Thursday, April 23, 2009

Szechwan Chicken

For the love of spicy food and as an (Americanized) attempt at making tribute to my Asian roots, I present Szechwan Chicken. It isn't as good as Aunt Bik's recipe at Wok Inn Express but Chris and I think it's good enough to be a keeper. It's a fast meal to prepare, too!

The funny thing about Asian food (especially my family recipes) is that there really aren't any recipes! They come from such an awesomely creative line of cooks that much of the cooking is done by visualizing and tasting. Honestly, the only family recipe that I have is for Almond Jello...and I don't even think it's a "family recipe"! Ah, if only I can get my family's delicious recipes in a form that I can follow and make on my own...maybe, just maybe, I'd like Chinese food even better!

Family - if you are reading this...PLEASE(!!!) post some family recipes so that I can carry on the legacy!!! At the top of my request list: Grandpa Ng's Char Siu (BBQ Pork) Buns, Turkey Jook (Congee), Beef Tomato Rice, Wonton Mein, Singapore Mei Fun (Curry Noodles), Almond Cookies, Bolo Bao (Pinapple Buns), Don Tat (Egg Custard), Grandpa Ng's sausage stuffing, Formosa/Wok Inn Express/Gourmet Wok Egg Rolls, Wok Inn Express Sesame Chicken (for Chris lol), Ali's Pear Torte...goodness, this isn't such a short list and I'm sure there are more! :)

Szechwan Chicken
(Source: Based on All Recipes)


  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups mixed stir-fry vegetables, sliced/diced into bite-sized pieces (ex: zucchini, broccoli,
  • carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, water chestnut, bamboo shoot)
  • 1 lb chicken breast, cut into thin strips
  1. In a bowl, stir together water, ketchup, soy sauce, cornstarch, honey, crushed red pepper, and ground ginger. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in onions and garlic; cook 30 seconds. Stir in chicken and cook until outside is no longer pink. Add vegetables and stir-fry until vegetables are soft and chicken is cooked throughout. Stir in sauce. Cook and stir until sauce is bubbly and thickened.
  3. Serve with steamed rice.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Foccacia Bread

I've been having some serious bread cravings lately...and no, not like the "pickles and ice cream" type of craving, as Tom asked :P. I've made simple doughs before for pizzas and rolls but this is my first attempt at a real loaf of bread. It turned out pretty well but I think it could have used more oomph...maybe next time put some cheese IN the bread...along with fresh herbs instead of dried? Could have maybe let it rise a tad longer, too. Regardless, it had a pretty good crisp crust to it and a nice soft inside. In only about an hours time from start to finish you can't argue with a fresh bread made from scratch. A delicious compliment to our spaghetti and meatballs and a nice change from the typical frozen garlic bread.

Foccacia Bread
(Source: All Recipes)


  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup mozzarella
  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, basil and black pepper. Mix in the vegetable oil and water.
  2. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Punch dough down; place on greased baking sheet. Pat into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Brush top with olive oil. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spaghetti Meatballs

Anybody that knows me knows that I am a HUGE pasta fan. This may be blasphemy as an Asian person but honestly, I'd take noodles over rice any day! Atkins Diet? NO FREAKING WAY!

This recipe comes from Chris' Grandma B. She passed it along to her daughter Mary Lynn who subsequently passed it along to me. For those in the B. family that know and love this recipe, you'll notice that I've taken some chef liberties to make it my own. Read: I probably added more garlic and heat! I have experimented and found that you can use turkey instead of beef and it tastes pretty much the same. It continues to get the "Chris stamp of approval" and never fails to please. And, it's surprisingly easy! This batch makes a lot but freezes very well. Normally I can make about 4-5 meals out of a single batch.

Serving suggestions: Over noodles (we like spaghetti and penne) or use meatballs to make homemade subs which then frees up the sauce for other uses such as with Manicotti (recipe to come at a later date!)

Spaghetti and Meatballs
(Source: based on recipe by Helen B., Chris' grandmother)

READY IN 3 Hrs 20 Mins
SERVINGS ~35 1.5" meatballs and a lot of sauce!


