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Cast Iron Chicken Chow Mein

I use my cast iron skillet to cook pretty much everything from pizza to dessert. To date, I have yet to cook Chinese food in my cast iron skillet.

Similar to a wok, a cast iron skillet retains heat well and can be used to quickly stir fry foods at high temperatures. Using a cast iron to cook chow mein is an ideal compromise for those who do not own a wok or those who do not have a wok compatible stove, like a ceramic glass top (like us!).

I have been using my non-stick skillet when I make chow mein. As I cook more and more at home, I have found that I prefer using my cast iron over my non-stick. Cast iron offers many benefits as food cooks faster, meats stay moist and you can cook at a higher temperature (just to name a few things).

I have been wanting to cook Chinese food in my cast iron skillet for a while. So last night, I decided to cook chicken chow mein in my cast iron skillet. My husband watched all of this with a wary eye and asked if this method has been tested out before. To be honest, I never bothered to Google it but I'm sure I'm not reinventing the wheel here. ;)

The chicken and the green beans both stir fried quickly in the cast iron (no surprise). The chow mein noodles also did not stick to the skillet as my cast iron is well seasoned. The end result is delicious chow mein that is ready in half the time. My husband and I both noticed that the chicken is moist and the vegetables are cooked to perfection. I can't wait to try more Chinese recipes in my cast iron skillet!

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, sliced into thin strips
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp vegetable oil
8 cups julienned vegetables (I used julienned green beans*)
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp vegetable oil
454 g chow mein noodles
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil

* I removed the stem from the green beans and cut it diagonally into smaller pieces

1. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add vegetable oil.

2. In a bowl, mix sliced chicken breast strips, cornstarch and soy sauce.

3. Once the skillet is hot, add the chicken breast strips and stir fry until it is almost cooked.

4. Add the julienned vegetables to the skillet and cook until the vegetables are tender. Stirring frequently, add water to deglaze the skillet. Set aside.

5. In a separate pot, boil water and prepare chow mein noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

6. Pour 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in the skillet. Once the skillet is hot, add the chow mein noodles, toss frequently with tongs for a minute or two.

7. Add in the chicken, julienned vegetables, soy sauce, sesame oil and toss thoroughly. Serve hot.

Source: Frugal Allergy Mom


Easy Shepherd's Pie

One of the key things I have learnt over the last few months to save time in the kitchen is Cook Once, Eat Twice (or many times). This means cooking a protein, vegetable or carbohydrate one night and using the leftovers for another dinner. This not only reduces the amount of work you need to do for dinner prep but also keeps your family happy with a little variety at the dinner table.

I had leftover mashed potatoes from the previous night when I made Pork Chops with Goat Cheese Gravy. It has been a while since I have made shepherd's pie so I decided to make it for dinner that night.

This meal had my husband jumping for joy. The cheesy mashed potatoes and vegetables over ground beef in a saucy gravy makes a delicious meal that is sure to make your family happy. The best part was that we even managed to have some leftovers (after my husband had second and third helpings) for lunch the next day.

5 cups leftover mashed potatoes
3 cups frozen vegetable mix (peas, carrots, corn, etc)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 lb lean or extra lean ground beef
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp ketchup
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add in frozen vegetables and blanch the vegetables for a few minutes. Drain and set aside.

3. In a large pan over medium-high heat, add oil.

4. Add onions and cook until it is translucent.

5. Mix in the ground beef and cook until it is no longer pink. Drain any excess fat. Stir in the flour and cook until the flour is mixed in.

6. Add in ketchup and beef broth. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce is thick.

7. Spread the ground beef mixture in an even layer on the bottom of a 3 quart casserole dish. Then spread on a layer of vegetable mix. Finally, spread mashed potatoes and sprinkle the shredded cheddar cheese on top.

8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.

Source: Slightly adapted from Allrecipes


Baked Lotus Root Chips (Free of Top Allergens)

The Internet can be an amazing place to learn new things and connect with others. Through Twitter, I saw a Lotus Root Chips recipe posted by Jasmine (aka. The Blenderist) that caught my attention. I love any type of chips and lotus root chips just sound too good. Not to mention, the pictures from Jasmine's blog made the lotus root chips look even more enticing. I made a mental note to buy lotus root the next time I went grocery shopping.

