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I set out to make vegetable beef soup last week, but in my search through the freezer for ingredients I noticed a package of beef stew meat. Since I’m trying to use up my freezer stash, I decided on beef stew instead of the soup.

Beef StewIf you’ve never made stew before, you’ll be happy to know it’s easy and very forgiving. Use the recipe as a starting point, but add and subtract ingredients to suit yourself. If you like root vegetables, chop and add some more. Mushrooms would probably be good in this as well, if you’re a mushroom person.

I adapted the recipe from a slow-cooker recipe. I’ve never liked slow cooker recipes that require browning the meat first. I’m lazy and don’t like cleaning that extra pan. :) I have a 7 qt. dutch oven I absolutely love. And when I say I LOVE it, I’m not exaggerating. It’s my go-to for soups, chili, pot roasts, etc. I can use it on the stove top or in the oven. Or, as in this case, I can brown the beef on the stove and finish the dish in the oven. No need for the crock pot, and only 1 dish to clean!

If you want to use your slow cooker, please do so. Just follow the first few steps and instead of putting the pot in the oven, transfer the mixture to your slow cooker and turn it on low for 4-6 hours.

So back to this beef stew. I know it’s turkey season, but you only need so many turkey dishes, right? Beef stew makes a great change of flavor from the traditional holiday meals, and with the weather cooling off, it’s a welcome dish. If you have leftovers, they’re great to pack up for lunch at the office.

This stew is rich and flavorful, a nice hearty meal if you serve it with a salad and warm rolls. It was everything I was hoping it would be! Tender beef, tasty carrots, potatoes and celery in a broth that thickens as it cooks. Try this and let me know what you think!

Very Delish Beef Stew

Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Stuff you need: 

1-2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes [My package was 1.3#]
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3-4 Tablespoons cooking oil, separated
1 Tablespoon minced garlic [I used garlic from a jar.]
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 onion, chopped
4 cups beef broth
3 potatoes, diced
4 carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 teaspoon Steak Dust, optional [In the spice aisle]

 

Now what?
If using the oven method, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the flour, seasoned salt and pepper.
Heat 1 T cooking oil in your dutch oven (or skillet if using crock pot method).
Brown the beef in batches. Toss 1/3 of the beef in the flour mixture and put in oil to brown. Do not crowd the meat – brown the meat in batches for best flavor. [When browning meat, leave space between the cubes. Let the meat sit in the oil until it’s browned, then turn the pieces to lightly brown the other side. This is where a lot of the flavor will come from.]
When browned, transfer meat to bowl and set aside and repeat with another 1/3 of the oil and beef until all beef is browned.
Set aside the meat.
Add 1 T oil if needed and drop the garlic and onions in the oil. Let them sizzle about 30 seconds then stir.

[At this point, if you are using your slow cooker transfer the meat, onions and garlic to the slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients and cook on low for 4-6 hours.]

If continuing to use the dutch oven, stir in 1 cup beef broth. Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the pieces. Add the remaining broth, browned beef, and remaining ingredients.

Cover the pan and put it in the oven. Bake for 2 1/2 hours.
Be careful when you take the lid off – steam is HOT!!

Stir and enjoy!

I always forget how simple it is to make pesto. Stuff everything into the food processor, turn it on, and presto – Pesto!

Basil-Walnut PestoThe hardest part for me is taking the food processor out of the box and fitting it back into the box when I’m done with it. I keep quite a few kitchen toys in their boxes in the garage – the ones I don’t use often enough to justify keeping them in my kitchen, because I don’t have much storage. So far I’m impressed with my skill at pulling out a multi-piece appliance that’s packed in 3 rows of Styrofoam and getting it all back into the box like it was never taken out. I’m good! Haha!

The second hardest part is not killing the basil plant. I’ve killed 3 or 4 or 6 – and that includes those that “just need water.” *sigh* Recently I bought a large basil plant for $3.99. I couldn’t pass it up, even though I expect it also to die. I’m trying something different this year. Instead of baking the plant in my western-facing kitchen window, I’ve got it outside my front door to catch the morning sun. So far, so good!

