Monday, September 7, 2009

Take Out At Home - Egg Drop Soup and Egg Rolls

The hubby offered to go grocery shopping this week while I was in class. I ran out of time and didn't get a chance to send him a shopping list - I told him to get whatever looked good and we could pretend it was an iron chef competition when it came time to make dinner.

I had bought some egg roll wrappers and they had been sitting in the fridge unused for about a week. I kept saying, I'll make something tomorrow... Finally tomorrow came and I decided to just come up with something with the ingredients that the hubby brought home.

For a light dinner, I threw together some chicken egg rolls and egg drop soup. This was my first try at egg drop soup - it sounded fun to make. For the egg rolls, I used some assorted veggies that we had left in the fridge - carrots, red pepper, and onion. I would have loved to add in water chestnuts but we finished off our supply. Instead of frying the egg rolls I baked them. While they were baking I had time to make the soup. You can adjust the ingredients to your taste - all veggie, ground turkey/chicken, etc.

Chicken Egg Rolls
Egg roll wrappers (I used the Nasoya brand)
About 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast tenders
5-7 baby carrots cut into small coins
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
1/4 of a white onion, diced
Toasted sesame oil
Tamari (or soy sauce)
A few shakes of ground ginger
Toasted sesame seeds

Heat oven to 350 degrees
Take out a cookie sheet (or baking sheet) to put the egg rolls on
Cut chicken tenders into small pieces
In a skillet over medium heat, cook the chicken until just cooked through
In a skillet over medium heat, saute the carrots, red pepper and onions in a small amount of olive oil until just softened (3-5 minutes)
Pour about a tablespoon of tamari on the veggies and stir
Remove from heat and set aside for assembly
Set up an assembly line with the veggies, chicken, wrappers, and a small bowl with sesame oil
On a wrapper put a small amount of veggies and chicken in the middle
Follow the rolling directions on the wrapper package and roll it up
Place the egg roll seam side down on the cookie sheet, repeat until you use up all the filling
Brush the top of the rolls with the sesame oil and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds
Bake for about 5-7 minutes and then turn the rolls over
Bake for another 5-7 minutes until crispy and brown

Quick Egg Drop Soup
I did a quick Food Blog search for egg drop soup and read a few recipes for tips on making it. I knew there had to be more to it than just drizzling eggs into chicken broth. So here is my version adapted from various sources.

4 cups chicken stock
1 egg, beaten lightly
1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in water

Bring stock to a boil
Add in dissolved cornstarch and stir
Reduce heat so that the stock is at a gentle boil
Slowly stir in the beaten egg, making ribbons
I had a little extra sesame oil leftover from brushing the egg rolls, so I added it in to the soup before serving

This would rival any soup in a take-out restaurant. Perfectly salted to my taste!

Easy Weeknight Entertaining - Build Your own Tacos

Two weeks ago the hubby invited over one of his coworkers and his family over for dinner. My brother happened to be in town on business so we invited him over too. Making a weeknight dinner for guests can be very stressful if you don't plan properly. Our guests were scheduled to arrive about 45 minutes after we normally get home from work. I knew we needed a quick cooking meal that would please a number of different tastes (the group included a 7-year old).

One of our favorite meals is tacos - there are so many variations and it's great for leftovers. I decided to go with a build-your-own taco bar so everyone could make them exactly how they liked them. I picked up some hard and soft taco shells (it's all about choice!), ground turkey, and an assortment of taco fixings. I won't bore you with store-bought details. I'll just focus on the homemade fixings: tomatillo guacamole and black beans with corn and tomatoes.

Tomatillo Guacamole

This is a condiment that I make a lot - it's quick, easy, and always gets rave reviews! For this version I used a combination of farmers' market finds and grocery store produce (no avocados at the markets here). One of my favorite farmers' market finds from last year is ground cherries (a.k.a. strawberry tomatoes). They look like baby tomatillos and have a sweet almost pineapple-y taste. I decided to add these in to the guacamole along with the tomatillos, serrano chili, lime juice, onion, and avocado. I used raw tomatillos, this would also very good with roasted tomatillos. This was more than enough for dinner and a few more meals. It keeps longer than a regular guacamole because of the lime juice and other ingredients. Make sure to press plastic wrap directly on top of the guacamole and then seal it in an airtight container (i.e. gladware, tupperware)

*Note: I usually add fresh cilantro when making this at home. After an informal poll of friends, I've learned that not everyone could eat cilantro on everything like me. Not knowing if our guests would love it or think it tasted like soap, I decided to leave it out.

