General Tso’s Cauliflower

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Another Lenten dinner, another vegetarian take on Chinese takeout. I actually liked this a little better than the Kung Pao Chickpeas I shared few weeks ago for one reason – it’s a from scratch sauce. There is nothing that annoys me more than finding a bottled sauce you like only to have the company discontinue or change the recipe a few months later. Falling in love with a from-scratch sauce is easier. It will never desert you.

I’ve tried a few General Tso’s sauces before, but this one comes closest to the Chinese takeout we’re used to. I’ll definitely be trying this again with chicken at some point.

GeneralTsoCauliflower

General Tso’s Cauliflower
(from Bakeaholic Mama)
Serves 3

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 egg
1/3 cup corn starch
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
Oil for frying

2 1/2 tsp. minced ginger root
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. garlic chili sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. olive oil
White rice, for serving
Green onions, for garnish

In a large bowl, whisk together the 2 tsp. sesame oil, egg, 1/3 cup cornstarch and 3 Tbsp. soy sauce until well combined. Add the cauliflower florets and toss until thoroughly coated. Set aside to marinate for about 20 minutes.

After marinating, heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet and add cauliflower. Fry cauliflower until evenly browned on all sides. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a separate pan, add the 1 Tbsp. sesame oil and olive oil. Over medium-high heat, sauté the garlic and ginger until fragrant, about a minute. Add in the vegetable stock, 1/3 cup soy sauce, 2 Tbsp. cornstarch, chili garlic sauce and brown sugar. Cook until it comes to a low boil and has thickened.

Add the sauce to the cauliflower and toss to coat evenly. Serve over rice, topped with green onions.


Pecan Streusel Muffins

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I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here, but in January I officially became a stay-at-home Mom. It wasn’t something I was really planning on doing so the last few months have been a bit of a scramble to figure out how I’m going to fill my days now. My best find so far? The local moms club.

We’re hosting some new friends for a playgroup this morning. Tomorrow, we’re meeting up for stroller club. Wednesday is a tiny-person-friendly hike at a local park. Thursday, there is a playground play date. And Friday is mom’s night out – we’re going to take a wine glass painting class. I can’t tell you how much saner I feel when I get out of the house so having all of these things to do is pretty much heaven-sent at this point.

It’s also a new audience to bake for. I made up these quick muffins for one of our meetings and I loved them. I’m planning to make another batch for Easter breakfast!

PecanStruselMuffins

Pecan Streusel Muffins
(from The Cake Mix Doctor Returns!)
Makes about 1 1/2 dozen

 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 package yellow cake mix
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Line a cupcake pan with papers.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cake mix and flour. Add in the sour cream, oil, water, eggs and vanilla and mix until well combined.

Spoon a heaping tablespoon of batter into each well. Cover with a teaspoon of the streusel. Top with remaining batter. Sprinkle remaining streusel over the tops.

Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for five minutes and then remove to a wire rack to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.


Honey-Lime Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

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We’re two months into “real food” with Jake. So far he hates every green vegetable we’ve tried but will happily eat his weight in bananas, peaches and pears. It also means that Jake-friendly ingredients are making it into our menus more frequently. It’s a lot easier to cook up some sweet potatoes for him when I’m already prepping them for us – or mash up some avocado while I’m dicing it for dinner. Can you guess what he had for dinner the night we had these tacos?

These are pretty similar to the Roasted Vegetable and Black Bean Burritos that I love. These ebb on the side of sweet instead of spicy (honey instead of jalapeno) so I think they’d be a little more kid-friendly. And adding fresh avocado and pico de gallo on top made them feel more fresh and almost summery. Definitely one of my favorite meatless meals this Lent!

SweetPotatoBlackBeanTacos

Honey-Lime Sweet Potato Tacos
(from Cooking Classy)
Serves 6

1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2″ cubes
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 14 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen yellow corn, thawed and drained
3 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
Tortillas, for serving
Feta cheese, diced avocados, pico de gallo, for serving

Preheat the oven to 425F degrees.

In a large bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with 3 Tbsp. olive oil to coat evenly. Add in the spices and toss to coat. Spread out the sweet potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake 15-20 minutes, until tender, tossing halfway through.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook 5 minutes, until beginning to brown on the edges. Stir in the garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds, until fragrant. Reduce heat and add in black beans, corn, honey and lime juice. Heat until warmed through and add in sweet potatoes.

Serve in tortillas topped with feta, avocado and pico de gallo.


Steak Chili

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Friday is the official first day of spring and it’s actually starting to feel like spring here. This winter was pretty brutal with the below-freezing temperatures and ice storms, so I’m relishing the fact that most afternoons it’s warm enough for walking outside.

We are still getting a few cold days, though – my Mother-in-law texted a few days ago she was getting snow! – so I’ve been using them to cook a few more wintery dishes that I know I won’t want to make in a few weeks. (Bring on grilling weather!)

