Sweet and Sour Chicken

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This one time in high school, I dated a boy. I should mention that all throughout elementary school and even in high school, my mom spoiled me with good food. She made all of my meals so every day I had an amazing, homemade packed lunch to bring to school. I started dating this boy in grade 11 and we were serious enough to keep things going into grade 12 (kind of a big deal when you’re in senior year of high school, hello guaranteed prom date!).  I even managed to dig up a prom picture for you!  Here I am waiting for my date.

prom

Anyways, so this boy I dated usually went across the street with almost half of my school at lunch time to one of the fast food places to grab lunch. But then there was this one time where he decided to make a lunch ahead of time! Great idea, except for the fact that he thought it would be a good idea to make 5 sandwiches on the Sunday, one for every day of the week. The sandwiches were pretty simple, plain white bread, mustard, ham and a piece of lettuce. By Wednesday, the lettuce was no longer crispy fresh but instead was replaced with a slimy green substance that almost looked like seaweed. Let’s just say he didn’t eat Thursday or Friday’s sandwiches… anyways naturally I thought this was hilarious and gross and I told my mom who instantly took pity on this poor boy and for the rest of the year she sent me with 2 packed lunches every day, one for me and one for my guy.

One of the places across the street from our high school was a pretty cheap place that had great but really greasy Chinese food. Whenever I think of Chinese takeout, I always think of sweet and sour chicken which I adore. I stumbled upon this recipe a while back and was intrigued at the possibility of recreating my favourite dish at home. This recipe is so good that I made it twice in one week (and finished all the leftovers!!). A big statement, guys. The sauce smells fantastic in the oven and tastes good enough to lick off the plate and overall it’s a pretty easy dish to whip up on a weeknight 🙂

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Ingredients:
For the chicken:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or tenderloins), cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 large eggs
1/4 cup canola oil

For the sweet and sour sauce:
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Place the chicken in a pie plate (or any wide, shallow dish). Season with salt and pepper and then sprinkle the cornstarch over the top. Toss to coat. Add the eggs to a second pie plate and beat with a fork to break them up. Transfer the chicken to the eggs (shaking off excess cornstarch first) and coat the pieces thoroughly.

Set a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When it shimmers, add the chicken. Cook, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides (you don’t have to worry about cooking it through right now). Transfer the chicken to the prepared pan.

Whisk the sugar, ketchup, vinegar, soy sauce and garlic salt together in a large measuring cup. Pour over the chicken. Bake for 1 hour, tossing the chicken every 15 minutes – the sauce will thicken as it cooks. Serve over rice.

—SOURCE—
Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

Honey Glazed Pork Chops with Pineapple Fried Rice

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I always like mixing up my weeknight meals, but usually by the time I get home after 8 hours at the hospital all I want is a meal that will come together in under 30 minutes with minimal prep needed. I was pretty happy with how well this recipe turned out! By the time my rice had finished cooking, the pork chops were nicely glazed and all that was left to do was to quickly fry up the rice to finish and serve on the side. I’m not the biggest fan of pork chops, but I really liked them prepared this way with a nice honey glaze, and the pineapple fried rice complemented the pork quite nicely!

Honey Glazed Pork Chops with Pineapple Fried Rice

Ingredients:
½ whole pineapple, cut into spears and skewered
2 cups white or brown rice, cooked
6 whole pork chops
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp peanut oil or canola oil
1 whole large onion, sliced
6 tbsp soy sauce (more to taste, or if more liquid is needed)
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp sriracha, or other hot sauce
salt to taste
3 cloves minced garlic
2 whole eggs
1 1/2 cup frozen peas
2 tbsp soy sauce (additional)

Directions:
If your rice is not cooked, the first thing to do is get it cooking so that by the time your pork chops are finished, your rice will be ready to be pan fried.

Grill or saute pineapple spears until they have good marks/color on the outside. Slice, then set aside. If you are unable to grill pineapple, than simply pan fry on medium high heat for a couple of minutes.

Heat butter and oil over medium high heat, then add the pork chops to the pan. Saute on both sides until they have nice color.

Throw in the sliced onions and work them into the crevices between the chops. Shake the pan and move the onions around and let them cook for a good couple of minutes.

When the onions are starting to soften, add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, honey, and hot sauce. Shake the pan, stir it around, and let it cook and bubble up for a good couple of minutes until the pork chops are completely cooked and the sauce is thicker. Remove the pork chops to a bowl, then let the sauce bubble up and cook for another 30 to 45 seconds. Pour it over the pork chops. Set aside.

