Monday, April 7, 2014

Swedish Meatballs with Gravy

Who doesn't love Swedish Meatballs? They remind me of the 1970s, although, I wasn't alive then it just seems like something that was on every 1970s table. Yeah yeah, but now its 2014 and guess what, the little balls of heaven are STILL blessing our tables, especially thanks to IKEA. Sure, you could spend a small fortune for IKEA supper or you can just make it yourself and since I don't live near an IKEA, I made it myself, minus the lingonsylt which I can't make :(

Anyways....I made my gravy with non-fat greek yogurt and a little arrowroot and it came out DIVINE. You must try! If you can't find arrowroot, just use cornstarch.

1.5 lbs ground beef, chicken, pork (any mix you like. I used chicken and beef)
1/4 cup egg whites
1/4 cup matzo meal (or bread crumb)
1 tbsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp all spice
Olive oil

Mix all together and shape into small balls. I usually make them slightly smaller than a golf ball, it lets me eat more! Heat enough oil to lightly cover a skillet and drop the balls in. DO NOT move them around or they will break apart! Fry the meatballs gently for a couple minutes on each side. Remove from pan when done and golden. Don't scrape or drain the pan unless there is a ton of fat.

1 15 oz can chicken or beef stock
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour (or can skip the roux all together)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup greek yogurt
2 tbsp corn starch or arrow root

This is the tough part. Over medium heat melt the butter and then add the flour.
Whisk gently adding a little water at a time. Your roux should be smooth and creamy, not lumpy. Adding more water and whisking should smooth it out. Let the roux cook for a minute or so. Next, turn up the heat a little higher and add your stock while whisking vigorously, you want to get all the browned meat off the bottom of the pan. Add the vinegar.

Your gravy will be very fluid at this point, add enough arrow root or starch to thicken it. I like my gravy VERY thick so I add quite a bit. Whisk until smooth and re-add the meatballs. Simmer for about 5 minutes and then TURN OFF THE HEAT (This part is super important). Let the gravy cool for about 2 minutes BEFORE you add the greek yogurt or it will curdle and look yucky. Whisk the yogurt into the gravy, taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

I served my meatballs with German Spaetzle, but you can use any flat egg noodle you like. I also added peas to the bottom of my bowl because I needed a vegetable and I didn't feel like sauteeing cabbage tonight.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Chutney and Cheddar Chicken

If you are like me, you make the same chicken recipes day after day, week after week. Don't get me wrong, they are yummy recipes, but can't we just try something NEW for once? The answer is yes! We can!
My mother makes a lot of fruit glazed chicken breasts and I was actually craving that tonight. Of course, I didn't have any fruit jam, but I did have one jar of a special gem that I made a few months ago, English Christmas Chutney. This chutney is not jelly like at all, but is a mix of chopped, vinegary and savory, sweet and dried fruit. I will post my recipe as soon as I make it again.

Anyways, I remembered that I had one jar left, and while I love to eat it spooned atop a nice sharp cheddar, I figured I'd try it out atop chicken covered with cheddar. The results were awesome!

I marinated my thinly sliced chicken breasts in lemon juice and Trader Joes 21 Spice Salute, salt free seasoning. If you can't find it, use Mrs. Dash or your favorite herb blend. Sprinkle the juice and herb blend of chicken and let stand for an hour or two. I sliced the chicken thin as if I were making marsala or piccata.
If you can't find chutney, use a thick jam or preserve that has chopped fruit in it. Apricot, cherry or blueberry would be awesome in this.

1-2 large and thinly sliced chicken breasts
lemon juice (half lemon)
Herb seasoning
cheddar cheese
1 small jar of chutney
coconut oil
salt to taste

1. Heat a skillet and add some coconut oil. When pan is heated add chicken.
2. Brown chicken on both sides, add some water to the pan and let the chicken steam for about 3 minutes
3. Spread the chutney on each piece of chicken and top with cheddar. Add more water to the pan if needed. Cover and let steam for another 3 minutes.
4. At this point, chicken should be thoroughly cooked through. Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

English, Cooking and Fun!

Welcome ESL students to my blog! Did you know that you can learn a lot of English through cooking? Here is a list of things you will learn:

Giving directions (and potentially following directions!)
Food Vocabulary (includes spelling)
Count/Non-Count Food Nouns
Food packaging
US weights and measurements
Short story writing

It doesn't matter what level you are at, cooking brings all of us together and allows us to share something about each of our lives while learning a new language.

