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.

Pad Thai

For some reason I have always hesitated to make this dish – Not sure why but I had a craving for it and I had all the ingredients I thought I wanted in it so I tried it. Turned out delicious!  Very tasty. I followed a recipe for a bit then changed it up to be my own. I figured if it didn’t turn out then I wouldn’t blog about it and no one would be the wiser ;-). Here I am blogging about it because I think it tasted very good.

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Ingredients – Serves 4 (at least)

8 ounces of flat rice noodles (pad thai style)

2 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

1.5 tbsp fish sauce

Juice of 1 lime

1 tbsp dried minced onion (you can use fresh if you like)

1 tbsp chili garlic sauce

1/2 cup of ketchup

1/3 cup of sweet chili sauce

2 tbsp canola oil

12 peeled shrimp

2 chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces (large dice)

5 minced garlic cloves

1 red pepper sliced thinly

1 cup matchstick carrots (grated or shredded is fine too)

1 cup tiny pieces of broccoli

Toasted almond slivers for garnish

 

Directions:

Boil water in a pot and when boiling drop noodles in and turn heat off. Stir noodles around to separate them.

While water is boiling, mix soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, ketchup and garlic chili sauce  in a small bowl.

In a large skillet sauté chicken till cooked then add carrots, peppers, broccoli, and 1/3 of the sauce with the shrimp and sauté for about 2 minutes till shrimp is cooked.  By now the noodles should be done so drain them and add them to the skillet.  Add the remaining sauce and stir on medium heat to coat everything. it should only take a minute or two till all ingredients are mixed and coated.  Dish up and enjoy!

 

 

Spending Time with Wonderful People

I have a friend Beth who I see for one day each year between Christmas and New Years.  She works in Asia and comes back to see her parents once a year and that’s when we hang out.  I always go out to see her and her parents because I love spending time with them all – She has very wise and interesting parents and spending time with them is always a treat.

Every year we  have fabulous meals for both lunch and dinner.  This time was no exception. Lunch was this rustic charcuterie platter with a variety of cold cuts and cheese but the star of the show was the Moroccan pickled salad. This was a recipe Beth found of Chef Michael Smith that is actually called “Moroccan pickled veggies with marmalade and mint” but it was served as a wonderful mouth watering salad. The flavours alighted one by one in your mouth going from sweet to spicy to tangy to pickled. Below are the pictures and the salad recipe. I encourage you to try it.

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Recipe for the salad above:

Moroccan pickled veggies with marmalade & mint (takes 15 minutes)

For the warm dressing:

  • ½ cup (125 ml) of cider vinegar
  • ½ cup (125 ml) of orange marmalade
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of ras el hanout or curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of cumin seeds or ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of your favourite hot sauce
  • ½ teaspoon (2 ml) of salt

For the salad:

  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup (250 ml) of dried apricots, sliced
  • 2 English cucumbers, cubed
  • 1 cup (250 ml) of chopped fresh mint

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, stir together the vinegar, marmalade, ras el hanout, cinnamon, cumin seeds, hot sauce, and salt. Bring the pickling brine to a simmer, allowing the flavours to blend.

Stir in the carrots, onions, and apricots. Bring the mixture back to a simmer for a few moments. Turn off the heat, then stir in the cucumbers.  Just before serving, toss in the mint, preserving its intensity. Serve and share.

This salad is excellent served freshly made, but like anything pickled it may rest for an hour or more or even overnight. Its flavours and textures will evolve and intensify as it rests.

 

I have to say you would think we would then just have  a simple dinner but “simple” is not the way when I come to visit. They always outdo themselves with the most flavourful meals and dinner was no exception. Chicken thighs marinated in marmalade and grainy mustard with cabbage cooked to perfection with some sugar and balsamic vinegar olive oil and garlic (I may be wrong on the garlic but it certainly can’t ruin the dish). The chicken was marinated in the marmalade and mustard for an hour or so and then baked at 350-400 until ready. We joked about it being a very marmalade day since it was in the lunch salad as well. (Funny thing is neither Beth nor I are big fans of marmalade but cooking with it gives a whole different texture and taste – mellow and citrus in perfect balance).

