Archive for January, 2014


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.