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Takeout Style Chicken Fried Rice

April 10, 2014

chickenfriedrice

When Elias and I were first married, I learned very quickly that he didn’t consider a meal a full meal unless there’s rice. We eat rice in our home every single day. While I learned the secrets of making rice and it’s not hard, I did wonder out loud (on Facebook) awhile ago if I should get a rice cooker. The response was pretty one sided “Yes! Get one! I love mine!” People seemed to be passionate about their rice cookers. One friend was the lone dissenter “I don’t really use mine. Wish I could trade it for one of your books.” It sounded like a great deal to me, and so we made the swap.

The verdict? I love the rice cooker. I really do! What’s easier than making rice? Nothing… except making it in a rice cooker. I think the thing I like about it is that it frees up mental space. I just throw it in there and turn it on and then I’m back to the business of making the “fun” food.

Because of my over zealousness with the new rice cooker, I had a big pot of white rice sitting in the fridge. After a few days it gets a little dried out and not so exciting, so I decided to make chicken fried rice. It seriously cooks up in 15 minutes, and it was so tasty. In addition to being absolutely no trouble to throw together and really tasty, it’s cheap and uses up whatever’s in the fridge (within reason).

Take Out Chicken Fried Rice

Ingredients

3 cups of leftover rice

1 and 1/2 cups cooked cubed (or shredded) chicken

1 cup frozen peas and carrots (total = 1 cup. 1/2 cup of each)

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 eggs

3 T neutral flavored oil (vegetable or sesame, if you have it)

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tsp. ginger paste (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large pan on medium-heat
  2. Add vegetables (onion, peas, carrots) and fry for 3-5 minutes, or until tender
  3. Crack eggs into pan, and scramble them in to the vegetables
  4. Add, chicken, rice, and ginger paste to the pan and stir to combine for two minutes
  5. Finish by adding in soy sauce

Source: Adapted from Rachel Schultz 

Date Night Chicken

March 27, 2014
wxyz
A lot has happened since the last time I posted a recipe on Mrs. Smith Cooks! I published a book, learned how to make the perfect play-doh pancake (Clayton and Sam say they are delicious!) and started a Faith and Family Newsletter. In fact, I’ve had so much going on that I said to Elias a couple of weeks ago, “I think I’m going to shut Mrs. Smith Cooks Down.” “Yo no estoy de acuerdo” Elias said, which means “I don’t agree.” We talked about it and he had some good points. The whole point of Mrs. Smith Cooks is to document my own cooking adventures. I actually use it all the time to look up my own favorite recipes. I decided that I really do still enjoy cooking and trying out new things, but the hardest part of the blog – styling the food and setting it up and taking nice-ish pictures of it in the sunshine — is something that I just don’t have time for anymore. So, for the 8.2 readers of Mrs. Smith Cooks out there, still, you can expect to continue to see my favorite recipes from time to time, but the pictures will be more iPhone-y / Instagramtastic type shots. I’m ok with that if you are.
Ok, on to the cooking. Recently Elias and I have been instituting “Stay at home date-nights” that involve eating a real “fancy” homecooked meal in peace and drinking wine while the children sleep. Luxurious, I tell you, luxurious. It’s a huge change from the usual “scarf down some enchiladas in between picking up enchilada bits off the floor and wrestling toddlers into feety pajamas.” (as much as we LOVE wrestling the toddlers into feety pajamas and scraping enchilada bits off the floor…) One of the challenges of these awesome stay at home date night meals is finding a dish that feels fancy and wonderful enough for date night but also doesn’t involve a lot of A. Dishes to wash B. Fussing C. Time
When I first saw this dish in the New York Times, I was positive it would work and that we’d love it for all of the reasons just described. The dish is about 30 minutes of hands-on time and another 45ish of letting it simmer and cook on the stove. So great. So French. So delicious. The sauce, you guys. The sauce. We ate this with just brown rice (ok, not JUST brown rice, there was also wine to drink and cake for dessert — can I get an amen?) but there were no vegetables, (aside from the tomatoes in this dish) no fancy potatoes, no delectable side dishes. We didn’t need them. We didn’t care. This dish speaks for itself. It’s the perfect dish for company or for date night. It’s exactly the reason I don’t want to shut Mrs. Smith Cooks down — I would have never dared to make something like this back when I started this blog. I’m so enjoying this adventure.
The only changes I made to this dish are the following:
1. I used six thighs, not eight, for two reasons. 1. I was not about to brown these thighs “in batches” as the recipe suggests. Oh no. When there are toddlers running amuck there will be one batch and one batch only. (And as the Food Network taught me, it’s important not to overcrowd the pan when browning to get a nice sear.) 2. I was pretty sure we’d want a higher sauce to chicken recipe and I was right. Always more sauce. Always more sauce!! :)
2. I didn’t use cherry tomatoes, I cut these Campari tomatoes into fourths. They looked great at the store, and they were on sale. It was the right choice, but the cherry tomatoes do make for a nicer presentation (See the NYT article’s photo… yum!)
3. Just before adding the tomatoes, I turned the flame way WAY down, to almost non existent and let the chicken go for an extra 15 minutes or so. This wasn’t for any other reason than I wasn’t ready to serve it yet and I needed to keep it warm. I added the cherry tomatoes last minute and it was just fine.
Ingredients:
6-8 Bone-in chicken thighs with skin on
2 T flour
1 T each, salt and pepper
2 T Butter
2 T Dijon Mustard
2 C Wine
2 Sprigs Tarragon (plus a little more, chopped, for garnish)
10-12 Medium shallots, peeled
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (see note above)
Procedure:
1. Rinse chicken thighs and pat very dry with paper towels.
2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and flour
3. Melt butter on medium-high heat in a thick, deep frying pan and brown the chicken well on all sides (don’t crowd the pan!)
3. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside
4. Add shallots to the pot with the chicken fat and butter and brown them until they’re lightly caramelized (about 10 minutes)
5. Add the wine to the pot to deglaze (be careful it spatters a little bit) and whisk in tarragon and mustard. Reduce the heat to low and take a moment to revel in the reality that you are as amazing as a French chef.
6. Cover and simmer on low (medium low in my opinion/experience… if your stove has numbers I think it’s about a 3 you’re going for here) for 30-40 minutes. I did the longer end of this because I’m paranoid about raw chicken (gross!)
7. Remove the lid and simmer for another 20-30 minutes on low (to let the sauce thicken)
8. Stir in tomatoes at the last second. Stir to combine.
9. Plate the chicken: spoon sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with a little extra tarragon. Impress the heck out of your handsome husband/wife/girlfriend/SELF.
10. Devour.

