Hoisin at Home

I got caught flat footed making a crock-pot stir fry the other night. I hadn’t picked up any
hoisin!

As it turns out, I could have made my own from ingredients I had on hand, and probably will next time I create this dish, rather than using a store-bought product. The recipe is so simple, even with a ton of possible variations, that I’m almost embarrassed to reveal it.

For those who are unfamiliar, hoisin sauce is a thick, aromatic sauce commonly used in Chinese cuisine as a glaze for meat, an addition to stir fries, or as dipping sauce. It has both sweetness and pepper heat, though the proportions vary regionally in the Orient, and by taste everywhere else.

There are a ton of variations possible in today’s kitchen and the recipe below reflects this.
Please be sure to read the notes below the recipe before making any final decisions on your own hoisin.

 
Basic Hoisin (with some variations)
Yield: approximately 1/4 cup
Prep time: 10-15 mintues

Ingredients:
4 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp black bean paste OR
1 tbsp peanut butter (natural is better, though commercial will do)

1 tbsp honey OR molasses OR brown sugar
(adjust accordingkly if using commercial peanut butter)

2 tsp rice vinegar OR apple cider vinegar

1 clove garlic, finely shopped or mashed OR
1/4 tsp garlic powder (NOT garlic salt)

1 tsp white onion, finely chopped or mashed OR
1/4 tsp onion powder

2 tsp sesame oil OR extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp black pepper, ground

20 drops Chinese hot sauce OR
appropriatly sized habanero, serrano or jalapeno pepper, mashed

Directions:
Place all ingredients into a bowl and whisk until emulsified. Alternately, place everything
into a Mason jar, seal it up, and shake. Either way, it will take only a few minutes to
properly combine.

Notes:
Soy sauce is your basis, obviously. I’ve been curious about what would happen tothe flavors if Worchestershire is substituted. It apparently gives a more savory and less salty basis to the sauce.

Black bean paste and peanut paste are both shown to be traditional in this sauce, depending on what part of the Orient you prefer to frequent. Chick peas, cashews, or almonds might also be used, though each will lend it’s own distinctive flavor to the sauce.

Rice vinegar is the original ingredient as far as my reasearch has indicated. Apple cider
vinegar will add a different sort of sweetness to the resulting flavor, though it handles the
emulsification quite well. White vinegar will definitely add a bite to the sauce, and may be
favored for the hotter variations.

Fresh garlic is preferable, of course, and less of it is needed. Garlic powder is an excellent
substitute, however. I do not recommend garlic salt as it will increase the saltiness of the
sauce overall and dampen the sweetness of a good hoisin.

Onion powder may be preferable as it takes so little for this serving size. Fresh onion will
lend the same flavor, though you are then left with the rest of the onion to deal with. If you are using fresh onion, however, you get a lot more variety – sweet, mild, hot, peppery, and slightly painful varieties are all available year-round in most areas.

Sesame oil is once again more of a traditional ingredient, thoguh if you have none on hand, an extra virgin olive oil will do. While garlic oil is also available in some areas, it will
cause garlic to become a predominant flavor and potentially drown out everything else.

Black pepper has it’s own special flavor to add to hoisin. I generally prefer white pepper
over black as it offers a milder heat without sacrificing any fo the flavor.

The real heat in this sauce comes from the Chinese hot sauce. Sriracha, Tobasco, or any other commercially available sauce may be used. Understand that using hot sauces stemming from anywhere other than the Orient will give your hoisin a wildly different spin on flavor. Crushing your own fresh peppers into a paste will allow you to use a pepper of your choice, without any extra ingedients. Adjust to your preferences and go wild.

 
Hoisin is such a delightful little sauce, and can be used nearly anywhere a BBQ sauce can be used. As mentioned before, it can be used to marinate meat, as a dipping sauce, as an ingredient for stir fry, or simply tossed with noodles for a side dish.

Try your hand at making a batch and let us know how it turns out. You may never buy hoisin at the market again!

–Ann Cathey

Stuffed Steak a la Italiana

Hello and welcome once again to a round of foraging in my kitchen to produce a meal worthy of my family. In this episode we will discover so many little treasures, and combine them to make a delicious main course!

