Christmas Goodies + A Salad!

Happy Day-Before-New-Years-Eve, all! On Monday evening, The Fiance and I emerged unscathed from 5 Christmas celebrations, 9+ hours of driving, and 2+ miles of ice-covered highways. We rejoiced by watching 6 episodes of Dexter, Season 3 in 24 hours (one of the many coveted Christmas gifts). I also delighted in unpacking the rest of my gifts, many of which were kitchen-oriented! In addition to a lovely tart pan and new baking sheets (the old ones are practically bent in half with wear), I got these awesome things which I thought I'd share.

First and foremost, my mother bought me this beautiful Williams Sonoma personalized artichoke apron! It is so beautiful, and I cannot wait to have it take the brunt of grease spattering instead of my sweaters.

Then we have an extreme close-up (WOOOAHHH!) of sunshiney Rachel Ray-brand measuring cup-mixing bowls. The biggest one holds up to 12 cups of liquid.

And last, but certainly not least, fun kitchen tools! An awesome set of odd-numbered measuring spoons and cups (things like 2 cups, 3/4 cups, and 1 1/2 teaspoons--yipee!!) courtesy of my mother, and an interchangeable grater/mandoline complete with a tupperware component, courtesy of Grandma & Grandpa. I think I'm in love with it.

I got to use my fun mandoline-tupperware toy tonight, while making a salad. I don't know about you, but my holidays did not include a lot of vegetables. I came out of the week with two brand new pimples named "Fat" and "Sugar." So, this salad (which accompanied a meal I cannot blog about until later) wound up being refreshing in more ways than one.

Easy Thai Tossed Green Salad (yoinked from
-1 small head romaine or leaf lettuce (enough to serve 2-3 people)
-2 green onions, sliced
-1/2 - 1 cucumber (see slicing directions below)
-1 cup fresh coriander or cilantro, roughly chopped
-1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
-3 tablespoons coconut milk
-1 tablespoon lime juice
-1 tablespoon fish sauce (or 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce to make it vegetarian)
-1 -2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 teaspoon brown sugar
-1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1. Tear lettuce into bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl, along with the green onions and basil.
2. If you're in a hurry, slice the cucumber as you normally would. For a fancier presentation, you can use a vegetable peeler or mandoline to get long, pretty slices. If the slices are too long, you can cut them into halves or thirds.
3. Add cucumber and coriander / cilantro to the bowl; toss well.
4. In a separate small bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients to make a salad dressing. Whisk well with a fork until the sugar dissolves.
5. Pour dressing over salad; toss well. You may top with basil, spring onions, or edible flowers for a nice presentation, if you wish. Serve immediately.

Yield: 2-3 servings.
Calories: Unknown, as of now, but certainly nothing harmful. The worst part of this salad is the coconut milk and brown sugar, which aren't too bad when split between 2-3 people. AND I didn't add all the salad dressing, because I don't like slimy salad, so that's even better.

A note about my making of this recipe: My neighborhood Meijer's, for being a super-mega-monster grocery store, frequently lacks common items. Yesterday, they were inexplicably out of cilantro. Apparently cilantro is a hot item at the end of December. Anyway, they had cilantro puree in a tube. Given that I needed quite a bit of cilantro for this salad, I bit the bullet and bought the tube-cilantro. I added a few good squeezes of it to the salad dressing, and everything was right with the world (except that we had to pay $4 instead of $0.89). It was still yummy!

White Bean and Chicken Chili


So, it may not be much to look at, but I guarantee that this is one of the most delicious recipes in my repertoire. I found this recipe randomly during my Junior year of college and have treasured it ever since. I made it for the fine attendees at my "Chili & Beer" party (it was one of three chilis featured, and the only one I have an actual recipe for). There was some confusion--"It's chili? Really? But....there's chicken in it. And no tomatoes." I assured them that it may not look like chili, but it tastes like chili. And, as one of my friends said the instant after her first bite, "Oh, my. This is heavenly. I, um...I'm going to need the recipe."

