Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chipotle Chili Bean and Rice Wraps

Who doesn't like the ginormous burritos from Chipotle and Qdoba? Now you can make your own! Although that doesn't necessarily require a recipe, this recipe comes pre-eety close to what those gluttonous burritos taste like. Oddly enough, I had this recipe laying around for quite a while. Maybe even before I even liked Qdoba (my place of choice). While this recipe is vegetarian, I did add some chicken for additional protein.

Chipotle Chili Bean and Rice Wraps

1 Tb. vegetable oil
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 - 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed
2 canned chipotle chilies, chopped
1 tsp. adobo sauce from chipotles
1/4 tsp salt
4 large burrito-size flour tortillas
1/3 cup sour cream
2 cups cooked white rice
1/2 cup prepared mild salsa
1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium meat. Add onion and cook until tender, 5 minutes. Add garlic and cumin and cook 1 minute more. Stir in black beans, chipotles, adobo sauce and salt. Simmer to heat through, about 5 minutes.

Heat tortillas on a hot skillet, turning frequently until hot and pliable. Spread tortillas with about 1 1/2 Tb. sour cream. Lay 1/2 cup of rice in a thick horizontal strip about a third of the way from the bottom. Top with a quarter of the black beans, salsa and cilantro. Fold in the two sides and roll the wrap away from you.

Can be made up to 24 hours ahead and wrapped in foil and refrigerated. Heat in 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes to warm through.

For chicken: Pound chicken to 1/2" thickness. Mix 1 tsp. each salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne and 1/2 tsp. cumin on a plate. Dredge chicken in spice mixture and bake in a 450 degree oven for 14 minutes. Can also cook on the grill.

Please excuse the gross pictures. I bit into the burrito then thought, "Maybe I should take a picture."

I have to say, I was impressed with this. I almost couldn't tell you the difference between this burrito and a chicken burrito from Qdoba. The chipotle black bean mixture substituted for the hot salsa. I don't think I even added any additional salsa to the burrito and it was hot enough. The kicker though was the rice. Qdoba has this lime infused rice. So what did I do? Cook the rice, add a few splashes of lime juice and stirred in the chopped cilantro. Voila! Rice that tastes like the restaurant's!

These burritos were stuffed to the rim too. How people making the burritos fold and roll them is beyond me. Probably why they're wrapped in foil - so they'll stay together! The chicken added a nice element of spice to the burrito also. You could do any meat and cook it anyway. I personally think that this recipe as is, is a little boring. If you're going to stick with vegetarian, add some peppers or something else for substance.

I ended up with enough for about four burritos. Love that this gives you the same taste and feeling of one of those tin-foil wrapped burritos and that you know what's wrapped in your tortilla. Simple recipe and easy to tweak to your liking.

Happy cooking!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chicken Fried Steak

Anytime I think of chicken fried steak I always think of my dad. Is it weird that I have a lot of memories associated to food and my dad? On Sundays, after church, we'd always go to Chili's for lunch. Well my dad always got chicken fried steak. I was never sure of what chicken fried steak really was. Was it chicken? Was it steak? All I knew was that it was not the healthiest dish.

For some reason I had the desire to try this meal out. Never had it in a restaurant, but I decided to give Rachael Ray's version a go:

Chicken Fried Steaks and Creamed Pan Gravy with Biscuits

1 1/2 lbs (1/2" thick) round steak - I got the thin cut kind
1 cup + 2 Tb. flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
2 eggs beaten - Could probably get away with using only 1 egg
2 Tb. water
4 Tb. vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups of beef broth or stock
1/4 cup half and half or cream
1 package back-off biscuits, prepared according to package directions
Wax paper

Preheat large, heavy skillet over medium high heat.

Pound steaks to 1/4" thick between two pieces of wax paper. Pull steaks off work surface and set aside. Pour 1/2 cup of flour into two different piles or dishes. Add cornmeal, paprika, salt and pepper to 1 pile of flour. Beat eggs and water in a pie plate or shallow dish.

Cut steaks into four portions and coat in flour, then eggs, then seasoned flour and cornmeal.

Add 2 Tb. oil to hot pan and cook two steaks at a time. Brown steaks about two minutes per side or until cooked. Remove from pan. Add 2 more Tb. of oil to the pan and repeat with remaining steaks. I heated my oven to 200 degrees and put the finished steaks on a pan in the oven to keep warm.

When the second batch is finished, pour off all but 2 to 3 Tb. of the drippings. Add 2 Tb. of flour to drippings and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in broth and season with salt and pepper. Whisk half and half or cream into gravy. When gravy bubbles, remove from heat.

Serve steaks and warm biscuits with gravy on top.

Mmmm.... Golden crust with creamy gravy.

The first time I made this dish, I over cooked the meat and it was tough. This time, I bought thin cut meat and even though I didn't pound it to 1/4" thickness, I didn't over cook it this time. I figured the more important thing was to get the breading nice and crispy. If the meat was a little pink on the inside, it'd be ok.

Luckily the meat was nice and tender this time around. The crust, while it wasn't crunchy like a fried chicken breading, still had a good texture. I really like the cornmeal mixed in because it gives it a grittier feeling. Of course, the gravy made the dish. I used cream instead of half and half, which gave it a smoother and thicker consistency. It also packed a lot of flavor with the pan drippings.

Wes couldn't get over this dish. He had this meal twice for leftovers and even asked if there was more a few days later. I think it ranks pretty high on the list of meals I've made. I served this with mashed potatoes and corn on the cob. No biscuits. Pretty southern meal if you ask me.

I told my dad about this meal with Wes raving about it and my dad got pretty excited about it. Now if only my mom would make it for him. It's an easy recipe to make with few ingredients and steps. The most difficult part is knowing when to take the meat out so it doesn't over cook. Since the meat is thin, it doesn't take long to cook either. It's actually a pretty quick meal. I think the mashed potatoes took the longest to cook.

If you're craving some Southern comfort food, give this quick and easy meal a try. Happy cooking!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Yes, I went to go see Eclipse. I'm no Twilight fan, but I have to admit, I am curious about what happens. Haven't read the books, but I did read the Wikipedia cliff notes, so I have a basic understanding of the conclusion.

Here's the synopsis of Eclipse: Bella and Edward love each other. Bella wants to become a vampire. Edward doesn't want her to be a vampire. Victoria, a vampire, wants to kill Bella to avenge her lover's death. Jake, a werewolf, is in love with Bella and wants her to choose him. Thus the teenage love triangle continues in this third movie of the Twilight installments.

I went to go see the second one, New Moon, with my co-workers and it was a lot of fun. Mainly because there were a bunch of teenage girls swooning over Edward and Jacob. I asked some of them if they had seen Eclipse and what they thought. They all said that it was a good movie. So I went and spared Wes the googly-eye and giggles of the movie patrons.

The movie was filled with teen angst and teen love and a battle of life and death. The acting was on par with the other movies, which isn't saying much. I think Kristen Stewart hardly ever looks at her co-stars. She's always staring at the ground. Maybe that's how she interprets how love-struck teenagers act. Jacob, still pines for Bella and I think Taylor Lautner spent 90% of the movie without a shirt on. And the group of teenage girls in the front row loved it. I think they're on Team Jacob. Best line of the movie: Edward to Jacob, "Don't you own a shirt?" Or something like that.

I do wish the fight scene was a little longer. That was probably the best part of the movie. The Cullen clan teamed up with the Werewolves to fight the evil newborn vampires (who are supposedly stronger the first few months of their "lives"). Another observation: to be cast as part of the Cullen clan I think you're required to wear really bad wigs and be pale. Good thing Kristen Stewart already has those two things. She'll be a shoo-in no problem. I did also appreciate more of the back stories of the Cullen clan. That was interesting.

Overall, not the greatest movie (are you surprised?). Acting was cheesy and the story-line didn't develop along like the first two movies. Definitely a rental if you're even into the Twilight franchise. And if you're a fan, you've probably already gone to see this in the theatres. Good thing the tickets were free.

Oh, and go Team Jacob!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ginger-Lime Chicken Thighs

I was craving some fattening, crispy chicken skin one day and searched the Internet for a meal that included crunchy chicken skin. What did I come across? Martha Stewart's recipe for Ginger-Lime Chicken Thighs. So I gave it a try. Here's the recipe, courtesy of Martha Stewart.

Ginger-Lime Chicken Thighs

1 Tb. finely grated, peeled fresh ginger
1 Tb. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. curry powder
4 scallions, minced
Salt & pepper
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

Heat broiler, with rack set 4 inches from heat. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine ginger, lime juice, curry powder, scallions, 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper.

