Asian Broccoli Bowls

We love ethnic food in our house and since transitioning to a predominately vegetarian diet, we love it even more! So many ethnic dishes are already tailored towards plant-based eating. This dish was inspired by the Peas and Thank You recipe Szechuan Broccoli and Quinoa. I made a few minor adjustments to the sauce and added several ingredients to make this a main-dish meal for us. It’s so tasty that I’ve made it twice in the last week! And the leftovers are delicious too!

Feel free to substitute your veggies of choice, just adjust cooking times as needed.

Don’t let the long list of ingredients and instructions deter you from trying this. Once you get your veggies prepped, this meal comes together quite quickly.

Asian Broccoli Bowls

ASIAN BROCCOLI BOWLS
(adapted from peasandthankyou.com)
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Cooked Quinoa or Brown Rice (use half broth for the cooking liquid)

1-1/2 lbs broccoli florets
1/2 lb mushrooms, cut into chunks
1-2 onions, cut into chunks
sesame oil and/or olive oil for drizzling
season to taste

1/2 lb extra-firm tofu, cut into small cubes
sesame oil and tamari sauce for drizzling
season to taste

Sauce
1/4 c. tamari
1/4 c. vegetable broth
1 Tbsp maple syrup or agave nectar
1 Tbsp sweet red chili sauce, such as Thai Kitchen Brand (opt.)
1/4 tsp ginger powder
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ground flax seed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Cook the quinoa or brown rice according to package instructions.

Cut the tofu into cubes. Lay a clean towel on a cutting board and place the tofu on top. Either fold over that towel to cover or lay a second towel on top. Place another cutting board or baking sheet on top and stack a few heavy items to create a tofu “press.” (Cookbooks work well.) Leave the tofu to press for 30-60 minutes.

Cut up veggies.

Preheat the broiler.

Arrange mushrooms and onions on a medium baking sheet and drizzle with a little sesame oil or olive oil; if desired, sprinkle with a little salt, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder, if desired. Arrange pressed tofu cubes onto another medium baking sheet, drizzle with a little sesame oil and tamari sauce; if desired, season with a little salt, ginger powder, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Arrange broccoli florets on a large baking sheet and drizzle with a little sesame oil.

If your oven size allows, broil the mushrooms and onions alongside the tofu for 10-15 minutes, stirring once. Then place on the bottom rack to keep warm while you broil the broccoli for 6-9 minutes, stirring once and making sure not to burn.

While the veggies and tofu are broiling, make the sauce. In a small saucepan, combine all of the sauce ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Lower heat and simmer for a minute or two, until thickened. Remove from heat.

Scoop quinoa or rice into each bowl, top with the roasted veggies and tofu, drizzle with the sauce and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

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International Cuisine: Orange Chicken

Orange Chicken isn’t an authentic Asian dish as far as I know, but you’ll find it in many take-out Chinese restaurants. Since take-out Chinese is not a part of our diet, I like to make my own take-out from time to time. This isn’t as gooey, rich, and breaded as you’ll likely find at your local eatery. But it’s tasty, definitely healthier, and best of all can be made at home.

This recipe is from one of my favorite gluten-free cookbooks, Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking by Kelli and Peter Bronski. I added some crisp-cooked broccoli to the chicken and sauce and served it over brown rice.

ORANGE CHICKEN
(from Artisanal Gluten-Free Cookbook)
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2/3 cup orange juice
1/4 cup tamari wheat-free soy sauce
1 Tablespoons dry sherry
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
zest of 1/2 orange, julienned
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed

Mix together the orange juice, soy sauce, sherry, brown sugar, and cornstarch in a saucepan. Stir to dissolve the cornstarch. Heat over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and zest and sauté until fragrant. Add the chicken and sauté until browned and cooked through.

Add the orange sauce to the chicken and heat through.

International Cuisine: Stir-Fried Shrimp

I’m a bit iffy about shrimp. The texture troubles me and I dislike cocktail sauce (the way shrimp is typically available to me); however, my husband likes shrimp. Thus my quest to find a shrimp recipe(s) that I enjoy. Aldi sells frozen bags of de-veined, peeled shrimp for under $4. I bought a bag of the medium-size and set out to find a recipe.

The Cooking Light website offered several recipes that sounded quite good, but for the sake of ingredients on hand, I tried the Stir-Fried Shrimp with Spicy Orange Sauce. I added a bag of frozen sugar snap peas and diced onion (didn’t have the green onions) and served it on a bed of vermicelli noodles. The flavor was delicious. The texture, I’ll continue to acquire. Overall, a success and a recipe I’d definitely consider making again and tweaking with additional veggies.