Ground Beef and Lentil Soup with Rice

November 26, 2013

lentil ground beef soup

Finally, finally, it’s cold enough in San Antonio for soup. (Not that being cold is a requirement in our house for soup, we eat soup in the summer, too, because we love soup.) Still, there’s nothing better than cozying up to a nice steamy bowl of soup on a cool day, and this soup is perfect snuggle up comfort food. I’m in the mood for a top five list, so here we go. Top five reasons to love this soup:

1. Comforting, filling and cheap! (three reasons in one)

2. The balsamic vinegar at the end gives it a little bit of a “hmm… yum… what’s in this soup?!” quality.

3. Super easy and quick to make

4. If you use extra lean ground beef, it’s pretty good for you.

5. (Should be #1) It’s lick-the-bowl delicious.

I adapted this soup to make it a few less steps than the original recipe calls for.

Ground Beef and Lentil Soup with Rice

Ingredients: 

1 lb.  ground beef

2 tsp. olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1 T minced garlic

1 T dried parsley

1 tsp. dried thyme or 3 fresh sprigs of fresh time

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

4 c. low sodium beef stock

2 c. low sodium chicken stock

2 cups water

plus more as needed

2/3 cup brown lentils

1/2 cup rice

salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

2 T balsamic vinegar

Procedure

1. Heat 2tsp. olive oil in a frying pan and cook the ground beef until it’s well browned. Break up into small pieces and transfer to a large pot.

2.  Add another tsp. of olive oil to the pan and add carrots, onions and celery. Saute until the veggies are starting to soften (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic, thyme, cumin, and parsley and saute for another 2 minutes.

3. Transfer the veggies to the pot. Add the 2 cups of water to the frying pan to swish out the bits of veggies and garlic stuck to the pan and add that water to the soup pot as well.

4. Add beef broth, chicken broth and lentils and rice to the soup pot and simmer on low for about an hour.

5. Taste the soup, if the flavor seems too salty or concentrated, add a bit of water, if it seems underseasoned, add salt.

6. Simmer for another 20-30 minutes and taste again, correcting seasonings if needed. Add balsamic vinegar to finish and enjoy!
PS – The second time I made this I added about 1/2 cup more water and a potato diced small, and it was great that way as well!

Individual Key Lime Cheesecakes (gluten-free)

November 8, 2013

key lime cheesecake

My birthday was last Tuesday…. Happy Birthday to me! I offered to make my own birthday meal because I enjoy cooking and knew it would take some stress off of E to not have to do it. I knew I would make something lemon or lime flavored. While I certainly enjoy chocolate. (See here, here, and here) I love lemon and lime desserts even more. (case in point: here, here and here). I’m the one at the dessert buffet happily loading up my plate with lime tartlets and lemon bars while my friends are devouring the chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and a side of chocolate.  In our house, birthday cakes are always gluten free so husband/dad can enjoy them too.

I will confess that I was hoping to make a more elaborate key lime dessert for my birthday, but (insert standard disclaimer about good intentions, being too busy, blah blah blah).

