Friday, October 28, 2016

Tasty Thai Noodles

My little lady is 14 months old. She's adorable, hilarious, strong, and full of joie de vivre. Also, she likes to be held. Especially while I'm trying to make dinner.

I've been doing my best to get ready before the dinner time drama begins, and this recipe is a prime candidate for nap-time preparation. You can make the sauce, cook the noodles, prep the chicken, and chop the broccoli earlier in the day or the night before. Then you can stir fry these Tasty Thai Noodles at the last minute while your clingy toddler is distracted by Caillou and the Tupperware drawer.

When it comes to getting hot dinner on the table, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Let's get cooking!

Tasty Thai Noodles
Gently adapted from America's Test Kitchen
Serves: 4

12 ounces chicken breast, sliced crosswise 1/4"
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces rice noodles (I used pad Thai noodles like this.)
About 12 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
1/4 cup oyster sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar (I used red wine vinegar because I was out of rice wine vinegar.)
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1 large head broccoli, cut into 1" pieces
Lime wedges for serving

In a medium bowl, combine chicken, water, and baking soda. Set aside on the counter for about 15 minutes. Rinse with cold water, drain, and pat dry.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drizzle with a couple teaspoons oil and toss until noodles are evenly coated so they don't sit together. Set aside.

Next make the sauce. Whisk together oyster sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, and vinegar. Set aside.

Place your biggest non-stick skillet over high heat and add a couple teaspoons vegetable oil. Add the chicken in a single layer. Allow to cook 2 minutes, until the first side is browned. Flip and cook another 1-2 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in a couple tablespoons of sauce and push the chicken to one side of the skillet.

Add another couple teaspoons of oil to the empty side of the skillet, then add eggs. Use a spatula to gently stir the eggs until they're barely set. Then stir the eggs into the chicken for another minute. Transfer to a bowl and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add another couple teaspoons oil to the now empty skillet. Stir in broccoli and 3 tablespoons sauce. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for another 3-4 minutes, until sauce is thickened and broccoli is crisp-tender. Add broccoli to the bowl with the chicken.

Yet again, add another couple teaspoons oil to the now empty skillet. Add half of the cooked noodles and 2 tablespoons sauce. Cook for 2 minutes until the noodles start to brown, then stir and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Remove the noodles to the bowl with the chicken. Repeat with another few teaspoons oil, 2 more tablespoons sauce, and remaining noodles.

Once the final batch of noodles is stir fried, stir in chicken, eggs, broccoli, and remaining noodles. Cook for a couple minutes, until everything is heated through. If desired, stir in extra sauce until the noodles are as "saucy" as you'd like. Serve with lime wedges.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Rosemary, Maple & Mustard Pork

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, yet for a long time the only thing I ever combined it with was roasted baby red skin potatoes. Until this summer, when a friend started giving me lots of fresh rosemary from her garden.

The herb goes really well with other vegetables, too, as in Fresh Corn & Rosemary Basil Pesto.

Now that fall has arrived, it seemed fitting to use rosemary to flavor a pork roast for dinner. You probably already have everything else you need to make this marinade and sauce: olive oil, maple syrup and mustard are blended with the rosemary.

To me, this combination of flavors truly tastes like fall.

Mangia! Mangia!

Rosemary, Maple & Mustard Pork
Inspired by this recipe from Eating Well

1 2-3 pound pork roast or pork loin roast
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons spicy brown mustard

Prick pork roast all over with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, rosemary, maple syrup and mustard.

Lightly coat a roasting pan with cooking spray. Place pork roast in pan. Pour about half of the sauce on top of the pork roast. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours to overnight.

Set aside the rest of the sauce and keep at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place roasting pan in oven. Cook for about 1 hour, or until pork is no longer pink inside.

Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. If your roast is wrapped in a string net, remove string, then slice pork roast. Top with remaining sauce.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Pork Loin Roast with Apple Gravy

Pork and apples are a perfect pair. I mean, if there's a Brady Bunch episode about something, it must be good. But there are a couple aspects of today's recipe that take "pork chops and applesauce" to the next level.

First we brown the seasoned pork loin roast to create a tasty crust. Then we nestle the pork into sauteed vegetables and apples so all the flavors meld while they cook in a hot oven. Now—here's the key to juicy, tender pork—use your instant thermometer to check the temperature and pull that roast out of the oven when it reaches 135-140 degrees. It will continue to cook while the meat rests. Finally, we create a rich-but-simple apple pan sauce. You'll be going back for seconds. Probably thirds.

Pork Loin Roast with Apple Gravy is the kind of hot dinner that would make Peter Brady proud.

Let's get cooking!

Pork Loin Roast with Apple Gravy
Adapted from The Food Network

2 pounds pork loin roast
Salt and pepper
3/4 teaspoon Fines Herbes*, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 carrots, cut into 1" chunks
3 ribs of celery, sliced 1/2" thick
1 onion, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
2 apples, peeled, cored, and cut 1/2" thick
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup apple juice or cider
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard or grainy mustard
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Season pork generously on all sides with salt and pepper and half of the Fines Herbes. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add pork and cook until browned on all sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove pork to a plate and set aside.

Add carrots, celery, and onion to now-empty skillet. Season with salt and pepper and remaining Fines Herbes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are beginning to soften, about 8 minutes. Stir in apples.

Move veggies and apples to the side and nestle pork in the center. Place skillet in the oven and cook until pork reaches an internal temperature of 135-140 degrees, about 45-50 minutes. Transfer pork, vegetables, and apples to a plate and tent with foil. Allow pork to rest until it reaches an internal temperature of 145-150 degrees.

Meanwhile, return skillet with cooking juices to high heat. (TIP: Put an oven mitt over the handle of the skillet so you don't accidentally grab the hot handle. I learned this the hard way, and it hurts.) Whisk in vinegar, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate any browned bits, and allow to cook until it's reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Whisk in apple juice and allow to cook until reduced by half again, another 7 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in mustard and butter.

Serve sliced pork with apples, vegetables, and apple gravy.

*Don't have Fines Herbes? I'm a big fan, and this might be a perfect excuse to try something new! But if you don't feel like it or if you've gotta get dinner on the table stat, just skip it or try substituting tarragon or thyme. Honestly, I often sniff around (literally) in my spice cupboard and see what smells good. Make it your own!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Edible Beard Man

A recent Facebook post from my friend Andy showed his daughter stirring scrambled eggs on the stove. It made me think I should start teaching my boys how to do more in the kitchen than use the microwave, but I'm still worried about them burning the house down — or burning themselves!

My youngest, Sam, does love to cook, though. Amy gifted my boys Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes and it's perfect for cooking with kids. Sam has bookmarked quite a few recipes inspired by the characters in Dahl's books.

We took a stab at making Mr. Twit's Beard Food and it was pretty fun — and definitely the kind of thing many boys would enjoy eating. Mr. Twit's most noticeable trait is his very messy beard, which contains leftovers from his meals. Yuck. But who doesn't like playing with their food?

You can change things up anyway you like with this general recipe. Since mashed potatoes form the base, you can let your child craft an edible version or his or her favorite character. I could see my niece Layne forming Elsa's long braid instead of a mashed potato beard, for example.

So, if you're faced with a rainy day or a long afternoon, get into the kitchen with your kiddos and see what they create.

Mangia! Mangia!

Edible Beard Man
Inspired by Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes cookbook

3 large potatoes
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
(Note: Feel free to use instant mashed potatoes instead. Follow package directions.)
3-4 cocktail franks
4 mushrooms
1 hard boiled egg
1 black olive or 2 raisins
1 slice bread
Small bag potato sticks or "fries" (I mean the kind from the potato chip aisle, but you could also use cooked french fries.)
Small bag pretzel sticks
Handful of cornflakes
1/2 shredded cheese
Optional: 1/4 cup peas or carrots, 1/4 baked beans, ketchup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel potatoes and cut into large chunks. Place in medium pot and cover with water. Boil until potatoes are soft. Drain potatoes and return them to the pot. Add butter and milk and mash until everything is combined. Set aside and let cool for a few minutes.

Cover a baking sheet with foil.

Peel the egg and cut it in half.

Using about 1/3 of the mashed potatoes, form a base for the face on the baking sheet. It should resemble the outline of a football. Then use the rest of the mashed potatoes to form a beard that tapers at the end. You can make your beard rounded or pointy.

Position the egg halves within the opening of the face to form the eyes. You can flip the rounded yolk halves and place them upside down on the egg whites to make building eyes. Add a raisin or piece of black olive for the center of the eye.

Separate a mushroom stem from its cap and place between the egg eyes. Use two mushroom caps to make nostrils at the bottom of the mushroom stem.

Use the two remaining mushroom caps to make the ears.

