Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pineapple Chicken Fried Rice

I took on a new job: subbing for an intro psych course, and after meeting the lovely professor who I was replacing (I took a course from him in 1998/1999) and his lovely new Philipino wife, I was inspired by her honey/mustard/garlic bacon-wrapped shrimp. I wanted to make something simple and flavourful, so I came home to an overripe pineapple, old and dry rice and defrosted chicken breasts. I was super surprised how yummy my first attempt at pineapple chicken came out, and my chicken turned out very tender! So I thought I should share. I think you should use the veggies or fruit you have that go together (e.g. pear + raspberry + onions, pineapple + sweet peppers, mango + sweet peppers, etc...) so mix and match until you find your favourite combinations!

Stick in a bowl, turn it upside down - and voila!
Dim sum worthy presentation. :)  
Pineapple Chicken Fried Rice
Prep time: 30 minutes (add more to fresh cut your pineapple)
Cook time: 15 - 20 minutes

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 large onion (that's all I had), diced or minced
2 chicken breasts (or drumsticks, or whatever chicken you have, deboned) diced or 1" cubes
1 cup diced pineapple, the sweeter the better.
3/4 cup diced sweet red pepper
3/4 cup diced yellow pepper
green onions, finely chopped
2 - 3 cups day old rice (Using leftover rice is good because it is usually pretty dry)
Spinach as garnish/bedding

1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp honey
salt and pepper to taste

Rub salt and pepper into chicken before cubing. Cover and let sit while prepping other veggies.

Heat up 2 tbsp of oil in a large pan on medium high to high.
Add garlic and onions and fry until aromatic.
Add chicken, and fry until outsides are cooked.
Add pineapple, and stir fry.
Add soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and honey, and stir fry (continually stirring to prevent burning).
Add peppers and stir fry until chicken juices flow.
Quickly add the rice, stir until all the moisture is absorbed by the rice, breaking up the rice as it cooks.
Add green onions and stir in.

Remove from heat, serve on bed of spinach (for nutrition).

This is pretty healthy - not much oil, not much sugar. It's not *pow* in your face flavour, but the subtle meshing of the simple flavours of the sweet honey/garlic/pineapple and salty sauces make it delicious. Of course, add more sauce/honey to enhance the flavour, but I am happy with subtle. I am going to use mango next time. :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Interim post: Chilled Egg-drop Soba Soup

It's summer! It's hot! Soup is totally out of the question...or is it?

Ice cubes, bitches! :) LOL. 
This is quite popular in Japan, although the way I make it is with the local western ingredients that are available.

I love the egg and the avocado in my soup - it adds a nice creamy texture, and the avocado goes so well with the soup base. It also gives me a good dose of fat and protein, perfect for baby!  Although I like my egg a little less cooked than most people prefer.

Chilled Egg Drop Soba Soup

Prep time:  5 - 10 minutes
Cook time: 6 minutes

2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp soy sauce (less if you want to decrease salt intake)
1 cup chicken stock (I make mine  from scratch)
pinch of sugar
1 egg

1 self-portioned organic buckwheat soba ($1.79/pack of 4 portions from Superstore - called Zarusoba).

Toppings: (anything you want really)
1/2 avocado, sliced
handful of spinach, washed and drained
cherry tomatoes
ice cubes

In a medium pot, bring water to boil, drop in soba noodles. Cook until desired softness (about 3 minutes).

In the meantime, boil mirin on high heat in a small pot until alcohol evaporates. Add soy, stock and sugar and bring to a boil.  Drop in an egg, and stir to break it up into "egg drops", cook until just before your favourite consistency.  (I like to leave my egg yolk intact and break up only the egg whites, and cook until the whites are cooked but the egg yolk is still runny).  Remove from heat.

Drain noodles and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking, and to cool down the noodles.

Add noodles in a bowl, top with spinach.  Add soup on top (will slightly cook the spinach - I like that).
Top with toppings and add ice cubes to cool down the soup.


I know this is supah-azn, but some of you might appreciate the subtle flavours. :)
On that note: still no internet at home. It may be a while to the next post.  But since everyone is considering

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

First meal in new home!

I now live in a townhome. Prepping for a baby. It's a nice home - very cozy, not modern or sleek, and definitely not in downtown.  I guess that's what people call "nesting". 

