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Posts tagged ‘quick recipe’

Let’s Stir Fry!

Want a quick meal that includes healthy ingredients, is simple to make, doesn’t require a lot of equipment and that can be

Chicken with Cashews

Chicken with Cashews

executed in a small space? Learning to stir fry properly might be your answer. All you need is a wok, a sharp knife and a stirring utensil. The Wok is used almost exclusively in many Chinese households for these very reasons. Space is at a premium, especially in poorer households, refrigerators are small and ovens are almost non-existent.

The wok makes up for a lot of these inefficiencies because it is extremely versatile. You can fry, sear, boil, steam and braise – all in one pot.

The shape of the wok concentrates the heat at the bottom. Racks are sometimes attached to the lip and used to store pieces that are done cooking (so you don’t overcook them). When frying, a wide, flat spatula works well for stirring and scooping.

With stir frying, it’s important to prepare and line up the ingredients you will need ahead of time. Each ingredient is chopped or otherwise prepared placed in the order it will be used. Stir fry is a quick preparation and you don’t have time to prep in between each addition. You want to be able to toss in the next layer of ingredients just at the moment you are ready for it.

Steamer Basket

Steamer Basket

Steaming in a wok requires a steamer basket like the one shown in the picture. The steamer is placed over water and the cover is then put on the wok to contain the vapor. You can also use individual serving size steamers, which are about 4” across. Just place them next to each other inside the wok and prepare them all at once.

Meats of choice are nearly always the fattier ones. Fat means flavor, as well as calories necessary to people living on small budgets. For example, when cooking with chicken, dark meat is usually chosen. Breast meat is frowned upon because the meat is more dry.

Cleavers

Cleavers

The knife of choice is the cleaver. They vary in size and weight and have different purposes. Lighter cleavers are for chopping and are used exactly like a French or Chef’s knife. Heavier cleavers are for chopping up bones and other tough ingredients. They are also used for smashing vegetables and garlic. Their wide surface areas are also great for picking up the chopped bits and transferring them to the wok.

In Chinese cooking, typically corn, peanut or vegetable oils are used. Olive oil has too strong a taste for the Chinese palate. Peanut oil with its high smoke point is especially suited for stir frying.

Rice

Oriental Sticky Rice

Rice is a common accompaniment for meals – especially in southern China, where it is grown. There are many varieties, but if you want to eat your dish with chopsticks, be sure and use a relatively short grain rice with high starch content so it will stick together. I use U.S. No. 1 Extra Fancy Hanmi, available in Asian stores.

Stir Fry Secrets and General Facts:

Before you begin to heat the wok, make sure the ring is centered on the heat source. This positions the wok so the heat surrounds its base evenly.

If your wok has metal handles, it’s not a bad idea to have oven mits handy or to get in the habit of wearing one when you are frying. You never know when you will need to grab a handle to stabilize it or re-position it.

Don’t crowd the pan! Too much meat in the pan will cause it to boil, not sear and caramelize (turn brown). As the meat heats up, it releases juices that can create a pool that cools the pan down and keeps the meat away from the hot surface. If you are making a lot, work in batches so this doesn’t happen.

Meat and vegetables both need to sear quickly, so keep them in the bottom of the wok, near the heat source. You can tip the wok around on the ring in different directions to get high heat contact in different places if you need to in order to help with even cooking.

Remove ingredients from the wok with a slotted spoon. This will cause any leftover oil to stay in the pan for the next batch. This also helps you to use as little oil as possible, which will keep the fat and calorie content of your dish lower.

Many sauces for these dishes contain soy sauce. Soy sauce in the U.S.A is very salty. The taste of the salt intensifies with reduction, so be careful to read labels and find the lowest sodium content that you can. If salt is called for in any recipe, taste what you have already cooked before you add it. The reduction of the soy sauce may make it already salty enough.

Marinades are widely used in China because they were originally invented to mask the smell of the meat. Marinate at least fifteen minutes before stir frying so the flavor will penetrate the meat. Stir fry is a fast method of cooking and if you don’t give the marinade a little time, instead of penetrating the meat it will sit on the outside.

Marinade components: Rice wine is added for its fragrance, light and dark soy sauces are for flavor. Cornstarch seals the flavor and thickens the sauce.

