Sesame Chicken Pasta

When deciding what to bring to a potluck or barbecue, I look for a dish that is easy to make, yields a large amount, and doesn’t need to be piping hot to taste good. Enter this Sesame Pasta Chicken Salad.

Sesame Chicken Pasta

I have come across this at two gatherings (made by two different people), and we have made it ourselves three times in the last couple of months. It is a total winner. Here is my version, modified slightly from the one at Allrecipes.

1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 (16 ounce) package bow tie pasta
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 rotisserie chicken, meat shredded
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or more to taste)
1/3 cup chopped green onion (or more to taste)

1. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool. Transfer to a large bowl.
2. Combine vegetable oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, sesame seeds, ginger, and pepper in a bowl, jar with lid, or large ziplock bag. Stir or shake well.
3. Pour sesame dressing over pasta, and toss to coat evenly. Gently mix in chicken, cilantro, and green onions.
4. Cover and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for several hours. Adjust seasonings to taste.

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Pizza Dough Mastered

A couple of months ago, I made pizza dough for the first time. I struggled a bit with the dough, but I loved the idea of making my own and was determined to find a recipe that worked for me. So the search began…

The next recipe I tried was the Basic Pizza Dough from Everyday Food. This one was a total disaster and I didn’t bother to blog about it. I wish I could articulate what was wrong, but all I know is that it tasted awful. We made one pizza with it and threw out the rest of the batch. And we barely managed to make ourselves eat even that one pizza.

In response to my original pizza post, Rebekah mentioned that she used to use the basic recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I had completely forgotten that I purchased that book a couple of years ago. I dusted it off, read through the “master recipe” and decided to give it a shot. And it was a total, total winner! I love it because there is no kneading, it is really really easy, and it tastes great!!! We have made it twice already and declared this dough the keeper! You can find the recipe (with photos and links to videos) on the Artisan Bread in Five website.

Homemade Pizza - Version 2

Details about what I did (which will probably make more sense if you’ve read the recipe):
:: I only made a half batch each time because I didn’t have a sufficiently large lidded container to allow for rising of a whole batch. My 14-cup Rubbermaid worked fine.
:: I mixed all of the ingredients with my stand mixer and dough hook.
:: I added 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme and 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary to my half batch. This is the variation to make herbed bread that is noted a couple of pages after the master recipe in the book. Love this as I always have dried thyme and rosemary in my cupboard and no chopping is necessary!
:: When I was ready to use the dough, I used a serrated knife to hack off the amount I needed from the container. Note that the dough is very sticky, so I sprinkled flour on the dough and my hands.
:: I plopped the dough directly onto my baking sheet (that had been sprayed with PAM). Using a roller dusted with flour, I rolled out the dough directly on the sheet. Yes, I’m aware that this isn’t the “right” way to roll dough but it works for me because I prefer mini-pizzas (in the 5″ – 6″ diameter range).
:: I pre-baked the crust alone on a regular baking sheet (with no sauce or toppings) at 450 degrees Farenheit for 3 minutes. The dough rose a little. Then I added the toppings and baked for another 12-15 minutes. Voila! Dinner was done!


Roast Chicken with Macaroni & Cheese

One weekend I decided to go with a comfort food theme, so I made Roast Chicken with Caramelized Shallots and Fontina Mac & Cheese.

Roasted Chicken with Carmelized Shallots

Fontina Macaroni and Cheese

To be honest, I was kind of “meh” about the roast chicken. The recipe called for four shallots. Well, I had never used shallots in such a large quantity before, and guess what I discovered? Hubby and I don’t like shallots at all! So there definitely isn’t anything wrong with the recipe itself — you just have to like shallots! The mac & cheese was absolutely delicious, but it is best consumed on the same day. The leftovers were extremely greasy after reheating, so I recommend either making a half batch or making sure you have a lot of mouths to feed!


Cashew Chicken

I was perusing my blog archives to see the different chicken recipes we’ve tried over the years, and it surprised me to find ten different chicken posts. Because until now, we had all of one repeat chicken dish in our dinner rotation — Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce. We love that one, but we make it infrequently because the prep takes us a fair amount of time. But now, we finally have our second repeatable chicken dish — Cashew Chicken from the October 2009 issue of Everyday Food.

