Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chinese Food Frenzy

My boyfriend and I both decided it was time to take the dust off of our woks, and the results over the past month have been fantastic.  I think that we forgot how easy it is to make Chinese food (American style) at home and how fast it also is.  More importantly, how much healthier it is.  In the time it takes you to come home, look at a menu, order the food, and wait for delivery, you could have the same dish - only healthier and more flavorful - on your table.  

It has been almost a year since I have had chicken lo mein.  After making a commitment to lose weight, this Chinese food dish was the first take-out item to go.  Lately its been getting harder to curb the craving, but I refused to give in and go to the local take-out joint that has the greasiest lo mein with some kind of chicken by-product in it and flabby vegetables.  

There are some great recipes out there for lo mein, and I adapted a few versions I found.  It is very easy to create a foundation and add to that based on what vegetables you enjoy and if you want any spice or heat in the dish.  I started off simple and will build on it going forward.  When I tasted this dish, I was floored that it tasted so much like the takeout kind, but I didn't have to worry about MSG, oily fats, and soggy vegetables.  

The only downside to making Chinese food yourself is not being able to get a fortune cookie.  Still, there is a solution to every problem!  Hope you have a good fortune today!

Chicken Lo Mein

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sherry or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon reduced-sodium chicken bouillon granules
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 6 ounces uncooked linguine (I used Dreamfields)
  • 10 ounces of oriental-style frozen vegetables (I used carrots, broccoli, and water chesnuts)
  • 1 tablespoon wok oil 
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
Sriracha sauce (optional) 


  • In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch, ginger, soy sauce and sherry or broth until smooth. Add chicken and stir to coat; set aside. In a small bowl, dissolve bouillon granules in hot water; set aside. Cook linguine according to package directions.
  • In a wok,  stir-fry chicken mixture in wok oil for 2-3 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Stir in dissolved bouillon. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Add vegetables to wok. Drain linguine; add sesame oil and linguine to skillet. Toss to coat. Cook 1-2 minutes longer or until heated through.  Add some Sriracha sauce, if desired. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Why Can't Someone Punt Rachel Ray?

I hate Rachel Ray, but I love the idea of Mexican Lasagna.  This year's Superbowl is taking place in Texas, so what better way to pay homage to the game than with a Mexican-themed tailgating menu for game day? Almost a decade ago, Rachel Ray came up with a skimpy, tasteless, and pretty tame Mexican Lasagna recipe that people seemed to love.  I tasted the awful dish once at a potluck many years ago and had no idea what the big deal was.  No flavor, no spices, a measly two layers of tortilla.  To this day, I have no idea how Rachel Ray herself became such a big hit.  Still, the lasagna itself was on the healthier and lighter side, and I will give her that.  And just that!

Pulling from multiple lasagna and enchilada recipes, in addition for my love of building layers of flavor in foods, I came up with my own great version of Mexican Lasagna!  I also thought it was important to make a dish that had plenty of cheese in it for the big game since I am rooting for the Greenbay Packers all the way!  I am sure other Cheeseheads tomorrow will be doing the same with their tailgating dishes!  I decided to make this the day before the big game since lasagna is one of those rare dishes that tastes better when eaten the next day.

Senorita Amy's Mexican Lasagna 

Light cooking spray
1 pound ground chicken breast
3/4 cup water
1 packet of low-sodium taco seasoning
1 tablespoon of hot sauce
1 8 ounce can of no salt added tomato sauce
1 jar of your favorite salsa (I used an organic hot salsa)
1 can of whole corn kernels, drained
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 small can of chopped green chiles, in juices
1 teaspoon of your favorite chili powder (I use Penzey's)
10 medium -sized tortillas (I used Mission 96% fat free), cut in halves
8 ounces of reduced-fat Mexican blended cheese
1 bunch of scallions, chopped (white and green parts only)
Accompaniments:  spicy guacamole, low-fat sour cream, crispy tortilla strips (the ones made for salads), and, of course, Corona Light with lime!

