Red Curry with Chicken

September 3, 2013 Leave a comment
Red Curry with Chicken

Red Curry with Chicken

Over the past two months I’ve had some sort of Thai food more times than I care to admit.

I’ve dined on the ever popular Pad Thai (with Shrimp).  I sampled its wider noodle cousin but very different tasting (in a good way), Pad See Eaw (with chicken).  I’ve tasted Spicy Noodles (with beef and again with shrimp).  I even tried something new, Lhad Nha (hard to eat and not one of my favorites).  And of course, I’ve tried curry, which, besides Pad Thai, is probably the most recognized of all Thai dishes. (I’ve had red and green, the former with seafood and the later with chicken both with added fruit, mango and pineapple respectfully).  

Nicky's Pad Thai

Nicky’s Pad Thai

I order all of my Thai with a spice level 5 — I like it hot, but not too hot so middle of the road seems about right.

Ok, so clearly, I have an addiction (or at the very least, a current food obsession).  Although, I must mention that while I’ve sampled all of these dishes, some have been in the form of sharing.  I love food, I’m not quite a glutton (quite).

For my money, the best places in Pittsburgh to enjoy Thai is either Nicky’s Thai Kitchen on the Northside of town, or Smiling Banana Leaf in the Highland Park area of the city.  There is debate as to which is better, but honestly, you can’t go wrong with either.

IF I had to choose one over the other, I would choose Nicky’s simply for convenience purposes.  Plus, I love their outside dining area.  When the weather is nice, request to sit outside and you’ll be delighted by the experience.  Very tranquil.

The outdoor seating area at Nicky's Thai Kitchen, Pittsburgh

The outdoor seating area at Nicky’s Thai Kitchen, Pittsburgh

Since dining out enough to satisfy my Thai cravings was starting to add up, I figured I better start doing some research so I can begin to recreate these dishes at home.

I found all sorts of recipes — they range from complex (Pad See Eew) to simple (Curry).

Since it was my first attempt at homemade Thai, I thought I’d keep it simple and start with the curry.

I think the flavor for my first attempt came out good, but admittedly I need to add a bit more curry to get it to the right spice level (the recipe below will have it mild for the whole family to enjoy).

Feel free to substitute any of the vegetables or protein. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from bevcooks.com

Ingredients:

Serves 2-4

  • 3 Tablespoons Red Curry Paste (or more if you like it spicy)
  • 1 can coconut milk (14oz), divided, (do not shake – fat from top will be used)
  • 1/2 Cup Low Sodium Chicken Stock (homemade if possible)
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup snow peas
  • 1/2 cup peas (frozen)
  • 1/4 cup carrots (julienne)
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
  • Juice of half of lime
  • 1-2 scallions, chopped for garnish
  • Olive Oil
  1. Heat large, deep, saute pan over medium heat.
  2. Add one drizzle olive oil and a tablespoon of fat skimmed from the top of the coconut milk.
  3. Add curry paste and 1/4 can of the coconut milk.  Whisk to combine until lumps from paste are gone.
  4. Add remaining coconut milk, chicken stock, and fish sauce. Stir to combine.
  5. Add all vegetables (except peas) and stir.
  6. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until carrots soft but not mushy)
  7. Add peas and chicken and cook for approximately 3 minutes to heat through.
  8. Squeeze lime juice in to pan.

Ladle in to a bowl and serve with rice on the side.

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Roasted Vegetable and Hummus Wrap

March 17, 2013 1 comment
Roasted Vegetable and Hummus Wrap

Roasted Vegetable and Hummus Wrap

I pack my lunch every day (sans the occasional planned lunch outing) like a second-grader. Ok, I don’t include pudding snacks or goldfish crackers with my lunch, but you get the point.

But before you say to yourself “Man, ain’t nobody got time for that“, consider the benefits

The number one benefit, as you might suspect is cost.  Buying lunch every day would cost anywhere between $6 and $10 depending on what I get.  That’s a savings of roughly $1400 per year.  I’m going to Vegas in a few weeks and 2 round trip non-stop flights, a 4-Star hotel for 5 nights and a rental car cost me $1300.  Puts it in to perspective doesn’t it.