This dessert doesn’t take much time to whip up, and the results are very satisfying. Limey and creamy! The gingersnap crust gives it a little extra something, but it still has that graham cracker crust feel that we all associate with key lime pie.

This cheesecake can easily be made as one large cheesecake, just increase the baking time. Also, to further simplify, pour the filling into a pre-made pie crust.

Happy 35 to me!

Individual Key Lime Cheesecakes

Ingredients:

1. 8 oz gluten-free gingersnap cookies

2. 1/2 stick butter

3. 16 oz. cream cheese, softened

4. 1/2 cup sugar

5. Two large eggs

6. 1/4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice

7. 1 T. grated key lime zest

8. 1 T vanilla

Procedure

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Prepare muffin tin with 12 paper liners

3. Make crust

i. pulse the gingersnaps in a food processor until they are the consistency of sand, and transfer to a bowl.

ii. add the melted butter and stir. The mixture will not be very wet but will hold together loosely.

iii. spoon the crust in to the muffin liners and press down to form the crust. (Note: I wanted a fairly thin crust on mine, so I used about 2 T of crust per cheesecake which resulted in some leftover crumbs. We’ve been sprinkling the leftover crumbs on pancakes and yogurt to use them up. Alternatively, you could make a thicker crust.)

4. Make the filling

i. with a stand mixer, mix the cream cheese, sugar, lime juice, zest, and vanilla until thoroughly combined

ii. add eggs one at a time and mix until just combined

5. Divide filling equally among the prepared muffin tins.

6. Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes or until the filling is just set (it’s ok if it wobbles a tiny bit in the center)

7. Refrigerate  for at least 3 hours before enjoying.

Source: Filling adapted from Kraft Recipes 

Torticas de coco / Mini Coconut Cakes

October 19, 2013

coconutmuffins

This weekend, in honor of our Colombian visitor, I wanted to make a few Colombian treats for him and Elias to share at one of the speaking opportunities. I made three different Colombian sweets, none of which I’ve made before.

Behind door number one was a dish called enyucado. My version was a disaster. Complete and utter fail. Sweet Elias hemmed and hawed before I got it out of him that “No, this tastes nothing like what it should.” Don’t know what went wrong, but I’ll be doing some research.

Behind door number two: edible, but not what I was hoping for. Dulce de leche cookies. They tasted fine, but looked sloppy. I’ve double and triple checked the recipe, but something was definitely not right there.  More research…

Behind door number three: these mini coconut cakes. Win! They are sweet and full of coconut flavor and go really well with a cup of coffee. I made them in mini muffin tins which made them just the right size for a taste. Unlike the disastrous enyucado and the cookies, these also store really well in an airtight container. Another advantage to these? One bowl.

Torticas de coco – Makes 36 mini torticas

Ingredients

4 cups of shredded, sweetened coconut

1 cup all purpose flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

generous pinch of salt

Procedure

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line molds with paper liners

2. Mix all ingredients together until well combined. The mixture will be rather stiff and firm. (not soupy)

3. Fill paper lined cups to heaping. (These rise, but not much)

4. Bake until set and golden brown, 12-18 minutes

Source: Adapted from My Colombian Recipes 

Lemongrass Coconut Chicken and Vegetables (Kashi frozen dinner copycat)

October 14, 2013

lemongrass coconut chicken and vegetables

This week Elias and I celebrated our fifth anniversary (yay!) and in that time, I’ve come to learn the code for his rating system for foods. Simply asking “what do you think of this?” will get you nowhere. He’s a polite man, a sweetheart. His answer is always “Delicious!” However, if the “delicious” is also accompanied by a “MMMMMMM hmmmmmm” well, that’s a four star plate right there. If there is an “MMMMMMM hmmmmmmm” AND a “What’s in this?!” the dish is four and a half stars. If there is the MMMMM hmmmmm, a “What’s in this?” and a suggestion that the dish be made for company sometime, then I know the dish is a five star, home run, must make again dish, which is the rating this lemongrass coconut chicken with vegetables received.

Not only that, but it’s easy and quick to prepare, and healthy. I will be making this again, and I will probably play around with some of the proportions adding more veggies and/or swapping out some of the chicken for extra firm tofu. When I do, I’ll try to remember to post it in the comments.

I found this dish after eating the Kashi frozen meal and loving it. The homemade version so much better because it has real lemongrass, and more sauce. I served this with my cilantro-lime rice and thought they complimented each other beautifully. Buen Provecho!

