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Friday, August 13, 2010

Sweet And Sour Chicken & Shrimp Fried Rice

Sweet and Sour Chicken & Shrimp Fried Rice

We live out in the sticks! It takes at least 15 minutes to get to the city limits and within sight of a store. Being so far out in the country has it’s advantages as well as it’s disadvantages. We think the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Our family has planted a large summer and winter garden as long as long as I can remember that spans a few acres. Our neighbors are mostly family, but the ones that aren’t are people we have known all of our lives….my childhood pastor, a friend I‘ve had since kindergarten, etc. Our water doesn’t taste like bleach and the neighbors aren’t playing their music as loud as possible at 3 am. These are just some of the things I love about the country. One of the disadvantages? If you get a craving for something, such as Chinese food, you are out of luck unless you are willing to take at least a 40 minute trip. In any direction, it’s 40 minutes to the closest Chinese restaurant. Until now, this was a hardship for Ronnie and I …ha-ha…Well, maybe not a hardship, but it was definitely a disadvantage of country life! That was until these recipes entered our home!! We can now hang on a little while longer before having to make that 40 minute trip for Chinese food. Give them a try, even if you live closer than we do to your next fix…I think you’ll like them. My brother, mom and dad ate with us today when I fixed this meal and they all loved it…and they don’t like Chinese food. My brother, Wes…who HATES chicken…said the Sweet and Sour Chicken was “fine”. That Wes approves this chicken recipe speaks volumes. According to him he now only eats chicken two ways, fried and in this Sweet and Sour recipe. The shrimp fried rice perfectly rounds out this meal. Okay, I won’t hold you up any longer…here is the recipe:

Sweet and Sour Chicken:
3 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch chunks

Salt and pepper

1 c. cornstarch

5 whole eggs, lightly beaten

¼ c. canola oil

For the Sauce:

¾ c. sugar

4 T. ketchup

½ c. vinegar

1 T. soy sauce

1 tsp. garlic salt

Cut chicken breasts into chunks. Season with salt and pepper. Dip chicken in cornstarch and then in egg. Fry in a little oil until browned on all sides but not cooked through. Place in a single layer in a glass baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick coking spray. Mix sauce ingredients together and pour over chicken. Bake for 1 hour at 325°. Turn chicken every 15 minutes. If you like extra sauce, make another batch of sauce and bring it to a boil on the stovetop. Stir constantly and let cook over medium heat until thickened and reduced, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Shrimp Fried Rice:

20 oz. shrimp, peeled and de-veined

2 T. soy sauce

1 T. pineapple juice

1 ½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. cornstarch, mixed with 1 ½ tsp. water

1 medium onion, diced fine

5 eggs

6 T. oil

2 bags Rice mixed with Veggies

Pat shrimp dry and add the marinade ingredients. Marinate for 15 minutes. In a medium sized bowl, beat eggs and salt lightly with a whisk. Set aside. Heat the wok and then add 1 ½ tablespoon oil. When oil is ready, pour egg mixture in the wok and cook over medium heat, turning over once. Cut eggs into thin strips; set aside. Add 2 ½ tablespoons oil to wok, when hot add onion and shrimp and cook on high heat for a few moments. Remove shrimp and onion and set aside. Add 1-2 tablespoons oil and turn the down the heat to medium and stir-fry the rice. Add one cup of the sweet and sour sauce ( recipe follows) and stir to combine.

Sweet and Sour sauce for Shrimp Fried Rice

2/3 c. white vinegar

8 T. brown sugar

2 T. ketchup

2 tsp. soy sauce

4 tsp. cornstarch

Mix the vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, and soy sauce together and bring to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add cornstarch and stir to thicken. Remove from heat.

(Be careful to watch this and stir constantly or it will burn. Also, follow the directions exactly, if you add the cornstarch directly to the pot with the other ingredients, it will form a paste.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Enchiladas and Cilantro Lime Rice

Mexican food is second only to Southern food in my opinion. I love it! Lucky for me, my husband is a born and raised Texan so he has a real appreciation for it too. His family lives in Texas and when we visit we always go to the same Mexican place to eat...El Torro's in Clute, TX. Have you ever eaten there? If not, you should make it a point if you are ever in Texas. If you aren't planning to pass through there anytime soon..it's worth the road trip!! So much so that we stop on the way in and eat and again on the way home. We love it. It was in Texas that I decided I needed to learn how to cook more authentic Mexican cuisine. Texas knows two things: Good BBQ and good Mexican food! Sure there are Mexican restaraunts in every city just about and they are good. I have even been to Cozumel and ate Mexican food there. None compare to the Mexican food I have had in Texas. I stumbled upon a recipe a while back for Enchiladas that are made from leftover beef roast that has been shredded and marinated. I knew I had to try it but there were a few things that I wanted to change about it. My husband, Ronnie, told me it sounded great but that he would cook the tortillas and they had to be corn tortillas, not flour. He was very adamant about it so I agreed. After all, he's the Texan. He's had his share of this wonderful food. As usual, he was right. (Don't tell him I said so!) The corn tortillas were the way to go, much more of an authentic taste. He fries them in Crisco for a few seconds on each side. While on our last visit to Texas I told Ronnie I wanted to stock up on some cooking ingredients we couldn't get in Mississippi. So, on the the way home we stopped and I STOCKED UP!! The thing I bought the most of was the Fiesta brand mexican seasonings. I love these. (However, last Christmas I discovered that Academy sells a few of them now. Good to know, especially if you want to try these recipes!) We incorporated these seasonings into the enchiladas! I hope you will try these...I don't think you will ever go back to any other enchilada! I know we won't. They are very simple and a very good way to use up any meat you have from a pot roast! Here is the recipe:

