Friday, April 27, 2012

Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

One of our favorite dishes at PF Chang's is the lettuce wraps.  They are so flavorful and refreshing, we can never get enough of them.  This homemade and entirely different recipe is just as flavorful and refreshing.  We all (kids most definitely included) scarfed them down and then wished there were more.  What I loved most about these was how simple they were to prepare, there's really only about 4 main ingredients and chances are you probably have most of them on hand.  I'm sure there far more than that in a PF Chang's knock-off.  Which means this version is a totally doable last minute week-night meal.  Perfect, fast, and healthy for busy summer nights.  Enjoy!

Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps
{Adapted Recipe from She Wears Many Hats. com}

For stir fry sauce:  (which I doubled and didn't regret one bit)
2 T soy sauce
1 T rice vinegar
1 T brown sugar
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t ground ginger (fresh would work well also-maybe 2 teaspoons worth?)
1 t sesame oil (I'm not a huge fan of sesame oil, so I only do a couple drops)

For Cashew Chicken:
2 chicken breasts, diced
3 T veggie oil
1 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t soy sauce
1/4 cup cashews, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/4-1/2 cup water chestnuts, diced
optional: shredded cabbage
Several leaves of greenleaf (our pick) or iceburg lettuce

For sauce:  Mix all ingredients making sure to dissolve brown sugar.  Set aside.

For cashew chicken:
Heat oil in pan over med-high heat.  Add diced chicken and brown (4-5 minutes).  Remove chicken from oil.  Add onions, garlic, 1 t soy sauce to pan (and shredded cabbage if using); brown.  When mixture is brown and tender, add stir fry sauce, browned chicken, cashews, and water chestnuts.  Saute a few minutes.  To serve:  Spoon chicken mixture onto individual lettuce leaves, may add some hot sauce (sririachi), more cashews, and maybe even some cilantro is desired.  Roll up and eat--kind of messy, definitely awkward, but oh so worth it!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Caramel Banana Pecan Muffins

Yet another muffin recipe to share today.  This one might not look like anything to write home about but it most certainly is.  It starts with a banana and cream cheese laced batter then adds crunchy pecans, banana slices, and (hoo-boy!) caramel bits.  Sprinkle it all with some cinnamon sugar, bake it up, and voila--muffin-induced coma.  Yes please!
Caramel Banana Pecan Muffins
{recipe source:}

1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 T sugar
1 t cinnamon

1 3oz package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 medium very ripe banana, peeled and mashed (approx. 1/2 cup)
1 t vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t kosher salt
Kraft caramel bits (found mine at wal-mart by the choco chips. etc.)

1 medium ripe banana, peeled and thinly sliced
1 T butter melted

Line 12 cup muffin tine with liners.  Spray with cooking spray.  In small bowl combine chopped pecans, 2 T sugar, and 1 t cinnamon.  Set aside.

In mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, and 2/3 cup sugar until creamy. Add the egg and mix to combine.  Beat in mashed banana and vanilla just until combined.

In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add flour mixture to bowl/wet mixture one spoonful at a time while mixer is stirring on low just until combined.  Stir in 1/4 cup of the pecan mixture.

Spoon about a Tablespoon of the batter into each muffin cup.  Sprinkle on some caramel bits and a slice or 2 of banana.  Spoon another Tablespoon of batter on top.  Mix remaining pecan mixture and 1 T of melted butter together.  Sprinkle some over each muffin cup.

Bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes.  Cool in pan for a few minutes before removing.  (Can add a caramel drizzle to each baked muffin if you want.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rustic Rosemary Bread (a la Macaroni Grill)

Anyone who's had the pleasure of dining at Macaroni Grill has had the experience of this bread. They bring the hot fragrant loaves straight from the oven to your table endlessly. Imagine my delight when I realized how easy it was to recreate at home! Yeast breads can be a bit daunting, but for the most part I would consider this a fool-proof recipe.
Chock full of rosemary, chewy soft on the inside and buttery brown on the outside, the only way to top that is to tear off a piece and dip it in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and cracked black pepper. Serving it on the side of this dish makes my life complete.