Tucked away in my freezer was a package of thin cut beef steaks and a small parcel of pre-cooked, shredded chicken breast. A step down into the refrigerator produced fresh mozarella, sliced Provalone, shredded parmesan, some leftover tomato based pasta sauce, and couple of ounces of pepperoni.

What to do with such a combination? Stuffed Steak a la Italiana, of course!

Stuffed Steak a la Italiana
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Bake time: 45 minutes at 350F
Servings: 4

Ingredients:
1-1/2# steak, thinly sliced
6 oz chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dry parsley
1 tsp olive oil
Olive oil spray
6 oz Provolone, sliced thin
6 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced thick
2 oz Parmesan, shredded or sliced
2 oz pepperoni
8 oz pasta or pizza sauce

Spray a baking dish with olive oil and set aside.

Spray a saute pan with olive oil, heat, and sear steak on both sides. Add salt and pepper if desired. As steaks come out of the skillet, curl them like taco shells and place into the sprayed baking dish.dsc_0032

Lightly deglaze pan with water, then toss in chicken and spices, stirring over heat until everything is hot and thoroughly combined.dsc_0034

Lay strips of Provolone into the bottom of each curled steak. Using tongs, divide chicken mixture evenly into the curled steaks. Place another layer of Provolone to cover the chicken. Fold slices of pepperoni and tuck two into each steak. If you have extra, go ahead and add it.

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Spoon a teaspoonful of sauce into each steak, spreading to distribute fairly evenly.

Layer sliced mozzarella across top of entire dish, covering as much of the surface as possible. Spoon a teaspoonful of the sauce into each corner, then dole out the rest and spread it across the top of the mozzarella evenly. Any leftover Provolone may be sliced or diced and added to the top of the dish, as decoratively as you prefer. Sprinkle shredded (not powdered!) Parmesan evenly over the top.

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Bake for 45 minutes at 350F to ensure even heating of meats and melting of cheeses.dsc_0043

Serve on a bed of pasta, with a side of garlic bread, or any other preferred accompaniments.dsc_0044

 

Yes, I know things like this are normally rolled and tied, but I was lacking cooking string at the time and feeling a tad lazy besides.

If you have such things available, feel free to add fresh spinach, extra garlic, sauteed onion, mushrooms, olives, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

What’s Hiding in Your Freezer?

Have you peeked into your freezer or deep freeze, lately? If you are like me, no matter how organized you try to keep it, things will hide away from you. You mgiht be surprised at the wonderful potential that’s hiding in there, too.

Burger patties are good for more than just burgers. Whether they are beef, turkey or veggie, they can always be cooked up and made into wraps for a quick meal. Simply cook the patties in your preferred method, slice them up, and wrap them in tortillas with wil lettuce, guacamole, pico de gallo and shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese. With the side of beans and rice, you have a quick and hearty meal.

With the colder weather imminent, soups and stews are always a good meal plan. A variety of meats and veggies that are likely hanging out in your freezer can be utilised towhip up lovely dishes such as chicken noodle soup and beef stew.

Chili if also a great way to warm up your family and meats may be mixed in this dish traditionally made fromt he poorest cuts of beef. Diced or ground venison, lamb, fowl, pork, and beef are all great starts for a big pot of chili. Have onion and chili powder? You’ve got the start to an awesome one pot dinner.

Frozen tortellini, tortelloni, ravioli, and other pasts provide a basis for numerous dishes including traditional pastas with sauce, pasta bakes (layered like lasagne but with different pasts varieties), and even soups. Chicken broth and three cheese tortellini with a bit of garlic and spinach turns into a lovely soup that’s a fun twist on chicken noodle.

Frozen meatballs on hand? Stuff them into bell peppers with a bit of pasta sauce (tomato based or Alfredo), top with cheese and bake. Serve with a small side of pasta and a green salad for a convenient meal.

For a quick side to many of these menu choices, try this:

Romaine Salad with Apples and Walnuts
Prep time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:
1 bag Romaine lettuce
1 apple
3 oz Swiss cheese
1/4 cup walnut pieces
1 tbsp fresh chives, rough chopped
Your favorite vinaigrette, for serving

Wash and core the apple. Cut into 1/4 inch slices.

