Category Archives: Main Courses

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches that Pack a Punch

I’ve been seeing a lot of references and recipes lately for pulled pork. I love pulled pork sandwiches and after seeing all of those recipes with pictures of juicy, tender, sweet, and spicy pulled pork, I wanted some! But you know what Japan doesn’t have? It doesn’t have a good place to go for BBQ—shocking I know ;). So I had to come up with a way to make it on my own.

Believe it or not I used to hate pulled pork (remember I used to only eat mac and cheese?). Now that I’m older I realized that most things I used to “hate” when I was younger are things I had I either a) never tried and just decided I didn’t like them or b)I had one bad experience with that food at some point in my life, thought it was gross, and swore it off forever. Luckily I’m not too stuck in my ways and have rediscovered that many of those “disgusting” foods are actually quite delicious :). (Not salmon though. I still don’t like salmon.)

I first fell in love with BBQ when I was a freshman in college. My college roommate, Laura, is from Houston and introduced me to Texas BBQ when I went to visit her one summer. Honestly, I have never been a huge fan of meat. I’ll pick a vegetarian option over meat any day. I don’t know why, I just never really loved it. So when Laura said we had to go to Rudy’s BBQ, I wasn’t that excited about it. But oh man was I wrong about that one—that stuff was amazing!! I got the turkey and honestly I could not believe how good it was. I don’t even really like turkey, and only eat it at Thanksgiving because it’s tradition, but man was that stuff gooooood!

My husband and I lived in San Antonio for a little less than a year after we graduated from college and we frequented Rudy’s quite often. Who doesn’t love white Wonder bread with lots of meat and BBQ sauce? It’s pretty much the opposite of anything I normally eat—the only “veggies” in site are pickles—but that’s probably why I loved it. And sometimes, just sometimes, I still crave it and really wish I could have some BBQ.

The other day was one of those days when I was really craving BBQ. I wanted it, but didn’t have a pork shoulder on hand (weird, right?), so I decided to try making some pulled chicken sandwiches instead. I have to admit, they were pretty darn awesome. We loved them and I wanted to share the recipe with y’all ;).

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
*Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray and Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp brown sugar (I used evaporated cane sugar)
1 tbsp grill seasoning (I use McCormick’s)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
chicken tenders (about 2 per person)
1/2 cup apple juice (divided)
1/2 medium to large onion
2 garlic cloves
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 tbsp hot sauce
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
squeeze of honey or maple syrup

Directions
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Combine brown sugar through onion powder in a shallow dish (reserve 1 tbsp). Dredge chicken tenders in spice mixture and place in skillet. Pour 1/4 cup of the apple juice in the skillet while it’s cooking. Sauté until cooked through. Set aside to cool.

While the chicken is cooling, heat a little more oil in a small sauce pan and cook the onions and garlic until soft. Add the tomato sauce, the other 1/4 cup apple juice, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, honey or maple syrup, and the reserved tablespoon of the spice mixture. Cook over low heat until heated through.

Once the chicken has cooled, shred it and place in a small bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of the sauce to coat the chicken.


Serve the chicken on dinner rolls or hamburger buns with sauce on the side.

Enjoy!

We ate these sandwiches with a side of the roasted potatoes with bacon and blue cheese that I linked to in Sunday’s post.

**We both loved this meal, but think it would have been even better if we let the chicken sit (with the rub on it) for a couple of hours, and also if we had grilled the chicken to get a nice charred taste on it.**

Question: What is one food that you used to “hate” but now love?

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Tuesdays with Tommy–Steamed Little Neck Clams with Beer and Coconut Panna Cotta with Mango Sticky Rice

As promised, today’s post features a guest blogger who will be writing for Mind Your Bees and Trees every Tuesday.  I couldn’t be more excited for our new weekly series because it features a good friend of ours, and an amazing cook.  So without further ado, drum roll please……MYBT is proud to introduce Tuesdays with Tommy. 

Before I met Tommy, I heard about him.  My husband came home from work one day and told me someone had made lunch for everyone at work that day and it was amazing.  My husband does not usually get that excited about food so I knew it must have been good—I also knew I had to meet this guy.  I met Tommy a couple of weeks later at a BBQ where I got to taste some of his delicious creations and I too was hooked.   

Tommy is not only a wonderful cook, but a great guy too.  Everything that I have ever had that Tommy made was absolutely phenomenal.  He has that unique ability to make the most amazing thing you’ve ever tasted without using any recipes!  I really admire him not only for his amazing cooking skills, but also for the fact that everything he makes is made from the heart.  I love Tommy’s philosophy on food and cooking, but I’ll let him tell you all about it J.

