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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rotisserie Chicken Salad With Apple and Dried Cranberries

Rule #1 for food shopping is never go to the store hungry. Well, I broke that rule yesterday when I went to BJ's Wholesale.  J and I normally don't eat whole roasted chicken since it's way too much for just the two of us but I couldn't resist the rotisserie chicken that just came out of the oven. That warm juicy looking chicken was calling my name plus it was only $4.99 for a whole chicken. For dinner last night I just served the rotisserie chicken as is with a side of baked pasta (with broccoli and cheese sauce mixed in). For lunch today I shredded some of the leftover chicken and made a super easy chicken salad.

Chicken Salad with Apple and Dried Cranberries
2 servings

  • 1 1/2 cup of shredded or diced rotisserie chicken (skinless)
  • one stalk of chopped green onion (scallion)
  • 1 cup of chopped Granny Smith apple 
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (I use Hellmann's)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
Combined all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until all the ingredients are evenly coated with the mayonnaise. I didn't add any salt since the rotisserie chicken was already salty. Serve on a bed of your favorite lettuce or make it into a sandwich! 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cooking Super Thick Cut Organic Bacon

I couldn't wait to use the custom cut organic bacon from Saugatuck Craft Butchery. Since we been eating a lot of meats for the last week, I thought a salad would be a better idea. I cooked the bacon on medium heat to brown both sides on the stove top then baked it along with the home made croutons in a 375 degrees F oven for about 20 minutes.

Cooked minced onion and garlic in the bacon fat.

Tossed cubed bread with olive oil, bacon fat, onion and garlic. 

Caramel Chocolates from Trader Joe's

Sunday was another great day. J and I finally went to the gym after 2 weeks of slacking off then we went to BJ's Wholesale. I was pretty proud of myself that I saved $20 off the total using store and manufacturer coupons. I know it's not a lot compared to a lot of hardcore couponers but every cent helps especially during this crappy economy.

After we got home from BJ's, we got on the motorcycle and rode around for a bit. I was craving chocolate with caramel so first we went to Whole Foods. I was so shocked to see how expensive the bar of chocolate I wanted was especially when I know I can get something similar at Trader Joe. Don't get me wrong, I am known to my family and friends to pay premium for good foods but not willing to do so when I know I can get it cheaper.

At Trader Joe's  I got a 3 oz. bar of Dark Chocolate Caramel with Hawaiian Black Sea Salt bar. Like the bar I saw at Whole Foods, it is all natural with no preservative and only $1.99 (3 times cheaper than Whole Foods). I also got a 2 oz bag of Dark Chocolate with Tahitian Vanilla Caramels and a bar of Milk Chocolate Caramel (1.5 oz) for J since he doesn't like dark chocolate. The bold flavor of 70% cacao dark chocolate pair with the sweet caramel and the saltiness of Hawaiian Sea Salt was simply amazing. The Tahitian Caramels were equally great. I finished the bag in a matter of seconds. Didn't get to try the milk chocolate since it's for J but I'm sure it will be just as great.

I love anything caramel with sea salt. My all time favorite was the Fleur de Sel Caramel imported from France I used to get at William Sonoma. So sad they stopped carrying it a few years back. Trader Joe sells Fleur de Sel Caramel during the holiday season for a fraction of the price so now I just get them from Trader Joe's.

I can't stress how much I love Trader Joe. J initially refuse to buy anything at Trader Joe's is now a firm believer in Trader Joe's awesomeness. My family and I have been shopping there since we lived in CA and so glad they opened one near us in CT.

Specks of Sea Salt

Equally delicious! 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

My Version of Baked Italian Meatballs

The weather was gorgeous today. Perfect for riding around on the motorcycle. J was suppose to leave the bike at the Harley Davidson shop for the day but when we brought it in this morning it only took about an hour so we got the rest of this gorgeous day to be spent on the bike. One of the stops we made was at Saugatuck Craft Butchery in Westport. It opened last year after we moved out of Westport. It's located near the train station which is down the street from where we used to live.

 J had been craving these big chunks of bacon (or it might of been pork belly) after he had this appetizer at Craftsteak at Foxwood MGM Grand a while ago. I've gone to all the supermarkets in the area and no one would custom cut the bacon for me. We thought Saugatuck Craft Butchery should be able to custom cut the bacon to our desire thickness since after all, it's an old-style butcher shop. The person that helped us was one of the co-owners. He was really knowledgeable and friendly. When he was ringing us up, J asked him for some ice since we were on the bike and had two more stops to make before we went home. The co-owner suggested one of the pre-packed frozen ground beef should work better keeping the bacon cold instead of ice if we weren't going straight home and it was on the house! We couldn't believe it. The ground 80/20 beef was $5.99/lb and he gave it to us for free!

