Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chipotle Taco Salad

For dinner last night, I went out on a limb and made a new recipe for the family.  Yep, that's right; even the kids were guinea pigs with this one.  I figured since they like similar dishes, this one would be ok for them.  I served it with turkey burgers (I didn't take pics of those), made with ground turkey, cottage cheese, lipton onion soup mix, finely diced onions and chopped fresh parsley.  The burgers are always a hit; our family of 5 goes through 12 burgers!

Ok, back to the salad.  As with many dishes I've made lately, this one is also inspired by Cooking Light.  It takes a bit of time to prepare/chop the ingredients, but I think it's well worth it.

  • 3 stalks/heads of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups of cherry/sweet tomatoes, rinsed and halved
  • 1 1/2 cups of avocado, diced
  • 1/2 cup of red onion, sliced very thinly, and cut into 1.5" strips
  • 1 can of sweet corn, rinsed
  • 1 can of kidney beans (or black beans, if you prefer) rinsed
  • 1 1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons minced chipotle chiles canned in adobo sauce
  • 1 teaspoon adobe sauce (from the canned chiles)
  • juice from one lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons chile powder (I used chipotle pepper powder)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  1. Combine all ingredients for the dressing, and use additional lime juice and/or liquid from the canned sweet corn to thin out if desired
  2. Add adobo sauce if you'd like the dressing spicier
  3. Toss the salad ingredients with the dressing until fully coated
This was more than enough to feed our family, so be prepared for leftovers if you aren't feeding 8 people!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Life is a...

Wild Mushroom Pasta

I found this recipe on the Cooking Light website, and was very excited to try it.  Not only did it get great reviews, but it was a "light" pasta; something I find difficult to comprehend.  We found the exotic mushroom blend at Trader Joe's on Sunday, and threw this together for our Sunday dinner.  It was fantastic!  Next time, we'll try it with Marsala wine instead of the dry white wine, and we'll also add chicken to the mix.  Can't wait until our next "kid-less" opportunity to refine this one!  The original recipe called for farfalle (bow-tie) pasta, but since we prefer whole wheat pastas, we opted to use penne - it worked out great.

  • 1 lb. whole wheat penne pasta, cooked
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 12 ounces of exotic mushroom blend
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow/vidalia onion
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) fresh-grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  1. In a medium-sized skillet, over medium-high heat, melt butter
  2. Add mushrooms, shallots, garlic, onion, salt & pepper to the pan and cook 12 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally
  3. Add wine, cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally
  4. Remove from heat
  5. Add whipping cream, cheese, parsley and cooked pasta; stir to combine
  6. Garnish with some fresh minced parsley, fresh-ground black pepper, and a pinch of salt
  7. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Busy Week

This past week was busy busy busy!  The end of the school year tends to be a bit hectic, and with three kids in three different schools, we're attending an unusually high number of concerts and programs to wrap up the year.  However, this helps Jesse and me get ready for a busy summer.  My youngest step-son is participating in the summer soccer program, which will occupy every Tuesday and Thursday night for the entire summer.

I'm so glad he's participating in a sport this summer - the kid's got massive amounts of energy, and soccer is a fantastic way for him to run some of it off.  However, Jesse and I end up doing all the running for the entire season - during our custodial weeks and the bio-mom's custodial weeks.  Some days, I just feel like whining about it.  Why can't SHE do HER part?  She hasn't ever seen one of his soccer games, and this will be the third summer he's participated in the program.  Not once has she brought him to a practice, a game, or even stopped by to cheer on her son as he plays.  I'm sorry, but I can't see how this is acceptable.  I'm pretty sure the point of being a "stay-at-home" mom is so you can treasure the moments you have with your children and enjoy the time you have with them; not so you can stay home and play video games.

Anyway, there are some days when it really gets to me.  It makes absolutely no sense.  This week, it's the bio-mom's custodial week with the children, and yet my husband and I are taking two nights out of our week; one for my step-daughter's band concert ('cause the bio-mom is not going to attend), and once for my youngest step-son's school picnic ('cause if he wants to attend, he'll "need to have his dad bring him").  Yet, even though she refuses to take part in their lives and support her children, she has the audacity to claim it is inappropriate for me to do so.  The bio-mom repeatedly states that I am not welcome at parent-teacher conferences, medical visits, etc.., but when it comes down to the work we put into the children, I am expected to pull my weight AND hers. Something's not right in all of that.

