Thursday, February 24, 2011

Reuben Sandwiches

I have been lusting after Spring for about a month now.  I think a lot of us are.  One thing that makes me think Spring is St. Patrick's Day.  When I think if St. Patty's Day, I think of corned beef and sauerkraut.  Then I think of one of my favorite sandwiches-- the Reuben!  A friend of mine was talking about Reubens the other day and I've been craving one ever since.  You don't have to go to the local deli to enjoy this hearty sandwich.  Making them at home is much more fun!

I picked up a corned beef roast at my local supermarket and let it cook low and slow in the crock pot all day.  Yum!

For each sandwich, you will need:
  • 2 slices rye bread (my favorite is the swirled rye bread at Winco, but I didn't want to drive that far.  I just used the rye bread sold in the deli section of my local store)
  • Corned Beef (2-3 oz. cooked shredded corned beef per sandwich)
  • Sauerkraut (1/2 cup or so)
  • Swiss Cheese (1-2 slices)
  • Mustard (I like the deli kind with juicy seeds in it that pop in your mouth)
  • Russian Dressing
  1. Make the Russian Dressing (recipe follows).  Set aside.
  2. Spread about 1 Tbsp or so of the Russian dressing on a slice of bread.  Top with corned beef.
  3. Place the sauerkraut in a paper towel and squeeze to remove excess juice.  Sprinkle it on top of the corned beef.
  4. Lay the Swiss on top of the sauerkraut.  Spread the other slice of bread with a thin layer of the grainy mustard and set on top.
  5. Lightly oil a grill pan, griddle, or skillet with canola or olive oil.
  6. Grill the sandwich about 2-3 minutes on each side or until toasted.  Enjoy!!
Russian Dressing:
  • 1/2 cup mayo (I use Best Foods)
  • 3 Tbsp ketchup (Heinz)
  • 1 tsp Horseradish
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sweet pickle relish
Combine in a small bowl.  Will keep in the fridge for a week or so if needed.

This sandwich was very easy to put together.  I happily devoured it after a Zumba class. :)

Now I have a BUNCH of corned beef left over.  I can only have the same thing so many days in a row.  Any ideas on how to use it up?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chinese Chicken Two Ways!!

Last week, I made Cashew Chicken following a recipe by Martha Stewart Living (Everyday Food: Great Food Fast).  It was ok.  Just ok.  I made a HUGE mistake and used seasoned rice vinegar instead of regular rice vinegar.  This made the dish way too salty.  Lesson learned!  I made the recipe again and it was MUCH better with the correct vinegar.  I still wasn't satisfied.  The beauty of Asian food is that it is a perfect balance between salty, spicy, sweet, sour and umami.  I set out to tweak the recipe to make it more balanced. 

I will post the recipes and photos for both recipes, but let's start with the 'tweaked' one.  I took lots of photos of the process and its always good to get the process down first.  Then you can tweak it the way you like it and make it your own!  Please note that it is best to have everything ready to go before you begin cooking.  You won't have time to chop in between steps!  Each recipe serves about 6.

Chinese Stir Fried Chicken and Veggies
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided (I used canola)
8 oz. (1/2 lb) button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken tenders (or breast), cut into 1-1 1/2 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup shredded carrot
6 garlic cloves, minced (or 1-1/2 tbsp Garden Gourmet Garlic Paste)
8 scallions (1 bunch), white and green parts separated, each cut into 1-inch pieces
8 oz. can sliced bamboo shoots, drained
2 Tbsp white vinegar
3 Tbsp Hoisin sauce (found in the Asian aisle)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp garlic-chile paste (optional)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp corn starch in 2 tsp cool water, stirred well
1/4 tsp Sesame Oil
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup lightly salted peanuts (optional)

1.  Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add mushrooms and cook until lightly browned and they begin to release their juice, about 7 minutes.  Remove to a bowl and set aside.

2.  Add 1 tsp oil to the pan and HALF of the chicken.  Cook about 4 minutes, turning at 2 minutes.  The chicken should be lightly browned, but not cooked through.  Don't be temped to do all the chicken at once-- you'll overcrowd the pan and will end up steaming the chicken rather than stir frying it.  It'll get rubbery if that happens!  Remove the chicken from the pan to a plate and repeat with the second half of the chicken.

3.  Add the remaining oil to the pan along with the bell pepper, carrots, garlic and whites of the scallions.  Cook and stir fry until softened, about 4 minutes.

4.  Add chicken and mushrooms, along with any juices, back to the pan with the vegetables.  Stir in the vinegar, turn the heat down to medium, and let cook until evaporated, about 3 minutes.

5.  Add the bamboo shoots, Soy Sauce, Hoisin Sauce, Chile paste and water.  Cook, tossing and stirring, until the chicken is cooked through.  This should take from 1 to 3 minutes.

You can amp up the heat of this dish by stirring in some chile paste.  I love this stuff!  The amount used in this recipe is just enough to warm your tummy.  Feel free to add more and kick up the heat.