4-5 raw tomatillos, husks removed and washed
A handful of ground cherries, husks removed and washed
Serrano chili (to taste)
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 of a white onion

Cut the tomatillos into quarters
If you have a large enough food processor, put all of the ingredients in and pulse until just smooth (if not, work in batches)
Season with salt and pepper

Black Beans and Corn

This tasted much better than the photo I took! I picked up some locally grown sweet corn and really wanted to use it for dinner. To make a hearty side dish, I pulled together canned black beans, the fresh corn, some canned diced tomatoes, garlic and spices. This was delicious served warm and even more delicious cold for lunch the next day and as a quesadilla filling for the next night's dinner.

2 cans black beans, drained
1 can petite diced tomatoes (no salt added) with about half the liquid drained off
3 fresh ears of corn, kernels cut off from the cob
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Cumin and chili powder

Heat oil over medium heat in a stockpot
Add in garlic and saute until soft (don't burn!)
Add corn and cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently
Add in beans and tomatoes and bring to a bubble
Reduce heat to low, stir in cumin and chili powder
Let simmer until time to serve

Other Taco Bar Ingredients
Hard taco shells
Small flour tortillas
Shredded Mexican cheese blend
Salsa (store bought tomato salsa)
Black olives
Yellow rice (Goya)
Sour cream

Happy eating!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

When He Fends for Himself - Baked Ziti

Welcome back to "When He Fends For Himself," where a young man is put to the test.

The calendar says September and with the changing of the season comes the beginning of the school year. Doris is headed back to school for a graduate degree and will be at class twice a week during the evening! That means the hero of this column will be scrounging for dinner multiple times a week.

With that in mind, I went into my dinner preparation trying to think of something that will last for 2 dinners. What I ended up going with was a variation of my special baked ziti. The ingredients for "Loner Ziti" include:

1 package of ziti or penne (with lines is essential)
1 jar of tomato sauce
1/2 bag of mozzarella cheese
1/2 can of pitted black olives
1 package of baby bella mushrooms
Water from the tap

I started things off by boiling the water. It's good to get the meal prep off on the right foot, and I felt with my water boiling expertise I could do no wrong with this approach. As the water was boiling, I sliced the baby bella mushrooms and placed them in the saute pan. I also drizzled some olive oil over the mushrooms because I've seen Doris do this in the past.

Once the water came to boil, I dumped the entire box of penne into the pot and let it cook. Amazingly, the penne and the mushrooms completed around the same time, which would have been good planning if there was any type of planning being done.

I strained the penne and put it back into the pot it was cooked in. I then added the entire jar of tomato sauce, the 1/2 can of pitted olives, and the mushrooms. I mixed them all around and place the contents in a 8 inch square casserole dish. I topped it off with the shredded mozzarella.

I then placed it in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes so that the cheese could melt and the sauce could warm up. As the picture shows, everything came out looking very good and it actually tasted OK too!

I cut out a quarter and dug in. When Doris came home from her evening activities, she had a quarter herself. Later this week, when I'm alone again, I'll have some of the leftovers for my second self-sufficient dinner of the week. There might even be enough left to bring to work for a lunch!

I can confidently say the dinner was a success based on the execution, taste, cost, and reuse of the dish. For the first twice weekly bachelor dinner, I have found a go to meal that will be repeated again and again. Additionally, if I get tired of this particular recipe, I could always add ground meat, or peppers, or onions, to mix it up a bit.

The challenge for next time is to come up with something just as tasty and resourceful. This baked ziti will be tough to top. But, as always, I am up for the challenge of fending for myself, and I am up for the challenge of topping this ziti!!

Until we meet again....


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