Monday, September 29, 2014

Colorful Vietnamese Chicken Meatballs

Chicken meatballs will make meals more interesting and irresistibly delicious by using a variety of colors and creativity. Normally, when cooking with chicken, wings or thighs are preferred more than whole chicken breasts, because the breast is lean and boring to eat. However, changing the way of preparing the chicken breast with vegetables is another way to create a whole new dish. Iridescent chicken meatballs can be served with rice or, also very suitably, as snacks.

1 large chicken breast, minced (about 1/2 lb.)
1/2 cup corn, fresh or frozen , minced
1 carrot, chopped
1/4 cup chopped asparagus
2 green onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped white onions
Salt, black pepper, cayenne, and sugar to taste

Oil for frying
Sweet and sour dipping sauce, homemade or store-bought

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add carrot and asparagus and blanch in the boiling water for 1 minute. Drain under cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine chicken, minced corn, cooked vegetables, green onions, white onions, garlic, and the spices. Taste to your liking (take a small amount of the mixture and cook in microwave).

Use sesame oil to wet your hands and roll the chicken mixture into small balls (the size of a golf ball). Flatten each chicken ball just a little. Continue until all the chicken mixture is done.
Before pan frying, steam heat the meatballs for 15 minutes.

In a medium sauté pan, add about 1/4 cup of peanut oil. Heat the oil until hot and start placing the chicken meatballs into the hot oil. Fry the chicken meatballs until golden brown.

Remove from the pan and place on a paper towel to remove some of the excess oil. Serve with dipping sauce and with rice. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sweet Potato with Coconut Milk Bread

I haven't baked bread for a very long time because bread is a food that I cannot resist. Making bread for me is also a method of relaxation that I really like. Because I always fear that eating bread will pack more pounds onto my weight, I must enroll myself in a health club. I'm just kidding, but today, I really want to introduce a very special bread. It is simple and uses the bread machine as a big helping hand. When I want to enjoy a simple breakfast consisting of a sandwich with bacon, tomatoes, and green lettuce, I have to make myself a loaf of sandwich bread – the kind that is as soft as a pillow and sweet. I am talking about potato bread. The kind of soft bread that smells and tastes wonderful. However, I learned recently that sweet potato, coconut milk, and oil have tremendous heath benefits, so why not use them together in the ingredients for this bread. This summer my garden produced quite a lot of tomatoes, so this bread will make a delicious sandwich even though it was very simple to prepare. Bon Appétit!

1 cup coconut milk
1 cup mashed sweet potato
1 egg
1 tsp salt
3 tbs sugar
2 tbs coconut oil
4 cups bread flour
2 tsp active dry yeast


Place all the ingredients as listed in the order above into a bread machine pan. Press the dough function to start the process. When the machine is finished, it will beep or make the kind of sound to remind us the dough is ready.

I like my loaf baked in the oven instead of in the bread machine.
Remove dough from the bread machine pan and shape it to fit into a loaf pan. Cover with plastic or kitchen towel and let dough rise until doubles in size for a second time.
Preheat oven to 350° and bake the loaf for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes before slicing the bread.


Vietnamese Sweet Potato Tofu Curry

Eating well is very important for us every day. Whenever possible, while cooking I often think about creating recipes that include easily available ingredients with adequate nutrition. Indeed, healthy balanced meals are very important, so our daily diet routine should choose easily prepared delicious dishes without inferior quality. Despite all the benefits of modern technological advancements, unfortunately, they also produce many toxic chemicals. These chemicals do benefit the manufacturing sector, especially in our areas of livestock where often toxic chemicals are used to feed animals. These toxic substances inadvertently quietly penetrate into the bodies of meat eaters, and threatening diseases are increasing. I'm very lucky in matters of food choices for myself because I like to cook. I also am happy to create dishes that are enjoyed by my family and friends. Today, I am introducing a new dish, the tofu curry, often served during the Buddhists fasting days in Vietnam. I made ​​this recipe based on the recipe of Vietnamese chicken curry, using tofu instead of chicken. This recipe is very simple, so let's have fun cooking.

1 block firm tofu, homemade or store-bought
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into big chunks
2 carrots, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 stalks lemongrass, bruised
1 tsp cayenne
2 tbs good curry powder, Indian or Thai 
1 tsp salt
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs tomato paste
2 cup coconut milk
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tbs peanut oil
Cut tofu into 2 inch cubes.  In a medium sauce pan, add 1/2 cup oil and heat it up. Fry the tofu cubes until golden. Remove from hot oil and drain on a paper towel.

In the same pan, partly fry the sweet potatoes and set aside. 

In a medium pot, sauté the onions, garlic, chili powder, and lemongrass for 2 minutes or until fragrant.

 Add tofu, carrots, and sweet potatoes and tomato paste.

 Season with salt, soy sauce, and sugar. Add vegetable broth and bring to boil.

Simmer cover for 15 minutes and add coconut milk.

 Cook for another 10 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are tender.

