Monday, May 7, 2012

Sensible Sesame

There's no doubt that our commitment to P90X has me and Bill eating a bit differently than we did in the past. It's not that we were unhealthy before, it's just that we showed a bit less restraint because we love food so much. Now, a lot of people will tell you that when you make a healthy change like this you stop craving junk. Those people are liars.

There are days when I can think of nothing more spectacular than a giant banana spilt or an ooey, gooey slice of deep dish pizza. Add to these cravings the mysterious little Chinese fortunes that I keep finding in my purse or wallet (weird, I know), and you have a recipe for disaster. When I come across one of those thin, little strips of white paper proclaiming that my luck is about to change, I'm pretty sure it doesn't mean that calories suddenly don't count. Nonetheless, it makes me want nothing more than crispy fried, sticky sweet deliciousness in a takeout container.

Luckily, Martha Stewart must feel the same way. And so she came to my rescue when I landed on a lighter version of sesame chicken a few weeks ago. I immediately pinned that shiznit! I've had less-than-perfect experiences with some of Martha's recipes in the past, but this one proved to be a winner. The egg white and cornstarch coating gives the chicken just a little boost in the crisp department, and the sauce is the perfect balance of sweet and saucy (in fact, I was wishing there was more of it!). I'm not going to guarantee that you won't miss the crunchy, deep-fried batter you'll find on the real thing, but this is certainly a suitable substitute (at least until we reach a point when we can indulge!).

Lighter Sesame Chicken
1 cup rice, uncooked
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 egg whites
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch chunks
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups broccoli, cut into large florets

Bring 1 1/2 cups water and rice to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 18 minutes. When done, remove from heat, fluff with fork, and keep covered to keep warm.

Meanwhile, prepare sauce by combining honey, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and garlic in a small bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites, cornstarch, salt and pepper. Add chicken and toss to coat.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until golden and opaque throughout, 6 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare broccoli buy bringing a small amount of water to a simmer over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add broccoli, cover, and cook 4 to 6 minutes, until broccoli is bright green and tender.

Add broccoli and reserved sauce to skillet with chicken and toss to coat. Serve over rice.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Berry Good Scones

I've discovered lately that if I spent nearly as much time blogging as I did perusing Pinterest, I'd have much less anxiety about keeping up LoVBites. But the benefit of spending hours each week browsing Pinterest is that I have an endless supply of recipes to try (and then find time to write about).

Undoubtedly, my best-built pin board is "Sweets to Make." This is despite the fact that we're still in a minimum 90-day sweets freeze at our house. But when I have guests coming over, that's as good an opportunity as any to break the ban. It gives me the freedom to bake something delicious, knowing I can have a taste and send the rest home with friends!

I stumbled across this amazing-sounding recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod last weekend, and since I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand I thought scones would be a nice treat to send home with Tiff and Steph. The strawberry-ricotta combination sounded delightful, and when the blogger described using them as the base for strawberry shortcakes, I was sold!

There are a few things about this recipe that I discovered needed some tweaking, which is why I'm classifying them as "berry good" instead of "berry amazing." First, there was a note in the recipe that the ricotta makes the dough super sticky, requiring you to mix in some extra flour while shaping the scones. That seemed simple enough, but it turned out the dough was downright unworkable and I had to mix in massive amounts of flour during shaping. I might consider upping the amount of flour from the start (by at least half a cup, if not more). Also, the cooking time was noted as 15 to 20 minutes. I always err on the side of caution and start at the lower baking time. At 15 minutes, my scones weren't even close to browned and definitely not cooked through. At 20 minutes we were getting there, but they still weren't quite set. I added time in 3 to 5 minute increments and I think I eventually pulled them out, nicely browned but possibly still a bit soft in the middle, at 40 minutes. The ricotta may have been the culprit here, too.

Nonetheless, I ended up with perfectly good scones. They're more moist than your typical scone, but also much more flavorful than the dry bricks you often find! My quest for the perfect scones recipe will continue, but with a few adjustments I think this one could come close!

Strawberry Ricotta Scones
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into cubes
1 cup fresh strawberries, chopped
Milk, for brushing
Sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 400. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk together egg, buttermilk, lemon juice, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add ricotta and whisk until combined. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine sugar and lemon zest. Rub together with your fingers until fragrant. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon sugar mixture. Add butter pieces to the flour mixture and toss just until the butter is coated with flour. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until you have pea-sized clumps of butter and flour.

Pour liquid ingredients over dry ingredients and stir with spatula until just combined. Don’t over mix the dough. Gently fold in strawberries. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and gently knead the dough. If dough is too sticky, add more flour as you knead. Pat dough down into a disk, about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 8 wedges.

Transfer scones to prepared baking sheet and brush with milk. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake 15 to 20 minutes (or 40!), or until scones are golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack and serve.