Hot peppers

Hot peppers

Peppers are also a common addition. You know your taste buds, so make sure you know your peppers! It’s very easy to make a dish too hot. Lantern shaped ones – shown in the picture – are the hottest.

Here’s a typical recipe, shown above: Chicken with Cashews

2 chicken breast halves (About 1 pound)
cut into large bite-sized pieces

2 cloves garlic, crushed, 3 tablespoons peanut oil

1 cup carrots, peeled and sliced on an angle, into 1/4” pieces

1/4 cup light soy sauce, 1 cup water, 1/4 cup oyster flavored sauce

3 tablespoons corn-starch, 1 cup cashew nuts,

1 teaspoon Szechuan pepper salt (or 1/2 teaspoon salt + 1 teaspoon pepper + several shots of hot sauce)

4 spring onions, sliced on an angle or Chinese garlic stems

  1. Whisk together the soy sauce, water, oyster sauce and corn-starch.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a wok. On high heat, stir fry the chicken pieces with the garlic. Fry them in batches, until they are white all the way through, about 7 minutes. They should be browned on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and hold in a dish close by.
  3. Change to medium heat and stir fry the carrots for about 4 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken back to the wok. Add the cashews and pour in the soy sauce mixture.
  5. Cook uncovered, over medium high heat until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.
  6. Mix in the spring onions or Chinese garlic stems. Sprinkle with the pepper salt.
  7. If desired, serve with sticky rice.

Chef Lynn’s Secrets:

  • When a recipe calls for spring (also called garden) onions, use the entire onion. They make a lovely garnish when they are cut on the diagonal.
  • When deciding on the size to cut the ingredients for stir fry dishes, think about how large they need to be in order to pick them up with chopsticks. That’s why I say “large” bite-sized pieces.
  • Remember… don’t crowd the wok!
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Go Fish!!

When I’m cooking for one or want a really quick, low calorie but delicious and filling meal, one of my “go to” recipes is BEER FISH. You have to try this because I know you will love it and it will be at the top of your list for diet food! Plus, it’s easy. What more can you ask for in a recipe?

Beer Fish!

Beer Fish!

This recipe is called Pijiu Yu in Chinese and it comes from the southern region where rivers are abundant and fish are plentiful. I often make it with salmon because it’s inexpensive and easy to obtain where I live, but to be more true to its origin, you should make it with a firm and fairly thick white fish.

This is also a one pot dish – so there’s not much clean up. That pot is a Chinese WOK (with a cover), but you can also make it with a chef’s pan that has a cover. Stir frying in general is a quick and healthy way to cook, so if you don’t have a wok and want to get one, here’s a good, inexpensive source: The Wok Shop in San Francisco. I recommend that you get one made of carbon steel. Your choice if you want a single or double handle. With the double handle, you have to have oven mits handy because they get hot, but that’s the only real difference.  http://www.wokshop.com/store/search.php?list=subcat&subcat=1 You can get a great wok at this link for $20. Make sure you also get a wok spatula. They are wide and flat and great for stir frying. So now to the recipe!

When using a wok, the cooking process is very quick, so it’s important to first assemble your ingredients. You will need:

Delicious and healthy ingredients

Delicious and healthy ingredients

4 to 6 ounces of fish (skin can be on or not)
2 Tablespoons corn or peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon each, salt, pepper and ground ginger (or 2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, sliced thinly)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tomato, chopped
1/2 green pepper, sliced thinly
1/2 red pepper, sliced thinly
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup beer
1 Tablespoon spring onion, sliced thinly, on a diagonal, for diagonal

METHOD:
1. Mix together the salt, pepper (and ground ginger if you are using it). Sprinkle part of this mixture on the fish. If you are using fresh ginger, just sprinkle the fish with some of the salt and pepper.

2. Heat your wok on high heat. Then add the oil. Sear the fish on the meat side (if your fish has a skin). When it’s lightly browned and cooked half way through, flip it over. (Watch the side to see the color change as it cooks, so you can see when it’s cooked half way through.) By the way, this wok is not dirty! Woks develop a patina from the oil and you want it do so because the coating is “non-stick”.