Arrange chicken on prepared baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Gently loosen skin from each piece of chicken, leaving it connected at the end. Dividing evenly, rub ginger mixture under the skin.

Turn thighs, skin side down, on baking sheet. Broil about 5 minutes. Flip thighs, skin side up, and continue to broil until skin is crisp and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thighs (avoiding bones) registers 165 degrees, 6-8 minutes more.

Serve chicken drizzled with pan juices.

Craving crispy chicken skin.

My mom always told me not to try new dishes out on guests. Well, my in-laws were in town and this was on the menu. It turned out ok. My downfall, was that I didn't set my oven rack at the highest setting. I think if I had down that, the skin would have crisped up more and I would've been more confident that the chicken was cooked thoroughly.

Allocate about two chicken thighs per person. My mother-in-law and I only ate one, but my father-in-law and Wes both had two. I served this with couscous, mixed with a little lime juice and grated carrots. It was definitely a flavorful meal, but I would have enjoyed it more if I felt more confident about the outcome.

I did introduce my father-in-law to ginger. The ginger mixture is light and tangy. The curry shows up a little bit, but doesn't overpower it. You taste probably more of the ginger and lime juice. Since the mixture only sat on top of the chicken, you don't get that flavor all the way through. I wish that there was more of that throughout the chicken and not just on top. Maybe even letting it sit a few minutes would help infuse the flavors more in the meat.

Not a bad dish, but I will definitely place the chicken closer to the heat to get that crispiness. It's a light meal and chicken thighs are a nice alternative to chicken breasts. Try it out. The most difficult part is probably grating the ginger since it gets stringy. But it's so worth it!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Spaghetti Pie

Don't get grossed out by the name of this dish. It's actually very delicious. It's something my mom made at home and again, no idea where she got the recipe from. I suspect it's from those cooking classes. Anyway, it's a favorite of mine.

And funny story associated with this meal: When Wes and I had just started dating, I made this meal for him. Well, you have to flip the pie out of the pan and onto a plate. It takes coordination and some skill. I asked him to do it for me. What happened? He flipped the pie alright, but the oil in the pan dripped onto the stove and somehow scorched his arm hair on his left arm. I felt bad. We took a picture. And Wes now refuses to help me with this dish.

Spaghetti Pie

1 Tb. shredded parsley
1 Tb. shredded basil
1 Tb. shredded oregano
3 large eggs
6 Tb. grated Parmesan cheese
4 green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
8 oz. spaghetti - I suggest using about 10 oz.
5-6 oz. Fontina, Havarti, Provolone or Munster cheese
4 oz. pancetta or bacon
1/4 cup olive oil

Cook pasta according to package directions. When done, drain and rinse in cold water.

In a large bowl, combine herbs, eggs, Parmesan, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix in cooked noodles.

Heat a nonstick 10" skillet over medium heat. Add 2 Tb. (half the oil) in the the skillet. When hot, spread half the pasta mixture into the skillet. Layer sliced cheese and bacon then add the rest of the pasta on top, covering the cheese and bacon layer. Cook for 4 minutes or until browned on the bottom. My mom likes to "forget" about it and let it go beyond four minutes which allows the bottom to get a nice, crunchy crust. Flip the "pie" out of the pan and on to a plate. **This is the technical part here: Place a plate the same size as the pan on top of the pan. Place one hand firmly flat on the top of the plate. With the other hand grab the pan handle. In one fluid motion, turn the pan upside down to loosen the pie. You should end up with the crusty side facing up and the plate in your hand like a waitress. Maybe do this away from the hot eye until you get better, so you don't end up with burned hair too.** Add the rest of the oil to the pan and slide the pie back into the pan. Cook another 4 minutes or until browned on the bottom.

Remove from pan. Slice into wedges and serve.

I'm salivating at the pictures and can't wait to eat the leftovers for lunch....

I typically don't add bacon to this even though the recipe calls for it because I'm too lazy to cook up some bacon and chop it up. In fact, I have a distinct memory of my mom cooking bacon for this dish and me stealing a couple of bites before it goes into the dish. But that's not the reason I don't add it. I'm just lazy. The recipe also suggests a lot of different cheeses you can use. For this time, I used Fontina. I actually like Havarti better, but couldn't find it at the grocery store. The store should have it though. The Havarti adds more of a bite than the Fontina. And provolone is very mild compared to the other suggestions.