  • 1 ½ lbs ground beef or turkey
  • ½ lb ground sausage
  • 1 small clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 slice stale bread
Spaghetti Sauce
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried bay leaf
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cracked red pepper (or to taste)
  • ½ cup romano or parmesan cheese
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 large can (12 oz) tomato paste
  • 36 oz water
  • 1 large can (29 oz) tomato sauce
  1. In a sauce pan and olive oil and sauté all spaghetti sauce ingredients except for tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Sauté until soft. (Note: If cheese makes mixture form a large clump, don't worry - it will dissolve by the time the sauce is done simmering.)
  2. Add large (12 oz) can of tomato paste. Use tomato paste can to add 3 cans of water.
  3. Add large (29 oz) can of tomato sauce.
  4. Reduce heat to a simmer.
  5. While the sauce is beginning to simmer, prepare the meatballs. In a large mixing bowl, combine all meatball ingredients until well mixed. Using hands, shape into 1.5" diameter balls by rolling gently between hands. Repeat until all balls are formed then cook meatballs in a skillet until browned on the outside.  Drain grease and then put meatballs into sauce.
  6. Let simmer on low heat for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stuffed Peppers for Two

One area where I feel like we could eat better is to ADD MORE VEGGIES to our diet. Problem is, if it doesn't have meat (ie: is vegetarian), Chris is unlikely to like it. My solution? Stuffed peppers packed with nutritious vitamins...and meat (protein is good for you, too!). Pair it with a salad and maybe some garlic bread and you have yourself a nice little semi-healthy dinner.

I actually made this recipe in advance so that Chris will be able to pop it into the oven when he gets home tomorrow. Such is his role when he gets home first...though this will soon change when we move to our new home!

Stuffed Peppers for Two
(Source: loosely based off of All Recipes)

READY IN 1 Hr 20 Min

  • 1/3 lb ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons uncooked long grain white rice
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 red, green, yellow, and/or orange bell peppers
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried minced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (adjust to taste...for reference, Chris and I like our Ambar Indian
  • food at a spice level 4 out of 6...I'd give this a 2.5 on that same scale)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
  • sprinkle of italian seasoning
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Place the rice and water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook 20 minutes. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the beef until evenly browned.
  3. Cut peppers in half. Remove and discard the tops, seeds, and membranes of the bell peppers. Arrange peppers in a baking dish with the hollowed sides facing upward.
  4. In a bowl, mix the browned beef, cooked rice, 1/2 can tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, dried minced onion, cumin, chili powder, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and cheese. Spoon an equal amount of the mixture into each hollowed pepper half.
  5. Spoon remaining tomato sauce over peppers. Sprinkle with italian seasoning.
  6. Bake 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the peppers are tender.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Penne a la Vodka

The best Penne a la Vodka that we've ever tasted comes from Patsy's in New York City. It is so good that my cousin Laura calls it "Happy Noodles"...because eating them makes you...well...happy! Since then I've searched high and low to find an equally delicious version to make at home.

This recipe isn't a copy-cat but definitely has a spot on our go-to menu and is Chris' favorite recipe that Christine makes. The prep/cook time is short which makes it an added bonus and easy to make during the week after a long hard day at work. The recipe makes a lot for just the two of us and we usually make at least 2 meals of it. It's kind of funny because we buy vodka soley to cook this meal...not to drink!

PS: I don't normally measure my garlic, sugar, basil, cracked red pepper or salt and pepper but I know I added these ingredients to get the taste to match the profile I was going for. Usually I just add it by eyeballing so you may need to do some adjusting!

Penne a la Vodka
(source: modified from All Recipes)


  • 1 (16 ounce) package penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced pancetta bacon, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • cracked red pepper, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook per package directions until al dente; drain (do not rinse).
  2. Meanwhile, melt butter or margarine in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, and pancetta, and saute until onions are soft and translucent and pancetta is lightly browned. Add vodka and stir until it is reduced by half, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Add sugar, basil, cracked red pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer uncovered for 10 to 12 minutes. Stir every few minutes.
  3. Stir in pasta, and heat through. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Cake Balls (Truffles)

These little puppies have received rave reviews all around lately (so much so that our friends want to make them for their wedding favors!). This recipe is very versatile...think of all the combinations of cake, icing, chocolate, and decorations you could do! They are the perfectly portioned little treats to satisfy your sweet tooth...but watch out or you may just end up eating the whole batch yourself!