But, in a few short years, the kids won't be "kids" anymore, and we won't have the opportunity to share in their lives; to cheer them in victory and to help lift them up after failures.  I missed the first years of their lives, and I'll be darned if I will miss out on the few years I get with them as "children".

Friday, May 8, 2009

Happy "Mother's" Day

Mother's Day; a complicated day for step-mothers for many reasons.  Yes, I know I'm not the biological mom; the woman for whom this day was intended.  I've received countless reminders of this fact, and I certainly understand my "place".  For numerous reasons, I do not celebrate Mother's Day.  However, that does not stop me from recognizing the work that many mothers do; both biological and step-moms.

For those of you who don't hear it (or don't hear it enough):
  • Thank you for loving these children, even when they're angry with you.
  • Thank you for making sure they are clothed, even when you buy the "wrong thing".
  • Thank you for making nutritious meals, and making sure these children eat adequate amounts of all the food groups (including desserts!), even when someone hates one item on their plate.
  • Thank you for keeping track of the calendar; knowing when a cold lunch is needed and when the concerts/plays/events are scheduled to take place, even when your presence at such events causes embarrassment.
  • Thank you for noticing when the shampoo/soap/toothpaste/toilet paper is running low, even when you buy the wrong brand, and especially when you're buying these things on a weekly basis because everyone overuses these products.
  • Thank you for going out of your way to purchase someone's "favorite" brand of breakfast cereal, even if they change their mind when you bring it home, and it's now the least favorite brand of breakfast cereal.
  • Thank you for knowing to put just enough [insert ingredient here] in the food, so that someone can easily pick around them, while others can enjoy them, even if you can never put too few/too many [ingredient] in anything.
  • Thank you for the reminders to cut fingernails and toenails, even if you are "nagging" and have to issue several reminders.
  • Thank you for the numerous rides, even if you are late for the drop-off/pick-up.  Also, thank you for constantly cleaning out your car due to the numerous wrappers/items left behind during these rides.
  • Thank you for the endless supply of gift bags and cards and for helping pick out birthday presents for a never-ending string of parties, even if you are cheap and don't spend enough on the recipients.
The list can go on, but you get the idea.  Thanks to all moms who go out of their way and do things for the children in their lives.

Happy Mother's Day!

Chicken Cashew Curry

This one was adapted from the most recent Cooking Light magazine, but I'm not sure how "light" it was after I made a few modifications.

It was very delicious, although somewhat time-consuming to make.  It also tastes quite different from the typical curries we've made.

I would estimate this to be 4 servings, if served with rice. 


For the chicken:
  •  2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne/ground red pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko (bread crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons of oil (we used peanut oil, but olive, canola or vegetable oil would work just as well)
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Combine cornstarch and red pepper in a ziploc bag
  3. Place egg white in a shallow dish
  4. Place panko and coconut flakes (mixed together) in a shallow dish
  5. Add chicken to ziploc, one at a time, and shake to coat
  6. Dip chicken in egg mixture and coat well
  7. Dredge chicken in panko/coconut mixture
  8. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat
  9. Add chicken to the pan and cook for 2 minutes on each side
  10. Place skillet in the oven and bake for 8 minutes
For the sauce:
  • 1 can (14 oz) of light coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of red curry paste
  • 3 teaspoons of white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 2 teaspoons of minced ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup of chopped, dry-roasted cashews
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 cup of shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup of julienned zucchini
  • 3/4 cup of broccoli florets
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  1. Combine coconut milk, sugar, curry and cornstarch in a small bowl
  2. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat
  3. Add shallots, ginger and garlic to the pan and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly
  4. Add the coconut milk mixture to the pan and bring to a boil.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly
  5. Reduce heat to low, and stir in 1 tablespoon of lime juice
  6. Add chopped cashews to the sauce, and stir until mixed
  7. Add vegetables to the sauce and stir to coat
  8. Cover and let simmer for 5 minutes
  9. Slice chicken breasts and pour sauce over them
  10. Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges, if desired
* This can also be served with/over a long-grain white rice, such as jasmine rice.