Bonus, this is easily made gluten-free, if you use gf soy sauce (La Choy brand is gf, also San-J wheat-free Tamari).

STIR-FRIED SHRIMP WITH SPICY ORANGE SAUCE
(slightly adapted from Cooking Light website)
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1 1/2 pounds peeled, de-veined large shrimp
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon chile paste with garlic (I added 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes and an extra clove of garlic)
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 Tablespoon minced peeled fresh garlic
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup chopped green onions
frozen vegetables of choice (optional)

Place shrimp in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with cornstarch; toss to coat. Set aside.

Combine juice, soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, and chile paste, stirring with a whisk. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet or a wok over medium-high heat. Add the minced ginger and garlic; stir-fry for 15 seconds, until fragrant. Add shrimp mixture and any additional veggies of choice; stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add juice mixture and onions; cook 2 minutes or until the sauce thickens and shrimp is done, stirring frequently. Serve immediately over a bed of rice, vermicelli noodles, or stir-fried veggies.

Weekend Fare: Meat Piroshki

These tasty meat pies go by many names internationally. In Kazakhstan, you can find them being sold on the street corners and in bakeries – they are nearly always wonderful! These hearken back to bierocks that my husband enjoyed and pierogies that are traditional for our friends. Whatever the name, these are great for travel, for making ahead, and for freezing. I think they would be really good with some cabbage or other vegetables in them as well.

MEAT PIROSHKI
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
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 Meat Filling:
1 med. onion, diced
1 T. oil or butter
8 oz. ground beef
salt & pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
fresh herbs (opt.)
1 egg

Brown the onion and ground beef together with oil or butter if needed. Add seasonings. Allow to cool. Add egg. Stuff in piroshiki dough as described below.

Dough:
1 ½ tsp. dried yeast
pinch of sugar
5 Tb. warm water
5 Tb. butter, softened
1 lb. (about 4 c.) flour
1 tsp. salt
8 T. milk
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dissolve yeast and a sugar in the warm water. Mix in the softened butter, flour, salt, milk, and eggs. Knead into smooth dough (I let my mixer do the kneading). Leave to rise until it has doubled in volume. Punch down. Roll out dough until quite thin. Cut out in small circles and brush the inner edges with milk. Stuff with filling and fold into semi-circle or canoe shape. Bake for 10 minutes until golden brown.

International Cuisine: Chrov Plov

My oldest two sons were born in Kazakhstan. We feel so blessed to have the chance to celebrate and explore another culture. And we truly love the country, people, and food (!) of Kazakhstan. March 22 marked the Kazakh New Year (Nauryz) and so we enjoyed celebrating with friends and eating some traditional dishes. This was one of my absolute favorites but I will be sharing four different recipes throughout the coming weeks – they were all delicious.

The recipes were adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2 – my mom and I both have recipes in the book as well as many other talented cooks (how is that for a shameless promo! :)). Please feel free to check it out – the fundraiser is put on by Two Hearts for Hope and all proceeds from the sales of the cookbook benefit orphans in Kazakhstan. And the cookbook features many different types of recipes in addition to several Kazakh recipes.

CHROV PLOV
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
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1 c. rice, uncooked
¼ c. almonds, chopped
2 T. currants
2 T. raisins
6 dried prunes
3 T. dates, chopped
4 T. butter
¼ c. dried apricots, cut into strips
1 T. honey
2 c. water

Soak dates, currant and prunes in warm water for 15 minutes. Remove and pat dry, mix with apricots and raisins. Melt the butter in a large skillet over high heat and add the fruit mixture and almonds. Reduce the heat to low and stir for four minutes. Stir in the honey, rice, and water. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes, serve hot.

*I very successfully made this in my rice cooker by adding the sautéed fruit, almonds, butter, and honey to the rice and water in the cooker.

International Cuisine: Chipotle Mexican Meatballs

The other evening I had a flash of inspiration and wondered why there are Italian meatballs and Swedish meatballs and Greek meatballs, but no Mexican meatballs. So, I set out to make Mexican meatballs spiced with the smokey flavor of chipotle chile powder.

Not too spicy, with definite Mexican flavor, I wrapped these little meatballs in a soft corn tortilla, nestled on a bed of sautéed peppers and onions, topped with a bit of cheese, tomatoes, and guacamole. I call these Fajita Meatball Tacos (or something like that!).

CHIPOTLE MEXICAN MEATBALLS
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1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp dried cilantro flakes
1/2-3/4 tsp chipotle chile powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
splash of milk

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix all of the ingredients together and thoroughly work the spices into the meat (you may need to use freshly washed hands to do this).