Slice the crust off the bread and place it above the eggs to make eyebrows.

Slice the franks lengthwise but not all the way through. Place them on the mashed potatoes to form a mouth. Using the remaining bread, make teeth by pinching small pieces of bread together and rolling them into a pointy shape. Put the bread teeth between the sliced franks so they stick out at odd angles.

Next, make the hair. Stick the potato sticks or fries into the mashed potatoes above the eyes and ears.

Then, fill in the beard! Use potato sticks, pretzel sticks, cornflakes and whatever else your child likes to eat to make a messy-looking beard. Squirts of ketchup or dollops of baked beans look great.

Sprinkle the beard with cheese. Warm in oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Then watch as your child devours his or her creation.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins

My son is four now (Four!! Insert all the crying emojis.), and he goes to preschool three mornings a week. He is a bit of a picky eater, and getting him to eat enough for breakfast that his little belly stays full until snack time is my morning mission.

We've been making his favorite No-Bake Granola Bars, but it was time to mix things up. Danny thought muffins would be tasty, but how to make a muffin that would be hearty enough to keep stick to his ribs? Enter superstar ingredient (and one of my kids' favorites): oatmeal.

These Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins are healthy, delicious, and filling. They taste like a cross between Brown Sugar Oatmeal Coffee Cake and Baked Oatmeal. The sprinkling of cinnamon sugar on top might even convince your kids that they are breakfast cupcakes. Just sayin'.

Let's get cooking!

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins
Makes 10 muffins

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup milk
1/2 cup no-sugar-added applesauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

In a medium bowl, combine oats and milk. Set aside to soak for one hour.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 10 cups of your muffin tin and set aside.

Stir applesauce, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla into the milk-soaked oats. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined.

Evenly divide batter between 10 cups of your muffin tin. Combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over batter. (I didn't use all of the cinnamon sugar. Use any leftover for cinnamon crisps! Mmmm.)

Bake for 16-20 minutes, until muffins are set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Half-Day Chili Sauce

One of the best things about my neighborhood is that us moms stick together. And when school lets out early for the monthly "half-day" teacher inservice trainings, it's good to have a plan for how to fill those hours when the kids are usually in class.

Molly supplied the idea and the recipe for our most recent free afternoon. Luckily, Jeannie has a garden that won't stop producing tomatoes, I had a bunch of poblanos and onions and we were all ready and able to get chopping — and talking.

Our kiddos were just happy to be running around outside together all day.

Molly's recipe is from David Letterman's mom, Dorothy. (I never knew she wrote a cookbook!)

But with all the tomatoes and extra peppers we had, our version got tweaked a bit, and we nearly doubled the recipe. We divided everything among three pots for the final cooking process so that each of us had one to take home.

The instructions for this chili sauce are pretty simple and you can easily make adjustments according to what and how much you have on hand.

The best part? Getting some time with friends to chat and catch up while chopping and deseeding the peppers and tomatoes.

This sauce tastes so good on its own. You can use it to top all kinds of grilled meats or burgers. Molly uses the chili sauce as a braising liquid for a roast. I added some to a meatloaf. Let us know how you put this yummy sauce to work in your kitchen!

Mangia! Mangia!

Half-Day Chili Sauce
20 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
6 to 8 large onions, chopped
10 medium green bell peppers, chopped
2 to 4 hot peppers (use your favorite, such as jalapeƱo or poblano)
3 tablespoons salt
2 cups granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup cider vinegar

If you're not sure how to peel a tomato, follow these steps: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Score the bottom of each tomato with an X. Fill a large bowl with ice and cover with water. Once water boils, put a few tomatoes into the boiling water at a time. Let sit for just a minute, then transfer to ice water.

Remove tomatoes from ice bath after a minute or so. Starting at the X, peel skins off the tomatoes. They should slide off fairly easily.

Peel your onions and cut them in chunks. Cut up the peppers, too.

Working in batches, pulse the tomatoes in a food processor or blender until well chopped but not mushy. Transfer tomatoes to a pot. Then chop onions and peppers in the food processor and add to the pot with the tomatoes.

Add the spices, sugar and vinegar to the pot. All the laughter in the room from the fun conversations you'll have while making this chili sauce with friends is sure to add some sweetness, too.

Bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour or more until desired consistency.

Let cool completely, then transfer any sauce you won't use right away to ziplock, quart size freezer bags. You can freeze the sauce until you are ready to use it.