Monday, April 29, 2013

Guest Post From Haley at Cheap Recipe Blog: Chinese Chicken Salad

For the first time ever I am turning my site over to a guest blogger, but don't worry, I am leaving you in good hands.  Haley over at Cheap Recipe Blog has agreed to share one of her health conscious, delicious and budget friendly recipes with us here today. Her blog is just filled with tons of great recipes just like this one.  My new favorite is her Challah Bread Pudding with Chocolate and Caramel Sauce, so be sure and CLICK HERE to visit her site after you've enjoyed her post here today.

Hey Savoury Table readers! This is Haley from Cheap Recipe Blog, and I am super excited to be guest posting on Karen’s blog today. I connected with her last year after discovering one of her recipes on Foodgawker.  We recently agreed to do a guest blog swap, which is why I’m sharing this recipe with you today.

I love how effortlessly Karen goes from cheap and simple crowd-pleasing recipes (like her “Something From Nothing” creations) to fancy schmancy, impress-your-friends dishes (like duck empanadas with smoked tomato mayo). And let’s not forget her desserts! She’s got this recipe blog thing down pat.

About My Recipe

So as you may have guessed by the title of my blog, I am all about cheap recipes. Specifically, cheap recipes that are healthy and taste awesome. This particular recipe fits all of my criteria:

·         It’s cheap. About $4 for 4 servings. Booyah!

·         It tastes awesome. Trust me on this. This salad is great whether you serve it to your family as a main course, or whether you divide it up for individual lunches throughout the week.

·         It’s healthy. Especially if you go easy on the dressing J

Today, I make budget cooking a priority. In doing so, I have discovered time and time again that cheap cooking can be delicious and healthy. One of my favorite tips for saving money on groceries - and one that I have implemented in this particular recipe - is to buy fruits and vegetables in their natural state (versus buying produce that has been pre-cut, pre-washed, etc.)  I was able to save about a dollar by purchasing a head of cabbage and chopping it myself, versus buying a bag of pre-shredded cabbage.

The dressing for this salad is my own spin on Savoury Table’s “Something from Nothing” concept. It uses ingredients that you likely have on hand, saving you money and quite possibly a trip to the grocery store. This dressing is good on pretty much any Asian-style salad. Give it a go!

(Budget-Friendly) Chinese Chicken Salad Recipe

Salad ingredients:

1 small head of purple cabbage

3 carrots

3 red Fresno peppers (if you want a little heat)

4 green onions

1 cup chopped rotisserie chicken

Chow mein noodles, for topping

Makeshift Asian-style dressing:

1/3 cup real mayonnaise

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

Pinch of cayenne pepper


Shred cabbage and carrots in a food processor or by using a food grater. Chop peppers and green onion.  Set aside some of the green onion for topping the salad. Toss vegetables together in a large mixing bowl. Place on individual serving plates. Top with chicken, chopped green onion, and chow mein noodles.

Whisk all salad dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Spoon desired amount of dressing over each salad and serve.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A $40 Gallon of Milk and a Little Edible Sunshine: Pineapple Macadamia Cake

Today's recipe started almost a week ago when I ran into the grocery store for a gallon of milk.  Telling myself yet again that I wasn't going to buy not one more thing than that, I put my blinders on headed in.  Deciding that I was just too delicate on this day to carry my heavy purse AND a gallon of milk, I quickly detoured and rolled out one of those little mini shopping carts that I am so fond of (this is always a mistake). 

Just as I was turning my cart around to head to the bowels of the store, the fresh pineapple display caught my eye.  There it was, a fragrant fruit pyramid so appealing I couldn't possibly pass it by.  I quickly grabbed a $3.00 pineapple, threw it in my cart, put my blinders back on and headed for the dairy section.  Somehow, half an hour and $40 dollars later I left the store with my pineapple and $37.00 worth of things that I didn't know I needed until I got there.  It wasn't until I got home that I realized I had forgotten to buy milk.

Within the next few days that beautiful pineapple turned into a prickly lump that rolled around and clogged up my crisper drawer.  For days I worked around it telling myself that after supper I would clean and chop it.  Finally when it started to brown, I chopped it up and threw it in a Gladware container, inviting everyone in the house to help themselves and have a healthy snack instead of a handful of M & M's.  Five days later, the pineapple bowl is still full and the M & M's are gone, but I'm not giving up yet.  I think I'm going to take it and give it a new identity that I know will get eaten.

