Sweet and Sour Chicken

One of my favorite places to be in the entire world is in the kitchen with my Ngin-ngin (grandmother). Watching her in the kitchen as she scoops up some rice, mixes together a sauce, or guesstimates various measurements with a splash or a dash has always made the kitchen a whole lot less intimidating. I’ve actually featured a recipe by her on this blog about 2 years ago.

Alright, everyone. It’s true. I’ve gone back to meat. Here’s my first REAL meat dish on Soups & Roots & Rants.

Today, we decided to attempt making Sweet and Sour Chicken. Even though Ngin-ngin refers to it as an American “Chinese” dish, she really likes it! While cooking, she said to me, “Restaurant, they make you pay $10.99. And they give so little! But this is so easy. They are so crazy.”

So if you go bonkers for American “Chinese” dishes, too, I recommend you try this recipe out! There are a couple of variations that you can make along the way and even as we were eating ours, we kept thinking about modifications. So don’t feel tied down by this recipe!

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Sweet and Sour Chicken

2-3 Boneless Chicken Thighs, trimmed and large diced
1 Egg
1/2 c. Flour
1 T. and 2 T. Soy sauce, separated
Salt, as needed
1 T. and 1 T. Sugar, separated
1/4 c. Corn Starch
3-4 Heaping T. of Honey
1/2 c. White Vinegar
1 c. Water
Corn oil
1/2 Small Onion, large diced
1-2 Sweet Bell Peppers, large diced
1/2 c. Pineapple, large diced (optional)

After trimming and slicing up your ingredients, place the diced chicken on a plate. Season the chicken with 1 T. Soy sauce, 1 T. Sugar, and some dashes of salt. Next scramble up the egg and pour on top. Mix all of the ingredients together!

Next, we have to flour the chicken. You can either be fancy and dredge the chicken pieces in flour. Or, if you’re like us, you can just pour the flour onto the mixture and just make sure that all of the pieces are covered.

Once the chicken is ready, take out a wok, place it on high heat and fill it with corn oil. You should have enough oil so that the chicken will be covered (about 2-3 inches). Once the oil is nice and hot, (we check using some chopsticks – place your chopsticks in the oil and if bubbles start to surround the sticks, you are ready!!) pour in about 1/2 of the chicken. As you place the chicken pieces into the oil, make sure to separate them so that they do not stick together. Let cook with occasional stirring until the chicken pieces are fried to a perfect golden brown.

Scoop and strain them up and set on a plate (with optional paper towels to sop up the oil). Repeat with your second batch!

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Once all the chicken is done, remove about 95% of the oil from the wok. Next, sauté your onions, bell peppers, and (optional) pineapple on medium to high until they are almost soft – but not quite.

Pour in the vinegar and water and bring to high heat. Let the onions and peppers cook in the mixture until it comes to a boil. While that is cooking, in a small bowl, mix together the corn starch, 2 T. soy sauce, 1 T. sugar, and about 2 T. water.

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Once the mixture has come to a boil, taste one of your bell pepper pieces or onion to see if the sour flavor is to your liking. If not, feel free to add more vinegar. If it is right, pour in the honey and soy sauce mixture. Stir quickly! This sauce thickens up fast!

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Once again, taste your mixture! If you think it needs more sweet, add in some more honey or sugar.

Last, mix in the fried chicken pieces and turn off the heat. Ready to go!

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Serve hot over rice.

Admittedly, we felt that our dish was a bit more sour than we would’ve liked, but I am not a huge fan of entrees that are overly sweet anyway. Next time, we’ll have to try adding a bit more sugar or honey to the sauce. But adding pineapple also could’ve given us a nice natural sweetness, too!

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Cheesy Polenta and Vegetarian Bolognese

This is a dish that I have been dreaming about since Spring break. My family and I went to Cafe Bink in Carefree, AZ and my sister got this dish (Amy’s Bolognese), but with a real meat bolognese, of course. I knew that this was something I had to try to make myself! I’ve gotta say, it turned out AMAZING.

While, I have to say, these pictures aren’t the most appetizing, you’re just gonna have to take my word for it! Plus it was a pretty quick meal (by my standards, anyway)!

