Sunday, June 28, 2009

Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange Chicken

I heart Trader Joe's. I did not realize how much I loved it until yesterday, as I was pulling things out for dinner, I noticed that a majority of my kitchen is of Trader Joe's products!

Trader Joe's has many easy-to-prepare, delicious meal options. I had recently purchased their Mandarin Orange Chicken, so I decided to try that. I had TJ's Chicken Shu Mai (bite-sized chicken and vegetable dumplings) in the freezer as well, so I made those for a little appetizer. I also had a bag of TJ's Jasmine Rice, so I threw that in the rice cooker and made a salad topped with Chinese noodles and Asian-ginger salad dressing.

The results: better than takeout. The orange chicken was crispy, not soggy, and flavorful although I would have loved just a tad more sauce. The Shu Mai were tasty little morsels (although the dipping sauce was a little too vinegar-y for my taste) and the rice was delicious, as far as rice goes - fluffy, tastfeul, perfect. The only thing easier than making this meal could have been dialing up for delivery, but it would not have been nearly as tasty or quite as healthy of an option.

TJ's Mandarin Chicken will be something I will definitely purchase again... once I make room in my over-stuffed freezer!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Authentic Stir Fry at Home

A little while back, I took a Chinese Cooking class through the Mainline School Nights. Classes were held in a cramped little room above the Hunan Restaurant in Ardmore, PA. I learned to make all of my favorites: Moo Shu pork and pancakes, dim sum, stir fry, and more.

During one of the classes, we were taught that with a little preparation, stir fry can be a very easy meal to produce. There are a few tricks I can teach you to making stir fry at home. Adjust the ingredients to your personal tastes.

First, the way to get a think sauce for stir fry is by marinating your meat. Our instructor taught us to use Chinese corn starch, but regular corn starch worked fine. First, mix together corn starch and soy sauce in a bowl. A ratio of 1 T of cornstarch to 1/4 cup of soy sauce is probably a pretty good bet. Then, marinate your meat of choice for about 1/2 an hour in the mix before you add to a hot wok (or pan). Cooking meat in a hot wok takes only minutes, so be sure to keep a good eye on it and constantly keep it moving.

The second tip I have to offer is work in batches. First, heat 1-2 T of oil in a pan on high and cook your meat in the marinade, remove & set aside. Then, add your vegetables (thicker vegetables like broccoli and thicker carrot slices take longer, so add those first).

If your pan is too crowded, it will no allow moisture to evaporate, so work in small batches of vegetables.

Always keep your stir fry moving. When the vegetables are finished, add everything back to the pan and lightly mix until everything is combined.

Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry

1 lb steak (strip or flank) sliced thin
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
1 pkg Chinese rice noodles
2 T corn starch
1/2 cup soy sauce (do not use Kikkoman, it is too salty - I prefer Pearl River)
Oil for pan (because stir fry cooks at such a high heat, it is important to use oil that has a high smoking point like canola oil or peanut oil)

Soak noodles in warm water for 20 minutes.

Combine corn starch and soy sauce in a medium bowl. Add steak and marinate for at least 15 minutes.

Heat a wok or large skillet to high heat. Coat pan with 1-2 T of oil. Once the oil is hot (it will shimmer and it will pop if you sprinkle water in it), add the beef and marinade to pan. Keep moving the beef around for a minute or two, or until almost cooked throughout. Remove beef from pan.

Add more oil to pan if needed. Add broccoli and stir fry until cooked through - color will be a dark, bright green.

Add beef back to pan. Top with rice noodles and combine.

Serve with rice and for a great addition of flavor, top with a few drops of sesame oil.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Grilled Pizza

I love to grill. I cannot think of any easier way to prepare a meal and nothing can compare to the taste of food hot off the Weber (except maybe food hot off a charcoal grill!). I even grill in the winter when it's snowing!

When the temps are high, I like to take the heat out of the kitchen and out to my back deck. One of my favorite things to make is grilled pizza. With pre-made dough from Trader Joe's (or I have heard that you can buy pizza dough at many pizzerias - all you have to do is ask!) nothing can be simpler!

