Homemade Chicken Pad Thai

I have this problem where I pretty much always want to be on vacation.  Not just at home with time off, but I want to be in a foreign country walking around and trying all the foods.

But that’s probably true for everyone, right?

I’ve been lucky enough to visit my fair share of countries.   Since we’ve been togetherJesse and I have made it a point to go on a trip once a year. We went to China, Peru and Thailand/Cambodia (along with Mexico and Guatemala, do those count if we were visiting family?).  Our 4th year together is looking to be a vacation-less one, since there’s a major expense coming up next year: wedding.

In both Peru and Thailand, we took cooking classes, which has become one of my favorite things to do on vacation.

In Thailand, there are tons of cooking classes.  We went with the Thai Farm Cooking School in Chiang Mai, because some friends (they have an awesome travel blog!) we met while hiking to Machu Picchu had done it and recommended it.

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It was definitely worth it.  Now that it’s been about 7 months since our vacation, Jesse and I had an itch to make some of the recipes in the cookbook we were given.   So we hit up a local Asian market that I learned about at my new job (yay for supporting small business!), gathered all our ingredients and made this:

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Isn’t pad thai everyone’s favorite?  It’s also pretty easy to make too!  We added chicken to it to make it more of a complete meal, but you can also omit the chicken (or the tofu) if you’d like.

Here’s what you’ll need to serve 2 or 3…

Chicken Pad Thai

80g rice noodles
2 tbsp oil (vegetable or canola)
1/2 cup sliced tofu (optional)
1 piece of chicken breast, sliced
2 shallots, chopped
1 egg
1/2 cup grated carrot
1 cup of mung bean sprouts
2 tsp tamarind paste (or white vinegar)
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar (or palm sugar if you have it)
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/3 cup water
1 tsp molasses
Pinch of chili powder (or a squirt of sriracha)
Salt to taste

1 tbsp green onion (green part only)
Chopped peanuts and lime for serving

Soak noodles in warm water for 30 minutes until soft.  In the meantime, prepare your sauce.  In a bowl combine water, fish sauce, brown sugar, tamarind paste and molasses.   (Note: Here I found a tamarind paste that was basically the whole tamarind, so I had to blend it but in Thailand I used a paste that dissolved.  If you blend, just be sure there are no tamarind seeds in there).  Set aside sauce.

pad thai ingredients

Heat oil in a wok (or large pan if you don’t have a wok like me), until it starts to smoke.  Add chicken, shallots and tofu.  Toss until chicken is cooked and tofu is crispy.  Move the chicken, shallots and tofu to one side of the pan.  On the other side of the pan, scramble the egg.  Once scrambled, toss them all together and add the noodles, carrots, bean sprouts and sauce.  Mix until the noodles are cooked and all is well combined.  Try a noodle and see if you think it needs salt.  Salt as needed.

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Serve with chopped peanuts and a wedge of lime.

Jesse and I devoured this yesterday.  I’m almost a little bit embarrassed to tell you how much we ate.  Ok not really.  We doubled this and ate about 3/4 of it.  Enough said.

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We also discovered that we seriously want a wok.  We made it in a dutch oven pot, which was fine but I think it would have turned out better (texture wise) in a wok.   But it still turned out great.

Since we bought a ton of basic ingredients we’ll likely be making tons of Thai recipes this week.  I can’t complain about that.

What foreign food do you want to learn how to make?

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Prosciutto Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Smokey Cheese

There are two people in the world who I think appreciate wine and cheese as much as I do: my sister and my friend Sara.

This past week, I was visiting my sister before I start a new job tomorrow (wish me luck!).  We did wedding things and of course there was wine and cheese.  One night, while enjoying some wine with cheese and prosciutto, we had a great idea.

Let’s put it all together with dates, because dates are always a good idea (and Jesse’s mom loves to give us boxes of dates and we love it).

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Smoked cheddar. Dates. Prosciutto. 

Awesome flavor combos.