I am honored that Tommy asked to be a part of this blog.  I hope you enjoy this series as much as I know I will!

And now I’ll turn it over to Tommy.

So let me preface this post with…here goes nothing.

First of all, the job I work in (we’ll just say US Air Force for now) has given my family and me many chances to make new friends worldwide. While in Okinawa, Japan, I met two guys that I think so highly of I’d like to adopt one of them and make them my little brother.  Chris and Giff.  For this post’s sake, let’s just say that Giff Bloom is the winner (sorry Chris).  So how does this have anything to do with food you ask? Well through my friend I was also able to meet his lovely wife Kristen.  We immediately had one driving interest in common….Our love for food.  So there is the connection I was hoping to make with my lengthy lead in statement.

Now here is a little about myself as it relates to food in hopes to give some sort of credit to myself so that Kristen’s blog indeed gets taken seriously.  I grew up in a family dominated by food.  I would actually go as far as to say that I can easily describe what my family stands for in 3 words…Italian, loud, and food—not necessarily in that order.  We do indeed cook and eat more than any other family I’ve ever met though.

My mother is my true inspiration. In the city of Colorado Springs, CO, she is a well renowned chef.  And although she had no formal training and never held the official title of chef (which I think is a crock by the way, I am more impressed with her being self taught and all) she still found herself working in a catering company that was a feeder for the most luxurious resort in Colorado.   So, since the age of, let’s just call it very young, I was always in the kitchen, by her side learning what I could whether I wanted to or not.  By the time I was in high school, I began cooking for events—even my own homecoming and prom as I remember!  But since then, I have lent my services to friends, family and occasionally the Air Force (even though that gig pays terrible…well actually nothing).

Most importantly though (and if Kristen lets me post again after this rant) I would like to drive home the most important aspect of my cooking and what it stands for.  Even after my mother worked all day in a kitchen, we had dinner together, prepared by her, as a family.  I am not just talking about 2-3 times a week.  I mean Sunday night through Thursday night we had to be at the table at 6:00 for dinner.  I thought it was a drag back then when all my friends were going to McDonalds and we were stuck at home with Mom and Dad.  That quickly changed however when my house became one of the most popular places to hang out because of its food.

So now that I have a family of my own…most beautiful wife Jamie, rambunctious son Sam and full of attitude daughter Jessie, I have kept up that tradition. And this statement is not to brag but it is something I am very proud of—in the 6 years we have been married, I have made dinner every night I was home and able.  I know that someday my kids will also appreciate what I had…or so I only hope.

Ok so a recipe…Finally! Little food gems are tucked away in every community.  In Okinawa, the obvious is seafood.  Although I do love sushi, I tend to enjoy bringing out the more progressive American style with this ingredient.  So today the fam and I went down to Awase fish market and scored some Japanese little neck clams.  With them I prepared steamed little neck clams in beer, ginger, cilantro and lime and for dessert we made a coconut panna cotta with mango sticky rice and papaya coulees.

If anybody does read this novel, I hope you do one thing…Get out, buy some fresh food, make it with your family, sit down together to eat, drink, listen to some Frank Sinatra, and enjoy life together…ok then, until the next post (my wife just informed me I have written too much).

Steamed Little Neck Clams with Beer, Ginger, Cilantro and Lime

*Prep Time 1 hr 30 min

Ingredients

1 pound Little Neck Clams

1 Shallot

3 cloves Garlic

1 piece Ginger

1 Cup Chopped Cilantro

1 cup all purpose flour

Dark Amber Beer

2 Limes

Butter

Red Chili Flakes

Directions

1st scrub and wash clams in fresh water.  Then put clams in a bowl of cold water (completely covered), and mix in 1 cup of flour.  Stir several times then place in fridge for 1 hour.  Remove and rinse before use.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and sauté shallot in medium size pot on med/high heat.  Add ginger (peeled and cut into matchstick size pieces) and garlic that has been minced.  Then add clams, one bottle of beer (dark amber preferred).  Cover and steam until all clams are open (6-10 min).  Remove from heat, squeeze two limes over the clams, add cilantro and red chili flakes to taste.  Stir thoroughly, and seve in a large bowl with French bread.

Best paired with a Sauvignon Blanc (I like Nobilo or Starborough) or Dark Amber Beer. (Side Note from Kristen—I love that Tommy includes suggestions for wine pairings!)