 

So Pesto. What do you do with it?

  • Toss it with some hot pasta for an easy dinner,
  • smear it on crostini for an appetizer,
  • bake it into a chicken dish,
  • or do what my boss does and put it on your freshly cooked corn on the cob.

Doesn’t that sound good??

Pesto is a nice, forgiving recipe. If you don’t make it exactly like the recipe, it will most likely still be good! In fact, I used a little less oil than recommended and a little more cheese than called for. I switched out the nuts, the oil and the cheese from the recipe I was using for inspiration. And you know what? It’s fantastic! You should try this. You’ll be pleased with how simple it is. If you don’t burn up you basil plant. And if you can get your food processor out of the box.  ;)

Walnut-Basil Pesto

Inspired by Food Network Kitchen

Stuff you need
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic [I used minced garlic in a jar.]
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil or a combination of walnut oil and olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 grated Romano cheese [Or Pecorino, Parmesan, or a combination.]

Now what?
Combine basil, garlic and walnuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.
Add 1/2 cup oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth.

If using immediately, add remaining oil and pulse until smooth.
Add the cheese and pulse until just mixed.

If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Thaw and stir in cheese.

On the way to making the cider-glazed chicken in the original recipe, I got derailed by some beautiful pork chops in the meat case and had to make the change!Cider-Glazed Pork Chops with Brown Butter Pecan Rice

This dish has some really great complementary flavors. The cider-glaze is a bit tart if the pork chops were to be eaten by themselves, and the brown-butter rice would be a bit rich/ sweet if eaten alone. However, when the two are combined they come together beautifully and create this interesting flavor profile!

I doubled the sauce because I’m a sauce addict and next time would probably make even more. Even with the original quantity of sauce doubled, there really wasn’t much. I wanted enough to drizzle into my rice. When it comes to sauce, more is better!

Use good pork chops for this, not the super-thin, super-inexpensive pork chops. You will not regret it! If you don’t care for pork chops, use chicken. Eventually I might try it with chicken, but it was so successful with the pork chops that I’ll probably do that again.  :)

 

Cider-Glazed Pork Chops with Browned Butter-Pecan Rice

Slightly adapted from My Recipes

Stuff you need:

1 (3.5-ounce) bag boil-in-bag brown rice (such as Uncle Ben’s)
2 Tablespoons butter, divided
1 pound good pork chops or chicken breast cutlets (about 4 cutlets)
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup refrigerated apple cider [Cider, not apple juice.]
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Now what?

Cook rice according to package directions in a small saucepan, omitting salt and fat; drain.

While rice cooks, melt 1 teaspoon butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle pork chops with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Add pork chops to pan; cook several minutes, depending on how thick your chops are, on each side or until done. Remove from pan.

Add cider and mustard to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until syrupy. Add pork chops to pan, turning to coat. Remove from heat; set aside.

Melt remaining 5 teaspoons butter in saucepan over medium-high heat; cook for 2 minutes or until browned and fragrant. Watch it closely so it doesn’t burn!

Lower heat to medium; add pecans, and cook for 1 minute or until toasted, stirring frequently. Add rice and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; toss well to coat. Serve rice with pork chops. Sprinkle with parsley.

Kiwi Salsa

I made this quite a while back and just realized I didn’t post it. What was I thinking??

Kiwi SalsaTypically I bake something for birthday treats at work but this time I wanted to do something more snacky. It was summer and hot outside, and fruit salsa just sounded refreshing. And it was!

I bought golden kiwi instead of green kiwi, but didn’t realize it until I was peeling them. Did you know there are golden kiwi?? I wondered why they were a different color than I expected, and then I read the package. Golden Kiwi.  Huh. I had no idea they existed! Turns out these were great in the salsa. They had a hint of vanilla flavor, which worked really well with the other ingredients. Whichever you use – green or golden – will be great, so don’t bother looking for the golden kiwi for this recipe.