Normally, I’m all for bacon wrapped dates, but I think I actually prefer prosciutto for a few reason:

  1. It’s thinner.  Someones I feel like the bacon can be so thick that you have to bake it forever and your risk the date getting charred.  Sometimes the bacon also overpowers the dates and filling.  This is the perfect balance.
  2. Less baking time.  Prosciutto doesn’t need to be cooked.  So you put it in the oven long enough for the cheese to melt and the prosciutto to get a little bit crispy (about 10 minutes).

This is really a non-recipe.  I can’t tell you exactly how much cheese I put in each date, because each date is different but here’s roughly what you’ll need.

Trust me, you’ll want to make these for your next wine and cheese party.

Prosciutto Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Smokey Cheese

Medjool dates, washed and pitted
Smoked Cheese (such as smoked cheddar, smoked gouda, this time I used smoked cheddar with caramelized onion from Trader Joe’s)
Prosciutto or Jamon Serrano (I tried with both and both were great)

Pre-heat oven to 400F.  Pit your dates by cutting a small slit down the side, then pulling out the pit.  Where the pit was, slide in little chunks of cheese then pinch the date back together.  Next take some prosciutto and wrap it around each date.  I used about half a slice for each date.

Lay on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and prosciutto is crispy.

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Serve with wine and enjoy!

BBQ Chicken Cauliflower Pizza

Jesse and I have been together for nearly 4 years.  In that time, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I eat more than he does.  When you can admit this is when you know you’re comfortable with someone.

Some ladies are dainty eaters.  I’m not judging them.  If you can eat a piece of salmon and some zucchini and be done for the night, then more power to you.  I wish I wasn’t a hangry beast.  I’d probably save a ton of money.  I know the expectation that the woman in the relationship eats about half as much as the man, but that certainly isn’t the case for us.

I think early on in our dating, I probably ate less (at least in front of him), so he wouldn’t think I was the Cookie Monster (I am).  I distinctly remember having a conversation about this with my sister.  I’m 100% positive that at one point she said, “yeah, he doesn’t eat very much. Like pio pio” (FYI, pio pio is the sound little chicks make in Spanish).  This isn’t meant to criticize Jesse’s eating habit; him and his habits are perfectly fine.  I admire his ability to say no to certain foods, yet be able to eat half a wheel of brie.

Now that the new-ness ship has sailed, I can eat three tacos and be a happy camper (while lusting over gelato after dinner); he can eat sunflower seeds with beer and call it a night.  After all, it’s just food.  How much I eat in relation to him doesn’t define our relationship.  It’s just a funny quirk about us.

But some days, we’re equals on the eating front.  Last night, we both ate half a pizza.  Not a regular pizza.  This cauliflower pizza.

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It was delightful.  I bring this all up, because I was thinking about serving size for this recipe.

How many does this serve?  2 hungry people who went to crossfit earlier that day? 4 not so hungry folks? 4 normal people if complemented with a side salad? 6 children?  It’s not clear.

Make it and let me know how much you eat in one sitting.  Like I said, I ate half the pizza in one sitting.  It sounds obscene, but I promise you’ll want to eat at least half too.

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BBQ Chicken Cauliflower Pizza

10-12oz cauliflower (about 1/2 a large head), grated
1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 tbsp butter
1/4 onion, sliced
1 chicken breast
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp paprika
few pinches of salt
1/2 cup BBQ Sauce
2-3 oz sharp cheddar, shredded (or more if you’d like)

There are three main components of this pizza.

1. Make the crust. 2. Cook the chicken and onions. 3. Assemble the pizza and bake.

I suggest doing it in that order but if you want to do 2 before 1, that’s cool too.  Let’s be flexible.

To make the crust:

Pre-heat oven to 425F. Grate your cauliflower.  I did this in the vitamix by cutting the cauliflower into pieces then pulsing it in batches until it looked somewhat like cauliflower rice.  Once it’s all grated, combine cauliflower, eggs, pecorino romano cheese, salt and italian seasoning.   Mix it all together.  Then press the mixture into a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Try to get it as thin as you can so it will be crispy and not soggy.