Scoop 1-inch meatballs (or your preferred meatball size) onto a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, or until cooked through.

Make into tacos or taco salad.

International Cuisine: Mongolian Beef & Broccoli

My dad loves Asian food and over time, most of us have to come to share that love. It’s one of my favorite comfort foods and I really like that it makes the perfect relaxed evening or can be dressed up for a nicer dinner. While I thoroughly enjoy take-out, it’s also a lot of fun to make Asian dishes at home! Perhaps one of my first favorite dishes (beside Sweet & Sour Chicken) is Mongolian Beef. Today, I’m sharing a recipe that I adapted and we enjoyed. Just make sure to choose a tender cut of beef and thinly slice it.

MONGOLIAN BEEF & BROCCOLI
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2 tsp. vegetable or canola oil 
1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced 
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. water
1/4-1/2 c. brown sugar
vegetable oil, for frying
1 lb. flank steak
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 lg. head of broccoli florets
4 large green onions

Make the sauce by heating 2 tsp of vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over med/low heat. Don’t get the oil too hot. Add ginger and garlic to the pan; add the soy sauce and water before the garlic scorches. Dissolve the brown sugar in the sauce, then raise the heat to about medium and boil the sauce for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Remove it from the heat.

Slice the steak against the grain into 1/4″ thick slices. Dip the steak pieces into the cornstarch. Let the beef sit for about 10 minutes so that the cornstarch sticks. As the beef sits, heat up about one cup of oil in a wok. Heat the oil over medium heat until it’s nice and hot, but not smoking.

Add the beef to the oil and sauté for just two minutes, or until the beef just begins to darken on the edges. After a couple minutes, use a large slotted spoon to take the meat out and onto paper towels, then add the broccoli and saute until tender crisp (about 3 min.). Remove broccoli and pour out excess oil. The add the meat and broccoli back into the wok and simmer for about one minute. Add the sauce, cook for one minute while stirring, then add all the green onions. Cook for one more minute. Serve over rice.

International Cuisine: Polish Dishes

We thoroughly enjoy trying different cuisines. I have yet to find one that I don’t like! It keeps food interesting, creates new ideas for flavor combinations, and expands the palates of my three sons. Last week, we spent time studying the country of Poland and whenever we focus on a country, we try to make at least one dish native to that area. This time we made two and both were delicious!

POTATOES BAKED with EGGS & CREAM (adapted slightly from this site)
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2 Tb. butter, melted
3 c. potatoes, diced & cooked
salt & pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. sour cream (I subbed some yogurt)
2 Tb. chives or spring onions, chopped (I was out of both so I used a little dried parsley)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour butter into the bottom of an oven proof casserole. Add potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Mix together the eggs and sour cream and pour over potatoes. Top with chives or onions, cover and bake for 1 hour.

SAVOURY SAUSAGE & SAUERKRAUT (adapted slightly from this site)
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2 Tb. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
¼ c. green peppers, chopped
1 lg. apple, peeled, cored, & chopped
2 Tb. brown sugar
½ tsp. caraway or fennel seeds
3 red potatoes, cleaned & diced
1 ½ c. sauerkraut, drained, rinsed, & packed
1-2 lb. smoke sausage (kielbasa), cut in 3-inch pieces

Melt butter in saucepan. Add onion and green pepper. Cook until tender. Add apple, brown sugar, caraway seeds, potatoes, and sauerkraut. Mix well. Place sausage on top of sauerkraut mixture. Cover. Cook over medium-low heat for 40 minutes.

Guest Post: International Cuisine

We are so pleased to welcome Sarah Bailey as a guest blogger today. She is a recently married writer who aspires to be home chef extraordinaire! Her international recipes look wonderful and we are glad to have her join us this week!

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Greetings, fellow foodies. By day, I am online editor for Christianity Today magazine and blog 2-3 times a week at GetReligion.org. By night, I turn into a wannabee foodie, like many aspiring cooks in America. And in my spare time, I read books and magazines, play board games with friends, and pick up the violin/viola.

Last year, I married my college boyfriend and moved to Green Bay where beer, brats, and cheese create the perfect Wisconsin dish. I grew up with a love for baking because–let’s be honest–that’s where cooks tend to get the glowing reviews. Cooking was something that just had to be done to survive, but a few circumstances created the perfect storm for my relatively recent excitement for the culinary arts. Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food eloquently argues for the value of food as more than energy, Julia Child’s My Life in France offered an inspiration for cooking, and regularly reading and reviewing recipes on sites like allrecipes.com helped me adapt recipes to my tastes. Finally, armed with new kitchen toys (wedding gifts), I became queen of my own kitchen after sharing a fridge and garage-sale utensils for so long. Sites like thecooksnextdoor.com also combined my love for blogs and cooking, giving me an extra appetite to continue my culinary experiences.