Lemongrass Coconut Chicken and Vegetables

  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 2 pieces of lemongrass (each about 6 inches long) – bruise the lemongrass first by crushing it under a knife to release its flavor
  • 1 cup of lite canned coconut milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  •  1 heaping cup (about 4 medium) sliced carrots
  • 2 heaping cups broccoli florets
  • 1 heaping cup of snow peas
  • zest of one lime

To serve

  • shredded coconut
  • lime wedges
  • cooked rice or quinoa
  • chopped cilantro

Procedure:

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Pan fry the chicken pieces until they are no longer pink (about 6 minutes).

2. Add the lemongrass, coconut milk, broth, ginger, and lime zest, to the pan and bring to a boil.

3. Add the vegetables if they are fresh. If they are frozen, wait until the last 5 minutes of cooking time so they don’t become mushy.

4. Reduce to medium, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the veggies are tender, and the broth has absorbed the lemongrass flavor.

5. Serve over rice. Top with a sprinkle of shredded coconut, cilantro, and additional splash of lime juice, if desired.

Source: Adapted from Once a Month Meals 

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Tangy Vanilla Cream (Gluten Free)

September 16, 2013

flourless chocolate cake

If you’re going to come back to a cooking blog after more than six weeks away, come back with cake, I say. I’ve been away finishing the manuscript on my book (no, not a cookbook… ha!). I’m glad to have a little more leisure time to dedicate to the blogs.

When our dinner hosts the other night asked me to bring dessert, I was thrilled. Not only does making a dessert for a party provide an opportunity to do something special, but I know I can make something gluten-free for Elias to enjoy as well. I had a cake in mind I wanted to try but at the last minute realized it called for an eight inch pan. No can do. I am sort of a minimalist when It comes to baking: If I don’t have the proper pan, I don’t make the recipe. The internet is full of recipes to try, and I’m not the type to run right out for a pan just to make one recipe. So, it was back to square one. I knew I wanted some sort of chocolate gluten-free cake. My old standby is fantastic and easy to make, but I’ve made it a lot recently, and I was up for something new. I passed by a lot of gluten free chocolate cakes for being too high maintenance and taking time I simply didn’t have on Saturday. Many involved whipping up egg whites separately from the yolks, delicate folding in, blah blah blah. It’s the truth: sometimes you’re interested in whipping up eggwhites and gently folding them into a batter, and sometimes you’re not. Gotta roll with it. I digress.

This cake not only uses whole eggs, it uses one bowl for the cake and one bowl for the cream. Not only that, but the cake part requires only a whisk, not a mixer.

Before I get to the recipe, a few little helpful pointers in case you’re thinking about making this cake:

  • Don’t expect it to taste cakey. There’s no flour (of any kind) in it. It tastes dense and fudgy, kind of like an undercooked brownie. Very intense chocolate flavor. If that’s not sounding tasty, move right along.
  • Because of the aforementioned super duper fudgy and intense chocolate flavor, just a very small sliver will be satisfying, thus, I’d say this cake easily serves 8, and possibly 12 people.
  • The recipe called for a tangy whipped cream to go alongside it. When I was making the cream, I realized how much it resembled this cream. In retrospect, I wish I had made that cream instead of the cream that goes with it. Not only is that cream a little more interesting with the orange zest, but it also doesn’t require a mixer, and I could have made the whole darn dessert with no mixer. Give it a try and let me know how it goes. That’s the cream I’ll be making if I make this cake again.
  • Also, re: the cream — the addition of the sour cream makes it less stable and less fluffy. This caused me all kinds of worry when transporting it. (It was fine, but as I said, next time, I’ll do the other one.)
  • I made the mistake of trying to transfer this cake from the springform pan base to a serving platter. It ended up cracking and breaking and I had to smoosh it together on the plate. I wouldn’t say this cake can’t be transferred, but it should be transferred with a lot more care and grace than I displayed.

Okay! Without further ado… here it goes!

For the cake:

  • 2 sticks (1 C) butter, cut into pieces plus more for the pan
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for the pan
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-2 T confectioner’s sugar (for dusting)

For the vanilla cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or creme fraiche if you’re fancy)
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla

Make the cake: 

1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9 inch springform pan and dust with the cocoa powder. (I buttered only and did not dust with cocoa powder. It was fine.)

2. Melt butter, cream (1/4 cup of cream) over medium low heat until the butter is melted. Stir in the chocolate and keep stirring until chocolate is just melted. Be careful not to scorch or burn the chocolate. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool a bit.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, and cocoa powder. Stir in the cooled chocolate mixture.

4. Transfer the batter to the pan and bake for 35-40 minutes until the batter is puffed and set and cracked on top.

5. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 1 hour before removing

6. Transfer to a plate (carefully!) and dust with the sugar.

MAKE THE CREAM

1. Beat the heavy cream with the sour cream and sour cream until soft peaks form. (It helps to have the bowl of the mixer and the beater very cold). Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and continue to beat for 10 seconds more.

2. Serve the cake with the fresh cream and berries, if desired.

SONY DSCRecipe adapted from: Real Simple 

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