Grilled Peanut Butter and Banana Split Sandwich

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Grilled Peanut Butter and Banana Split Sandwich, a.k.a. “Dinner for a Boy who’s had a long, busy week and whose sister is away at a dance, so he’s getting his parents’ undivided attention and getting spoiled a little.”

I ran across this recipe (here) on Cooking Light’s website. It looked interesting, but I probably wouldn’t have tried to make it if the reviews didn’t look so good (just a little “weird”). I made this for Boy tonight, because he’s had a very busy week. Hubby and I will likely eat later and polish off leftovers and Girl is away at a school dance, so I wanted to serve something easy and fun for Boy, who is already is full-on relax mode, wearing his pajama pants and ready for some Mario Kart!

Boy really liked the sandwich and finished the whole thing before he even touched the accompanying chips (highly unusual). I didn’t taste it, but if you’re thinking of making this, you should read the website reviews. It sounds like it really (for an adult) can be more of a dessert or sweet snack, rather than a real “meal” type of sandwich. It definitely interesting, though, and can be made out of things that most folks usually have around the house (at least in strawberry season – I just happened to see some beautiful early-season ones at the store the other day.)

Sweet Vermouth Chicken, Spinach-Rice Casserole, Flaky Blood Orange Tart

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OK, so this isn’t exactly a menu I would put together if I were planning it from scratch, but I still have a TON of that leftover rice around here, so as I was searching through my recipe files *(see photo below), looking for a recipe that called for pre-cooked rice, I came across this one (available online here.)

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This stuff was a great big hit. Almost all of us had seconds. It was EASY. Not gourmet or even particularly healthy, but easy. It would be a little more complicated if you didn’t already have pre-cooked rice on hand, but not too bad. I used onion powder, instead of onion flakes and also added a little Baby Bam. If I make it again, I would probably use a little fresh, minced onion, sauteed in butter.

I’ve been planning to make this chicken for a while and already had the ingredients on hand. It’s adapted from this Cooking Light recipe.

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The tart recipe was a timely find from last January’s Food & Wine magazine. I try to cook seasonally, but am frequently so far behind on reading my cooking periodicals that I end up using recipes from the same month of the previous year. Makes no sense, I know, but I recently did a HUGE clean-out of my recipe files and came across this one. An opportunity to make citrus supremes into a dessert? Perfect timing – see? – it’s January. Again.

Anyway…

We are huge fans of the seasonal Cara Cara oranges that are out right now. I’ve been making them into supremes for the kids’ lunches almost daily (her friends fight over any leftovers); I’ve used them in a rice pudding, I’ve baked them into cookies and Parisian macaroons, I’ve stirred them into cocktails. They are DELICIOUS. The tart calls for a TON of blood oranges and, while Cara Caras aren’t an EXACT substitution for blood oranges, they are close enough.

The tart has to freeze overnight, so we’ll have it tomorrow. Stay tuned for more info, but here are some photos from the tart prep:

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My sink, after peeling 9 oranges. Hubby said it looked like some sort of weird “Top Chef” challenge.

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When I’m not culling through my old recipe files (collected over the past 20 years or so from newspapers, cooking magazines and online sources), I’m scouring through my cookbooks:

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Indian Cashew Chicken and Indian Bread Pudding with Cardamom Sauce

I mentioned (here) that I was going to be making these recipes a couple of days ago, depending upon the open-mindedness of our Saturday night dinner guests. Well, the dinner guests were game, but I hadn’t read the recipe thoroughly enough and didn’t notice that the chicken had to sit overnight with the tomato-cashew mixture, so…. as I was beginning to prepare the meal, I realized we would have to go with a “Plan B” and ordered pizza. We ended up having our lovely, planned Indian meal on Sunday instead. Good news? It was a big hit and we will definitely be making both dishes again. The kids loved them both (the chicken was a tad spicier than Girl normally likes, but she just added more rice and it was fine.) Boy even asked “Is there any more of that toast dessert?” after dinner the next night (there was.)

So, here are the recipes again:

Indian Cashew Chicken

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I added about 1 cup of frozen, thawed green peas to this dish, just to get a veggie in the meal. If I make it again, I wish add a few whole, toasted cashews at the end, just to make it a little bit more obvious what the composition of the dish is.

