Tag Archives: easy

Fried rice!

I think there are very few people out there who haven’t had fried rice. It’s an amazing, tasty thing…but you know, for a long time, I didn’t like it. My dad makes it with Spam and oyster sauce, which is really popular in Hawaii, but the two tastes together always made me quick to put my fork down. The flavors in it just didn’t jive with me.

And so, for a long time, I wasn’t a big fan of fried rice…until I finally made my own. And boy, was it good! M likes hers with egg, which I don’t, but I love adding tofu, bean sprouts, sauteed cabbage… The flavor and texture combinations are endless. In this one, I used both egg and boiled peanuts, along with the usual veggies. Pheasants! Fried rice is the perfect vehicle for vegetables! Don’t forget this. You can put essentially any tasty vegetable in it…the more, the merrier, although I usually stick to a 1.5:1 rice to veggie ratio to keep it rice-y.

As for rice types, I prefer to use whatever I have in the fridge at the time…long grain or short, I’ve never noticed much of a difference, as long as the rice is chilled and not too mushy.

Pheasant’s fried rice

2 1/2 c rice, chilled

1 c mixed veggies (frozen is perfect!)

1 egg

4 tbsp minced onion (the real stuff, not dehydrated)

1/4 c “party style” peanuts

3 cloves garlic, minced finely

1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce (Aloha brand highly recommended)

3 tsp fish sauce

3 tsp garlic or vegetable oil

First, heat some water to boiling and place your peanuts and veggies into a bowl large enough to fit them as well as some hot water. Pour the boiling water over them, and let it all soak for about ten minutes. If you like your peanuts softer, drain and repeat the process.

Heat your pan or wok to medium-high. Add 1 teaspoon of oil and allow it to heat. Scramble your egg, add a little water (a tablespoon or so) and add it to the pan. You want to cook it to a soft scramble…it should be creamy and not too dry. Take them from the pan, place them on a plate, and cut into little curdles, like so: 

Now, place your onion mince in the pan and allow it to sauté until softened and browned. Add in your garlic; allow this to sauté as well, and then add in your rice. You’ll want to add in the remaining oil now…make sure to spread it around so that it evenly coats everything. Now toss it like your life depends on it!

Once the rice and onion/garlic are mixed, drizzle in the fish sauce and soy sauce, making sure to also spread it around. Live action shot time: 

Stir the rice again, and let it cook for about three more minutes. Once this is all done, add in your drained peanuts and vegetables, making sure to mix it all up so that it’s nicely divided and scattered. Then, add in your egg bits, stir, cook for another five minutes, and…oh, ma belle, oh, ma chérie….you are beautiful. 

 

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Filed under Ethnic, Pastas, grains and oatmeal

Chicken and spinach enchiladas

If there was ever a point in my life where I was forced to eat only one ethnic group’s food for the rest of my life, I’d probably pick Mexican food. All the pungent flavors, bright colors, and different textures just sing to me when I eat it. It’s beautiful! Red tomatoes, green peppers, yellow rice, brown beans, and slowly-cooked meats marinated in deliciously spicy (or sometimes sweet-savory) sauces…how can you go wrong?

When M and I first moved into our current apartment, I was unsure of my cooking skills as chef, even if I had been cooking for over a decade. So, when we began planning out the meals we’d eat, M decided she wanted enchiladas, and I readily agreed. Simply to make and easy to eat, enchiladas are a great meal to make, whether cooking for a crowd or just two people. M and I always make four enchiladas, and eat two apiece. This night was an anomaly, but I chalk it up to the veggies in the enchiladas…they’re great filling!

I mixed up a canned enchilada sauce with chipotle peppers, roasted garlic and spices to make it taste better than ever, and add some to the filling to make the flavors pop. You can use any kind of shredded cheese you like, although I always reach for Tillamook. When wrapping, it’s easiest to roll with the flap on top so that you don’t get filling all over everywhere.

Cheesy chicken and spinach enchiladas

3 chicken thighs or 2 chicken breasts, poached and shredded

4 flour tortillas (we used medium ones, as large is too big)

2/3 c shredded cheese

3 c spinach, wilted and chopped

2/3 c refried beans

3/4 c canned enchilada sauce (we use Rosarita brand)

1 tbsp chipotle pepper puree (or adobo sauce, if you prefer)

1/2 tbsp roasted garlic, mashed into a paste

cumin, cayenne, pepper and garlic powder to taste.