I also left out the green onions because you-know-who doesn't like them. But I think they add a ton of flavor to this dish. And have typically added them in the past. But with all the herbs and different cheeses, there is a lot going on with this dish. There's also the crunchiness on the outside from the fried noodles, the softness of the cooked noodles on the inside and the creaminess of the cheese in the middle. If you add bacon, there's also that wonderful salty flavor of the bacon. It actually adds a great dimension.

It's not a hard or time consuming dish to make. The hardest part, and don't be scared by it, is the flipping of the pie out of the pan. I admit, it takes practice. But you just have to go for it. The end result is just amazing.

Oh, and I got to use the herbs from my little herb garden in this dish. Yes, I have an herb garden. Yum!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Watermelon Wednesday

Happy Wednesday!

How much watermelon are you eating this summer?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Um.... Inception. Leonardo DiCaprio steals people's secrets by going into their dreams where people's minds are not as guarded. Except this time he's doing a job that requires him to implant an idea into someone's mind. That's the simple explanation of this movie.

Don't fall asleep during this movie. Because when you wake up, you will have no idea what is going on. This is a complex story line and concept to even grasp. This movie definitely requires you to pay attention. I've even heard that this movie may be too complex for moviegoers. But I'll take the benefit of the doubt.

I'm not sure that I was even quite sure what this movie was about when watching the trailers. The special effects seemed cool and the trailer was cool. So therefore, the movie must seem cool. Right? Right! Wes and I were kind of astounded (yes, I used the word "astounded") at how someone could think up this plot line and then interweave an underlying story in it as well. Christopher Nolan seems to be good at that. He did write the story for The Prestige, which also blended the lines between what was reality and what wasn't. Know who else also did a movie like that? Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island.

Speaking of Leo, he did a good job as did the rest of the cast. I couldn't tell you who was the weakest. And while, Leo's character was probably the strongest dramatic character, Joseph Gordon-Levitt definitely had the coolest anti-gravity fight scenes. He is making quite a career for himself post-3rd Rock from the Sun era. Nevermind the flop of GI Joe. But he got some good practice in that movie for the Inception action scenes. I really enjoyed Ellen Page's character. Her character is new to the team and plays a pretty significant role in the movie and plot line. Ellen also stood up well to Leonardo and held her own in their scenes together - which were a lot. I could go on and on about the cast and how I felt they did, but let's just say collectively they all did a great job.

The special effects, while weren't in every scene, were very interesting and compelling. Of course, my favorite were Joseph Gordon-Levitt's fight scenes. But the bending of a subject's surroundings in a dream were fun to watch. Although this isn't necessarily a special effect, I liked that some parts of the movie were in smooth, slow motion. It added to the effect and helped in the story-line. Confused? You'll have to see the movie to get that.

Oh, and side note: Can I mention all the different ties in this movie? #1 Leo & Pete Postlethwaite worked together before in Romeo + Juliet. #2 Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy and Ken Watanabe have worked with Christopher Nolan before on the Batman movies. #3 This is Leo's second movie where his character married a crazy wife. #4 Also Leo's second movie in which it's difficult to tell what's real and what's not. You could also count this as Christopher Nolan's specialty. And I'm sure there's more. IMDB needs a version of the 6 Degrees to Kevin Bacon game.

This movie will probably be one of those movies you can watch again and again and pick up on new things each time you watch it. There are a lot of layers to this movie and will leave you discussing and pondering the ending for at least a couple of hours. If you're not wanting to spend the bucks for a movie ticket, definitely rent this one when it comes out.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer = Ice Cream

Because summer time means digging into some ice cream.

Hope you're enjoying your summer with some ice cream.
Try some homemade.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


When Wes and I first saw the trailer for this, I think two responses immediately came to us: "Oh, no they're making another one?!"and "This looks kinda cool. Wait, was that Adrian Brody?" And yes, Adrian Brody is in this movie along with Topher Grace and Laurence Fishburne.