Dice cheese into 1/4 inch cubes.

Toss the lettuce into a large salad bowl. Add apples, cheese, walnuts and dressing. Toss to distribute dressing.

Sprinkle chives on top and serve.

 

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

Slow-Cooker Tips

Every appliance in your kitchen will have certain little tricks or things to keep in mind when being used. From bread makers to toaster ovens to crock pots, every appliance has a learning curve.

Here are some tips for using a slow cooker, regardless of which company produced the unit. Some things are universal.

* Most slow cooker recipes are designed for 5 to 6 quart crocks. Keep this in mind when deciding on which recipes to use so that you are prepared for both servings and storage of leftovers.

* When applying a slow cooker liner, open the bag and place it inside the slow cooker’s crock.  fit the liner snugly against the bottom and sides of the crock. Pull top edge of the liner over the rim all the way around. In the event he liner is a tad small, wrap the edges up, then twist the top around (allowing  lots of air to escape) and allow the lid to hold it in place. This is a tricky technique and should be handled with care – any time you open the bag, the escaping steam will be highly concentrated and scaldingly hot.

* Always be careful when removing the lid from a hot slow cooker to allow the steam to escape. Lift at a tilt and keep your hands and face away from the escaping steam to avoid being burned.

* When a dish is cooking, leave the lid alone unless instructed by the recipe. Each peek into the pot or quick stir allows significant heat to escape and adds about 20 minutes to your cooking time.

* If you are using a liner, and you do have to open the lid once cooking has begun to give the dish a stir, remember to stir gently. Shifting the liner, or potentially tearing it with rough handling, is not a helpful action.

* When using a liner, never try to lift food out of the crock by the liner. Always remove food to storage containers. When liner is empty, remove and place in waste receptical.

* Fill your slow cooker 1/2 to 3/4 full for best results. This ensures the liquid will not cook away and food stay moist and tender. Adjust the recipe as needed to fit your slow cooker.

* Always remove leftovers from your slow cooker and the liner (if you use one) and store or freeze in a separate container. Liners are not intended for food storage and should be properly disposed of. Cooked foods should not be allowed to stand at room temperatures (above 65F) for longer than about an hour.

Hopefully you will find some of this information useful in your own kitchen. I have run afoul of several of these things, hence writing them up as a warning to others. That steam is a real scorcher!

–Ann Cathey

Crock Pot Sweet Spreads

Have you seen the price of jams and jellies lately? Why not make your own? You can get as crazy with flavors as you like, and make enough to share. Here are a few recipes to get you started.

These recipes are written more like concepts than with the usual ingredients list due to the many variations that are available for each.

APPLE BUTTER
Warm apple butter is like a taste of fall on a spoon, and it’s even better homemade. Peel, core and dice six pounds of Gala apples and put into the slow cooker. In a separate bowl mix one cup of sugar, one cup of brown sugar, one tablespoon of. cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon of cloves, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and one tablespoon of vanilla extract. Combine with the apples and cook on low until the mixture has cooked down. Uncover and cook for 2 more hours. Blend until smooth and serve or store.

BACON JAM
Bacon jam is an amazing savory AND sweet onion garlic spread that is, we need to repeat, amazing. In a slow cooker, combine 1/2 cup of cider vinegar, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of maple syrup, and 3/4 cup of coffee. Add 1 1/2 pounds of bacon that has been lightly browned and drained. Mix in two small diced onions and three garlic cloves that have been cooked until translucent. Cook on high for four hours. Coarsely chop in a processor and serve warm on toast points.

Spread some of these taste treats on a warm biscuit after you make them, and let us know how you enjoyed the results.

–Ann Cathey

Add Color to Your Diet

Break away from the American tendency to eat brown and white. Meat and potatoes are great in moderation, but you need something more to help maintain your health. Add color to your diet! When grocery shopping, be sure to put at least five different colors of produce in your cart. This is a handy way to ensure nutritional benefits for the coming week.

Some examples:

Avocados
Avocados are a creamy source of heart-healthy fats, as well as non-animal proteins.