White Bean and Chicken Chili (from an un-remembered internet site, but credited to a woman named Violet Carey of Louisville Kentucky)
-3 (15 oz) cans white beans, drained and rinsed
-6 c. chicken broth
-2 med. chopped onions, divided use
-2 tbsp. olive oil
-1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch dice
-2 (4 oz) cans diced green chiles
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-2 tsp. ground cumin
-1 1/2 tsp. crushed, dried oregano
-1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
-1 tsp. salt
-1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1. Place beans, chicken broth and half the onions in a large pot; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer.
2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil, and when hot, but not smoking, add onions and saute until tender. Stir in the chicken and saute for 5 minutes, stirring frequently until thoroughly cooked. Add green chiles, garlic, cumin, oregano and red pepper flakes and stir until well combined. Transfer mixture to bean pot and season with salt and pepper. Return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, or until flavors are well blended. Add more water or stock, if needed (I don't recommend this, and I DEFINITELY recommend letting this stew for an hour!)
3. Serve warm, garnished with sour cream, cheddar cheese and salsa, if desired (it really doesn't need any of these things, but I'm sure it'd be good, too)

-8 servings
-Sorry, no calorie or exchange info readily available. I'll work on this!

Weekday Breakfast Heaven

Or, as most people would call it, "Peanut Butter-Banana Toast." I like to be fanciful.

My very favorite 'everyday' type breakfast is peanut butter-banana toast. It's warm, crunchy, chewy, creamy, salty, and sweet all at once! What's not to love? I remember that my mother called this breakfast "Brain Food." She would make it for me before a standardized test or some other day when I needed to be particularly smart. While it was probably a placebo effect, I did feel smarter. If nothing else, I think the protein, potassium, and healthy fat definitely give you an energy boost to kickstart your day.

I won't pretend this is cooking. But yesterday as I slathered my english muffin with peanut butter and artfully arranged my banana slices, love swelled in my chest and I just had to share.

Peanut Butter-Banana Toast
1 English Muffin, split in half (or 2 pieces of bread) --I use Honey-Wheat english good.
1 large-ish banana
2-3 tablespoons peanut butter --I think creamy works best because you have to use less (which is better for the calorie count)

1. Toast that muffin!
2. Spread that peanut butter!
3. Slice that banana right onto the muffin!
4. Enjoy with coffee!

See? Not really cooking? But I am enthusiastic about it.

Singapore Mai Fun


And, as promised, here is the Cooking Light Singapore Mai Fun recipe. This is super delicious. It tastes really fresh, probably owing to the fresh ginger and curry powder. As with all Chinese food, it's easiest if you do all possible prep work first, so that the fast-paced sauteeing doesn't get away from you. If you do that, this recipe is fairly easy to make....but you do need to keep a close eye on the skillet to prevent any sticking/burning! If you can manage that, it's totally worth making.

Oh, and for what it's worth: While it's great served hot, I think that if you strained off the excess sauce, it would make a good cold noodle salad for summer picnic functions.

Singapore Mai Fun
1 (6-ounce) package skinny rice noodles (py mai fun)
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon peanut oil, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup red bell pepper strips
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon curry powder
8 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup (1-inch) slices green onions

1. Cook rice noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.

2. Combine broth, soy sauce, sugar, and salt; stir until sugar dissolves.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; coat pan with cooking spray. Add 1 teaspoon oil. Add egg; stir-fry 30 seconds or until soft-scrambled, stirring constantly. Remove from pan. Wipe pan clean with a paper towel.

4. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper strips, ginger, crushed red pepper, and garlic; stir-fry 15 seconds.

The key to Chinese cooking is being like Martha Stewart and separating ingredients into many different bowls for easy access during sauteeing.