The next benefit is choice.  By packing my own lunch I know exactly what I’m getting and can really pay attention to what I eat.  I control it and I’m not tempted by the bad choices our cafeteria has to offer. A little planning ensures I have fruits, lean proteins, and a low-calorie yogurt to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Finally, packing is a time saver. Yes, it takes a few minutes to plan the night before (or morning of) work, but by having my lunch packed I don’t have to worry about heading to the cafeteria, which often has lines longer than Disney’s Space Mountain.  If I leave the building that’s often 30 minutes or more.  I’d rather use that time to relax, unwind a bit, get caught up on the days events, or unfortunately at times, use that time to stay ahead of the work I get paid to do.

The downside of packing every day is often getting trapped in to repetitive eating, which leads to boredom, which then turns in to bad choices, which turn in to weight gain.  However, packing your lunch doesn’t always have to be turkey sandwich on whole wheat.

That brings me to this wrap.

My co-worker and avid foodie Jon gave me this recipe.  It’s packed full of flavor, is extremely tasty, and very filling.  If you have this for lunch, you won’t need much else despite the low calories in this wrap.

It takes a bit of prep work to get them made, but if you do all the prep on Sunday, you have a weeks worth of wraps.  Well worth it if you ask me.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

For the Hummus:

  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 can of chick peas, drained and rinsed well
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt (or any course salt)
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • 1 lemon, halved (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut the top off of the garlic.
  3. Place garlic on aluminum foil and drizzle olive and salt.
  4. Wrap garlic in the foil, place on sheet pan, and roast for 45 minute.
  5. Set aside to cool.
  6. Add the chickpeas and the roasted garlic cloves (you should be able to squeeze each clove out of the ‘paper’) to a food processor.
  7. Begin to mix, slowing adding olive oil until hummus is at desired consistency.
  8. Add salt, pepper, and if you wish a squeeze of lemon.  Pulse to combine.
  9. Set aside.

For the Wraps (substitute any vegetables you like)

  • 4-5 carrots, peeled
  • 1 large or 2 small onions
  • 3-4 celery sticks
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 1 head of cauliflower, halved
  • 1 head of broccoli, halved
  • 1 large zucchini or yellow squash (or both)
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of cumin
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Pinch of Black Pepper
  • 6-8 large tortillas (or any wrap you wish – there are a variety on the market)
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Mix all of the spices in a small bowl, set aside.
  3. Cut all vegetables approximately (the same size for even cooking).
  4. Add all vegetable to a large bowl and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper.
  5. Lightly coat 2 large sheet pans with olive oil (to prevent sticking).
  6. Distribute the vegetables evenly to both sheet pans.
  7. Season the vegetables with the spice mixture (you may not use it all of the spice mixture).
  8. Roast the vegetables for approximately 40 minutes, turning half way through.
  9. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

To assemble the wraps:

  1. Spread a thin layer of hummus on the tortilla.
  2. Add a few heaping spoonfuls of vegetables in the center of the tortilla.
  3. Roll burrito style.
  4. Grill 1-2 minutes on a panini press, grill pan, or similar to add texture to the tortilla. (optional).
  5. Repeat until you’ve used all of the vegetables.

**You can make all of these ahead of time, wrap in parchment, plastic wrap, or foil and store in the refrigerator .  I prefer to make them each day**

Beef and Broccoli

March 2, 2013 Leave a comment
Beef and Broccoli

Beef and Broccoli

Yesterday, like millions of other people, I flipped my calendar to March.  For most, present company included, that means Spring is right around the corner.  Looking out my front window this morning, I’m hard-pressed to believe that to be the case. I will try to remain optimistic.  IT. IS. NOT. WORKING.  I blame it on that rodent.

I need Spring to arrive soon.

I need it to come so I can ride my new bike.  I need it so I can see the trees and flowers in bloom.  I need it so I can take that first hike along the beautiful trails of Western Pennsylvania.  I need it so I can open the windows and feel a decently warm breeze.

But mainly I need Spring to arrive so I can properly wash the cars.  They are filthy!

Now granted, I’m not the best when it comes to keeping my car clean year round, but I do love when I rid myself of the reminders of the cold winter.  Be gone salt and grime and make way for bird crap!

DAMN IT!

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I often hear that making good Chinese food at home is difficult.  This recipe will prove to you that its not.

I adapted this recipe from the bazillion beef and broccoli recipes scattered all over the Internet.

