Deep Skillet Chicken Pad Thai

Greetings and Salutations…and Happy New Year to boot!

I hope the holiday season treated all of you well. It seems to have flown by! After a crazy year-end cycle at work, I am trying to get back into a normal routine again…especially when it comes to cooking and devoting more time to this blog. It seems harder and harder to make time for certain things in my life…things that are important but seem to end up on the back burner when juggling professional and personal obligations. I know we all experience it in our lives and try to find a balance. I am looking forward to things slowing down a bit so I can stop and smell the roses…or in this case, the Pad Thai!

So, it’s no secret that Thai food is one of my absolute favorites (I’ve raved about it more than a few times on this blog). One of the most commonly known dishes is Pad Thai, which is basically a stir-fry with rice noodles and other ingredients such as chicken, seafood, vegetables, and eggs. One wintery day a few weeks ago I experienced a mean craving for this delectable dish, but did not want to venture out into the cold to a restaurant. I found a basic recipe online and enhanced it a bit, omitting certain items like bean sprouts and amping up the quantities for the sauce, plus adding a little peanut butter. What I discovered is that Pad Thai is very easy to make and perfect for a cast iron wok or deep skillet. Below is a basic recipe compliments of allrecipes.com, with a few tweaks on my part. I hope you like it!

Deep Skillet Chicken Pad ThaiIngredients
1 (12 – 14 oz.) package Rice Noodles
1 pound Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 clove Garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsps. Canola Oil
4 Eggs
2 Tbsps. White Wine Vinegar
3 – 4 Tbsps. Fish Sauce
6 Tbsps. White Sugar (adjust quantity to taste)
1 Tbsp. Peanut Butter
1/8 Tbsp. Crushed Red Pepper
1/4 cup Chopped or Crushed Peanuts
3 Green Onions, chopped

First step, prepare rice noodles according to package directions.

Heat 2 Tbsps. of oil in cast iron skillet or wok.

Next, heat 2 Tbsps. of oil in cast iron skillet or wok.

Add chicken and garlic, saute together until chicken is browned.

Add chicken and garlic, saute together until chicken is browned.

Once browned, remove chicken to from skillet.

Once browned, remove chicken to a plate.

Heat remaining oil over medium-high heat.

Heat remaining oil over medium-high heat.

Crack eggs into hot oil and cook until firm, looking almost as if they are scrambled.

Crack eggs into hot oil and cook until firm, looking almost as if they are scrambled.

Cooked eggs.

Cooked eggs.

Return the chicken to the skillet.

Return the chicken to the skillet.

Combine with cooked eggs.

Combine with cooked eggs.

Add the cooked rice noodles.

Add the cooked rice noodles.

Add vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes, and peanut butter. Combine thoroughly.

Add vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes, and peanut butter. Combine thoroughly.

Garnish with chopped green onions and peanuts. You are set to start your new year in Thai fashion!

Garnish with chopped green onions and peanuts. You are set to start your new year in Thai fashion!

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No Headache Crab Cakes with Broccoli Slaw

So another reason why I haven’t been posting much is that I have been suffering from a cluster of mini-migraines over the past couple of weeks. They haven’t been bad enough for me to miss work, but annoying enough to make me feel…well, a little crabby. For those of you who don’t suffer from migraines, they can be pretty miserable when they are bad. You feel like a vice is around your head and someone is poking a spike from behind your skull through your eye. When they’re not so bad, you usually feel this dull ache behind your eye, along your temple, down your neck and into your shoulder. It’s hard to concentrate or feel like doing much activity. But suffer through them one must.

When I was in my 20s, my migraines were horrible. I became nauseous, severely sensitive to light (a sunny day actually hurt and it was hard to drive), and I needed about 14 hours of sleep in a very dark, quiet room with a cold washcloth over my eyes to kill the pain. As I’ve aged, the severity of my migraines has diminished (I guess there is one positive thing about getting older). Today, I can usually get through a day with a generic version of Excedrin Migraine, lots of caffeine and protein, and maybe some yoga to relax and get all my kinks out. I’m a pretty healthy person, but migraines remain the number one reason I call in sick at work. They are my nemesis.

Needless to say, I haven’t felt like cooking much over the past couple of weeks. But, since I’ve been migraine-free for the past three days and my crabbiness has diminished, I think a little celebration is in order.

So how about some No Headache Crab Cakes?

IMG_7155Ingredients
2 6-oz. cans Crabmeat, drained, flaked
1/2 tsp. Seafood Seasoning (or try Cajun seasoning to spice things up!)
1 Tbsp. Oil
2-3 Scallions, chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 cup HeartSmart Bisquick mix
1/2 cup Milk
2 Eggs

In a bowl, combine the crab meat and seafood seasoning, then set aside.

