popcorn into a large deep pan. Try to spread it out as much as possible. In a double boiler (bowl on top of a pot of simmering water), place the rest of the ingredients, and let them melt, stirring every so often. As soon as it all melts, drizzle evenly over popcorn. Let it cool in the pan (if you can resist), and store in a bowl or Ziploc bag.

Other notable popcorn seasoning combos and possibilities:
-Cinnamon kettle corn (sprinkle cinnamon instead of chili powder for a sweet treat
-Drizzle with different melted chocolates (white and dark for pretty contrasts
-Parmesan olive oil (this is something cheesy and different! Use canola oil for a lighter taste, and feel free to sprinkle some chili flakes and/or garlic powder for more flavour!
-Za'atar and olive oil (not everyone is a great fan of this, I will admit, but if you like za'atar, you will like this!!
-Caramel corn! This is a little more complicated than the others because you need to make a caramel and then bake the popcorn with the caramel for like 1 1/2 hours! But it's worth the wait! Recipe to follow shortly...

The possibilities are endless as you can see! I haven't even touched a fraction of what's out there, but hopefully this will give you some ideas to start poppin! (Corny, I know ;)) Ta-ta for now!