Monday, May 28, 2012

Cashew Chicken and Shrimp with Vegetables

My mom's birthday was last week so I went home to celebrate. And I had just finished my last full semester of school ever so I had some a ton of celebrating to do as well.

all of the essentials.

mother and daughters

For dinner, my mom wanted to have Asian food but didn't feel like going out. I know that my mom loves dishes that mix chicken, shrimp, and a bunch of fresh vegetables and her favorite dish at the Thai restaurant we go to contains cashews. I went on the hunt for the perfect recipe but couldn't find one so I made up my own! Because it was my first attempt at cooking any type of Asian dish and I wasn't following a recipe, I was so nervous that I was going to ruin my mom's birthday with a soggy tasteless stir-fry.

It actually turned out great! Everyone at the party was a fan! It had enough spice to make my mom happy but was still mild enough to please my grandmother, who usually cannot handle any heat whatsoever. I can't take credit for having a perfect calculation for the right amount of sriracha. I just got really really really lucky. I think my kimono-ish top was my inspiration; I went all out :)

my best friend Katie was being a wonderful assistant :)
my mom and I and the sushi appetizer
Jared giving his seal of approval
happy to be with my family and friends + sangria = the typical over-smile
Ken and I :)
 If you like cashew chicken dishes from Chinese take-out, you should give this a try. However, I would cut the recipe in half because this served about 5 people and we ate it for dinner the next night AND I had some for lunch for a couple days. So I estimated that this would serve 10 dinner-sized portions. It was pretty easy to throw together (I was drinking sangria, chatting, and cooking and I didn't catch my kimono on fire so it can't be THAT hard) and is a way healthier and fresher option. This success has me eager to try the billion Asian recipes that I have bookmarked. I can't wait!

Cashew Chicken Stir Fry (10 servings)
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 ¼ cups of chicken broth
  • ¾ cup hoisin sauce
  •  2 tablespoon Sriracha + extra for garnish
  • 6 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 head of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cup roasted, unsalted cashews + extra for garnish
  • 3 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 lb shrimp
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 peppers, cut into strips
  • 2 heads of broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 2 8 oz bags sugar snap peas
  • 1 15 oz can baby corn
  • 1 8 oz can water chestnuts
  • Rice, for serving
1.       Cook rice according to package directions.
2.        In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water/chicken broth and whisk until smooth. Stir in hoisin, vinegar and sriracha and set aside.
3.       Add oil to wok or large skillet and set over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cashews and stir until garlic is golden and fragrant. Season chicken with salt and pepper, then add to wok. Cook until chicken is no longer pink.
4.       Add broccoli and cornstarch mixture and cook for about 2 minutes. Add peppers and shrimp and cook for another 2 minutes. Add sugar snap peas, baby corn, and water chestnuts and cook another 4 minutes, stirring frequently or until sauce has thickened.
5.       Serve with rice and additional sriracha and cashews for topping, if desired.

chicken and cashews
chicken, cashews, broccoli, and sauce
finished product!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fish Tacos with Mango, Peach, and Pineapple Salsa

 Hi everyone! I've been sort of out of touch for the last week because I have been finishing up my LAST FULL SEMESTER OF SCHOOL EVER! How exciting! So I've been really busy with finishing up work and trying to pack up some of my things. I'm basically living between my apartment at school and my mom's house for the summer, which is hectic because my stuff is everywhere. I hate moving. I feel like I have just been shuffling my things around for about a year now, without having a permanent place for anything. I'm about ready to shred all of my teaching binders because they are so heavy and huge and I just keep shoving them in awkward places like under my bed and random bins in my mom's basement.

Anywayyyyy, here is the final recipe from the Cinco de Mayo festivities earlier this month! This was my first attempt at making fish tacos, and I think they came out pretty great! I love fish tacos because they are a lighter option than the usual meaty and cheesy tacos. These are perfect to have on a hot day with a fruity adult beverage. I think the highlight was the salsa. I was just eating it with chips. And maybe a couple spoonfuls.

The only change that I might make to this recipe is to infuse a little heat by either seasoning the fish with some chili powder/cayenne pepper or by adding some diced jalapenos into the salsa. I just love hot food and the combination of sweet and heat is always a winner in my book. However, in a party setting, I think it might appeal to greater number of guests without the spice. 

Also, sorry about the lack of pictures of the ingredients and process. We had SO much going on and not enough time/space for adequate picture taking!

Fish Tacos with Peach, Mango, and Pineapple Salsa (6-8 tacos) adapted from Mother Thyme
  • 3 6oz tilapia fillets
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 round soft flour tortillas 
For the salsa
  • 1 cup peaches, peeled and chopped (fresh, frozen and thawed, or canned are fine; I used canned)
  • 1 cup of pineapple, peeled and chopped (fresh or canned are fine; again, I used canned)
  • 1 mango, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup red pepper, diced
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon of cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Mexican cheese (optional)
  • avocado (optional)
1.       Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Place fillets on baking sheets and season both sides with salt, pepper and lightly pour lemon juice.
2.       Cook in a preheated oven for 14 minutes or until fish is cooked thru and flaky.
3.       While the fish is cooking, prepare the salsa. In a bowl combine all ingredients and stir until mixed thoroughly.  Chill for at least 1 hour before serving to allow the flavors to settle.
4.       Remove from oven and using two forks, gently shred the fish in to large pieces.
5.       Warm tortillas by placing in tinfoil in the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove tortillas from oven and place on platter.
6.       Assemble the tacos by placing the fish on the tortillas and topping with a generous helping of salsa as well as Mexican cheese and avocado if desired. 

the finished salsa

uncooked tilapia
cooked and ready to be made into tacos!
assembled fish taco!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Beef Empanadas

Here's another recipe from our Cinco de Mayo celebration!

