Thursday, July 23, 2009

Banana Bread Nice Cream


Oh, how I wish I had been the brains behind the simplistic brilliance of this recipe. So easy, so uncomplicated and so disgustingly healthy it cries out to be drenched in a thick calorie laden caramel sauce. Please do so if you feel so inclined. How I also wish that I had not suffered an unfortunate camera meltdown that left me with this one poorly composed, slightly blurry shot before it decided to kick the bucket. Some sort of lens error that left the lens sticking out and unable to retract. Good thing I had this delicious faux ice cream to ease the pain of my camera misfortune. For breakfast.

While cruising the blogosphere earlier this week, I ran across a post on Choosing Raw. For the record, I in no way eat raw or subscribe to the raw lifestyle, however I enjoy the purity within the concept of eating clean, raw food. I did have a brief flirtation with going vegetarian for about 10 days a few years back, but after all that roughage I fell victim to what some called a "meat indiscretion" and haven't looked back since. I try to eat healthy, fairly balanced meals for the most part, but I love the occasional sugar bomb just as much as the next gal. I have to tell you, if this is what eating raw includes, I might just think about it.

Banana Bread Nice Cream (tweaked from recipe at Choosingraw.com)
2 bananas, frozen
1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp chopped walnuts

Peel bananas and cut into 4-5 pieces. Place in sealed container and freeze until solid. Place banana chunks in food processor with scraped vanilla bean, cinnamon and walnuts. Blend for 3-4 minutes, until mixture is the consistency of soft serve ice cream. Top with an additional sprinkle of chopped walnuts if desired.

Simple. Unbelievably yummy. Refreshing beyond belief. I truly felt like I was indulging way more than I should be when eating this, but its so healthy its unreal. The mouthfeel is smooth and rich, similar to soft serve. For the record it doesn't hold up well to refreezing, as it refreezes into crystal form, altering its texture. It works equally well making this in a blender, which I did with the assistance of a glug of soy milk. In my continuing pursuit of making frozen treats without an ice cream maker, this one definately has taken top marks.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Peanut and Panko Crusted Chicken Nuggets with Thai Satay Sauce


Despite our epic Costco trip earlier this week, we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a food conundrum. It seems that the jaw dropping irony of a full refrigerator is inevitable, at least in our house. After pensively evaluating the contents of the fridge, Mr SoCal looked at me and said "There's nothing to eat". In the realm of water water everywhere and not a drop to drink, behold a stuffed to the gills fridge with apparently, no food. In his defense, I should elaborate. "I mean, everything has to be cooked. Nothing is made" Viable point taken. On my day off, I set out to remedy the enigma that was our empty, yet chock full fridge.

Simple ready made grab and go items were a staple in our college years. Ramen, frozen burritos, granola bars, and precooked chicken breasts (affectionately referred to as "fatty patties") were all familiar favorites. Our tastes have matured slightly since then, but I suppose this would be an appropriate time to fess up to the half empty case of Chicken Cup O' Noodles in our pantry... I digress. With the memory of the fatty patties fresh in my mind, chicken cemented itself at the center of my cooking whimsy.

Deciding on chicken nuggets, I wanted a proper dash of flavor and texture to gussy up otherwise ordinary chicken. There is nothing worse than flavorless, stringy, less than appetizing chicken breast to ruin an otherwise ravenous appetite. Surveying the fridge, Thai looked like a good option. I had some homemade peanut butter from the delicious blog of Kiss My Spatula, plus some grated peanuts. The closet was stocked with panko bread crumbs, and to my delight I found a lonely looking nub of ginger waiting for its call to glory in the crisper. Welcome to the origin of my souped up, crunchy, peanutty chicken nuggets.

Peanut and Panko Crusted Chicken Nuggets with Thai Satay Sauce
Ingredients
4-6 ounce chicken breasts

For dredging flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp garlic
1/4 tsp ginger (powder)
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp lime juice

3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped peanuts
Dash salt and pepper

Thai Satay Sauce
3/4 cup homemade peanut butter (or smooth store bought)
1/2 cup water
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp coriander
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp sesame oil

Equipment
Three mixing bowls
Baking rack
Baking sheet

Gather three mixing bowls; one for dredging flour, one for egg wash, and one for the breading mixture. In the first bowl, mix all dredging flour ingredients. In the second bowl, mix eggs and lime juice. Combine panko, chopped peanuts, salt and pepper in third bowl.