We usually make chili with ground beef, so the chunks of beef in this one were a nice change of pace. It packs a nice flavor punch for the minimal number of ingredients and is definitely something I’ll break out again next winter!

SteakChili

Steak Chili
(from Damn Delicious)
Serves 6

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. stew meat, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Slat and pepper, to taste
1 red onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapenos, minced
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 15 oz. cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 cups water
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese, for serving

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat olive oil until shimmering. Season meat with salt and pepper and add tohot pot. Cook for about 2 minutes, turning so that all sides brown. Add in onion, garlic andjalapenos and cook 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Add in the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, kidney beans and enough water so that everything is covered. Stir well to combine.

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Serve topped with shredded cheese.


Chicken Piccata with Zoodles

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Every once in a while, we end up with a really healthy week of dinner plans. I don’t usually do it consciously – it seems that after a week of celebrating or heavy eating, I naturally go for something lighter. And, really healthy meals are always a bit of a gamble around here. Something drowning in cheese and butter? Sure to be a hit. Something naturally gluten free and heavy on the veggies? Maybe – or maybe not.

Luckily, this was a huge hit. Zoodles as a side dish were great and the chicken was super easy but super flavorful. I was really impressed on how quickly this meal came together – and how satisfying it  was.

ChickenPicattaZoodles

Chicken Piccata with Zoodles
(adapted slightly from Primal Palate)
Serves 2

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2″ thickness
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsps.. olive oil
1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp. capers
2 Tbsp. white wine
1 Tbsp. butter
2 zucchini, ends cut off and spiralized

Whisk together the almond flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl and add chicken, one at a time, turning until thoroughly coated.

Cut half of the lemon into slices and juice the other half.

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until cooked through. Remove to a plate and cover with foil.

Add garlic to the pan and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add in the chicken broth and lemon slices and cook several minutes, until the lemon gets soft. Add the capers, lemon juice and white wine and cook until it’s thickened a bit. Remove from heat and stir in butter until well combined. Pour into a bowl and cover with foil.

Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil in the skillet. When shimmering, add zucchini noodles and cook a few minutes, tossing occasionally, until they’re al dente. Sprinkle cooked noodles with salt.

Serve the noodles topped with a chicken breast topped with the sauce.


Strawberry Pop Tart Pie

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Happy Pi Day!

I’m surrounded by nerdy love. My cousin was posting Pi Day memes on Facebook yesterday. My Mother-in-law owns a Pi pie plate I couldn’t let the most epic Pi Day this century pass without some acknowledgement in the form of pie. I just wouldn’t fit in this family if I didn’t!

I love Pop Tarts so this pie was just begging to be made. It’s basically an awesome strawberry pie with an almond-icing glaze. Such a fun pie! We really enjoyed it and I can’t wait to try making it again with fresh berries when the garden starts overflowing.

And what’s better than pie on Pi Day? Well, lots of pie – so I’ve joined up with some of my blogging friends to bring you even more pie! Check out what they made to celebrate the most epic Pi Day of the century below.

StrawberryPopTartPie3

Strawberry Pop Tart Pie
(from Willow Bird Baking)
Makes 1 9″ Pie

2 sheets of refrigerated pie dough
6 cups frozen whole strawberries
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. quick-cooking tapioca, ground in a spice or coffee grinder
Pinch of salt
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. almond extract
2 Tbsp. milk
Colored sanding sugar

Preheat your oven to 400F degrees.

Squeeze out the grated apple, removing as much liquid as possible. Set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook 3 cups of the frozen strawberries, stirring often, until the berries have become jam-like and reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the grated apple, remaining berries, sugar, tapioca and salt. Stir to combine.

Roll out one pie crust and lay in a 9″ pie pan. Spoon strawberry filling into the pie dough and dot the top with the cut up butter. Cover with remaining pie crust sheet and crimp edges with a fork to seal.

Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Let cool on a cooling rack for several hours.

When room temperature, whisk together the powdered sugar, almond extract and milk and drizzle over the pie. Decorate with sanding sugar and serve!

StrawberryPopTartPie2

But the pie doesn’t stop there! Check out these other great pies bloggers cooked up for Pi Day!
Pies for Pi Day

Strawberry Pop Tart Pie from Kate’s Recipe Box

Indiana Sugar Cream Pie from Eva Bakes

Coconut Cream Pie from Relish

Individual Pepperoni Pizza Pot Pies from Cheese Curd in Paradise

Lemon Cheesecake Pie from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks

Chocolate Pecan Pie from Cookaholic Wife

Sweet Potato Pie from Kosher Kitchen


5-Minute Pad Thai Fakeout

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Also known as: fancied up ramen, my favorite Lenten lunch.