So far I have made this recipe using strawberry cake/vanilla frosting/white and milk chocolate coating for Valentine's Day and carrot cake/cream cheese frosting/white candy bark for Easter. My next adventure? I'm thinking possibly chocolate cake/chocolate frosting/mint chocolate coating...mmm...just like a thin mint!

Cake Balls(Source: Modified from All Recipes)

COOK TIME 1 Hr 20 Min
~60 servings (1" balls)

  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package chocolate (or preferred variety) cake mix
  • Up to 1 (16 ounce) container prepared chocolate (or preferred variety) frosting
  • 1/2 package candy bark coating OR bag of chocolate chips (of preferred variety)
  • Sprinkles to decorate (optional)
  1. Prepare the cake mix according to package directions using any of the recommended pan sizes. When cake is done, allow to cool for about 30 minutes.
  2. Place wax paper on a cookie sheet and place into freezer to chill.
  3. Put cake into a large bowl and blend in the frosting (start with 1/2 container and add more as needed; Use less for a more cake-like texture - it will still look a bit crumbly which I find ideal) using a mixer. Mix until well-blended.
  4. Melt chocolate coating in a glass bowl in the microwave, or in a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.
  5. Remove cookie sheet from freezer. Use a melon baller, small scoop, or hands to form ~1" balls of the cake mixture. Roll balls to desired shape and place on cookie sheet. Place balls in freezer for ~30 minutes. If using toothpicks to dip, insert one toothpick per ball before placing into freezer.
  6. Dip the balls in chocolate using a toothpick or use spoon to get balls out of chocolate. Place on waxed paper and put in refridgerator to set. Referigerate until ready to serve.
  • I have made the recipe with both a full can of frosting (per directions) and ~1/2 can. I prefer the more cake-like texture of the lesser amount of frosting. Suggest you start with 1/2 can and add more as needed to suit your tastes.
  • Make sure cake has cooled a bit before mixing with frosting or it gets too gooey. Refridgerating mixture and/or adding less frosting helps with rolling if your mixture is too sticky.
  • I put a wax paper lined baking sheet into the freezer ahead of time and pull it out when I'm ready to roll the balls. If you prefer to use toothpicks to dip (method similar to buckeyes), put them in now. Then put the tray of balls into the freezer for ~20-30 minutes.
  • I use a glass measuring cup in a pot of water on the stove to melt my chocolate and keep it warm throughout the dipping process. If I had a double broiler, I'd use that :).If using chocolate chips you may want to thin it with oil. No need to thin the candy bark (coating) if you use that.
  • When balls are sufficiently frozen, put into chocolate mixture. If using toothpick method, dip and remove using toothpick. Otherwise use spoon to get them out. Tap the spoon to remove excess chocolate and then let ball slide back down onto the chilled baking sheet. If you want to decorate with sprinkles, do it now while the chocolate is wet. Put balls in fridge until chocolate hardens. Keep refridgerated until ready to serve.
  • If it doesn't turn out too pretty, no worries, it'll still taste delicious! Keep practicing and you'll get the hang of things :)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Crockpot Turkey

Did you have any idea that you could make a turkey in the crockpot (slow cooker)?? Me neither until I came across this recipe. Just imagine having a delicious turkey dinner ready for you by the time you get home from simple, so delectable. As an added bonus, just make some roux and add the turkey juices to make some mean gravy. With this recipe, you too can have turkey any day of the year, not just on Thanksgiving!

Crockpot Turkey
(source: All Recipes)

READY IN 8 Hrs 10 Min

  • 1 (6 pound) bone-in turkey breast
  • 1 (1 ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix


  1. Rinse the turkey breast and pat dry. Cut off any excess skin, but leave the skin covering the breast.
  2. Rub onion soup mix all over outside of the turkey and under the skin.
  3. Place in a slow cooker. Cover, and cook on High for 1 hour, then set to Low, and cook for 7 hours. (NOTE: I have made this recipe using the just the Low setting for 8 hours and it's turned out fine, too. Cooking on High for a bit makes the turkey a little more "carvable" versus "fall off the bone". Either way, it tastes delicious!)