Basically, it's a relaunch of the series and takes off from the second movie... I think. Wes made (yes, made) me watch the first two with him. This one opens with Adrian Brody waking up mid free-fall and tries to get his parachute to open. He ends up landing in this jungle and eventually finds other people who got there the same way as him. One guy wasn't so fortunate to get his 'chute to open in time. The movie plot is basically all these strangers trying to find out where they are and why they're there. Of course, the Predators end up hunting them.

Anyone want to take guesses as to who gets killed first and who survives? According to the Scream franchise, the black guy always gets killed first and the virgins live. Is that a hint? Maybe. Maybe not. So far, everyone I've talked to has guessed correctly as to who lives and who dies.

This movie wasn't bad. The plot was simple, but the action and suspense was entertaining. Adrian Brody didn't do a bad job of playing the tough-guy hero. He did buff up A LOT for this role though and somewhat proved he can do action movies instead of just dramatic stuff. Topher Grace plays his usual quirky self through most of the movie. But he takes a surprising turn at the end which was kind of refreshing. I won't spoil it with any further. Though maybe I already have. Alice Braga has had some success in playing opposite of some big name actors: Will Smith (I Am Legend), Jude Law (Repo Men) and now Adrian Brody & Laurence Fishburne. She doesn't do a bad job either as a tough chick. She seems to be drawn to those roles. But she adds a nice touch of humanity to this group of tough guys. Leave it to the women. Laurence Fishburne, while he seemed to be given a lot of credit in the previews, didn't have a huge role in this movie. Actually his part was short lived. And no, that's not really a hint.

The special effects were done well. They looked a lot more realistic and polished than the first couple of movies. Sadly Ahhh-nold didn't make a cameo. I did feel a little more scared though watching the first movies than I did this one. Maybe it's because I knew what to expect.

The movie was entertaining enough and Wes liked it. I had a tough time concentrating because we happened to find the spot in the theatre where everyone was talking. The lady to my left, who was sitting right next to me, kept making loud comments to her son and husband about how lame Adrian Brody looked and why was he talking the way he was. Then there was the boy and his dad two seats over from Wes's right. The son was constantly asking what was going on and the dad was constantly explaining. And no, they were not whispering. The boy seemed to think he was adding to the experience by drumming along to the music during the movie. Yes, drumming on his drink cup and tapping his feet on the ground.

I have a reputation of shushing people in movie theatres. I've even shushed kids for talking during a Disney movie. It's probably one of my biggest pet peeves: people who talk during a movie in the theatre. If you're whispering, I don't care. Unless you're whispering loud enough that I can hear you. But if you're only making a comment or two, it doesn't bother me. Have a conversation in the theatre and I will sush you.

Sadly, I didn't have the heart to sush either of these people. I resorted to staring at them when they did open their mouths. Bottom line, silence is golden. 'Kay, I'm getting off my soapbox. Go see Predators if you're a fan of the franchise. Otherwise, wait until it comes out on video to rent and maybe spend a buck at most.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Linguine with Scallops & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

If you liked this recipe, you'll probably like this one too. Most of the ingredients are the same and it has the same feel. The differences: scallops instead of chicken and sun-dried tomatoes instead of lemon juice. Otherwise.... the ingredients are the same. Hmm... weird. Maybe these recipes came from the same place....

Linguine with Scallops and Sun-Dried Tomatoes (and pine nuts)

1/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 lb. linguine
6 Tb. olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. sea scallops
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into small pieces
6 cloves of garlic, minced
6 Tb. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. dried red-pepper flake

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the pine nuts in the oven until golden brown, about 8 minutes. I omitted this step because I didn't use pine nuts.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the linguine until done. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 Tb. of oil in a large non-stick pan over moderately high heat until very hot. Season the scallops with salt. Put the scallops in the pan and sear until brown on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn and sear until brown on the other side, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Remove the scallops and cut them into quarters. I left them whole.

In the same pan, heat the remaining 5 Tb. oil over moderate heat. Add the tomatoes, garlic, 2 Tb. of the parsley, the red-pepper flakes and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute until the garlic becomes fragrant. Toss with the pasta, scallops, pine nuts if using and remaining parsley.

Look at all the pretty colors!

If I could eat pasta every day, I probably would. Something about starchy noodles that I love. Maybe it's the carbs because I'd also eat bread every day too if I could. I think I'm living in the wrong country. Italy, here I come!