Pretty, isn’t it? It’s super simple and holds for a couple of days – if you can keep yourself from eating it in one sitting. It’s perfect to serve at a party or to eat all by yourself! I tasted this as I made it, and quickly became addicted. I seriously couldn’t stop eating it! Good thing I was making a quadruple batch, or there wouldn’t have been any to take to work the next day. Kiwi Salsa

As with most recipes, you can easily adjust the heat by adding more jalapeno or leaving some out. I like to have a good amount of heat in a dish that has a sweet ingredient. The two play off each other so well, and the sweetness of the kiwi mellows out the bite of the jalapenos. Be sure to have some chips on hand so you can taste as you go. If you just test from a spoon, you won’t get the salty element from the chips and you won’t have the full effect.

With the hope of spring coming someday, this would be a perfect treat! It’s great by itself with chips, or would also be fabulous over grilled fish, as the original blog author presented it. Give it a try. This might become one of your addictions too!

Kiwi Salsa

Slightly adapted from How Sweet It Is

Stuff you need:
4 kiwi fruit, peeled and chopped
2 Tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1/2 jalapeno, chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Now what?
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings to meet your preference.
Note: I put the onion, jalapeno and cilantro in a food processor and chopped them up before mixing with the rest of the ingredients.

Chipotle Cheddar Cheese SpreadLooking for something new to try for Super Bowl Sunday? Here is a wonderfully versatile Cheddar Cheese spread that is awesome as a dip, spread on cocktail rye and broiled, on a burger, or as a grilled cheese sandwich…. This spread/condiment will last in your fridge for a good couple of weeks, so put your creative mind to work!!

You can make this as spicy or mild as you want by adjusting the amount of chipotle pepper and sauce you add. You can also add fresh jalepenos if you really want it “kicky!” (pardon my football pun!)

It’s kind of like a pimiento cheese spread with chipotles instead of pimientos! Very easy to make and you will LOVE it!!

Here’s the recipe!

Kitchen Kween Chipotle Cheddar Cheese Spread

Makes approximately 2 cups of spread

Stuff you need:

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (aged cheddar is great, but pre-shredded store brand is fine, too)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 green onion, chopped
3.5 oz can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (this is a cute little can!)

Now what?

Put first 3 ingredients in bowl of food processor and process until smooth.
Add canned chipotles and sauce. Process until smooth.
Refrigerate for 2 hours to allow flavors to blend. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers.

Here is how to get the spice level you want:

Mild – 2 chipotles, chopped with a spoonful of sauce from the can
Medium – 4 chipotles, chopped with a few spoonfuls of sauce from the can
Spicy – entire can with all of the sauce from the can
4 alarm – add entire can with all of the sauce, plus one fresh chopped jalapeno.

Put however many chipotles you want in the cheese mixture, give the processor a whirl, AND TASTE.
**Remember, as the flavors blend in the fridge, it will get a bit “warmer” than when you initially taste it, so adjust. You can always add more later if it isn’t spicy enough for you!

Serve with crackers, spread on your burger, broil open face on cocktail rye….. use your imagination!! :)

I made dinner with a blender and a crock pot! I’m not sure I’ve said that before.  :)  

Last weekend I was looking for something new and different to make for dinner, something I could make ahead and re-heat for easy dinners on my late nights. I found this Plum-Sauced Chicken in Tortillas in my Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook.Plum-Sauced Chicken Tacos

I love plums but I’ve never had them with chicken, or anything savory, for that matter. The recipe sounded interesting, but the kicker was how easy it looked! This was the one to try.

I followed the recipe as written, but because I’m me, next time I will make a tweak or two. Chinese Five Spice Powder is a mixture of five spices used primarily in Chinese cuisine. It may include star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, fennel seeds, ginger root, nutmeg, turmeric, licorice, black pepper, mandarin orange peel or other spices. It can be a bit sweet, depending on the mixture in your particular jar. Mine is sweet, which I like. However, I will add more grated ginger next time for some pop. The fresh ginger mellows a little when it’s cooked.