5. Add chicken, and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add curry and shrimp; stir-fry 2 minutes.

6. Stir in noodles, broth mixture, and egg; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Serve and sprinkle each portion with green onions.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 cup).
Calories: 237; Carbs: 27.8g, Protein: 19.7g, Fat: 4.6g
Exchanges: 1 1/2 starch, 1 1/2 meat, 1 Fat

Chicken Potpie

Sunday is Grocery Shopping Day. Because I am rarely prepared ahead of time, on Sunday mornings I drag out three or four cookbooks and pore over them while waking up with my coffee. This is not the best time to search for recipes, since I am horribly indecisive when I'm not fully awake. BUT, it usually results in an exasperated sigh and my saying, "OK. Greg. What do you want more: X or Y? Done." Such as it was this morning. Greg was given a choice between Chicken Potpie and Shepherd's Pie (apparently I was in a meat pie mood this morning), as well as between Singapore Mai Fun and Buddha's Delight (we'll be visiting with the Mai Fun later this week). And so, it is because of Greg's good decision that I ate so well this evening.

The Cooking Light recipe for Chicken Potpie is extensive and includes a homemade biscuit topping recipe. This is why I've always skipped over it in the past. Who has that kind of time? Well, today I had that kind of time. And I am glad. This was a VERY tasty recipe--bursting with flavor, textures, and was rib stickin', so it was perfect for winter!

Chicken Potpie
-9 cups water
-1 tablespoon black peppercorns
-2 1/2 pounds chicken pieces, skinned (I used all thighs, as I'm a dark meat person and they are cheap!)
-3 celery stalks, each cut into 4 pieces
-1 small onion, quartered
-1 bay leaf
-*Optional: 2-3 sprigs of fresh herbs (to boil in the stock). I used some fresh thyme, but I think rosemary would be great, too!
-1 1/2 cups diced, unpeeled red potatoes
-1/2 cup chopped celery
-1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
-1 garlic clove, minced (I definitely used about 3 cloves worth of bottled minced garlic, so I'd say it's up to your garlic preferences)
-3/4 cup thinly sliced carrots
-1/2 cup chopped leek (my local Meijers doesn't carry leeks, so I just subbed 1/2 cup of was still great!)
-1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
-1/2 cup frozen green peas
-6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon black pepper
-1 cup 1% low-fat milk
-Cooking spray
-Biscuit Topping

1. Comine first 6 ingredients in an 8-quart Dutch oven or stock pot; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered for 1 hour. Remove from heat.
2. Remove chicken pieces from broth with a sieved spoon. Place chicken in a large bowl and chill for 15 minutes.

Mmm...boiled meat...

3. Strain broth through a cleesecloth-lined colander into a bowl; discard solids. Set aside 4 1/2 cups of broth; reserve remaining broth for another recipe. **NOTE: I don't know how someone could possibly have anything left over. After cooking for 1 hour, so much of the liquid had evaporated that there was only 4 cups of broth left. I added an extra 1/2 cup of chicken bouillon stock, which worked fine.**

4. Remove chicken from bones. Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces.

5. Preheat oven to 400.
This picture has nothing to do with preheating the oven to 400..but it's pretty!

6. Bring 4 1/2 cups broth to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add potato, chopped celery, bell pepper, and garlic; cover and cook 5 minutes. Add carrot and leek; cover and cook 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and peas; cover and cook 5 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

7. Combine flour, salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl. Add milk, stirring with a whisk. Add to vegetable mixture. Cook over medium heat 3 minutes, or until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add chicken.

Hey, you know, that looks suspiciously like chicken potpie filling...

8. Spoon into a 13x9 pan coated with cooking spray. Drop Biscuit Topping onto mixture to form 16 biscuits (4 rows of 4 biscuits works well). Bake at 400 for 30 minutes, or until golden.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 cup chicken mixture, 2 biscuits).
Calories: 327, Carb: 38.8g, Protein: 26.5g, Fat: 6.6g

Exchanges: 2 starch, 2 meat, 1 vegetable, 1 fat

Recipe for Biscuit Topping:

-2 cups all-purpose flour
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon sugar
-1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
-1 cup 1% low-fat milk
-1 1/2 tablespoons stick margarine or butter, melted

1. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and garlic powder in a bowl. Stir in milk and margarine, just until flour mixture is moistened. Yields 16 biscuits.