Archives for February 2015

February 26, 2015

Kung Pao Chicken Tacos

This wasn’t my first kick at the can with this recipe.   I made it once before and it was a request for our one-day-late Chinese New Year supper.

5 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces *
3 tbsp lower-sodium soy sauce, divided
1/4 c plus 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch, divided
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp canola oil, divided
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp dark sesame oil
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
large garlic clove, minced
3 tbsp coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts
8 (6-inch) whole wheat tortillas*
1/2 c sliced green onions*
2 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced*
3/4 c diagonally sliced celery (about 2 stalks) *optional
4 lime wedges

Modified from Original Cooking Light recipe

Marinate chicken in 1tbsp of soy sauce at room temperature in a zip-top plastic bag f for 30 mins. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Place 1/4 c cornstarch in a shallow dish. Sprinkle the chicken evenly with salt. Add chicken to cornstarch in dish, and toss chicken to thoroughly coat. Shake off excess cornstarch.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add half of coated chicken; sauté for 6 mins or until done, turning to brown. Remove chicken from pan using a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Repeat the procedure with remaining 1 tbsp canola oil and coated chicken.

Combine remaining 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch, remaining 2 tbsp soy sauce, honey, dark sesame oil, rice vinegar and sambal oelek in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Microwave at HIGH for 1 1/2 mins or until slightly thick, stirring twice. Stir in garlic.

Add all chicken back to skillet, add red peppers and sauté 2 mins, add green onions and sauté 1 min. Add soy sauce mixture,  peanuts, and celery; toss to coat.

Toast tortillas under broiler turning frequently. Place 2 tortillas on each of 4 plates; divide chicken mixture evenly among tortillas. Serve and enjoy with lime wedges.

Thoughts:
The original recipe called for the tacos to be topped with uncooked red peppers and green onions (and celery, which I did not use), I chose to cook them slightly,  just a matter of preference.

From counter to plate, just over 35 mins, and with the exception of the staples and a bottle of Kim Crawford (which pairs fantastically), the entire meal cost under $25.00.

I had a great deal of difficulty photographing the tacos without them looking obscene... so I resorted to photographing only one.

I had a great deal of difficulty photographing two tacos without them looking obscene… what you see is the PG version.

This one’s a keeper for sure! Let me know how it goes.

February 24, 2015

The Salsa Adventure

When I imagine my comfort zone it looks like a cloud. It’s cozy and warm, gentle hues of pink and yellow light filter through the fluff, soft sounding music and the scent of gardenia fill the air; it would be a wonderful place to take a nap. I like it there and I haven’t spent much time away from it lately, in fact I haven’t spent any time away from it in a long time. Until last weekend.

Usually stepping away from my comfort zone is initially inspired by wine, involves my friend D, as well as hours of training for some ridiculous race. This time not entirely different, wine check, D check (as well as our poor husbands), there would be hours of training but this time it would be in the form of salsa dancing for an upcoming event that we are attending.

We arrived at the same time and nervously joined the rest of the class and waited to get started. I didn’t get the info that we needed leather soled shoes until the last minute, so showed up in ballet flats, D on the other had additional intel and presented herself in a pair of sassy patent leather kitten healed pumps so that she could pivot. Looks like I will be going shoe shopping this week. Our instructors, Alberto and Theresa, introduced themselves and were very lovely as they tried their best to put us at ease as we lined up to learn ‘basic step’.

Basic step seemed pretty basic, one, two, three, pause, five, six, seven, pause, left, right, left, pause, right, left, right, pause in a forward and backward motion, yay! Now add the arms…yeah, no…now add our partners, gulp, but and ladies your five, six, seven, pause, now becomes your one, two, three, pause…omfg…that was my foot, foreheads colliding…omfg…sorry that was your foot, smile…ok, ok, ok, I think we got this! Now change partners…say what? Oh yes, the ladies get to rotate clockwise and dance with each man in the class.