Indian Bread Pudding with Cardamom Sauce

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This dessert was delicious – as is – I wouldn’t change a thing. It was very good and pretty quick and easy. It makes a lovely presentation on the plate, too; it would be great for a dinner party. I don’t usually keep plain, white bread in the house (ewwww…), but it’s worth it to tolerate some for this dish!

Cara Cara Rice Pudding

Yet another use for this massive amount of leftover rice that I have hanging around here….

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Cara Cara Orange Rice Pudding

2 cups leftover cooked white rice
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 cups milk (any kind)
1/2 cup sugar
small pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp Cinnamon Spice Blend
finely grated rind (be careful – no pith!) of one Cara Cara orange

Combine cooked rice, butter, milk, sugar and salt in a medium-sized heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Stir in the vanilla. Cook until almost all of the milk is absorbed (about 30 to 45 minutes). Stir in the cinnamon spice blend and orange peel. Portion the pudding into individual serving dishes. Serve immediately, if you like it warm or chill overnight and serve cold.

Makes 4 large servings or 6 small ones.

Pork Fried Rice

Boy’s 5th grade class had a “Far East Fest” yesterday. They have been studying Asia in Global Studies and yesterday was the culmination of weeks and weeks of learning. There were presentations, demonstrations, decorations, libations, and, um…food (I can’t think of a word for food that ends in “-ation”, so we’ll just let that little pattern die right there.)

Boy did a presentation on Samurai Warriors with some buddies. There were demonstrations on origami, abacuses (abaci? abacusi? what’s the plural of that darned word?) and lots of other cool topics. Lots of parents banded together and brought TONS of food. There was Teriyaki chicken, fried rice, lo mein, egg rolls, sushi, potstickers, cool Japanese soda with a marble in the lid, almond cookies, fortune cookies, Korean pears, ginger candy and on and on…. Well, I was tasked with bringing massive amounts of plain, steamed white rice (for the Teriyaki to be served over, etc. and for the kids that are too picky to try the other things.) I took this responsibility VERY seriously. I brought in both my rice cooker (which is large) and my mother’s (which is GIGANTIC) and cooked a whole, large bag of Thai Jasmine rice (over 10 cups). Well, Boy’s fancy school has some pretty adventuresome eaters: the eggrolls were gone; the potstickers were decimated; the sushi was inhaled; the Lo Mein was dispatched (welcome to “Feed Your Kids, the thesaurus edition”), but the plain white rice, well, it was just too plain. Kids took a sampling, but I was left with an AMAZING amount left over. I momentarily considered making the family of raccoons that are currently living under my deck VERY happy, by leaving it for them (they LOVED our gingerbread houses this year), but decided that I didn’t want them to get too friendly and figured I would use the leftover rice (about 15 cups, I think) to make something creative.

So…here’s the first use of this massive amount of leftover rice:

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Pork Fried Rice

2 Tbsp dry sherry, divided
2 Tbsp soy sauce, divided
1 Tbsp (about 2 large cloves) garlic, minced or run through a press
1 Tbsp fresh, minced ginger root
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup sliced green onion
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
about 2 cups fresh sugar snap peas
about 1 cup coarsely chopped carrot, blanched or steamed in water (microwave is fine) until slightly softened, and then drained
1 pound boneless pork chops, thinly sliced (loin or sirloin, your choice)
2 Tbsp oyster sauce or hoisin sauce
about 6 cups leftover cooked white rice
peanut oil (about 1/4 cup, but have more on hand, just in case)
a little fresh cilantro, optional

NOTE: This recipe is VERY adaptable. Feel free to use your favorite veggies – whatever you have on hand or whatever might be seasonal (suggestions: small broccoli florets, bean sprouts, snow peas, corn kernels, mushrooms, onion). I bought some canned water chestnuts (Girl’s favorite), bamboo shoots and baby corn, but forgot to put them in. They would have been a nice addition (make sure they’re very well drained and rinsed.) 13-year olds are SO polite when they’re disappointed that you’ve left out their favorite ingredient. Umm…yeah, no.

OK – a word on stir fries: it’s very important that everything is ready to go and “put in place/mise en place” before you get started; you need to be able to move fast to toss things in the pan.