For those who are unfamiliar with lotus root, it is the root of the lotus flower plant. When purchasing lotus root, look for firm lotus root that is unblemished, heavy for its size and without any soft spots. When cooked, it has a mild taste similar to water chestnuts and adds a nice crunch.

These lotus root chips are fairly easy to make. I made two types of lotus root chips: plain and sesame. My little man and I eagerly and patiently waited for the lotus root chips to bake. Due to my poor knife skills, some of these chips were a little thicker than 1/8 of an inch and took a bit longer to bake.

The result is an addictive, salty and crispy lotus root chip that had my little man and I clamouring for more. The thinner you cut the lotus root, the crispier it will be and the more it will resemble a kettle chip. The thicker lotus root chips have a chewier texture but is equally delicious.

My only advice to you is to make a double or triple batch because these babies won't last long!

Lotus root
Rice vinegar or white vinegar 
Olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly cracked pepper
Sesame seeds (optional)

1. Scrub lotus roots clean under running water. Slice off the ends of the lotus root and peel off the skin with a peeler. Cut off any bruised parts of the lotus root (see picture below).

2. With a mandoline or with your amazing knife skills, cut the lotus root to less than 1/8 inch thick.

I need to work on my knife skills...or buy a better mandoline.

3. Place the lotus root slices in a large bowl and fill the bowl with just enough water to cover. For every 2 cups of water used, add 1 tsp of vinegar. This prevents the lotus root from turning brown. Allow the lotus root slices to soak for 5 to 10 minutes.

I used seasoned rice vinegar which is what I had on hand.

4. Drain the lotus root and pat dry each lotus root chip with a paper towel.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

6. In a large lidded container, drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over the lotus root and season with salt and pepper. Close the lid and shake to coat.

7. On a parchment lined baking sheet, place lotus root in a single layer making sure they do not overlap. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (if using).

8. Bake for 25 to 40 minutes until the lotus root chips are golden brown. Eat and repeat.

Source: Adapted from The Blenderist and Just One Cookbook


Pork Chops with Goat Cheese Gravy

Years ago, my ex-coworker Tina shared a recipe for Pork Chops with Blue Cheese Gravy. I had intended to make it with blue cheese but used goat cheese instead as my husband was not a fan of blue cheese.

A lot has changed since then. The biggest change is that my husband now loves blue cheese. Since I had leftover goat cheese (from making Roasted Beet, Goat Cheese, Arugula and Pear Salad), I thought of this recipe. It was a huge hit with both my husband and my little man. Next time, I will have to make this recipe as intended for my blue cheese loving husband.

2 tbsp butter
8 boneless pork chops
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup whipping cream
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
6 mushrooms, sliced

1. Pat the pork chops dry with a paper towel. Season with black pepper and garlic powder on both sides.

2. In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter.

3. Once the pan is hot, add pork chops and cook until the juices run clear and the meat is no longer pink. Turn the pork chops occasionally to brown. Remove pork chops and set aside on a plate.

4. Add mushrooms to the skillet and saute until it is golden brown. Set aside.

5. To the cast iron skillet, stir in the whipping cream, scraping up any bits of meat that is stuck to the pan. Stir in goat cheese and cook until the sauce thickens.

6. Add the mushrooms, pork chops and any pan juices back to the cast iron skillet and simmer for 5 minutes.

7. Serve warm over mashed potatoes, pasta or rice.

A feast for the hungry.

Source: Slightly adapted from Allrecipes


Easy One Pot Mushroom Spinach Pasta (Free of Top Allergens)

I love one-pot meals. These one-pot meals are a life saver for those hectic days with my active toddler.

This recipe comes together quickly (under 30 minutes) but it tastes like you have been slaving away at the stove for hours. The active prep time for the pasta is only about 5 to 10 minutes depending on your knife skills. The pasta is infused with a rich mushroom flavor and it tastes even better the next day. My husband kept telling me how much he loves this pasta; I figure this is a good sign that this one-pot pasta has his stamp of approval.

1/2 medium onion, sliced
1-1/2 lb (680g) button or cremini mushrooms, sliced thick*
11 oz (312g) baby spinach, washed and dried
4 cups cold water, vegetable broth or chicken broth
454 g spaghetti pasta (gluten-free or regular pasta)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

* If you use less than 1-1/2 lb of mushroom, increase water or broth by 1/2 cup.

1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, add olive oil.

2. Cook and stir in onions. Saute until it is translucent.

3. Turn the heat down to medium. Add in mushrooms and sweat the mushrooms until it is soft and tender.

Look at all the delicious juice for the pasta to soak in!