Rustic Rosemary Bread
{Recipe from Mels Kitchen Cafe}

1 T instant yeast or 1 1/2 T active dry yeast
1 T sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 3/4-3 1/2 cups flour (I was good at 3 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 t kosher salt
1 1/2 T dried rosemary, chopped
1/2 t garlic powder
2 T butter, melted
coarse salt for sprinkling (kosher or sea salt)

Combine yeast, sugar, and warm water in the bowl of mixer. Let stand 5 minutes. With paddle attachment on low, add salt and 2 cups of flour. Mix for 2 minutes. Add dried rosemary and mix. Add remaining flour, a little at a time, until a soft dough that clears the sides of the bowl is formed. The dough should be a little tacky while still being smooth and soft. Knead dough using dough hook for another 4-5 minutes. You may add a little extra flour as needed during this time.

Allow dough to raise in a lightly greased and covered bowl until doubled in size, between 1-2 hours (mine was ready at 1). Once doubled, gently deflate the dough and divide into 2 equal parts. Shape each dough ball into a round loaf and place on a silpat lined baking sheet, side by side with plenty of room in between. Using a brush, slather the 2 T of melted butter equally over each loaf. Continue brushing until butter is gone, the loaves will be saturated. Cover the loaves with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow to rise until nearly doubled again, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Carefully remove plastic wrap from loaves and sprinkle each loaf with a little bit of coarse salt. Bake loaves for 14-20 minutes until browned and baked through. Remove from baking sheet and serve warm with a mixture of equal parts extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and some fresh ground black pepper for dipping. We like to just tear chunks off our loaf to dip, but you could always slice it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chicken Scallopine

Question: Have you discovered the amazingness of capers in your life? If you have you will automatically love this meal and if you haven't this, in my humble opinion, is the best dish to expand your horizons. Capers are delightful little flavor bombs. A little salty, a little pickle-y, and downright wonderful. Add to them golden crispy chicken, tender noodles, a little cream, a little garlic, and a lot of lemon and you have easily one my top 10 meals. Food is a glorious thing is it not?

Chicken Scallopine
{Based on a Pioneer Woman recipe}

4 chicken breasts, cut in half and pounded thin
Garlic Pepper
Black Pepper
Olive oil

1 cup chicken broth (or white wine)
1/2 cup cream
1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional-you'll see I didn't have any on hand in the above picture, but they are yummy)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 generous T capers with a little of their juice
1/2 a lemon+, juiced
salt and pepper to taste

hot cooked linguine noodles
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Note: the above amounts are rough guesses, I generally just throw things together and taste as I go until it's how we like it. good luck with that!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Get noodles going.

In large heavy skillet over med-high heat, heat a few Tablespoons of olive oil. After chicken is halved and pounded thin generously season both sides with garlic pepper and fresh ground pepper. Lightly dredge each piece in flour and brown in pan. You want a nice golden crust, so don't move the chicken around once it's placed in the skillet. Leave it alone for 3-4 minutes and then turn over for the same amount of time. Place browned chicken cutlets in a baking dish and pop uncovered in the oven to finish cooking through while moving onto the sauce.

Splash a little chicken broth into browning skillet to start the deglazing process and stop the little bits from burning. If needed add a little more olive oil and then quickly cook garlic (approx 30 seconds) until fragrant, being careful not to burn. (If using mushrooms, now's the time to saute those for a couple minutes). Add remaining chicken broth and scrape the pan to loosen up any bits. Add cream, capers, and lemon juice. Let cook down for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper, taste and adjust adding more seasoning or lemon juice or capers until it's flavored to your liking.