I could only find a large can of plums, so I used half the can of drained plums and saved the remaining plums to throw in my morning protein shakes. I’ve never used tapioca before, and think the little beady things are cute, but if they get loose they roll all over your counters!

This is really an Asian chicken taco, and who doesn’t like tacos, right? Be sure to top them with the broccoli slaw or some bean sprouts or something crunchy that complements the chicken and tortillas.

I liked the flavor of this for something different! Sometimes I get in a cooking rut and a new recipe adds some spice. Or five spices, in this case.  ;) I don’t know that I’ll make it often, but it’s a nice change of pace from my usual flavor profiles.

This would be a great addition to a buffet menu. Your guests will be wondering what’s in them! They’re easy to throw together, easy to cook, and easy to clean up. Perfect-o!

Plum-Sauced Chicken in Tortillas

Slightly adapted from Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook

Stuff you need:

16 ounces canned whole, unpitted purple plums, drained
1 cup hot-style vegetable juice
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
5 teaspoons quick-cooking tapioca
2 -3 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoons 5-spice powder
1 – 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
6 x 7-8 inch flour tortillas
2 cups packaged shredded broccoli or packaged shredded cabbage with carrot

Now what?

Remove pits from plums. Place plums in a blender container or food processor bowl. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Add vegetable juice, hoisin sauce, tapioca, ginger, and 5-spice powder and briefly blend until mixed.

Transfer plum mixture to a 3 1/2 or 4-quart crockery cooker. Stir chicken into crockery cooker.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours, or high for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove chicken from cooker, reserving sauce.

Spoon about 1/3 cup from the chicken mixture onto each warm tortilla just below the center. Drizzle with the reserved sauce. Top each with 1/3 cup shredded slaw mix. Roll up Tortillas.

* To warm up tortillas, wrap a stack in foil. Heat in a 350 degree for 10 minutes to soften.

Indulgent Brown Butter Scallops

OK, let’s just get this out there. Scallops are an indulgence. Why? Sea scallops – especially good, dry-pack scallops – are pricey. They cost more than a good t-bone steak. But worth it? Oh yeah. They’re worth every penny!

Brown Butter ScallopsYears ago I worked at a fresh seafood restaurant in West Des Moines, Iowa. Yes, I said fresh seafood and Iowa in the same sentence.  :)  It was called 8th Street Seafood Bar & Grill, and that’s where I learned that all seafood and all fresh veggies were not evil tasting. In fact, I learned some of them were very tasty! My experience with seafood to that point had been frozen white fish (full of bones) topped with lemon butter and baked. Blech. That turned me off from eating seafood! And veggies? They mostly consisted of canned veggies dumped in a pan and heated up. Again, blech.

One of the rules at the restaurant was we all tried all new dishes. Since we opened the restaurant from scratch we were all new and we all tried everything. My stint at 8th Street really opened up my eyes and my taste buds to a whole new world. To my surprise, I liked quite a bit of it! (I STILL don’t like lemon on fish because it makes it taste “fishy”, but I like lime on it.)

It was at 8th Street that I discovered scallops, in the form of Coquille St. Jacques. Yum! I really enjoyed the mild, creamy flavor of the scallops, and I was encouraged to try scallops later on when I visited other seafood restaurants. But it wasn’t until recently that I cooked them for myself. I was thrilled to discover how easy they are to make!Brown Butter Scallops

My scallops were tender and delicious. The brown butter sauce adds a nice, carmelized flavor. I like a bit more of a sear on my scallops so next time I will cook them either at a higher temperature or for a little longer before flipping them and adding the butter. However, that means I will have to watch them VERY closely so they don’t burn or become tough, and I’ll have to remember to reduce the heat when the butter is added so it doesn’t burn. A little squeeze of fresh lime over the scallops adds a citrusy brightness and contrast to the creaminess of the brown butter sauce.

