Buffalo Chicken Rolls

I love the foods that are associated with football, but I’m not a huge football watcher. I do, however, remember hanging out in the living room with my uncle and grandpa the weekend before Thanksgiving, while they watched “the big game” – Cal versus Standford. I learned how to shout “Go Bears!” with much enthusiasm. I probably learned how to shout some other phrases too that weren’t quite as wholesome. Since those days, I find the background noise of a football game on TV oddly comforting, even though I don’t really have a desire to sit down and watch a game from start to finish.

When I found out that the theme of this Recipe Swap was Tailgating/Appetizers, I still wanted to participate, despite my lack of tailgating experience. I happen to know that delicious foods are present while watching football, things involving melted cheese, fried goodies, and perhaps buffalo sauce. Yes, please. Not every day, but it’s fun to indulge once in a while, whether or not you’re watching football. Grilled Sriracha “Poppers” were our contribution to the swap; Buffalo Chicken Rolls were assigned to me.

These rolls are everything you love about buffalo wings, wrapped up neatly in an egg roll wrapper and baked until crispy and golden. When you bite into them, you get a combination of spicy buffalo chicken and cooling blue cheese crumbles. We agreed that the shredded cabbage and carrots were overpowered by the strong flavors of the buffalo chicken and blue cheese and didn’t add much, but I definitely understand wanting to add something fresh to the rolls. If we made these again, we’d probably just serve the traditional celery and carrots and blue cheese dip next to the buffalo chicken rolls, or maybe a slaw.

Also, while we appreciated the ease (and possible health benefits) of baking instead of frying, we think these would have been even better if they had been pan-fried in oil or deep-fried so that all surfaces of the egg roll wrappers could have gotten crispy; We found some of the edges to be a little undercooked when they came out of the oven. But putting these minor things aside, this is a fun appetizer with bold flavors that are sure to please the crowds, whether you’re tailgating, entertaining your friends, or just looking for something fun for dinner.

Buffalo Chicken Rolls

(Slightly adapted from Taste and See; originally from Can you Stay for Dinner?)

5 TBS. butter
3/4 cup Crystal Hot Sauce (or your preferred hot sauce)
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups chicken, shredded (we bought a rotisserie chicken and shredded it ourselves)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
1/2 a head of Napa cabbage, shredded, tossed with 1/2 of a medium carrot, grated*
12-15 egg roll wrappers
Small bowl of water
Vegetable or Canola oil
Blue cheese dressing or Ranch dressing for dipping

*The original recipe calls for a bag of cole slaw mix, something we’ve never bought (and come to think of it, have never noticed at our natural foods store), so we decided to buy fresh cabbage and shred it ourselves instead. I added some grated carrot too.

  • Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over low heat, stirring until completely melted. Add the hot sauce and the garlic powder. Stir to incorporate. Add the sauce to the shredded chicken. If you want less heat, use less sauce, but we pretty much used it all! Mix until the chicken is moistened with the sauce.
  • Preheat oven to 400-degrees F. Lay egg roll wrappers on a clean work surface. Begin by placing one tablespoon of the shredded cabbage/carrot mixture on the diagonal of the bottom right corner of one of the wrappers. Next, place 2 tablespoons of shredded buffalo chicken evenly on top of the slaw. Sprinkle some blue cheese crumbles over the chicken. Do not overfill.
  • To fold: Fold the bottom right corner over the stuffing mixture so that it covers it completely, with the tip of the corner now pointing to the center of the egg roll wrapper. Fold in the bottom left corner, followed by the right, so that you now have formed an envelope. Roll the wrap upward one time, leaving the top left corner open. Wet your index finger in the small bowl of water and press to moisten the top left corner. Now fold that down on top of the filled roll, sealing it like you would an envelope.

(Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of the assembly process – if you’re a visual person like me and need some great photos to see how to do this, check out the original recipe here).

  • Repeat with remaining rolls.
  • Place the rolls on a greased wire rack set on top of a cookie sheet. Brush the rolls lightly with oil or spritz with cooking spray. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until rolls are golden brown, flipping the rolls halfway through. Allow to cool for several minutes before serving with blue cheese or ranch for dipping.

Southwestern Grilled Chicken Salad with Cherry Tomato-Black Bean-Corn Salsa

As I’m writing this it’s drizzling, and since we can’t play outside, Levi is entertaining himself with a drawer filled with various kid-friendly kitchen implements (the “decoy drawer,” as I call it, because it keeps him away from the dangerous stuff and buys me a few minutes here and there to write blog posts, fold laundry, or answer the phone). I swear that just yesterday we were enjoying the warmth of the early evening sun, grilling chicken in the backyard, and sipping icy pints of IPA. Levi was playing in his shark sprinkler — the perfect summer scene. How the weather changes on the central coast! And how we as mothers adapt as far as activities go for our kids.

Speaking of adaptation, meals take even more planning-ahead these days. Not only is Levi walking; he’s running and climbing — onto couches, chairs, boxes, whatever he can. You have no idea how many distractions I had to have in place in order to make this cherry tomato-black bean-corn salsa. It’s hard when every 20 seconds you have to look up from whatever you’re doing to make sure your son hasn’t scaled the bookshelf. But somehow I made it work and we ended up with this beautiful salad for dinner, which was perfect for a warm evening, but also sounds delicious now as I hear the pitter-patter of rain against the window.

The chicken is seasoned with a delicious spice mixture of chile powder, brown sugar, cumin, and coriander before being grilled to perfection. Then it’s sliced and set on top of crunchy romaine lettuce, along with a spoonful of the salsa, and sliced avocado, and dressed with  a slightly sweet/slightly tart lime-cilantro vinaigrette. My slight adaptation to this Fine Cooking recipe is that we decided to grill some corn on the cob and add the kernels to the salsa, which added a nice sweet flavor and seemed to fit in with the southwestern theme. We also used romaine instead of Bibb lettuce, omitted the pine nuts (because we didn’t have any) and substituted chicken thighs for the chicken breasts. Our changes are reflected below. We hope you enjoy this dinner salad this summer. Its bold flavors will not disappoint.

