Asian Chicken Salad

When you step outside into what feels like a foggy, hazy oven, a warm meal just doesn’t sound enticing whatsoever. What does sound appealing is a cold salad with crisp veggies and a zingy dressing.

First, there is the cabbage portion. I shred mine in a Cuisinart food prep, but you can definitely buy pre-packaged cole slaw mix (just shredded cabbage but they call it cole slaw mix). Then there is roasted chicken; you can again save time and oven heat if you buy a rotisserie chicken. After that there are the sweet mandarin oranges, the crunchy pea pods (which I actually forgot to even add…good thing they taste great on their own), and water chestnuts. I had some baby bok choy ready to be prepared like diced celery in the salad as well, but it was also left out. Apparently my head is in a haze as well.

Just for good measure there are ramen noodles and to add crunch, slivered toasted almonds. This salad is both refreshing and light, perfect for a spring day that feels like late summer.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cabbage, shredded or 1 package cole slaw mix
  • 2 – 3 chicken breasts, roasted and shredded
  • 1 can mandarin oranges (save the juice! see below)
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts, diced
  • 2 packages lightly crushed ramen noodles (throw out seasoning packet)
  • 1/2 cup pea pods (you can also forget this, like I did)
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted (just heat in a dry saute pan for several minutes, turning often) and divided
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup mandarin orange juice
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

How To:

For the dressing, combine the seasoned rice vinegar, sugar, mandarin orange juice, salt and pepper (you can adjust this later, too). While whisking, add vegetable oil. Set aside.

Toss cole slaw, chicken, mandarin oranges, water chestnuts, pea pods, and crushed ramen noodles. Stir in dressing (re-shake if it separated) and mix, getting all ingredients coated by the dressing. Chill for 20 minutes. When ready to serve, add 1/4 cup slivered almonds and re-toss. Garnish with remaining almonds.

Manti

One of my favorite recipes and one of the best soups ever, is manti. I recently tackled manti because a) I really wanted to eat it and b) my mom and nana always talked about what a process it is, and how much money it sells for at the church bazaar. I wanted to prove them wrong and learn that it is a simple thing to make. Well, I was wrong.

This shouldn’t discourage you from making manti, which is actually the name of the little dumplings (but I also call the finished soup manti). Once you’ve got the bowl in front of you, you’ll soon realize all the work was worth it. And maybe that makes the soup even more satisfying. You can also freeze the manti and have them ready for plumping in the tomato-y broth base on any day you need a comfort serving.

A little background: manti is traditionally made with lamb and beef tiny meatballs, wrapped in a little dough, baked, then plumped up in a tomato chicken broth mixture and served with a tangy yogurt. I used ground chicken, and it turned out great. You can use plain greek yogurt or if you are Armenian, you might be familiar with mazoon (Armenian yogurt).

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 pound flour
for the meat mixture:
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (or sirloin or lamb)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat parsley
  • 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground pepper
for preparation of the dumplings:
  • 2 sticks butter
How To:

Mix the water and egg together and add melted butter, olive oil and salt, thoroughly incorporating. Add the flour all at once. Spread flour on a work surface (i.e. granite counter or waxclothed table) and knead the dough until all of the flour has been mixed in. Knead dough to become smooth.
Divide the dough into 3 equal parts and form into balls. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.
For the meat mixture, combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Don’t over mix. Separate the mixture into 3 equal parts and cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the manti, flour your work surface. Roll out one dough ball to 1/8″ thickness, measuring approximately 20″ in diameter. If you think you’ve rolled thin enough, keep rolling until you feel like it just won’t get any thinner. It needs to be really thin. With a pizza cutter or ravioli cutter, cut the dough into 1″ squares. I eyeballed this at first and realize that wasn’t the best method, but it does work.
Melt the butter and liberally brush it on a baking sheet. Take a portion of the meat, such as a small dab, and place onto each square. This will be a very small amount. squeeze the ends of the dough together, hiding the meat inside the dumpling and preventing the meat from falling out. Your manti will resemble a canoe. Place manti on the buttered baking sheet, and make sure they do not touch each other. Once you’ve filled the tray, lightly butter the tops of each manti. Continue with the remainder of meat and dough.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven until golden brown (about 15-20 minutes). Cool on a plate or wire rack. You can freeze manti after baking, and you will want to freeze some because this recipe makes a lot of little mantis. To serve, heat 4 to 6 cups chicken broth with 2 tablespoons tomato paste. Add 2 cups manti and allow to plump up. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt.

