Vietnamese Buns

My cousin Tamara was in town recently and that means we get to indulge in Asian flavours as we both love that style of food. This night we went to our neighbourhood Vietnamese hangout called Pho Huo’ng. The restaurant is on the corner of Pacific Ave and Dundas St. West and is a real local spot in the Junction. The restaurant is always busy but we always manage to get a table as the turn over is quite fast.

When you sit down they hand you menus and an order sheet where you write  down what you want.  The waiter swoops back and picks up your order, brings you a lovely tea and within 5 minutes your order arrives – fresh and delicious.

This night I had the lemongrass chicken bun and Tamara had the grilled chicken and pork with a spring roll bun.  Oh so good!!! Including tip and tax the meal is between $9-$10.  How can you go wrong?

For those not familiar with what a “Bun” is – it is “everything in a bowl” – fresh steamed rice noodle vermicelli on the bottom with sliced cucumber, sliced lettuce, bean sprouts, pickled carrots along with whatever grilled protein you order. You pour a vinaigrette over top that is a bit sweet and a bit tangy. Then you dig your chopsticks into it and enjoy.

Highly recommend this restaurant!

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Chicken Wrapped Asparagus

The other day I was rummaging around my freezer figuring out what to make for dinner. I found a tray of thin chicken breasts that were like scallopini. I remembered I bought them on sale for less than $4 (when I see sales like that I stock up and vacuum seal them). I also had a fresh bunch of asparagus sitting in the fridge. I knew I wanted to make something that incorporated both ingredients and then I remembered I also had some low fat old cheddar cheese (not old as in time spent in my fridge but old as in flavour 😉 )

I thought “how about wrapping the asparagus in the chicken lined with some cheese for extra flavour!”

Defrosting the chicken didn’t take long and here is how it turned out.  I got 4 wrapped pieces which is 4 meals along with a salad.  Not bad for a total of about $6 -$7 dollars. They looked great and where tasty too.

chicken wrapped asparagus

Ingredients:

2 Boneless skinless chicken breasts thinly sliced and pounded (or buy them this way as I did)

½ – 1 lb of asparagus

Old cheddar cheese thinly sliced (or any cheese of your liking – goat cheese would work well too – I just used what I had on hand – use 1-2 slices per roll – it will leak out a bit but who doesn’t like melted cheese?)

Pepper to taste

1 Tbsp olive oil

Directions:

Lay a slice of chicken breast flat on a plate or piece of parchment or any type of sheet/board – I have a bunch of those thin plastic cutting boards. Lay down 1-2 slices of cheese (or spread goat cheese) per piece of chicken. Place about 4-5 stalks of asparagus trimmed (it can stick out the bottom and top) and roll the chicken and cheese around the asparagus. Hold together with a toothpick or two – remember to remove these before serving.

Place roll in heated frying pan with the olive oil an sear all around. Once chicken is lightly browned or cooked outside all around, place pan in oven at 350 degrees (F) for 15 minutes. This will finish the cooking and make sure the asparagus is also cooked nicely. Remember ovens vary so if you need a few minutes longer then leave it in for about 20 minutes – shouldn’t need any longer though.

Remove from the pan and serve.  This whole dish took 30 minutes from start to finish. Now thats what I call “Cheap and Cheerful”!

Broccoli, Peppers and Chicken Stir Fry

Well it was a Monday and I was at a loss for what to make for dinner.  I kept looking at my new rice cooker which I really use mostly when cooking for other people as I don’t eat much rice. It was calling out to me to use it so I looked in the fridge to see what there was. I had a couple of chicken breasts thawed and a head of broccoli so I thought”why not make a stir fry”?

I know I have blogged stir fries before but each is a bit different.  This one had a sweet and spicy base and I served it over the brown rice. I have to say I have never been any good at making rice – for some reason it never turns out well. I decided to invest in a rice cooker and went with the Cuisinart 7 cup cooker.  Aside from the fact that it looks great – boy is it easy and clean up is a breeze!

So here is what I made and how I made it.

