Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dessert in 10 Minutes - No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

I'm a sucker for peanut butter, especially Reese's Cups and Reese's Pieces (which I always inevitably pronounce as "Reesie's Piecies"). From buckeyes to fudge, there's just SOMETHING about the combination of chocolate and peanut butter that just CANNOT be topped. 

These chocolate peanut butter bars are SO easy to prepare, that I honestly don't know how I haven't posted these before (considering how many times I've made these). Aside from melting the chocolate, this is a completely no-cook dessert. I use a double boiler, but you can easily use a microwave instead and not have to use the stove AT ALL. Best of all, aside from the chocolate melting, this is a GREAT recipe for kids to help make. 

So, since I haven't posted a dessert in a while, here you go! It will only take about 5-10 minutes, so what are you waiting for? 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Slow-Cooker Kielbasa w/ Sauerkraut & Potatoes

Growing up, I LOVED kielbasa (Polish sausage), especially with cabbage. The combination of kielbasa and cabbage works so incredibly well together, and you pretty much HAVE to have potatoes as a side dish. In fact, I've posted about this great combination before

This version is made in a slow-cooker and couldn't be an easier recipe. Simply combine everything in your slow cooker, turn it on, and, after a few hours, enjoy a super-hearty comfort food meal. Perfect for fall! 

Also, I've added a new feature to the site - Recipe Tabs! Just click on a tab, and it will open a new page, where all of my recipes for that category are listed. For the "ALL RECIPES" tab, I didn't include any pictures, but for the other tabs, I did! Hopefully, this will make recipes a little easier to find, since the Search function is "meh" at best. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bún Thịt Nướng / Bún Chả Giò Thịt Nướng

Bún Thịt Nướng is a classic Vietnamese noodle dish. Unlike phở, which is a noodle SOUP,  bún isn't a soup. Not quite a noodle SALAD, bún consists of rice noodles (which is where "Bún" gets its name, as "Bún" refers to the noodles) topped with fresh lettuce, lots of fresh herbs and bean sprouts, and grilled pork.   

Just like with my bánh mì thịt nướng, the "thịt nướng" basically means, "with grilled meat", and, like before I've used my recipe for char siu. Other great toppings include my homemade do chua and any leftover chả giò, which makes this dish "bún chả giò thịt nướng" Unlike the bánh mì, though, all of these great toppings are served atop  bún noodles; for more information about these noodles, Andrea Nguyen has a WONDERFUL post dedicated to bun. Finally, the noodles are served with a simple cup of nước mắm chấm for dipping. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Gỏi cuốn (Summer Rolls) with Hoisin-Peanut Sauce

Summer rolls (gỏi cuốn) are one of my all-time favorite appetizers. Common in Thai or Vietnamese restaurants, summer rolls are often confused with spring rolls, depending on where you are eating. Summer rolls are the cold, chewy type, filled with noodles and pork or cold shrimp, where spring rolls (chả giò) are fried and contain a ground pork filling. Summer rolls are traditionally served with nước mắm pha, which is a Vietnamese fish-sauce based dipping sauce. However, I prefer to use a sweet, sticky hoisin and peanut based sauce instead. 

These rolls are perfect for beating the oppressive heat and humidity of an Alabama summer, but I enjoy them year-round. Assembly may seem like a pain at first, but its really easy to get the hang of it. Plus, whether your rolls are perfectly neat or ugly and lumpy, they'll still taste great!

Typically, I make these with chilled shrimp, but today I'm using leftover char siu instead. Feel free to use shrimp instead, or combine the shrimp AND the pork! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Spicy Bean Burritos (Vegetarian)

In the last few years (ok, the last DECADE at least!), burritos have EXPLODED in popularity. Restaurants like Moe's and Chipotle are EVERYWHERE now (we don't have Baja Fresh or Qdoba here yet). I've tried Moe's and Chipotle, and they were actually pretty good. However, the burritos were absurdly oversized, and way too pricey for my budget, even if they are far superior to the humble bean burrito at Taco Bell (which, to be honest, I LOVE). 

Speaking of Taco Bell, they discontinued my hands-down absolute favorite item, the cheesy bean & rice burrito, and I'm still in mourning. 

Anyway, I like to save money and cook at home whenever possible, and I definitely like to control what goes into my meals. I love making burritos since they are filling, infinitely customizable, and pretty affordable. This version is meatless, but feel free to add leftover steak or chicken if you want! I also didn't add any rice, in an attempt to keep this recipe a bit healthier, but it'd be a delicious addition if you like.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Goldfish Snack Mix

It finally feels like fall here! It's finally starting to cool off, college football is in full swing (my beloved Crimson Tide is 3-0 and ranked #1 in the nation!), and NOTHING goes with football quite like a good salty & crunchy snack mix...and beer (of course). 

There are TONS of snack mix recipes out there. From the classic Chex Mix, to homemade mixes containing ingredients like Bugles or cheese balls and a well-known recipe for Ranch-y oyster crackers, snack mixes always seem to trump plain old chips. 