On our ride home, we were discussing what to make for dinner and J thought why not use the ground beef we got. It's been a while since I made meatballs so Italian meatballs it is! Since J likes his meatballs firm, I changed the recipe a bit from my standard one. We could not believe how good the meatballs were! These ground beef from Saugatuck Craft Butchery were different, much more beefier tasting and not as greasy as other 80/20 ground beef. We were throughly impressed! It does make us kind of sad about not living down the street anymore. I guess it's good for our bank account since I can totally see myself going there every few days to get the freshest meats for dinner. I also love the fact that they only purchase whole animals and use every part of it. Growing up at my nanny's farm (vegetable, rice, pigs and chickens) in Taiwan, I learned to appreciate eating every part of the animal.

Now I can't wait to try those bacon! Bacon steak with eggs? Lardon salad? The possibility is endless!

Baked Italian Meatballs
makes 15 small meatballs

  • 1 lb ground beef (80/20)
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 tsps minced garlic
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tbs dry parsley
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/3 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients until well incorporated. Shape the mixture into rounds and place onto a greased cookie sheet. Each meatball is about two tablespoons. Bake the meatballs in the oven for about 20 minutes. Before serving, simmer the meatballs in the tomato sauce for about 10 minutes. 

3/4 inch thick! 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Milk Mantou (Steamed Buns) 牛奶饅頭 and Red Bean Mantou 紅豆饅頭

Mantou is Chinese steamed buns originated from Northern China. In Taiwan, there are Mantou vendors at every street corner. It's very popular as a snack or eaten for breakfast. With the same Mantou dough, you can make it into different types of buns. You can find a detailed explanation of what Mantou is and different usage for the dough from Ivy's Kitchen.

This is my first time making any sort of Mantou/Bun related things. My recipe is an adaptation of a recipe from Vivian Pang Kitchen and also some other ones I found on Taiwanese food blogs. Also instead of a steamer, I used Datong Rice Cooker 大同電鍋. Since the Datong Rice Cooking can only fit so many Mantous at once, I divided the dough in half and made plain Milk Mantou and also sweetened red bean (azuki bean) Mantou. I made the red bean paste several weeks ago and kept it in an air tight container in the freezer. I took it out of the freezer and defrosted in the microwave.  

Milk Mantou

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbs sugar
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk (whole or 2%)
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix. Slowly add the milk into the dry ingredients and  until a dough forms.  Kneed the dough in the bowl for about 5 minutes then kneed in the vegetable oil until it's well incorporated in the dough (another 5 minutes). Cover the dough with plastic wrap or damp clean kitchen towel and let it rest for about 10 minutes. You can either roll the dough into logs or rounds. The log method is to roll the dough into a large rectangle sheet and roll it up like a Swiss roll then cut into small pieces. To make rounds, you first roll the dough out into a log then cut the log into little pieces. Roll the pieces into rounds.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lower Fat Nutella Swirl Banana Bread

Once again I find myself stuck with bananas that are overripe. I'm sick of making my usual apple banana bread and remembered I got a jar of Nutella last week. Hmm...Nutella with anything is good so why not put it in banana bread. After peaking in the fridge I also found some left over non-fat Greek yogurt so decide to cut the amount of butter in half and replace it with the yogurt.

Banana Bread with Walnuts

  • 1 1/3 cups flour (If you don't have almond meal just use 2 1/3 cup flour)
  • 1 cup almond meal (can be omitted, added for extra fiber and nutrients)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup room temperature unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 mashed bananas (around 1 1/2 cup)
  • 3/4 cup Nutella 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly greased a 9x5 loaf pan

Combine flour, almond meal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon in a bowl. In a different bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add mashed bananas, vanilla and eggs and yogurt until combined. Add the flour mixture to the wet banana mixture and then mix until combined, do not over mix. Divide 1 cup of the banana batter to a small bowl and stir in the Nutella until combined. Spoon the plain banana batter alternately with the Nutella batter then swirl with a knife. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian Diet Part III

It's Sunday and my one week semi-vegetarian diet is over! Being a meat lover, I can't believe I stuck to it. I can't say that I feel more healthy or had more energy but I definitely have been more regular with my bowel movements. It probably had to do with eating a lot more vegetable than I used to. Also I know you are curious to know if I lost any weight with this diet, the answer is no but I do feel less bloated at times. It probably have to do with cutting down fat and salt intake also. This diet made me a lot more concise on the foods I put into my body. I'm far from converting to vegetarianism but I am not oppose to having a couple meat free meals every week.