If you’re new to cooking scallops, this is a great recipe to start with. It’s simple yet sophisticated. If you’re not feeling the breadcrumbs, I think the dish is still excellent without them. You’ll lose the texture contrast but if you serve the scallops with something like a kale salad, you’ll be fine.

Note that scallops cook very quickly, so it’s important to do all your prep work before you start cooking! Keep all the ingredients close at hand.

Like I said in the beginning, this is a pricey indulgence, but since you only need 3-4 scallops per serving it’s not ridiculous. I will make these again and I’m excited to try a couple more scallop recipes I’ve got tucked away! 

Brown Butter Scallops with Crispy Breadcrumbs

Very slightly adapted from Framed Cooks

Stuff you need:

2 slices white bread
1 Tablespoon melted butter
2 Tablespoons white wine
2 Tablespoons olive oil
8 sea scallops (A good number is 3-4 per person, but feel free to add or subtract as you like!)
Salt and pepper
3 Tablespoons cold butter, sliced
1 small lemon or lime, optional [I used lime.]
Now what?
1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Put bread slices in food processor and process until you have breadcrumbs. Mix crumbs with melted butter and white wine (don’t worry if it looks mushy) and spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden and crispy, about 10 minutes.
3. When crumbs are done, make scallops. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and season both sides of scallops with a little salt and pepper.
4. Add scallops to skillet and sear on one side for about 3 minutes. Don’t move them once they are in the pan to get a nice firm sear. [I did mine for 4 minutes. My heat may not have been as high as the original blogger. Keep an eye on yours and do what’s best.]
5. Turn the scallops over (tongs work best for this) and add the sliced cold butter. Stir the butter around and dribble some of it over the scallops. Do this for about 2-3 minutes until the butter turns brown.
6. Divide the scallops among warmed plates, drizzle the butter from the skillet over the top and scatter generously with breadcrumbs.
7. Add a small squeeze of lemon or lime juice if desired.

Chocolate Pretzel Pecan Pie

Here’s a pecan pie for those who don’t really love pecan pie. I love pecan pie but I couldn’t resist the idea of adding more good stuff to one of my favorites.

The result? My kids, who don’t really care for pecan pie, LOVED this! Me? Turns out I’m a pecan pie purist. I love all the ingredients in this pie and thought I would absolutely love it, so I was surprised to discover I liked it but didn’t love it. Or it could have been that I was stuffed on the Chicken Artichoke Lasagna my daughter made for dinner and the plethora of sweets I’ve had lately. I’m not sure. I might have to make this one more time to decide.  :)Chocolate Pretzel Pecan Pie

Alex said he isn’t really a nut person – I beg to differ ;) – but he really liked this pie. Tish liked it because she doesn’t like the texture of regular pecan pie. She also might be a bit of a chocoholic so that helped, I’m sure. When she was younger, maybe in junior high, I remember coming home from work and her telling me she had spent the day reading a book and eating the chocolate cookies she’d found in the kitchen. That’s my girl!

I’d say this pie is definitely worth the try! It’s super easy to throw together, and you can use a pre-made pie crust if you don’t want to make it from scratch. I’m lazy. I used the refrigerated pie crust. The crust is not pre-baked and you should not prick the crust before loading it with the filling.

One thing I didn’t do well, though – I didn’t rub enough flour on the pie crust before putting it into the pie pan. Shame on me for not following the directions on the box! If you’re making a pie with a high sugar content, such as pecan, you need to put flour on the pie crust to help absorb some of the sugar and prevent the filling from leaking through the crust. Mine leaked through the crust and the result was a pie that didn’t come out of the pan cleanly. Lesson learned!

Chocolate Pretzel Pecan Pie

from Culinary Covers

Stuff you need:

1 pie crust (store bought or homemade)
2 large eggs
1 cup light corn syrup
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest [I use the jarred grated zest found in the spice aisle.]
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups pecans
3/4 cup mini pretzels (about 18), broken into pieces
3/4 cup semi-sweet, bittersweet or extra dark chocolate [I used semi-sweet because that’s what I had. The kids liked it so I’d use that again.]