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat a lasagna pan with light cooking spray.
2) Brown the ground chicken until it is no longer pink, breaking it up with the back of a fork.  Add 3/4 cup of water and taco seasoning mix and stir until thick.  Add the hot sauce and stir.  Set aside.
3)  Combine black beans, corn, and green chiles. Add the chili powder and stir.  Set aside.
4)  Spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the tray and begin layering in thirds: tortillas, meat, beans and corn mixture, salsa, cheese.  Repeat, repeat, repeat!  Once you get to the top layer of cheese, sprinkle with scallions.
4)  Bake in oven for 35 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Black Bean Backlog!

Although I have been cooking, I have not been blogging.  I am looking to turn that around and start posting once again all of the dishes I cook, as well as some of the dishes my boyfriend cooks.  I am on a backlog and hope to post dishes made in the past two months, as well as the ones I currently cook up!

I made this black bean soup during the holidays for me and my boyfriend on the night we made Christmas cookies together!  It is a Dave Lieberman recipe, and I highly recommend it for a cold winter's night.  It would also be a great dish to make for Superbowl Sunday!

BLACK BEAN SOUP (courtesy of Dave Lieberman)

  • 5 slices bacon, finely chopped (I used center cut)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 6 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups canned chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 4 (15 1/2-ounce) cans black beans, drained but not rinsed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro (I omitted since I hate cilantro)
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
  • Sour cream, for garnish (I used low fat)
  • Grated cheddar, for garnish (I used low fat)


Put the bacon into a large heavy pot and place it over medium heat. Cook until it starts to give up its fat, about 4 minutes. Stir in the onions and cook, stirring, until they start to turn translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until you can smell it, about 1 minute. Add the broth, tomatoes, ketchup, Worcestershire, and chili powder. Stir in the beans, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the soup is bubbling gently and cook 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook until the soup is thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice. Serve with the cilantro and garnishes.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Potage Crecy - French Fabulousness

I am so far behind in blogging that today I decided the holiday gift to myself is to give myself the time I need to blog.  I am not feeling too bad about it, though!  My time has been spent with my amazing boyfriend and although I have been cooking often for him (and he for me), I just have not had the time to sit and blog all of the food goodness happening in my kitchen, especially this holiday weekend! 

I have also been to two supper club meetings since my last post and am a month behind.  So, I decided to start with last month's supper club theme which I requested: SOUP SWAP!   Soups included a pasta fagioli, a curried butternut squash and apple, and a coconut Thai soup.  We also ate baguettes and cheese.  It was a perfect autumn meal.  

It was also ideal to post the soup I made for supper club today - Potage Crecy - in case you have any leftover carrots from Thanksgiving!  In New York, it is certainly soup weather!   Cheers! 

POTAGE CRECY (courtesy of Williams Sonoma French)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, white and tender green parts, rinsed and sliced [see Kitchen Notes]
3/4 pounds carrots [about 5 or 6], diced
3/4 pounds russet or Yukon gold potatoes, diced
2-1/2 cups chicken stock or broth
1-1/4 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves [or 1/2 teaspoon dried]
1 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste [see Kitchen Notes]
additional fresh thyme leaves, for garnish [or finely chopped flat-leaf parsley—see Kitchen Notes]

Heat a dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat. Melt butter and combine with olive oil. Add leeks and sauté, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add potatoes and carrots and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add thyme, cover the pot and simmer until carrots and potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes. Purée the soup in a blender or food processor, in batches, if necessary. [Alternatively, use a handheld immersion blender in the pot.]
Return puréed soup to the pot. Add half-and-half, lemon juice and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste [using a light hand, depending on how salty your chicken stock or broth is]. Bring to a simmer until just heated through. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with fresh thyme leaves or parsley. Serve.

Kitchen Notes

Cleaning leeks. Leeks like to grow in sandy soil, so you need to clean them carefully. Slice off root end and most of the green tops. Slice leeks in half lengthwise. Rinse under running water, fanning layers to wash out any trapped grit. When they’re cleaned, slice crosswise in 3/4-inch pieces.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Savoring Apple Cider

My favorite time of year to cook is autumn, and I am sure many would agree.  The rich fall flavors of apples, maple, pumpkin, pecans, root vegetables, squash, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves make it an exciting season to be in the kitchen.