Preheat your oven to 350°F (176°C.) Line an 8×8 inch cake or brownie pan with foil.

In a pan, heat the refried beans and season with some cumin, cayenne, garlic powder and pepper. Mix and cook until heated through, then set aside. While it’s cooking, use a small bowl to mix the enchilada sauce, roasted garlic, pepper and chipotle puree. Taste and adjust for spice.

In a large bowl, mix together the shredded chicken, chopped spinach, and about a 1/3 cup of the shredded cheese, as well as 3 tablespoons of the enchilada sauce. Spread two tablespoons’ worth of enchilada sauce across the bottom of the foil-lined pan. Place a tortilla inside the pan and spread 1/4 of the beans across the tortilla. Fill it with the chicken and spinach mixture, then fold it and flip it over. Repeat with the remaining three tortillas.

Once all your tortillas are folded, spoon the remaining sauce over the enchiladas, making sure to spread it around evenly. Top with the remaining cheese, and pop them in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is entirely melted. If you like, place them under the broiler for a few minutes for color, but keep an eye out to make sure the cheese doesn’t burn.

Once you’ve taken the enchiladas out, serve them up with beans, chips, pico de gallo and whatever else you like! 

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Filed under Ethnic

French onion soup

Today, pheasants, was approximately as cold as Washington gets when there’s no snow involved. It was absolutely freezing and I was walking around in a skirt and heels down in the U district, looking for a job.

Coming home, M and I were nothing short of tired and cold, and very hungry. We’d picked up a loaf of my favorite French bread (crusty on the outside, light and fluffy as a dream on the inside) with which to dip, nosh and generally make merriment. This soup is brothy, light and satisfying. The recipe feeds two hungry people, three less hungry people, or four to six as an appetizer. In an effort to make the easiest soup known to man, I present now to you:

Pheasant’s easy onion soup

2 medium yellow onions

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 tsp garlic mash

1 tsp ground, dried rosemary (measure after grinding)

2 tsp soy sauce (Aloha brand highly recommended)

2 c beef broth

2 c water

bay leaf

1/4 c red wine (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

In a soup pot, heat the oil on medium. As it’s heating, slice the onions very finely. Add them to the pan, stirring. Mince the garlic and add it, as well as the garlic mash, rosemary and some pepper. Stir this all together and allow it to sauté for a few minutes until everything starts to wilt and become translucent. 

Turn the heat up to medium-high and allow the onions to brown for a while. Once it’s beginning to brown and crisp, turn it back down to medium-low and let it go for 20-30 minutes, checking occasionally to adjust the heat, until the onions have become caramel-colored, soft, and reduced to 1/3 their original size.

Once reduced...voila!

The pan should have a nice, deeply-browned (but not burnt!) fond across the bottom (fond is the fancy French term for that brown crusty stuff on the bottom. And it’s better than gold!)

This is fond. You may now fall to your knees in worship.

Turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the soy sauce and wine to the pan to deglaze, making sure to scrape every last bit of that fond off the bottom. If you aren’t using wine, just use a little water. Once everything is all mixed together nicely, add the bay leaf, beef broth and water, then turn it up to a boil. When it boils, turn it down to a simmer and let it go for about ten minutes, or reduced to 2/3 its original volume.

A little taste-test during the process...

If you like, melt Gruyere cheese over crostini and float in the soup. M and I, however, prefer our French bread dipped into the broth. Enjoy!

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Filed under Autumn, Seasonal, Soup, Winter

Hollandaise and happiness

Hollandaise never lasts long in our household. Honestly, it takes about ten minutes to make, and half that amount of time had (barely) passed by the time we’d licked up the last stray flecks of this creamy, golden, buttery sauce.

I’d never actually had hollandaise until long after I’d met M…I tried it for the first time and could barely keep myself from making a second batch, and a third. If you’ve never had this sauce, it’s a creamy, buttery, smooth sauce with rich hints of egg, lemon and cayenne. The perfect hollandaise, in my opinion, strikes a balance where the acid of the lemon cuts through but doesn’t hide the smooth, full-bodied flavor that comes from egg yolks and butter.