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Cheesy Polenta
3/4 tube of Polenta, diced (I used the sun-dried tomato kind!)
1/2 c. Water
1/4 c. Heavy Cream
1/8 c. Grated Parmesan
1/8 c. Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Bolognese
~7 oz. Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes (I used 1/4 of a 28 oz. can)
1 1/2 Tomatoes, rough chop/diced
1/2 Red Onion, rough chop/diced
1 T. Garlic, minced
10-12 oz. Soyrizo (Ground Fake Meat)*
1 T. Corn Starch
1 T. Soy sauce
Olive oil
2-3 T. Fresh Basil
Salt and Pepper to taste

*Keep in mind, when you are making the bolognese, not all veggie crumbles are created equal so you will have to be mindful! Some are extremely oil-y to compensate, while others require quite a bit of added oil. Some are bursting with flavor, while others need some tender loving care. I had some “Light Life” Sausages (Chorizo style) in my freezer so I blended it up in a food processor to make crumbles, but feel free to go buy pre-crumbled fake meat!

Start by making your bolognese! In a medium sized soup pot with some olive oil on medium-high heat, cook the onions and the garlic until the onions become translucent and it starts to become fragrant. Next add the veggie crumbles. If it starts to stick to the bottom of the pot, add more oil! Drizzle on some corn starch so that the crumbles are coated and then add some soy sauce and the basil! This just gives the dish a bit more flavor! You can season it as you like – maybe try some dashes of dried oregano?

Next throw in those diced tomatoes and the canned tomatoes. Bring the sauce up to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover it up! Occasionally check on it to stir, but it should be fine on its own!

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Now, onto the polenta! In another medium sized soup pot, bring the 1/2 c. of water to a boil. Dice up the polenta pieces and toss them in!  With a whisk, start to break up the chunks and swirl it around! Then add the cream! Keep on mashing and whisking and soon the polenta will turn super creamy. Don’t fret, this takes a little while before all the pieces break down! Once the mixture starts to bubble and boil, reduce it down to a simmer. Yum yum! Mix in the two different cheeses! I used parmesan and pepper jack, but feel free to change that as well! Some people like fontina or goat cheese or sharp cheddar! And it’s all done!

Serve side by side and feel free to eat both separately or mix ’em up! I am storing the leftovers in two separate containers that way I can eat the polenta and the bolognese together sometimes or I can throw the bolognese on some pasta later this week!

Jenny especially loved this dish at Cafe Bink because it reminded her of our childhood favorite, Chef Boyardee’s Beefaroni! It’s a great balance of cheesy and tomato-y. Don’t judge us. You know you loved Beefaroni!

This dish is perfect for a cold and rainy Spring night! It was made just in time for me to cozy up and.. write a paper.

Love,
Mimi

Ps. In just a few short hours, it is Francisco’s birthday! Happy Birthday Little Bear! I love you!

Quinoa Monster Burgers

What happens when you have a buttload of quinoa in your cabinet and some vegetables leftover when you’re about to leave town?

This.

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Alright, I’ll admit. The final product kinda looks like garbage. But man, is it good. Here’s what you need.

2 c. cooked quinoa
3 eggs
1 diced onion
1 diced tomato
1 c. sliced spinach
1 c. diced carrots
3 cloves garlic
1/2 c. hummus or chickpeas
1 T. hot mustard
1 T. garlic salt
1 t. pepper
1 t. paprika
1/2 t. chili powder
1/2 t. oregano
1 t. red pepper
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. nutmeg
2-3 t. olive oil
1 c. cornmeal

First, you have to cook all your vegetables. Above are the ones I used, but I recommend improvising. If you’re using the above vegetables, start with carrots until they’re soft, then add onions  and garlic. Add a dash of salt, pepper, and paprika. Throw in spinach and chickpeas at the tail end. If you’re using hummus, hold onto it.

Once all your veggies are cooked, throw them into a food processor with a sliced tomato and pulse for a little bit. Until you have small, but chunky pieces. Not a puree.

In a separate bowl, combine quinoa, egg, hummus, cornmeal, and hot mustard until it’s burger consistency. Add in all spices at your discretion. Mine are guesstimates, so feel free to improvise here. Add olive oil to help it mix, but if it’s already too mushy, don’t bother.

Fold all the chunky vegetables into the quinoa mixture.

You can refrigerate it for later, or make ’em now! To make the patties, roll them into your desired portion and place on a heated & oiled grill, saute pan, skillet, whatever. Flatten to patty to get a burger shape, the thinner the better, if you want everything cooked through. Get each side golden brown and serve on a bun, sliced in a salad, or just on a plate with some ketchup!

Enjoy, you monster!

Fran

Teriyaki Glazed Tempeh

I didn’t want to really admit it, but being a vegetarian, there are definitely certain things that you start to miss from the meat-eating world. For me, I’ve really been missing grilled chicken. And for awhile, it seemed as if I was never going to have that craving fulfilled until… I was introduced to tempeh.