Oriental Chicken Salad

Another "kid-less" week, and we made a couple new menu items.  Tuesday night, we decided to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a nice Oriental Chicken Salad... yeah, not too traditional ;o)

The recipe is very simple, and it turned out great!  Definitely something to make for those nights when you want to feel like you're eating healthy.  I'm pretty sure this won't qualify as a "low calorie" meal, but it does provide a healthy portion of veggies!

For the actual "salad" part, I used:
  • Toasted almonds
  • Toasted ramen noodles
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Chopped celery
  • Shredded carrots
  • Snap peas
  • Diced cucumber
  • Slivered red onions
  • Sliced green onions
  • Halved cherry tomatoes
  • Chopped cilantro
For the chicken, I diced one boneless skinless breast into 1" cubes, and marinated in a mixture of 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/4 cup white sugar.  Cook the chicken over medium-high heat, adding a bit of marinade to create a glaze.

For the dressing, ingredients are:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • Seasoning packet from a package of oriental-flavored ramen noodles
All the ingredients should be combined/shaken, and drizzled over the prepared salad.

It was definitely something we could make again.  The chicken was the best part; it turned out sweet, salty and very tender.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mango Sticky Rice

After we had our cashew chicken stir-fry last week, I made mango sticky rice for dessert.  The kids have never had this one before, and were a bit skeptical about how rice could be a dessert. They ended up liking it, though.  Score one for evil step-mom!  This recipe was more than enough for our family of five.

  • 1 c. of sweet (glutenous) rice
  • 1 c. of cold water (to start rice soaking)
  • 3/4 c. of cold water (to cook rice)
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 can (14 oz.) light coconut milk, divided into amounts equaling 1/2 c. and 1/4 c.
  • 1 Tbsp. shredded coconut
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted shredded coconut (for garnish)
  • 1 ripe mango, diced
  1. in a heavy-bottomed pan, soak the rice in 1 c. cold water for 30 minutes.
  2. meanwhile, whisk together the following ingredients in a small bowl, and set aside
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. light coconut milk
        3.  After rice has soaked for 30 minutes, add the following ingredients to the pan:
  • 3/4 c. water (this is in addition to the water you've used to soak the rice)
  • 1 Tbsp. shredded coconut
  • 1/4 c. light coconut milk
        4.  Bring these ingredients to a simmer over medium heat
        5.  Reduce heat to low and cover for 20 minutes
        6.  After 20 minutes, uncover rice and stir in the suger/salt/coconut milk mixture
        7.  Cover and let stand for 15 minutes
        8.  Serve with diced fresh mango and toasted shredded coconut

Cashew Chicken Stir-Fry

My step-kids love, love, love stir-fry and this is one of their absolute favorites.  We try to use a wide variety of vegetables, but we stay away from bell peppers 'cause I can't handle 'em.  I'm sure it would be fantastic with bell peppers if you'd like to add them in!  The recipe below feeds our family of five.

  • 2 1/2 cups of jasmine rice
  • 1 lb. of boneless, skinless chicken breasts - diced into 1" cubes
  • 3/4 c. light (low-sodium) soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. corn starch
  • 1 head of broccoli, chopped
  • 2 handfuls of snap or sugar peas in the pod
  • 1 bunch of green onions, sliced
  • 2 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 1 large handful of shredded carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups of roasted, unsalted cashews
  • handful of fresh bean sprouts
  • 1 - 14 oz. can of pineapple chunks in pineapple juice (not heavy syrup), reserve juice for sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. sweet chili sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. corn starch
  • 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 3/4 c. chicken broth
  • Juice from canned pineapple
  • 3 tsp. ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce (light or regular, whichever you prefer)
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients and marinade the chicken for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
  2. Prepare rice according to directions
  3. Combine all the sauce ingredients and set aside
  4. Using about 3 Tbsp. of olive or peanut oil in a heated wok, fry the chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  5. When chicken is finished cooking, add the pea pods and broccoli to the wok, and stir-fry for 2 minutes
  6. Add remaining vegetables, pineapple and cashews to the wok and stir-fry until heated, but firm.
  7. Pour the prepared sauce into the wok, and stir-fry for 5 minutes, until sauce thickens and vegetables are the desired firmness for eating.
  8. Serve with cooked rice
  9. Apologize, because you can never seem to cook enough of this, and the kids always want more.