There are a lot of things people like to do with hollandaise:

  • drizzle it over steamed asparagus
  • use it over poached salmon for an extra layer of flavor
  • on the infamous eggs Benedict

I, however, prefer it rather simply: with a piece of toast cut into soldiers* and a spoon. A cold winter afternoon with a small pot of hollandaise and a good book can really only be heightened with tea. Enjoy!

M’s favorite hollandaise

2 egg yolks

4-6 tbsp butter, softened

1 tbsp lemon juice (add more to taste if you like)

1/8 tsp cayenne

salt to taste

In a small, small pot (I use a sauce warmer) place the egg yolks, one tablespoon of butter, and the lemon juice. Whisk it all together and place it over low. Whisk continually, watching the butter. Once it’s melted, add another tablespoon and keep whisking.

As you can see, the sauce is very yellow when it starts out. The color will fade slightly as it cooks.

What you’re looking for in the sauce is a thick, almost mayonnaise-like consistency. I know some people like a thinner hollandaise, but M and I prefer it rich and thick like sour cream, or aioli. As the sauce begins to thicken, keep stirring. You will know that the sauce is done once you lift the whisk, letting some sauce drip back into the pot, and don’t see a slightly darker yellow ring around the droplet.

Once the sauce is done, take it off the heat and whisk in the remaining butter.

Taste it and correct for seasonings. Then, serve it up! This recipe makes enough for two hollandaise-loving people.

*Note: “toast soldiers” is a way of saying, toast cut into thin sticks for dipping.

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Filed under All things eggs, Sauces and condiments

Swiss buttercream chocolate bombs

*Names changed to protect the fabulous

For the past two months or so, I’ve been trying to conquer what I considered to be nigh unconquerable: the evasive Swiss buttercream. A simple enough concoction that’s essentially a meringue with a Paula Deen-approved serving of butter whipped into it, it’s notoriously difficult to master. I’ve seen professional bloggers finally post with glee about it. And pheasants, today, I have done just this: I am Mistress of the Buttercream! I’ve requested M call me this at least once a day for the next week.

From what I’ve seen (and tasted,) the big draw for real meringue-based buttercreams is not only the light and fluffy texture, but the high-gloss shine you get from it, and the fact that it doesn’t crust over the way normal frostings can. It tastes almost deceptively good for you in a light, airy sort of way.

On that note, I can tell you a little somethin’-somethin’ about these mini cupcakes and chocolate frosting: they’re rather addictive. The recipe I made creates two dozen of these little guys, and I’d been planning on a dessert night with our roommate Kamal* tonight. They may not last so long.

I was still making the buttercream when M came home today. As per usual, she immediately dipped a finger in and pronounced it edible. Edible?! I screeched, waving my hand mixer around like a child on speed. I’ve been working for twenty minutes on this! It’d better be tastier than “edible.” She then took one of the little cooling cupcakes from the plate beside me, dipped it in, and popped the entire thing in her mouth. This, she liked. I could see why; the evidence was smeared all over her face!

When it comes to the chocolate bombs, the chipotle puree and Nutella aren’t necessary, but they do bump up the flavor. The mini chocolate chips are also technically unnecessary, but they make the bomb itself very moist and smooth.

The bombs themselves can be made with any cake batter, but the chocolate-chocolate combination was a winner in this apartment.

About the buttercream, I have several tips:

  • Check the egg whites every minute or so while they’re on the double boiler. They should never get hot enough to burn your fingers, or anywhere near, but they will end up an opaque, very meringue white at the end.
  • Once you’ve added the butter to the frosting, it WILL look like you’ve messed up when it falls, and it may turn to soup. Keep whipping. As you add the butter, it will solidify and become the fluffy, gorgeously silky frosting you were looking for.
  • Try out your favorite flavorings, food colorings and additions to it! Experiment, experiment, experiment. There’s really not such a thing as bad frosting, and as long as you aren’t adding heavy items to it, it should hold up just fine.

Pheasant’s chocolate bombs and Swiss buttercream

Yields two dozen chocolate bombs

For the bombs:

3/4 c flour (AP or whole wheat)

1/3 c cocoa powder

1 tsp coffee powder

1/2 c sugar

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 c mini chocolate chips

2/3 c milk minus 2 tbsp

1/8 c vegetable oil (I used soybean)

2 tbsp fat free sour cream

1/8 tsp chipotle puree (optional)

2 tbsp Nutella spread

1 tsp vanilla

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350°F (171°C.) Spray a 24-cup (or two 12-cup) mini cupcake tin(s) with Pam.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together. Make a well in the center and add in the wet, mixing until combined. It should be a rather thick, almost cookie-like batter. Drop by the tablespoonful into the muffin cups. When the batter is all gone, stick the muffin tins in the oven and set your timer for 11 minutes.

Once the cupcakes are done, allow them to cool completely before popping them out of their tins and frosting.

For the buttercream:

2 large egg whites (reserve the yolks for Hollandaise!)

1/3 c sugar

10 tbsp butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsp cocoa powder (or other favorite flavoring)

In a large, heat-proof mixing bowl (I used our Pyrex bowls) mix the egg whites and sugar together. Set a medium sauce pot, half-filled with water to simmer on the stove. Once it’s hot and simmering, place the bowl of egg whites over the water and whisk gently until you can dip (very clean!) finger in and not feel the sugar granules when you test it between your fingers.

Once this is done, using a hand mixer, mix on medium-high until it’s doubled in volume, white, and glossy.

Once you've whipped it well, it should look thick, glossy and beautiful!

At this point, add the vanilla and half the cocoa, as well as one or two tablespoons of butter. Continue to mix until the butter is completely incorporated, then add in the second. The frosting will fall a little as you mix, but don’t despair! It will set up nicely as you beat it. Before adding the last few tablespoons of butter, taste the frosting. If you want it more cocoa-y, add the rest of the powder. If not, don’t!

Once all your butter is incorporated and you’ve got thick frosting, spoon it into a piping bag (or in my case, a zip lock with the tip cut off) and pipe it on! 

Try not to eat them all in one sitting ;D

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Filed under Baking

Roasted garlic oil

A few weeks ago, my mom dropped by with probably the best gift M has ever received: a bottle of homemade roasted garlic oil. She’d never had it before, so I took the opportunity to serve it up the best way I know how: with a lot of crunchy, thinly-sliced crostini and small sprinkles of sea salt. M went mad. She consumed about half a loaf of bread herself before she caught me giving her that look. It was, however, officially decided that roasted garlic oil needs to be a main staple in our kitchen.

My mother’s garlic oil was given to us in the sweetest little pouring bottle, stoppered in glass. It’s quite beautiful. The golden oil is something like magic, the color of fairy dust and Cinderella’s golden slippers. It tastes and smells as good as it gets, too: lightly perfumed, with just the right amount of sweetness to make a soft sigh imperative.

Unfortunately, our oil as run low of late…we balefully watched as I poured the last bits of oil from our reserve bottle (also thoughtfully provided by my mom) into the little pouring bottle. We sighed with sorrow. I love it lightly drizzled over toast in the morning with a small dash of sea salt…served up with an egg, it’s about the nicest breakfast you can have on a cold day. Or any day, really.

Well, once I’d decided that I needed roasted garlic for those delicious sandwiches I made, I knew that I could put it off no longer: it was officially time to bring out the peanut oil I had in my pantry and get down to business.

But, my little Pheasant bleated, What if it isn’t as good as your mom’s? Oh no. No, nay, never, no nay never, no more…this oil will be the best. Ever. Just as good as mom’s, I said firmly. I nodded and set off to make the greatest garlic oil I’ve ever tasted.

There are SO many ways to use this oil, and it’s really only limited by your imagination. Here are some ways M and I like to use our garlic oil:

  • Drizzled into mashed potatoes for a more subtle garlic kick (paired with mashed roasted garlic, it’s always a winner!)
  • Use it to sauté onions and mushrooms before tossing with pasta
  • Open up a hot baked potato and spoon a bit inside before salting and continuing with your usual toppings (skip the butter.) It adds a great, subtle garlic flavor that kicks everything up a level.
  • Use it in place of olive oil for aioli…come to think of it, sub the roasted garlic for plain in aioli and you’ve got yourself a winner!
  • Use it on little crostini with sea salt…it’s by far our favorite thing to do!

Roasted garlic oil

1-2 large, tight heads of garlic (depending on whether you want just oil, or garlic mash too)

3 tbsp olive oil

2 c peanut, olive or corn oil

 Using the directions for my best-ever roasted garlic, roast your one or two heads. 

Once they are cooked and cooled, pour the 2 cups of your oil of choice into a non-reactive saucepan or small soup pot. Carefully peel every clove of roasted garlic from one head and drop it into the oil. Set the pot on low heat and let it go for 2 to 3 hours, checking every so often to make sure it isn’t simmering. A few small bubbles here and there are fine, but nothing big. Once done, take it off the heat and leave it to cool.

If you’re making two heads for garlic mash, take the cloves from the second head and smash them all in a small jar. Cover and place it in the fridge.

Garlic mash made easy!

After you’ve let the oil cool, scoop out all the garlic from it and place them into the small jar along with your garlic mash. Place oil in the jar just until it covers all the garlic; replace in the fridge.

In a small glass jar with a lid, or some kind of cap (ours is just like a tiny doorknob with a silicone cap on the bottom for a seal) pour your oil. Pour any excess into a glass bottle (either recycled or new, it doesn’t matter as long as it seals.)

Both bottles will keep in the pantry for about three months. Granted, ours never lasts so long. Keep the garlic mash refrigerated well, and use it for antipasto, in garlic mash potatoes, as a flavoring in tomato and cream sauces, or anything else you like!

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Filed under Sauces and condiments, Seasonal, Summer

Creamy, easy rice casserole

Sometimes, there are just recipes that immediately make you think of home, fond childhood memories, and that warm, fuzzy feeling you got from warm food on a cold night. For me, one of those recipes is chicken divan, and I can’t even begin to tell you why.

I am not, unfortunately, making chicken divan for this recipe. Collective sigh… Tonight, I’m just hungry. Chicken divan takes about an hour to prepare, counting the cooking and shredding of chicken, and another forty-five minutes to bake. I didn’t have that kind of patience tonight, mostly because I worked all day and didn’t take a lunch. It does end up cramping my cooking style… This morning, however, I did have the foresight to take out some chicken thighs. But, when I got home, I knew above all else, I wanted something creamy, hot, and chicken divan-esque…so, I threw this recipe together. And good gracious, it was fantastic. Not chicken divan, but everything short of it.

This is cooked rice combined with condensed mushroom soup and some chopped veggies that creates a most luscious taste in your mouth…rice that melts in your mouth like a dream, surrounded by the creamy soup base that cooks up almost like a pudding. The vegetables studded throughout make it easy to eat and wonderful to look at. This is a great meal for kids, too, because the mild flavors work wonders with them. I only used carrots and onion in mine, but I can definitely see how chopped broccoli, cauliflower, peas, lima beans or even finely-chopped kale would be wolfed down in an instant by even a picky eater.

Pheasant’s Creamy Rice and Mushroom Casserole

1/2 c uncooked white rice

1 c water

1 10-oz can condensed cream of mushroom soup

chopped vegetables

garlic powder and cayenne to taste

Set your oven to 350°F (171°C.)

In a small sauce pot, combine the rice and water. Bring it to a boil, then lower to the barest simmer and allow it to cook. Once it’s finished, do not remove the lid. Simply remove the rice from the burner and set it aside; the steaming part is essential to separate grains and to avoid nasty, gluey rice.

While the rice is cooking, line a loaf pan (or double the recipe and use an 8×8 brownie pan) with tin foil. Spray the foil with Pam. Chop the vegetables into approximately uniform pieces and spread them in the pan. You don’t have to be pretty with it…they’ll get all mixed up anyway. Empty the entire can of soup mix into the baking pan and mix it with the vegetables. Empty the entire pan of rice into the baking pan and mix everything all together well, adding spices, tasting and correcting as you go.

Once it’s all mixed, pop that puppy in the oven for 30 minutes. Once finished, take it out and do your best not to eat it until somewhat more cooled. Serve up with your favorite protein, and enjoy!

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Filed under Pastas, grains and oatmeal