Tomatoes
Tomatoes contain lycopene, the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red coloration. Lycopene may help lower the risk of certain types of cancer. Tomatoes are also a great tasting source of vitamin C.

Oranges
Speaking of vitamin C, oranges are chock full of that immunity-boosting vitamin.

Grapefruit
While not a favorite on everyone’s list, grapefruit is not only a vitamin C bearing citrus, some research suggests that it may help to lower “bad” cholesterol.

Bananas
Everyone knows that bananas are a good source of potassium, but did you know they are also full of B6, a vitamin that helps your body convert food into energy?

Cantaloupe
Sweet and juicy, these melons are high in vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy eyes.

 

Use these examples to make wise choices in the foods you purchase and eat. Adding color to your diet will add not only appealing visuals, but an assortment of vitamins and minerals!

–Ann Cathey

Low-carb Doesn’t Mean No-carb

What I am writing to share with readers today is based on my own experiences with the various doctors and nutritionists I have worked with for my own heath needs. I have also done quite a bit of research into food alternatives to help me maintain my health. Not all of this information will have bearing on your personal dietary requirements, but it is my hope to put some of the mystery into layman’s terms to help those who in similar positions to my own.

Low-carb does not mean no-carb. Carbohydrates are a building block of the body, but American cuisine has seemingly gone overboard with carb heavy foods like white potatoes, high fructose corn syrup, and refined flour products. It’s not that these things are bad in and of themselves, but they they are overconsumed, lending to the high rates of obesity and diabetes in America.

Be aware of the carbs you choose. Whole foods such as yams, fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds are all good sources of carbohydrates. They can assist in controlling blood pressure, lowering cholesterol levels and keeping glucose under control.

Flavoring your dishes with fresh or dried herbs and spices can also add a healthy boost to your food. Rather than using chemical enhancements, try ground cinnamon or clove, zested citrus peel, even banana or applesauce to add flavors to sweet dishes. Likewise, for savory dishes there are a wide range of spices and herbs available. Green, leafy herbs such as oregano, rosemary and sage offer additional mineral and vitamin boosts to your cooking.

Opting for whole wheat or multi-grain alternatives to regular pastas and breads may give you a different texture than you are used to, but it will also offer you lower crabs and higher fiber intake.

Nuts and seeds are a great way to boost flagging energy levels. Many varieties improve arteries, lower LDL cholesterol, and are loaded with protein, heart-healthy fats and other beneficial nutrients. A serving is about one ounce – roughly the amount that fits on the palm of your hand in a single layer. Be careful not to over indulge as they are calorie-dense.

Keep in mind, when you are looking at the nutrition panel on a snack to check both the carbohydrates and the dietary fiber numbers. Subtract the amount of dietary fiber from the number of carbs to get a better idea of what your working carb intake will be from consuming the item.

The term ‘gluten-free’ is another label that might fool the unwary carb-counter. It’s surprising to see that the carb levels in gluten-free foods are close to the counts in ‘regular’ foods, and in many cases higher. Keep an eye on these numbers when you are making choices for your individual dietary needs.

In general, try to be aware of what you are putting into your body,a dn how it may help or hurt your personal well being.

— Ann Cathey

Easy Enchiritos

In need of a hot meal quickly?This little Tex-Mex experiment turned out much better than expected.
Easy Enchiritos
 
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Serves 4
 
Ingredients:
1 15ox can black beans, drained
1 8 pack burritos or chimichangas
1 15 oz can chili
1 tsp each garlic powder, onion powder, cumin
lots of grated cheese of choice (to desired cheesiness)
 
Oil spray an 8×8 baking dish. Spread the drained beans evenly in the bottom. Dust spices over the beans. Add a layer of cheese.
 
Layer in burritos. I had to cut one in half to make them fit: five across, two and two halves to fill the rest of the space. Add a layer of cheese.
 
Top all this off with the can of chili, spreading evenly and covering all exposed tortilla to prevent drying. Add another layer of cheese. Go ahead and lay it on thick! You know you want to! 🙂
 
Bake at 400F for 40 minutes to ensure that all ingredients are thoroughly heated and cheese is melted.
 