Cut chicken breasts into bite size pieces (4-5 per breast). First, dip chicken pieces into flour mixture. Shake off excess, and dunk in egg wash. Let excess egg drip off and finish in the peanut and panko mixture. When nugget is well coated, place on a cooking spray covered baking rack, placed over baking sheet. Cook nuggets in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden.

Sauce
Combine all ingredients in food processor and combine. Really, that's all. I swear.

Cooking Notes
If you haven't floured, egged, and coated anything before, it is an inherently messy process. It is essential to maintain and "wet hand" and a "dry hand" for this. If you opt not to, it will be quite a challenge to even turn the nozzle on your faucet to rinse off the inevitable accumulation of sticky goop. Place the nuggets into the flour and transfer them to the egg wash with one hand, then switch to the designated "wet hand" for the messier egg wash removal and peanut panko coating. Trust me here, this is the way to go.

I see many versions of these nuggets coming to fruition in the future. It really was convenient to grab a few of these, dunk them and go and have a healthy dose of protein and flavor at your disposal. Mystery of the full yet empty fridge solved- case closed.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pickled Asian Ginger Salad


Greetings from sunny Southern California! I have returned to left coast and 48 hours later, back at the cooking and creating. Shortly after landing, Mr. SoCal and I made an epic Costco run to restock our beyond empty fridge. We picked up some fantastic looking Ahi Tuna, and have since been pondering a fitting side dish to accompany it. My fascination with the whiffle ball bat looking Daikon played a large part in this dish. This large radish is shaped like an overgrown white carrot, and has a mild, sweet taste and texture similar to water chestnuts. It is pleasant to eat on its own, and it provides a mild sweetness to serve as the base for this pickled Asian inspired salad.

Pickled Asian Ginger Salad
1 cup sliced daikon
3/4 cup sliced carrot
3/4 cup sliced cucumber
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp grated ginger
Sesame seeds

Peel daikon, carrot and cucumber. Slice all vegetables with a grater or mandolin. Place sliced veggies in a bowl. In another bowl, mix vinegar, sesame oil and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Grate ginger and add to vinegar mixture. Pour vinegar mixture on sliced veggies and stir thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours. After chilling, stir again and plate. Top with sesame seeds and serve.

The sweetness of the veggies and acidic bite of the vinegar make for a pleasing balance in this salad. It's one of the few pickling experiments I've ever braved, and its pretty simple and quite delicious. Don't fear the pickle! Dive right in and get your brine on. Happy eating!

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Garden Fresh Strawberry Lemonade with Honey and Mint


Happy Fourth of July everyone! I hope you all are having a fun, safe and happy holiday with your favorite folks. This is a quick recipe for a delicious holiday drink that was inspired by the bounty of fresh goods available right here at my mom's house. The strawberries were picked from her berry patch in the backyard, and the mint is wild, growing on the banks of the lake.

Strawberry Lemonade with Honey and Mint
3 lemons
1 quart strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/2 cup honey plus 1 Tbsp
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, torn
2 Tbsp sugar
6 cups water

Mix quartered strawberries with the juice of three lemons and sugar. Let the combination macerate for 5-10 minutes.


Boil one cup of water on stove, then add mint leaves and 1 Tbsp of honey. Reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes


Using a strainer or sieve, strain mint leaves from the simmering liquid. Discard leaves and pour remaining liquid in a pitcher. Pour macerating strawberry mixture in strainer, and strain seeds. Extract maximum amount of liquid by pressing the berries into the strainer with the back of a spoon. Add liquid to pitcher. Add 1/2 cup honey,5 cups of water and stir thoroughly. Chill, pour and enjoy.

Feeling a little saucy? Add a lemon flavored vodka or Bacardi Limon to the mix. Not quite that brave? Some seltzer or lemon lime soda may do just the trick. I've been sipping on this all day watching the holiday roll by and enjoying myself. Thanks for indulging me in my pictures from my New York adventure... I know some aren't typical food fare, but there are alot of pretty things to see once you step out of the urban jungle for a bit. Here are a few more, from our world renowned annual Fourth of July boat parade, just for giggles. We may not be a big place, but we know how to celebrate! Have a fantastic holiday and enjoy!





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