Assignment #1 - I want you to look through my blog and pick a recipe. In the comments section of that recipe, please list the imperatives that were used and write their definition.  Next, I usually include a short story about the recipe, please summarize the story in 2-3 sentences. Due February 28, 2014.

Assignment #2 - Who cooks in your family? Ask that person for their favorite recipe to cook for your family and post the recipe to your blog. Tell me about the recipe, is it from your country? An old family recipe? Write an interesting story in 2-3 paragraphs or more! Due March 7.

Assignment #3 -  I did this when I was in high school for French class and it was a lot of fun, before blogs existed. Because this takes planning, the due date will be in March 20th, 2014.

1. Choose another recipe or the same one from my blog. You will prepare it for your family. You will need to follow the directions and use the correct measurements when given.

2. Re-write the recipe on your blog. Add a photo. Write a short story about your experience (was it fun, boring, difficult, easy?). If you changed any steps or ingredients, please write about it.

3.  I'd like your family members to comment on the blog by giving you a grade and some comments about what you cooked for them. If they have a smart phone, show them how to use it!

***As always, if there are any issues that might keep you from being able to do part of the assignment, always let me know in advance!

These are supposed to be fun assignments, so if you come into any trouble please let me know!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Shiritaki, Shirataki, Yam Noodle...WHAT?!

Wow, it's taken me a long time to figure out what to write about this except for DON'T DO IT!! Now, I want everyone to try it and use my advice...

With the United States so concerned about diet and carbs and this and that, there are so many products available that claim to be delicious like pasta!  Gluten free this, low carb that....Well, please follow my advice and don't waste your time or money on any of those products. The sad truth is, nothing can compare to good ol pasta. Or can it....?

Back in the early 2000s I found this miracle pasta, bin after bin of this strange reddish brown stuff claiming to be edible. Since this was before we had too much information on the internet, I had no way of researching this stuff, and since it was so low carb EVERY ONE was going to find out about it and buy it, especially at 50 cents a lb right?  Well, there was a good reason that case after case was sitting there unsold at a national liquidation store. Not because the store was in a strange location, but because that pasta was down right the most disgusting thing I have ever put in my mouth, and I am so sorry for any of those whom I may have fed it to.

This reddish brown, inedible pasta shaped crap tasted and felt nothing like pasta. Even 10 years later I am still haunted by it. While I was so excited that I found it, after spending $20 on (you do the math) x packages, I was so livid with myself...what was I going to do with the rest? I had to throw it away, its not even something that you could donate.

I tried cooking it for HOURS, it was still hard and tasted horrid. I tried dousing it in cheese and butter. Nope, just wasted some good cheese on that. Never ever ever again! So for the next 12 years I continued to eat regular pasta, high fiber pasta, rice pasta, spelt name it pasta!

One day while browsing a large local Asian market, I stumbled upon some refrigerated noodles packed in water. I had briefly heard about them before and at $1.29 a package I figured I'd try some. I got two shapes, one angel hair and one butterfly. I brought them home and researched and found out that these aren't all that new and have been around in Asian cuisine for thousands of years, and made from the Konjac or Konnyaku plant root.  If you've ever heard of the "rotting corpse plant" its pretty similar to that...makes you want to try it now huh, but very interesting looking plant!

Not only are these noodles low in everything bad and high in everything good, there is an abundance of glucomannan in the konjac plant that is supposedly helpful with weight loss. Read all about Konjac HERE!

First thought: ugh, these noodles never get soft and kind of smell fishy!  WASH THEM IN HOT WATER and don't sniff them!
Second thought: these are no substitute for pasta, but are excellent in Asian cooking!
Third thought: a whole package has something like 10-50 calories (depends on the brand, and DON'T Trust Asian packaging to tell the truth), a lot of fiber and almost zero carbs.

Next, which kind to buy? Like I said, the straight up konnyaku are semi crunchy and really can't be used as spaghetti or anything similar. They would be excellent in soups and stir fries though and soak up the flavors in your dish wonderfully. I also recently read that you can soften then noodle by dry frying it in a pan for a couple of minutes. I haven't done this yet. I mentioned I bought butterfly was the second most disgusting thing I put in my mouth...the texture was just....bad. Too thick of a noodle to do with anything. It wasn't even good in soup!