Salmon

Sear the Salmon

3. Place the tomato, peppers, fresh ginger slices (if you are using fresh) and garlic on top of the fish, plus any leftover salt and pepper. (If you are using ground ginger, so the same but sprinkle in the rest of your mixture you made in step one.) Add the soy sauce and beer.

Add all other ingredients!

Add all other ingredients!

4. Put the cover on the wok and set a timer for five minutes. (You are still cooking on high heat.)

5. Remove the lid and transfer the fish and vegetables to a large bowl. In most cases, there should be a thick gravy underneath. If it’s a little thin, just cook it by itself for a minute or two to thicken it. Watch it because it will thicken very quickly! Spoon this “gravy” over the top of the fish and garnish with the sliced garden onions. Serve immediately.

If you want to watch a video about how to make this dish for more than one person, come see me at this YouTube link on the MexAmerica Foods channel:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wT33TYUY4nI

ENJOY!

Fat’s Bad Rap: Getting a grip

We all want to eat healthy but have our food taste great. We all want to have soft skin and beautiful hair. We all want to feel full. We all want to digest and benefit from our vitamins. We all want to be thin but to have energy and not cravings. So how can we accomplish it? By using one element of food properly and that element is fat – an absolutely essential component of every diet. When used wisely, fat provides us with all of the above.

Current guidelines say that 25 to 35% of your diet should come from fat, with less than 7% from saturated fat (from meat and dairy). The rest should be from mono and polyunsaturated fats like olive oil. So how can we keep the amount of saturated fat down in our diets but still benefit from its wonderful flavor and other benefits? There are some tricks to using fat wisely.

1. You need to stop listening to the marketing (like bake it, don’t fry it) and pay attention to how much fat is really in your food. Did you ever notice that you never see the word FRY in recipes anymore? That’s because when fat started getting a bad rap, we thought we could just stop frying and not have to worry about it. Now we say sauté, but honestly, that’s just semantics. If you fry/sauté in 1 Tablespoon of fat or brush on 1 T of fat and bake it, you get the same nutrition results – exactly the same amount of fat in the food you prepare. OK, you baked it instead of frying it, but did you really make healthier food? Frying is actually a great way to prepare food quickly and it can be done with very little fat. Just pay attention to the amount you use. Heat it up, swirls it around and slide your fish or meat into the pan. This coats the bottom and helps to prevent sticking. If it does stick, don’t add more fat. Just loosen it by pouring in a little liquid – something that will complement the dish – like stock or juice and tip the pan so the liquid works it’s way underneath.

2. Instead of topping hot dishes (like steak or chicken or baked goods) with a pat of butter, use a pastry brush to brush on olive oil or melted butter. Because it’s applied last, the fat will coat your tongue and give you the mouth watering feeling that you are eating something very rich, yet you can use a minuscule amount. Your food will also have the added benefit of looking moist and delicious!

3. Mounting butter: This is exactly the same idea as brushing oil on solid food but it applies to soups and gravies. Stir a small amount of fat into the hot mixture last so it will sit on the top and make it glisten. Once again, the fat will be forward and give you the feeling that you are eating something very rich even though you are not.

4. One last example of the power of adding just a small amount of last minute fat is risotto. When it’s completely cooked, just stir a little through and serve immediately. You will immediately see what I mean!

Obviously, use olive oil as much as you can, but with these simple tricks you can use a little butter too. They will help you include the much needed fat in your diet in amounts that are satisfying but reasonable. You can enjoy a little indulgence and actually feel good about it!

You eat with your eyes first!

The D-word (DIET) has been in our house for about a week now. We’re accustomed to the types and amounts of things we need to eat and we know that at lunchtime, the best thing we can eat is a salad. Enter the B-word now – BORING! How to fix this? Get out a sharp knife and get back to the basics – because you eat with your eyes first. What do I mean by that? Follow along!

When you sit down in front of a large plate of food, your first impulse is that you cannot possibly eat it all. You are already tricking your brain into believing you are going to be full when you are finished, no matter how many calories are actually there. You are, however, delighted that you are “allowed” to eat that much, so right off the bat you are sure you are going to be happy and that it will fill you up. So first, you want to make the dish look as large as possible.  To do that, you need to chuck the salad bowl and get out a plate. The plate pictured is actually even a charger plate – an extra large one – so the salad can be spread out to look as large as possible.

