Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cashew Chicken

Chinese food is one of those great American comfort foods. Did I say American? Yes I did. Chinese food here in the United States is not real Chinese food at all. It is battered and deep-fried and delicious. Whereas real Chinese food is varied and includes braising, stewing, baking, and wrapping seafood, fowl, and duck. Do I like authentic Chinese food? Not necessarily. Do I like American Chinese food. Yes, I love it. Specifically Sesame Chicken, General Tsao's Chicken, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Lemon Chicken, and Cashew Chicken. (Dang, that's a lot of chicken...) So here it is: Cashew Chicken.

Ginger, oh so magical.
Green onions and my mom's hands. She said that she was self-conscious of her "arthritis fingers." Oh silly mother, you have beautiful hands...
My little brother and moi. I adore him.

Cashew Chicken
Prep Time: 45 minutes | Cook Time: 15 minutes
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons dry sherry (or cooking wine, or omit)
2 teaspoons minced, peeled fresh ginger
3½ teaspoons cornstarch, divided
Coarse salt½ cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup unsalted cashews
2 green onions, white and green parts divided and thinly sliced
(If you like more sauce, feel free to double the sauce ingredients.)
1. In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with the sherry, ginger, and 1½ teaspoons cornstarch; season with coarse salt. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the chicken broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and 2 teaspoons cornstarch. Set aside.
3. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add half of the chicken and cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover with foil. Add 1 teaspoon of oil to the skillet and cook the remaining chicken (reduce the heat if the chicken is over-browning). Transfer to the covered plate.
4. In the same skillet, add the remaining teaspoon of vegetable oil. Add the cashews, garlic, and green onion whites. Cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic begins to soften, about 30 seconds. Whisk the sauce again to combine and add to the skillet along with the chicken. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 30 seconds. Serve over rice or noodles and top with the green onion greens.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lemon Raspberry Layer Cake

I have come to the conclusion that I love pretty food. I really enjoy making desserts--not eating them necessarily, but making them. I get excited to frost a cake, to add layers to a trifle, to top off a pie with chocolate curls. My dream is to go to culinary school and become a pastry chef. Eventually I want to open up a bakeshop where I can share my love of baking with the world. At my job at Station 22 Cafe, I am in charge of making all the desserts. Every day I get to go into work and let my creative mind go free. Lately, I have been making White Chocolate Coconut Brownies, Peanut Butter Cups, Bananas Foster Mini Cream Pies, and Snickerdoodle Blondies. And let me tell you, they have really been a hit with the customers. Not that I am bragging or anything :) But seriously, I absolutely LOVE to bake. For Memorial Day, I wanted to make a dessert that reminded people of a beautiful summer day. So I came up with this cake: Lemon Raspberry Layer Cake with Whipped Cream. And boy oh boy was it good.

My brother and his beautiful wife.
Mom and little brother.
Gorgeous sister.
My dad. Isn't he so cute?
Visiting my aunt Yvonne's grave.

Lemon Raspberry Layer Cake

For the Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk [I prefer buttermilk with the lemon]
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable 
[I made a raspberry spread with sugar, lemon, and water]
Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.
To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).
To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
Spread it with one third of the preserves.
Top with another layer, spread with preserves and then do the same with a third layer
Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and frost with whipped cream.
The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled.
The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Creamy Chickpea Chowder

I know it has been a while since my last post...I sincerely apologize. I have been cooking a lot, but struggling to find time to blog about it. I also have been really busy with work at Station 22 Cafe. Plus, I am working on a project. It's a surprise so I cannot tell you about it. I will just say that I will soon be done with it and I will post pictures of my soon-to-be masterpiece. Trust me, it's going to be awesome.

Meanwhile, in other news... Have you ever heard of a blog giveaway? Basically it's a prize that bloggers give out randomly. Out of the many people that comment and ask to win, they only choose one winner. A couple weeks ago, I was researching gluten-free blogs for my oldest sister (who cannot eat gluten/sugar). On one specific blog there was a cookbook giveaway. When I commented, I explained how my sister just found out that she could not eat gluten and was having a hard time finding recipes that  actually tasted good. Well to make a long story short, I WON! Yes, me, Sarah, won the cookbook giveaway! I am so excited to send the cookbook to my sister. Click here to see!

Okay, back to the food! So I have a ton of chickpeas in my fridge from my falafel party and I wanted to make use of them, so I made a creamy chickpea chowder. It had such a great flavor. I am sure you will love this scrumptious soup that has just the right amount of spice. My friend said it tasted "cozy..." Ha, I never would have thought of that to describe food. But I like it--"cozy"   :)

Vegetables, oh yes.

Chop chop.

Creamy Chickpea Chowder

 4-6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 cup diced carrot
1 celery stalk, diced
1/3 sweet red bell pepper, diced
1 cup peeled and diced potato
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup 2% milk
3/4 cup corn kernels
1 cup canned (or cooked) chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Over medium high heat, cook onion, carrot, celery, pepper and potatoes in oil for 3-5 minutes until golden. Stir frequently. Add a little more oil if the pan gets too dry.

Stir in spices and cook for another minute. Add butter to the pot. Once melted sprinkle on the flour and stir well. Cook for a minute then add stock and milk. Stir well.

Bring up to a simmer and add corn and chickpeas. Cook for 10 minutes on medium low heat or until potatoes are tender.

Food with friends.
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