Chicken with Asparagus and Cashews

Chicken Asparagus and Cashew Stir fry

We love stir fry at our house.  My wok gets a lot of use.  Stir fry is just so easy to throw together, it’s the prep work that takes the time.  I am always trying different combinations, some work and some are just okay.  I love asparagus and I love cashews, so it was just logical that this combination would be one I liked.

1/2 cup raw cashews

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons  fish sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 pound asparagus, sliced on the diagonal, 1 inch thick

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 cup chopped basil

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the cashews in a pie plate and toast in the oven for about 8 minutes, until they are nicely browned and fragrant. Let cool.

In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce. In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. (For those who are not sure what I mean, you will see wavy lines in the oil) Add the chicken in an even layer and cook over high heat, turning once, until browned and just cooked throughout, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a clean bowl.

Pour the chicken broth into the wok and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Add the asparagus slices, cover and cook over moderate heat until they are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to the bowl along with the chicken.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of fish sauce to the wok along with the oyster sauce, lime juice and cayenne pepper. Simmer until the sauce is reduced to 1/3 cup, about 2 minutes. Return the chicken pieces and sliced asparagus to the wok and toss to heat through. Remove the wok from the heat and stir in the cashews,  and basil. Season the stir-fry with black pepper and serve right away over steamed or fried rice.

Homemade Marshmallows

homemade marshmallows

Homemade marshmallows have hit the big time.  Everywhere you go, you see little bags of these fluffy squares in all types of flavors and colors.  But if you are like me, once you see the price on these little bags of fluff, you put them back and go home and make your own.

The taste of homemade marshmallows is unbelievably rich compared to the store-bought, tubes of plastic bagged confections. And with the homemade variety you have the opportunity to flavor or shape them as you desire.  The end result is well worth the effort.

3 packages (1/4-ounce each) unflavored gelatin
1 cup (8 ounces) cool water, divided
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 cup (11 ounces) light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) vanilla extract (delete if using another extract or flavor)
“Add ins” – 1/4 tsp. peppermint oil,  1/8 tsp. cinnamon oil (use this sparingly), 1 tsp. raspberry extract, 1 tsp. chocolate flavoring, 1 tsp. rum flavoring, 1 tsp. espresso powder, 1 tsp. lemon extract etc.  Couple drops of food coloring – what ever color you want.  Just experiment.
confectioners’ sugar, to sprinkle on top

Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup cool water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup cool water in a small, deep saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 240°F on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat.

With mixer on low-speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the softened gelatin. Increase the speed to high, and whip until the mixture is very thick and fluffy, and has cooled to lukewarm, 8 to 10 minutes. (It should be cool enough that you can spread it into the pan without burning your fingers.)

Add vanilla towards the end of the mixing time. This is also the time to add a few drops of peppermint oil or any other extract, if desired, instead of vanilla extract, and the food coloring if you want them colored.  You can swirl in the colors instead of completely mixing to get a really pretty effect.

Spread the marshmallow mixture into a greased 9″ x 13″ pan (glass or ceramic is best). Use your wet hands to smooth and flatten the marshmallows. Sprinkle confectioners’ sugar over the top, and let sit for several hours (or overnight) before cutting. Use a greased knife or cookie cutters to make squares or other shapes.

Turkey and Grape salad

Turkey and grape salad

Here is another cool, summer salad recipe.  This can be the main dish for a dinner, served with other cool, summer salads, or a nice light lunch.  Serve this on a bed of lettuce. For the Turkey, you can buy a couple of tenderloins and poach them the night before, drain, then put into the refrigerator.  Saves a lot of time the next day.

4 cups cold cooked turkey, cut into chunks

1 cup green seedless grapes

1 cup red seedless grapes

1 stalk celery, chopped

2 egg yolk

1 tsp. basil leaves

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Lettuce leaves

In a large bowl stir together the turkey, celery and grapes.  In a blender or food processor, combine all the rest of the ingredients, except oil, lemon juice and parmesan cheese .  Cover and combine on high until will blended.  With the blender still running, take off cover and slowly and 1/2 cup oil, then lemon juice, then finally the last 1/2 cup oil.  Blend until thickened.  Pour into a bowl and then add the Parmesan cheese.  Stir 1/2 cup of the dressing into the salad.  Chill at least 30 minutes. Serve on lettuce leaves and with the remaining dressing

Summer Potato Salad

Summer potato salad

In the summer I really don’t like to heat up my kitchen much and really prefer cooler foods.  That means lots of salads and lots of grilling.  July 4th is coming up and so I am trying to decide between my various potato salad recipes.  This one is different than the typical mayo potato salad.  It’s an “elevated” potato, comforting, familiar, but made just a little better.

4 cups quartered, mixture of Yukon gold and small new red potatoes

1/3 cup sour cream

1/3 cup mayo

1/2 tsp. fresh dill weed

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 cloves minced fresh garlic

2 green onions, sliced thinly

In saucepan, place about 4 cups water and 1 tablespoon salt.  Bring to a boil, then add potatoes.  Cook over high heat till potatoes are tender.  Rinse under cold water.  In a large bowl stir together the remaining ingredients, except green onion.  Add potatoes and green onion and toss to coat the potatoes.  Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.  This gives the flavors time to meld.