OK – a word on pans. They should be big and wide and heavy (capable of holding lots of heat). Ideally, you would make this in a wok. Oddly, I don’t have a wok, even though I just had a birthday and dropped TONS of hints. Oh, well…

OK – back to mise en place. Here’s mine…

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Yes, a cocktail is an essential part of the mise en place. We have used a “Cape Cod” cocktail here (for illustration purposes only, of course.) Cocktails substitutions are OK and will not impact the final flavor of the dish.

OK…let’s get started…

Toss the pork with 1 Tbsp of the sherry and 1 Tbsp of the soy sauce. Set aside for 30 minutes to let it marinate. Drain, discarding the sauce.

Heat about 1 Tbsp of the oil (use a little more if you need it to lightly coat the ENTIRE inner surface of your pan) over medium-high heat, until the oil looks a little “wavy” but has not started to smoke. Add the beaten egg and lightly tilt the pan until the egg makes a thin sheet over the surface of the pan. As soon as the egg has started to cook through on the bottom (do NOT let the egg brown), flip the entire “sheet” of egg over the lightly cook the other side. Err on the side of undercooking here; the egg will finish cooking off the heat and can cook a little more when you toss it into the rice at the end. You want it nice and golden, not brown at all. Remove the egg from the pan and set it aside on a plate.

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Add a little bit more oil (1 to 2 Tbsp) to the pan and reheat it to medium-high. Add the pork and very lightly stir it until all of the pork pieces are lightly coated with oil. Keeping the pan on fairly high heat, let the pork pieces rest relatively still. *See note below. When they have browned on one side and are starting to cook in the middle, flip/stir the pieces over to brown on the other side. When the pork is lightly browned on all sides, remove it from the pan and set it aside. Pour the oyster sauce or hoisin sauce over it.

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*As the pork cooks, cut the egg into small pieces.

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Add a tiny bit more oil to the pan (1 Tbsp) and bring it back up to medium-high. Add the sugar snap peas, carrots, ginger and garlic. Stir to lightly coat all ingredients, making sure to not let the garlic burn. When all ingredients have heated through and peas are starting to turn a brighter green, quickly pour in the remaining sherry and let it boil off, stirring quickly to scrape up browned bits (from the pork) from the bottom of the pan.

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Add the red bell peppers and peas and continue stirring until they are slightly softened. Add the pork and hoisin or oyster sauce mixture, stirring gently to warm and combine. *See note below.

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Crumble in the rice, about 1/2 cup at a time, breaking up any large clumps with your fingers, until you achieve the desired pork/vegetable/rice ratio.

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*This would be a GREAT place to add things like WATER CHESTNUTS, bamboo shoots and/or baby corn, if you want to make your 13-year old happy – but why in the world would you want to do that???

Toss in the egg and green onions.

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(Feel free to make a donation to pay for desperately-needed photography classes.)

Pour in soy sauce, and sesame oil and toss gently to distribute. Sprinkle with cilantro, if using. Serve immediately.

Serving size will vary. Plan on a double portion for 11-year old boys. Serve with sriracha for any Hubbys that might be lurking around.

Mexican Birthday Dinner

Yum, yum, yum! What a GREAT meal!

I had a “milestone” birthday this week (one with a zero on the end of it) and this was the meal that we prepared to celebrate (I would rather be in my kitchen, preparing food, than anywhere else in the world – that IS a birthday present for me.):

Mexican Martinis
(recipe here)

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These were DELICIOUS. I know, I know…it’s not technically a true martini, but yummy. Imagine if a martini and a margarita had a baby. I used my favorite Catalon olives, instead of jalapeno-stuffed.

Amazing Turkey Enchiladas
(recipe here)

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I’ve made this before, using leftover Thanksgiving turkey, but I used some leftover rotisserie chicken that I had on hand this time and they were FABULOUS. A bit spicy for Girl, but Hubby was in Heaven. Boy loved them so much that he had a second helping, even though he had been to a birthday party (not mine – Boy’s friend, S, shares my birthday) earlier and had already eaten pizza.