Malt Cupcakes

One of my favorite things: chocolate malts. Not shakes, malts. They are different and have that “it” factor. Something chocolate shakes inherently lack. This recipe takes everything malts are, puts it in a cupcake and adds malted milk ball candies (like Whoppers). I don’t think I need to say anything more. I can just write the recipe now.

But…I will explain: the batter is fluffy. There is candy throughout. The frosting has the malt goodness too. And on top? No, not a cherry, a malted milk ball.

Straws not necessary, just big bites.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup malted milk powder (original flavor, Carnation makes this)
  • 3/4 cup malted milk balls, crushed (they crush easily if frozen)
for the frosting
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons malted milk powder
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened baking cocoa (such as Hershey’s)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • whole malted milk balls for garnish

How To:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flours and malt powder; set aside. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until well incorporated.

Add 1/3 of flour mixture to butter-sugar mixture. Add 1/3 of the milk and the teaspoon vanilla. Add flour mix then milk two more times in same pattern, just beating until mixed. Do not overbeat. Stir in crushed malted milk ball candies. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes in pan, then place cupcakes on a wire rack.

For the frosting, beat butter, sugar, malted milk powder, unsweetened baking cocoa, and milk on medium speed with an electric mixer. Frosting should be smooth and spreadable. You can add more milk (1 teaspoon at a time) if you want a smoother consistency. Frost cupcakes and top with one malted milk ball.

Lemon Bars with a Poppy-seed Crust

When I haven’t seen the sun in days, I need to make something bright to remind me of the sun, thus lemon bars. They are cheery, tart and create happiness like a good dessert should. They remind me of tulips, birds chirping, and that trees do indeed get leaves, and I am able to tell myself, “spring will be here soon…spring will be here soon…” Ugh, it has to be.

The great thing about lemon bars is they are refreshing. It’s like having lemonade on a summer day…but instead it’s having a baked treat on a not so warm day. Same effect. Smile inducing.

I used a combination of whole wheat pastry flour and all-purpose flour because I like to add a lil whole wheat where I can. You can most definitely use all all-purpose flour.

And while lemon Bars can’t give you a tan, they can make you envision sunnier days head.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons poppy-seeds
for the filling:
  • 4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • Confectioners’ sugar

How To:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. With a hand mixer, combine the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. On low speed, slowly add the flour, salt, and poppyseeds. Put the dough onto a floured surface and create a ball. Flatten the dough (easier with floured hands) and press it into a 9 X 13 inch baking dish – can be glass, aluminum, ceramic, etc. Build up a small edge on all sides.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very, very lightly browned. Let cool and leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for about 30 minutes. The filling should be set. Leave the bars to cool.

Once bars are cool, cut into squares and dust with confectioners’ sugar by using a sifter.

Lasagna Rolls

There is something that gets me about individually packaged items – string cheese, cupcakes, even bananas. It tells me the portion I’m supposed to eat. Most importantly, it’s all mine, not meant for sharing.

Lasagna rolls are another individually packaged item. There is no dividing and conquering of the baking dish. You only need to scoop out the delicious little lasagna packages.

Ricotta and spinach are wrapped in a long lasagna noodle and blanketed with tomato sauce. Melty cheese is the final layer, as if you need more incentive to make this.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups marinara sauce, more if you like sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella

How To:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Thaw spinach in a microwave safe bowl and squeeze dry. Mix the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup of the Parmesan, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.

Add a tablespoon of oil to a large pot of boiling salted water. Boil the noodles until just tender but still firm to bite (al dente). Drain the noodles and lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet to prevent sticking.

Spray a 13 X 9 inch baking dish with non-stick spray. Pour 1 cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish. Working on the baking sheet, lay out 1 lasagna noodle. Spread about 1/4 cup of the ricotta mixture evenly over the noodle and starting at 1 end, roll each noodle up. Lay the lasagna roll seam side down, without touching, on of the marinara sauce in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles and ricotta mixture. Spoon 2 cups of marinara sauce over the lasagna rolls and sprinkle the mozzarella and Parmesan over the marinara. Cover tightly with foil and bake until fully heated through (sauce will be bubbly), about 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10 minutes; the cheese will become golden. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Serve your individual lasagna rolls, and feel free to have more than one.

Raspberry White Chocolate Bars

The song “Raspberry Beret” by Prince came into my head the second I bit into a Raspberry White Chocolate Bar. It didn’t make much sense since these are desert bars and Prince is singing about a girl wearing a raspberry beret (the kind you find in a second hand store…if you know the song). But, it’s a happy song and these bars will put you in a happy mood with or without the out loud sing-along.

