Needs a little protein

Brown-rice salad with spinach and tomatoes

Green vegetable stir fry

Thanks, feta!

Thanks, feta!

Kudos, tofu!

Kudos, tofu!

Here are two recipes that just need a little something to save them from themselves.  The first is the brown rice salad.  It’s not some great elements: cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, dill, a nice dressing, and some nutty brown rice.  Know what it’s missing?  Some kind of protein, preferably of the dairy variety.  It’s got cucumbers and dill, so it’s already vaguely Greek.  In steps feta, and it’s perfect.

Then there’s the green vegetable stir fry.  So so good.  So so so little going on besides vegetables.  Leeks, snow peas, bok choy, celery, ginger.  I served it on brown rice, and that helped.  Again, it needed protein.  Delicious cheese didn’t really seem right (not that it ever seems wrong), but tofu was perfect.  Please take a second look at those cubes.  I have a slightly (read: extremely) anal trick for stir frying tofu.  Cut the tofu into cubes.  True cubes with nearly equal sized sides.  Heat up some vegetable oil.  Place the cubes into the hot oil and turn them every 3-4 minutes.  I turn them by knocking them over on to another side and paying attention to which sides are brown and which are white.  This way, it all gets evenly fried.  You have to be willing to sit with a pair of tongs and gently bob tofu cubes on to their sides by a quarter turn.  If that sounds like madness, just stir them…like the lout that you are!  Either way, the tofu adds the protein and makes this a satisfying meal.

Something has happened with this green veggie stir fry that hasn’t happened with this blog in a very long time.  The recipe is not online.  Sonofa!  So I’m going to do you a solid and give you the recipe, adapted for to add the protein and brown rice that it needs.

Green vegetable stir fry (adapted from Everyday Food issue # 69 January/February 2010 p. 91)

  • 2 medium leeks (white and green parts only), halved lengthwise and rinsed well
  • 3 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 T minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 head bok choy (3/4 pound), cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 c snow peas, trimmed
  • 3 celery stalks, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • coarse salt (omit if using normal broth or substitute a little soy sauce when you serve it)
  • 1/4 low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • cooked brown rice for serving
  • block of extra firm tofu, drained and cut into perfect 1-inch cubes
  1. In a non-stick skillet, heat 1 T of the vegetable oil on medium-high heat.  Place the cubes into the hot oil and turn them a quarter turn onto a new side every 3-4 minutes, browning them evenly.  Pay attention to the first turn, you may find you need more or less cooking time to brown the cubes.
  2. In the meantime, cut leeks into 2-inch pieces; separate layers.  Heat another large skillet (your biggest, widest saucepan is a good choice here) or wok over medium-high heat until hot.  Add another 1 T oil, swirl to coat skillet.  Add half the ginger, half the garlic, and half the leeks.  You’re doing the veggies in two batches because they are going to lose a lot of liquid.  Stir until the leeks begin to soften, 1 to 2 minutes.  Increase heat to high; add half the bok choy, half the snow peas, and half the celery.  Season with salt or soy sauce, if using low-sodium broth.  Stir until vegetables begin to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add half the borth; toss until snow peas are bright green, 1 minute. Transfer veggies to a platter or big bowl.
  3. Repeat all of that stir frying with the remaining ingredients.  Remember that’s: ginger, garlic, and leeks, then bok choy, snow peas, and celery.
  4. Serve over brown rice with pan-fried tofu cubes on top.  Season with soy sauce, as desired (as they say in cookbooks)
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Parchment Aplenty

Issue 69 had a feature on using parchment as a cooking method.  It had full meals, main dishes, sides, and even breakfast in a parchment.  So, here we go.

The first recipe I made was for a dinner party with the lovely neighbor.  I made the Chicken with Mango and Ginger.

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Not being a huge fan of spicy foods, I went easy on the jalapeño on my packet.  Somehow it managed to impart a small amount flavor without much heat so it worked well for me.  The ginger infused the chicken breast and the mango kept it nice and juicy.  (Warning: the mango also made the entire packet pretty juicy so be sure to serve it with something that can absorb a lot of liquid — I went with coconut rice.  It was a good decision.)  This was a delicious recipe and I will most likely make it again in the future, especially when I need a tropical escape!  I also think I might start pairing chicken and mango more often, grilled for example, or in a sandwich.  Yeah, it’s a good match.

Next, I made the Eggs with Mushroom and Spinach.

