Monthly Archives: April 2012

Asian Style Baked Chicken Dumplings

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I absolutely LOVE dumplings! This recipe was born of that love. It is an easy and healthy way to make dumplings at home. Baking the dumplings instead of frying is the first step in making them healthier. You could also steam the dumplings, but I prefer them nice and crispy. Start by preheating the oven to 350*.

Brown one pound of ground chicken (turkey, pork, beef or  mushrooms would work well too) in a large skillet over medium-high heat on the stove top. This will take about ten minutes. Grate in a two-inch piece of ginger and three cloves of garlic. Add in four green onions and one eight ounce can of water chestnuts, minced. Stir well to combine and add in one to two tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce. Simmer over low heat five minutes or so to allow the flavors to marry.

You will need two packages of wonton wrappers. Lay out the wrappers on a cutting board and spoon approximately one tablespoon of the filling in to the center of each one. Moisten the edges of the wonton wrappers with water. Fold in half to form a triangle and press the edges well to seal. Make sure they are sealed well or the filling will seep out while cooking. Once sealed, transfer onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Arrange the dumplings in a single layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Approximately twenty dumplings fit on my baking sheets. Just before putting in the oven, spray with a plain cooking spray. I had canola on hand so I used that, but I think brushing them with vegetable or even sesame oil would work nicely too. This little bit of oil helps the dumplings get brown and crispy.

Bake until nicely browned and crispy, about twelve minutes. I served with plum sauce that I dressed up with some dried red pepper flakes. These dumplings had me doing the happy food dance for sure!

As a side note, this recipe made over ninety dumplings!! We ate some for lunch, then I divided them up into three additional batches and froze them. To reheat, just take out frozen, place on a parchment line baking sheet, spray lightly with cooking spray, and bake about ten minutes at 350*. They come out just as well as they did originally!!

Dairy Free Quiche

I love Quiche, and since beginning a dairy free diet have been struggling to come up with a recipe. I found a basic recipe online and tweaked it to make it my own. The possibilities with this recipe are endless, the ingredients can be swapped out depending on your mood and what you have in your fridge. This particular day, I made a chorizo and mushroom Quiche.

First, get the oven preheating to 350*.

I cheated and used a store-bought deep dish pie crust because baking is NOT my strong point. Feel free to make your own crust, otherwise use your favorite store-bought crust like I did. Poke some holes in the bottom and sides of the pie crust with a fork. Put into the oven and bake as instructed.

Meanwhile, remove the skins and cut up one eight ounce package of chorizo. I used fresh for this recipe, but smoked would be tasty too. Saute in a skillet over medium-high heat until nicely browned. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain while you get the rest of the ingredients together. Remove all but one tablespoon or so of the drippings from the chorizo from the skillet.

While the chorizo was browning, I diced up half of a yellow onion, one shallot, two cloves of garlic and one cup of mixed mushrooms. In the skillet with the chorizo drippings, saute the onion, shallot and garlic until they just start to soften. When they are just starting to soften, add in the mushrooms. Continue to saute until the mushrooms are nicely browned and the onions are tender. When the veggies are done, combine them with the drained chorizo.

While the veggies are sauteing, whisk together six eggs, three-quarters cup of plain soy milk (rice or almond would work too), half teaspoon of salt, half teaspoon of pepper, half teaspoon of nutmeg, tablespoon of nutritional yeast, three tablespoons of flour, and half teaspoon of baking powder.

Once the pie crust is finished baking, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cooled, add the chorizo and veggie mixture to the pie crust. Pour the egg mixture over the chorizo and veggies.

Top with the dairy free cheese of your choice (I used Daiya cheddar…we should buy stock!). Onto a cookie sheet (in case of overflow) and into the oven it goes. Bake forty minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Helpful tip for you?? I doubled the recipe…we enjoyed one for dinner and froze one for easy dinner preparation another night.

Dairy Free Shepard’s Pie

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Of course, I can never leave a recipe well enough alone, so this is my spin on Shepard’s Pie. The biggest change from traditional Shepard’s Pie is that I use ground turkey meat in mine instead of beef. Of course, it is also dairy free. For me, Shepard’s Pie is one of the ultimate comfort foods.

The oven gets preheated to 350*.

First thing, clean and cube eight medium yukon gold potatoes (or whatever potato you prefer and have on hand). I leave the skins on my potatoes, but feel free to peel them if you like. The skins are healthy, and I like the rustic look they give the dish. Into a four quart stock pot they go, with enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until tender.  Ten to fifteen minutes should do it.

Meanwhile, start one and a half pounds of ground turkey browning in a skillet over medium heat. Once the turkey is nicely browned, add in one-quarter cup of reduced sodium worcestershire. Simmer for five minutes and then transfer to a casserole dish. I use an oval 2.8 liter corningware, anything you have in a similar size works.