The creamy white chocolate layer and fresh raspberries are sandwiched in between sweet oats. Dessert bars are really just layers of flavors, all working in great harmony (like a Prince song).

“Raspberry beret…if it was warm she wouldn’t wear much more…” If this song was named after this bar, it would be “Raspberry Oat Bars…if she eats more, she’ll have to buy bigger pants.”

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup cold unsalted butter
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 2 teaspoons arrowroot (or 2 tablespoons cornstarch)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • white chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon milk

How To:

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, oats, 1 cup of the sugar and baking soda. Add butter and combine with hands or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside 2 cups for the topping. Press the rest of the crumb mixture into a greased 13 x 9 inch baking pan.

Melt white chocolate chips in microwave. Heat for 1 minute, stir; heat for 30 second intervals until completely smooth, stirring in between. Spread over the crumb mixture in baking pan.

In a saucepan, combine raspberries, arrowroot (or cornstarch), lemon juice and remaining sugar. Bring to a boil. While boiling, stir for about 2 minutes.  Spread evenly over the white chocolate layer. Sprinkle with the reserved crumb mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Oats will be slightly browned. Cool or refrigerate before cutting.

Chicken Broccoli Bake

My mother had two go-to recipes when I was growing up: chicken tetrazzini and a chicken broccoli bake. I find myself craving this staple of chicken and broccoli at those times when I need a plate of comfort. It’s so delicious, it might make it into your weeknight rotation.

Layers of diced chicken, broccoli, creamy chicken soup and curry are the main flavors. Hints of fresh lemon and tangy mayonnaise pull it together along with a cheesy, crunchy top. It’s easy and can be made ahead of time, so all you need to do is pop it in a preheated oven. And no canned soup in this version – below is a simple recipe to make up a batch of cream of chicken soup with items in your pantry.

Ingredients:

for the soup

  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash of paprika
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, divided
  • 1/2 cup flour

for the bake

  • 16 ounces frozen broccoli
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 4 cups cooked chicken breast, diced (I sometime cheat and use a rotisserie chicken)
  • 2 cups cream of chicken soup (recipe above)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

How To:

In a medium saucepan bring the chicken broth, 1/2 cup of milk, and all the seasonings to a boil for about two minutes.

Whisk together the remaining 1 cup of milk and flour in a bowl. Add to the boiling mixture and turn down heat slightly. Continue whisking briskly until mixture thickens. Test to see if it needs more salt and pepper, adding more if necessary. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook broccoli in boiling water until bright green. Transfer to a colander in the sink and spray with cold water; drain. Arrange broccoli in a greased or non-stick sprayed 12 X 9 inch baking dish. Put cooked chicken over the broccoli.

In a separate bowl, combine soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice and curry powder. Pour mixture over the chicken layer. Sprinkle with cheese. Top with bread crumbs and dot with butter. At this point you can refrigerate until ready to use, or place in the oven for 3o minutes until crumbs are golden and cheese is bubbly.

Serves 6-8.

Coconut Cupcakes with Candied Mango

I was taken on a mini vacation courtesy of Coconut Cupcakes with Candied Mango. I’d really like to go back and all I need to do is whip up another batch. No bathing suit required; in fact, its frowned upon.

The batter is light and fluffy and the frosting follows suit. Candied mango is something better than the icing on the cake. It is a little tropical boost on days when it’s not quite spring and it’s definitely not summer.

The taste of coconuts, rum and vanilla will transport you to a beach (if you’re not already on one). I hear steel drums when I bite into one…

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup rum (optional, instead you can use an additional 1/4 cup light coconut milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (can also use a vanilla bean if you want the vanilla flecks)

for the Coconut Buttercream Frosting and Candied Mango:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 sticks unsalted butter (1 pound), softened, but still cool
  • 1/4 cup cream of coconut or 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk with 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup finely diced dried mango
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar

How To:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 (1/2 cup-12 capacity) muffin tins with cupcake papers.

In a small bowl, combine the flours and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, followed by 1/3 of the milk. Repeat process twice, without over beating mixture. You just want the ingredients incorporated. Scrape down the batter in the bowl and make sure batter is blended. Using an ice cream scoop or a small ladle, spoon the batter into cupcake liners, to about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in tins for 10 minutes. Remove the cupcakes and cool completely on a wire rack.

For the Buttercream Frosting: Combine whites, sugar, and salt in bowl of standing mixer. Set the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water  (about 1 1/2 inches deep). Whisk until mixture is opaque and warm to the touch. It should register between 120-130 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 2 minutes.

