Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sesame Chicken

It's about time I blogged again, isn't it? Sorry about the absence. My cooking suffers during my husband's busy season...Who wants to cook for one?? Anyway, today I'm mixing it up a little with a fabulous Asian recipe, compliments of my friend and old co-worker at the BYU writing center, Courtney. (Thanks, girl—I owe you!)

I can't get enough of this recipe. The secret is so simple—combining honey and teriyaki sauce. Mmmm, mmmm, good! It's tangy and just a bit sweet, with a little heat from the red pepper flakes. The perfect combination.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
5 (6 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into chunks
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, cut into wedges
1/2 cup green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
2 tablespoons honey
  1. Combine flour, 1/4 cup sesame seeds, black pepper, five-spice powder, and red pepper flakes. Coat the chicken pieces.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Place chicken into skillet, and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken, and set aside.
  3. Saute onion wedges and bell pepper slices in the same skillet. Remove, and set aside.
  4. Return chicken to skillet, and reduce heat to low. Mix in teriyaki marinade, 1/4 cup sesame seeds, and honey; stir until sauce thickens. Return onion and bell pepper to the skillet. Warm through, and serve.
FYI, when I'm trying to go a little healthier, I skip coating the chicken with the flour and frying it. Instead, I just saute chicken slices with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and sesame seeds. It's simple, but with the fabulous sauce and veggies, it is still scrumptious.

(Oh yeah, I never did buy the Chinese five-spice powder...I'm not one for buying a spice unless I have other recipes to use it in. Maybe someday I'll pick it up, for for now, it's still great without it.)

Let me know what you think if you try this one!

Cafe Rio Style Chicken and Cilantro Lime Rice

I think in the last post I promised you a few Cafe Rio style recipes, so here are two more. This version of their chicken is so easy to prepare that you'll probably laugh, but it's delicious and goes so nicely with the creamy tomatillo dressing I posted last. The cilantro lime rice makes a great base for the salad. Rather than mixing the salad up, I layer each bowl with the cilantro rice, lettuce, pico de gallo, chicken, guacamole, and the dressing...

Cafe Rio Style Chicken
1 small bottle of Kraft Zesty Italian dressing
1 TB chili powder
1 TB cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 lbs. chicken breast

Throw it all in the crockpot and cook on low for about 4 hours. Shred the chicken and return it to the pot to cook (with the liquid) for another hour.

I don't need to make this much chicken, so I scale mine down a little, but you get the idea. And this recipe is basically foolproof, so the cooking times aren't crucial either. There's nothing like a foolproof recipe on a busy day, right?

Cilantro Lime Rice
2 Tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cup rice
2 1/4 cup chicken broth
3/4 teaspoon salt
juice and zest of 1 large or 2 small limes
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon cumin

In a skillet, melt butter with rice. Add liquid and other ingredient. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Creamy Tomatillo Dressing

If you have Utah roots, chances are good that you too are a Cafe Rio fan. If you've never been, it's this great Utah-based franchise that could best be compared to Baja Fresh (but way better).

Today I've got a couple of Cafe Rio-esque recipes for you. I've tried at least three versions of a tomatillo dressing like theirs, and this one, I've decided, comes the closest. It is delish! The two jalepenos give it the kick I've been looking for, but in my opinion it could still use a little more heat. Maybe next time I'll throw in some of the seeds...

Creamy Tomatillo Dressing

1 c fat free sour cream
1 c low-fat mayonnaise
1/3 c skim milk
1/2 small avocado
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
2 large jalapeƱos (seeds removed)
1/2 sweet onion
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 Ranch Dips powder mix packet
1 tomatillo

Blend all ingredients together in blender.

Monday, January 12, 2009


During the holidays, my sisters, cousins, mom, aunt, and grandma gather to cook one of our favorite holiday meals—chimichangas. I love these things! Of course, you wouldn't want to eat these all year long, but once or twice a year never hurt anyone, and it's so worth it! Plus, I think you'll be surprised at how simple they are to make.

3-pound roast
3 onions, diced
3 tomatoes, diced
3 cans diced green chiles
A whole bunch of tortillas
Canola oil

Salt and pepper the roast and place in crock pot. Add water to reach about a third of the way up the roast. Add diced onions and green chiles. Cook on low all day, about 8 hours. When 1 hour is remaining, add the diced tomatoes.

After about 8 hours, shred the roast. Salt and pepper the shredded meat, and stir in some of the onions/chiles/tomatoes from the crock pot. Warm the tortillas, fill with meat mixture, and roll. Keep the tortilla together with toothpicks, and remove toothpicks after frying.

Heat canola oil in pot on stove. (Oil will be 2-3 inches deep.) Leave on medium high until you can toss in a piece of tortilla and watch it turn golden. Fry chimis two at a time and drain on a wire rack (or paper towels). Every couple of rounds you will want to wait a couple of minutes while the oil returns to its original temperature.

To keep warm, place on a cookie sheet in a preheated 200 degree oven.

Pour everything that is left in the crock pot into a large saute pan. Bring to a boil, and add a slurry of 1 part water/1 part flour. Stir constantly with a whisk until slurry is well incorporated and gravy looks yummy! Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve chimichangas with gravy, guacamole, cilantro, onion, sour cream, etc. Voila!

If you have any questions, ask me in the comments. Happy cooking!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Bell Pepper Salad

Today I've got a simple side salad for you to try. I saw it on the Food Network, and since my husband and I had recently bought a TON of fresh produce that I needed to use up (see photo below), I decided to give it a try. It has a great fresh taste, thanks to the lime juice, and I love anything with banana peppers in it. I'd say the best thing about this dish is that it's new. So if you're tired of the same old sides and salads, this will liven up some of your standby meals.

1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced (had red & green on hand, so I used half of each)
Hot banana pepper rings, drained and chopped plus 2 tablespoons juice
A handful of fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 lime, juiced
A light drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper

Throw it all together, and enjoy! Garnish with lime slices if you'd like.

Now, on another note, if you live in the Bay area, be sure to get over to the Milk Pail sometime! It's a European-style produce market in Palo Alto, on San Antonio. And it's CHEAP! Can you believe that? We bought all of this produce (and more, actually) for 29 bucks, which (obviously) would be impossible at Safeway.