Friday, January 25, 2013

Thai Basil Lettuce Wraps

Hola, chingus!  As some of you know, my husband has been out of work since July.  As you may also know, I am an active member of the LDS church,  and as such, we have food storage.  A lot of people think it's for big disasters or a zombie apocalypse, but really it is for exactly this.  A time when we don't have an income to buy the necessities of life.  And yes, we store toilet paper, too.  I refuse to ever be out of toilet paper.  But, I digress.

SO....while we've been unemployed, we've been eating out of our extra freezer and our canned and dried storage and only buying fresh dairy and produce, and the occasional chicken when it's on sale.  Because I"m not buying groceries, and only eating out on date night (off the $2 menu at Dennys), we have cut our food bill enough to help pay other important things like the electric bill.  It is stretching our savings until we ever find a job.

The longer we go, the more challenging it gets.  We're pretty far from eating only rice and beans, but dinner-making time is getting more interesting around here.  This recipe is from a Cooking Light Recipe that we like, but I modified to stuff we actually had on hand, so I didn't have to go to the store.  It ended up even better.  I love it when that happens.

Thai Basil Lettuce Wraps 

4 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1/2 cup finely minced onion (I mince it really fine, so picky girl can't pick it out)
1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
4 teaspoons minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
1 lb ground chicken (I ground my own chicken breasts in the food processor cuz that's what I had)
2 Thai or serrano chiles, minced  (I only had one, two would have been better)
1 1/2 Tablespoons fish sauce
3 teaspoons dark brown sugar
3 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
1 cup basil leaves (I do the roll them up and slice them thing, don't remember the french word)
1 T fresh lime juice (didnt have limes, used bottled lime juice)
4 lime wedges (didn't have those either, it was still good)

Here's my ingredients, all chopped up.  I didn't have a cup of basil, I only had about a 1/4 cups worth, it was still good, but it's better with more.  Be careful of the chili when you're cutting it up, use gloves if possible.

Heat a large nonstick skillet (I used my wok) over medium-high heat.  Add 2 teas of oil to the pan, swirl to coat.  Add onions, saute 2 minutes, add bell pepper, saute 1 minute, add garlic go another 30 secs.  Remove mixture from pan and set aside.  I sauted the bell peppers separately, because I have a bell pepper hater.  I just serve them on the side and the non-haters can put them in their wrap.

Add remaining 2 teasp oil (I used a bit more because my chicken breast was very lean, usually ground chicken has more fat in it).  Add chicken, cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble.  Drain fat if you need to.  While the chicken is cooking, mix the fish sauce, brown sugar and soy sauce in a small bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar.  After chicken is browned and drained, add chilis, cook 1 minute, add soy sauce mixture, stir it in and remove it from heat.  Stir in basil and lime juice.

Serve with Boston Bibb lettuce, butter lettuce or some other kind of leaf lettuce.  Iceberg tastes ok, but tends to fall apart.  Take a lettuce leaf, fill with chicken and squeeze your lime wedge over it, and eat it fast before it falls apart, lol.   Today, we ate it with Teriyaki sauce (Meg), Gochujang (me) or both (Sam) and a side of steamed rice.  I think we liked it better than with just the lime.  

Other things that I like in the mixture when I have them are chopped water chestnuts (gives it a nice crunch) and mushrooms, which in my opinion make nearly everything better, but I live with haters.    If I put mushroom in it, I have to chop it tiny enough to not be detected.  It serves four as it is, but if you added the other stuff, I would also add a bit more soy, fish sauce and brown sugar, and then you could probably stretch it to 6 not-so-hungry people, or 2 teenagers.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Chianti Cookies, aka Italian Wine Biscuits

This is one of my father's favorite snacks, a hard cookie made with a generous amount of red wine.

I have since researched them online and found all kinds of different recipes (and shapes, for that matter), but I'm going to stick with what I know!

The recipe calls for a cup of red wine, but I have experimented with other liquid options such as fresh squeezed lemon juice for a tart cooler-style cookie, and different spices like ginger and cinnamon.

Also, the shape.  The traditional shape uses a double twist technique, but I do a single twist for two reasons: (1) It's easier; and (2) It makes an "S" shape like my name!  So without further ado, here it is:

Chianti Cookies

4 cups flour
1 TBLS baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup oil
1 cup red wine (Chianti or other sweet red)

Mix together until a dough forms.  Using a teaspoon-size amount of dough, roll into a rope, form a circle and twist it once to give it a “figure-eight” shape. Twist it twice for a more traditional shape.

Brush with egg yolk (optional)

Bake 400 for 18 to 25 minutes until brown.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tortellini Soup - 8 servings

I lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (I use turkey sausage sometimes)
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
5 cups beef broth
1  cup water
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup sliced carrots
1-1/2 cups sliced zucchini
1/2 tablespoon basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
8 ounces fresh cheese filled tortellini pasta
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Brown sausage in a large (5-6 quart) soup pot.  Remove sausage and drain, reserving one tablespoon drippings.

Saute onions and garlic in drippings.  Stir in beef broth, water, tomatoes, carrots, sausage, basil, and oregano.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat.  Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

Skim fat.  Stir in zucchini and parsley.  Simmer covered for 30 minutes.   Add tortellini during the last 10 minutes.

Serve with a loaf of crusty Italian bread.