Serve with dollop of sour cream, hot sauce, salsa, sliced black olives, sliced avocados, or diced green onion, as preferred.
 
I would offer photos, but it went too fast.
Enjoy!
–Ann Cathey

Pillsbury has Gluten-Free Products!

Realizing that gluten free does not mean carb free, I still keep my eyes out for products that might serve well on both dietary lists: the gluten free and the diabetic.

A few months ago I stumbled upon a gluten free product that actually managed to lower the carb count for some foods I adore. Pillsbury offers a line of gluten free doughs for cookies and pie crusts. They are in the refrigerated section of the grocery, near the other cookie, pastry, and biscuit offerings.

Pillsbury has been kind enough to share some recipes that make use of these products. I recently stumbled across one that sounds quite tasty, and I plan to try it out.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cups
Ingredients:
1 container Pillsbury TM Gluten Free refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough

24 miniature chocolate-covered peanut butter cup candies, preferably also gluten free, unwrapped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350F.

Place mini paper baking cups in each of 24 mini muffin cups. Spray paper baking cups with cooking spray.

Place 1 level measuring tablespoonful of cookie dough in each paper baking cup.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until dark golden brown. Immediately press one peanut butter candy into the center of each cookie cup.

Cool 10 minutes. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

Bon appetite!

–Ann Cathey

Fast Food Leftover Madness

Ever wonder what to do with those fast food leftovers in your fridge? Maybe you ordered more than you really wanted, or the kids didn’t polish off all their fries. If it’s substantial enough to warrant tossing in the fridge, it’s plenty to fix for a meal or side for the next day.

Note that wherever “french fries” are mentioned, this could be regular french fries, seasoned curly fries, waffle fries, or even steak fries. They all work wonderfully in your leftover madness.

FRIED CHICKEN SALAD
Cold fried chicken, de-boned and diced make a wonderful chicken salad for sandwiches or wraps with your favorite ingredients. Mayo, brown mustard, chopped onion and peppers are one variation. Another is mayo, yellow curry and purple seedless grapes served up in a pita half!

FRIED CHICKEN TACOS
Strip that chicken off the bone, toss it with garlic and chili powder in a skillet with a spritz of olive oil, then fill your tacos with chicken, cheese and whatever else you may desire.

HASH-BROWN FRENCH FRIES
Take those cold french fries out of the fridge and dice them. Give a skillet a spritz of olive oil and heat some diced garlic. Toss in those fry bits and treat them like hash-brown potatoes. They will cook up to whatever consistence you desire, from soft to slightly crunchy.

Crack and egg into the middle and serve it sunny side up in a ring of hash-brown fries.

CHILI CHEESE CHICKEN NUGGETS/STRIPS
Got some chicken nuggets or strips left over? Arrange them on a dish and heat in the microwave. Smother them in hot chili and your choice of cheese and enjoy.

Garnish with a bit of sour cream and sliced black olives for some complementary flavors and textures.

CHICKEN ENCHILADAS
De-boned fried chicken makes a great filling for enchiladas. Wrap the chicken and some cheese into tortillas, cover in enchilada sauce, heat and serve with fresh guacamole and sour cream.

HUNTSMAN’S BREAKFAST
Start a skillet with a spritz of olive oil and some diced garlic and onion. Cook until the onion is just beginning to soften. Add in a meat, like diced sausage or chicken strips, and cook until hot. Dice the leftover french fries and add the to the skillet, stir this mixture fairly often to keep it from sticking. Whisk up an appropriate number of eggs for the contents of the skillet, adding your spices of choice. Add this to the skillet and cook until the eggs are done.

You might serve this up on a plate with a few dashes of hot sauce, or in tortillas with cheese as breakfast tacos. Either way, it’s a quick and simple breakfast plan.

MORE DICED DELIGHTS
Diced french fries, and other leftover potatoes, with or without onions also make filling additions to stews, bean pots, and even home-made chili. Diced onion rings are great in chili and in hashbrowns.

We’ve actually bought chicken nuggets from the Golden Arches specifically to take home and smother in chili and cheese for supper. It wasn’t the healthiest meal we have ever enjoyed, but it was so tasty we didn’t mind.

— Ann Cathey