This was my first time every making/eating an empanada. That being said, I thought they were extremely easy to make and very tasty. They are a perfect food for parties because people can just grab one and then go mingle without having to find a seat. It eliminates the need to do that weird thing where you stand and talk to someone while your plate is about a centimeter from your mouth so you can shovel food in your face without spilling anything on your shirt. It's awkward for both the person doing it and the person watching in disgust. Empanadas save the day!

yay for convenient empanadas!

Other people at the party had eaten authentic empanadas and said that these were BETTER than originals because they were baked and not fried. This was my idea. You're welcome, everyone. No, I'm not a genius. My thought process was... "If I fry these empanadas, I won't eat them because fried food makes my stomach feel like garbage. Totally not worth an extra session at the gym. But I reallyyyyyyyyyyyyy want an empanada. I will bake them! Then I can indulge without my stomach wanting to explode!" Luckily, it worked out and everyone lived happily ever after while binge eating baked, hand-held Mexican snacks.

My favorite part of the empanada was the shell. We just used Goya brand empanada discs, which can be found in the frozen section of the grocery store. Baking the empanadas was a last minute decision and, after doing a little research, I realized that I should have brushed the empanadas with an egg wash to give them a nice golden brown color. So I have reflected that in the recipe.

Because I loved the shell so much and the premade discs were so easy to work with, my mind could not stop racing with ideas. To this recipe, I think an addition of corn and some jalapenos would be absolutely perfect! But I'm also thinking about cheesecake empanadas, fruit empanadas, calzone-ish empanadas, hero-y empanadas...  The wheels are spinning so be on the lookout for these remixes that will, hopefully, be coming soon!
this is what I will look like eating various empanada flavors every day

Beef Empanadas (20) adapted from Handle the Heat
  • 20 Goya empanada discs, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and minced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely diced (I used a combination of red, green, and yellow)
  • 1 taco seasoning packet
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese (or "Mexican blend" cheese) 
  • 2 eggs
  1.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the onions, bell peppers, paprika, red pepper flakes, white pepper, and cumin until onions are soft. Add beef, season to taste with salt, and cook until beef is browned. Drain off the fat. Place filling in a large bowl .
  2. Preheat oven to 400. 
  3. Spray a large baking pan with non-stick spray or line with parchment. Lay the discs on the pan. 
  4. Place about 2-3 tablespoons of filling in the center of each dough circle. Sprinkle filling with cheese.
  5. Fold over and press edges firmly to seal. Crimp with the back of a fork. Lightly brush the top of each empanada with the egg wash.
  6.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.

the filling
the discs

ready to be baked!
just cheese :)
baked and ready to be snatched!

Monday, May 7, 2012

7 Layer Taco Dip

Happy belated Cinco de Mayo!

I went over to Michelle's to do some festive cooking and drinking. This is becoming quite a wonderful habit. I love having a fellow foodie friend :)

We enjoyed a Mexican style feast and quite a few beer-garitas. I wanted to do a post about the beer-garitas but we consumed them before I remembered to take a picture. I guess that means I'll have to make them again. Twist my arm, why don't ya?

Michelle and I :) I look 7 feet tall. I'm not. Heels just make me happy.
the makings of the wonderful beer-garitas.

plate full of Mexican food! fish tacos, 7 layer dip, and beef empanadas!

 This is one of my favorite dips. It's delicious and so versatile! It can be served hot or cold. It can made with or without meat. You can switch up the ingredients based on what you're in the mood for or what you have on hand. For me, this dip always has to have a layer of beans, a layer of sour cream, a layer of salsa, and a layer of cheese. For the rest, I just let my cravings make the decisions. For this version, we decided to add some chicken because we also made a fish and a ground beef dish. We added a layer of guacamole... a very thin layer because all of the avocados were rock hard. You'd think that the grocery store would invest in some quality avocados for Cinco de Mayo weekend, gosh. We added jalapenos, olives, and scallions as our delicious topping choices. We chose to bake both of them because we were in the mood for melty cheese.

If you're not going to bake the dip, you could go with fresh tomatoes and diced avocados instead of salsa and guacamole. However, you decide to make this dip, make sure you serve it with some sturdy chips because it is intensely dense. And delicious. And impossible to stop snacking on.

7 Layer Taco Dip (2 8x8 or 1 9x13 baking dish)
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 chicken breasts, shredded (optional) (I used precooked because I'm lazy.)
  • 2 cups salsa
  • 16 oz (reduced fat) sour cream (or do 8 oz of cream cheese and 8 oz of sour cream for a more dense layer)
  • 1 taco seasoning packet
  • 3 avocados
  • 1 guacamole seasoning packet (yeah, I cheated... whatever...)
  • 8 oz of shredded cheese (I used reduced fat Mexican blend)
  • 2.25 oz sliced black olives
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 4 oz pickled jalapenos 
  1. Preheat the oven to 375. 
  2. Mash the black beans in a bowl until it is a mushy but chunky mixture. Spread on the bottom of the dish(es).
  3. Mix the chicken (if using) with the salsa. Layer on top of the beans.
  4. Mix the sour cream with the taco seasoning packet. Layer on top of the salsa.
  5. Mash the avocados. Mix in the guacamole seasoning packet. Spread on top of the sour cream.
  6. Sprinkle cheese over the guacamole layer.
  7. Evenly distribute black olives, scallions, and pickle jalapenos over the cheese. 
  8. Cover with tinfoil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil, turn oven to broil, and bake for another 5 minutes until cheese is fully melted.
  9. Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!

hard, unspreadable, unripened avocado :(

Michelle is a crazy lady who doesn't like olives.
I want to eat this with a spoon small shovel.