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For the cabbage – I believe the recipe was to sauté 4 cups of thinly sliced cabbage with 2 tsp of sugar and a shake of balsamic vinegar.  Sauté until tender and serve.  The chicken with the cabbage and green beans was comfort food with an upscale twist – very yummy!

Once again my favourite thing – sharing great food with wonderful people! It was a great day and I left that evening with a smile on my face thinking it never feels like a whole year between our visits and I look forward to next years time spent all together.

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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Chicken and Pasta Prima Vera

This recipe started out as pasta prima vera but I thought “why not add some protein to it”? Turned out to be quite yummy and when a group of friends wound up back at my house all hungry I happened to have a big bowl left over from a food order I had just filled so was able to get everyone fed and happy in a very short period of time.

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Ingredients – serves 6-8:

Olive oil – enough to sauté vegetables

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into small bite size pieces

4 cloves minced garlic

1 red and 1 yellow  pepper cut into thin strips

2 large handfuls of chopped raw kale

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 cup grape tomatoes cut in half

1.5 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup fat free evaporated milk

2 tablespoon all-purpose flour, dissolved in 6 tablespoons water

Pepper to taste

1 large carrot peeled and sliced into strips with a peeler

Fettucini or linguini – enough for 6-8 people

3/4 – 1 cup grated Parmesan

A large handful of fresh parsley leaves chopped

1/4 – 1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves

Salt to taste if you want to (I don’t usually cook with salt)

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add peppers and cook until they begin to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes and kale and cook until softened about another 4-5 minutes. Add carrots and stir into other vegetables. Stir in flour/water combination and mix throughly with vegetables. Add stock, evaporated milk and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until liquid has thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. If liquid does not thicken enough add another tsp of flour and water mixture and stir through.

While the vegetables are cooking, bring water to a boil for the pasta. Cook pasta until it is al dente. Drain pasta and combine and toss  with vegetables and sauce. Serve garnished with Parmesan, parsley and basil.

Note: sauce thickens even more by the next day.

Sweet and Spicy Stir Fry Chicken with Eggplant and Broccoli

That is a very long title I realize….But it is accurate.  I found a sauce at the grocery store that was a sweet and spicy chilli sauce.  I thought it might work well on a stir fry so I bought it.  I am doing a lot of cooking this month for a friend of mine so I figured this is a good time to experiment with some dishes to add to my menu lists. This week was the chicken in this recipe, pasta prima vera with chicken and quinoa with roasted vegetables. Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks for the other recipes 😉

spicey sweet chicken

This was pretty easy to make and didn’t take much time at all. For my friends version I am providing brown rice to go with it but for myself I thought I would have it on it’s own.

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients – serves  2

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut in cubes

1/4 cup of sweet and spice chilli sauce (if it says sweet on the label of the chilli sauce then it is most likely sweet and spicy) plus a small reserve amount for broccoli and eggplant

1 japanese eggplant cut in 1/2 inch slices round

2 cups of broccoli florets

1 tsp of canola oil for frying

Directions:

Pour 1/4 cup of sauce over cubed chicken pieces and marinate for about 15 minutes (can be longer). Stir fry the chicken till cooked and put aside when done.

Add a bit of oil to the pan and put the slices of eggplant one side face down and brown slightly. Then flip over and brown the other side.  Remove and set aside. Steam the broccoli in the microwave for about 3 minutes, drain and put in the pan to sauté slightly. Add the eggplant back in and drizzle a bit of sauce over the vegetables and stir fry for a minute or two.  Take off the heat and arrange on a plate any way you like.  You can put rice down first, then mix the chicken and vegetables together or separate them as I have done in the picture.  Any way works!

Enjoy

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!