The one common theme I found to have great success with this dish is to slice the beef against the grain then marinade it.

Slicing against the grain is simply examining the beef  to find the lines that are all running in the same direction.  This is the grain.  Now cut against it (not with it). Cutting with the grain will ensure that your beef is extremely “stringy” and tough to chew. This isn’t very tasty.

Taking these steps will ensure your homemade beef and broccoli is Chinese take-out tender.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:For the meat marinade:

  • 2 pounds flank steak, sliced across the grain in thin strips
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon water
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the baking soda, sugar, cornstarch, soy sauce and olive oil.
  2. Add the strips of flank steak.
  3. Coat all of the meat with the marinade.
  4. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
  5. Continue with the next steps below.

For cooking:

  • 1 head of broccoli, florets only
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce (if you don’t have low sodium, use 1/4 cup of regular)
  • 2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • Zest of half of an orange
  • 1 squeeze of a quarter of the orange
  1. In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, flour and vinegar until smooth. Set aside.
  2. In a large saute pan (or wok if you own one, I don’t), heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil over high heat.
  3. Once the oil is hot, add broccoli and saute 3-4 minutes, stirring often until bright green and slightly tender.
  4. Transfer broccoli to a plate.
  5. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the hot pan.
  6. Add the marinated meat and half of the sauce mixture and saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until the meat is barely cooked through (its ok to be slightly pink).
  7. Add the orange zest and juice.  Stir.
  8. Stir in the broccoli and remaining sauce and saute for another minute or so.

Serve with rice or noodles.

My wife wasn't impressed with my presentation

My wife wasn’t impressed with my presentation

Chicken Gyro

February 17, 2013 Leave a comment
Chicken Gyro

Chicken Gyro

Hi, are you looking for Digitally Dennis’ blog? Don’t worry you’re in the right place. I just made some minor enhancements based on a few suggestions from some of my readers.

First, and probably the biggest change, was the name of the blog itself. To be honest, when I launched last May, I wasn’t really ready to make this a full time hobby. I was however, eager to try it out so I rushed to pick a name. Needless to say, I got so much enjoyment out of sharing my stories and recipes that I ran with “Digitally Dennis” for the past 8 plus months. So when I decided to “get under the hood” so-to-speak to make my other changes, I figured I’d it was time to change the name too.  So welcome to “The Stained Cookbook.”

Your current bookmark should still get you here, but you may want to update it at some point because the redirect option will only be there for a year or so. Plenty of time.

In addition to the name change, I did two slight formatting changes.

First, you’ll now notice that the actual recipe is now in it’s own little “box”.  Some people come to the site just for the recipes so I wanted to call out the recipe to make it easier for those readers.

Secondly, the ingredients are bullet points and the steps numbered. This was something I started doing with my last couple of entries, but with this change, I went back and modified the past couple of months.

I just felt like these two changes gave the page a much cleaner look.

Finally, I added a “print and pdf” button in the “share this” section of each individual post (you can find it right beneath each entry). So for those that want to print the recipes or save it as a PDF. Just click that button and it will redirect you to a new page.  There you can decide how much of the blog entry you want to print.  Choose as much or as little of the entry as you would like.  Or if you prefer, save it as a PDF for viewing later (maybe on your eReader or tablet). You also have the option to remove the photos if you need to save on ink.  Previously printing any of my entries was just a mess so this is long overdue.

I’m sure this won’t be the last time I make changes, as I’m always looking for ways to improve the experience but I think these were some much needed immediate improvements.  Let me know what you think.  And if you have other recommendations, I’d really like to hear them.

Oh, and if you’re curious as to why I picked “The Stained Cookbook”, it’s pretty obvious…

Never claimed to be neat

Never claimed to be neat

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Pronounced “Yeer-Oh” , this chicken version is a take on the Greek Sandwich traditionally made with Lamb.

It’s served on Gyro Bread which is a thicker, fluffier, (and in my opinion tastier) cousin of the Pita.  I’m fortunate enough to live in a city where Gyro Bread is pretty easy to find (Pita Land or Stomolis for my Pittsburgh brethren) but if you can’t get your hands on some, pita will work just fine.

Finally it’s topped with a  Tzatziki sauce (cucumber sauce) made with Greek Yogurt.  Add lettuce, tomato, and a few slices of red onion and enjoy!