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Ingredients:

1 tbsp of olive oil

1 knob of ginger chopped

2 -3 cloves of garlic chopped

1/2 cup of sweet chilli sauce (asian variety)

2 tbsp of hoisin sauce

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts cubed

1/5 – 2 cups of broccoli florets

1 pepper thinly sliced (colour of your choice)

pepper to taste (no salt as hoisin and the sweet chilli sauce have enough sodium)

Directions

Make 3/4 cup of brown rice (enough for two people) any way you choose, either in a pot or a rice cooker. While this is cooking….

Place cubed chicken in a bowl with the sauces and the ginger and garlic. As this is marinating, steam the broccoli and peppers for about 2 minutes in the microwave oven with a bit of water.

In a saucepan, toss the chicken, whatever sauce is left in the bowl, the broccoli and the peppers and stir fry till chicken is cooked and no longer pink. That’s it!  Now serve over some rice and you have a tasty meal ready in about half an hour.

Chicken Enchiladas

I mentioned in a previous post I have been doing a bunch of cooking for my friend Darren which gave me a great excuse to try out some new recipes.  Darren was great and agreed to be my tester for a few weeks. Here is another one of the new recipes I tried and I think turned out well. The pictures don’t do it justice. (I apologize as the pictures were taken from the leftovers – which is my food 😉 )

Note: this can be made vegetarian by eliminating the chicken and perhaps using tofu.

enchilada

This looks like a ton of food I realize in the picture but it is on a small bread plate not a dinner plate. Once again I would consider this comfort food and on the whole quite healthy.

Ingredients:   Serves 8

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast sliced in thin lengthwise strips (similar to fajitas)

1 onion, chopped

1.5  cups low fat yogurt

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (you can use a low fat cheese here – I used an old cheddar for the extra zing)

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Pinch black pepper

2 cups of pasta sauce

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 cup chopped  pepper (any colour will do)

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 – (10 inch) whole wheat flour tortillas

1  jar salsa  (about 1.5 cups)

3/4 cup shredded cheddar or any cheese you like

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. In a skillet over medium heat, sauté chicken till cooked. Drain excess moisture.  Add the onion, yogurt, 1 cup of cheddar cheese, parsley, oregano and ground black pepper. Heat until cheese melts – about a minute or two. Stir in pasta sauce, water, chili powder, chopped pepper and garlic.

3. On a plate – lay one torilla flat and spread a portion of the mixture down the middle of the tortilla. Fold over the ends and place in a baking dish with the seam side facing down. Cover with salsa, the left over sauce from the pan  and the remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake uncovered in the preheated oven 20 minutes.

4. When serving, add a spoonful of yogurt on top and rice on the side (or in my case red and white quinoa with vegetables).  The rice/quinoa helps to absorb any extra juices from the enchiladas.

Friday Night Dinner With Old Friends

I may have mentioned in previous posts about my friend Fern who is my oldest friend (not in age but in years we’ve known each other 😉 )

Last Friday I went over to Ferns in the afternoon so we could cook a nice dinner together for Friday evening.  Her dad, husband Ian one of her sons Chase along with another old friend (again not in age but years known) Liz all came for dinner.

I went over about 2:00 in the afternoon so we could take our time and hang out.  We made the honey sesame chicken recipe I have posted before on brown rice along with brussel sprouts seared with chestnuts and bacon pieces and a great salad.

There is a small story behind the brown rice I have to admit.  I am not good at making rice.  I do not have a rice cooker and my rice always comes out a bit mushy or wet even though I follow the guidelines exactly.  This time Fern gave me a box of Uncle Bens converted brown rice.  How could I go wrong? Well I started following the instructions for something else on the box and in my defence there were about 3 different methods of cooking the darn rice.  I added way too much water and thankfully Fern came to the rescue and dumped half the water mid way and saved the rice from being porridge. I don’t think I will ever live that down as the whole time we were cooking (and drinking wine) I kept saying “I don’t think this rice is right”

We lucked out since Ian (Ferns husband) just bought a restaurant downtown that serves fabulous cheesecake so he brought home a great assortment for us to choose from along with a great chocolate “babka” cake Liz brought.