Second on my dance card was a smallish older gentleman (wrong side of 70 for sure), clearly he had done this before, he had the hips and shoulders moving and was very quick to give me tips on my arm placement, which I thanked him for. Third was Alberto, the instructor…I was in a complete nervous sweat, I smiled and wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans before we joined hands, and he lead me through our little routine. Fourth was a fellow who came late to the class with a leather bag (murse) strapped across his chest (and had complete intentions of doing the class with it there until Theresa asked him to put the bag down) so really had no idea what was even happening, there were feet everywhere, there are no words. D’s husband was fifth on my list, we counted and laughed our way through our first dance. As I made my way back to my husband to complete my dance circle, our eyes met with an ‘oh thank God’ look.

There wasn’t even time for a quick whisper recap of the events that had just unfolded, as we moved onto the cucaracha. Alberto was creating a mood for the step, there was some discussion of stepping on cockroaches…I was distracted and still processing. The step itself followed the pattern of the basic step, but instead of stepping forward then backward (in the case of the ladies, backward then forward), we stepped to the side and then back together. We caught on relatively quickly to this one. Alberto stressed the importance of the ladies letting the men lead, and as the men initiated the cucaracha step they were to push their lady to the side. My husband enjoyed this step as each time that we went into it he would repeat Alberto’s instructions, with his take of a Spanish accent, and say “and push your lady to the side”. Then it was time to change partners. Once again, the older gentleman was quick to point out that my elbows still weren’t high enough for his liking and my step to the side was a little too big. I felt that his expectations were a bit high for someone with a little over 30 minutes of salsa experience. I smiled politely and may have stepped on his toe. I was actually relieved to dance with Alberto next, and he really did push me to the side, not hard enough that I stumbled, but he certainly lead. Manbag was next. By now it was abundantly clear that it is not a good idea to miss the first 20 minutes of your first 60 minute dance lesson which teaches you the basic foundation of all of the steps that you will be using. D’s husband had the cucaracha under control and we had a good laugh at what was going on around us.

Time was ticking on and the next class, who were in the Intermediate level, had started to file in. We had learned a lot for a first class and I didn’t think that there could possibly be enough time for anything else, especially now that the Intermediates were there, and that was when we were introduced to the combia step. Again following the basic pattern as the other steps, but instead of stepping to the side, we stepped behind on a diagonal. This proved challenging, I had mostly been faking the arms, as the older gentleman pointed out, and now I had to actually do something with them. This is also where a sassy kitten heal would have worked well on the turn. I left my husband with very little confidence and started my clockwise rotation of dance partners. I knew it was coming and I think Alberto did too. As I joined hands with the older gentleman and he started to pick apart my every move, Alberto called over to him that he would explain when I got to him. And he did, he lead and I followed. Theresa spent some extra time with the man with the bag so I skipped ahead to D’s husband to finish off the rotation with some success.

Our homework for the week was to practice. We were excited about what we had covered and wanted to give our daughter a little demonstration when we got home. Before I could even find something with a little Latin flair on the music channel, we got the look and the retort that all parents of a teenage daughter know only too well…

EW!

EW!

It’s a damn shame that she will be walking to and from school again this week.

What did you get up to over the weekend?

image source: upi.com

February 19, 2015

Recipe: Pasta with Shrimp and Spinach

I am a sucker for quality 30-minute meal. Tried this last week, true to time and it was delish!

1 pkge whole wheat spaghettini *
1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1/2 cup fat-free/less-sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice *
6 cups coarsely chopped spinach
2 tablespoons capers (optional)

Modified from original recipe Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp and Spinach

Cook pasta according to package directions, Drain.