Once noodles are cooked and sauce is ready, remove chicken cutlets from the oven. Plate some noodles, top with 1 or 2 chicken cutlets, spoon some sauce over, and sprinkle grated parmesan over all. Take one bite and die of bliss!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bites

We all know chocolate and peanut butter were made for each other. So naturally when I saw this recipe with it's bite-size cuteness and delicious peanut butter chip and chocolate chip topping made all the better by using an easy boxed brownie mix, well I just had to make it. These would make a fun addition to any dessert buffet: enticing, mini-sized for more eating pleasure, and again--peanut butter and chocolate...need I say more?

Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bites
{Recipe source: via pinterest}

1 box of your favorite brownie mix (and ingredients to make it)
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 heaping T powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Spray or grease 40 mini-muffin cups.

Prepare boxed brownie mix as directed. Spoon batter evenly into muffin cups (3/4 full-slightly less than 1 T I found). Bake 11-13 minutes until top is set and toothpick inserted in center comes out slightly wet. Once removed if centers don't naturally fall (and chances are even if they do) gently press the back of a teaspoon into center of each brownie to create an indentation for all that peanut butter goodness.

Place peanut butter and powdered sugar into microwave safe bowl. Melt on high for 45 seconds and stir until smooth. While brownies are still warm spoon a teaspoons worth of melted peanut butter into each brownie indentation. Stop with a few each of chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. Cool completely in pan.

Note: I had a smidge of brownie batter left over and baked it off in a super thin layer in an 8x8 pan. Cooking time was minimal 12 minutes or so. If you find yourself with leftover batter you could either do what I did or make a few more minis I suppose.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Thanksgiving Stuffing

A stuffing recipe in April? I know, it's just not right. But I've had a frozen turkey sitting in a cooler on my very frozen porch all winter and since things are finally, finally, warming up it was time to use it or lose it. I opted to use it and made a much simplified thanksgiving like meal a couple sundays ago. What was not simplified, though, was this stuffing. And by simplified I mean lacking flavor or pizzaz!

I've taken parts and pieces that I love from a few different recipes and successfully (or so I'd like to think) combined them into one amazing dish. So when your next thanksgiving meal is in the works, don't forget this stuffing. The ingredients are basic, the seasoning is spot on, and with a few make ahead steps to ease the busyness of that particular meals prep--even if your turkey burns or rolls don't rise, at least you'll know you've got the stuffing in the bag! Happy Half-Thanksgiving. Sort of.

Emily's Thanksgiving Stuffing

1 loaf of crusty french bread
1/2 loaf sourdough
1 stick butter
4 stalks of celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 apple, cored and chopped
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
1 1/2 t poultry seasoning
1/2 t rosemary
1 t thyme
1 small package sliced almonds
1 can cream of chicken soup
1-2 cups chicken broth
2 large eggs
optional: sliced cremini mushrooms

Begin by cutting and cubing the 2 different breads into 1 inch cubes. Spread the cubes out onto a cookie sheet and place in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. They need to be dry and lightly golden. Set aside. In heavy sauce pan melt stick of butter. Add celery, onion, apple, sliced mushrooms (if using), and all seasonings. Cook until celery and onion are sufficiently softened, approx. 7 minutes. Place bread cubes into large mixing bowl. Pour butter/vegetable mixture over cubes and stir. Add sliced almonds. In separate bowl mix cream of chicken soup, eggs, and start with 1 cup of chicken broth. Pour over bread mixture and toss. Gradually add more chicken broth until the stuffing is wetted to your liking. I use the full 2 cups and sometimes more. We like a wet, but not soggy stuffing. Pour entire mixture into a greased 9x13 baking dish and cover with foil. Bake in oven preheated to 375 for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake 10-15 minutes more until golden and puffy.

Make Ahead Tips:
Cube and oven dry bread 1-2 days in advance. Store uncovered in a large bowl on counter. You want it to stay dry so do not cover! Chop and saute veggie mixture a day in advance and store cooled in fridge. On bake day rewarm/melt buttered veggies on stove, assemble remaining ingredients per directions and bake.