Southwestern Grilled Chicken Salad with Cherry Tomato-Black Bean-Corn Salsa

(Slightly adapted from the Aug/Sept 2010 issue of Fine Cooking)

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 TBS. chili powder
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Kosher salt
1 large ear of corn, husked and lightly oiled
6 TBS. extra-virgin olive oil
2 TBS. +  2 tsp. fresh lime juice
1 TBS. + 2 tsp. chopped fresh cilantro, plus leaves for garnish
2 tsp. honey
Freshly ground black pepper
Tabasco (optional)
1/2 of a 14-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained (save other 1/2 for another use)
4 oz. small cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered or halved (about 3/4 cup)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1  head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 medium firm-ripe avocado

  • Prepare a medium-high gas or charcoal grill fire.
  • In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, brown sugar, coriander, cumin, and 3/4 tsp. salt. Rub the spice mixture over both sides of the chicken thighs (you’ll have some left over, but it’s a great spice blend for another use). Let chicken sit at room temp while the grill heats.
  • Grill the corn until tender and the kernels are charred in spots, about 6 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool. Grill the chicken thighs until done, about 6 minutes, flipping once. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
  • Using a knife, carefully cut the kernels off the cob (this is easier when done in a large bowl so the kernels don’t go flying everywhere) and transfer to a small bowl.
  • In a small jar or other container with a tight-fitting lid, combine the olive oil, lime juice, 1 TBS. of the chopped cilantro, the honey, 1/2 tsp. salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a few shakes of Tabasco (if using). Shake well to combine.
  • To make the salsa, add the beans, tomatoes, garlic, remaining 2 tsp. cilantro, and a pinch of salt to the small bowl with the grilled corn kernels. Add 2 TBS. of the dressing and toss gently.
  • Put the lettuce in a bowl, season with a little salt, and toss with just enough of the dressing to lightly coat. (Reserve a little to drizzle on the chicken.) Arrange the lettuce on a platter or two dinner plates. Slice the chicken thighs. Pit and slice the avocado. Arrange the chicken slices, avocado, and salsa on the lettuce. Drizzle a little of the remaining dressing over the top. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

Tori no Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken) with Wasabi-Potato Salad

My Japanese cookbook translates this recipe as “Fried Chicken Chunks,” but I don’t think that name does it justice. We nostalgically refer to Tori no Karaage (which means “fried chicken”) as “Japanese festival chicken” because whether the occasion was cherry blossom-viewing in the spring or a hanabi (fireworks) show in the summer, we could always count on there being a fried chicken stand (which was more appealing to us than the whole-squid-on-a-stick stand). As you walk through a Japanese festival, the air smells like a sweet and savory combination of fried food, seafood, and caramelized soy sauce (the latter comes from the squid-on-a-stick; It’s doused in a sweet soy sauce before being grilled over an open flame). If you don’t read Japanese, don’t worry; all of the food stands have a banner displaying a cute little cartoon of the animal they’re cooking, such as a chicken, octopus or squid.

What makes Japanese fried chicken unique is that it’s marinaded in soy sauce and sake first, and then coated in potato (or corn) starch before being deep-fried, producing a very flavorful, moist inside and a distinct, crispy coating. It’s great eaten hot out of the oil for dinner with mayonnaise and spicy Japanese mustard for dipping, or eaten cold in a bento box for lunch. It’s also a popular beer snack. You’ll find this dish on the menu at izakaya, Japanese bars that also serve snacks.

We decided to make wasabi potato salad to go with our Japanese fried chicken. Just as American fried chicken and potato salad often go together at 4th of July BBQs, you’ll find potato salad (along with macaroni salad) in the prepared foods section of Japanese grocery stores, conveniently located right next to all of the fried food offerings.

Japanese Mayonnaise – “Kyu-pi Ma-yo-ne-zu

A couple weeks ago, a friend (and English student) of ours from Japan sent us a package with lots of Japanese goodies, including the makings for Japanese potato salad: Japanese mayonnaise (which is slightly sweeter than the American variety and packaged in a squeeze bottle made of soft plastic), wasabi, and a bottle of Japanese pepper (Sanshou, which comes from the Sanshou plant and can be eaten in leaf or powder form). You mix those three ingredients into finely chopped boiled potatoes and you have authentic Japanese potato salad! I also added some sliced cucumber, because the supermarket that was across the street from our apartment prepared it that way and I have fond memories of eating it for lunch.

(If you want to read more about Japan’s love for fried foods, you might enjoy this old post, which I’ll resurrect for you. I talked about kushi-katsu restaurants that serve various fried foods on sticks that you dip into a communal sauce at your table. Sound fun?)

Tori no Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken)

(Adapted from this little Japanese cookbook that one of my English students gave me called Japanese Favorites by Angela Nahas. It didn’t exist on Amazon, otherwise I’d link to it :))

16 oz. chicken tenders (or boneless-skinless chicken breasts), cut into bite-sized pieces
3 tsp. soy sauce
3 tsp. sake*
1 tsp. sesame oil
4 TBS. potato or corn starch
Canola oil for deep-frying

* We didn’t have time to run to the store, so I just used mirin, a Japanese rice cooking wine

  • In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, soy sauce, sake and sesame oil. Cover and let marinate for at least 30 min. or overnight. Meanwhile, place the potato (or corn) starch in a large ziplock bag.
  • Drain the chicken and place it in the bag with the starch. Close bag securely and shake until the chicken pieces are well coated. Add a little more starch if needed.
  • Heat the oil in a wok (or medium saucepan) until bubbles start to form around the handle of a wooden spoon when it’s lowered into the oil (this is a cool little trick I learned from the book!) Fry the chicken in batches, about 3-4 min. for each batch, or until chicken is golden brown, turning once.
  • Drain on paper towels and serve with wasabi potato salad. Serves 3-4.

Wasabi Potato Salad

yellow new potatoes or yukon gold potatoes, peeled (about 1 lb. for 2 people)
Japanese mayonnaise, to taste
wasabi, to taste
Japanese Sanshou pepper, to taste (or regular black pepper)
thinly sliced English cucumbers (optional)

  • Place the peeled potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are tender. Drain and allow potatoes to cool.
  • Finely chop potatoes and transfer to a bowl. Add a couple good squeezes of Japanese mayonnaise, a squeeze of wasabi, and season with Japanese pepper. Mix well. Taste and add more mayo, wasabi and/or pepper if needed. Add the sliced cucumbers right before serving and gently mix to combine.

