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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Skillet Cashew Chicken

Well, the temps here in Reno over the weekend are supposed to edge into the low 90s. I think summer is finally upon us at last.

During the summer I prefer to eat on the lighter side – dishes that are healthy, full of fresh veggies and aren’t too heavy.

I like to make a lot of stir frys and, since I don’t own a wok, my cast iron skillet does the trick beautifully as it heats quickly and evenly.

One of my favorite Chinese dishes that I order out all of the time is cashew chicken. Ironically, I never made it home. It seemed to be that special dish only for the restaurant. But no more! I found a nice recipe online that includes a lot of my favorite ingredients – ginger, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, snow peas, and of course, cashews.

Give this light and simple dish a try. You won’t be sweating over the stove and dinner will be ready in no time – so you can get on with summer fun!

IMG_0241Ingredients
3 Tbsps.  reduced-sodium Soy Sauce
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp. reduced-sodium Chicken Broth, divided
3/4 tsp. Sesame Oil, divided
1 lb. boneless skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp. Cornstarch
1 Tbsp. Sugar
1 Tbsp. Rice Vinegar
1 Tbsp. Hoisin Sauce
1/2 tsp. minced fresh Gingerroot
1/4 tsp Salt
2 tsps. Canola Oil, divided
1 1/2 cups fresh Snow Peas
2 medium Carrots, julienned
1/2 cup unsalted Cashews
Cooked Rice, optional

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 2 Tbsps. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. chicken broth, and 1/2 tsp. sesame oil; add the chicken. Seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 2 Tbsps. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. chicken broth, and 1/2 tsp. sesame oil; add the chicken. Seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and 1/3 cup chicken broth until smooth.

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and 1/3 cup chicken broth until smooth.

Stir in the sugar, vinegar, hoisin sauce, ginger, salt and remaining soy sauce and sesame oil. Set aside.

Stir in the sugar, vinegar, hoisin sauce, ginger, salt and remaining soy sauce and sesame oil. Set aside.

Drain chicken and discard marinade.  Heat oil in cast iron skillet. Add the chicken.

Drain chicken and discard marinade. Heat oil in cast iron skillet. Add the chicken.

Stir fry until no longer pink. Remove to a plate.

Stir fry until no longer pink. Remove to a plate.

In the same skillet, add the carrots and snow peas.

In the same skillet, add the carrots and snow peas.

Stir fry until tender crisp.

Stir fry until tender crisp.

Return chicken to the skillet.

Return chicken to the skillet.

Stir sauce mixture and stir into chicken mixture. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for about a minute or until thickened.

Stir sauce mixture and stir into chicken mixture. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for about a minute or until thickened.

Add the cashews.

Add the cashews.

Serve with or without cooked rice. Enjoy!

Serve with or without cooked rice. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Thai Chicken

Well I hope you all enjoyed lovely holidays this past week. My Christmas day was peaceful…just what I needed. And now a new year is only a few days away. I’m not sure what 2013 has in store for me, other than taking on a new position at work, lots of dog trials, a Dutch oven competition or two, and plenty of bountiful feasts to blog about. I think that will keep me busy.

One of  my year-end traditions involves a great purge of refrigerator, pantry and closets. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing today instead of perched here in front of the computer. Yep, I’m procrastinating. Sort of. I did find a way to use some leftover canned pumpkin, part of which was used to bake my favorite Upside-Down Cranberry Rumpkin Skillet Cake for a holiday potluck. Since I overdosed on sweets over the holidays, I decided to make something savory with my pumpkin.

I love Thai food and found a way to incorporate my leftover canned pumpkin into a delicate, earthy Thai peanut sauce. This recipe is insanely simple and relatively quick, aside from the chicken marinating for an hour in the fridge. Serve it up with rice or skewer the meat and veggies over a grill for a nice satay. Give it a whirl…and here’s to 2013.

Pumpkin Thai ChickenIngredients
1 cup canned Pumpkin
2/3 cup Milk
1/3 cup Peanut Butter
1/3 cup chopped Green Onions
2 cloves Garlic
2 Tbsps. chopped Cilantro
2 Tbsps. Lime Juice
2 tsps. Granulated Sugar
1 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1/4 tsp. Salt
2 large Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 Red Bell Pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch Green Onions, cut into 1-inch pieces, include green sections
Hot cooked Rice

In a food processor or blender, combine pumpkin, milk, peanut butter, chopped green onions, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, sugar, soy sauce, salt and cayenne pepper.

In a food processor or blender, combine pumpkin, milk, peanut butter, chopped green onions, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, sugar, soy sauce, salt and cayenne pepper.

Pumpkin Thai Chicken

Blend thoroughly. Food processors are the bomb!

Pumpkin Thai Chicken

Combine the chicken pieces and pumpkin/peanut sauce in a bowl. Marinate for 1 hour in the fridge.

In a cast iron skillet, brown the chicken pieces. Add the vegetables.

In a cast iron skillet, brown the chicken pieces. Add the vegetables.

Combine and heat the vegetables through, about five minutes.

Combine and heat the vegetables through, about five minutes.

Serve with white rice and a side of pumpkin/peanut sauce.