Ingredients:For the Tzatziki:

  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 of a large cucumber, peeled and seeds removed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced fine
  • 1 squeeze fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 drizzle olive oil
  1. Shred the cucumber and wrap in a clean dish towel.  Squeeze to remove as much moisture as possible.
  2. Combine cucumber with the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar and salt and pepper.  Mix well.
  3. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.
  4. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes but overnight is preferred.

For the chicken:

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Salt and Pepper
  1. Add all ingredients to a gallon sized ziplock bag (or large non-reactive bowl).
  2. Mix well to coat the chicken.
  3. Refrigerate for 4 hours.
  4. Cook chicken using desired method (grill or in a skillet).
  5. When chicken is cooked, remove and cut in to chunks, thin slices or shread.

Assembly:

  1. Add one piece of gyro bread to a dry skillet that has been heated over medium heat.  Heat each side 1-2 minutes or until warmed through.
  2. Add chicken, lettuce, tomato, onion to the center of gyro bread.
  3. Top with a few heaping teaspoons of tzatziki sauce.
  4. Wrap have of the folded gyro in foil or parchment paper and twist.
  5. Serve immediately.
Homemade and healthier "Yeer-Oh!"

Homemade and healthier “Yeer-Oh!”

Fish Tacos

January 27, 2013 3 comments
Fish Tacos

Fish Tacos

I recently visited my doctor and I left the office with tons of questions.

Why are soap operas on in the waiting room?  Why not something more neutral like a news channel?

What is that smell?  Doctor’s offices always have that unique smell that you never smell anywhere else.  I can’t explain it but if you were to blind fold me and lead me to a doctor’s office, I’d know I was there.

Who decided that a roll of paper is the best material to sit on while waiting endlessly for the doctor to show up?

Why are patient gowns impossible to tie without help?

Why are we weighed with all of our clothes on and why doesn’t the doctor take that into consideration when figuring out if we’re overweight?  Surely the shorts, t-shirt and flip flops I wore during my July visit weigh less than the jeans, boots, and sweater I had on during the January visit.

Why, no matter what my ailments are, does the doctor always prescribe exercise and weight loss?  I seriously doubt the chronic cough I recently developed is caused by being 10 or 20 pounds overweight.

Why am I all-of-a-sudden talking in a Jerry Seinfeld voice?

Who are these people…..

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Next up in my series of good for you meals is Fish tacos.  Skeptical?  “Hmmm…?” you say. Well I say don’t knock it until you try it.

They’re a nice alternative to chicken or beef tacos and of course, the fish combined with the fresh ingredients make them light and full of flavor and a heck of lot healthier.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh tilapia fillets (or other mild, white fish)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (seeds removed)
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes (if fresh are not available, canned are perfectly fine)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Creole Seasoning (such as Tony Chachere’s)
  • Corn Tortillas
  1. Rise and dry fish.  Season both sides lightly with the creole seasoning.  Set aside.
  2. In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  3. Saute’ onion until slightly translucent (3-5 minutes) and then add the garlic.  Mix.
  4. Add fish to the skillet and cook for 3-4 minute.  Flip and cook another 2-3 minutes or until fish is opaque and begins to flake.
  5. Add jalapeno,  tomatoes, cilantro, and lime juice.
  6. Continue to cook over medium heat for a few minutes.
  7. Using a spoon, begin to break up the fish to incorporate all of the ingredients.
  8. Meanwhile, heat tortillas in a separate skillet on both sides to warm.
  9. Top tortilla (use 2 per taco) with a few spoonfuls of the fish mixture.
  10. Garnish with a bit more cilantro and a fresh squeeze of lime.
Give it a try. Healthy and delicious

Give it a try. Healthy and delicious

(Better for You) Potato and Ham Soup

January 26, 2013 Leave a comment
Potato and Ham Soup

Potato and Ham Soup

It’s January and people are making tons of resolutions they won’t keep.  Get to the gym, save more money, quit smoking, and of course, eating better.

Today’s post is the first in a series of delicious meals that won’t go straight to your waistline and hopefully help you keep your resolution.

Then again, I think these recipes are so good that you may want to eat everything thus throwing this theory out the window.

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After Christmas, all of those hams that are stocked to capacity at the grocery store go on sale.  Normally twenty or thirty dollar hams are half off…maybe less.  It’s hard to pass up that kind of bargain so I throw one in my cart whether I need it or not.