Spiced Roast Chicken Thighs & Browned Onion Kugel

I feel like I’ve been exposed to a variety of cuisines, from Ethiopian stew in Berkeley, California, to Sri Lankan fare in downtown Osaka, and a fiery Korean chicken dish straight from the source in Seoul. But it wasn’t until I was given browned onion Kugel as my side dish for the Recipe Swap this week that I realized I’d been missing out on the wide range of Jewish dishes out there! As I was researching Kugel (which seemed like a good place to start, since I didn’t even know how to pronounce it, let alone what was in it), I learned that there are both sweet and savory versions of this noodle pudding, and they involve egg noodles (or potatoes or Matzah), sour cream, cottage cheese, and eggs.  Even Smitten Kitchen has a Kugel recipe on her blog. Clearly, I’ve been out of the loop (or just not Jewish)! Once I did my research, I couldn’t stop thinking about my side dish. It sounded so comforting to me and I couldn’t wait to try it.

But what do you serve with Kugel? I had no idea (Jewish friends, please weigh in here!), although I was smart enough to know that pork was not the right answer, nor was something involving bacon. We decided on a simple roasted chicken dish (that I found it on Elly Says Opa, adapted from Gourmet), and some roasted broccoli. Not exactly kosher, so I hope it doesn’t offend someone’s Jewish Grandmother. Actually, what I really want now is for someone’s Jewish Grandmother to cook me a traditional Jewish meal. My first taste of Kugel was so good, I would love to experience more (including the sweet variety) and expand my cuisine repertoire to include that of the Jewish tradition.

This recipe, coincidentally, came from the same blog as my last Recipe Swap recipe, Happy Insides. The Kugel is baked in muffin tins, rather than the traditional casserole dish, and includes caramelized onions and poppy seeds. We’ll definitely be making this recipe again. The only changes we made were halving it (the recipe below makes 12 side-dish servings) and using ricotta cheese in place of cottage cheese. Thanks again, Cassie & Jason, for introducing us to something new!

Browned Onion Kugel

(From Happy Insides, originally from Epicurious)

6 oz. egg noodles
1 stick unsalted butter
3 cups chopped onions (2 large)
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 1/4 cups cottage cheese (or ricotta cheese)
1 TBS. poppy seeds
4 large eggs
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Cook egg noodles in boiling, salted water until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain in colander, rinse with cool water, and drain well.
  • Melt the butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat.  Brush the muffin cups with some of the butter.  Add the onions to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 20 minutes.
  • Transfer onions to a large bowl, and stir in noodles, sour cream, cottage cheese (or ricotta), and poppy seeds. Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the eggs to the noodle mixture as well. Stir to combine.
  • Divide mixture among muffin cups. Bake until puffed and golden, about 20-25 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before serving. Makes 12 side-dish servings, or 6-8 main course servings.

Spiced Roast Chicken Thighs

(Adapted from the April 2000 issue of Gourmet)

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 TBS. canola oil, divided*
3 TBS. red wine (or broth)

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Pat the chicken dry. Mix together the spices and 1/2 TBS. of canola oil.  Rub all over the chicken.
  • Heat the remaining oil in a heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over moderate heat until hot but not smoking.  Brown chicken on both sides, about 5 minutes.
  • Transfer skillet to oven and continue to cook, skin-side up, until done, about 12-18 minutes.
  • Remove chicken and place skillet on stove-top over high heat.  Deglaze pan with wine or broth, scraping up browned bits, and pour juices over chicken. Serves 2.

* So what made this chicken extra-delectable was that we browned the chicken thighs in duck fat. Yes, you read that right. Last weekend we made some amazing tea-smoked duck (to-be-blogged-about soon!) and the next day we fried some of the leftover skin to make duck cracklings. That rendered fat was was used in this chicken. Oh my gosh. So good.

Quick Chicken Vindaloo

You can tell my meal planning was hurried last week because I have back-to-back posts with recipes from the same section of Fine Cooking (30 minutes or less – isn’t that what we all want!?) We loved the lamb & sweet onion pitas, but we might have loved this one even more! Both are quick meals that still deliver layers of bold flavors.

Allow me to reminisce again about Japan for a second, home of the best Indian food we’ve ever eaten (who would have thought!) I remember it was a quick walk from the Ibaraki train station to a little Indian place that had just opened. As we walked down a stairway to the entrance that was below street level, we could smell exotic spices and freshly baked naan, beckoning us inside. Once we entered, we were greeted with huge smiles from the two Indian men who stood in the open-kitchen, and we instantly felt that special “foreigner bond” that you feel when you see another foreigner in Japan, whether they’re of the same ethnicity as you or not. They understand how I feel, you think. And it’s true. they do. Soon we’d be sitting in a comfortable little booth decorated with colorfully adorned pillows, indulging in curries, tandoori chicken, naan, and mango lassis.  For a while we’d almost forget what country we were in, until we opened the door to leave and the Japanese sounds and sights came flooding back into our ears and eyes.

Okay, thanks for letting me take that little trip down memory lane. This blog was first inspired in Japan after all! Back to the recipe at hand, Vindaloo is a popular Indian curry dish that usually includes some kind of meat, vinegar, garlic and spicy chiles. Fine Cooking’s version isn’t very hot (which actually worked out well for us because Levi was able to eat more of it that way, and with gusto!) and only takes 30 minutes to make. We made one slight change. We couldn’t find hot paprika at the grocery store, so we used regular paprika and added an 1/8 teaspoon cayenne. Serve the chicken vindaloo with steamed jasmine rice and store-bought naan. A tasty tip for the naan: Heat in a 400 degree oven for a couple minutes until hot. Brush with melted butter before serving. Yum.