The possibilities are endless... I like to try new combinations all the time. My favorite grilled pizza toppings are pesto, bbq sauce, grilled chicken, peppers, onions, & goat cheese. Be creative and play with your favorite toppings. Like Hawaiian pizza? This is an excellent way to make it! Just add pineapple and ham and you can practically hear the ukulele strumming away!

Grilled Pizza with Summer Vegetables

  • 1 ball of pre-made pizza dough (I like Trader Joe's)
  • Summer vegetables such as zucchini & yellow squash
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup of pre-made pesto (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • Flour (for rolling out dough)
  • Cornmeal (for dusting - optional)
You will also need:
  • Wooden skewers for grilling veggies (soaked in water about 30 mins)

Heat the grill to med-high (about 375 degrees), you don't need to oil grates.

Lace vegetables onto wooden skewers. Brush with oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Grill, turning occasionally, for 3-5 minutes. Remove from grill, set aside.

Flour a wooden cutting board and either side of your dough very well. Roll out to large shape. It doesn't have to be a circle - whatever you feel like - just as long as the dough is no more than 1/4" thick. If you like, dust the top with cornmeal (this will be the bottom of the pizza after you flip the dough).

Slide dough off of board onto grill and cover. When dough comes easily off of the grill and there are nice grill marks, you'll it is time to flip (about 5-8 minutes)! The dough will probably form a big air bubble, just deflate it.
Close grill and let pizza cook on the other side for 3-4 minutes. Spread pesto on dough. Add vegetables and sprinkle with cheese. Cover for another minute or two - until cheese melts. Garnish with oregano.

Slice, serve, and enjoy the smiles on everyone's face after biting into this treat!

Pesto (makes 1 cup)

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
You will also need:
  • A food processor (or, I use my Magic Bullet!)
Combine the basil and pine nuts in bowl of food processor. Pulse a few times. Add garlic and pulse a few more times.

Slowly pour in olive oil in a constant stream while food processor is on. Stop to scrape down sides with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt & pepper to taste.

*With the Magic Bullet, I simply add all of the ingredients at once and pulse until combined.

Add to pizza, flatbread, pasta, & more!


Friday, June 19, 2009

Beach Baby, Beach Baby...

I am not sure why, but I hate to admit I am a fan of Martha Stewart though I am beginning to cave. The woman does have an empire after all. I LOVE "Everyday Food" (a cooking show on PBS which is under the Martha Stewart umbrella) and they have a little TV Guide-sized monthly publication that I subscribe to. I have become such a big fan, that I've actually started listening to it on the radio on the Martha Stewart satellite radio channel!

I was listening the show this morning on the way to a meeting and they were talking about food memories. Food editor Sandy Gluck was talking about her memories of boardwalk food and as I was listening I could taste salt & vinegar boardwalk fries on my tongue!

Growing up, we frequently spent summer vacations at my grandparents' place in Bethany Beach, DE. During our stay, we would head to either the Rehoboth Boardwalk or Ocean City Maryland in the evenings to have some fun. We also spent a lot of time at the Jersey Shore. Each locale has their own food hot spots that are just as important as the beach itself. The food memories I have tied to the good 'ol days at the beach are so strong, I can smell the air of sticky, sweet, and salty waft through my nose as I type this.

Straying from my usual attempt to discuss healthy, well-rounded meals, I want to take this opportunity to hear about your favorite beach/boardwalk memories.