Years ago before we were married, my husband's secretary gave him a recipe for a gooey little cake that he was just crazy about.   It was one of those community recipes that was a fad in the 1980's.  Full of pineapple and nuts, he loved it so much that even he had a go at baking it every now and then.  After I came along, he passed this recipe on to me and I revamped it, making it the family favorite that it is to this day.  It is so good that I am postponing my Pillsbury Bake-Off diet to bring it to you.  I would blame my blog on my lack of discipline, but I think it is obvious . . . I am hopeless.

Pineapple Macadamia Cake

2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups crushed pineapple (canned or fresh)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1/2 cup shredded coconut
Icing (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream sugar and eggs together in a large bowl with an electric mixer set to medium.  When they are light and fluffy add the flour, soda, vanilla, pineapple, salt and macadamia nuts; continue to mix with the mixer set to low.  Add the coconut to the mixture with a large spoon.  Mixing by hand will prevent the coconut from sticking to the beaters.

Pour the mixture into a greased 9 x 13" baking dish.  Place into the preheated oven and bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool for 5 - 10 minutes.  Spread icing on top while still warm.

8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
1 - 3/4 cup powdered (icing) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1/2 cup toasted coconut

Place the cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla into a large bowl.  Blend completely with an electric mixer set to medium or by hand.  Stir in the nuts.  Spread on warm cake and sprinkle with toasted coconut*.

*To toast the coconut, sprinkle it on a cookie sheet and place in a 300 degree oven.  Watching carefully, bake until it starts to brown.  Stir around and continue to bake for a few more minutes or until is is mostly brown.  Remove from the oven and transfer to plate or bowl to stop it from cooking.  Cool before sprinkling over the top of the icing.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Couple of Words to the Wise and the Weary: Mexican Inspired Chicken and Lime Soup

I caught The Today Show a couple of weeks ago when they had a mommy blogger on talking about her new book on the trials, tribulations and rewards of raising a young family.  She was very pretty, not yet afflicted with that famous deer in the headlights stare that we mothers of teenagers possess.  She had bright white teeth, long shiny hair, sparkling blue eyes and all this was tucked into a size 2 pencil skirt.  I would have loved to hate her, but I just couldn't.  She was adorable.

Even though our lives are very different, I can still totally relate to her, because I once was where she is now.  Not enough hands or hours in the day, at this point in a mother's life you often feel like you need to clone yourself to get everything done.  Then after a long day of cleaning, cooking, running back and forth, and the kids are finally in bed, you find you still have a full day's work to do.  And mothers only get celebrated one day out of the year?!  Doesn't hardly seem fair does it?   

As I watched and listened to her interview, I couldn't help but wish that I could give her the benefit of my hindsight.  If I could I would tell her to relax and enjoy every moment as best she can.  Try not to sweat it too much when the kids melt down in the grocery store, bite their neighbor in their preschool class, or say the "F" word in front of their grandma, because believe it or not, these are the good times.  I don't want to sound fatalistic, but in the not too distant future bigger challenges most certainly await.

In just a few short years her patience will likely be stretched beyond imagination. Adolescence and teenage years are a virtual minefield of alcohol, drugs, sex, bullying, bad attitudes, negative peer pressure, stupid parents, meat head coaches and the always impending fear of internet predators.  It can really get ugly out there.  I once saw a quote on Facebook that said something like, "If you enjoy watching people doing stupid sh*t, you're going to love being a parent."  Yep, that about sums it up.  Don't worry though, you'll probably survive.

So how does this relate to this food blog?  Well, if there is one piece of advice that I'd like to pass on to any parent, blogger or not, it is to make gathering the family together at suppertime a priority.  I know that it sounds pretty simple and oftentimes pretty hard to do, but it will really pay off in the long run.  Family meals are invaluable information gathering sessions that nourish not only the body, but the mind and family as well. All you really need to do is sit back and listen.