Chicken Vindaloo

(From the Feb/Mar 2011 issue of Fine Cooking)

1-1/2 TBS. curry powder
2 tsp. hot paprika (or 2 tsp. paprika + 1/8 tsp. cayenne)
Freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces
8 medium cloves garlic, minced
4 TBS. red wine vinegar
Kosher salt
2 TBS. canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 TBS. grated fresh ginger
1 (14-1/2-oz). can diced tomatoes, drained, 1/3 cup juice reserved
3 TBS. chopped fresh cilantro

  • In a small bowl, stir together the curry powder, paprika, and 3/4 tsp. black pepper.
  • Place the chicken in a medium nonreactive bowl (I used a glass pie pan), sprinkle with 1 TBS. of the curry powder mixture, about half of the garlic, 2 TBS. of the vinegar, and 3/4 tsp. salt; toss to coat. Set aside at room temperature.
  • Heat the oil in a 10- to 11-inch straight-sided sauté pan over high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and a 1/4 tsp. salt and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until it softens and begins to brown around the edges, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium high. Add the ginger, the rest of the garlic, and the remaining curry powder mixture and cook, stirring, until fragrant and well combined, about 45 seconds.
  • Add the tomatoes to the pan and mix to combine, scraping the bottom of the pan with the spoon. Stir in the chicken, reserved tomato juice, remaining 2 TBS. vinegar, and 2/3 cup water.
  • Bring to a boil, cover partially, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is tender and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle some cilantro over the top.

Caramelized Chipotle Chicken

Happy New Year! Obviously my resolution was not to blog more frequently. In fact, I didn’t make any resolutions because I didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment. I just want to be a good mom this year and try to take one day at a time without worrying about the next one! It’s been harder lately to get stuff done around here. Levi’s not quite crawling yet, but he still manages to cruise around the room and get into things by sort of pivoting his body in various directions. He can also pull himself up onto the coffee table and couch, which means lots of bumps and bruises are in our near future. Despite these new challenges, we somehow managed to try a delicious new recipe last night! Thank goodness I have a husband who likes to cook!

Two of my favorite food bloggers, Elly of Elly Says Opa and Josie of Pink Parsley, made this recipe that originated in Gourmet, and both of their mouth watering pictures and descriptions pushed it to the top of our list of things to make! Plus, it’s been dipping into the 30s at night (I know that seems like nothing compared to those of you who are having crazy snow right now, but we’re self-proclaimed cold wimps from CA!), so we wanted something bold and spicy in flavor to warm us up!

Chipotle chiles in adobo are one of our favorite ingredients. Remember when we found them at an import food store in Japan and went chipotle crazy for a week, making things like Chipotle Tomato Rice, Spicy Tomato Soup, and Sizzling Hot Shrimp?  We loved the sweetness, smokiness, and tangy-ness of this dish; basically, we just pan-fried chicken breast halves, topped them with a chipotle barbecue sauce, and (per Elly’s advice) broiled them until nice and caramelized (rather than roasting). We served them with some steamed rice (made with chicken stock instead of water for more flavor; and I threw a tiny bit of chopped chipotles in there too, just for the heck of it), and a nice big salad.

Caramelized Chipotle Chicken

(Adapted from Gourmet)

3 TBS. olive oil, divided
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. chopped chipotles in adobo
1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
a pinch of cumin*
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

* Not in original recipe, but we loved the flavor it added … a little earthiness to go with the cinnamon!

  • Heat 1 1/2 TBS. of the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until shimmery. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon. Reduce heat to medium and add the onions to the oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  • Add garlic back to skillet, as well as remaining ingredients, except chicken. Simmer until thickened (for us, the sauce was already pretty thick after adding the ingredients. We only had to simmer for a few minutes to heat the sauce up and incorporate all the flavors!)
  • Season the chicken with a little salt & pepper. In another skillet, heat the remaining 1 1/2 TBS. oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chicken and cook until golden on one side, about 7 minutes. Flip chicken, cover skillet, and continue cooking until chicken is cooked through.
  • Preheat the broiler. Transfer cooked chicken from skillet to a baking pan. Spoon the chipotle sauce over the chicken. Place under the broiler until nice and caramelized, about 5 minutes (watching carefully, so as not to burn it!) Transfer to plates and enjoy!

Artichoke & Spinach {dip} Chicken

The countdown is on to Levi’s 1st Christmas! What’s still on your to-do list? Next week I hope to try out a couple new cookie recipes (from the special holiday baking issue of Fine Cooking), take Levi downtown for some last minute shopping, and maintain some amount of sanity.

By now you may have already attended several holiday parties, or even thrown some yourself. And if all the merriment of the season has left you with, let’s say, extra artichoke-spinach dip, we know just what you should do with it! Spoon into chicken breasts, top with a little Parmesan cheese, and bake. If you don’t have leftover dip, we promise it’s worth it to make the artichoke-spinach dip for this recipe. The chicken stays nice and moist with a creamy, cheesy, flavorful center! We served our chicken with some rice pilaf, and roasted broccoli tossed lightly in balsamic vinegar. And guess what? I reserved a few florets for Levi and put them through the food mill. He loved it! Now we can add broccoli to his list!

Artichoke & Spinach {dip} Chicken

2 chicken breast halves
1/2 cup (or more) prepared Artichoke-Spinach Dip
grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper

  • Preheat your oven to 350.
  • Cut a 3-inch slit in the top of each chicken breast half, and stuff with a couple spoonfuls of dip. Sprinkle with Parmesan and crack some black pepper over the top.
  • Place in a greased baking dish.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the chicken is done and the dip is nice and bubbly. Serves 2.

I’ll leave you with a cheesy Christmas picture:

Embracing End-of-Summer with Fried Chicken & 7-Grain Ale

Today calls for al fresco dining, chips with homemade fresh salsa, fried chicken, and biscuits with honey. What’s the occasion, you ask? My brother brews a damn fine beer, and my family created a meal around his latest batch — a 7-grain Ale; Complex in flavor, yet light and refreshing.

The fried chicken took a nice long bath in buttermilk seasoned with cayenne before being dredged in the flavorful flour mixture, making it nice and tender on the inside, and crispy on the outside with just a little kick! Makes about 6 servings. Leftovers make an ideal picnic food!