The problem is I have a small family and a whole ham will go a very long way.  So that means leftovers.  Lots and lots and lot of leftovers.

I know you can freeze it, but to me, frozen ham that’s been thawed just doesn’t have the same taste.  So I have to find alternative uses for it.

Ham omelettes for breakfast.  Ham and Cheese sandwiches for lunch. And ham and potato soup for dinner.  I’m good with these options.

Soup is a great meal when you’re watching what you eat.  It can be loaded with calories but with a few simple tweaks you can make any soup healthy.  This uses lots of lower fat/lower calorie ingredients.  But I promise you it isn’t low on taste.

Soup is also very filling so you typically eat less.  However, be warned, this soup is so tasty you probably will want seconds.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups diced potatoes
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 cups ham, diced
  • 1 cup 1% milk
  • 1/2 cup low fat sour cream
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Add chicken broth to a large dutch oven (or soup pot) over medium low heat.  Bring to a simmer.
  2. Add potatoes, onion, carrots, garlic, and ham.  Stir.
  3. Simmer over low heat for approximately 2 hours.
  4. Add milk and sour cream.  Stir.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Continue cooking over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Serve in your favorite soup bowl and garnish with a few sprinkles of low fat sharp cheddar cheese and a slice of crusty bread (optional).
Good for you

Delicious and good for you

Roast Beef and Kielbasa Sandwich with horseradish cheese sauce

January 20, 2013 2 comments
Roast Beef and Kielbasa Sandiwich w/ horseradish cheese sauce

Roast Beef and Kielbasa Sandiwich w/ horseradish cheese sauce

The best part about food blogging is the interaction I have with other bloggers. We follow each others tweets, we’re friends on Facebook, and we connect through our blogs.  Mainly, at least in my opinion, we’re each others inspiration.

I cannot begin to tell you how many of the family dinners I’ve made over the past few years that have started by me reading a blog. I have bookmarks upon bookmarks of recipes I want to try.  Clearly I’ll never get to all of them, but I’m going to try.

In the midst of wading through the hundreds of recipes, there are probably 20 or so that have risen to the top.

The first recipe from my elite group of bookmarks is for a sandwich called “Beef and ‘Basa.”  It comes from Adam Holland who runs a blog titled “The Unorthodox Epicure – Confessions of an aspiring food snob.”  Adam doesn’t mess around with the recipes from his “Food Snob Chronicles.”  They’re good, creative ideas and best of all, most are easy to follow.  Perfect for a home cook.  Take a few minutes to check him out and if you like what you see, give him a follow.

Like any recipe I find, I try to tweak it to my liking, but this one looked as though it required no tweaking at all.  However, since I wanted to make it somewhat healthy, I traded out regular mayo for Olive Oil mayo and used turkey kielbasa.  I may have negated the fat count that I saved by upping the amount of cheese.  Also, since I really like caramelized onions, I used two. The technique is pretty much exactly the same.

My wife and I really loved Adam’s sandwiches and I’m confident that you will too.  Enjoy!

Thanks Adam!!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound roast beef (from the deli), sliced thin
  • 1 package of turkey kielbasa (such as Hillshire Farms) cut in to half-inch thick slices
  • 2 yellow or red onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 12-inch hoagie/sub rolls (for 4 sandwiches)
  1. To caramelize the onions, add olive oil to large skillet over medium-low heat and add onions.  Stir occasionally and cook until caramelized.
  2. Meanwhile, in sauce pan over low heat, add the mayonnaise, horseradish, mustard Tabasco, pepper and cheese.  Stir to combine. Stir occasionally to melt the cheese.
  3. In another skillet, over medium high heat, cook the kielbasa 2-4 minutes on each side until nice and browned.
  4. Once the onions are caramelized and cheese sauce is ready, toast the rolls under the broiler until just slightly brown.
  5. Assemble the sandwich by first spreading the cheese sauce to both sides of the toasted roll.
  6. To one side of the roll, add a generous pinch (or 3) of onion, a large mound of roast beef,  a few slices of kielbasa and another dollop of cheese sauce.
  7. Top with second side of roll.
Don't forget to cut it in half (or maybe not)

Don’t forget to cut it in half (or maybe not)