Coconut Panna Cotta with Mango Sticky Rice and Papaya Coulis

Ingredients

1 tablespoon powdered gelatin

1 (15-ounce) can coconut cream (recommended: Coco Loco)

1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk

2 cups chilled heavy cream

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Assorted tropical fruits, such as: kiwi, mango, and papaya, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice, for garnish (about 1 1/2 cups total)

Directions

Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over 3 tablespoons of cool water in a small bowl. Set aside to soften.

In a medium saucepan, heat the coconut cream and coconut milk over medium heat until the sides begin to bubble. Lower the heat and whisk in the softened gelatin, stirring to make sure it is completely dissolved.

Fill a large bowl with cold water. Strain the coconut mixture into a bowl that will fit easily into the bowl of water. Set into the bowl of water to cool, stirring every few minutes with a rubber spatula until the mixture starts to thicken. If the mixture starts to set, remove it immediately.

Remove the bowl of coconut mixture from the bowl of water. Empty out the water and wipe the bowl dry. In the dry bowl, stir the cream and confectioners’ sugar together until the sugar is dissolved. Stir into the coconut mixture. Divide the coconut mixture evenly among 6 (7 to 8-ounce) custard cups or ramekins. Chill until firm, at least 4 hours.

To serve, run a knife around the inside edge of the molds and invert each panna cotta onto a serving plate. Spoon some of the diced fruit over each, allowing the fruit to spill onto the plate.

Mango Sticky Rice and Papaya Coulis

The mango sticky rice is very easy—just make normal sushi style rice, add diced mango (1-2 Mangos) and 3 tablespoons honey.

The papaya coulis is 2 papayas and 1 cup Asti Spumanti champagne blended together.

Enjoy!

Question: Where did you learn how to cook?  Who or what is your cooking inspiration?

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Filed under Desserts, Main Courses, Tuesdays with Tommy

Chicken and Scallion Quesadillas

I used to think I wasn’t a huge fan of Chinese food.  If it was the only thing available, I would eat it, but I never craved it or suggested going out for Chinese.  Then one of my friends told me about this Chinese restaurant here in Okinawa that I had to try.  She told me I would love it—even if I don’t love Chinese food—because if for nothing else, it’s worth a trip to the restaurant just to meet the owner.

Not long after she suggested this place, my husband and I went to check it out with three other friends.  The owner—who calls himself “Dragon”—definitely lived up to the hype.  He is very outgoing and so funny.  Although we could only understand about 40 percent of what he said to us, we found out he is from Shanghai, goes to Tokyo once a month to buy fresh ingredients and “do other things” (whatever that means), and gets super excited to talk about Chinese food.  He was talking so fast about the food that we could hardly understand what was going on.

We had spent a few minutes perusing the menu before he came over to talk to us, but that didn’t matter because after he was done telling us his story he said, “Ok so you’ll have two orders of this, one order of that, two of this, oh and you have to try at least one order of that…”.  We weren’t really sure what had happened, but we went with it.  We also all ordered the “Biiiuuutty Biiiuuutty” (aka Beauty Beauty) cocktail because as my husband thought he said, “I command you to get this”.  He really said I recommend you to get this, but hey—a command is a command.

Amanda and Me with our Byuty Byuty cocktails

Dragon (Source: Okinawa Hai)

The food—and Dragon—did not disappoint.  We all agreed that it was excellent and some of the best Chinese food any of us had ever had.  And that is saying a lot coming from five people who don’t particularly like Chinese food.

After that experience (and one subsequent visit) at Dragon’s, I was much more excited about the food in China.  It tasted nothing like the Chinese food you get at most places in the States (go figure) and I loved it.  We ate many delicious stir-fried dishes, noodles, dumplings, etc. but by the end of the two weeks, we were pretty sick of eating Chinese food and had pizza for our last meal :).

Buying bread from a local baker in the Hutong

Some delicious dumpling soup

Not quite sure what this is....

Can you guess if I ate any of this stuff??

At the Night Market

Not everything at the Night Market looked completely unappetizing....unfortunately the smell was so overpowering that I couldn't have eaten anything!

Seahorses anyone?

How about starfish or scorpions?

We did eat delicious dumplings and dim sum in China.....but not from the Night Market

Although I think we’re both Chinese food converts—as long as it’s real Chinese food—we are both not ready to eat it again for a while.  So for dinner, I’ve been making anything that does not resemble Chinese food—Italian and then Mexican.  These quesadillas were fabulous—I hope you enjoy them too!