In a bowl, combine the crab meat and seafood seasoning, then set aside.

Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.

Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.

IMG_7158

Add veggies and cook for 4 minutes.

Add the crab meat and heat through.

Add the crab meat and heat through.

Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Once cool, add the cheese.

Once cool, add the cheese.

In a bowl, whisk the Bisquick, milk and eggs.

In a bowl, whisk the Bisquick, milk and eggs…

until combined.

until combined.

Spoon a couple of tablespoons of batter into a cast iron biscuit pan or muffin tin.

Coat a cast iron biscuit pan or muffin tin with cooking spray. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of batter into each section.

Spoon a 1/4 cup of crab mix on top of the batter.

Spoon a 1/4 cup of crab mix on top of the batter.

Spoon another couple of tablespoons of batter on top of the crab mixture.

Spoon another couple of tablespoons of batter on top of the crab mixture.

Repeat until the biscuit pan is full.

Repeat until the biscuit pan is full.

Bake in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes.

Bake in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes.

Remove the crab cakes with a knife and cool for 10 minutes on a wire baking rack.

Remove the crab cakes with a knife and cool for 10 minutes on a wire baking rack.

While your crab cakes are cooling, make the broccoli slaw.

IMG_7176Ingredients
2 cups Broccoli Slaw (you can also use cole slaw mix if you cannot find broccoli slaw at the grocery store)
1/4 cup Sour Cream
1/3 cup Salsa
1-2 Tbsps. chopped Cilantro

Combine the four ingredients in a bowl...

Combine the four ingredients in a bowl…

and mix thoroughly.

and mix thoroughly.

Serve the crab cake on a bed of broccoli slaw...no headaches in making these simple cakes. Enjoy!

Serve the crab cake on a bed of broccoli slaw…no headaches in making these simple cakes. Enjoy!

Choco-Pumpkin Johnnycakes

Johnnycakes are the cornmeal cousin to pancakes and date back as far as colonial America. Today, they remain popular in New England. Hoecakes are the southern variety. Both are usually cooked on a griddle or in a skillet. I decided to bake mine, making them like a dense muffin. I had a cup of canned pumpkin left over from my Upside-Down Cranberry Rumpkin Skillet Cake and a bag of devilish special dark chocolate chips, so Choco-Pumpkin Johnnycakes were born.

Johnnycakes are not very sweet, which is actually something I like about them. They can be served as a side to a savory dish or doused with warm maple syrup for breakfast with a hot cup of tea.

Ingredients
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
2 tsps. Baking Powder
1/3 cup Sugar
1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups Milk
1 cup canned Pumpkin
3/4 cup finely ground Yellow Cornmeal
6 Tbsps. Unsalted Butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped, toasted Walnuts
1/2 cup Chocolate Chips

Toast the walnuts in a small skillet over medium-low heat until they begin to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, salt and nutmeg…

until combined.

Warm the milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until bubbles form around the edges. Remove from heat and reserve 1/2 cup of the milk.

Add the cornmeal to the warm milk and stir with a whisk…

until completely combined.

Cover the saucepan with a lid and let sit for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, add the eggs

and pumpkin

until combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. If the batter is too thick, add some of the reserved milk. I added about a 1/4 cup to get the consistency I wanted.

Fold in the toasted walnuts

and chocolate chips

to create a yummy batter. Let the batter rest for another 10 minutes. While it’s snoozing, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a cast iron biscuit pan or muffin pan with cooking spray.

Fill each section about 3/4 full.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes until a skewer or toothpick in the center comes clean. Cool on top of a wire rack.

Once cool, remove from the pan and enjoy!

Upside-Down Cranberry Rumpkin Skillet Cake

So here it is. My absolute favorite cake…period. This luscious cake has everything I love…cranberries, pumpkin, toasted walnuts and, the secret ingredient, rum. It provides an autumnal dance of flavors in every bite – tartness from the cranberries, sweetness from the pumpkin, and a sugary rum topping that puts a big smile on my face. It’s great as a coffee cake, holiday dessert or afternoon snack. I found the recipe years ago in Sunset magazine. During the holiday season, I stock up on bags of cranberries (which I keep in my freezer) and cans of pumpkin so I can have this yummy cake whenever the mood strikes me. (And yes, there is a bottle of Captain Morgan hiding in my pantry…but it’s only for cooking, I swear.)

I bake this in my cast iron skillet, but you can also use a 9-inch cake pan.