While pasta cooks, sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots; sauté 30 seconds. Add shrimp; sauté 3 minutes. Remove shrimp mixture from pan. Add chicken broth and lemon juice to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add cooked pasta, shrimp, spinach (and capers), and heat 1 minute or until spinach wilts, stirring frequently.  Serve and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Adding cherry tomatoes during the final minutes of cooking would have been a nice addition to this recipe.  I found that 1 1/2lbs of shrimp was a lot for this recipe, especially with the price of fresh shrimp right now.  But even with the suggested amount of seafood, of course with the exception of the staples, it stayed under $25, and served dinner for 3 with enough left overs for everyone to take for lunch the following day.

mmmmmm

mmmmm

Let me know what you think.

 

 

 

February 13, 2015

Wine Sipping Music

Two of my favourite songs, “Thinking Out Loud” and “I’m Not the Only One”, alone full of emotion, together…powerful! 

I hope you enjoy.
 

February 13, 2015

Passing the Baton

Oh how I have missed my Sunday morning training sessions at the track, said no one ever.  But I have.  And for the last three weekends I have arrived slightly giddy not just because my hamstring is finally feeling strong enough to make a comeback, but because my daughter (who is not giddy) is there with me too.  My early days of running were at the track, and I was excited to show her that I am not just that sweaty mess running at a snails pace that she sees stumbling over ½ marathon finish lines, and that I can still actually generate a respectable amount of speed.

On Sunday’s Soraiya is the boss, and as much as I give her a hard time, I like it that way.  After our warm-up she gives us our assignment, which has been 10  – 100 metre sprints with 300 metre recoveries in between.  Inside I scream “YES”, back in the day they were my specialty. Even though Ry has played sports at a high level for most of her life, I’m her Mom and felt the to give her a few tips but fully expected that she would follow my lead, of course from behind, as I showed her how it was done.

As our kick started to increase we hit the go line and the gloves were off, no longer mother and daughter, we were now two fiercely competitive athletes looking for the win.  What can I say?  We are cut from the same cloth.

She easily took the first one, and I was more than impressed.  Without batting an eyelid she took two as well as three. I fully chalked it up to young legs, and was confident that experience and pacing would prevail in the end.  As I predicted, I took four, and feeling just a bit little cocky, I looked back at her and said “don’t let me have it, fight me for it”.  She responded by taking five through ten.

In efforts to keep my darling daughter’s muscles fresh for an afternoon hockey playoff game, she did not accompany me to the track on week two, giving me an opportunity to dust off my ego and rebuild my confidence…which was once again handed to me after a 10-0 thrashing in week three. Sigh.

As parents we want nothing more than for our children to surpass us in everything that they do, and that even includes areas that give ourselves that feeling of ferociousness and glory. I’m proud of her, she’s out there upping her game early on Sunday morning when most of her teammates are sleeping and she will see the results.  And yes, while I do wish I had left a little more of my legacy on the track for her to see, she sees me out there busting my ass, albeit stuffed like a sausage into my core shorts, but I’m still out there giving my all.  And who knows, I just may take my title back when we move to 200 metre sprints.

Still not giddy, even with Starbucks in hand

Still not giddy, even with Starbucks in hand

 

February 6, 2015

Recipe: Slow Cooker Korean Beef

One of my gf’s was recently raving about a Korean Beef dish that brought her entire family to the dinner table, which is fairly impressive, she has one of the largest broods that I know.  Whether or not it would bring my gang to the table was besides the point, I couldn’t get the thought of it out of my head.  I did a little digging around and this is what I came up with:

3lbs. chuck roast
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 onion, sliced *
1 red pepper, sliced*
10 cloves garlic
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp chili paste*
1 tsp red pepper flakes

*modified from Baked Bree’s original recipe

Combine all ingredients except roast in a slow cooker, add roast and baste.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours (I did peek and re-baste several times while it cooked).  Shred roast and crush garlic cloves with a fork 30 mins prior to serving.

The original recipe was for Korean Beef Tacos.  I found it a little too saucy for a hand food and did not want to waste the delicious gravy, so instead served it over jasmine rice and sprinkled it with sesame seeds.

Delish

Delish

It’s a winner!  Brought my gang to the table and back again for seconds, unfortunately leaving me nothing for lunch the next day.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.