Using a potholder, transfer the bowl to the mixer stand. Fix whisk attachment and beat mixture on high speed until whites are glossy and sticky, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, cut each stick of butter into 6 pieces. Reduce speed to medium-high and beat in butter 1 piece at a time. If mixture is curdling a little, don’t worry. It will be fine once you add the next ingredients. Add cream of coconut/sweetened condensed milk and coconut and vanilla extracts. Stop mixer to scrape down sides. Continue to beat at medium-high speed until frosting is fluffy, about 1 minute.

Put your pastry bag (fitted with any tip you like, or do what I did and cut a hole after you fill it) into a tall glass and fold top over the sides of the glass. This is so you can put the frosting in without also holding the bag. Fill bag with frosting and tie top. You can also spread frosting on the cupcakes with a knife or frosting spatula.

For the candied mango: combine diced dried mango with 2 tablespoons raw sugar in a plastic bag. Make sure mango pieces are coated with sugar crystals.
Pipe frosting onto cupcakes and sprinkle with the candied mango. Enjoy!
I was taken on a mini vacation courtesy of these Coconut Cupcakes. I’d really like to go back there, and all I need to do is whip up another batch. No bathing suit required, in fact, its frowned upon.

Chicken Fajita Soup

I decided it was time for a fiesta. No reason really, I just felt like making something to help the transition from winter to spring get here faster (as if making mexican food would do the trick). Seems to have worked as the forecast says temperatures in the 60s later this week.

Chicken Fajita Soup is chicken fajitas in a bowl. Add some fun garnishes and you have a one dish meal. No taking out 5+ bowls for all the “stuff” or fussing to make your own fajita (picture an infomercial where everything goes wrong before you try the chicken fajita soup invention). Just a bowl and you, and perhaps some quesadillas on the side.

It’s spicy, salty, and perfect for this time of year- lower in calories and fat than most winter soups. After all, spring is around the corner and that means summer will soon follow…and your bathing suit.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 large bell pepper, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1 bag white corn tortilla chips
  • Several slices pepper Jack cheese (or shredded)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • sour cream

How To:

Pour olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add chicken and begin to brown. Add coriander, salt and pepper to taste, onions, and bell pepper.

Cook 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove chicken and shred or dice. Place back in pot. Add the tomatoes and stock.  Heat for an additional 10 minutes or longer.

When ready to serve, crush 1/4 cup tortilla chips per bowl. Top the chips with some of the diced cheese. Dice the avocado and toss with lime juice. Ladle soup into the bowls, on top of the chips. Garnish with sour cream, avocado, cilantro and additional cheese.

Ice Box Cake

Sometimes an ordinary cake will not do. You need other things like cookies, whipped cream, chocolate and coffee all mixed into one. It may not be a pretty cake, but it’s got a lot of flavor and personality.

An Ice Box Cake is supposed to have more pronounced layers but I got a little jittery while applying the whipped cream layers, worried I was going to run out. No matter- the cake still tasted like cookies and whipped cream should. Really really good.

Although extraordinary, you don’t need a celebration to make this cake, since at its base it’s really is just cookies and whipped cream. No frosting here, no actual cake. Somehow that might make you feel more inclined to make it today, as in now.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 12 ounces cream cheese (can use light)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brewed coffee or Kahlúa
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s)
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee crystals
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 24 ounces chocolate chip cookies, a crunchy, thin variety
  • milk chocolate nonpareils for decoration (as in snowcaps, or you can find ones that are multicolored)

How To:

In a large bowl (you can use an electric mixer fitted with a whisk if you like), with a hand mixer on low start to whip the heavy cream, cream cheese, sugar, coffe or Kahlúa, cocoa powder, coffee crystals, and vanilla. Once it’s combined, begin to slowly increase the speed. You are looking for firm peaks, like fluffed snow on a mountain top..

For assembly of the cake, start by arranging a layer of chocolate chip cookies on the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan. To fill in spaces, break some cookies and fit in-between whole cookies. Spread one-fifth (don’t be stingy) of the whipped cream over the cookies, using a rubber spatula to even. Add another layer of cookies atop the whipped cream, as close together as possible and inseting broken cookies to fill in gaps. Follow with another layer of whipped cream.  Continue to layer until there are five of each, ending with a layer of whipped cream. Smooth over the top and cover with cling wrap. Refrigerate overnight, or if you are on a tight schedule place in freezer for several hours, then refirgerate for a little longer to make sure cookies soften.

Run a sharp knife around the outside of the cake. Carefully remove the sides of the pan. Add decorations –  nonpareils or whatever you like around the edge of the cake. Cut into slices and serve cold.