When all was said and done, it was a really great day and a lovely evening with old friends and great food.

salad

 infamous rice
chicken and sprouts
chicken on rice
Couldn’t resist this picture too – When I got up to bring something to the table and came back to sit down – this little girl was in my seat – think she wanted to join the fun! She was quickly shoo’d off the chair but what a face!!!!
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Breaded Chicken with Lemon Sauce

I had a request for this dish as a food order and thought I would make some extra for myself. It is always so good. Now I will preface this blog with a note that this is not the most low calorie meal however it is not crazy but any stretch.  I use good ingredients and I think that makes all the difference.  Below is a shot of the finished product and then the ingredients and direction will follow the picture.  Enjoy – I know I did as did my food clients.

breaded chicken with lemon sauce

Ingredients for breaded chicken: – serves 4

1 dish with whole wheat flour for dredging chicken – I added some chopped lemon rind into this

1 bowl with 8 egg whites (you may need more depending on how much you make)

1 dish with 1/2 seasoned breadcrumbs or panko crumbs and 1/2 with grated parmesan or romano cheese (breading portion)

2 large chicken breasts boneless skinless

Pepper to taste (I use lemon pepper and then added some chopped lemon rind into the flour – you can add it to the breadcrumbs as well or instead of adding to flour)

5 tablespoons canola oil (see how much you need – I use a non stick pan so I don’t use too much oil)

Directions

Slice chicken breasts in half lengthwise like you are butterflying them but cut right through so you have two pieces per breast. Pound each piece till thinned (as thin as you like).

Heat canola oil in the pan and take a piece of chicken and dredge it in the flour mix, shake it off and coat it in the egg mix, then put it in the breadcrumbs and cheese mixture to coat.  Once the pan is hot, place the chicken in the pan and repeat the process for all the slices of chicken (4 in total if you used two breasts). It only takes a minute or two to brown on one side and cook.  Turn over when golden brown on one side and sear the other side till also golden brown.

I tend to wipe the pan after each group of two pieces so I don’t get burning. Add fresh oil and do up the next two pieces.

Lemon sauce

This is a no brainer – I wipe the pan clean after cooking the chicken and add about 3/4 of a cup of chicken stock (I use low salt). Add 2 tablespoons of dijon mustard and about 1/3 cup of lemon juice or the juice of two lemons. Stir till it starts to boil slightly – turn heat to low and take a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of water and 1 tsp – 2 tsp of corn starch – mix the water and corn starch in the little bowl till it is a milky water and then add to the sauce.  Stir and let simmer till it thickens.  If it is not thickening add a bit more water and corn starch (small bits at a time as it will come together and thicken in a short while).

Dip pieces of the chicken in the sauce and enjoy!

Yogurt Chicken with Mango Salsa

I completely made this dish up from bits and pieces of information I have heard about from different sources.  I had a craving for mango salsa and happened to have an ataulfo mango on hand (which I think is the best for doing salsa as it is soft and very sweet when ripe).

I have heard about marinating chicken in buttermilk, yogurt and even milk.  I had some yogurt that I needed to use up so I thought lets try using it on the chicken breasts.

The salsa was a mix of whatever I thought would work and low and behold it did!

Here is what I did…

yogurt chicken and salsa1

Ingredients for chicken – feeds 2

2 Boneless skinless chicken breast (1 per person)

3/4 – 1 cup of yogurt (enough to really marinate the chicken in – should leave to marinate for at least 4 hours – I did it for less as I didn’t have 4 hours before dinner 🙂 )

1/2 cup of italian seasoned bread crumbs

Ingredients for salsa

1 ataulfo mango diced or chopped into small pieces

1/2 red pepper finely chopped

Handfull of fresh cilantro chopped

1 green onion chopped

1 tbsp of rice vinegar (you can adjust the amount along with the next two ingredients – sugar and salt – to taste)

1 tbsp sugar (see note above)

Pinch of salt

Directions

Marinate chicken in yogurt for at least 4 hours. Take out and lightly bread with crumbs and then sauté till lightly browned. Put pan in oven to finish cooking for 20 minutes (depending on oven) at 350 degrees.

For the salsa – combine all fruit and vegetable ingredients in a bowl and taste – add condiments bit by bit as needed till you get your desired taste.