And while you're at the table, let the kids eat what they want from what's on the menu that night. Don't worry they'll live, just make them take a vitamin. I've never understood why in the world anyone would want to take a great family bonding opportunity like this and turn it into a "you can't leave the table until you eat your spinach" tug of war. Just bear in mind that no matter how picky they are they will most likely grow out of it before adulthood, and if they don't it will no longer be your problem anyway.

One of the weapons in my weeknight supper arsenal was a Mexican inspired chicken and lime soup.  Everyone loved the base of chicken and aromatic vegetables which was only made better by choosing their own toppings from the Lazy Susan spinning around in the middle of the table.  My son didn't like much of anything in his soup, but my daughter liked a little bit of everything in hers, and that was just fine with me. In the great power struggle between parents and kids, this is one I let them win.

Chicken and Lime Soup

There are a couple of ways to start this soup.  I often use leftover home roasted or store bought chicken carcass and just pour some water or chicken broth over it and either stick it in the slow cooker or on top of the stove, depending on how much time I have.  I'm starting from the very beginning here since I found a nice size organic chicken on sale today.  I cut it in half and will have two full meals here.  In my opinion, a bargain always tastes better than regular price.

The Basic Soup:
1/2 of a medium size chicken
5 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon cumin seed
1 medium size onion, chopped
3 large celery stalk, chopped in large pieces
2 medium size garlic cloves
2 medium size carrots, cut into 1/2" coins
Juice of 2 fresh limes (my juicy little limes produced 4 tablespoons of juice)

Place the chicken, broth, bay leaf, cumin seed, onion, and celery into the bowl of a slow cooker set on high.  Cook for approximately 3 hours.  At this point add the garlic and carrots.  Cook for an additional 30 minutes or until the carrots are tender crisp.  Alternatively, place the ingredients into a stock pot, bring to a boil and cook on low and follow the same method as for the slow cooker.

Remove the chicken from the broth.  Shred the meat and discard the bones before returning it back to the broth. Add the lime juice; stir well and serve.

Serve with your desired toppings from the suggestions below.

Optional Extras:
Cooked rice or fideo (short thin noodles)
Tortilla strips or chips (I like to spray corn tortillas with cooking spray and bake on a cookie sheet at 300 degrees until they are brown and crispy)
Chopped tomatoes
Chopped ripe avocado
Chopped green onion tops
Grated cheese
Chopped cilantro
Slice Jalapenos
Sliced olives, black or green

Serves 6

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Back From Planet Pillsbury: Salted Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

I have to start this post with a big "thank  you" to all of you who took the time to register and vote for my Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest recipe.  I am happy to say that because of all of the love you showed me and my Bacon Corncakes, I will be competing for the million dollar prize in Las Vegas in November.  Like the other 99 people who will be competing with me, winning this contest is a dream of mine and your help has brought me one step closer.  I'm also looking forward to giving you a behind the scenes look at this iconic contest from a contestant's point of view so stay tuned.

Back in December before all this Pillsbury stuff started I felt like I was really hitting my blogger stride.  I had so many great ideas for blog posts, I didn't know how I was going to get them all done in my lifetime, then I got distracted by the contest and everything slowed down.  Now that I am in a holding pattern for the next several months, I'm trying to gather back up all those brilliant blog ideas and regroup.

In an effort to clear my mind and get my creative juices flowing again, I decided to do something totally different and kind of therapeutic for me, clean out my very small and very packed pantry.  I don't often do this so it takes me awhile to get up the courage to see what lurks in the dark recesses.  It usually takes a couple of weeks of having canned goods spill out and smash my toes before I get fed up enough to finally do it, and today was the day.

By the looks of the things I pulled out of there you would have thought that some half mad old cat lady stocks my kitchen.  I know it can't possibly be that long since I last had the courage to purge my dry goods, so how did I manage to miss that cornbread package that was dated May 2006?  I'd also like to know who the hell bought 3 cans of coconut cream, 2 cans of clams and no less than 50 assorted boxes of Jell-O dating back as far as 2009?  And why do I have 2 plastic bags of some odd looking grain obviously from the bulk section of Whole Foods that is only identified as "5887" on the twist tie?  Our household purchasing agent should probably be let go, but I have no idea how to fire myself.