While the turkey was getting happy, I rough chopped two yellow onions, six stalks of celery (greens included), six medium carrots, and five cloves of garlic. In the same skillet the turkey cooked in, saute the vegetables until tender. Salt well to help the onions sweat. Once the vegetables are tender, combine with the turkey and one cup of frozen peas.

By now, the potatoes should be done and drained. Combine with a half cup of plain soy (or other milk like product of your choice), one-quarter cup of dairy free butter, one-eighth cup of dairy free sour cream, and one-eighth cup of dairy free plain cream cheese.Of course, if you are not a dairy free household milk, butter, sour cream and cream work as well.  Mash well. I hand mash and then use my immersion blender with the whipping attachment to get them nice and smooth.

Spoon the mashed potatoes over the turkey and vegetable mixture. With a skinny spatula I smooth them out, and create peaks to make it pretty. You do eat with your eyes first after all. Sprinkle the top with chopped parsley.

Bake in the oven for twenty to thirty minutes covered with aluminum foil, and then an additional ten minutes uncovered to brown the top slightly. All that’s left is to enjoy this hearty, comforting meal.

Chicken Cacciatore

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One day, a friend of mine posted a picture of her boyfriend’s chicken cacciatore on Facebook. Of course, this got me craving the dish so I decided to create a chicken cacciatore of my own. This is another of my one pot wonder meals…made in my dutch oven.

I started by heating a few turns of extra virgin olive oil in the dutch oven. While it heats, cut up one pound each of boneless skinless chicken breasts and thighs. Toss them with one-half cup of flour, salt and pepper. Into the dutch oven the chicken goes. Over medium-high heat brown chicken well. Four to five minutes per side should do it. When it is browned nicely, transfer it to a plate. Pour all but a small amount of the fat from the dutch oven.

While the chicken was browning, I rough chopped one pound of cremini mushrooms, three yellow onions, six cloves of garlic, and one and a half pounds of mixed colored bell peppers. Add another turn of extra virgin olive oil into the dutch oven. Add all the vegetables and saute until beginning to soften, ten to twelve minutes or so.

Add two thirty-seven ounce cans of plum tomatoes which have been squished. I use my potato masher to squish them well. Also add one cup of marsala cooking wine. Nestle the chicken in with everything.

At this point, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and allow to simmer for about an hour. The broth should be thickened nicely. During the last fifteen minutes or so, add in a six-ounce jar of capers which has been drained. Add in basil, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste during the last fifteen minutes as well.

Serve over the pasta of your choice and enjoy with a glass of your favorite wine.

Kale Chips

One of my favorite, healthy snacks is kale chips! However, at six to eight dollars a bag….not exactly affordable right?? Wrong!! They are super easy and affordable to make!  I prefer the organic…and at under two dollars a bunch it is much more cost effective than buying a bag of kale chips in the store.

Kale is considered a super food…so this yummy snack is also really good for you. It is high in antioxidants Vitamins A, C and K. It is also high in fiber, which most of us need more of anyway. So this is one snack you need not feel guilty about!!

Begin by preheating the oven to 375*.

While the oven is preheating, wash and dry two bunches of kale well. I use my salad spinner and then pat dry with paper towels as well.

Remove the thick stems and rough chop.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the kale with two tablespoons or so of extra virgin olive oil and coarse ground sea salt.

Spread the kale in  a single layer on a shallow baking sheet. Bake in the oven twenty to thirty minutes or until nice and crispy.

Allow to cool, and snack away guilt free!!


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Once the weather turns nice in the spring, Paella comes to mind! Why, you may ask? The perfect way to pass a nice spring afternoon in my eyes is around the grill! That’s right, I like to take my paella pan out to the grill. No better way to pass the time than spending a few hours outside with family and/or friends and watching this fabulous dish come together on the grill.

The most important thing to consider when making paella is the pan. I have two different size (both rather large) paella pans. Which I use just depends on the number of people I plan on serving. My small pan probably feeds six to eight people and the larger one can feed ten to twelve. This recipe is made in my large pan. Usually I end up with enough to feed the entire neighborhood and everyone eats well! They come in many different materials, both of mine are stainless steel. The most important characteristics are that the pan be shallow and flat-bottomed.

The next thing to consider is what type of paella you want to make. The three most common paella dishes are Valencian Paella (meat based), Paella de Marisco (seafood based) and Paella Mixta (mixed paella). There are as many variations as there are cooks that make the dish. I prefer to make mixed paella and that’s what I’ll be discussing here.

The first step is to get the charcoal grill going. We use our good old-fashioned, round charcoal grill. Either of my pans work perfectly on this! Once the charcoals are good and hot, start by heating two or three turns of olive oil in the pan.

Once the olive oil heats up, add two large onions chopped, ten cloves of garlic chopped, and four large tomatoes chopped (I prefer fresh, but canned crushed or diced tomatoes would work as well). Stir, stir, stir a few minutes until onion and garlic are tender.

While the veggies are getting happy, it’s time to bloom the saffron. I must warn you, saffron is not cheap! However, trust me when I tell you it is worth every penny and then some! I am very generous with the saffron in this dish. Into a cup of vegetable broth, sprinkle two or three generous pinches of the saffron, rubbing between your fingers to release the flavor.