My version uses Goldfish crackers, flavored with Ranch and a bit of Worcestershire, with some pecan halves thrown in for good measure. It's incredibly addictive, and this recipe is easily doubled for large crowds or parties. Feel free to use any combination of Goldfish crackers. I usually use the pretzel Goldfish crackers, but Winn-Dixie was out. So, I substituted the parmesan Goldfish, and the mix was every bit as tasty! 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chả giò - Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls

If you're in South Vietnam, it's "Chả giò". If in North Vietnam, it's "nem rán". Also known as lumpia, egg rolls or spring rolls, these light and crispy fried rolls are popular in almost all Asian cuisines. The wrappers are airy, not heavy or eggy like the wrappers used in Chinese-American egg rolls**. The ratio of filling to wrapper on these is absolutely perfect. 

Not to be confused with SUMMER rolls, which use a rice paper wrapper and are not cooked, SPRING rolls are fried and served with a dipping sauce, typically nước mắm cham, though I prefer Thai sweet chili sauce. Making the filling is hands-on and messy, much like gyoza; if this ooks you out, just slip on some gloves (or use produce bags as makeshift gloves!). 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Nước mắm Chấm - Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

Nước mắm chấm is a type of Vietnamese condiment, based off of fish sauce (nước mắm), and usually mixed with an acid (lime/lemon juice or, occasionally, vinegar), a sugar, and water. Often, other ingredients such as minced garlic or hot peppers are added as well. 

Nước mắm chấm is served with chả giò (fried spring rolls), gỏi cuốn (summer rolls), and bún thịt nướng (rice noodles with chargrilled pork). The recipe is super simple, and the sauce will keep well in the refrigerator. For a little extra kick, slice up a Thai chili pepper and serve with the sauce! 

Nước mắm Chấm
adapted from Chaos in the Kitchen

1/2 cup water
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp sambal oelek
2 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
1/2 carrot, peeled & julienned

Combine all the ingredients in a lidded jar. Shake to mix well and keep refrigerated.

Cilantro-Lime Ranch Dressing

I love the combination of cilantro & lime. Whether it's in a black bean chilislow-cooked porkroasted chicken & rice, or just a simple mayo for veggie burgers, it's a pretty hard flavor combination to beat. It works ESPECIALLY well on salads, which I've been eating a LOT of lately! My personal favorite for this dressing? Spinach salad, with chopped boiled eggs - healthy AND yummy! 

This recipe couldn't be easier; just add the ingredients to a blender or food processor (I use my Ninja), then add a bit of hot sauce for an added kick. This dressing will keep for about 1-2 weeks in the fridge, though it probably won't last that long! 

Not only is this great for salads, but is an incredible sauce for grilled flank steaks, a dip for veggies or chips, and on burritos (stay tuned for THAT recipe). Versatile, easy and delicious - what could be better? 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mini Insalata Caprese

Insalata Caprese, also sometimes referred to simply as "Caprese" literally translates to "salad in the style of Capri". This salad is usually served as an antipasto (starter) salad rather than a side salad with an entree. Personally, I enjoy the flavors so much, that I often eat this one its own as a meal!

All you need is fresh tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and fresh basil to make Insalata Caprese. Typically, the only seasoning is salt and olive oil, but I like to make a simple olive oil & balsamic vinaigrette instead. 

Now that summer is almost over, and I can no longer get good local tomatoes at the store, I opted to use sweet cherry tomatoes. Instead of slicing large slabs of mozzarella to sandwich in between thick slices of regular tomato, I used pearl mozzarella by BelGioioso. The fresh basil came straight out of the garden; I simply sliced it thinly instead of keeping the leaves whole. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Banana-Orange Smoothie

I tried to think of a witty portmanteau for this one. Banorange? Bananorange? Orangana? I couldn't come up with anything good, so the boring name stays.

Like the name says, this is just a simple recipe for a banana and orange smoothie. Using only four ingredients, this smoothie comes in at under 300 calories, 0 grams of fat, and a whopping 20 grams of protein. This recipe yields a 24-ounce smoothie, so you can enjoy half of it now, and half later - perfect for after a good run, or even as a quick breakfast to start the day! 

Banana-Orange Smoothie

1 medium banana, frozen
1/2 cup orange juice
3/4 cup (1 6oz container) nonfat plain yogurt (you could also use vanilla yogurt!)
1/2 Tbsp honey 

Combine the ingredients in a blender and pulse/blend until thick and creamy. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Chinese" Beef & Broccoli

Here in the US, we have Chinese cuisine, and "Chinese" cuisine. There's a big difference between traditional Chinese meals, whether they be Szechuan, Mandarin, Cantonese, etc., and the "Chinese" options usually offered as a lunch special with a thick eggroll and fried rice in the mall food court. 

That being said, there are definitely some Americanized "Chinese" dishes that I love. We're fortunate here in Birmingham to have two restaurants (that I know of) that offer more authentic Chinese food - Red Pearl (inside the Super Oriental Market), and Mr. Chen's (now with a Tuscaloosa location on 14th St!), but a lot of cities aren't so lucky. Though I really hate any Chinese dish heavily breaded and drowned in a sticky and sweet red sauce, I'll admit to absolutely loving the completely inauthentic "Beef with Broccoli". 

Beef & Broccoli is a completely American invention; broccoli in China is known as gai-lan or kai-lan, and is nothing like the Western version. According to author Jennifer Lee, Beef & Broccoli was likely invented in the 1800s, but didn't really become popular here in the US until the 1920s or 1930s, after Italian immigrants popularized broccoli here. 

Luckily, this recipe is really easy to make at home - without any MSG! There's a little bit of prep work, but the actual cooking takes only a few minutes, and is well worth the effort!