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I’m not going to lie to you.  I didn’t think this one was worth the effort of cutting the parchment (let alone any of the actual packaging of the ingredients into said parchment.  To be fair, I did make this recipe on a day when I had chills and aches set in by mid afternoon (yep, the flu) so I may not have been a totally unbiased opinion on that day.  I definitely didn’t feel any desire to finish eating my packet.  I maybe made it through half.  It was really plain and more or less boring.  And when considering the effort put into fixing it, it just wasn’t worth it.  I think I’d skip the parchment next time and just make a scramble.  So much easier and the separate parts would work a bit better together that way.

Needless to say, after coming down with the flu, I didn’t do much cooking for a while.  I ate soup.  Soup from a can.  Because I didn’t have the energy to eat anything else.  And after the flop that was the eggs with mushrooms and spinach I wasn’t particularly tempted to make another parchment recipe.  But I did.  I made the Potatoes, Leeks and Carrots in Parchment

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It may not look that thrilling, but it tasted pretty decent.  This was another instance where I would normally have just roasted these vegetables together, because vegetables are more delicious when roasted.  But! This is the light issue (hence all the parchment) and by using steam trapped in the parchment to cook these veggies, they stayed pretty flavorful and required much less fat than when roasted.  In fact, the fat was optional in this method of cooking, so it has its perks.

Finally, I made the Broccoli, Asparagus, and Snap Peas in Parchment.  And as a bonus, I also made the Herbed Orzo.

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This is probably the one parchment recipe that I think really benefits from this cooking method.  Each of these vegetables is still super flavorful when steamed and don’t necessarily require anything added to make them awesome.  We liked it so much that we made it two days in a row.  Try it.  Trust me.  

The Herbed Orzo was slightly less exciting, but still an alternative to rice or potatoes so it might be a good thing to add to the mix.  The main issue with this recipe is that I found out after I made it that the bear doesn’t like dill.  And of course, I had decided that the main herb flavor would be dill… I ate a lot of orzo that week.

And now, G will fill you in on the final parchment recipe! Go G!!!

Thanks, B!  I’m winding this one up with the Salmon with Green Beans and Lemon Zest

There's fish under there somewhere...

There’s fish under there somewhere…

This was definitely good and certainly easy enough.  I like cooking things en papillote (that’s French for “No, G, not papillon.  You’re thinking of the dog…or the Steve McQueen movie.”), but I will admit it makes me slightly nervous.  I don’t think I’d be able to make B’s chicken dish without ruining it by busting open the packet and checking it.  But I grew to love the method by making a very similar dish from a Rachael Ray recipe.  She inelegantly calls it Spanish Fish in a Sack.  You’ll see that recipe is much more involved than the one in EF here.  I think this recipe is a good, simple option.  The wide pieces of peel are a nice touch.  But…if I’m bothering to make parchment packets, I’m probably going to go with the Rachael Ray fish sack.  It’s just too good. 

Stir-Fried Honey-Ginger Chicken with Peppers

Stir-Fried Honey-Ginger Chicken with Peppers

Honey and ginger, two of my favorite things.

Honey and ginger, two of my favorite things.

Everyday Food certainly loves their stir fries.  I have to admit it is kind of nice.  Up to this point, with very few exceptions, I pretty much sliced up chicken or pork, tossed in a bag of stir fry style frozen veggies and added some Soy Vey Teriyaki Sauce (if you’ve never tried it, it’s truly delicious).  So, here is yet another example of how this blog has taken me out of my comfort zone.  Yay!

This stir fry was both incredibly beautiful and incredibly tasty.  I took the suggestion in the magazine and went with red, orange and yellow bell peppers.  It’s not often you have such a colorful meal in the middle of winter.  Additionally, the honey and the ginger made the chicken and peppers so flavorful!  As usual, I served it with brown rice.

This was a delicious and healthy dinner at the peak of comfort food season.  Give it a try!

Bacon-Wrapped Ginger Shrimp

Bacon-Wrapped Ginger Shrimp

Bacon, shrimp and ginger… what's not to like?

Bacon, shrimp and ginger… what’s not to like?

The bear can’t eat shrimp, so I had to wait for an opportunity without him to make this.  I went to my friend J’s house to enjoy this treat.

The unfortunate truth is that we couldn’t find any fresh ginger at the super market the night I made this.  I had to use the jarred grated kind.  As a result, I do think the dish suffered a bit.  The ginger flavor was really subtle, (I was the only one who was able to discern it, the other two people eating just tasted shrimp, bacon and soy sauce – which also wasn’t bad).  I like my ginger to have a nice sharp kick so I was a bit sad at how that turned out.

