Monday, August 13, 2012

Mongolian Chicken and Caramel Bars

Yummy note:
Decisions, decisions... way too many wonderful recipes to choose from for this month's Secret Recipe Club assignment. My newest assignment for this month's SRC was a blog called Robin, Restored, formally known as Penny Pinching Provisions. Seriously, you must check out this blog and see all of the great ideas, meal plans, and recipes that Robin shares. Originally I thought I wanted to make something with zucchini as I had a few sitting on my kitchen counter just itching to be used. Instead, I stumbled on this caramel bar recipe as I was looking through Robin's zucchini posts! :) This one showed up below on the "you might also like" area and I decided it captured my sweet tooth instantly. Caramel bars with just a few ingredients, seriously, yummy. However, I couldn't stop with just one recipe though, I had to try out the Mongolian Chicken, as well! Wow, my husband thought we had take out as it was so good and it turned out beautifully. Not to mention fairly easy and affordable, too! I love that I had all the ingredients readily available to make this tasty main dish for a quick mid-week meal. I might just have to say that since I've been with the Secret Recipe Club, which is over a year now, I believe this is one of my favorites.

Mongolian Chicken 


For the Chicken:
1/3 cup canola oil
1 lb chicken, cut up into small pieces
¼ cup cornstarch

For the Sauce:
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp ginger
2 tbsp garlic
½ cup soy sauce
¾ cup brown sugar

Optional: green onions, brown rice, and veggies

Prepare the chicken pieces and cut into smaller bite-sized like pieces. Place chicken into a plastic bag and toss in the cornstarch. Shake the chicken pieces in the cornstarch until they are completely coated. Let them sit for about 10 minutes. While these are resting, start up on the sauce for the chicken.
Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a wok and add in the ginger and garlic and sauté quickly.  Stir in soy sauce and brown sugar. Simmer for about 2-3 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside and reserve the sauce for later.

Clean the sauce out of the wok and heat up about a 1/3 cup of oil in the wok. Once it begins to heat up, add in your chicken and begin to sauté. Cook the chicken, probably about 5-7 minutes total, or until the chicken is fully cooked. Pour in the reserved sauce and simmer for a few minutes as the sauce thickens. Add in the chopped green onion to finish the dish. Remove from the heat and serve with rice. I paired it with a simple vegetable dish on the side as well, and it made for a well-rounded meal. 

...and now for dessert! 

Caramel Bars

I followed Robin's recipe and made just a few substitutions to suite our family's needs. For the butter, I used a soy margarine, and for the pecans, I used crushed pretzel chips! This was such a goey, salty, sweet, buttery, and delicious treat to enjoy. 

1/2 cup soy margarine
1 cup plus 2 tbps brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup of crushed pretzel chips

In a saucepan, melt margarine and brown sugar until dissolved over medium heat. Cool slightly and pour into a bowl with the egg and vanilla. Stir together and add in the flour and baking powder. Once combined, add in the crushed pretzel chips and pour into a prepared lightly greased 8 x 8 pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the edges of the caramel bars start to crisp up. Wait until the bars are cooled and then cut to enjoy!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dark Cherry Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

Yummy note: It's almost nearing the end of the summer, and I finally got around to stirring up some homemade ice cream for the kids. It is not just any ordinary ice cream, as this particular ice cream is dairy-free! My oldest child would eat ice cream morning, noon, and night if I let her. Sadly, my youngest child never really gets ice cream due to a milk allergy, so I immediately wanted to fix that. He's had fruit sorbets in the past, but it just isn't the same cool creamy yumminess that you get from ice cream. So immediately, I went to my go-to website for dairy-free recipe ideas from Silk. They have some great tips here for cooking and baking with soy milk, so I knew this recipe from Silk was my starting point. I ended up adding in some dark cherries and some dairy-free chocolate pieces to make an amazing combination. The cherry flavor wasn't too overwhelming, but if you are looking for a strong cherry flavored ice cream, you might want to add in a few tablespoons of cherry juice/extract to bump up the flavor. Or perhaps if you are making this for an adult treat, I bet a nice cherry liqueur would be a wonderful addition to this delicious frozen treat.

Dark Cherry Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

3/4 cup of soy milk (I used Silk Vanilla)
2 cups of soy creamer (I used Silk Original Creamer)
1 1/2 cups of pitted dark cherries
1/2 cup of agave or sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons of arrowroot (or cornstarch)
1/2 cup of dairy-free chocolate chunks
Optional: 1/4 cup of cherry preserves or few tablespoons of cherry liqueur  
*Note: You want to yield about 4 cups total of ice cream mix to put into your ice cream maker.

Pit cherries and cut them into pieces. Place 1/2 cup of vanilla soy milk, a split vanilla bean, creamer, agave, and cherries into a saucepan. (Note: To prepare a split vanilla bean, cut the vanilla bean open and scrape seeds into the saucepan and toss the empty pod into the pan as well to infuse the flavor more.) Heat the mixture on medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to simmer. Stir and remove from the heat. Mix 2 tablespoons of arrowroot into the remaining cold creamer and then whisk into the warm mixture. Cover the pan and let the mixture sit for about 15-20 minutes.

Remove the vanilla bean. This next step is optional- if you want, puree the cherry mixture in a blender to chop up the cherries a bit. Do it to your preference; my kids like the smaller pieces, so I went fairly small, perhaps if you want large chunks of cherries you could just omit this step. Next, chill the mixture completely. This is very important or else the ice cream will not set up properly in your ice cream maker. Process the mix according to your ice cream maker's directions.

While the ice cream is churning, chop up about 1/2 cup of dairy-free chocolate chunks to toss into the ice cream mix. Towards the end of the ice cream processing time, add in your chocolate. You could also add in a flavorful cherry preserve or jam at the end to make ripple ribbons of fruit throughout the ice cream. Enjoy the soft set ice cream immediately, or freeze the ice cream for a few more hours in an air tight container until ready to serve. Makes about one quart of ice cream.

Serve with some fresh fruit!
Garnish with a dairy-free chocolate syrup! 

Want another fun ice cream idea? Use this recipe from Silk, but substitute the Soy Original flavor with the Silk Chocolate flavor! Treat yourself to a frozen chocolaty treat.