Easy Lemon Spiced Chicken (reblogged from “Food is Fuel for Me”)

http://foodisfuelforme.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/squeeze-some-flavor-on-to-that-chicken/#like-294

Here is another recipe that seemed easy and delicious.  I love lemon chicken and plan on trying this in the next week or so. I may add one of my new favourite spices to the recipe (harissa). A middle eastern spice that combines a number of spices together.  Very aromatic and adds a nice flavour to meat and vegetables.

Pulled chicken (instead of pork)

While I love pulled pork it does take a fair bit of time and effort to make even in a slow cooker – I wanted something to do with the chicken thighs I had in the fridge and decided to try pulled chicken instead of pork.

pulled chicken

Ingredients

1 large onion diced

3 cloves of garlic minced (add extra if you like it garlicky)

Paprika (smoked or Hungarian or any kind for that matter)

1/2 tsp hot sauce (optional)

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (I suppose you can use breasts as well but dark meat is more tender)

1/2 – 2/3 of a cup of BBQ sauce (store bought or homemade – I used Diana Sweets original recipe)

Directions

Sauté onion and garlic till soft (about 5 minutes), add the paprika and stir till all coated.  Season the thighs with some pepper (I don’t add salt as the sauce has enough – but if you like salt add it to the thighs now).

Put chicken in the skillet over the onions, garlic and paprika and mix so chicken has the onion coating. Sear one side of chicken and then turn over and sear the other side coating that side as well with onion mix.

Add BBQ sauce – 1/2 cup – use more if you like – I just wanted enough to flavour the chicken.

Stir everything together so chicken is well coated. Cover pan and put in an oven at 350 degrees for 80-90 minutes.

Take out and put chicken in a large dish and pull apart using 2 forks.  Just like that –  pulled chicken! Add chicken back into the remaining sauce, mix around and put onto whatever bun/plate/salad you want to eat it with.

I put it in a whole wheat mini pita pocket and ate it as pure comfort food.

The next day I had some leftovers so I made an egg white plain omelette and added some of the chicken and a bit of parmesan cheese on top and had a chicken/egg pizza omelette for dinner.

egg pizza

Dijon Maple Chicken

This is a very simple meal to make that has a lot of impact.  You can use whatever side dish you like – Once again I was using up things in my fridge as I really hate wasting and throwing out food.   Recipe is simple and delicious (I even cut some small pieces up for my cat who devoured them.)

chicken dinner

Chicken ingredients – serves 4 minimum

4 Chicken breasts (you can use thighs if you wish)

1 tbsp dijon mustard

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp chopped garlic

1 tbsp olive oil

Ground pepper to taste

Directions

In a sealable plastic bag – add all the ingredients minus the chicken.  Mix the ingredients together by just rubbing the bag a bit.  Throw in the chicken and massage around in the sauce (with the bag sealed).  Put in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.  I often do this the day before so cooking time is cut right down.

Use a cast iron pan if you have – if not then use a sauté pan you can put in the oven. Heat a small amount of olive oil (just enough to moisten the pan).  When fairly hot – place the chicken in the pan making sure not to overlap. When browned slightly on one side, flip over and cook for several minutes on the other side.  Pop the pan into a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes (less time needed if you are using very small chicken breasts).

When finished cooking take the pan out and remove the breasts to a plate and cover lightly with foil to let the chicken rest and retain their juices.  Meantime in the pan (which is very hot so remember to use gloves) add half a cup of chicken broth, 1 tsp of dijon mustard and 1 tsp butter.  Whisk the juice around picking up the bits left from the chicken pieces.  You can also use some white wine if you have it handy (half chicken broth and half wine works).  Bring liquid to a boil and let it reduce slightly while stirring (the little bits left from the chicken and sauce in the pan provide all the flavour.  You can either strain this juice or use it as is with the little pieces in it.  Pour over chicken and/or side dish and you are done!

Side Dish

I had  some brown rice with a bit of grated parmesan cheese in it left over and some broccoli and mushrooms.  I sautéed the mushrooms and broccoli for a few minutes in a touch of olive oil then added chicken brother to the pan and covered for a few minutes.  I threw in the rice with the veg and stirred it around and covered till heated.

Put a few grape tomatoes in for colour and dinner was served.