There was also another kind, which was speckled with seaweed flakes. I just tried these today and they were slightly softer and virtually no nutrition at all, a few calories and a lot of fiber. Bland and not bad, but there are better brands.

But the overall winner are the Shirataki brand tofu noodles. I am not a fan of Hungry Girl, but the package with her on it is the one you should get. The calories are slightly higher, the carbs are about 6 per package and I honestly think you can EASILY substitute this product for pasta. Again, DON'T smell these noodles right out of the package!  Boil for about a minute after rinsing and then enjoy.

I usually eat the whole package, its something like 40 calories, 1g fat, 6 g carb and 4 g fiber that makes this brand the overall winner!

Stay tuned for some recipes using House Foods Shirataki Tofu Noodles (and don't be afraid of the word tofu! It makes the noodle soft).

konnyaku fiber choice (left), Shirataki Yam noodle (top), House Foods Shirataki (bottom)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Easy Thai Dipping Sauce

This is a simple recipe for Thai dipping sauce to be used with egg rolls, won tons or any kind of dippable food! I usually use this as a baking sauce with fish, add a little dill and voila!

For my DFL friends, this is friendly by using arrowroot as a thickener and unprocessed sugar.

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tbsp fish/oyster sauce
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tsp chili-garlic paste
t bsp arrow root
half a lime

Mix everything together in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and add about 1 tbsp arrow root to thicken. Let cool. Store in a jar for a couple weeks in the fridge!

Boy has it been a while! Lots of things have happened in the past year...including this recipe! Well, actually, I've got two recipes. The first one is an amazing toaster oven baked fish in a thai dipping sauce with dill. Wait what?!

Yeah, you know when summer is really hot and humid and you don't want to turn on the big oven? Well, this works amazingly in the toaster oven on 350F! Well, its November now, so I could use the extra heat, but I am still cooking this in the teeny oven.

I visited a friend of mine last year in Montreal, and this is actually his recipe used on trout, except, he didn't make the thai dipping sauce from scratch which is perfectly ok, if you can find it. The sauce is sweet, tangy and slightly spicy and when you add fresh chopped dill to it, it somehow pops to life with tons of flavor!

So here it is!

4 Tilapia fillets (can use salmon, trout or whatever you like)
1/3 cup Thai dipping sauce
Chopped fresh dill

Easy right?

Line your toaster oven pan with foil, place the fillets on it and pour the sauce over fillets. Sprinkle with dill and pop into the toaster oven for about 20 minutes on 350F.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Chinese Spicy Chicken & Broccoli = EASY

Last week I really wanted chinese food. Like, really wanted it, but I didn't want to pay for it, go figure, nor did I want the extra fat and sodium. Sometimes I think though, how much extra fat is added to something so simple like spicy chicken with broccoli?  Well, it really depends, a lot of restaurants squirt or ladle (yes, LADLE) in some oil in their wok for stir frying. I didn't add quite as much.

So again, as we know I am following Diet Free Life and this meal would be perfect for those of you who are also following it. Just keep an eye on the sodium and you may want to switch out the corn starch. I only use corn starch because I like its thickening power more than arrow root. Also, I wonder how potato starch fares on DFL?

Anyways, here is the recipe and all you need to know is its EASY. Oh, one thing, it might be easier to thinly slice your meat while it is just slightly frozen and firm. You can use a cut of beef as well, or even shrimp, yum!

12 oz boneless chicken breast, sliced thin
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce (low sodium) or just use regular low sodium if you can't find dark
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
3-4 cloves chopped garlic
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 large onion, sliced into rings
1/2 cup water
1 tsp black pepper
1-2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 heard of broccoli, cut into smallish pieces
1 tbsp cornstarch + 1 tbsp water mixed

In a bowl, combine chicken soy sauce and oyster sauce. Let sit for about 20 minutes. In the mean time, slice the onion, broccoli and garlic and grate the ginger.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. If you have a wok great! I had to use my paella pan for this. Saute onion for a minute or two, then add garlic and ginger. You want to make sure the garlic doesn't burn, blah! Add the peppers and stir.

Add the chicken and let it lightly brown, its ok if it leaves a little something on the bottom of the pan. This will make a nice gravy. Add broccoli and saute for a couple of minutes.  Add the water now, you may need more, try using 1 cup and scrape the lovely off the bottom of the pan and cover for a minute until broccoli cooks a little more.

At the very end, add the cornstarch slurry and mix until thick.

I ate this with brown rice and it was delicious!