I also want to point out that the bacon strips should really be quartered.  I did a few pieces with the full half strip and the bacon was too thick to actually crisp up in the oven.  I did the rest with the quarter strip and the outcome was much more satisfying.

Another addition that I think would be awesome would be grilling these instead of baking them.  They were laying in a rather big puddle of bacon grease when they came out of the oven so I think either baking them on a rack or grilling them so the grease can drip off would be a bit tastier.

With all that being said, it really was yummy!  I served it with salad greens to make it into more of a meal.  Make these!  But make them with fresh ginger as suggested!!!

Gingersnap Bowls

Gingersnap Bowls with Ice Cream

http://www.marthastewart.com/338900/gingersnap-bowls-with-ice-cream

October 2003, pg. 116

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Every Friday our local grocery store sells half-gallons of Perry’s ice cream for a $1.99, which has led to a habitual stop sometime during my Friday.  I thought the gingersnap bowls would be a nice addition to our Friday night treat.

The recipe seemed easy enough.  I thought things might get a little interesting during Step 3, due to the time sensitivity.  I didn’t want the gingersnap pancakes to harden before I could mold them into bowls…

Unfortunately, my troubles began in Step 2.  After the batter ‘cool[ed] completely’ (which the recipe calls for), I attempted to scoop a tablespoon onto a greased baking sheet, but the batter was rock solid.  I briefly warmed the batter over the stove just long enough to scoop the batter.  The first two bowls I made came out nicely.  The second bowl didn’t mold as much.  I used a glass that was too large and I was just too slow.  (Which I was expecting.)  The centers of the third and fourth bowls stopped spreading out in a thin layer at the same rate as the edges.  Leading to the edges being done and the middle not.  I took my chances with the middle being underdone, which was probably not the best choice.  I ended up with one bowl with a dense center and the fourth is now a wreath.  Lesson learned while baking Ginger Snap Bowls: Do NOT let the batter cool completely.

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I’m okay with things not looking perfect, as long as the dish tastes good.  My husband and I were not impressed with the overall taste, corn syrup.  I  would suggest putting a little more ginger in the batter, I could hardly taste the ginger over the sugar and corn syrup.  I was not impressed with the overall process and end result of the gingersnap bowls.  The bowls seemed like a creative way to spice-up a bowl of ice cream, next time I will eat my black raspberry ice cream in a ‘real’ bowl.

Apparently My Skillets are Big Enough

I’ve never seen G’s skillet in person, so I don’t know if the recipe was the issue or the skillet size was misleading.  Hard to say.  What I can say is that I took on most of the remaining skillet recipes and had no problem getting them to fit.  I used an 11 3/4 inch Le Creuset skillet which by the laws of measurement should technically be smaller than G’s 12 inch skillet, so I am assuming the recipe must have been a little off (or G uses big measuring cups).

I made two recipes, the first of which was Chicken with Artichoke Hearts.

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As usual, I cheated and used the bone-in skin-on chicken thighs I had instead of boneless skinless chunks of chicken thigh.  I had to let the skin crisp up before I flipped the thighs.  Then I had to be careful to nestle in all the other ingredients around the crispy chicken.

The oregano in this dish was awesome!  So tasty and Mediterranean.  I also love feta so adding that at the end made me extremely happy.  I decided to serve it over couscous because the liquid never thickened as the recipe described (maybe because I used skin-on whole thighs?).  The couscous soaked it up quite nicely.

I really enjoyed this and felt pretty good about eating it.  It tasted fresh and healthful even using the fattier chicken thighs instead of breasts.  I will certainly put it on the list of keepers.

The second skillet recipe I cooked was Chicken with Ginger.

See how spacious?

See how spacious?

If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I love ginger.  I nearly always have some fresh ginger in the house.  I cook with it often, but even more often I make ginger tea.  There are two ways you can do this.  One is literally pouring boiling water over chopped ginger and letting it steep.  This is great if you have an upset stomach.  I usually make a strong black tea like an Irish Breakfast and add fresh ginger to the pot while it is steeping.  The result is a really warming beverage (not just in the temperature sense) that is really great on cold mornings or rainy afternoons.

Anyway, I was excited to make this recipe.  I decided to serve it over ramen noodles and when they mixed in with the sauce it turned into kind of a lo mein dish.  The ginger was zesty and delicious and it mixed wonderfully with the soy sauce.

I’m pretty sure the Bear I live with liked it too because there weren’t any left overs despite making four packets of ramen to go along with the considerable amount of meat.

Another win for EF!