Saturday, February 20, 2010

Valentine's Day Dinner - Red Chile Chicken and Rice with Black Beans

We were both gone the week before Valentine's Day and Patrick was traveling again the next week, so we decided to make Valentine's Day pretty low key. In fact, I am pretty sure we decided on this meal because we just needed to pick up the green onions at the store on the way home from church. Patrick was super busy the whole weekend, doing taxes, studying and getting ready for another week of travel, but he did manage to take the time to make a homemade card. It was really sweet and I am so glad he decided to send those flowers six years ago. It is crazy that we have been together that long. I look forward to many more years with a man that always challenges me to be a better person and helps me to realize my full potential.

Valentine's Day

After a week of eating out every meal, this was the perfect solution. It was simple and tasted great. I don't think that we would ever be disapointed by something that involves rice, chicken and tomatoes. The dinner came together pretty quickly and since we usually have all the ingredients on hand, it would be a perfect weeknight meal.

Red Chile Chicken and Rice

Red Chile Chicken and Rice with Black Beans

2 tbsp. canola oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied into halves (4 halves total)
2.5 tbsp. chili powder, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup long-grain rice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1½ cups chicken broth
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup green onions, chopped (or 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro)
1 cup salsa, for serving

Heat the oil in large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Season both sides of the chicken breast halves with salt and sprinkle with half of the chili powder. Place the chicken in the hot oil and brown on each side, 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate, leaving behind as much oil as possible.

Add the onion and rice to the pot. Stir for several minutes, until the rice turns from translucent to opaque. Add the garlic and the remaining chili powder to the pot. Cook for 1 minute, stirring, then add the chicken broth and salt to taste. Stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer on medium-low heat. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces and add them to the pot along with the beans. Recover the pot and allow to cook 12 minutes longer.

Sprinkle the green onions on top of the chicken, beans and rice. Test a grain of rice – it should have no more than a hint of chalkiness at the center. If the rice has the correct texture, replace the cover, remove the pot from the heat and let stand 5-10 minutes. If the rice is not completely cooked yet, cook for 5 minutes longer before covering to let stand.

Fluff the mixture with a fork and serve with salsa.

Source: Annie's Eats

Friday, February 19, 2010

Graham Bread

Patrick had a couple days off at the end of January and he was in the mood to make graham bread. He used to make this in college every once in a while and since we have moved to the cities, I think he has only made it once. So, he was excited to make it again. Unfortunately, finding graham flour was more difficult than he anticipated. He tried at least three different stores and even contacted the manufacturer to see if they still made it. Apparently, graham flour is essentially the same as whole wheat flour and they actually changed the name on the packaging to whole wheat flour to make it more clear. He didn't find this information out until after he had already decided just to use whole wheat flour, so it worked out in the end. The bread was just as good as I remember. We like to put peanut butter and jelly or honey on it in the morning for breakfast or use it for hot sandwiches for lunch and dinner.

Graham Bread

Graham Bread

4 1/5 cups of water
3 packets of yeast (6 3/4 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons of salt
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons of flaxseed
2 1/2 cups graham (whole wheat) flour
6 cups all purpose flour

Get 4 1/5 cups of warm tap water and mix the 3 packets of yeast in with a whisk. Add the 2 tablespoons of salt, 1/2 cup dark corn syrup, and 1/2 cup of canola oil. Mix all together very well with the whisk. Add the 2 tablespoons of flaxseed, 2 1/2 cups of graham flour and 6 cups of all purpose flour and mix everything together thoroughly. Cover and put near a heat source, letting rise until double in size (about 45 minutes to an hour). Or turn the oven to 400 degrees for 1 minute. Turn off . Place dough on center rack for 45 minutes to rise. Make the dough into small buns and put them on a greased baking sheets. Let them rise for another 25 minutes or so. Put the buns in the oven at 440 degrees for 7 minutes on high rack and then switch to a lower rack for another 7 minutes. Take out of oven and let sit for roughly an hour.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


The month of February has been filled with travel for both Patrick and I. I still have quite a few recipes to blog from before and after my trip to Chicago, so hopefully in the next week or so I will be able to catch up. The original plan was for me to be traveling for three out of the four weeks in February, and Patrick was only scheduled for a week out of town. Well, they cancelled two weeks of my travel and added a couple trips to Patrick's schedule. Last week I was in Chicago to train people on our system. The funny thing was that Patrick was in Stevens Point, WI at a client, which coincidentally is actually one of my clients as well.

We left Sunday night during the SuperBowl, so by the time we got to the hotel and unpacked it was already the fourth quarter of the game. We ended up watching the game in the hotel bar Aria, an empty sushi bar. I am pretty sure we were the only people there, but it was good to grab something to eat and watch the rest of the game.