1/2 beef pot roast (about 3 c. meat when shredded)
1 packet Taco Seasoning
16 oz. jar salsa
10 oz. can enchilada sauce
1 c. sour cream
1 bag corn tortillas
1 bag shredded Mexican style cheese
1 can sliced black olives
1 can diced green chilies
1 onion, diced
2 T. cumin, divided
1 T. garlic powder
1 T. Fiesta Enchilada seasoning
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Crisco for frying corn tortillas
To prepare the roast: Rub a tablespoon of garlic powder, one tablespoon cumin and Fiesta Enchilada seasoning into the roast. In a Dutch oven, sear the roast on all sides in about 3 tablespoons hot cooking oil. Place seared roast in a one inch deep pan and cover with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Cook roast slow in an oven preheated to 250 degrees. When the roast is done allow it to cool. Shred the roast.

Place shredded meat in a medium sized mixing bowl. To the meat, add the packet of taco seasoning, jar of salsa, tablespoon of cumin and black pepper and stir to combine.Cover and put in the refrigerator to marinate overnight or for up to 3 days. The longer it marinates, the better it is!

To prepare enchiladas: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two medium casserole dishes with nonstick cooking spray. Heat marinated meat in a pan for about 3 minutes, just until heated through. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together sour cream and enchilada sauce. Heat Crisco until hot and begin cooking tortillas, about 10 seconds on each side. Set up an assembly line of warmed meat, enchilada and sour cream mixture, tortillass, diced onions, sliced black olives, green chilies and shredded Mexican cheese. Using a thin towel, place a tortilla on a plate and spoon meat into a line down the center of the tortilla. Roll up tortilla and place in prepared casserole dish. Repeat for all of the enchiladas. Pour the enchilada and sour cream mixture over enchiladas and spread evenly to cover all. Layer diced onion, chilies, cheese and olives. Cook enchiladas in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Enjoy!!

I am addicted to Cilantro!!! Seriously. My husband introduced me to it when we met. He cooked with it a lot and I never had. I now use it in many dihes, my favorite being Cilantro Lime Rice which I make as a side dish to the enchiladas every time. My husband and I like it much better than the traditional Spanish Rice. I could eat this dish by itself. Like the enchiladas, it heats up very nicely. I was surprised by this, as I thought the rice would be gummy and nasty heated up. Not the case. This is a very easy dish to cook.

Cilantro Lime Rice
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 whole onion
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 c. white rice, uncooked
32 oz. chicken broth
2 c. hot water
1 whole bunch cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 T. cumin
zest and juice of one lime
2 T. Fiesta Spanish Rice Seasoning
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
In a large skillet, one with a lid, pour cooking oil and heat over medium high heat. Add chopped onion and saute for a few minutes until almost transparent. Reduce heat and add rice and garlic. Continue cooking until rice is golden brown but be careful not to burn it. Add the remaining ingredients to the rice mixture and stir well. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Cover and simmer over low until rice is tender. Keep an eye on the rice while it cooks and make sure the broth and water hasn't cooked out of it. If it has, add more water or broth, and cook until it's done. Stir occasionally.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

German Chocolate Cake

Like most wives, there are several things and smells that remind me of my husband. One of my favorite smells is of coffee perking because it means my husband is home. The smell of fresh cut grass means he would probably love a glass of cold tea brought to him while he takes a break from mowing. His boots by the front door, his ball cap on the dresser, the Bass magazine on the kitchen table, the History Channel movie in the DVD player and the toothpaste neatly squeezed from the end are all signs of my husband's presence in our home. These are things that make me happy and set me at ease. This cake is one of many things that remind me of Ronnie. When I met him, he only ate grilled foods...nothing fried and no sweets. I have since reformed him. He is now a chocoholic..I am very proud!! The dessert he asks for on his birthday and Christmas...and sometimes in between...is German Chocolate Cake. It's his favorite and I can't say that I blame him. I'm addicted to it now too. It's a fair exchange I guess. I have tried only one recipe for German Chocolate Cake and there is a reason for that. The first time I ever made this cake was for my Grandpa's 79th birthday. I asked my mom for a good recipe and she redferred me to the Fanny Farmer Cookbook. (By the way, if you don't own a copy of this cookbook you should!!! Buy a copy, "borrow" your mom's copy, just so long as you get a copy.) My first attempt at the cake resulted in a very unstable, pile of crumbs held together by icing that resembled the Leaning Tower of Pisa. But the taste was to die for! My Grandpa overlooked the appearance. I think this is because my Grandma always said, "The ugliest cakes taste the best!" Thanks Grandma!! I wanted to try to make it again with the hopes of getting a whole cake this time instead of just crumbs. The next Christmas, when asked what dessert he wanted, Ronnie chose a German Chocolate Cake. It was the perfect opportunity! (As if I need an excuse to bake!) It turned out perfect! So good in fact, that it has been asked for by my husband several times and I do not intend on using any other recipe. If it's not broke, don't fix it!!
This cake on my table means I have a very happy husband!