Cashew Chicken

My main issue with chicken is that I dislike the flavor of leftover chicken. There is a Chinese word that describes my interpretation of that taste, but I can’t think of an English word that fits it perfectly. “Stale” is probably the closest description, but it is not completely accurate. Hubby and I always cook in batches to last several meals, so whenever we make chicken there will be leftovers.

This Cashew Chicken dish is a winner because it is relatively quick and the leftovers still taste great to me. Instead of 1.5 pounds of chicken, we used closer to 2.6 or 2.7 pounds and doubled all of the sauce ingredients. I threw in four stalks of diced celery to add more color. The only drawback? The cashews were soggy after the first day because they had been sitting in the sauce, so we remedied that by tossing in a bit of fresh cashews after reheating our individual servings. But even the soggy cashews didn’t deter us from loving this dish!


Szechuan-Style Tofu

Szechuan Style Tofu

A couple of weeks ago I made Szechuan-Style Tofu from the March 2010 issue of Cooking Light. This one is totally a winner — it is very easy, has great flavor, and goes perfectly with rice.

Mods
:: I could not find matchstick-cut carrots, so I used 3/4 cup shredded carrots.
:: I also could not find bottled ground fresh ginger, so I went for jarred chopped ginger (found in the spice aisle). Seemed to work fine.
:: Omitted the peanuts

This dish is definitely going to be a regular on the meal rotation!


Tex-Mex Beef Enchiladas

I have a great enchilada recipe in my repertoire already, but that didn’t stop me from trying the Tex-Mex Beef Enchiladas from Everyday Food magazine. I cut this recipe out a long time ago…it’s from the June 2006 issue, to be exact!

Tex Mex Enchiladas

They look very similar to the ones made from The Pioneer Woman recipe I used previously, and to be honest I can’t tell the difference taste-wise either. Since the Everyday Food recipe takes less time, it will probably be my go-to recipe from now on.

Notes:
:: I don’t measure 1/4 cup of ground beef per enchilada. I just eyeball it, but my guess is that 1/4 cup is too much. I don’t want my enchiladas to burst.
:: One pound of ground beef (increased from 3/4 lb) yielded 16 enchiladas for me, so you definitely need more than 8 tortillas.

Tex Mex Enchiladas


Homemade Pizza

As a baker, I shy away from making bread. I feel somewhat intimidated by yeast-based recipes and I’ve only ever used yeast a couple of times — once for no-knead bread, and once for classic cinnamon rolls. Then I saw Brooke’s post about her homemade pizza, and I was inspired to try my hand at making pizza from scratch.

Homemade Pizza

I used Giada’s Pizza Dough recipe and followed Brooke’s example of throwing in some chopped fresh rosemary and cheese into the dough while mixing. I had some problems with the dough — it was much too wet, and in hindsight I should have added more flour before attempting to take it out of the food processor. Me struggling with removing the overly sticky dough was not a pretty sight. The recipe didn’t indicate how long or at what temperature the dough should be baked, so I experimented. I decided on 400 degrees for 4 minutes without toppings, and then an additional 15-20 minutes with toppings added (depends on whether you are making a wee 6-inch personal size pizza like the one shown above or a 12-inch). The dough tasted pretty good — the fresh rosemary in it certainly made a difference. A single batch yielded enough for one 6-inch and one 12-inch pizza.

For the sauce, I adapted the Exquisite Pizza Sauce from allrecipes.com based on user reviews. I omitted the honey, anchovy paste, and dried marjorom, and let the sauce sit overnight in the fridge instead of just thirty minutes. It was yummy! This recipe is a definitely keeper.

I kept the toppings simple. I think the key to avoiding soggy pizza is to go light on the toppings. I used a grated three-cheese blend (Romano, Parmesan, and Asiago), mushrooms, bell peppers, olives, and basil.

I had fun making the pizza and it was tasty, so I plan to do it again! Next time, I want to try Smitten Kitchen’s really simple pizza dough. Do you have a favorite pizza dough recipe to share?