A few months ago, some of my friends and I signed up for a weekly international cooking class to expand my cooking horizons. Intimidated by the thought of handling foods I had never seen before, I was pleasantly surprised by the lineup that ranged from your average Greek salad to the French creme brulee. Each week, we focused on one particular cuisine–Thai, German, French, and Greek–and cooked everything from the appetizers to the main courses to desserts, to get an idea of what buffet style might look in that particular country. When the course was over, we held a dinner party where each of us made two items from the course. I chose the French Clafouti and the Mediterranean chicken and fennel with couscous.

FRENCH CLAFOUTI
(Adapted from Ina Garten)

1 Tb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 c. plus 1 Tb. granulated sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
6 Tb. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tb. brandy
2 to 3 firm but ripe pears
Confectioners’ sugar (to sprinkle on top)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter a 10-inch round baking dish and sprinkle the bottom and sides with 1 Tb. of the granulated sugar. Shake out the extra sugar.

Beat the eggs and the 1⁄3 cup of granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. On low speed, mix in the flour, cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest, salt, and brandy. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Peel, quarter, core, and slice the pears. Circle the pears around the baking dish. Pour the batter over the pears and bake until the top is golden brown and the custard is firm, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.

MEDITERRENEAN  CHICKEN & FENNEL w/COUSCOUS
(Adapted from the Food Network)

4 to 6 chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds), bone in with skin
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 Tb. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small bulb fennel, halved, cut into 1/2-inch wedges, fronds reserved
1 small red onion, sliced into thin wedges
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/3 cup kalamata olives

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Season the chicken thighs generously with salt and pepper. Heat a large ovenproof skillet (I used a cast-iron skillet) over medium-high heat, add oil, and heat until shimmering. Cook chicken skin side down until golden and crispy, about 8 minutes. Turn chicken and brown for another 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Pour off 1 Tb. of the pan drippings and reserve; leave just enough oil in the skillet to cover the bottom, discard the rest.

Add the fennel, onions, garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes to the skillet and cook until the vegetables just begin to wilt, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and olives. Arrange the chicken, skin side up, on top of the vegetable mixture and bake, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes.

COUSCOUS:
1 1⁄2 cups uncooked couscous
3 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 orange, zested
1/4 cup roughly chopped or whole flat-leaf parsley
2 to 3 Tb. water or chicken broth

Rinse the couscous in a sieve under cold water until the water runs clear. Put the couscous into a medium bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan add the chicken broth, reserved drippings, the 1 tsp. salt, nutmeg, cayenne, and black pepper and bring to a boil. Add the broth to the couscous and cover with plastic wrap, setting aside until the liquid has been absorbed, about 5 minutes.

Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet over medium-high heat, tossing in the pan until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes (be sure to keep them from burning). Add the orange zest, fennel fronds, and parsley to the couscous.

When ready to serve, fold the parsley mixture into the couscous and fluff with a fork. Mound the couscous on a warm serving platter and arrange the chicken around the couscous. Stir 2 to 3 tablespoons water or broth into the fennel mixture for a glazed look. Adjust seasoning and spoon fennel over the couscous and chicken; scatter the toasted pine nuts on top.

International Cuisine: Sabse Borani

I know, I know,  I said it would be market fresh but a girl can change her mind, right? My boys and I made this yummy dish last week during our study of Afghanistan. I found the recipe online and we all loved it! I served it on naan and as much as I would love to impress you and say that I made the wonderful onion naan, it would be a lie….it was a mix. There, I admitted it. 🙂 It worked out great and since my kiddos were helping, it made the process more age appropriate for them. Perhaps the making of naan from scratch will occur one of these days. In the mean time, this was easy and fabulous.


Sabse Borani

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4 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup lightly drained plain yogurt (drain about 1 hr – easiest method is to place the yogurt in a coffee filter and let stand)

Place damp spinach in a skillet and cook until wilted (can cover). Drain and squeeze to remove excess water. Heat oil in a large skillet, sauté onion at low heat until golden, add garlic and sauté briefly, then add spinach, and cook for a minute or two more. Let cool. In a bowl, smooth yogurt and add spinach mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Delicious! We love it on the naan – kind of  like a pizza!