Asian Chicken Salad

This past weekend I went to my cousin's 16th birthday party. As always there was tons of delicious foods and dessert, but one thing stood out for me. The Asian chicken salad. My aunt used to make this all the time for many family parties and recently when she was talking about what to make for this one, the salad was mentioned. We agreed that it should be made and then I forgot about it until I arrived at the party. I had quite a few servings. This is one of my favorite things my aunt makes. I decided that I needed more of it this week and didn't take any leftovers home, so here is my aunt's recipe, which I believe is taken from The Pillsbury Chicken Cookbook.

Ingredients & Directions:

1/4 C soy sauce
1/4 C water
1 whole chicken breast (cut into thin crosswise strips)
1 8oz can of sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 C julienned carrots
1/2 C diagonally sliced scallions
1/4 C sugar
1/2 C oil
1/3 C white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 C finely chopped red cabbage
1 C chow mein noodles

Bring soy sauce and water to a boil in a large skillet. Add chicken , reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5-8 minutes. Drain and cool. Combine water chestnuts, carrots, onions and chicken. In small container combine sugar, oil, vinegar, and ginger. Shake well. Pour over salad. Toss in cabbage and chow mein noodles just before serving.

When you are cutting the scallions try cutting them at a diagonal. They just look better in the salad that way!

To keep things simple you can always buy carrots pre-julienned too. It may cost a little more, but it will definitely save time.

You can make the dressing ahead of time if you want to and let it sit in the refrigerator to chill.

If you want to keep the chow mein noodles crunchy, add them just before serving.

One of the great things about this salad is that it is easy to make ahead of time (great for parties, dinner, or lunch) and it even tastes better as it sits. The salad also looks pretty and will be sure to garner compliments.


Bacon & Cheese Frittata

I suppose once you look at the pictures this may not be what classically looks like a frittata. I did however cook this dish like any real frittata would be cooked. Shocking as it may seem, I do not have a pie pan. I dropped it and broke it and have yet to replace it, so I tend to make pie shaped things in either a cake pan or in square baking dishes. It works for me, it can work for you. One of the main things I focus on in my cramped kitchen is improvisation. I tend to play music while I'm cooking and just go with what I am feeling. I always have a recipe, but if I'm not feeling something I don't go with it, sometimes it works out great, sometimes it's a major fail, but I learn and move on. I will tell you about my apple brown betty's one day, yikes!

Ingredients & Directions:

6 eggs
1 c. milk
1 green onion, chopped
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
Dill (optional but highly recommended)
4 oz. shredded Cheddar cheese
Crumbled cooked bacon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 10 1/2 inch round au gratin pan or 9 x 9 inch baking dish (or whatever kind of pan you want!). In medium bowl with wire whisk, beat eggs, milk, onion, butter, salt, and pepper until well blended. Pour mixture into baking dish. Sprinkle cheese, bacon bits, and dill over top. Bake 20 minutes or until set.

Again, I usually grate my own cheese which I really enjoy doing.

I poured the egg mixture into the bottom of my baking dish and the bacon and cheese is placed on top.

I made this frittata for a small brunch. I love cooking food for brunch, one of my favorites (I need to cook it soon) is a french toast bake my Aunt Lauri introduced to our family; it is so good. I served it with some juice and a few pieces of toast, the addition of a fresh piece of fruit would have topped this off nicely, but I didn't have anything at home that day.


Strawberry Coffee Cake

I went to a local farm on Father's Day, Brooksby Farm, to go strawberry picking since it was in season. I picked up a little flyer about strawberries at the Farm and in it included this recipe, as well as a few others that I will keep in reserves for later. I was also inspired by We Are Not Martha's Strawberry Shortcake Cookies and had a need to cook something with strawberries. There is nothing better than cooking or eating fresh fruit and vegetables. Get your strawberries now, because the picking season ends soon! Check out your local farm for strawberry picking dates.


8oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 C butter
3/4 C sugar
1/4 C milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 C fresh strawberries, sliced
1/4 C brown sugar

Combine cream cheese, butter, and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Stir in milk, eggs, and vanilla.

Remember to rinse strawberries well that you pick fresh from the farm, they are generally covered in pollen.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to cheese mixture; mix until smooth.

Spread half batter in greased and floured 13" x 9" baking pan (cooking spray also works).

Place strawberries evenly over batter. Spread remaining batter over strawberries.

Sprinkle brown sugar over cake. The original recipe also called for nuts (whatever you like), but I don't like nuts in my food (well, maybe a salad). If you do like nuts you should mix the nuts and brown sugar together and then sprinkle that mixture over the top.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until golden. Serve warm (also delicious the next day for breakfast). This strawberry coffee cake is a surprisingly light dish and I am looking forward to trying it again with other fresh fruit.


Pasta Pie

I love a food challenge. When I saw the pasta pie on Noble Pig's food blog I knew I had to try it, immediately. The original recipe traces back to Martha Stewart and doesn't everything really? I followed the recipe almost exactly, with the exception of using meat. I am not a vegetarian, but I do not like meat sauce, so hence just a simple sauce.

I never have a lot of time to cook dinner so anything that will save me time is a plus. I use canned tomato sauce (one day I will make my own from scratch) and a can of crushed tomatoes as well as a small can of tomato paste for my sauce. I always make extra sauce and freeze what I don't use for later.

I almost always grate my own cheese, unless I am feeling a little lazy or in a rush. Tonight, for this recipe, I grated fresh Parmesan cheese.

My favorite part of the recipe was putting the pasta into the springform pan. I though it would take me forever to get it to stand up without it all falling over, but it went really fast and was so easy. The recipe calls to butter the pan, but I just used coking spray and that works just as well.

Directions & Ingredients:
Parts adapted and borrowed from Noble Pig

1 pound rigatoni
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 Can
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1 can (28 oz.) tomato sauce
1 can (6 oz.)
Cooking Spray
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces coarsely grated mozzarella
Seasonings (for the sauce)

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until slightly underdone (I cooked mine for 12 minutes when the box indicated 14 minutes). One pound of pasta should be cooked in 6 quarts of water, make sure you are using a big enough pot so the pasta doesn't stick together. When done, rinse in cold water and drain again. Toss pasta with 1 Tablespoon olive oil to coat. Set aside.

In a separate pot add other tablespoon of olive oil and garlic. Saute garlic until golden and then add the cans of crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste (season as you like); simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Toss pasta with Parmesan cheese. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Tightly pack pasta into pan, standing each piece on end. Spread sauce on top of pasta.

Push the sauce into the pasta holes filling each one up.

Place in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top and bake another 10-15 minutes until cheese is golden. Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen and then unmold.

Cut into wedges
and serve. I served this with a simple green salad and garlic bread.