So breaking out all the awesome tools in my new (beautiful kitchen)...I made my first meal for the home:

It's all about the presentation, baby. :)
Omelette with Proscuitto wrapped Asparagus

Prep and cook time: Quick.  Seriously.

To be honest, I would post a recipe, but it's nothing special.  I used the same proscuitto ends I got on discount, and I tried a hard, strong cheese from the italian centre, loved it, bought it and promptly forgot what it was called (either that or it was leftover pecorino). It went well with apples though! The rest? Orange peppers (were on sale at superstore, but really don't have much flavour), green onions, cheddar, and 3 eggs (but the eggs were farm fresh). Add some salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion flakes, paprika to the egg, and some lemon juice for the asparagus, and voila, lunch.

I stuck some of the cheese in with the proscuitto and asparagus - and it went nicely. It was a nice light lunch after a whole weekend of packing/unpacking/moving/cleaning, etc...

On that note - I am sorry for the long break in between posts - I have been relying on my phone for internet/social networking, because Telus has yet to install actual infrastructure in our area. As I value porn over blogging, I used up most of my data plan.  Now I'm posting this from my dad's, who by the way, is the pickiest eater. :) He won't eat ANYTHING western.  Turns out the agedashi tofu I make is now a favourite so he wants it for his weekly wednesday lunch now.  I gotta keep making chicken stock for it! :P

Monday, June 4, 2012

Interim post - Cooking Techniques!

I've been moving this week! Not that I regularly update, but when I do, I want my posts to be informative. I'm sorry for the lateness, but here's one to tide you over before my next one - re: first meal in new home!

Now, I found that I am scared away from baking because I lack the ability/technique that is required for baking, but cooking on the other hand...
There are tons of little tricks, from how to cut an onion, to knife skills and how to use a pizza stone that I have taken for granted. And the pursuit of creative cooking always first lies in the techniques you use, and once you have the basics down, then you can let the flavours fly!
But my abilities don't necessarily reflect everyone's abilities, so here are the things I have learned for quick kitchen skills:
Always transfer a prepared pizza from a wooden base
(pizza paddle, cutting board) to the HOT stone in the oven. 
How to use a pizza stone:
NEVER soak or drastically change the temperature of a pizza stone.
I just leave it in the oven, even when not baking on it.
When making pizzas, always PREHEAT the stone in the oven, and when cooking pizza, slide the pizza right onto the stone in the oven (chance of burning yourself is greater, but worth it for the crispy crust).
Usually preheat oven and stone to 500 degrees on the LOWEST rack.
Cook the pizza dough (fresh) for 5 - 15 minutes (dependant on crust thickness and desired crunchiness of crust)

A double man Henckels! My dream knife.  I already have
on for veggies...
Keep knives sharp:
A knife sharpener is very handy. You will have fewer accidents, and a much more fun time with sharp knives than dull ones. Avoid serrated knives unless used for certain breads, etc... Foods taste better when cut the way it should be cut - and not torn by serrated knifes or poor knife skills.

I tried perfecting this in graduate school - but failed.  But I learned one thing: carrots cook more slowly than onions...and overcooked meat is tough.  Don't add everything at once. Time it! :)

Browning before baking/slowcooking/boiling:
Roasting of veggies and or browning of meat (frying up exterior of meat on high heat) will make things taste better before you stick them in a roast, a soup or a slow-cooker.  Something about "sealing in the flavours". I don't know how it works, I just know it does.

Flavouring fats/oils for cooking:
I always add garlic or onions or shallots or proscuitto to the oil before I cook the rest of the meats and veggies, just to flavour the oil. Adding it first will make it the most prominent aroma. Avoid doing this around certain pregnant people or people who do not like strong aromas. 

Making a vinaigrette:
It's just oil and vinegar of any sort. Marinate basil in olive oil to have the oil soak up the basil flavor, and put garlic in vinegar (to take out the strong aroma) before combining to make a garlic/basil vinaigrette.
Or use lemon juice instead of vinegar for a lemon dressing, or add honey, raspberry, etc etc...
Whisk or blend the oil + vinegar + additions (salt/pepper/honey) until it forms a nice vinaigrette consistency (emulsion).
Use fruit acids for fruit vinaigrettes, or different vinegars to mix and match flavours.
Always use your best olive oil.

Hope these tricks help!  They are only a few of the basics I know of the kitchen, and I'm learning more everyday!