Cinnamon Cake with Chile-Chocolate Buttercream

(recipe here)

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I made these into cupcakes (they took about 22 minutes to bake in my oven.) These were VERY good and rich (they smelled like a churro or a cinnamon cake doughnut as they were baking), but the buttercream doesn’t have a really strong chocolate flavor. If I make these again, I’ll omit the white chocolate and double up on the bittersweet chocolate, instead. I didn’t use the cake flour (just used regular all-purpse), because I didn’t have any in the house and didn’t want to make a special trip, but they were a little denser that I would have liked, so I’ll use it, as called for, when I make them again. These were actually a “trial run” for a dessert for my dad’s upcoming HUGE birthday party, so I will be certain to make them again soon. Every year, my folks have around 60 people and do ALL of the cooking themselves (well, I’ve made the dessert for them twice, but they do everything else.)

Cook along with me… (Indian)

Will be making both of these recipes very soon. Just a “heads up” and a shopping list, if you want to join in on the fun…


Indian Cashew Chicken

shopping list:
2/3 cup cashews
1 single-serving container Greek-style yogurt
garam masala spice, if you don’t already have some
(or find out how to make your own here or here)
1 small knob fresh ginger
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 large onions
1 jar green cardamom pods, if you don’t already have some
1 bunch fresh cilantro (optional)

staples:
1 small can tomato paste
white vinegar
ground red pepper
2 garlic cloves
coriander
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups chicken broth
1 small can tomato puree or sauce
sweet paprika
salt
half-and-half


Indian Bread Pudding with Cardamom Sauce

shopping list:
1 small loaf white bread
(I realize this might be a “staple” for some folks, but I’m not one of them…)
1 can evaporated milk
1 jar of ground cardamom, if you don’t already have some
1 Tbsp finely chopped pistachios, if you don’t have some on hand
(I routinely keep them around for Hubby and Boy’s snack attacks.)

staples:
butter
cooking spray
sugar
eggs
milk (the recipe calls for whole milk)

Note: I’m planning to omit the optional rose-flower water, so I haven’t included that in the shopping list. If you want to be all flowery, go right ahead…

Not sure if I’ll be making these Saturday night or Sunday night; it depends upon how open-minded our Saturday night dinner guests are…

Giada’s Rigatoni with Sausage and Peppers and Arugula Salad with Fried Gorgonzola

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I cut this menu out of Cosmopolitan magazine a long time ago (April 2007, to be exact) and just now got around to actually making it. I don’t know why I waited so long! Yum, yum!

The magazine article was in conjunction with a round of publicity surrounded the release of Giada’s new (at that time) book Everyday Pasta. Because the recipes are included in the book that she was trying to, ummmm, sell, I haven’t been able to find an “official” link to the recipes online, together. It does appear that Giada was very busy on this book publicity tour, however, because the recipes do show up, individually, in lots of places:

Here’s a link to the pasta recipe (scroll down):
Rigatoni with Sausage, Peppers and Onions

and here’s the salad:
Arugula Salad with Fried Gorgonzola

I only made a few, tiny moderations to the pasta. I only used 1/2 of one onion, because Boy isn’t a fan of huge amounts of onions and will remove them from his portion, so I didn’t want them to go to waste (there were still plenty for the rest of us – I just didn’t serve him any). If I were making this for anyone else, especially for other adults, I would add the full amount of onions in, because they get golden and sweet, almost caramelized, and absolutely delicious, as they are cooking. Mmmm…

I also used regular (pork) Italian sausage, rather than the suggested (lighter) turkey, just because that’s what I had on hand. I wouldn’t have a strong objection to turkey, but the dish was definitely not too heavy, even with the heartier sausage, so it’s really just a matter of personal preference.

As for the salad, I made it exactly as specified, but I would recommend making the cheese balls as small as possible. It’s really easy for the balls of gorgonzola to get too strongly flavored and overwhelming (although I love gorgonzola and they were delicious, the bites were just REALLY big and a bit much). Another problem is that the cheese balls started to melt and fall apart before the bread crumbs on the outside got as crisp as I would have liked. If I make the salad again, I may try to form the gorgonzola into very small patties (discs) and pan-fry them, rather than deep-fry them. I might freeze them beforehand (rather than refrigerate), just to be sure that they don’t fall apart too soon.

The other thing about the salad is that the dressing was VERY sour. For arugula (and blue cheese, for that matter), a super-sweet dressing wouldn’t work, but this was just TOO sour. Next time, I’ll had a tiny bit of honey to the dressing or substitute a little bit of balsamic vinegar for some of the lemon juice.

Overall, though, an easy and delicious meal. The pasta, especially, has earned a permanent rotation spot. Give it a try!