Serve with white rice and a side of pumpkin/peanut sauce.

Fell off the Wagon Caramel Apple Crisp

Yep. It’s true. My hubby and I fell off the low-glycemic wagon…again. I conducted another fridge and pantry purge over the weekend, trying to use up some ingredients and foods that I simply didn’t want to go to waste. There is nothing that I hate more than throwing away perfectly good food.

I had some tart Granny Smith apples in the fridge and a jar of sugar-free caramel sauce so I decided to make a twist on an old-fashioned apple crisp. Let me tell you, this dish tastes great and spreads a wonderful aroma throughout the house. My husband and I couldn’t wait for it to bake.

So here’s a dish for the fall and to celebrate the end of the election season, whether you are happy with the outcomes or not. The bleeping craziness is over. No more phone calls and campaigners ringing door bells, no more political flyers hung on my door and jamming my mailbox, and no more nasty campaign ads on TV. I think a little sweetness is in order, don’t you?

Ingredients
Apple Mixture:
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup Orange Juice
1/2 cup Sugar
1 12-oz. jar Sugar-Free Caramel Sauce

Topping:
1 1/4 cups Brown Sugar
1 1/4 cups Oats
1 cup Flour
1/2 cup Butter, softened or slightly melted
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Nutmeg

Mix the apples with the orange juice and sugar in a bowl.

Spread the apple mixture in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or small baking dish.

Slowly heat up the jar of caramel sauce over low heat. Stir constantly until it becomes creamy. Don’t warm it at too high a heat or it will scorch. Don’t microwave it either as the same problem can happen.

Drizzle the caramel sauce over the apple mixture.

For the topping, place the brown sugar in a bowl.

Add the oats…

Flour…

and the butter.

Add the spices and combine all ingredients to get crumbly pea-sized bits of topping.

Spread the topping over the caramel apple mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes until bubbly, the apples are cooked through and the topping begins to brown.

Serve with ice cream – the sugar-free variety if you have it. 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.)

Apple Nectarine Galette

Man oh man this is such a busy week at work. I’m afraid I won’t get many posts in this week. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel and October looks to be a quieter, gentler month (fingers crossed).

Thankfully, over the past weekend, I was able to lay low – no Dutch oven events, dog trials or other urgent matters – and got a chance to make something I have wanted to make in a long time. A galette.

What exactly is a galette? Basically a French freeform pastry, almost like a very rustic open-faced pie. The crust is slightly denser than pie crust and often filled with fruit of the season.

I had some Fuji apples and a very lonesome nectarine begging to be eaten, so they became my fruit of choice for my galette.

I found an apple galette recipe online and adjusted it to include the nectarine. I also reduced the amount of brown sugar, since I was using Fuji apples, which are pretty sweet. If you use tart apples, like Granny Smiths, then bump up the amount of brown sugar.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose Flour
1 Tbsp. granulated Sugar
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. cold Butter
1/2 cup walnuts
1 large Egg Yolk, lightly beaten
1 large Egg, beaten to blend with 1 Tbsp. Water
2 to 3 Apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 Nectarine, sliced
1/4 cup firmly packed Brown Sugar (not pictured*) – use 1/2 cup Brown Sugar if using tart apples
1/4 tsp. ground Nutmeg (not pictured*)

*In my haste and excitement, I forgot to include the brown sugar and nutmeg in the photo.

Combine the flour, granulated sugar and salt in a bowl.

Cut 1/2 cup of butter into pieces and work into the flour mixture

until it resembles coarse meal.

Add the egg yolk and 4 Tbsp. of cold water, one Tbsp. at a time, into the mixture.

Mix until you can form a ball.

Place the dough on some cellophane and flatten it into a disc.

Wrap up the dough and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.

While your dough is chillin’, spread the walnuts in a baking pan (over parchment, if you like) and bake at 375 degrees in an oven for about 6 to 8 minutes, until slightly golden brown. Chop coarsely.

While your dough is still chillin’ and your walnuts are getting toasty, melt the remaining 2 Tbsp. of butter in a cast iron skillet.

Add apples and stir often over medium heat for about 10 to 12 minutes, until slightly softened and brown at edges.

Sprinkle brown sugar and nutmeg over apples.

Stir for about 5 minutes until liquid is bubbly and syrupy.

Add the nectarine

and the walnuts. Combine and remove from the heat.

Lay out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface. Lightly flour a rolling pin.

Roll out the dough until it is about 12 to 15 inches in diameter. No I did not measure this. Just wing it. It’s rustic, remember?

Transfer the dough onto a parchment-lined cast iron pizza pan.

Pile the fruit filling in the center. Be sure to leave a couple of inches around the edges.

Gently fold edges around the fruit filling, pleating as you go, leaving an opening of about 3 to 4 inches wide in the center. (Again, I did not measure this. Mon dieux…rustique!)

Combine an egg and 1 Tbsp. of water to create an egg wash. Brush it along the edges of the crust.

Bake in a 375-degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and apples are tender when pierced. Transfer the galette with the parchment paper onto a wire rack to cool.

Sprinkle the galette with powdered sugar and serve while warm. Try it with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Tres bien!

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.