I first tried this recipe when we were dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. She left us with a flooded basement and no power for a week. It was awesome. Since a fast majority of the stores and businesses were in the same boat, it was an exercise in working with what you had – and what we had was ramen. Since then, I keep the ingredients in my emergency stash – just in case. It’s a great one for that – not something I plan to make but something I can say, ah! I can whip that up instead of another grilled cheese!

I don’t think it’s technically vegetarian since it uses chicken-flavored ramen as the base, but since there’s no actual meat in it, it’s Lent-friendly.

PadThaiFakeout

5-Minute Pad Thai Fakeout
(from Martha Stewart)
Serves 1

1 pkg. chicken-flavored ramen with seasoning packet
2 Tbsp. chunky peanut butter
1 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp. sriracha
Green onions, sliced

Prepare noodles according to package directions. Drain most of the water off. Stir in peanut butter, soy sauce and sriracha until peanut butter is melted and everything is well combined. Top with sliced green onions and serve immediately.

 


Buffalo Hummus

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I was lamenting to myself the other day that I had so many recipes bookmarked for football season that didn’t get made – and then I realized it’s March. March Madness is right around the corner! I’m very ready to binge-watch basketball and get annoyed when my bracket implodes.

For fun, I put together a bracket group for Kate’s Recipe Box readers. Click here to join and fill out your bracket once teams are announced. It’s free and I’ll be sending the group winner some goodies!

And if you need some game-watching munchies, this is a great option. I always associate buffalo flavor with junk food so, to me, this tastes “bad” without any of the deep-fried guilt.

HummusBuffalo

Buffalo Hummus
(from Fettle Vegan)
Makes about 2 cups

1 15oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp. salt
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. tahini
2 Tbsp. Frank’s buffalo sauce
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
2 Tbsp.olive oil

In a food processor, combine everything except olive oil and pulse until well combined. Add olive oil and process until well combined and at desired consistency.


Hawaiian Pork Burrito Bowls

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Seven months into motherhood and I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that I can’t do everything. It been a lesson in “OR” lately.

You can spend time making dinner OR go visit the adorable new twins across the street OR get another load of laundry done.

You can make that nice stew that simmers all day OR go to the baby play date OR run errands at the mall.

It seems that more and more, I’m pushing dinner to the back burner so I’ve been trying to plan easier, more hands-off meals. This slow cooker meal was a huge win – healthy, flavorful and quickly prepped before my busy day got out of hand. It was so nice to plop on the couch for baby cuddles instead of starting dinner after running around!

HawaiiPorkBurritoBowls

Hawaiian Pork Burrito Bowls
(adapted from The Housewife in Training Files)
Serves 6

1 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. paprika
Pinch of cayenne
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 cup pineapple juice
2 lbs. pork sirloin roast
6 cups of cooked rice
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
Pineapple, sliced into rings
Avocado, sliced

In the slow cooker, whisk together the first 11 ingredients (tomato sauce to pineapple juice). Add the pork and turn to coat. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Remove pork, shred and return to slow cooker, stirring to combine with the juices.

When the pork is just about done, heat a grill pan. Grill peppers and pineapple until peppers have char marks and the pineapple is starting to caramelize.

Serve pork in bowls with rice, peppers, pineapple and avocado.

 


Chickpea Puttanesca

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I think eggplant parmesan is the default vegetarian option for most American-style Italian meals. More often than not, that’s what you’ll find alongside trays of baked ziti and chicken parmesan at parties. So, when I start seeking out new meatless meals for the Lenten dinner series, I tend to avoid Italian-inspired searches. It’s not that I don’t love eggplant parmesan, I do, it’s just that it sort of feels overdone.

I was searching for something else entirely when I came across this recipe – and it made me realize how wrong I was to discount Italian options for this series. This was so, so good. Comfort food at it’s finest! And easy enough that I didn’t feel overwhelmed making it after a busy week.

ChickpeaPuttenesca1

Chickpea Puttanesca
(slightly adapted from Mountain Momma Cooks)
Serves 4

1/2 cup polenta
2 cups water
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. butter
2-3 Tbsp. half & half
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered
2 Tbsp. drained capers
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz. can stewed tomatoes
1 14 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. dried crushed basil
1/8 tsp. dried crushed red pepper flakes
Salt, to taste
1 14 oz. can garbanzo beans
Fresh basil, for serving

In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil and stir in polenta and salt. Return a boil then turn to low and let simmer for about 30 minutes. If it gets to thick, stir in an additional 1-2 Tbsp. water. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, butter and half & half.  Keep warm until serving time.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add in onions and cook about five minutes, until soft. Add the olives and capers and cook for 2 more minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add in stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, basil, red pepper flakes and salt and stir to combine thoroughly. Let simmer until slightly reduced, about 20 minutes. Stir in garbanzo beans and let heat through.

Serve sauce over polenta, topped with fresh basil.