Crispy Buttermilk Fried Chicken

(From the July 2010 issue of Food & Wine)

For the Buttermilk Soak:

3 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
4 pounds medium chicken wings, thighs and drumsticks

For the Flour Dredge:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Vegetable oil, for frying

  • In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk with the salt, black pepper and cayenne. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate for 4 hours.
  • In a large, resealable plastic bag, mix the flour with the onion powder, garlic powder, salt, black pepper and cayenne and shake to combine.
  • Set a rack on a baking sheet. Working with one piece at a time, remove the chicken from the buttermilk soak, letting the excess drip back into the bowl. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, pressing so it adheres all over. Transfer the coated chicken to the rack and let stand for 30 minutes.
  • In a deep skillet, heat 1 inch of oil to 350°. Set another rack over a baking sheet; line with paper towels. Fry the chicken in batches at 315°, turning once, until golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of each piece registers 160°, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the paper-lined rack and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Even though it’s September, you can still find beautiful dry-farmed tomatoes. They’re so sweet and make the best homemade salsa. But pace yourself with the chips, because you have to save room for chicken!

Lovely end-of-summer berries add a pleasing color (and taste!) to the table.

Did you know that fried chicken pairs well with a sparkling wine like Prosecco? Try it!

Fried chicken, biscuits, potato salad (with hardboiled eggs and capers), and green salad with crumbled feta.

Biscuits with spelt & cornmeal, just waiting for butter and honey!

Chicken Breast Fillets with Cherry Tomato-Avocado Salsa

There’s been a slight change in our diets since my last post … turns out that the Oishii kitchen will be dairy-free for at least a few months, as little Levi seems to have a milk-protein intolerance. I know, Brianna not eating butter and CHEESE!?  *gasp*  Well, luckily, it’s Santa Cruz and there are hippy, vegan versions of everything, almond milk is actually delicious on my cereal and in my coffee, and summer produce is bountiful and a delicious (and healthy!) distraction.

With so much to choose from at stores and farmer’s markets these days, I can’t imagine that eating fruits and veggies could be a chore for anyone! Sweet corn on the cob; crisp asparagus; juicy nectarines; plump blueberries … When you get to the produce section, it’s easy to fill your basket with colorful, seasonal things!

Dinner planning became easy the other night (and easy is good when you have a growing 2 month old!) when we let sweet cherry tomatoes and creamy avocado take center stage, adding a squeeze of lime, some fresh jalapeño and garlic to make a refreshing salsa. Although it would jazz up any protein, we decided that some chicken breast fillets, seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, and chili power, would be the perfect accompaniment. If you find yourself at the store with no idea of what to make for dinner, start in the produce section!

Chicken Breast Fillets with Cherry Tomato-Avocado Salsa

6 chicken breast fillets (or 1 chicken breast half, cut into 6 pieces)
chili powder
a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes, halved
juice from a small lime + the zest
1/2 a jalapeño pepper, minced
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1 ripe avocado, cubed

  • Season the chicken fillets with the spices and the lime zest.
  • In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, lime juice, jalapeño, and garlic. Taste and season with salt & pepper (and add more lime juice if necessary). Gently fold in the avocado.
  • Heat a frying pan with a couple drizzles of olive oil over medium high heat. Cook the chicken fillets until done inside and the outside is golden. Place 3 chicken fillets on each plate and top with a generous spoonful of the salsa. Serves 2.

Our growing boy … Levi is 2 months today!

And look! He’s started smiling!


We miss our “yakitori man.” There was a supermarket right across the street from our apartment in Japan, and every Friday a man would set up a little red cart right out front. Starting at about 10 am, we’d start to smell that sweet sauce brushed over skewered chicken (and other meats) cooking over an open flame, and it became the official smell of Fridays in Japan. Especially in the winter (because the warmth of the grill felt good in the 20 degree air), we would walk across the street to get yakitori for dinner. We were the only foreigners in our neighborhood, so I wonder if he thought it was slightly odd that these Americans stood in his line on Fridays and butchered the ordering of his tasty, skewered treats.

In Japanese, the counting system is far from consistent. Depending on the shape of the item (flat, round, stick-like) or the state of its being (animal, human, large electrical appliance) there is a different way to count. Of course the first time we tried to order 8 yakitori skewers, we used the wrong word for 8, and he kindly corrected us. That’s how we learned the correct way to order 8 stick-like objects.

The chicken itself was never the best quality. In fact, most of the pieces were more fat than meat. But the sauce that the yakitori man brushed on those skewers as they were cooking was so addicting, that somehow we tolderated the fatty chicken and ate it anyway. To enjoy yakitori at home, we recommend using boneless skinless thigh meat, like we did last night. Serve the skewers over steamed white rice and some cucumber salad (marinate sliced cucumbers in rice vinegar, sliced chiles, and salt and sugar to taste), because something pickled cuts through the richness of the sauce and the slight amount of fat on the chicken.


(serves 3-4)

1 1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine)
1-2 TBS. brown sugar
5 green onions (thick green onions work best)
6-8 bamboo skewers

  • Combine equal parts soy sauce and mirin (we used about 1/4 cup each), and the brown sugar in a large baking dish that’s long enough for the skewers to fit into.  Taste and add more brown sugar if you like a sweeter sauce. Add the chicken pieces and toss well to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or overnight.
  • Meanwhile, soak bamboo skewers in water.
  • Slice the thick part of the green onions into 1-inch long pieces, reserving the thinner green part for another use. Set aside. Prepare your grill (use charcoal for best taste!)
  • Assemble the yakitori. Take the chicken pieces out of the marinade and put on the skewers, along with the green onion pieces. Grill for 5-6 minutes on each side, or until chicken is browned and cooked through.
  • Serve with steamed rice, cucumber salad, and miso soup.

Turkey Parmesan Burgers

Personally, I think eating something between two slices of toasted french bread makes it much more delicious and comforting. For example, meatloaf. I love it on its own, but it’s even better the next day in a sandwich! Same goes for meatballs, fried eggs or even calamari. And now I can add Chicken Parmesan to that list.