Add a small amount of oil to the same pan (without cleaning it) and return it to the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir it around, then crack in the eggs and immediately stir them to scramble them a bit. Add peas and a couple of tablespoons (additional) soy sauce. Add cooked rice and stir it around to cook for a couple of minutes.

To serve, pile rice on a plate, then top with a pork chops and onions from the sauce. Drizzle a little bit of sauce over the top.

—SOURCE—
slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Dry Rub Ribs

IMG_4262If you asked me a year or two ago if I would ever consider being a vegetarian, I would have laughed and said no way! I love meat too much. However just last month I found myself seriously considering adopting a vegetarian lifestyle. I’m still not sure why the idea had popped into my mind, although I think it had to do with reading a few articles and talking to a few vegetarian/vegan friends, and coming to the conclusion that vegetarianism = a healthy lifestyle. Anyways after a few weeks of consideration, I thought, what the heck I can give it a go! I managed about 3 days, and then I saw that ribs were on sale at the local grocery store. Needless to say I haven’t attempted again, although to be honest I think with better meal planning (and a bit more focus) I probably could have gone much longer than just 3 days.  However, I now know that vegetarianism does not necessarily equal a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle requires well-balanced meals and exercise, amongst other things. So while my New Years resolution (if I were to have one) is not to completely cut meat out of my diet, I think I am going to try to cut back a bit, but still enjoy these tasty dry rub ribs once in a while.

These ribs are so mouthwateringly good and you don’t need a grill to bake these to perfection! The meat just about falls apart off the bones, while the crispy outer dry rub layer adds flavour and crunch. I’ve only ever made these with side ribs as baby back ribs at the local grocer are ridiculously expensive and never seem to go on sale, but I’ve always been very happy with the results!


Dry Rub Ribs

Ingredients:
2 lbs baby back or side ribs
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dry oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
25 grinds fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions:
Preheat over to 300 degrees F. Mix the rub ingredients together well in a small bowl.

Remove the membrane from the bone side of the ribs, then rub the vegetable oil onto the ribs. Pour the rub over the ribs and work the rub fully and evenly into the ribs. Spread the ribs out evenly on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Bake until tender and juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

—SOURCE—
Tracey’s Culinary Adventures, from Dave Lieberman, FoodNetwork.com

Shrimp and Rice Salad

IMG_3741A lot of food blogs have been sharing healthy, holiday-detox recipes with you to kick off the new year, so I figured why not, I can probably come up with something a bit heathy before I bombard you with the usual sweets and treats. Shrimp, fresh veggies and sushi rice come together in this intoxicatingly sweet yet savoury dish. Each spoonful literally bursts with so many different but complementing flavours and colours. The only downside to this salad is that it really is best served fresh. Leftovers just aren’t as great, because if you refrigerate it than the sushi rice changes texture and just doesn’t become as appealing anymore. My advice is to halve or quarter the recipe and enjoy fresh!

Shrimp and Rice Salad

Ingredients:
For the rice:
1 1/2 cups jasmine rice
2 1/4 cups water
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt

For the shrimp:
1 lb. 91/130 count shrimp*
1 tbsp vegetable oil
a pinch each of salt, garlic powder, cayenne

For the salad:
1 1/2 cups black beans
1 medium red bell pepper
2 medium carrots
1 medium green onion
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro

* “91/130 count” means the number of shrimp per pound. You will find these numbers labelled on the packaging.

Directions:
Begin to cook the rice. Place the rice and 2.25 cups of water in a medium pot. Place a lid on top and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. As soon as it reaches a rolling boil, turn the heat down to low and let simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn the heat off and let it sit undisturbed for at least 10 more minutes (can sit longer if needed).

While the rice is cooking, prepare the rest of the vegetables. Cut the bell pepper into small pieces. Slice the green onions. Peel and shred the carrot using a cheese grater. Pull the cilantro leaves off of the stems. Rinse the black beans and and drain of excess water.

Rinse the shrimp and drain away the excess water. Heat 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the drained shrimp along with a pinch of salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Saute the shrimp over medium heat just until they have all turned pink and are no longer transparent (this should take less than 5 minutes). Turn the heat off and let the shrimp sit until you’re ready to add them to the salad.

Prepare the seasoning for the rice. In a small bowl combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and one teaspoon of salt. Stir to dissolve as much as possible (it won’t likely all dissolve, that’s okay).

Fluff the rice with a fork and then transfer to a large bowl. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the rice vinegar mixture over top and then gently stir or fold it into the rice. Continue until all of the rice vinegar mixture has been folded in.

Stir the black beans into the rice mixture, and then the vegetables and shrimp. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.