Ingredients
1/4 cup Butter, plus more for skillet or pan
1/2 cup firmly packed Light Brown Sugar
1 1/3 cups Cranberries (If using frozen cranberries, measure while frozen, then thaw before using.)
2/3 cup coarsely chopped Toasted Walnuts (To toast walnuts, bake in a 350-degree oven until golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes.)
1 Tbsp. Rum
2 large Eggs
1 cup canned Pumpkin
1/3 cup Canola or Vegetable Oil
1 cup Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Salt
Lightly sweetened soft Whipped Cream (recipe at end)
Parchment Paper

First, toast the walnuts as directed above. Keep the oven on at 350-degrees and butter your skillet or pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.

Whisk in brown sugar until blended.

Remove from heat and whisk in rum until a smooth sauce forms. Oooh, you can smell the rummy goodness.

Pour the mixture over the parchment-lined skillet or pan, evenly covering the bottom.

Combine the toasted walnuts and cranberries in a bowl.

Arrange them evenly over the rum sauce.

In a large bowl, add the eggs, pumpkin, oil and sugar.

Beat with a mixer until smooth.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture…

and combine into a thick, smooth batter.

Spread the batter evenly over the cranberries and walnuts…

until completely covered.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 35-45 minutes until a skewer or knife in the center comes out clean. Transfer skillet or pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.

Once cool, run a thin-bladed knife around the edges.

Invert cake onto a serving platter or plate. Remove pan and parchment, and let cool for at least 20 minutes. Serve slightly warm with whipped cream.

While your cake is in the oven, make the whipped cream. It is incredibly easy to make homemade whipped cream and you can control its sweetness and flavor. Refrigerate it once made.

Ingredients
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1/4 cup Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla

Pour the whipping cream in a bowl. With a mixer, beat it until it just starts to stiffen.

Add the sugar and vanilla.

Beat at medium speed until peaks form.

Peaky whipped cream goodness.

Spoon a dollop on top of a slice of upside-down cranberry rumpkin cake. Happy Fall! (I dare you to not eat the whole cake in one sitting.)

Foolproof Chili and Skillet Cornbread

Ahhh…fall is just around the corner – this Saturday marks the official start of my favorite season. So what better way to celebrate than with two of my favorite autumnal dishes – chili and cornbread (the two just go together, don’t they?). Now I must confess that I stole this chili recipe from one of my husband’s employees, who stole it from his mom, who won a few cooking awards with it. I was never much of a chili fan until I tried this recipe. Now, I am hooked. What I love most about this recipe is that it isn’t super hot (although you can ratchet up the heat if you want), but it has tons of flavor, includes ground beef and Italian sausage, black beans, and the secret ingredient – fresh corn cut from the cob. It is impossible to mess up this chili (thus the name) and it cooks well in a crock pot in case you want to serve it at potlucks, as a dip with tortilla chips, or tailgating. The cornbread is simple, yet divine, moist and fluffy like a cake. Baking it in a cast iron skillet just makes it that much extra special. Give it a try…and here’s to chilly mornings and turning leaves.

Skillet Cornbread ingredientsSkillet Cornbread Ingredients
1/2 cup Butter, melted
2 Eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups Milk
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Cornmeal
1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt

Whisk together the melted butter, eggs and milk in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients.

Make sure dry ingredients are fully combined.

Add the dry mix, one cup at a time, to the wet ingredients and stir.

Until dry and wet ingredients are completely combined.

Pour batter into a lightly greased cast iron skillet. I placed a cookie sheet underneath to make it easier to carry and to catch any spills – not that I’m a clutz or anything, because I’m not. Really.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 35 minutes or until a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean. Your cornbread should be lightly golden brown. Check out those edges. I love you cast iron skillet!

Notice how moist and fluffy!

While your cornbread is baking, prepare your chili.

Foolproof Chili Ingredients
1 lb. Ground Beef
1 lb. Ground Italian Sausage, mild (choose hot if you want more heat)
1 10 oz. can RoTel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies, mild (or hot, if you like it spicy!)
1 6 oz. can Tomato Paste
1 15.5 oz can each of Black Beans and Red Kidney Beans
1-2 Bell Peppers (I like red and yellow), chopped
1 Jalapeno, chopped (add two, if you can stand the heat in the kitchen)
Fresh Corn cut from 3 corn cobs
1 Tbsp. each of Garlic Salt, Chili Powder, Ground Cumin, Oregano

In a Dutch oven, brown the ground beef and Italian sausage.

Once the meat is browned, add the RoTel tomatoes and tomato paste.

Add the beans.

Then the peppers.

Now the fresh corn.

Mix all ingredients well.

Finally, add all of the spices and herbs and stir into chili.

Cover the Dutch oven with a lid and let the chili simmer for 30 minutes until hot.

Serve with a hearty slice of Skillet Cornbread.