My Favorite Beach/Boardwalk Memories:
  1. Grotto's Pizza - always a desination if we're ever in the area. The delicious cheese spiral on their pies, you just can't get that taste anywhere else!
  2. The Gravitron - at the Ocean City, MD boardwalk. I can still smell the pleather padding mixed with grease and I can hear the *thud* of the walls sliding up and down...
  3. Picking out taffy at Kandy Kitchen... 10 of the peanut butter swirl.. NO!.. 10 of the peppermint!
  4. Waiting in line for what seems to be hours to get the perfect cone of ice cream at Springer's in Stoner Harbor, NJ.
  5. Taking a tour of nostalgic goodies with Kristin at Ocean City, NJ beginning with homemade donuts.
  6. Being introduced to Mack & Manco's by the Mac himself, Mr. Macchione!
  7. Posing in the Flip Flops for pictures at OCNJ.
  8. Riding bikes with my Aunt Ann and cousin Paul to get sticky buns at Mallon's in Avalon.
  9. 2 words... Boardwalk Fries!
  10. 2 more words... Funnel Cake!
What are your favorite beach memories? Better yet, can you come up with 10?

I challenge you!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Product Alert

In non-food related news, I'd like to share something from "Real Simple" (my favorite magazine). They send me "Daily Finds" email updates and this is one I'm really excited about.

Kiehl's is one of my favorite stops in the city. Located in Rittenhouse Square, it's a wonderful little apothecary-like store where you can purchase high quality skin- and hair-care products (and you'll find excellent customer service, too!). I was very excited when I got an email from "Real Simple" today detailing about one of their products...

Beauty That Gives Back By Lisa Whitmore

Look good and feel even better by choosing skin, makeup, and home products that donate to worthy causes

To Help Protect Waterways From Pollution…

The Kiehl’s Superbly Restorative Argan Body Lotion is made with fair-trade organic Argan oil, an effective moisturizer and antioxidant. The limited-edition lotion comes in generously sized bottles in four different designs: One created by singer Erykah Badu, one by surfer Kelly Slater, one by actor Adrian Grenier, and one by students of New York City’s Parsons The New School for Design. All the net proceeds go to the Waterkeeper Alliance.

Very cool...


Saturday, June 13, 2009


This is a little something new I am going to try. As I've said before, I have many friends and family members that are also fanatical cooks. I'd like to dedicate a segment for them and share some of their favorite recipes.

Michele, Ryan's sister-in-law, always contributes something wonderful to eat whenever the family gathers (in many cases, she is the hostess... with the mostess! She often is the host of wonderful spreads in her gorgeous kitchen!). Something that she makes that always goes over very well are her lemon bars. As I've said before, I am not a huge dessert person, but when it comes to these lemon bars, I'm a HUGE fan!

Lemon Bars with Blueberries

  • 1 pkg Duncan Hines® Moist Deluxe® Lemon Supreme Cake Mix
  • 3 lg eggs
  • 1/3 cup butter flavored shortening
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tsp grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Combine cake mix, 1 egg and shortening in a large mixing bowl. Beat at low speed with electric mixer until crumbs form. Reserve 1 cup.

Pat remaining mixture lightly into ungreased 13x9-inch pan lined with parchment paper.
Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned, checking often in the last 5 minutes to make sure they aren't browning too quickly.

Combine remaining 2 eggs, granulated sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel, baking powder and salt in medium mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer until light and foamy. Pour over hot crust.

Top with blueberries and sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.
Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cool in pan. Cut into bars.

*Tip- These bars are also delicious using Duncan Hines® Moist Deluxe® Classic Yellow Cake Mix.

After Michele cuts the bars, she places them in cupcake wrappers for a nice presentation. Although some don't get as far as the wrappers... Ryan manages to pop a few in his mouth as soon as he has the opportunity!


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Something pretty cool...

Did you know that you can order products in bulk on Amazon like you can at BJ's, Costco, or Sam's club. No, I don't mean to be advertising for them, but I think that's pretty stinkin' awesome. Plus, if you order more than $25.00 worth of merchandise, you get free shipping. This could mean a lot trouble for me and my already-overflowing pantry...


Sunday, June 7, 2009

How do you take your burger? I like mine Greek!

Greek Burger with Sundried Tomatoes, Feta, and Tzatziki

I am re-posting this entry because I made them last night and Ryan was there, armed with his Nikon (this food blogging business has been good for him - I cook yummy food to blog about and all he has to do is take pictures!)