Either eat plain or drizzle soy sauce, sriracha, oyster sauce, or hoisin over top.

—SOURCE—
Budget Bytes

Spinach Pie

IMG_3685I’m currently taking a break from packing as I’m heading back home for the winter break so soon! I’m so excited to take a break from this small town and get back to the big city where all of my friends will be.

I promised you a break from sweets and here it is! Spinach pie, in all its glory. Spinach makes this pie feel really healthy, puff pastry wraps it all together nicely with a delightfully crispy and light layer. This pie comes together easily and still tastes good the next day (although the puff pastry won’t be as puffy).  Enjoy!

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Spinach Pie

Ingredients:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion
1 clove garlic
1 cup cottage cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
10-15 cranks fresh cracked pepper
2 large eggs
16 oz. frozen cut spinach*
1 sheet (8 oz.) puff pastry*
2 tbsp flour for dusting
1 large egg (for glaze, optional)

*Allow both the puff pastry and frozen spinach to thaw in the refrigerator over night.

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Dice the onion into small pieces and mince the garlic. Cook both in a small skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until soft and transparent (about five minutes).

While the onions and garlic are cooking, prepare the rest of the filling. In a bowl combine the cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Mix well. Before adding the spinach, strain it in a colander and press out as much moisture as possible (squeezing handfuls in a fist works well too).

Once the onions have softened, add them to the cheese/egg mixture along with the squeeze dried spinach. Stir until well combined.

Dust a clean work surface with flour and unfold a sheet of puff pastry onto it. Using a rolling pin, roll the puff pastry into a 12 inch by 12 inch square. Drape the rolled dough over a standard 9 inch pie dish.

Spread the spinach filling evenly inside the pastry lined pie dish. Fold the corners of the pastry back over top of the filling. It’s okay if they do not fully reach to meet each other. If desired, brush a whisked egg over the top (this will give the surface a glossy appearance after cooking).

Bake the pie for 45 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. Allow the pie to rest for about 5 minutes before cutting to allow the filling to set.

—SOURCE—
Budget Bytes

Sesame Soba Noodle Salad


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Today is a lazy kind of day. I’m lounging, listening to Taylor Swift’s new album on repeat, occasionally pausing my iTunes so I can watch a tear-jerking YouTube video like this one. I’m also daydreaming about owning a pair of theseLouboutins one day and dropping out of school so I can go back to camp next summer. I’ve also decided that I’m going to marry Hunter Hayes just so that he can sing me this song every day.

On lazy days like today, I don’t feel like putting a lot of effort into making a meal. That’s what sesame soba noodle salads are for! Soba noodles cook pretty quickly, much quicker than regular pasta, so by the time you finish chopping up a few things and making a to-die-for nutty vinaigrette, your soba noodles will be ready and you just have to throw everything together! Soba noodles are also a nice change from usual pasta but still satisfying in the carbohydrate department. I love this salad freshly made and as leftovers, served cold :)

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Sesame Soba and Noodle Salad

Ingredients:

For the Salad:
9.5oz soba noodles
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 loose cup cilantro leaves, minced
1 (12oz) package shelled edamame
sesame seeds (optional garnish)

For the Dressing:
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon tahini
2 teaspoons honey
salt to taste
Directions: Before cooking the noodles, prepare all of the raw ingredients. Chop the bell peppers, thinly slice the green onion (or scallion), and mince the cilantro. Add veggies and herbs to a large mixing bowl.Prepare edamame according to package directions. If frozen, cook for a few minutes in warm water to bring up to room temperature. Make sure your edamame is shelled (no one likes to eat chewy pods!).One the veggies are all prepped, go ahead and cook the noodles. Soba noodles only cook for 4-5 minutes, so don’t wander too far. Once the noodles are cooked, drain in a colander and rinse with cold water immediately.In a separate bowl, whisk together all ingredients for the dressing.Combine noodles, veggies, and dressing in the mixing bowl and toss until everything is well combined. Sprinkle with sesame seeds to garnish, serve, and enjoy!

—SOURCE—
Daily Garnish

 

Broccoli Fettuccine Alfredo

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When I was in grade 3, I had a friend named Demetria. The only thing I remember about her is that she had shiny brown hair and was Greek. I also remember going to a sleepover at her house, but the only reason I remember that is because during the sleepover her godparents came and gave her Easter presents and I was so jealous because I didn’t have any godparents to give me Easter presents. Anyways, for the longest time growing up I always associated fettuccine alfredo with Greek food, because Demetria’s mom would pack her a hot thermos of the most amazing Sidekick’s version of fettuccine alfredo for lunch almost every day, and so alfredo and my Greek friend were forever linked together in my grade 3 mind.