Both Dustin and I saw the picture of Chicken Parmesan Burgers in the March issue of Bon Appetit and agreed we had to make them this week. When we went to the store, the butcher was out of ground chicken, but turkey worked just fine! Patties flavored with a little marinara sauce, minced basil, and grated onion are rolled in a mixture of breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan and pan fried, which gives them a nice crispy texture and that distinctive Chicken Parmesan taste. Add your favorite jarred marinara sauce (we opted for Newman’s Own Organic) and some mozzerella cheese and you have your favorite Italian entrée in sandwich form. Some fresh basil leaves add a nice finishing touch, and I’m glad I gave the radicchio a chance (I’m not usually a huge radicchio fan like Dustin is) because its slight bitterness was actually good with the sweetness of the marinara. This recipe serves 4. Try it tonight!

Turkey (or Chicken) Parmesan Burgers

(From the March 2010 issue of Bon Appetit)

10 1/2-inch-thick slices French bread (4 inches in diameter); 8 slices toasted, 2 slices (crust removed) diced
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons minced fresh basil, divided, plus 12 large basil leaves
3/4 cup purchased marinara sauce
3/4 lb. ground chicken (white meat) or ground turkey
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon grated onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces whole-milk mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
4 large radicchio leaves
  • In a food process, blend diced bread and Parmesan to form fine crumbs. Transfer to pie dish; mix in 2 tablespoons minced basil.
  • Mix marinara and 2 tablespoons basil in small saucepan. Transfer 1 1/2 tablespoons sauce to large bowl. Add chicken, 1/2 tablespoon oil, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle with pepper; blend. Shape into four 1/2-inch-thick patties; coat with crumbs. Heat sauce over low heat.
  • Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook patties until bottoms are crusty, 4 minutes. Turn patties over; top with cheese. Cook 3 minutes. Cover; cook until cooked through and cheese is melted, about 1 minute.
  • Assemble burgers with bread, radicchio, basil leaves, and warm marinara.

Roasted Chicken Leg/Thighs with Lemon & Oregano

When we wanted a Greek-inspired chicken dish to go with our spanakopita the other night, I went straight to Elly Says Opa! where we found just what we were looking for. This method produces the most tender, flavorful chicken that just falls off the bone. What a comforting meal! Instead of chicken broth, we added a little white wine to the baking dish, and instead of dried oregano we used some of the fresh oregano that’s growing in the backyard. We followed Elly’s advice and were heavy-handed on the seasonings. You can’t beat a crispy, flavorful skin!

2 chicken leg/thighs
extra virgin olive oil
1 large lemon
freshly ground pepper
fresh oregano, chopped
a few splashes of white wine

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Add some olive oil and the juice of half a lemon to a baking dish. Add the chicken leg/thighs and turn, coating them with the oil and juice.
  • Generously season both sides with salt, pepper, and oregano. Add the wine, just so it covers the bottom of the dish. Squeeze the remaining half of lemon over the dish.
  • Roast for about an hour, checking once or twice to baste with the juices. Serves 2.

Cheesy Chicken & Rice Bake

Of course the day I choose to write about this dish, it’s like freaking 95 degrees outside and the last thing I want to think about is a baked comfort food dish. But once the sun goes down and the fog comes creeping in, I’ll remember why it was so good. Dustin created this for me when I requested something “comforting and cheesy, involving chicken and rice” (hence, the not-so-creative title). We rarely eat casserole-type dishes, so I’m no expert, but it tasted like something that a sweet old church lady would bring to a potluck (which is a good thing – I have fond memories of church potlucks). The little bits of bell pepper were a great addition, and you could add all sorts of chopped veggies, depending on what you have in your fridge. Next time maybe I’ll suggest we add some chopped broccoli.

1 chicken breast half
1 cup water or chicken stock*
1 cup of rice
2 cloves of garlic, 1 halved and 1 minced
1 small white onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
a splash of white wine
a few splashes of milk or cream
salt & pepper to taste
a generous amount of grated jack cheese

*we used the liquid in which we boiled the chicken

  • Butter a casserole dish. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add some salt, a few peppercorns, a halved garlic clove (if desired) and any other spices you want. Add the chicken breast. Simmer until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken, shred, and set aside. Reserve the now-flavorful water.
  • In another saucepan, combine the rice with 1 cup of the reserved water. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer until rice is done, about 15-20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a small frying pan, saute the garlic in a little olive oil for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant and golden. Add the onion and cook for another few minutes. Turn off the heat.
  • When the rice is done, fluff with a fork. Add the shredded chicken, diced bell pepper, sautéed garlic/onion, wine, milk (or cream), salt & pepper, and a small handful of cheese. Mix well. Scrape the rice mixture into the buttered casserole dish. Top with more cheese.
  • Bake, covered, for about 30 minutes. Finish it off under the broiler for a few minutes to make the cheese bubbly and slightly golden.  Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Shredded Chicken Taco Salad with Sour Cream-Lime Dressing

It’s HOT. The cats are sprawled out underneath the ceiling fan (I may just join them), and I’m thinking about how growing up on the California central coast has really spoiled me when it comes to weather! But thanks to some leftover BBQ chicken breasts from the night before, we didn’t have to cook anything on the hottest day in Santa Cruz since 1899! We heaped chopped lettuce onto two plates, scattered some grated pepper-jack cheese over it, added the chicken that we shredded, and some sliced avocado and tortilla chips. Dustin made a cool sour cream-lime dressing that tied everything together! A bottle of crisp & minerally Big House White finished off the meal. Keep this one in mind when ridiculous weather is happening in your town!

For the Dressing:

4 ounces sour cream (from an 8 oz. container)
2 small limes
chili powder
salt & pepper

For the Salad:

red leaf lettuce, chopped
a few handfuls of grated pepper-jack cheese
a few handfuls of cilantro
2 chicken breast halves, (preferably grilled) cooled and shredded
1 avocado, sliced
a few handfuls of tortilla chips

  • In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, juice of 2 limes, and seasonings. Taste and add more of something if you think it needs it. Set aside.
  • Wash and dry the lettuce, then roughly chop it. Divide between two plates.
  • Scatter the grated cheese on top of the lettuce, followed by the cilantro and shredded chicken.
  • Place half a sliced avocado on the side of each plate. Scatter some tortilla chips (lightly crushed, if you prefer) around the plate.
  • Spoon the dressing on top of each salad. Finish with a dollop of your favorite salsa.