  • Breakfast- Yogurt with blackberries and honey.
  • Lunch- Ramen with Chinese cabbage and egg. 
  • Dinner- Tofurky sandwich (with lettuce, cucumber, tomato, honey mustard, mayo).
  • Snacks- Peanut butter with apple.
  • Breakfast- Peanut butter and Jelly sandwich.
  • Lunch- Pizza Margherita.
  • Dinner- Rice noodles with tofu.
  • Snacks- Blackberries.
  • Brunch- Scallion egg crepe.
  • Dinner- Butternut Squash ravioli (Trader Joe's) with brown butter sauce. 
  • Snacks- Peanut butter with apple.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian Diet Part II

The only time I cheated was having a piece of J's pasta that touched the meat sauce other than that I've done pretty well sticking to the diet. Tried the "fake" chicken from Gardein, not sure if it's because I haven't had meat for 4 days but it was pretty good. It looks a lot like chicken but the texture is softer than chicken. It tastes sort of like 腐皮 which is tofu sheets (skin). Tofu sheets are often made into "fake" meats in Taiwan which my mom would sometimes buy. 

  • Breakfast- Since I went back to sleep after dropping J off at the train station I didn't have breakfast. 
  • Lunch- Vegetarian zhajang noodle with egg and chinese cabbage. 
  • Dinner- Ziti with tomato sauce plus roasted zucchini and yellow squash. 
  • Snacks- Apple with freshly grind honey roasted peanut butter from Whole Foods. 
  • Breakfast- Cinnamon apple oatmeal.
  • Lunch- Salad (mixed greens with carrots, cucumber, tomato, tofu, hard-boiled egg) with reduced fat Italian dressing.
  • Dinner- Gardein Meatless Chick'n Scallopini, left over squash from last night, pasta with butter. 
  • Snacks- Lay's potato chips (1 oz bag), St. Andre cheese with pear and water crackers. 

"Fake" chicken right our of the bag

Saute in a little oil 

Looks like real chicken!

Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal

 When I was in the store yesterday I really wanted to get the Quaker's Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal but then I remembered I still have a bunch of oatmeal left from making oatmeal raisin cookies last month. A lot of recipes will want you to dump all the ingredients into the pot (very easy!) but since I like mine as a topping, I cooked the apple and oatmeal separately. This recipe makes enough Cinnamon Apple for two servings or if you like a lot of apple then just one serving. You can use any sort of sweetener with the apple or even none at all depending on the kind of apple you use and how sweet you like your Cinnamon Apple. You can use any kind of oats you want, also you can just use water only instead of a combo water and milk to cook the oats.

Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup Oats of your choice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 chopped medium Gala apple
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbs brown sugar
  • 1/2 tbs honey
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
In a small pot on medium high heat, add chopped apple, ground cinnamon, brown sugar, honey, lemon juice. Cook until the apple pieces are soft (or to the texture of your liking), for me it took about 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked apple pieces to a small bowl. In the same pot, add water, milk and oats. Cook according to the direction of the type of oats you use. Spoon the cooked oats to a bowl and topped it with your cooked apple pieces.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian Diet (One Week Only)

I guess this is what happens when I have been on Funemployement (unemployed by choice) for too long. I started to re-evaluate life. Silly me thought it would be a great idea for me, spiritually and physically to be on a vegetarian diet for a week. I thought about going vegan first but then that's too extreme. Then ok, maybe I can do strict vegetarian (no meats, seafood, dairy, eggs), thought about it some more and thought,  no dairy and eggs?? I don't think I can last more than a day if I can't even have those. So I decided on the Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian diet which includes eggs and dairy but no meats or seafood. Heck, I didn't even stop there, I also decided to cut down on my oil and sodium intake.

Since J and I normally can't go one day without consuming some sort of meat, means I have to make vegetarian for myself and meat for J when it comes dinner time. It was so hard making J that bacon cheese burger tonight while I had a veggie burger. It's only been 2 days and I already have severe cravings for meats. It doesn't help that my favorite pastime is reading food blogs. I think I'm going to Whole Foods tomorrow and see if I can get some other non meat protein options besides the fake beef I got from Trader Joe and tofu. I will try my best to stick to the diet for the full week but it will be hard. 

  • Breakfast- Yogurt with blackberries
  • Lunch- Sesame noodle with shredded cucumber and carrots
  • Dinner- Wrap with veggies and the fake beef product I got from Trader Joe
  • Snacks- Apple slices with peanut butter, rice crispy treats I made over the weekend
  • Breakfast- Frosted Mini Wheats with milk and a banana
  • Lunch- Egg salad wrap made of reduce fat mayo (lettuce, tomato, very little salt and lots of pepper)
  • Dinner- Veggie cheese burger on onion bun with lettuce and tomato
  • Snacks- Left over sesame noodle, apple
Non-fat Greek yogurt with honey and blackberries