Baking Soda Biscuits

Baking soda biscuits

Biscuits are one of my most favorite types of bread.  They are good for breakfast with gravy, or butter and jam.  They are great as a quick-lunch, filled with slices of ham and cheese and wonderful, hot from the oven with fried chicken or fish.  You can add anything to the basic biscuit recipe and come up with a totally different type of biscuit.  I just love that.  When my kids were little, I would make them cinnamon raisin biscuits, orange biscuits, and lots of other fruit and spice based biscuits for breakfast and dinner always brought savory biscuits, cheddar and chive, cream cheese and garlic and many time just plain baking soda biscuits.  You can’t beat hot, fresh from the oven biscuits.  Here is the base recipe for these biscuits, then I added some of my favorite “mix ins” at the end. I use a food processor to save time.  I use to cut in the butter by hand, but have found that I save time using the food processor to cut in the butter and they come out just as good.  Make sure you do not over process or over handle the dough.  This makes the biscuits tough.

2 3/4 cups flour

2 tsp. salt (I use kosher salt)

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tsp. baking soda

4 tsp. baking powder

10 tablespoons cold butter cut into small pieces( unsalted)

1 1/2 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, add 1 tsp. vinegar to milk and allow to sit for a few minutes)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Combine the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor.  Process once or twice using the pulse button.  Add the butter and pulse until the dough resembles a course meal, kind of pebbly.  Turn on the processor and slowly add the milk until the dough comes together, no more.  Place dough on a floured surface and pat into a circle about 1 inch thick.  Using a biscuit cutter, cut out biscuits and place on baking sheet.  Makes about 16 biscuits. Brush biscuits with cream and put into hot oven.  Bake until tops are golden brown.  Serve hot with butter and jam, or gravy.

“Mix ins”

1 cup cheddar cheese and 2 tablespoons chopped chives

2 tsp. cinnamon and 1 cup raisins – glaze these when they come out with a powdered sugar glaze

2 tsp. garlic powder and use cream cheese for half of the butter

1 cup blueberries and sprinkle with sugar after brushing on the cream

1 tsp. minced rosemary, 1 tsp. chives, 1 tsp. thyme, 1 tsp. dill

2 tsp. orange zest, glaze with powdered sugar glaze that uses orange juice as the liquid

Habaneo Apricot Jelly

Habaneo apricot jelly

Tommy like spicy things.  Have been trying a lot of different recipes for jelly and jams that include peppers so that he can get the “kick” he wants out of the jam or jelly.  This one is spicier than I have made before.  I have been working with jalapenos, but I heard that Habanero peppers are even hotter.  So here is the first attempt using these really spicy peppers.  I recommend that you wear gloves when cutting up these peppers.  They can really burn your hands.

1/3 cup finely sliced, dried apricots

3/4 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped seeded Habanero peppers (if you want hotter, include half the seeds)

3 cups sugar

1 box pectin

In a large stockpot, combine apricots and vinegar.  Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 4 hours or more.  I mixed it just before I went to bed and let it stand until the next morning.  Add onion, red pepper and Habanero peppers.  Stir in the sugar.  Mix until sugar starts to dissolve.  Over high heat, stirring constantly, bring to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.  Stir in pectin.  Stand back when doing this, then pepper gets into the steam and can really clear your sinuses.  Boil hard for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and skim off the foam.

Pour jelly into hot jars, leaving about 1/4 inch head space.  Wipe the rims and screw on the tops.  Place jars into canner and bring to a boil.  Boil for 10 minutes, then turn off heat and let sit for another 5.  Remove to racks and allow to cool to room temperature.

This makes a small batch of jelly – three 8 oz. jars.

Peach Butter

peach butter

Peaches always mean Peach butter.  There is just something about a fruit butter.  Not as sweet as jam and jelly, but just the right touch of sweetness.  I love fruit butters on fresh, hot biscuits.  Such a treat for breakfast.  When I first made peach butter, the recipe I had didn’t include any spices, just fruit, sugar and lemon juice.  It just didn’t turn out to be what I wanted so I added just a little cinnamon and a bit of nutmeg.  I had to make a couple of batches before I found just the right amount of spices, the first batch had way too much cinnamon and nutmeg, the next batch not quite enough, but we enjoyed the testing process anyway.  Here is the end result. Hope you like it.

4 1/2 lbs. peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped

1/2 cup water

juice and zest of 1 lemon

4 cups sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

In a large stockpot combine the peaches, water, lemon juice and lemon zest.  Bring to a boil on medium high heat.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes, until peaches are pretty soft.

Transfer a small amount to a food mill and puree, then do the next batch, until all the peaches are pureed.  If you do not own a food mill, you can do this in a food processor, just be careful to not liquefy the mixture.  You should have about 8 cups of peach puree.

In the stockpot combine peach puree and the sugar.  Stir until the sugar is well dissolved.  Bring to a boil over med high heat, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently until the mixture thickens and holds it shape on a spoon (mounds on the spoon).  Make sure to keep stirring, the butter can burn on the bottom and this will ruin the butter.

Ladle hot butter into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Wipe rim and screw on lid.  Place in canner and process for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat and remove lid.  Let sit for 5 more minutes then move jars to a rack.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

This will make about eight 8 oz. jars.