This dish, without a distinct sauce, ends up being kind of a lighter and simpler dish. The garlic and red pepper flakes definitely come through in the background. Of course you can change the amount of heat by adjusting the amount of red-pepper flakes. I'm sure I used more than a 1/2 tsp. But what I really love about this dish are the sun-dried tomatoes. They add a kind of tangy sweetness.

The linguine, with a winder noodle, is able to hold on better to the pan flavorings than a spaghetti or other thin noodle. It would be good to try a splash of balsamic vinegar for next time. It might add a little bit more of a sauce to the pasta if you like that and add another depth of flavor.

Of course you could serve this with chicken, but scallops are also sweet and a lighter protein that pairs well with dish. And it's easy to prepare. I put all the garlic, tomatoes and parsley into a cup so they're ready to throw in the pan. That helps with the preparation. Not a technically difficult dish to make and with the scallops it comes across as a fancy dish. Maybe a good entertaining meal?

Happy cooking!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cilantro Chipotle Scampi

This is another recipe from the Kitchen Witch place my mom takes classes from. It's spicy and oh so buttery. Yum!

Cilantro Chipotle Scampi

1 1/2 lbs. large shrimp, cleaned with or without tails
3/4 cup flour
3 Tb. olive oil
1 Tb. minced garlic
3/4 cup dry white wine
3 Tb. unsalted butter
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 - 2 Tb. chopped chipotle chilies in adobo
Salt to taste

Toss shrimp with flour in a colander or strainer, shaking of the excess. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add shrimp and cook 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook another 30 seconds.

Add wine, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Stir in butter until melted.

In a separate bowl, combine cilantro, lime juice and chipotle chiles. At the last minute, add mixture to shrimp and toss to coat. Season with salt. Serve shrimp and sauce with rice or pasta or by itself.

I love the colors in this dish: red from the chipotles, green from the cilantro and pink from the shrimp.

The wine and butter make the sauce so smooth and delicate. It's rich and buttery and enhances the cilantro, lime, chipotle sauce. That sauce has a lot going on as well. There's the brightness from the lime juice and the heat and spiciness from the chipotles. I love this with rice, though I'm sure it would be good with some fettuccine noodles too.

This can be a spicy dish depending on how many chipotles you choose to put in the mixture. I like mine spicy enough that it makes my nose run. It's definitely a scampi style dish, the cilantro and chipotles just give it a nice change of pace.

Can be an impressive dish for dinner guests. Happy cooking!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Asian Steak with Stir Fried Noodles

This is the extent of my Chinese cooking. And I don't know that it even counts as real Chinese food. Don't hold that against me.

Asian Steak

One 3" piece of ginger
2 garlic cloves minced
2 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)
1 small skirt steak or flank steak, about 1 1/2 to 2 lbs.
1/4 cup dry sherry
3 Tb. soy sauce
2 Tb. olive oil
Salt & pepper

Peel half the ginger; finely grate to make 1 Tb. Thinly slice the remaining half. Scatter grated and sliced ginger, garlic, brown sugar, cinnamon in a non-reactive baking dish. Cut steak against the grain into three 6" pieces, place in dish. Pour sherry, soy sauce, and olive oil over the steak. Marinate, turning several times for 30 minutes or refrigerate for several hours. Can probably mix all ingredients together and marinate meat in a zip lock bag.

Heat broiler. Season steak with salt and pepper; transfer to a broiler pan. Broil until brown and just charred, about 4 minutes. 5-6 minutes if using flank steak. Turn, broil another 3 minutes for medium rare. 4-5 minute if using flank. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for five minutes. Cut into thin strips.

Chinese Fried Noodles

2 packages of flavored ramen noodles
3 eggs, beaten
vegetable oil
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 small carrot, peeled & grated
1/2 cup green peas
1/4 cup red bell pepper, minced
2 Tb. sesame oil
soy sauce

Boil ramen noodles until softened, without flavor packets. Drain noodles and set aside.

Heat 1 Tb. oil in a small skillet. Scramble the eggs and cook until firm. Set aside.

In a separate skillet (or same skillet as the eggs), cook the vegetables until just tender. Set aside.

Combine 2 Tb. sesame oil with 1 Tb. of vegetable oil in a skillet. Fry noodles in oil for 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat, turning regularly. Sprinkle soy sauce, sesame oil and desired amount of flavor packets over noodles and toss to coat. I use less than half a packet for the noodles. Add vegetables and egg and continue cooking, turning frequently for another 5 minutes. If you want to get the noodles crispy, let the noodles sit for a few minutes.