Check out my latest tempeh creation:

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Teriyaki Tempeh

8 oz. Garden Vegetable Tempeh
Olive oil for brushing
½ c. Rice

Marinade:

½ c. Soy Sauce
1 T. Brown sugar
2 T. Honey
1 T. Corn starch
1 c.  & ½ c. Water
1 T. Green onion
1-2 tsp. Garlic powder

First, I cut the tempeh width-wise and into small points.

In a bowl, dissolve the corn starch in the ½ c. of water. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining marinade ingredients. Then add the cornstarch and water mixture. Whisk the mixture together one more time.

A tip learned from Veganomicon: Boil the tempeh points until tender before marinating to help avoid the bitter taste as well as help the tempeh absorb the marinade.

Place the tempeh points in the marinade, cover and refrigerate for an hour minimum. I marinated my tempeh overnight.

Brush a medium sized pan with olive oil and put over medium to high heat. Place the tempeh on the pan for about 2-3 minutes until browned. Turn the tempeh over and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

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Once all of the tempeh points are cooked, set aside.

Take the remaining marinade and heat up on the same pan as the tempeh. The marinade will quickly thicken and become a delicious tangy teriyaki sauce.

Serve the tempeh with teriyaki sauce and fresh green onion over rice.

Love,
Mimi

Tempeh Shepherdess Pie with Mashed Sweet Potatoes

I just got Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero over the holidays and I have been dying to try out one of the recipes.

I am not usually a huge recipe-follower. Usually, I am inspired by different recipes and give it my own spin. But this was my first time cooking with tempeh and I was a little weary. Luckily, it was mouthwateringly good and my minor changes were a big success.

Check this out:

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Tempeh Shepherdess Pie with Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Serves in 6 personal ramekins or 4 large servings from a casserole dish

Filling:
8 oz. package Garden vegetable tempeh
1/6 c. Soy sauce
1 c. Water
Olive Oil
½ Red onion
2 Cloves of garlic
4 oz.  White mushrooms or 1 ½ c. sliced
½ c. Fresh corn or 1 cob
¼ c. Carrots
¼ c. Celery
1 c. Vegetable broth
1/8 c. Flour
½ tsp. Thyme
½ tsp. Coriander
1/8 c. Parsley
Loads of Black pepper

Mashed Sweet Potatoes:
1 large sweet potato
½ c. coconut milk
½ Tbs. Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

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The Changes:

–          Instead of using frozen peas and frozen corn, I decided to use fresh corn, carrots and celery.
–          Instead of crimini mushrooms, I used white mushrooms.
–          The cookbook suggested trying out sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes, but it was my idea to use coconut milk and a little bit of olive oil as opposed to soy milk and grapeseed oil.
–          I cut the recipe in half

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For the filling:
First, you will need to cook the tempeh. Fill a large skillet (I used my wok) with small bite-size pieces of tempeh, the water, soy sauce and a dabble of olive oil. Cover this mixture and let it boil for around 10 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue to boil until most of the water is gone. Then drain the tempeh and place to the side.

Now add some more olive oil to the same skillet (no need to clean) and sauté the onions and garlic until the onions start to become translucent. Then stir in the tempeh and mushrooms and spices (except the parsley). The mushrooms will start to become a lot juicier and the tempeh will begin to brown.

Then add the remaining vegetables and possible a little more oil depending on how much liquid is in your mixture has become.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and broth to create a gravy. Add it to the mixture along with the parsley. The gravy will begin to thicken, but will thicken even more during the baking stage.

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For the mashed sweet potatoes:

Peel and cut the sweet potato into small bite sized pieces. Place in a pot with enough water to cover the potatoes by about an inch. Put on high heat and cover.

Let the potatoes boil for about 20 minutes – or until the potatoes are easily pierced or cut with a fork.

Drain the potatoes and return to the pot. Mash the potatoes into submission. Mix in the oil, coconut milk and salt and pepper to taste.

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To finish:

Set the oven to 375° F.

Place the tempeh mixture at the bottom evenly of either a small casserole dish or the individual ramekin. Then spoon the mashed potatoes on top.

Bake the shepherdess pie for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes have become slightly browned at the top.

Garnished with some paprika and thyme.

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This shepherdess pie was so flavorful and had a warm & hearty feel. It would make a great entrée at a holiday dinner or any dinner party!

Coming from the perspective of someone who is new to the vegetarian community, this shepherdess pie definitely didn’t have that real meaty flavor that most shepherd’s pies have, but it was an amazing replacement and felt just as filling. It didn’t feel lacking, it was just delicious. Many of my friends claimed it had a true taste of Thanksgiving!

Love,
Mimi