German Chocolate Cake
4 oz. Baker's German Sweet Chocolate
1/2 c. boiling water
1 . butter
2 c. sugar
4 eggs, seperated
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 c. cake flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. buttermilk
1 recipe Coconut-Pecan Frosting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour three-9 inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of the pans with buttered wax paper. (Or spray them with Baker's Joy, which is what I prefer.) Melt chocolate in boiling water and allow it to cool. In a amixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in vanilla and chocolate. Mix the flour with the soda and salt, then add alternately with buttermilk to chocolate mixture, beating after each addition until smooth. Pour into the three prepared pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool in the pans for about 5 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool. Fill, and frost top and sides with Coconut-Pecan Frosting.

Coconut-Pecan Frosting
1 c. sugar
1 c. evaporated milk
1 stick butter, softened
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/3 c. coconut
1 c. pecans, chopped
Mix together sugar, milk, eggs, and butter. Cook slow over medium heat for 12 minutes to thicken it. Add in coconut and pecans and bring to and cook for a few minutes more until it is spreading consistency. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 20-30 minutes. Frost cake!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Culinary Bucket List

Have you seen the movie, The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman? If you haven't, make it a point to rent it. The movie is about a man (Jack Nicholson) who is terminally ill and creates a list of things he wants to do before he dies. Together, him and his friend (Morgan Freeman) set out to do everything on his list. Since release this movie has spurred many a bucket list among it's viewers. One thing you will learn about me is I am the queen of making lists! (I didn't say I always finish everything on the list!). The thing I love about making lists is being able to cross things off after I have accomplished them. It makes me feel like I am really on top of everything and so organized. Ironically, the only area I am not organized in is paper! I have mountains and mountains of papers that I am still going through after moving in our new home 8 months ago. Bills from 2001 are in there! Sad, I know! I mention that to tell you I'm not sure why I make lists. Even after the sheer excitement of crossing things off...it adds more paper to the pile! :/ I guess we all have mountains to climb. It just so happens one of mine is a made of paper. The newest list I have made is my Culinary Bucket List! This is a list of things I want to either make for the first time or finally perfect! In case the title threw you off, that's what a Culinary Bucket List is! :) I'm just a tiny bit sarcastic. Just a smidge! The good thing about this list is I love to bake/cook so I will definitely cross everything off eventually. The bad thing is once I do, then what list will I make? I won't think about that just yet. I hope you will check back on my blog from time to time and see what's cooking in my kitchen and what dishes are being crossed off! Better yet, join me! Make your bucket list and start cooking, or steal mine and cook alongside me! I will be posting the dishes I bake as well as tackling my bucket list and just chatting. Here...drum roll...is my list: (it's long so go pour a glass of sweet tea or coffee, whichever is your fix, and relax!)

Stephanie's Culinary Bucket List:
Caramel Apples
Martha Stewart's Lemon Meringue Cake
Cookie Dough Cheesecake
Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Petit Fours
A Wedding Cake
Apple Fritters
Seafood Gumbo
Ice Cream Cake
Baked Alaska
Rack of Ribs on the grill
Chocolate Souffle
Bear Claw
Angel Wing Cookies
French Onion Soup
Fried Ice Cream
Hollandaise Sauce
Sweet and Sour Chicken
Lattice Pie Crust
Strawberry Pie
My Mom's Chocolate Pie
Whoopie Pies
Braided Yeast Bread
Raspberry Sorbet
Monkey Bread
Sticky Buns
Crab Cakes
Tea Cakes
Cheese Straws
A Perfect Yellow Cake
Lady Fingers
Panna Cotta
Magnolia Lace Trumpets
Mozzarella Sticks
Chocolate Pudding
Cajun Meatloaf
Lavender Ice Cream
Candied Flowers
Apple Dumplings
Crawfish Etouffee
Chicken Pot Pie
Caramel Pie
Gingerbread House
Red Velvet Cheesecake
Shrimp Dressing
(*I will most likely add to this list in the future!)

Here are things I have made that can now be crossed off:
Angel Food Cake
Cinnamon Rolls
Chocolate Mousse
Buttermilk Biscuits
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chicken and Dumplings
Perfect Pie Crust
Cake Roll
Italian Meringue Buttercream
Lemon Curd
Caramel Sauce
Butterscotch Pudding
Chocolate Curls
Coconut Cream Pie
Cornbread Dressing
Holiday Ham

I hope you aren't exhausted and your eyes haven't crossed from reading that! I would love to know what's on your list to learn to bake/cook! Leave me a comment or shoot me an email (steph_brauer1220@yahoo.com) and share your list with me. Thanks for stopping in. I hope you come back!