 Remove from heat and discard the lemongrass. Sprinkle with Thai basil and cilantro. Serve in individual bowls. The typical French baguette is recommended to serve with chicken curry, but this curry can be accompanied with cooked rice noodles or rice or by itself.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Spicy Kabocha Squash and Potato with Thai Curry

This summer has been an amazing summer so far for me. I have grown all the herbs that are needed for the Asian dishes. I tried to plant squash. A kabocha squash is also called Japanese squash. I did not expect it could grow in my garden this year. However, it took me by surprise, and I have been using the squash vines most of the time and also the plants produced quite a few squash for me now to use for this dish. The dish that I am introducing here today is and aromatic Thai curry dish. It requires a few spicy herbs, such as lemongrass, galangal, or ginger. The Kaffir lime is another herb that is used frequently in all the Asian soups.  Even though that I do not have the exact Kaffir leave, but I grew a couple of lime trees in the pot. They look pretty and the leaves are fantastic for flavoring the stock. I hope they will survive this winter. At this time of the year, the red and yellow small potatoes are very sweet, and they are ingredients that go well with Kabocha squash. This dish is delicious as is, or it can be served with Jasmine rice or rice noodles.

Broth ingredients:
6 cups water or vegetables broth
2 lemongrass (cut the root off and bruise)

5 sliced fresh galangal, or ginger
3 Kaffir lime leaves

2 garlic cloves, smashed
Curry ingredients:
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups above broth
1 Kabocha squash – peeled, seeds removed, and cut into big chunks

1 1/2 lb. red and yellow small potatoes, washed and cut in half
3 carrots, cut into big chunks
1 small white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 dried hot chilies
1 cup long beans
2 tsp red curry paste
2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 cup lime juice
Soy sauce, salt, pepper, sugar or fish  sauce to taste
Garnish ingredients :
1/2 cup fresh Thai basil, julienned

Cilantro and green onion, chopped.

In a pot over medium heat, add broth, lemongrass, galangal, garlic, and lime leaves. Bring to boil and simmer for 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper. Drain and discard the solids.
In another pot, add oil and sauté the garlic and onion until fragrant.

 Stir in red curry paste, curry powder,  and chili. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until the aroma is released from the spices. Cook over low to medium heat and make sure it does not burn.

 Add the kabocha squash, potatoes, and carrots. Stir in the spices. Add the broth and bring to boil.

Cover,Simmer for 20  minutes and add the beans and cook for 5 more minutes or until all the vegetables are fork tender.

 Season with soy sauce, lime juice, and sugar. Add coconut milk and heat through. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. At this point to thicken the soup(if you desire) by using 2 tsp of cornstarch mix with 1/4 cup of water and add to the pot;cook until the sauce is thickened. Add a final touch with green onion, cilantro, and basil before serving.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Easy Italian Chicken

The following recipe makes a dish with maximum taste and nutrition with just a few ingredients. I am lucky to be able to grow most of my herbs that I use for this dish. However, Italian seasoning can be substituted for all the fresh herbs. I try my best to create flavorful recipes that require as few ingredients as possible. The key to enjoying cooking is always keeping things simple and easy to follow directions.

Two chicken breast halves
1 tbs butter and olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs: oregano, thyme, parsley, and basil
One 14 oz. can tomato stew
1/2 cup to 1 cup chicken broth
1 cup white onions, chopped
1 bay leaf
Chili flakes
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Cooked pasta, your choice

In a medium sauté pan, add butter and oil. Heat butter and oil until foaming. Add chicken breast halves and brown all sides.

 Add garlic,  chili flakes, and onions and cook for 2 minutes or until fragrant.

Stir in fresh herbs and bay leaf (cook for 1 minute). Season with salt and pepper.

Add tomato stew and chicken broth. Bring to boil.

 Lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour or until chicken breasts are tender.

 Add sugar and season with more salt, if needed. Serve on top of pasta and sprinkle with fresh basil.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Asian Stir-Fried Tofu with Vegetables

This is another healthy dish that I like to make once or twice a week. I ordered the soy beans from Laura Farms so that I can make my own tofu because I do not live near an Asian market, and also it is fresher and healthier if we can grow things at home. Making homemade tofu sounds complicated to some cooks, but for me it is quite simple with a soy milk machine. I also grow my own bean sprouts at home. In the Asian world, stir-fried vegetables always need bean sprouts. However, whatever vegetables are on hand are still good. For the stir-fried vegetables dish, the more different kinds of vegetables that are used, the merrier the dish will be. I do not like to use firm tofu even though firm tofu makes it easy for stir-frying. My tofu is soft to medium firm. For this recipe, choose any tofu and vegetables that are appealing to the taste. The bean sprouts add to the natural sweetness of this dish and does not need to cook long, so throw them in at the last minute. This dish can be made as a gluten free dish using gluten free soy sauce.

8 oz medium firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
1 tbs soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 tbs peanut or canola oil
2 cups frozen vegetables (Costco brand)
1/2 cup white onions, thickly sliced
1/2 cup white button mushrooms, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
2 asparagus, cut diagonally
1 cup bean sprouts
Sauce ingredients:
1/2 cup water
2 tbs soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp honey
1 tsp chili sauce or chili flakes
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tbs cooking wine or Sherry
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tsp cornstarch

 Garnish with chopped green onions and basil

Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Bring a pot of water to boil and blanch vegetables (except the mushrooms and bean sprouts) for a couple of minutes and drain.

Heat wok over high heat and add oil. Stir in onions, ginger, and garlic. Cook until fragrant (about 1 minute).

Add tofu to wok in a thin layer and fry the tofu. Season the tofu with soy sauce and salt. Stir and cook until the tofu begins to brown.

Move tofu off to the side of the wok. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms wilt (about 2 minutes).

Add blanched vegetables and the sauce.

Mix well and bring to boil and cook until the sauce starts thickening.

 Season with more salt, if needed. Add bean sprouts and green onions and remove from heat.

Serve on a plate with cooked rice and sprinkle with julienned basil.