My "authentic" Chinese food.

I use different vegetables each time I make the noodles. Typically I'll use carrots and the red bell pepper, but this time I added snap peas. Other times I've used broccoli. It's whatever kind of veggies you feel like using. And I usually change up the protein. I've used shrimp a lot in the past.

The steak with this dish went really well together. It has a sweetness to it from the brown sugar that I really like. The prominent flavors are probably the ginger and brown sugar. Of course, adjust seasonings to your taste. I would let it sit overnight if I could just to intensify the flavor even more. I did use flank steak for this since I couldn't find skirt steak and it was very tender. So yummy.

Growing up, I loved pan fried noodles at Chinese restaurants. And I get my fix through this dish. It is a bit weird using ramen noodles, but it's so easy. And the flavor packets give it a little something extra without the fuss. I accidentally let the noodles sit a little too long on one side this time and it made some of the noodles nice and crunchy. It's a happy mistake and one that I'll repeat next time. After adding a bit of the sesame oil, soy sauce, and flavor packets at the end, try the noodles to make sure you don't over season.

Such an easy meal and I love it. It's the only close to authentic Chinese food I know how to make. Give it a try! Happy cooking!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Last Airbender

The previews for this movie were pretty entertaining and M. Night Shyamalan usually doesn't disappoint in his movies. And this one didn't either. Though I have to admit, I usually don't like M. Night Shyamalan movies because they're too scary/suspenseful for me. Never saw the "I can see dead people" movie (aka The Sixth Sense) and watched the "Doesn't anyone want to know what happened to the bees?" movie (aka The Happening) through my fingers. But this didn't seem as scary and I was able to get through the whole thing without that sinking feeling of waiting for something to jump out at me.

This movie is about four nations that are able to manipulate, or bend, the four elements: earth, wind, fire (not the band) and water. There is one person who is able to manipulate all four elements, communicate with the spirit world and is destined to keep peace among all the nations. He is known as the avatar and reincarnates over the years. Sound familiar? Think Dalai Lama. Many years pass and the fire nation has basically declared war on all the other nations and is determined to take over the world. And the avatar has been missing. But then he shows up after being gone for 100 years and has to learn to to embrace his calling.

With pretty high expectations for this movie, I did not walk away disappointed. It was incredibly entertaining and a fluid movie. There are a lot of spiritual undertones with the similarity of the Dalai Lama story line, the tai chi type fighting, and the nations believing in spirits. I especially liked the movement and fighting scenes. People who can bend their respective elements use tai chi type moves to manipulate their element. It's actually really beautiful to watch on screen. Of course it's intricately choreographed along with the fight scenes. And they are very martial arts heavy as well.

The boy they think is the avatar does a great job. Noah Ringer is a newbie to the acting world. According to IMDB, this is his first movie. He does a beautiful job in the fighting scenes and it seems that he's studied some sort of martial arts before doing this movie. Wasn't the best acting in the world, but he got by. I think his chubby cheeks helped.

Dev Petel is probably the most recognizable face in this movie. He plays the Fire Nation prince who has been banished and can return if he brings his father the avatar. I never saw Slumdog Millionaire, but Dev did a great job in this movie. I hear he's pretty good in Slumdog too. He adds an interesting element to the movie and his character is pretty layered. I think his character will only get more interesting in further movies. Oops, did I spoil something? Of course there will be more of these movies. After all, the avatar has a lot to learn.

For you Twilight fans, Jackson Rathbone, who plays Jasper, is also in this movie. Though he's much more tan in this movie. But I don't think anyone who reads this blog knows what I'm talking about here. And that's ok. Yes, I still have to see Eclipse, but that's another post.

This is a very different road for M. Night Shyamalan. No surprises or unexpected turns, but still incredibly entertaining and family friendly! Minimal blood, if any, no cursing, characters are all pretty well clothed, morals are still important, and the fighting is very clean. --Whatever that means. There are a lot of cartoon and kid-related previews at the beginning. This could be based of a cartoon called Avatar: The last airbender. Shyamalan is credited with writing this as well as directing. I would definitely recommend watching this movie even if you just wait to rent it. It's fun to watch and the special effects are great as well.

Can't wait for the next one to come out!