Chicken and Scallion Quesadillas

*Recipe adapted from Food Network Kitchens

Chicken and Scallion Quesadillas with a side of Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli

Ingredients

Beans:

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp Adobo seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 to 2 pickled jalapeno, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup water or chicken broth

Toppings:

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 scallions (white and green), trimmed
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken, about 8 ounces
  • 2 teaspoons minced chipotle peppers en adobo
  • 1/4 cup prepared salsa
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (Pepper Jack or Monterrey Jack are good choices)
  • 4 (10-inch) flour or corn tortillas
  • Optional garnishes: sour cream, cilantro, salsa, avocado

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

To make the beans: Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat, add the spices and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the beans, jalapeno, and broth and bring to a simmer.  Using a potato masher or a large fork, smash the beans into a rough paste. Season with salt (if needed) and transfer to a bowl.

Heat EVOO in a pan over medium-high heat and sauté the scallions until slightly charred.  Coarsely chop and transfer to a small bowl.  Combine chicken and the chipotle with the scallions.

Toast the tortillas directly over a medium gas burner, turning occasionally until slightly blistered on each side. (If you have an electric burner, do this in a dry cast iron skillet.)  *You can also heat the tortillas in the oven for 5-10 minutes as I did.

Place the tortillas on the prepared baking sheet. Depending on the size of your tortillas, spread the beans on half (for larger tortillas) or the whole tortilla (for smaller ones).  Top with the chicken, salsa, and cheese. For larger tortillas, fold the other half of the tortilla over the filling, to make a half moon shape.  For smaller tortillas, cover the filling with another tortilla.

Lay another sheet of foil over the top of the quesadillas.  Bake until the cheese melts and the filling hot, about 12 minutes.  Serve with optional garnishes.

**These quesadillas were delicioso.  I used chipotle-flavored tortillas, which gave our quesadillas a little extra kick.  The only thing that would have made these better is fresh slices of avocado for garnish.

Question: What is your favorite kind of ethnic cuisine?  Have you ever become a convert like we have with Chinese food?

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Filed under Main Courses, Mexican, Travels

Giada’s Checca Sauce

I like to do this thing where I pretend that chefs on TV and fellow bloggers are my friends :).  My husband knows that I love looking for new recipes and every time we eat something new he asks whom I got the recipe from.  I simply respond, “Giada” (or “Rachael”, “HEAB”, “Mama Pea”, “Mel’s Kitchen Café”…you get the point) as if they are my friends.  Although I have never actually met any of these people in real life, I still consider them my ‘friends’ because I consider anyone who shares a great recipe with me my friend.

I love me some Food Network and could sit and watch it all day long.  Whenever I’m home, my mom and I frequently have it on in the background and we love to send each other recipes of delicious recipes we saw being made by our ‘friends’ (Paula, Giada, Ina, Rachael, Aarti, Bobby, etc.) on TV.

Living abroad for the past five years has meant that I rarely get to watch the Food Network anymore (unless I want to get up at 6 am to watch the one or two shows the air per day).  I did spend four months living in Oklahoma between living in Peru and moving to Japan and I’m pretty sure I DVR’d about 10 episodes of Food Network shows per day (in addition to the ones I watched live)!  I couldn’t get enough of it.  Each time I go home, Food Network is the first thing I turn to and usually the only thing I watch.  Needless to say, I love it.

When I moved to Japan, I was really missing the Food Network, but quickly discovered the world of food blogs.  Judging by the fact that I decided to start my own, you can probably guess that food bloggers have gained a special place in my heart—right next to my friends from the Food Network.  I religiously read a handful of food blog everyday and can easily get lost in the world of food blogs.

My friends over at the Food Network have not been replaced though.  Luckily I have a few of their cookbooks amongst my large cookbook collection and I find myself turning to them again and again.  Although I don’t get to see these recipes being made on TV, they rarely disappoint.

The recipe I’m featuring today is from Giada’s cookbook called Everyday Italian.  Amanda got this cookbook for me for my birthday a few years at a Food and Wine Festival.  Do you want to know the best part?  It’s signed by Giada!  “To Kristen—XO Giada”.  See, we’re practically best friends ;).

I’m sharing this recipe with you because it’s a fabulous way to make a light and refreshing meal using freshly grown tomatoes.  I made this the other night and my husband and I both loved it.  I didn’t tweak a thing because it’s a-maz-ing as is!!

And to preface this recipe in the words of Giada, “There’s just no point in making Checca Sauce at all if the tomatoes aren’t at their peak of ripeness”.  Enjoy!

Please excuse that it looks messy...I was too excited to eat it to transfer it to a serving platter.