Now what?

Preheat the oven to 350F. Fit the pie crust into a 9-inch pie dish. Fold the edges over and crimp as desired. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use. [Make sure you flour the crust first! Rub a Tablespoon or so on each side.]

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, corn syrup, melted butter, vanilla, brown sugar, orange zest, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the pecans, pretzels and chocolate.

Pour into the prepared pie crust. Bake for 30 minutes.

Cover the pie with foil and continue to bake until the filling is puffed and the center is just set, another 15 to 20 minutes. [I think mine took about 65-75 minutes. Might be my oven because my pecan pies take longer than the recipes suggest, so keep an eye on yours.]

Let cool and serve at room temperature.

Typically I’d agree with my friend’s assessment of homemade Chinese food: “Homemade is never as good as the restaurant!” Typically. But recently I made this Orange Chicken and I think it really IS as good as the restaurant version!

Orange ChickenI’m a sauce girl. It has to be good, and there has to be plenty! No skimping on the sauce – I want to drench my rice or pasta in it! Well, this sauce is near perfect. It’s got great flavor, and with this recipe, there’s plenty of it. The recipe only calls for 2 chicken breasts but there was enough sauce for 3 good-sized chicken breasts or 4 small ones.

The original recipe includes a recipe for fried rice. I’m lazy and I really wanted pasta that evening so I made orzo instead. Honestly, I liked the orzo better than rice, but I have never really a big rice fan.

The recipe, the way it’s written, is delicious but takes some time and the frying makes a mess! I consolidated some steps when I made it, and next time I’ll make an even  more streamlined version. I liked the heat of the dish, but if you don’t tolerate spiciness it can be toned down, so don’t let this recipe scare you off! See the tips below for a simpler recipe and for a milder version.

Streamlined Version

I followed the recipe and fried my chicken. I won’t lie. It was good, but it made a mess! I know the restaurant version is fried but if you’re pressed for time or you don’t eat fried food, you could skip the breading and frying part. Sautee your chicken in a little oil, use 3-4 cups of a rotisserie chicken, 3-4 breasts of baked or broiled chicken, or even leftover turkey. It’ll be faster and healthier!

Less Spicy Version

I never seem to get the heat of cayenne correct and this was no exception. I had no idea what the peppers are that were called for in the recipe, so I substituted 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. I would have used crushed red pepper flakes but I didn’t have any in my pantry. I used fresh ginger which I grated directly into the pan – without measuring – so it’s hard to say how much of the kick came from the cayenne and how much came from the ginger. Maybe I should have measured. Nah!  ;)   It had a pretty good bite to it. Not unbearable, but it would have been too spicy for someone who doesn’t like spicy food. Anyway, if you don’t like ginger, don’t have fresh ginger, or don’t want all the bite, you can substitute ground ginger. It still provides flavor, but it doesn’t have the bite of fresh ginger root.

Orange Chicken

Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Stuff you need:

3 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts or alternate as suggested in the Streamlined Version notes above
¼ cup cornstarch [if you are frying the chicken]
Salt and pepper
1 cup fresh orange juice [I used a good bottled orange juice.]
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons lime juice
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 strips orange zest – 1″ wide by 2″ tall OR 1 Tablespoon grated orange peel
½ cups lightly packed brown sugar
½ teaspoons fresh minced or grated ginger (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons light soy sauce
4 whole dried red chilies, broken in half OR 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 Tablespoons cornstarch, for the slurry
2 Tablespoons water, for the slurry
Cooked rice or noodles

Now what?