6.  Add the cornstarch/water mixture and cook another minute or two to slightly thicken the sauce.  Remove from heat, and stir in the green parts of the scallions and the sesame oil.  Stir well.  It will look saucy and delicious.

7.  I decided to serve over Udon Noodles this time.  Found them in the produce section.  They only took 3 minutes to cook!  Put those in your bowl.

8.  Top noodles with chicken/sauce mixture.  Sprinkle with a Tbsp or so of lightly salted roasted peanuts for a wonderful crunch if desired (not pictured).

Now on to Recipe #2!!

Cashew Chicken (Martha Stewart)
3/4 cup roasted, unsalted cashews
1-1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast or tenderloins, cut into 1-1 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
6 medium garlic cloves, minced (or 1-1/2 Tbsp Garden Gourmet Garlic Paste)
8 scallions (1 bunch), white and green parts separated, each cut into 1 inch pieces
2 Tbsp rice vinegar (NOT seasoned rice vinegar)
4 Tbsp Hoison Sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1-4 tsp sesame oil

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place cashews on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Toast in oven until fragrant, about 5 minutes.  They will crisp up as they cool.

2.  Place chicken pieces in a large bowl and sprinkle with pepper. Toss to coat evenly.

3.  In a large nonstick skillet , heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat until very hot.  Add half of the chicken pieces to the skillet and stir fry until lightly browned but not cooked through, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

4.  Add the remaining Tbsp vegetable oil to the skillet; then add remaining chicken, garlic and white parts of the scallions.  Stir-fry until the chicken is lightly browned but not cooked through, about 3 minutes.  Return the first batch of chicken to the pan. Turn heat down to medium and add the rice vinegar.  Cook until evaporated, about 30 seconds. 

5.  Add the Hoisin sauce, soy sauce and water; cook, tossing, until the chicken in cooked through, about 1 minute.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in the scallion greens, cashews, and sesame oil.  Serve over rice or noodles.

When I made this recipe with the right vinegar, I used skinless boneless chicken thighs.  I didn't find them to be as tender as the breast meat, but it still tasted good!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lili's Fresh Flour Tortillas

Friday was a great day!  We had a Superbowl party at work.  Our HQ is in Pittsburgh, so there were several Steelers fans on location-- along with a few Packers fans.  We decided to serve taco salads, tacos, nachos, refried beans, and chicken wings.  We also made everything from scratch (except for the corn tortillas).

I work with some great people. One of those people is a lady named Lili.  Lili's heart is bigger than anyone I've ever known.  She works very hard, likes to laugh, and makes tortillas for breakfast every morning.  This is Lili's recipe for Homemade Fresh Flour Tortillas.

This is the second time I've made tortillas with Lili.  She makes the masa (the dough) and I roll it out.  Here is the recipe and the technique.  I hope you try these at home.  They're surprisingly easy!  Lili says you can make the masa on the weekend, keep it in the fridge, and use it to make fresh tortillas every day!

This recipe will make quite a few fresh 6" tortillas.  You can also freeze the tortillas once cooked and cooled.  Just thaw on the counter before use.

Lili's Fresh Flour Tortillas

2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

-Place the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix together with your hands until completely blended.  As you can see, Lili is quick with her hands!

Add 1/2 cup crisco.  Break it into pea sized pieces and roll them in the flour with your hands or use a pastry blender.  The mixture should resemble coarse meal-- like when you're making pie dough.

Next, mix in hot water-- as hot as you can stand it.  The hotter the water, the softer the tortilla will be.  If you use cool water, Lili says the tortilla will break and fracture when you try to bend it.  Start with 1 cup of water, and gradually add more by the tablespoon if needed to help the dough form a ball. 

Knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes. The dough ball will look a bit shaggy. Let it rest on the counter for 20 to 30 minutes with a towel over the top of the bowl.


Using your hands, break off golf-ball sized amounts of dough and use your hands to roll them into a ball while folding the dough under to form a dimple.  Like this:

Here's what all the dough balls looked like on the rolling mat.

Cover the dough balls with a towel while you roll them out into a tortilla.  Take a ball of dough and dip the bottom in all purpose flour.  Place it on the mat, and roll in an up and down motion.  Pick it up, turn it by a quarter turn, and roll again.  Lightly flour the rolling pin if needed, but keep picking it up and rotating it to be sure it doesn't stick.  Lili likes to use a rolling pin where the handles have been broken off.  She says it gives you a better idea of how much pressure you're using on the dough.

Preheat a skillet over medium low heat.  Lili uses a flat cast iron skillet.  Lay the rolled tortilla on the skillet and cook it for 2-3 minutes per side.  It will puff up-- use a clean potholder or folded up towel to gently press on the tortilla and express the air if it puffs too much. 

Here, you can see the little bubbles forming as the tortilla cooks.

You know the tortilla is done when both sides look like the picture above.  Keep warm between layers of clean towels and serve.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did.  Thanks, Lili!!