Honey Mustard Pretzel Chicken with Sautéed Collard Greens

A restaurant in downtown Santa Cruz, Clouds, used to have a pretzel-encrusted chicken entrée that always intrigued me. I only ordered it once because I’m more of a small-plate kind of girl (I love to try little amounts of a lot of things) and I could never pass up their sushi offerings on the menu, but the pretzel chicken obviously stuck with me. When I couldn’t fall asleep the other night, I was pondering what to make for dinner. I thought about chicken because we hadn’t had it in awhile. Then my mind wandered to the pretzel coating at Clouds, then it jumped to Dustin’s favorite flavor of Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzel bits: honey mustard & onion. Hmm … instead of coating chicken with honey-mustard flavored pretzels, the honey-mustard could act as the adhesive for the crushed pretzels. I won’t bore you anymore with the thought processes of Brianna, but I will share the recipe. To go with the chicken, Dustin sautéed some lovely collard greens in olive oil until they were wilted, then he added salt, pepper, and a small spoonful of … you guessed it … mustard (but not honey mustard; spicy brown), covered the pan, and continued cooking until the greens were tender. The mustard flavor went really well with the greens, and the slight bitterness was a nice contrast to the chicken.

Honey Mustard Pretzel Chicken
Serves 2

1 chicken breast half
3-4 TBS. prepared honey-mustard (or mix Dijon with some honey and a squeeze of lemon juice)

One 7-ounce bag of pretzels (we used Newman’s Own Organics’ Salt & Pepper Pretzels)
olive or canola oil

  • Split the chicken breast in half again lengthwise (or ask your butcher to do it for you), and cut into 6-8 “chicken tender-sized” pieces, about an inch thick.
  • Pour the pretzels into a gallon zip lock bag. Seal securely and pound with something like a skillet or a can of soup until pretzels are broken up in breadcrumb-sized bits. Place pretzel bits on a plate.
  • Spoon the honey-mustard into a wide bowl.
  • Put a drizzle or two of oil in a large frying pan or on a griddle. Heat over medium heat.
  • Working with one chicken piece at a time, place in the mustard bowl and lightly coat with the honey mustard using one hand. Carefully lay chicken onto pretzel plate and press to adhere pretzels to bottom of chicken.
  • Using your dry hand, flip chicken over and press to coat other side of chicken. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces.
  • Cook until done, about 4-5 minutes per side, and the pretzel crust is lightly golden.
  • Serve with sautéed collard greens.

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

We’ve been having unusually warm weather for January! Last Sunday we pretended it was summer (although it wasn’t that hard to pretend when it was 70 degrees at 5:00 in the evening), fired up the BBQ, and invited some good friends over for appetizers. They brought rounds of polenta (both regular, and sun-dried tomato) topped with sautéed collard greens (fresh from their CSA box), bacon, shrimp and a dollop of roasted red pepper & artichoke tapenade. We loved the combination of flavors and textures – the saltiness of the bacon complimented the sweet polenta, the bitter greens, and the briny shrimp.The tail was even taken off the shrimp making it easy to eat. Well done!

Our contribution was chicken satay with peanut sauce, one of the first things that we ever made together when we started cooking in college. Strips of chicken are marinated in coconut milk, curry power, fish sauce, and cilantro, weaved onto wooden skewers and then cooked over a charcoal grill. Paired with a slightly crunchy and spicy peanut sauce, you will definitely want to serve these at your next party, no matter what temperature it is outside!

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce
(adapted and reworded from William Sonoma Asian)
Serves 4 as an appetizer

1 1/2 lb (750 g) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 1/2 cups coconut milk, divided
4 TBS fish sauce, divided
5 TBS. brown sugar, divided
2 TBS. chopped fresh cilantro, plus 1 TBS. chopped stems
1 TBS. hot curry powder
1 shallot
2 garlic cloves
1 TBS. peeled and chopped ginger
1 TBS. peeled and chopped lemongrass
1 fresh hot red chile, seeded and chopped
1 TBS. canola oil
1 TBS. fresh lime juice
1 cup unsalted peanuts, toasted and minced
12-15 bamboo skewers

  • Start soaking the bamboo skewers in a pan of water.
  • Prepare your charcoal (or gas) grill.
  • Cut the chicken thighs into strips, about 3 or 4 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide.
  • In a large bowl, combine 1/2 a cup of the coconut milk, 2 TBS of the fish sauce, 3 TBS. of the brown sugar, the curry powder, and the cilantro. Add the chicken strips and toss to coat. Let marinade in the refrigerator while you prepare the peanut sauce.
  • In a food processor, throw in the shallot, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chile, and cilantro stems. Process until combined, then add 1-2 TBS. water until it reaches the consistency of a paste.
  • Heat the 1 TBS. of oil in a saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the shallot-garlic mixture. Sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the remaining 1 cup coconut milk, 2 TBS. fish sauce, 2 TBS. brown sugar, the lime juice, and peanuts. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 7 minutes. Taste and add more sugar, fish sauce, or lime juice if you desire.
  • Drain the skewers. Working with one skewer at a time, take a strip of chicken out of the marinade, shaking off excess. Weave the chicken strip onto the skewer (if chicken strips are short, weave 2 or 3 onto 1 skewer).
  • Place the skewers on the hot grill, away from the direct flame. Cover the grill and cook chicken until opaque, about 5-6 minutes.
  • Transfer the skewers to a platter and serve with peanut sauce on the side.

Teriyaki Chicken & Miso Soup

It’s about time we made two of the most well known Japanese dishes. The chicken teriyaki is best made with chicken thighs, but we used these skinless chicken breast strips instead. We were really happy with how the teriyaki sauce turned out. It actually tasted like the “real thing,” with just a hint of sweetness from the mirin. Serve with steamed white rice and sliced leek.