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat about an inch of vegetable or canola oil to about 375F.
In a large zip top bag, combine the cornstarch, salt and pepper. Add the chicken chunks and seal the bag. Toss to coat completely.
Add the coated chicken to the hot oil in two or three batches. Cook until lightly golden and the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160 F. Transfer the cooked chicken to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Hold the chicken in the oven or microwave, covered.
Drain the oil from the pan but don’t wash it.
In the same saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, orange juice, lime juice, lemon juice, vinegar, orange zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and dry chilies. Stir to combine and stir the bottom of the pan to dredge up the leftover chicken bits.
Bring mixtsure to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and let the sauce reduce by 1/3. [This step is VERY important. If you don’t let the ginger and garlic cook, you will have very raw flavors, not the mellowed-out flavor that the simmering brings about.]
In a small bowl, prepare the slurry by combining the cornstarch and water until smooth. Pour the mixture into the sauce and whisk until the sauce thickens. If it doesn’t thicken up, make more slurry and add it a bit at a time until the sauce is thick.
Add the chicken and heat through. Remove from heat and serve over rice or noodles.

Apple Bavarian Torte

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 

I hope everyone’s had a good day! My mom is here from Chicago, my daughter came for dinner with her 4 kids, and we had a good, noisy afternoon!

Apple Bavarian TorteMy grandkids have an abundance of personality, and I find myself giggling and shaking my head quite often! The 6-year-old wanted to know “who caught the turkey” and wasn’t satisfied until we told her Butterball caught it. The 2-year-old helped me with the mashed sweet potatoes, or as she called them, orange taters. She enjoyed using the mixer and was ready to eat as soon as we turned it off!

The 3-year-old was playing puppy with his sister, running up and down the hallway on a leash, and got a nice lump on his forehead when he ran smack into the corner of the wall. And I didn’t notice when the 7-year-old slapped a sticker on my back. Hello, Kitty!

Oh, and I’m proud to say I introduced the two youngest to brown sugar – eaten right off the spoon! Sugar ‘em up and send ‘em home with their parents, I say!

We did the traditional staples for Thanksgiving: the turkey, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, mashed potatoes & gravy, rolls, cranberry relish and stuffing. Nobody seemed to care we didn’t have any vegetables, as long as we didn’t run out of rolls! I sent most of the leftovers home with my daughter. I made a pot roast the other day that we didn’t eat, so I sent that home with her too. Mom wanted to eat out, even though I had cooked. Wonder what that says about my cooking?  ;)Apple Bavarian Torte

For dessert we had the Pumpkin Pecan Crumble Pie I made / blogged last year (no, not the same pie – I made a fresh one!), and this Apple Bavarian Torte that’s been a favorite for years. It’s a cross between cheesecake and apple pie that’s not too rich or too sweet, so it’s perfect after a big meal.  As much as we love cheesecake (and that’s a lot!), this torte has just enough cheesecake filling to satisfy us. I sent about 1/4 of the torte home with my daughter, who said, “I wondered if I was going to get some of that!”

I normally make this with apples, although I’ve made it with fresh plums and fresh pears too. The plums make a great summer dessert! If you’re using plums, I’d switch out the walnuts for sliced almonds but use what you like best.

Apple Bavarian Torte

Slightly adapted from The Joy of Cheesecake, Dana Bovbjerg & Jeremy Iggers

Stuff you need:

Crust

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

5 Tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 cup sugar

Filling

1 pound cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Apple Topping

3 medium apples, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Now what?

Preheat oven to 450F degrees.

Crust

Mix crumbs, butter and sugar in bowl. Blend well.

Press crumb mixture onto bottom of 10 inch springform pan and set aside.

Topping

Place apple slices in a large bowl and add sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Stir to mix well and to evenly distribute the ingredients.

Set aside while you make the filling.

Filling

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth.

Add sugar, eggs and vanilla. Mix until completely blended.

Pour the mixture into the prepared crust.

Layer the apple slices on top of the cheese mixture, then sprinkle the top with the walnut pieces.

Bake for 15 minutes at 450F, then reduce heat to 350F degrees and bake for an additional 35-45 minutes, until filling is set and lightly browned.

Cool to room temperature, then chill.

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