4. Pour in 4 cups of water, spaghetti and thyme.

5. Bring contents to a boil and stir the pasta. Turn the heat down to medium, cover and simmer for 10 minutes until the pasta is cooked through. Stir the pasta occasionally. Once the pasta is cooked through, remove from heat and stir in the spinach.

6. Season with salt and pepper.

Source: Frugal Allergy Mom 

Variation: Add 1/4 block of cream cheese to step 5, before stirring in the spinach.


Chinese Braised Fish (Hong Shao Yu)

Lately, I have been craving Chinese food. One dish that I have been meaning to make for a long time is a dish called Hong Shao Yu (the literal translation is "Red Braised Fish"). This is another one of my grandmother's famous dishes.

This Chinese braised fish recipe tastes similar to the Filipino dish adobo, which I also adore. The fish is first pan-fried and then simmered in a mildly sweet and savory sauce, which tastes amazing over a bowl of steamed (white) rice.

My only recommendation is to use a thicker white fish fillet (1/2 inch or thicker) as my thin sole fillets fell apart when I tried to pan fry it.

This recipe comes close to my grandmother's version but it does not quite taste the same. Even though my search goes on, I have to admit that this recipe is a keeper and definitely satiated my craving for Chinese food.

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb fish fillet (preferably 1/2 inch or thicker)
1 stalk of green onion, chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, sliced into coins
1 cup water
1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine (or rice wine)
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 stalk of green onion, chopped (for garnish)

Cornstarch Slurry
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp water

1. Add oil to a pan over medium-high heat.

2. Pat both sides the fish fillet dry with a paper towel.

3. Add the fish to the pan and cook each side until is it golden (about 1 to 2 minutes). Transfer the fish to a plate.

4. To the same pan, add green onions and ginger. Stir fry until fragrant.

5. Add in water, cooking wine, soy sauce and brown sugar. Mix and bring to a boil.

6. Once the sauce reaches a boil, return fish to the pan.

7. Cover, and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until it is cooked through, about 7 to 10 minutes.

8. Transfer fish to a serving platter.

9. Mix the cornstarch and 3 tablespoons of water in a small measuring cup. Pour the cornstarch slurry into the pan.

10. Increase heat to medium-high to reduce the sauce until it is thickened, about 4 to 6 minutes.

11. Pour sauce over the fish and garnish with green onions. Serve immediately as part of a multi-course meal.

Source: Adapted from Saveur


Scrambled Eggs with Garlic Sprout Stir Fry

Many of my childhood memories evolve around my late grandmother's food. I had always taken it for granted that she will live forever and never bothered to write down any of her recipes. When she passed away suddenly 7 years ago, all the family recipes disappeared as well.

Though the recipes disappeared, I can still vividly recall the taste, the aroma and the look on my grandmother's face as I devoured her many delicious meals.

Now I am trying to recreate the recipes she had once lovingly made for me and document it on this blog. This is in part so I can share these family recipes with my little man, who I hope one day, will recreate these dishes for his own family. The other part of me is recreating these recipes to relive those wonderful memories with my grandmother.

When I saw Sharon of Nut Free Wok post a recipe on garlic sprouts, it reminded me of the scrambled eggs with garlic sprout stir-fry my grandmother made with regular frequency. After a quick visit to the grocery store, I had successfully replicated the dish. But I still think my grandmother made it better.

3 to 5 eggs
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil, separated
1 bunch garlic sprout, washed, trimmed to 2 inch pieces (see note below)
1 tbsp soy sauce (optional)

Author's Note: Garlic sprout or garlic scape has a mild garlic flavor that is wonderful in stir fries, sauces, pastas, among many other dishes. It can be found at Asian grocers or farmers markets during the spring time. You want to buy garlic sprouts which are green and has a firm texture. Foodista has a great article on garlic sprouts if you want more info on this delightful vegetable.

1. Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt.

2. Pour in a tablespoon of oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, scramble the eggs until it is soft and runny. Set aside.

3. To the pan, add the other tablespoon of vegetable oil and saute the garlic sprout until it is cooked but still has a firm bite to it (about 2 to 4 minutes).

4. Add in the scrambled eggs, soy sauce and saute until it is well combined. Serve immediately over rice as part of a multi-course meal.

Source: Frugal Allergy Mom