One of the best memories I have as a child during the fall season was getting the first half gallon of fresh apple cider.  Apple juice is so inferior compared to the thick, almost caramel flavor of pressed cider.  Cooking with apple cider isn't done enough.  When I saw this recipe in this October's Cooking Light, I had to make it, especially since it combined sweet and savory.  Of course the incorporation of pecans into the recipe were also inspiring!   This was listed under the "super fast" recipe section and was so quick to make on a weeknight.

Cider Glazed Chicken with Browned Butter-Pecan Rice (courtesy of Cooking Light Magazine)
1 (3.5) ounce boil-in-a-bag brown rice
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 pound chicken breast cutlets
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup pecans
Fresh leaf parsley

1) Cook rice according to directions
2) Melt 1 teaspoon butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.  Add chicken to pan; cook 3 minutes each side or until done.  Remove from pan.  Add cider and mustard to pan, scraping pan to loosen brown bits.  Cook the mixture 2-3 minutes until syrupy.  Add chicken to pan, turning to coat.  Remove from heat and set aside.
3) Melt remaining 5 teaspoons butter in saucepan over medium-high heat; cook for two minutes or until browned.  Lower heat to medium; add pecans and cook for 1 minute until toasted, stirring frequently.  Add rice and remaining salt; toss well to coat.
4) Serve with fresh parsley.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Apartment Never Smelled So Good!

I have made hundreds of dishes in this apartment, but no aroma from any of those dishes can compare to the amazing smell this chicken wafted out of the oven.  The marinade was, by far, one of the best marinades I have ever tasted.

Here in New York, Pio Pio is the place to go to for Peruvian chicken.
It is amazing, moist, succulent chicken served with delicious sides and a great sauce.  The dish I made tonight was not quite Pio Pio style, but just as good and had a lot of kick.  The marinade also made sure that the meat stayed moist - no risk of drying out even though it was white meat. I can't pinpoint the ingredient that sent this dish over the edge.  Was it the chipotle in adobo?  Honey?  Fresh lime juice?  White wine?

I gave up trying to figure it out and just enjoyed it.  I hope you do, too!

Peruvian-Style Chicken Breasts (courtesy of Weight Watchers)

1/4 cup dry white wine
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 chipotle pepper from a can (en adobo)
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
2 teaspoons paprika
6 (8 oz) bone-in, skinless chicken breasts (I also scored them so the marinade would penetrate better)
1/4 teaspoon salt

1) Combine the wine, garlic, soy sauce, lime juice, olive oil, chipotle, honey, thyme, and paprika in a blender; pulse on high speed until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Reserve two tablespoons of the marinade and pour the rest into a zip-lock bag and add the chicken.
2) Refrigerate, turning the bag occasionally, for 45 minutes.
3) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a jelly-roll pan with nonstick cooking spray.
4) Remove the chicken from the bag and discard the marinade.  Arrange the chicken on the pan and sprinkle with salt.  Baste the chicken every 10 minutes with the reserved marinade, cooking about 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and brush chicken with all of the pan juices.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Night Supper

In New York, most Sunday night suppers are synonymous with Italian food!  Sauces simmering all day with meatballs or homemade pasta being made in the afternoon or meats roasting in the oven...all for a big family dinner.  This evening I had my twin sister, Jill, over for dinner and felt like making a classic Italian-American dish:  penne alla vodka.  The dish, of course, was a lightened up version, but did not skimp on the most important ingredient: vodka! 

Penne alla Vodka (courtesy of Weight Watchers)
10 ounces uncooked multigrain penne (I used Barilla Plus)
1 (35 oz) can whole plum tomatoes in puree
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup vodka
1 cup 1% whipped cottage cheese (Friendship brand makes this)
1/2 cup of shredded Romano cheese

1) Cook pasta according to directions.  Drain and keep warm.
2) While pasta cooks, place tomatoes and basil in a food processor and process until smooth.
3) Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute 4 minutes or until tender.  Add garlic and saute 1 minute.
4) Stir in tomato sauce, salt, pepper, and vodka.  Cook over medium heat for 6 minutes or until mixture has thickened.
5) Stir cottage cheese into the tomato sauce and cook 1 minute until thoroughly heated.  Add pasta to sauce mixture, tossing to coat.  Serve sprinkled with Romano cheese.

Yield: 6 servings
Serving Size: 1 cup pasta and 4 teaspoons of cheese
WW Points per serving: 6