4 boneless chicken thighs with skin
2 tsp. + 1/2 cup sake
2 tsp. + 3 TBS. soy sauce
3 TBS. mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine)
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 leek stalk, sliced (optional)

  • Place chicken, 2 tsp. sake and 2 tsp. soy sauce in a medium bowl and marinate for 30 min. or overnight. Drain and pat dry on paper towels.
  • In a small bowl, combine the mirin, 3 TBS. soy sauce, and 1/2 cup sake and set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Fry the chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
  • Add the reserved mirin mixture, reduce heat to low and cook for 7-8 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and sauce thickens. (If using thinner chicken breasts, remove after 5 minutes so they don’t overcook and continue thickening the sauce in the pan).
  • Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve with sliced leek. And don’t let that leftover sake go to waste!

    We used white miso in our miso soup, which had a much sweeter taste than we were expecting. We’d recommend using red miso if you can find it. It’s the preferred kind in the Osaka area anyway. There’s something really comforting about miso soup. I just love it. I think it’s one of the few Japanese foods I could actually eat every day for breakfast (everything else just isn’t as appetizing before noon). Feel free to add cubed tofu if you want too! Also, I learned it’s important not to bowl the miso or it will lose its flavor. Most of the “cooking” is done off the heat.

    4 tsp. dashi powder dissolved in 3 cups water (or 3 cups of Dashi Stock. Another alternative is bouillon).
    2 TBS. dried wakame seaweed, torn
    4 TBS. red miso paste
    150 grams (5 oz) silken tofu, cubed
    1 TBS. thinly sliced green onions, to garnish

    • Place dashi mixture or stock into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and sprinkle with the dried seaweed (soon it will turn a vibrant green!)
    • Place the miso paste in a small bowl and stir in a little of the stock liquid until the paste is of pouring consistency.
    • Gradually stir into the soup stock and add the cubed tofu.
    • Ladle into bowls and garnish with green onion.

      Crispy Chicken Wontons with Sweet Chili-Lime Sauce

      We present to you Irresistible crunchiness paired with an addicting sauce. Wontons are one of our favorite appetizers to order in a restaurant, so we decided to make them ourselves! The weather is starting to warm up, our colds are (almost) gone, cherry blossom season is right around the corner, and spring break in Hawaii is just a week away. Things are looking up!

      1/2 TBS. sesame oil
      1/4 of a head of cabbage, shredded
      1/2 lb. ground chicken
      1 clove garlic, minced
      1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
      salt & pepper to taste
      1/2 tsp. garlic powder
      2 TBS. soy sauce or more to taste
      30 wonton wrappers
      vegetable oil for frying
      1/4 cup bottled sweet chili sauce
      1 1/2 TBS. fresh lime juice

      • In a small bowl, combine the sweet chili sauce and the lime juice. Stir and set aside.
      • Heat the sesame oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Cook the cabbage until it softens. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute. Add the ground chicken and stir, breaking up the pieces until done. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Add the soy sauce and turn off the heat. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
      • Assemble the wontons by placing a spoonful of filling in the center of a wrapper. Dip your finger into a small dish of water and wet 2 of the sides. Fold the opposite sides over the filling and pinch together, forming a small triangle. Repeat with all the wrappers.
      • Pour vegetable oil into a pan to a depth of 1-inch. Heat over medium high heat. When hot, fry the wontons in batches (about 1-2 minutes per side) or until crispy and brown. Makes 30 wontons.

      Wild Rice and Chicken-Stuffed Peppers

      When I was home last August, I went shopping in my parents’ pantry – or rather, was looking for last minute food items to fill up the empty spaces in my suitcase. Among many things, I ended up with a bag of wild rice. We prepared it a few nights ago, and this is what we did with the leftovers. You could probably stuff a lot of different things with this filling. Get creative. We used Piman (pronounced PEA-MAHN), the Japanese green pepper that’s much smaller than green bells in the States. I got the idea for this recipe from Rachael Ray, but she stuffs giant tomatoes instead of peppers.

      10 Piman peppers (or 4 large green bell peppers)
      2 TBS. olive oil (or 2 swigs around the pan)
      3/4 cup prepared wild rice
      1 small onion, chopped
      1 clove garlic, chopped
      a few handfuls of mushrooms (about 4 oz.), coarsely chopped
      1 lb. ground chicken
      1 TBS. paprika
      1/2 cup sour cream (we used plain yogurt because it actually tastes more like sour cream than Japanese sour cream does)
      salt & pepper

      • Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 C)
      • Cut the tops off the peppers, and remove the seeds and membranes.
      • Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic until onion softens and garlic is just barely light brown.
      • Add the mushrooms and cook for a minute more.
      • Add the ground chicken and cook until done, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon until crumbly.
      • Stir in the paprika. Remove pan from heat and stir in the sour cream (or yogurt), and prepared wild rice. Add salt & pepper to taste.
      • Fill the peppers with the chicken-wild rice mixture and place upright in a baking dish. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the peppers are tender and the top of the filling is lightly browned. Serves 2 hungry people.

        Something Like Tom Kha Gai

        We definitely can’t claim that this is the traditional way to make the famous Thai soup, but we enjoyed the challenge of creating something that tastes pretty close, using the ingredients that were available to us in Japan. This recipe serves 2 with enough for seconds. On a side note, it’s been snowing all day and covering the ground! This is the first time we’ve seen snow like this since moving to Osaka, so we’re thrilled and so is Arius.

        2 TBS. canola oil
        2 small shallots, chopped
        3 dried chillies, thinly sliced (or more if you like)
        1 TBS. fresh ginger, minced
        1 14 oz. can coconut milk
        1 bullion cube (we used chicken) dissolved into 1 cup hot water (or 1 cup stock)
        6 lemon grass leaves (we bought some that were already trimmed, but we sliced them a few times to bring out the flavor)
        a handful of button mushrooms, sliced
        1 TBS. fish sauce
        juice of half a lime, the other half sliced
        2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-sized pieces
        4 green onions, sliced

        • In a pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the shallot, and chilli and cook for a few minutes, until fragrant and shallot is soft.
        • Add the ginger and cook for a few minutes more.
        • Add the stock, coconut milk, lemon grass, mushrooms, fish sauce, lime juice and a few lime slices, and bring to a gentle boil. Add the chicken pieces, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
        • Remove lime slices from pot. Divide soup among 2 bowls, garnish with sliced green onion and serve with steamed white rice and extra lime on the side.