A while back, my dear friend Kristin and I visited a spot in Media, PA that is one of those places where you can go and prepare meals that can be taken home and frozen for later consumption (which I am sorry to say just closed its doors). Among 5 or 6 other entrees, one of the things that I prepared was something called a Greek Burger.

For a fun take on grilling, try this little twist on the hamburger (I have adapted the recipe to fit my preferences, but I think you'll enjoy it):

That's me!

Greek Burgers (makes 4)

  • 1 lb. lean ground round
  • 1T steak sauce
  • 1T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 4 pitas (opt for smaller ones if you have the choice)


  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Feta cheese
  • Tzatziki (a Greek cucumber yogurt dip - optional)

Heat grill to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients except pitas (don't be afraid to get your hands in there and get dirty!).

Form 4 flat football-shaped patties (so that it will fit in a pita when folded in half).

If you are freezing, prepare up to this point and put in plastic freezer bags. When you are ready to use, defrost overnight the night before making.

Grill to your desired doneness (about 5 1/2 minutes for medium-rare) then place in a folded pita.

Top with feta, sun-dried tomatoes, and perhaps a little tzatziki if you're feeling authentic!


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Something on the light side...

Last night, I was craving something light for dinner and decided a salad was the way to go. To me, salads are a quick and easy way to have something light but still feel satisfied. I like to get creative with my salads though, especially when they are the main course!

Summer Salad
  • Grilled chicken cutlets
  • Romaine lettuce (or Spring Mix)
  • Crumbled blue cheese
  • Dried cranberries
  • Diced avocado
  • Sliced red onion
  • Shredded carrots
  • Chinese noodles
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T raspberry vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Mix greens and all ingredients below on list in serving bowl. In a small jar, combine vinaigrette ingredients and shake to emulsify and toss into salad.

For grilled chicken, simply season with salt, pepper, and a little bit of
Herbes de Provence (if available) and brushed both sides with canola oil. Heat grill to 350° and grill for 5 minutes/side or until internal temp is 155°. (The USDA recommends 170° but that is far too cautious in many peoples' opinions and will produce tough, dry chicken. Remember, meat continues to cook after you remove it from the heat)

Remove chicken from grill and let rest & cool a bit to room temperature. Slice, and add to salad.

Easy as pie. Or salad...

*Note- if you are planning on making enough for leftovers, do not add the dressing, avocado, and noodles until just before serving.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Museum of Natural History

The days of food where you were able to actually pronounce all of the ingredients in an item bought at the grocery store are becoming a thing of the past. Is "nature" history?

The presence of artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and other unnatural chemicals found in food these days frightens me beyond description. Cancer runs rampant in my family, and hearing about the links of processed food and health risks has a giant red flag waving in front of my face.

More and more, I have been trying to reduce processed foods in my diet as well as eat local, organic, sustainable foods (phew! what a mouthful). That is why I am so excited that Weavers Way Co-op is expanding to Chestnut Hill. Weavers Way has purchased the former Carusos building on 8418 Germantown Ave. Weavers Way is a community owned grocery store that focuses on local, organic, and fair trade items. Call me a hippie, but that sounds wonderful to me!

A friend of mine, after remarking on his organic fair-trade banana, told me that the quality and value that you find at Weavers Way is unmatchable. For now - I do my food shopping in a number of places: Traders Joe's, Giant, Maple Acres, BJ's, and Wegmans, each for their own qualities. Now, it seems that I will have another destination to add to my list.

I can't say that I will make a membership at Weavers Way worthwhile, but I am going to give it a try! Construction is set to begin in mid-June and the opening is slated for October/November. Stay tuned...

If you would like to learn about more ways to stay local in Philadelphia or no eating organic, I have a number of links listed on the bottom right side of this page. My favorites are Emeril Green, Dine Indie, and Local Food Philly. If you have a great local spot for buying organic produce, a recipe, or anything else to add, please share with us!


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