Once you’ve got it as thin as you can, bake for 15 minutes, take out of oven until ready to assemble.

While the crust is baking cook your onions and chicken.  First, add butter to a skillet, then add the onions. Let those cook until soft (about 10 minutes or longer, let them hang out, they’ll get tastier), put onions into a small bowl or plate.  Cut the chicken into small pieces, then add chicken to the same pan where you cooked the onions.  Season with salt, pepper, paprika and chili powder.  Toss occasionally until cooked through, set aside.

Now that your crust is cooked, assemble the pizza.  Spread 1/2 cup BBQ sauce on pizza, top with onions and chicken, then put cheese on top.  I like to put the cheese on top of the toppings to keep the chicken and onions from burning.  Feel free to add a little extra pecorino on top if you’d like.

Bake 10-12 more minutes, until the crust is browned and crispy and the cheese is melty.  Allow to cool a few minutes, then slice and serve.

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Like I said, serving size? I’m not sure.  This pizza probably feeds 2-4.  If you’re like me and you eat a lot, you might want to double this and make two pizzas.  I did.

If you want to make two pizzas just so you have leftovers, that’s also a great idea.

Who eats more, you or your partner? or what’s your favorite pizza topping?

 

 

Slow Cooker Chicken Adobo

You know those days where you don’t feel like cooking and it’s too hot to turn on the oven to roast some chicken and vegetables?  This is your meal for those days.

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It’s super, SUPER easy and  tasty.  As a bonus, it’s pretty healthy too.  It might be a little bit high on salt but you’re not really drinking the sauce, just spoon a bit on your spaghetti squash (or rice #carbs4life) and you’re good to go.

I think I’ve only had traditional Filipino Chicken Adobo at a restaurant once.  I remember it being delicious and tangy.  As is true with most countries in South East Asia, the Philippines has awesome food and I’d love to visit.

In the meantime, make this dish for an easy weeknight meal while you daydream about being in a far off land.

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Slow Cooker Chicken Adobo

8 pieces of bone-in chicken (I used drum sticks)
3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 shallot, sliced
3 bay leaves

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker.  Cook on high 4-5 hours.

Serve with spaghetti squash and green beans (or serve on rice, because I’m pretty sure that’s how it’s normally served).

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If you’re wanting to make this paleo, you can probably substitute coconut aminos for the soy sauce and you’re good to go.

I had this for dinner and leftovers for lunch.  All sorts of goodness.

Totally unrelated to this recipe, I have a mini poll…

Would you be interested in seeing workouts on here?

Let me know in the comments (Yay! I love work outs! Bring ’em on! OR Umm no thanks, more cake, please).

 

 

 

Salad Spring Rolls

One of my favorite things about living in Orange County was the plethora of Vietnamese restaurants.

Fun Fact: Orange County, CA has the largest Vietnamese population in the US.  

And because of that we were blessed with delicious (and inexpensive) restaurants.

Over the last four years, I’ve become obsessed with the Vietnamese Spring Rolls.  It’s almost a rule that I must order them any time I go to a Vietnamese restaurant.

I’m sure there have to be amazing Vietnamese restaurants here in the Bay Area, and I will do my best to discover them, but in the meantime, I’m going to keep the memory alive with some spring roll inspiration.

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These aren’t really Vietnamese spring rolls.  They don’t include rice noodles or shrimp or pork.  They’re just vegetables, which is why I call them salad spring rolls.  Despite not being like the tasty ones I get at restaurants, this has become my new favorite way to eat salad.

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They pretty quick, easy and tasty.  The other wonderful thing is you can make them with whatever you have on hand.

Here are some suggestions for filling your spring rolls:

Thai Basil
Lettuce
Cucumber
Carrots
Red Bell Pepper
Bean Sprouts

For Dipping Sauce:

1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1-2 tbsp peanut butter, natural
1-2 tbsp sriracha
1-2 tbsp water

To assemble, cut your vegetables into match tickets (i.e. carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers) and wash your lettuce and thai basil.   You’ll need to get rice paper.  You can probably find it at any Asian grocery store (or on Amazon).