Next, make it look pretty so you will enjoy eating it, and that’s all about the colors you choose and the chopping. For my salad, I went through the vegetable drawer and made sure I had several varieties of green (leaf lettuce, celery, snow peas, and cucumber) as well as some contrasting red (radishes and tomato) and a little white (also in the radishes). Then I thought about how I could chop each one to be at its most attractive self. I chose leaf lettuce (2 cups) because it has curly edges and makes a beautiful chiffonade. (Roll the leaves together and then slice across them.) By the way, cutting the lettuce this way also allows it to mound beautifully so it looks like more than it is.

I cut 1/2 stalk of celery and 1/2 cup of snow peas into thin slices on an angle, then sliced 5 cherry tomatoes in half and cut two radishes into matchsticks. I mixed all but the tomatoes together and mounded it on the plate, arranging the tomatoes on the side like a garnish. Then I got out my secret weapon – the spiral machine shown earlier in the post about the yellow beets, and cut 1/2 of a cucumber into long thin strips that look like spaghetti. Of course, to show that off, I could see that it should be on top. Then I sprinkled a little mixed pepper over it all and served Waldon Farms no calorie salad dressing on the side.

The result, as you can see, is a salad fit for a queen that contained … drum roll… 127 calories! That beautiful cucumber topping was only 10 of those! I felt totally stuffed when I finished it for another reason too. It took me quite awhile to eat it. It takes your stomach 20 minutes to register that you are full, so if you can take 20 minutes to eat something, you’re usually home free. There are a lot of individual bites in a salad that size and it’s not going to disappear very quickly. Because of the time spent, I also really felt like I had had a big meal. If you like to add some protein to your salads, try 6 slices of low fat deli meat, chopped up into small pieces and mixed through for a whopping 45 additional calories. I think a total of 172 calories for a complete meal is pretty acceptable on any diet! On second thought, maybe the D-word can stay around awhile. I think I like it.

Share the love!

Valentine’s Day is on the horizon and all thoughts turn to chocolate, but how about a healthy snack instead that also shows love in a big way?  I’m talking about a low calorie pizza, shaped like a heart and full of healthy ingredients. It’s the perfect solution. It sounds and looks indulgent, is quick and easy to make, tastes delicious and is full of good nutrition. Besides, shaping it like a heart makes it fun! There’s no dough in this pizza. It’s made with a wrap – yes a sandwich wrap – and if you find the right one it can even be gluten free. The wrap crisps in ten minutes and tastes like a thin crust or cracker pizza. Absolutely delicious. Your kids will think you’ve gone wacko encouraging them to eat pizza and only you and I will know the truth.

First, fold a piece of parchment or waxed paper (larger than your wrap) in half and cut out a heart. Then kept cutting it down until it’s just the right size to fit inside the wrap. Using kitchen scissors, hold this template on the wrap and cut it into a heart shape. Set it on a cookie sheet (no oil). (I used a Mex America tomato-basil wrap.) Then instead of tomato sauce, I spread some barbecue sauce all over the wrap. After that, it’s just a matter of choosing the toppings (and PS keep them healthy! No bacon or pepperoni). I used 1 cup of leftover cooked chicken cut into bite-sized pieces. Then I added pieces of artichoke, corn cut from 1 leftover cooked cob and a light sprinkle of salt and pepper. On top of that, I tossed 1/4 cup of low fat, grated cheddar cheese and 1/4 cup of low fat, grated mozzarella cheese.

Granted, your kids might not like this particular combination, but there are plenty of healthy choices you can use for toppings: Low fat deli meat (chopped), cooked vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, fish like salmon, tilapia or tuna or cooked pork filet. See what you have in your frig and make up a fun combination of favorite things. Covering it with cheese makes it all taste good. And by the way, 1/2 cup of cheese is enough to add the cheesy taste. You don’t need to load it up.

Then bake your concoction in a pre-heated oven at 425 F for only 10 minutes. The baking time is even less using the wrap! This is a dish to please everyone – even the cook. I encourage you to give it a try!

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