Now that I’m all grown up I know that fettuccine alfredo isn’t really of Greek origin and that the Sidekick’s version is not exactly an authentic alfredo. I also know that this recipe I’m sharing with you today isn’t really an alfredo, but instead is a lighter, guilt-free version of an alfredo that still has a rich white sauce that screams comfort food. This broccoli fettuccine alfredo uses milk instead of cream, and won’t make you feel guilty about the fact that you lounged around in your sweatpants watching the Food Network all day instead of going for a run. Don’t worry , I won’t tell ;)

Broccoli Fettuccine Alfredo

Ingredients:
16 oz. dry fettuccine
16 oz. frozen broccoli florets
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup butter
4 tbsp. all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1 cup grated parmesan
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Begin to boil a large pot of water to cook the pasta. When it reaches a full boil, add the pasta and cook for 7-10 minutes or until al dente. When the pasta is finished cooking, reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water and then drain the pasta in a colander.

While the pasta is cooking, thaw the broccoli in the microwave and begin to make the parmesan sauce. Mince the garlic and cook it over medium heat in a medium sauce pot with the butter until the garlic has softened slightly (3-5 minutes). Add the flour, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes more. This is the “roux” that will thicken the sauce.

Whisk in the milk. Increase the heat to medium-high. Whisk the milk mixture until it comes up to a light simmer. As soon as it reaches a simmer it will thicken and should be able to coat a wooden spoon (see photos below). Turn the heat off and whisk in the parmesan cheese. Add freshly cracked black pepper, nutmeg, and salt to taste. Make the sauce slightly saltier than you’d prefer if you were eating the sauce alone. Once it’s spread out over the pasta and broccoli it will taste more mild.

Return the cooked pasta to the large pot that it was boiled in (with the burner turned off). Add the reserved pasta cooking water and toss the pasta to loosen it up. Add the thawed broccoli and then pour the parmesan sauce over top. Stir to coat everything in the sauce and then serve!

—SOURCE—
Budget Bytes

Slow Cooker Roast Chicken

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Thanksgiving is this coming weekend for us Canadians! Growing up, it was just me, my mom and my sister so we never needed a whole turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving. Instead we did just fine with a small chicken! I always enjoyed the taste of chicken better than turkey anyways. Did you know that you can easily make a roast chicken using a slow cooker? I didn’t until I saw this recipe, and I can honestly say that it is probably the easiest way to make a roast chicken. You essentially cook the chicken all the way through in a slow cooker, and then stick it under the broiler for a few minutes to get a nice crispy skin.

I’ve never been squeamish when dealing with raw meat, but something about an almost whole raw chicken made my stomach turn a bit. The chicken I bought at the grocery store already had the giblets removed, there was just the neck that I had to chuck (I felt quite faint looking at it anyways). Then I just stuffed the chicken with lemon, garlic cloves and fresh parsley.

IMG_3781After the chicken has been cooked in the slow cooker, it will still have a very light skin that does not look very appealing. I sprinkled some salt and pepper over the skin, and then stuck it under the broiler.

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And there you have it! A perfectly simple roasted chicken.

IMG_3785I managed to get about 2 cups of shredded chicken off of what was left over of the chicken as well, which came handy in pastas. You can also use it as a pizza topping or for chicken noodle soup, the possibilities are endless!

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Slow Cooker Roast Chicken 

Ingredients:
4-5 lb. whole chicken
1 medium lemon
1/2 bulb garlic
1/4 bunch fresh parsley

Directions:
Remove the chicken from its packaging over the sink and allow the juices to run out. Remove the giblets from the cavity and discard them. Fold a long piece of foil lengthwise to form a sturdy sling and place the chicken on it.

Cut the lemon in half and then cut one of the halves into quarters. Stuff the quarters inside the cavity of the chicken. Peel the garlic cloves and stuff them into the cavity along with the whole sprigs of parsley.

Take the second half of the lemon and place it face down in the center of the slow cooker. This will help the chicken sit up off of the bottom of the cooker. Using the foil sling, lift the chicken into the slow cooking, placing it on top of the lemon. Fold the sides of the sling into the cooker, secure the lid, and cook on high for four hours.

After cooking on high for four hours, carefully lift the chicken out of the slow cooker using the foil sling and place on a baking sheet. Set the broiler to its low setting and cook the chicken under the broiler (5-6 inches from the flame) until the skin is golden brown and crispy (5-10 minutes). Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before cutting or serving.

—SOURCE—
Budget Bytes