Checca Sauce

*Recipe from Everyday Italian by Giada DeLaurentiis

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces spaghettini or angel hair pasta
  • 4 scallions (white and pale green parts only), coarsely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed*
  • 1 (12-ounce container) cherry tomatoes, halved**
  • 1 (1-ounce) piece Parmesan, coarsely chopped
  • 8 to 10 fresh basil leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the next 7 ingredients in a food processor. Pulse just until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped (do not puree).

Drain the pasta, reserving some of the pasta water. Toss the pasta with the tomato mixture and fresh mozzarella in a large bowl. Add some of the reserved pasta water (about 1/4 cup) if the sauce looks dry (I didn’t need to do this). Serve immediately.

*The garlic pieces stay pretty big—they are easy to pull out this way if you don’t like eating big chunks of garlic.  I might try mincing the garlic next time.

**I used two large ripe tomatoes from the farmer’s market that I cut into big chunks before putting into the food processor.

Question: Do you use recipes or do you make up your recipes in your head?  Where do you like to find your recipes?

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Filed under Main Courses, Pasta

Confession

I ate sugar…..not once, not twice, but three times! Oopsie.  Each time it was an accident so hopefully I’m forgiven :).  Rather than stress about it, I’m just using these times as a reminder to myself that I really need to think about what I’m eating and what it might have in it.  It’s amazing how many products are made with sugar!  It makes me grateful that I don’t have a food allergy because I realize how easy it is to forget—or not think about it—and eat something I’m not ‘supposed’ to eat.  I guess if I had an allergy I would me more cautious, but you get the point.

On to my slip-ups.  The first time happened on day two when I made some delicious homemade veggie burgers for lunch.  I have been wanting to try the Temes Family Carrot Burgers for a long time after my friend Lindsay as been ranting and raving about them for so long.  The burgers called for breadcrumbs and without thinking, I dumped a handful of breadcrumbs from my pantry into the bowl.  As soon as I mixed them in I realized they probably had sugar and sure enough, I was right.  Despite my goal of not eating sugar, I am not willing to waste perfectly good food, so I cooked them and ate them anyway.  In addition to the breadcrumbs in the burgers, the recipe also says to coat the burgers in breadcrumbs before they are cooked so that time around I remembered to use panko breadcrumbs that don’t have any sugar.

Anyway, these burgers were a nice break from any other veggie burger I’ve had before.  Other than the fact that the burgers are shaped into patties, they aren’t trying to be a burger in any other way.  Some veggie burgers I’ve had in the past try too hard (in my opinion) to resemble a regular burger, and usually don’t taste that great.  These burgers were totally different—savory with a hint of sweetness.  I ate them topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon and topped with applesauce.  I also dipped each bite into some balsamic vinegar—ala Amanda—yum!

My other slip-ups happened on days three and four.  While substitute teaching the other day, a teacher offered me a Ritz cracker at snack time.  I was pretty hungry so I ate it, but afterward I realized that it probably had sugar in it.  I came home and checked the box of Ritz that has been sitting in my pantry for months on end (I think I bought them for a project with my English students) and saw that they certainly do have sugar in them.  Busted again.  At least I stopped after the one, right?!

Last, but not least, my husband and I went out to eat at a Turkish restaurant last night.  We love their hummus and without thinking I dove right in to the warm, homemade pita bread and slathered some hummus on it.  For dinner I had a chicken kebab wrap.  Honestly, it wasn’t until this morning that I realized the pita and wrap probably both have sugar in them.  I have already decided that I’m not going to worry too much about not eating sugar when I go out to eat, but I still plan to be conscious about what I order and try to avoid ordering things that I know are made with sugar.  Last night’s slip-ups could have easily been avoided had I thought about it.  I’m going to blame the fact that I have two big finals due this week for grad school and was focused much more on them than whether or not my pita was made with sugar!

And now for the delicious carrot burger recipe thanks to the Temes family:

1 cup cottage cheese

1 cup shredded carrots

1 slightly beaten egg

1 cup bread crumbs (plus ¼ – ½ cup additional crumbs to roll patties in)

2 tbsp finely chopped onions (or a handful of dried onion flakes)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp worcester sauce

½ cup sunflower seeds (optional)—I used walnuts because that’s what I had on hand.

Combine all ingredients (including the 1 cup bread crumbs, but reserve extra). Form mixture into four balls and shape into patties. Coat patties with additional bread crumbs. Fry/cook in butter in a saute pan, until browned (they often burn a little, or get kind of black, but thats ok).

Serve on buns and/or topped with cinnamon and applesauce.

*Also delicious dipped in balsamic vinegar.

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Filed under Main Courses, Vegetarian