Next, a pound of boneless skinless chicken thighs which have been cubed, and a pound of chorizo which has been sliced go into the pan. Any chicken and sausage mix you choose works. This is just my personal favorite combination.  Once they hit the pan, leave them alone for a moment so they begin to brown. Then stir and leave them alone again so they brown evenly.

When the chicken and sausage begin to brown well, add in twenty-eight ounces of short grained rice. I typically use arborio because it is easy to find.  For the dish to turn out correctly it must be SHORT GRAINED rice. The texture will not be right if you use a long grain rice. Once the rice is added to the pan, stir constantly for five minutes or so.

Add in the stock with the saffron, plus four cups more vegetable stock. I use unsalted vegetable broth because I like to control the seasoning myself. Any broth you have on hand will work though. Season well with salt and pepper to taste. Bring up to a boil and allow to simmer for about fifteen minutes. Check the rice, and add liquid if necessary.  Once the rice begins to get tender you can begin to add in the remaining ingredients.

Nestle in two pounds each of clams and mussels.  Make sure to soak and rinse the clams and mussels for several hours in cold water so that they are not gritty. If you add a little bit of corn meal to the first batch of water, they will expel most of the sand they are holding onto. I change the water three to four times while they are soaking. At this point, I put the grill cover on until the clams and mussels begin to open. Maybe twenty minutes or so.

Once the clams and mussels just begin to open, add in two pounds of shrimp and three red peppers which have been sliced. I also add a cup or so of either peas, green olives or capers. All of these work, it just depends on what we have on hand.

At this point, no more stirring!! Leave the dish alone until the clams and mussels open completely and the shrimp are cooked. The most important detail of paella is the crispy bottom! The only way to get this crispy bottom is to leave it alone during this last stage of cooking. You will know it is done when the clams and mussels open, the shrimp are nice and pink and all the liquid is completely absorbed.

Presentation is an important part of this dish for me, so when I begin placing the seafood I really pay attention to the details. Once the dish is done, sprinkle with chopped parsley or cilantro for the finishing touch.

The entire process, from the chopping of the ingredients to completion takes several hours. Enjoy some time with family and friends, relax outside around the grill, enjoy a nice cold beer or glass of wine (not too many or you’ll be to tipsy to enjoy the completed dish!) and savor the reward at the end!

Friday Fish Night…Moroccan Style

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On this particular Friday night, I decided to add some Moroccan flare to Friday Fish Night. We’ve been enjoying Friday Fish Night so much, I think we may keep the tradition even once lent is over! On the menu this night, scallops, couscous and lentils flavored with Moroccan spices.

The couscous takes the longest, so I started there. A tablespoon of olive oil went into a nine-inch skillet over medium heat. Once hot, it was joined by one small onion and four large cloves of garlic diced. Salt well to help the onion sweat. Saute until the onion is tender, three to four minutes.

Once the onion is tender, one cup of pearl couscous (whatever kind you have works), two and half cups of vegetable broth, and generous sprinkles of cumin, white pepper, and black pepper join the onion and garlic in the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low and bring to a slow boil for twelve minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in one cup of black currants. Cover and let rest five minutes. Fluff well with a fork to separate.

Once the couscous was started, I went to work on the lentils. Again, a tablespoon of olive oil went into a nine-inch skillet over medium heat. Once hot, it was joined by one small onion and three large cloves of garlic diced. Salt well to help the onion sweat. Saute until the onion is tender, three to four minutes.

Once the onion is tender, one cup of lentils, two and a half cups of vegetable broth, and generous sprinkles of cumin, coriander, cinnamon, white pepper and black pepper join the onion and garlic in the skillet. Reduce heat to medium and bring to a boil for fifteen minutes or so until the liquid is absorbed and the lentils are tender. You may need to add some more broth if the liquid absorbs before the lentils are tender.

Meanwhile, while the sides were simmering nicely, I prepared the scallops. First they were rinsed and patted dry. Then a spice mixture made up of cinnamon, coriander, cumin, salt, white pepper and black pepper was sprinkled on both sides. Be generous, some will be lost in the cooking process. Noticing a pattern?? I try to bring similar flavors to all of the elements of a meal.

This time, a tablespoon of olive oil went into a seven-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Yes, at this point all of my skillets are on the stove top! The scallops only take about five minutes, so you want to wait until the couscous and lentils are almost done until they go in the skillet.

The scallops go into the skillet and cook two and a half minutes per side until just opaque in the center. After two and a half minutes per side over medium-high heat on my stove top, the scallops were PERFECT! Although, this may need to be adjusted depending on your stove top.  I was nervous cooking the scallops because this was my first time making them at home, but they were amazing!

Once plated, our meal was joined by two glasses of Niagara wine from a local winery. All that was left was to enjoy! Our trip to Morocco, via food, was fabulous!

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