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Wet your rice paper by dipping it in water for about 3 seconds and you’re ready to go (do one at a time, don’t wet them all at once, because they’re very sticky).  I have a rice paper water bowl, but it’s not essential, and shallow dish to submerge the paper in will work.

Then you can start assembling your spring rolls.   Place some of the vegetables toward the bottom of the circle, like such:

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Fold the right and left sides toward the center, then the shorter side up and roll to cover.  I couldn’t take photos of this process because it requires two hands and I only have two, unfortunately (or fortunately).  But this blog has an awesome tutorial!  Check it out!  

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Once your spring rolls are rolled and ready, make your quick dipping sauce.   Combine hoisin, peanut butter, sriracha in a bowl.  Start with 1 tbsp of each, taste it and adjust to your liking.

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You don’t have to use this dipping sauce, you can also mix fish sauce with water, a bit of sugar and chili garlic sauce and dip!  Or since these are salad rolls, feel free to dip in your favorite salad dressing.  We’re not being authentic here, so anything goes.

But seriously, this hand-held salad options is awesome.  I served it with some mustard rubbed chicken and it was a hit (to Jesse and me, that is, but I think we have ok taste).  I think this is my new favorite summer meal.

What’s your favorite salad or summer meal?

Cuban Roasted Pork and Cuban Sandwiches

If you watched the movie The Chef, you probably wanted to eat a Cuban sandwich the entire second half of the movie.  Maybe that’s just my inner fat kid talking but ever since watching that movie I’ve had a hankering for Cuban food.

My favorite spot, Versailles (both in Miami and in LA, different owners I believe), are a little out of reach. I decided to take matters into my own hands and roast a pork leg and make some damn sandwiches!  Isn’t that how all good stories start?

Let’s be honest. Sometimes we just need a good sandwich.

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The ingredients are simple: roasted pork, ham, swiss cheese, mustard, pickles.  But simple is definitely not what I would call this sandwich.

All this started with roasted pork marinated overnight in orange, lemon and lime juice with lots of garlic, onion and oregano.  Then I roasted it on high heat to get it crispy then let it cook low and slow for about 4 hours.

I’m not sure how to make a hunk of meat look good, but here it is.

roasted pork

A hunk of meat that got lots of TLC.  Then I sliced it up thin as the base for my cuban sandwiches.  You should know they’re delicious because I’m eating one as I type this.  My keyboard is greasy and I’m ok with that.  So let’s get started.  You start with the pork….

Cuban-Style Roasted Pork

1 pork leg (mine was about 7lbs)
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup lime juice
20 cloves of garlic
1 onion
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
handful of fresh oregano

Cuban Sandwiches

a few slices of cuban-style roasted pork, recipe follows
2 slices of ham
1 slice of swiss cheese
some pickles
some mustard
dang good bread*
a bit of butter (for grilling your sandwich)

In a blender, blend together juices, garlic, onion, salt, pepper and oregano.  Pierce pork as much as you can with a paring knife.  Pour juice mixture over pork leg and marinate overnight.

When ready to roast, preheat oven to 450F.  Transfer leg to a roasting dish and roast at 450F for 20 minutes, reserve the excess marinate.  After 20 minutes, turn down the heat to 300F and continue to cook 4-6 more hours.  If you want it falling off the bones tender, cook it longer.  If you want it sliceable, it should be ready around 4 hours.  If you slice it and it’s still bloody, throw it back in the oven.

While your leg is baking, transfer the excess marinade into a sauce pan and boil for about 5-10 minutes.  This will be the perfect side mojo sauce for dipping your pork in, also great with rice and yucca.

Once you remove the pork from the oven.  Let it chill on the counter for about 10 minutes on its own.  Then slice for sandwiches.  Now you’re ready to assemble your sandwiches.

*A note about “dang good bread.”  Cuban bread is delicious.  It’s soft and wonderful but not always easily accessible.  I used hoagie rolls I found at the grocery store.  It did the job.  Do with that what you will.