We stayed at the Fairmont in Millennium Park in Chicago. It was a really nice hotel and it was convenient to everything. Here is my hotel room on the 31st floor and the view from the room.

Fairmont Chicago

View from Fairmont Chicago

Most of the week involved a lot of work and dinner at some fun places. We got to eat at a lot of good places during the week. Our Chicago counterparts took us to the MidAtlantic Club on Tuesday night, basically an exclusive club on the 80th floor of the Aon Center. It was too bad that there was a snow storm that night because it would have been a great view from up there. We also went to dinner at the Tavern on the Park that night. It was really good, I had the Butternut Squash Ravioli and it was amazing.

Some other good eats that we tried out during the week were: Aria, Mity Nice Grill at the Water Tower Mall, Sopraffrina for lunch a couple days, Giordano's Pizza, Coco Pazzo, Sweet Water Tavern, along with our daily trip to Starbucks.

Last Friday was our last day in town and it was finally not snowing and pretty decent outside, so we took a little lunch time tour of the city. I had been wanting to see "the bean" in Millennium Park all week since we were staying in Millennium Park and it was apparently right across the street from the office. We finally got to the bean that day. Kathleen also wanted to stop at Zara, a clothing store she discovered in Europe and just recently opened a store in Chicago. So, our lunch time adventure included the bean, Zara and lunch to go from Au Bon Pain.

The Bean Chicago

The Bean Chicago 2

The Bean Chicago 3

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Perfect Potstickers

With our cashew chicken we had these potstickers that we made a few months ago and unthawed them for this meal. I never took a picture when I originally made them, I think it was because the process was kind of overwhelming and I just wanted to eat by that point. These are really good if you have the time and energy to prepare them.

Pot Stickers

Perfect Potstickers

1/2 pound ground chicken
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons ketchup
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
35 to 40 small wonton wrappers (Look in the produce section!)
Water, for sealing wontons
3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, for frying
1 1/3 cups chicken stock, divided

Combine the first 11 ingredients in a medium-size mixing bowl (pork through cayenne). Set aside.

To form the dumplings, remove 1 wonton wrapper from the package, covering the others with a damp cloth. Brush 2 of the edges of the wrapper lightly with water. Place 1/2 rounded teaspoon of the pork mixture in the center of the wrapper. Fold over, seal edges, and shape as desired. Set on a sheet pan and cover with a damp cloth. Repeat procedure until all of the filling is gone.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.

Heat a 12-inch saute pan over medium heat. Brush with vegetable oil once hot. Add 8 to 10 potstickers at a time to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, without touching. Once the 2 minutes are up, gently add 1/3 cup chicken stock to the pan, turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook for another 2 minutes.

Remove wontons to a heatproof platter and place in the warm oven. Clean the pan in between batches by pouring in water and allowing the pan to deglaze. Repeat until all the wontons are cooked. Serve immediately.

Source: Heather Drive

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cashew Chicken

After our cooking lessons a couple weeks ago, we were planning on making another dinner with pork loin, but we both decided we wanted something a little different. We had a bunch of ingredients for Asian food and a Sam's Club sized jar of cashews, so Cashew Chicken it was. Patrick is usually in charge of Asian cuisine in our house and he took control of this as well, hence the complete transformation of the original recipe. He is very good at improvising while cooking, while I at least like to stick to the recipe the first time and then make slight variations the next time I make it. It's funny to see our personalities shine through in our cooking styles.

Cashew Chicken Ingredients

Cashew Chicken

Cashew Chicken
Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower
6 cloves garlic, minced
8 scallions, white and green parts separated, each cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 green pepper diced
1/2 onion diced
1 jalapeno diced
1 cup matchstick carrots
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup szechuan sauce, plus extra for serving
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
3/4 cup raw cashews (4 ounces), toasted
Chopped fresh cilantro
White rice or Asian noodles, for serving (optional)
Lime wedges for serving

Boil water for rice or noodles.

In a medium bowl, toss chicken with cornstarch until chicken is coated; season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Cook half the chicken, tossing often, until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add rice or noodles to boiling water.

Add remaining oil and chicken to skillet along with the garlic and white parts of scallions. Add onions, carrots and peppers. Cook, tossing often, until chicken is browned, about 3 minutes. Return first batch of chicken to pan. Add vinegar; cook until evaporated, about 30 seconds. Then add the szechuan sauce.

Cook, tossing, until chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in scallion greens, cilantro and cashews. Add soy sauce to noodles to prevent them from sticking. Serve immediately over white rice or noodles, if desired.

Adapted From: Everyday Food

The Doctor

Cashew Chicken