Weekend Wrap-Up


This past weekend was very relaxing mostly due to the beautiful weather here in Germany. It has been sunny every day for the past week and a half. This type of weather doesn’t really make me want to stay inside and cook, but rather dine outside at a local European café here in Germany. Moments like this don’t last forever. I did cook because food in this area isn’t our favorite. We have to drive about an hour for good German or French food.
We kicked off this past weekend on Thursday starting with my version of Kung Pao Chicken. Kung Pao Chicken is one of my favorite Chinese dishes. I wanted to make this dish somewhat healthier than what we get in the restaurants so I included both red and green bell peppers, to get a few servings of our daily vegetable requirements. I served it with brown rice, and used chili oil. Next time, I might include the bell pepper trio: red, green, and yellow.

Here is the recipe:

Christine’s Kung Pao Chicken with Bell Peppers
Makes 4 Servings

1 pound of chicken breasts, sliced into very small pieces
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons of chili oil
3 teaspoons of cornstarch
2 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine
2 tablespoons of peanut oil
1 tablespoon of natural cane sugar (use regular sugar if needed)
2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
¾ cup of chopped green onion
3 tablespoons of water
1 ½ teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice Blend
¾ cup of cocktail peanuts
1-3 red chilies (optional but recommended)

Directions:
The trick with cooking on high heat is to constantly move the food around in the pan. Tongs work well or a heat-resistant spatula will do.
Also, the chicken can be marinated in the sauce below overnight or just before cooking for at least 30 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk 1-½ teaspoons of cornstarch in 1 tablespoon of wine, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of water, chili oil, garlic, and Chinese five-spice blend. Once mixed thoroughly, add chicken and coat it with sauce to marinate.
Sauté chicken on high heat with marinade for about 3-5 minutes until it is golden on outside. Remove chicken from the wok to avoid overcooking and set aside.
Add vegetables to wok and sauté in remaining oil. Add chicken back to vegetables and continue to mix. T
The final step is to make the sauce for the chicken and vegetable mixture.
Mix 1 tablespoon of cooking wine, 1-½ teaspoons of cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of water, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and sugar. Whisk quickly and pour over the chicken and peppers and continue to mix over the high heat until sauce thickens to a gravy consistency. Add chopped or whole chilies and peanuts and continue to cook for about another minute or two.
Note: Chopped chilies will make the dish spicier than leaving them whole.
If need be, add one tablespoon of water, at a time, if you see gelatinous residue on chicken or want to thin out sauce.
Add soy sauce to taste and serve with short grain brown rice.

Friday

Friday night was a nightmare. I made Shrimp Pad Thai, our favorite, but I used CANNED bean sprouts in the dish. Yes, canned! I am trying to get rid of my canned foods in the event we are moving, but if there is one thing I will never do again, it is to use canned bean sprouts in any dish. They are horrible. It is better to just leave them out if you don’t have fresh bean sprouts on hand because they completely change the taste of the dish…for the worse. Not only that, but to add insult to injury, I soaked the rice noodles longer than usual and so my noodles were falling apart as I was mixing them with the shrimp. It was a disaster and a learning lesson. Thank God my husband is a sweetie, and did not comment on whether it was good or bad, but instead ate everything on his plate and listened to me complain about it. What a great husband, right?
The next day he asked if there was any left. “Are you kidding me?” I asked him. I picked the shrimp out and threw the remainder of it a way, which is a sin, I know, but it was just not edible. Bottom line, we are our biggest critics, and sometimes, we just need to shut up…

Saturday

I started my day at 9:30am with the idea of making bran muffins from scratch. I love sleeping in on Saturdays. I wake up ready to conquer the world or my little world of chaos. My hubby woke up with our toddler, and since I am up all through the night with our infant, he lets me sleep in. My hubby is a sweetheart!

Here is the recipe:

Moist Oat Bran Muffins

3 cups of oat bran cereal
1-cup milk
1 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
¼ cup molasses
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/8 cup of salted butter
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk together the oat bran, baking powder, and cinnamon. In a mixing bowl, melt butter and beat in sugar, eggs, and oil, and mix on slow speed. Add oat bran mixture and slowly pour in milk. Add molasses last and mix. Bake for about 15 minutes or until muffins are brown. See picture above.

Saturday Cont…
We were invited to our friends’ home for dinner and I brought my salad and homemade dressing, which I have been promising to post for about a year. I’m perfecting it, that’s it!
I also brought milk-chocolate covered popcorn. See below for directions. It is very easy to do.
Jenny is a wonderful cook and she made Carne Asada, which was of course, AMAZING! Not to mention, she made this avocado and red onion salad with a homemade tomato and cilantro salsa for the steak. Can it get any better? Yes it can. She made her signature white rice, which is probably the best white rice I have ever had. She makes it “Latin Style” by frying the rice first (so “low-cal”) and then, simmering it in chicken broth. My mouth is watering for some more right now!

Sunday
This was a very low-key day for us as most Sundays are. We decided to go to an Easter Market in Sankt Wendel here in Germany, but by the time we got there, our boys were sound asleep so, we decided to take a Sunday afternoon drive and see parts of Germany that we have not yet explored. We got home, threw some steaks on the barbecue, relaxed, and got re-energized for another work week full of play dates,exercise, laundry, errands, cleaning, temper tantrums, crying, and of course, cooking.
Have a great week everyone!

-Christine

Recipe for Chocolate Covered Popcorn

Pop the kernels over the stove instead of using microwave popcorn. Yellow corn kernels work best. Sprinkle salt over kernels in the oil before they are popped.
Melt milk or dark chocolate using a double boiler (see http://www.gourmetanise.com) and then spread popcorn over a cookie sheet and using a spatula, drizzle chocolate over popcorn. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes or throw it in the freezer to speed up the process.

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