So after 2 hours of solid work, with a couple of coffee breaks thrown in, I finally have a tidy pantry.  I have uncovered some things I have long been looking for and a couple of things that I wish I hadn't, but it is done.  Now I think I'll consolidate and use up a couple of the things I have found by setting a couple of eclectic buffets.  Tonight for example, Mr. H and I are going to have something with lots of apple cider vinegar, canned salmon, peaches and beets, and maybe a hearty serving of 5887 on the side, but dessert is where things are really going to shine.  Since I also found 3 partial jars of peanut butter and 4 open packages of chocolate chips, peanut butter cookies it is.

In the past I've made no secret about the fact that I don't exactly enjoy baking cookies, but for these I will make an exception.  The easy base recipe for these cookies comes directly from my very old and trusty Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.  Then when they're still just a bit warm, I melt a little chocolate, give them a good drizzle and then a sprinkling of Murray River Flake or kosher salt.  Serve these with a cup of coffee flavored with some eight year old powdered hazelnut creamer,and you have the perfect reason to take a snack break from any unpleasant task.

Salted Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for coating dough
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 - 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Thoroughly cream butter, peanut butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla; set aside.  Sift together dry ingredients; blend into creamed mixture.  Scoop into heaping teaspoons, shape into balls; roll lightly in granulated sugar.  Place 2" apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Press gently with the back of a fork in a crisscross pattern.  Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes.  Cool slightly; remove from the pan and cool on wire racks.  Drizzle with melted chocolate (recipes follows) and sprinkle with salt flakes.  Makes approximately 3 dozen.

Chocolate Drizzle

2/3 cup chocolate chips (milk or semi-sweet)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Kosher or flaked salt to taste

Place chocolate and oil in a medium size bowl and stir well.  Microwave in 20 second increments, stirring after each. Continue until chocolate is melted.  Drizzle chocolate over cookies with a spoon in sweeping motions.  Allow to set up slightly.  Sprinkle with coarse or flaked salt to taste. Allow  chocolate to set up for an additional hour or so or until firm.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Something From Nothing #11: Sweet Milk Biscuits

When brainstorming for these posts, I very often find myself looking at some sort of bread, because bread is the original something from nothing.  Throughout time civilizations have mixed together flour and water and produced bread which has sustained them in times of both poverty and prosperity.  It isn't called the staff of life for nothing.  Virtually every culture in the world has their signature type of bread and at some point in this series I'll probably make most of them.

Since this is pretty much the beginning of this series, I thought I'd start close to home with the favorite quick bread of my clan, biscuits.  I'm not taking about the English version that translates to cookie in American, I'm talking about the fluffy little pillowy clouds that have adorned the weekend breakfast table of my family for most of my life.  Slathered with butter and jam or drenched in gravy, no matter how you dress them you've got to love them.

Biscuits aren't just for breakfast either.  This is really one versatile dough.  Leave out the sugar and add herbs to it before dropping it in a bubbling broth, and you have dumplings.  Double the sugar and you'll have wonderful little shortcakes that beg to be topped with strawberries and whipped cream.  Top them with clotted cream and jam and you have the same tasty scones that famous English cream teas are built around.  You can even use this dough as a base for appetizers and sandwiches.

Well now that I have extolled the virtues of biscuit dough, I guess I'll shut up and give you the recipe.  So whether you are planning a memorable breakfast, a summertime dessert or an English tea, this is your go to recipe.  I hope you enjoy.

Sweet Milk Biscuits

You don't have to have buttermilk in the house to make delicious flaky biscuits and this version that uses plain old milk from the fridge proves it.  I'll let you in on an even bigger secret, you can also use reduced fat or low-fat milk, or even water to replace the whole milk and they will still be good.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar (optional, but I love the flavor)
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons shortening (or lard if you have the courage)
1 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor.  Process a couple of seconds to combine.  Add the butter and shortening and process until the mixture resembles cornmeal.  With the processor add the milk and process until the dough pulls away from the sides. You can also do this step by hand with a pastry cutter or fork, it just takes more elbow grease and a little more time.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface.  Form a disk that is about 1 - 1/2" thick and cut with a floured biscuit cutter or small glass that has been dipped in flour.   Place side by side in a non-stick pan or lightly greased cast iron skillet.  Bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown.  Serve immediately.

Makes 8 large 3" biscuits