Spread your dang good bread with mustard (I like a good amount of mustard on there), then top with pickles, ham, roasted pork slices and swiss cheese.

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Put the sandwich together and grill it.  If you have a panini press, use that.  If you’re not fancy (like me), put it in a pan with a bit of butter then place another pan on top with a jar of something heavy to weigh it down.  And ta-da! Instant panini press on the cheap.

Allow to cook a few minutes (low and slow is the best way to go so the cheese melts), then flip and cook for a few more minutes until toasted and melty and delicious.

Slice in half and serve.  Repeat with however many sandwiches you’d like to make.

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A whole pork leg will yield a lot of meat, and I understand that this is definitely a process, but trust me, it’s worth it.

So invite your friends over, roast a pork leg and make some sandwiches, then go for a walk because you’ll probably need to walk this off.

What’s your favorite type of sandwich?   This is a tough one for me. This Cuban sandwich was amazing but I also love Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches.  Maybe that should be my next sandwich attempt!  But first… I’m running my first half marathon next Sunday, wish me luck!

Hatch Chile Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

You know how everyone has certain staples that they keep in their pantries?  I feel like for most people that’s things like canned tomatoes, pasta sauce, pasta. Basics that you can use to throw together a meal pretty quickly.

For me, it’s canned beans and tuna.  Classy. I know.

I rarely ever buy pasta.  It’s one of those things I just don’t even think to buy.  But I’m human and I love mac and cheese.  Sometimes I want that cheesy goodness, but I don’t feel like going to the store to buy pasta.

So I’ll be honest.  This is one of those things I threw together because I haven’t been to the grocery store in almost two weeks (I know, how am I surviving right?).  Spaghetti squash will last a good while on the counter, and I roasted some hatch chiles that Melissa’s Produce sent me a week ago, so we’re good to go.  But don’t worry, just because I threw this together with ingredients on hand, doesn’t mean it’s not delicious.  I’ve been eager to use those hatch chiles and this was seriously delicious.

I think you’ll love it!

hatchspaghettisquashandcheesetextHatch Chile Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

1 spaghetti squash
1 tbsp olive oil
2 fully cooked sausages, diced (optional)
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
2 cups cheese
2 hatch chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Poke holes in your spaghetti squash with a sharp knife and microwave for 5-10 minutes.  The cook time will vary depending on the size of your spaghetti squash.  You’ll know it’s ready when you can run your knife through it fairly easily.

While your spaghetti squash is cooking, heat oil in a large pot.  Once oil is hot, add sausage and brown until crispy on medium/high heat.  Once the sausage is browned, turn the heat down to low and add flour.  Toss with sausage and let it brown a minute or two.  Slowly stream in milk while whisking, breaking up any clumps in the process.  Once the milk is incoporated, add cheese and hatch chiles.  Stir until cheese is melted, taste and season with salt and pepper to your desired amount (I only added a few pinches because I don’t like things too salty).  Turn off heat and set aside.

Now go back to your spaghetti squash.  By now it should be cooked and cool enough to handle.  Slice in half, then spoon out the seeds.  Using a fork, fluff and pull out the strands of the squash.  Add the spaghetti squash to cheese sauce and stir until well combined.  Garnish with extra cheese and hatch chiles if you’d like then serve and enjoy!

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The spaghetti squash I used was enormous.  I’ll be eating this for a few days, but no complaints there.  This has an awesome kick from the hatch chiles, but it’s cooled by the creamy, cheesy sauce.  You can also easily make this vegetarian by omitting the sausage (or using vegetarian sausage).

What I also love about spaghetti squash dishes (oh hey, remember the Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash I made a while back?), is that it doesn’t feel too heavy. While I’m not claiming that this is healthy, I feel a little bit better about eating it than a full plate of pasta.  I think you could make this a bit healthier by reducing the amount of cheese and adding some greens in there.  We all need a little more kale in our life.  I’ll try throwing some in there next time.

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I’ll definitely make this again!

What are some of your pantry staples?