Friday, March 25, 2011

A little light housekeeping

In an unexpected turn of events, the hubby and I are trying to get our house on the market. We're sort of committed to buying another. So while we're cleaning and repairing and decluttering, my posting will be sporadic.

More sporadic than usual, you ask? Why, yes, if that's possible.

I haven't sworn off cooking altogether or anything. We're just cutting some corners and trying to use up some of our food horde, and are reluctant to mess up the kitchen repeatedly. (The little man's "I only eat vegetables and toast for supper" phase couldn't have come at a more opportune time.)

We're also keeping a few convenience foods on hand for really busy nights where we don't want to break from painting or packing. As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I recently received a coupon to try an Alexia product. I could only find a few varieties locally, but the waffle fries were downright amazing. Even oven-baked instead of fried. I'll be keeping these on hand regardless of the whole moving business.

If you have other ideas for good, healthy convenience foods or super-fast recipes, please send them my way! Oh, and boxes. Please send boxes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Green Goodness Veggie Stir-fry

The little man's gotta-have-it food of the week is ... broccoli. (Admit it. You're broccoli-green with envy, aren't you?)

My favorite way to serve broccoli is in any sort of stir-fry. We threw together this light dish to go with our Chinese crab cakes the other night, so the little man wouldn't stare down in his plate in disgust, wondering where his veggies have gone.

I also added in a few other veggies (a purging of the crisper, if you will), and threw in some frozen edamame just to see what the little man though. I mean, he loves beans. So he should love soybeans. Right? Right. (And he did.)

The sauce in this dish is very light -- it doesn't weigh down the veggies like a lot of stir-fry sauces, so you actually get to taste the veggies. I don't think it could stand alone as an entree in our carnivorous house, but it's a wonderful side, especially when serving other dishes with stronger flavors.

Green Goodness Veggie Stir-fry
Serves 4-6

1 tsp. vegetable or canola oil
1 head broccoli, cut in bite-sized pieces
1 small onion, cut in chunks
2 bell peppers, cut in chunks
1 carrot, peeled and cut in matchsticks
1 c. frozen edamame
(Any other vegetables you like)
3/4 c. chicken broth
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
3 tsp. cornstarch

1. Heat oil in wok over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine broth, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and cornstarch in a small bowl.

2. Add veggies to wok.

3. Stir-fry until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.

4. Add sauce. Cook, stirring, until sauce thickens.

Chinese Crab Cakes

I suffer from extreme indecisiveness, which is one reason why I'm thrilled when the hubby picks up a cookbook and asks me to make a particular recipe. In this case, the hubby pointed to a picture of some Chinese crab cakes in a small cookbook with no apparent author, and said, "These look good."

Very well, then.

Not only was this my first time making crab cakes, but this was my first time cooking with lump crabmeat. This was an adventure for me, because according to the unnamed author of this cookbook, I should attempt to save myself some cash and choose refrigerated, special grade crabmeat for this recipe, which is cheaper than lump crabmeat and already flaked.

Now, crabs aren't exactly indigenous to North Dakota. So ... I don't really have much of a choice. My options were the canned crabmeat or the vacuum-packed, refrigerated, "exclusive" lump crabmeat. With the $1 per pound difference, well, I went for the good stuff. (I had pictured myself returning home with a plastic container full of fresh crabmeat. But Barefoot Contessa, I ain't.)

So in addition to being a recipe that I've never tried, it was quite the spendy endeavor. And did I mention that I don't care for seafood?

Luckily, the crab cakes turned out wonderfully. The hubby loved them. The little man loved them. I deemed my taste to be surprisingly yummy for something that includes seafood ... not overly fishy, and the sesame oil is a standout. Go team!

Chinese Crab Cakes
Makes 4 servings (2 cakes each)

1 lb. fresh or canned pasteurized lump crabmeat
1/2 c. plus 1/3 c. panko bread crumbs, divided
2 eggs
2 green onions, chopped
1 Tbsp. dark sesame oil
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. Chinese hot mustard
2 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
1/2 c. sweet and sour sauce, for dipping (optional)

1. Combine crabmeat, 1/2 c. panko, eggs, green onions, sesame oil, ginger, and mustard in large bowl. Mix well, using a fork.

While you're doing this, you might also want to sift through the crabmeat for any shells. Now, my hoity-toity packaging said "virtually shell-free," but that's just not good enough for me.

2. Shape mixture into 8 patties about 1/2" thick. (This is about 1/3 c. of mixture.)

3. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet.

4. Place remaining 1/3 c. or so of panko on a plate. Dip each crab cake lightly in panko to coat.

The cakes were very fragile at this point, but adding the panko to the outside not only makes the finished cakes crispier, but also makes the uncooked cakes easier to handle.

5. Add 4 crab cakes to skillet and cook 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown. (I had to crank up the heat to medium-high to get them as golden as the hubby wanted them.) Repeat with remaining cakes. Serve warm with sweet and sour sauce, if desired.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ricotta-Orange Pound Cake

I received a lovely loaf pan from my parents for the holidays, and was bound and determined to give it a try this weekend. The recipe I chose was one by Giada de Laurentiis that was featured in Food Network magazine.

I've made a few pound cakes in my illustrious non-career as an amatuer cook, but never one this perfectly moist. The orange zest gives the pound cake a bright flavor without being overwhelming, as lemon pound cake can sometimes be. While it certainly doesn't need it, I think this cake would be even more wonderful with a dollop of whipped cream.

My mother said the same thing. Of course, she thinks everything can be improved by a dollop (or six) of whipped cream.

Ricotta-Orange Pound Cake
Serves 10-12

1 1/2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 c cake flour*
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 c whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 c plus 1 Tbsp sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 orange, zested
2 Tbsp amaretto**
Powdered sugar, for dusting

*I didn't have cake flour on hand, but you can easily substitute every 1/2 cup of cake flour with 1 Tbsp cornstarch and nearly 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour. The easiest way to get the correct measurement is to put 1 Tbsp cornstarch in a 1/2 cup measuring cup, and then fill that to the top with all-purpose flour.

**I might actually have some amaretto, but we break into the liquor cabinet so rarely that it's become quite the trek to get there. (Up the stool, across the counter, over the fridge, etc.) My almond extract, however, was three feet away, so I used about 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon of that, instead.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan with butter or shortening.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to blend.

3. Using a mixer, cream the butter, ricotta, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer running, add the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla, orange zest, and amaretto or almond extract until combined. Add the dry ingredients, a small amount at a time, until just incorporated.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan, 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar.