Tag: easy recipe (page 1 of 2)

7 Ingredient Chewy Pecan Bars

Hi again!

Sometime before Thanksgiving, I was trying to decide between pecan pie and pumpkin pie..a very serious problem =O. So, I played the husband card and had Tim decide. Though he picked pumpkin pie, I also wanted to do something with the big bag of pecans from Costco. HMM…I remember seeing this recipe in my recipe binder of sweets, so I pulled it out. I’m glad I made it, because they are SO goood! If you need more reasons to make these, I’ll list 7:

1) No corn syrup. (I am not a fan of its gloopiness)

2) 7 ingredients only, including salt o.O

3) Super easy to make. Really. easy. No need to even buy leavening agents.

4) Has whole wheat flour, so you can say these are whole grain

5) Passed the co-worker test (Tim’s coworkers) with flying colors!

6) Have a great shelf life and stay chewy for a long time (if they stick around that long)

7) Are sturdy, packable and would be great for care packages for friends

It’s everything you want in a pecan bar- chewy, crunchy, nutty, sweet, and just a little salty. Best of all, I actually think that using whole wheat flour enhances the nuttiness, as it seems to be a perfect match for all that sugar and nuts.

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Secret Ingredient Stir-fry

Since moving to Indiana, I’ve found fewer Chinese or Asian grocery stores (three so far), and fresh Chinese cuts of pork have been slightly harder to find, but chicken is ever-present and evermore inexpensive. So…I guess it’s time to make more chicken?  Also,  I find myself reverting to making dishes with pork because that’s what I love and am used to eating, so using more chicken is a culinary stretch for me 😉

My mom and grandma started having weekly get togethers at Puopuo Jia (grandma’s house) which involve sharing stories and best of all, food. Sometimes my grandma cooks, sometimes they make food together, and sometimes they find a restaurant to try together. There’s a Sichuan restaurant that they loved (where my grandma and waitress spoke in Sichuanese, which I never even knew puopuo spoke!) that my mom’s going to take me to when we visit in December! Wooo!

My mom was telling me about one of my Puopuo’s most recent food experiments; this time it was feng ji,(風雞), which translates to ‘wind chicken,’ because part of the process involves drying the chicken outdoors. Chicken gets salted and Sichuan-peppered , put in the fridge for a few days, then is hung outside to ‘dry’ and continue in the curing. Then, you steam it and EAT IT! After all, Chinese people don’t do prosciutto, cheese and crackers as a snack;D

Puopuo used her garage for the curing step, but I have no garage or basement, nor a crafty box to ward off critters as it hangs on the balcony.

Hearing of chicken, salt, and hua jiao (Sichuan peppercorn) made me salivate and want some, too. Since I haven’t devised that box yet, I made this dish to temporarily stave off my craving for some of puopuo’s feng ji. Thanks for the inspiration, Puopuo!

Turns out that this was quite tasty- the hua jiao does not overwhelm the chicken, and yet lends a nice different taste than ‘typical’ stir-fries. The carrots stay rather firm and don’t produce much water, so even if you stove is weaksauce, your stir-fry will not boil 😀 This was NOT created to be a spicy dish; the hua jiao are just supposed to give the chicken a little something. You can certainly add dried hot peppers with the oil at the beginning, if you wish.

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Cornmeal-Crusted Okra

cornmeal okraEvery year for the past 4-5 years or so, I have signed up to receive a CSA (community supported agriculture) share for the late spring/summer/early fall months. What is a CSA? This means I pay a lump sum at the beginning of the season, and get a bag of produce every week, which varies depending on weather and availability. The farmer(s) decide what I get to eat, which means that the vegetables are currently in season, often at their peak, and amazingly fresh. This also means I have no say in the vegetables I get, but also means that I can plan meals around the vegetables, which sometimes actually helps me get a head start!

Most of the time there is no one at the CSA pick-up, or if there is, we keep to ourselves, check our names off the list, take our stuff, and leave. However, about a month ago, I bumped into a nice lady named Robin, and we chatted about what we wanted to do with such-and-such crops in the share that week.

I got stuck on okra, though…what to do with a big bag of okra, besides made gumbo, which I didn’t have time to do that week?

I’m from the South-let me tell you how to cook the okra, Robin said.

Ooh! Yes. This should be good.

Slice the okra into thin disks, coat with cornmeal, pan-fry on low, and season with salt and black pepper.

No egg?

Nope; the sliminess from the okra will help bind the cornmeal. When I was growing up, while our family said grace before dinner, my siblings would have their hands hovering over the plate, ready to snatch.

Skeptical but amused, I set out to make okra a la Robin. And let me tell you…I had no trouble seeing why her siblings fought over it! It disappeared in seconds, the first time I made it.

Just like with the beef and corn recipe, I lament not having been able to get this post out earlier, because I fear that okra will soon disappear from the produce aisles! No matter..if you can find okra, you should really make this recipe, especially because it requires less than 5 ingredients, even if you count the salt and pepper.

Wherever you are, Robin, thank you for sharing with me this simple but tasty preparation of okra!

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The Move

Due to some unfortunate circumstances, we moved yet again! I am thankful for friends and co-workers who graciously gave up their Saturday morning to help us.

Those of you who have had to move know that it’s a pain in a butt to pack everything, and also know that the number of boxes representing the kitchen area seems to always outdo boxes from any other room. I am trying to pare down the ‘stuff’ I have…do I keep my shaved ice maker? The Taiwanese in me screams yes! And, after our trip to Taiwan (less than 72 hours to go!!), I am sure I will be re-inspired to make shaved ice.  

Does anyone want a stovetop waffle iron? It’s a gift from my mom, but after 2 waffle sessions, I realized that I didn’t have the patience to make waffles over the stovetop and have to babysit them. (Sorry, Mama!) I am looking for a good home for them, so inquire within. Obviously, you must be able to pick it up from me..no deliveries 😉

Before the move to our current place, I went through a sad period of about 1-2 weeks where I didn’t feel much like cooking or baking. It’s hard to feel inspired to create when you can’t feel like the place you are living in is your home, for me, at least. It’s also hard when lots of your kitchen stuff is still packed away in boxes! By the time I snapped out of it and realized that I had to resume my routine for my sanity’s sake, it was just about time to move again..

I am thankful to be living in our new place, where we really like it. We have just gotten settled, and almost all the boxes have been unpacked or moved to closets. I am excited to cook!……when we return from Taiwan. We’re leaving on Saturday….sooo excited! We will be back in 2 weeks.

We bought a Costco-sized pack of AA batteries for my camera in preparation for our trip. We plan to take pictures of everything we eat, and maybe pictures of some scenery and people here and there 😉

I’m excited for many things in Taiwan, but I can’t deny that the food is one of the top things I’m excited for. Taiwanese people really know how to make great snacks, sweets, and food of all sorts! I can only pray that I can learn to re-create a few of the delicious morsels we will feast on in one of Asia’s best places 🙂

In the mean time, here are some Taiwanese/Chinese recipes to transport you to Taiwan while I am gone!

Lu Rou Fan (The most popular recipe on this site, believe it or not!)

Yan Su Ji (Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken)



Jiu Cai He Zi (Chinese Leek Boxes)

Garlic Chives/Pork/Shrimp/Dumplings

Spicy Pepper Stir-Fry (Make it as a side for your dinner tonight. I will be making it to go with our steamed fish!)

Homestyle Tofu

Sweet Red Bean Soup with YuanZi

Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

Did anyone remember eating Knott’s Berry Farm shortbread cookies? I really enjoyed them as a kid, and always wished that I could get more baked jam to go with the rest of the cookie once I had nibbled the middle away.

Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

Now I have the power to make them, and so do you! These little shortbread cookies are addicting, and have a healthy dose of salt to balance out the sweetness from the jam. The best part is that they are very easy to make, and you probably have most of the ingredients already, if not all.
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Black Pepper Steak

I really like black pepper. As a kid, I used to shake a bunch of blackpepper onto my New England Clam Chowder at Souplantation (Sweet Tomatoes in the South), and would put tons and tons on my scrambled eggs at church retreats (so much that sometimes I contemplated unscrewing the cap for a bit). Aside: Looking back, I realize that one of the contributors to me furiously shaking the black pepper was its loss of intensity due to being pre-ground. If you don’t yet have a pepper mill, do yourself a favor and buy 1) a pepper mill 2) whole peppercorns. As you know, whole spices keep much better than ground spices, so do yourself a favor and jump on my whole spice bandwagon! My peppercorns have lasted indefinitely, and I never regret having to grind them fresh because of how superior they are in taste.

When I staged at the French restaurant, one of the now-former garde manger cooks informed me, rather authoritatively, that black pepper was supposed to be an accent, not a main flavor. Though I agreed that one should not add so much black pepper in dishes so that it overwhelms the other flavors, it made me kind of sad that black pepper is not more often the star in the dish. Two memorable food items include the black pepper filet mignon on Chinese banquet menus, and black pepper sauce at Hong Kong-style cafes in the San Gabriel Valley like Regent or
Garden Cafe.

When I first made this dish in May, I had some flank steak to use up, and the poor celery was getting limp from too much time in the fridge. This time, I was equipped with delicious skirt steak, and fresh peppers from the CSA.

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Taro-Coconut Tapioca Dessert (xi mi lu 西米露)

Things have been pretty busy around here! Practices for the Mendelssohn Club choir have begun, I’ve been to New York City and Staten Island just in this month, and we’ve started to pack for our move to a smaller but less expensive apartment. It’s been 5 years since I’ve lived at the same place for more than a year, so I’ve gotten into the habit of cooking from the pantry and freezer the month or month and a half before we have to move. Tim was also working late most of this past week (and got free breakfast/lunch/dinner), so I had no one to help me eat all the food!

Today, I pulled out some taro I had frozen a while back. Taro is another ingredient that freezes quite well.  So, the next time you see pretty taro in the grocery store, buy it, freeze up what you don’t use, then make this easy Chinese dessert soup. Even though I call it a soup, it’s thicker* than a soup but thinner than tapioca pudding or a custard. You should totally make this dessert because it only requires using one pot! The version I make is not super sweet, and doesn’t skimp on taro or coconut milk taste. I hope you will try it out sometime 🙂 My neighbors had it- the parents loved it, but the 3 and 10 year olds had one spoonful each and decided they didn’t like it at all! Hopefully y’all will enjoy it like the parents did. Oh yeah! I also made this for our pastor’s ordination ceremony in a huge 16 or 20 quart pot, and there was none left at the end. :d

xi mi lu ximilu

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Gan bian si ji dou 干煸四季豆

I hope you will forgive me for making not totally dry and not totally flat string beans. Let me explain…gan bian si ji dou is a standby dish that my sister and I would order because we were confident that it would be on a Chinese restaurant’s menu 95% of the time. Whether it was the plenty of garlic in the dish, morsels of ground pork, or the salty string beans, something kept us coming back! My mom would judge this dish based on how gan (dry) and bian (flat) the string beans were. Restaurants most often deep fry the beans to save time, but for the dish to be true to its name, you were supposed to stir-fry the beans in oil  until they slowly dried out and flattened.

The string beans from the CSA were amazing, and I couldn’t bear to cook the string beans silly, so I erred on the side of less dry and more plump.

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Megan’s Spicy Chicken

I decided to see what would happen if I added all the ingredients I liked together in a pot with chicken. So, I seriously just added a little bit of this, a little bit of that, tried to think what else would go with what, and went with it. The outcome? A new favorite! I don’t know if any real Sichuan person would nod his/her head in approval, or shake it in dismay, but I used components of what I know to star in Sichuan dishes, like chili peppers and peppercorns. Anyhow, this was my tribute to Sichuan in the form of a chicken dish. I want to name it Lee Family Spicy Chicken, because Tim has upping his spicy game, and can now eat from the same spicy dishes as the big kids (like me :D).

I like this dish a lot, not only because it is spicy and low maintenance ( just like me 😉 ), but because the ingredients are fairly standard ABC kitchen ingredients. For me, I happened to have all of these ingredients in my kitchen. Your mileage may vary, but the good thing is that these ingredients keep well, especially if you take my advice from a previous post and freeze your ginger! For some pictures of ingredients not commonly found at American grocery stores, visit this post on Sichuan spicy cooked fish to see what all these things are.

The third version of this chicken; the plainest looking but the best tasting!

Our dinner comprised of this chicken, in addition to stir-fried cabbage (that I made without the spicy peppers), and lots of rice.
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Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma)

I am a spice nut. I have an entire drawer dedicated to spices, and it still overflows! I have been acquiring spices of all kinds- from simple Sichuan peppercorns (hua1jiao1 花椒)to poultry seasoning to amchur (green mango powder). Aside: Whenever possible, I buy whole spices (nutmeg, cumin, coriander, cardamom, black peppercorns, etc) so they keep for longer without losing their potency. I have made it a habit to label my spices with the purchase date so I know how fresh/strong they will be.

Spice Islands says:
Ground spices: 2-3 years
Whole spices: 3-4 years
Herbs: 1-3 years
Seasoning Blends: 1-2 years
Extracts: 4 years

A rough guideline for how long to keep herbs and spices.

  • Ground Spices 2-3 years
  • Whole Spices 3-4 years
  • Herbs 1-3 years
  • Seasoning Blends 1-2 years
  • Extracts 4 years

– See more at: http://www.spiceislands.com/SpiceEducation/ShelfLife.aspx#sthash.tpVGbVvd.dpuf

A rough guideline for how long to keep herbs and spices.

  • Ground Spices 2-3 years
  • Whole Spices 3-4 years
  • Herbs 1-3 years
  • Seasoning Blends 1-2 years
  • Extracts 4 years

– See more at: http://www.spiceislands.com/SpiceEducation/ShelfLife.aspx#sthash.tpVGbVvd.dpuf

Even though the spices take up a good bit of space in my kitchen, I have the freedom to make spicy food and not have to run to the store for xyz missing ingredients.

I have been trying to cook with legumes more at home, and one of my co-workers, who is Indian, brought in a homemade kidney bean curry dish for me to try, to thank me for bringing baked goods (that he would regularly try) so consistently. I liked it a lot, and realized, hey, I have lots of Indian spices..I can probably make this, too! I don’t remember his verbal recipe exactly, but I found one online that had lots of similar ingredients.

Rajma, adapted from Show Me The Curry

-kidney beans – 1.5 cups dried beans, soaked overnight in enough water* to cover, plus 1 tsp salt, then cooked until tender, OR 4.5 cups canned (drained and rinsed)
-oil – enough to cover the bottom of the pan
-onions – 2, finely chopped
-ginger – 1.5 tsp, ground with garlic in a mortar and pestle, OR coarsely chopped
-garlic – 1.5 tsp, ground with ginger in a mortar and pestle, OR coarsely chopped
-cayenne powder (~1/2 tsp to start), chopped green chile peppers (1-2 to start), or whatever hot/fiery source you want
-turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
-ground cumin – 1/2 tsp
-ground coriander – 1 tsp
-garam masala+ – 1 tsp
-tomatoes – 2 cups, fresh or canned (fresh would be better), coarsely chopped
-a few pinches of amchur powder (green mango powder)
-salt – to taste
-cilantro – to taste

1) Cook the soaked kidney beans in a pot for about an hour with 1/4 tsp turmeric, or until tender (taste one!), or rinse them if you have canned beans. 

2) Add oil, onions, garlic, and ginger to a heavy-bottomed pot (I used a Dutch Oven). Cook on medium to medium high, stirring constantly, to semi-scorch the onions and soften them.

3) Lower the heat to medium low.

4) If you are using fresh peppers, turn on range hood / fan / open windows, add chopped up hot peppers, and stir to wake the heat up 🙂

5) If you are using dried peppers, add turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala, and pepper powder. Stir constantly for about 20 seconds to wake the spices up.

6) Immediately add tomatoes, and cook for a few minutes to heat up the tomatoes if using canned tomatoes. For fresh tomatoes, cook until the tomatoes break down and get saucy.

7) Add beans, amchur powder, and adjust for salt.

8) Stir in cilantro (or not, if you husband despises the taste D:) and serve with rice. 

+Make your own garam masala:

-1 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns
-16 whole cloves
-6 whole cardamom seeds (green)
-1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
-1 teaspoon whole black, small cumin seeds
-2 bay leaves
-2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds

Grind all of the ingredients in a coffee bean grinder or pepper mill. Store in a airtight jar and use anytime a recipe calls for garam masala! 

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