Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chinese Five Spice Beef Stew

       The flu bug has visited our home again.  Can you believe it is the second time all four kiddos have on and off fever for 2 weeks?  When I brought them to the doctor, they were tested positive for flu and this time a different strain.  Are you kidding me?   They were just sick last month! 
         Oh well, I now agree with the news that this winter's flu season is one of the worst we had.  Whether one had a flu shot or not, many were not spared.  Thank God none of my children have pneumonia.
          Since each child had to be off from school for about 7 days and yes, I was stuck with cracky, I want mommy babies, I rely on recipes that are easy to prepare and can be kept warm until someone is ready to eat. 
         One of our family's favorites is this delicious Chinese Five Spice Beef Stew.  This dish gets better the longer it simmers. In fact, I like it the day after I prepared it.  It also freezes well so feel free to make the entire batch.  Though my children love this over rice, you can also have it on top of mashed cauliflower, nachos and even use it as a sloppy joe with a twist.   The best part is you can also use your trusted crock pot to make this which means, you'll save more time. Isn't that great?       
          So whether you have sick children like me, expecting some company over the weekend or simply short on time to cook, this hearty and versatile dish will surely be a big help.  Give it a try and let me know how it turned out.    

2 Tbs Bacon grease
3 lbs ground beef
1 Tbs garlic minced
1/2 cup onions chopped
1 32 oz can crushed tomatoes
3 pcs star anise
3 pcs bay leaf
1 3 inch cinnamon stick
1 tsp cloves
1 Tbs sea salt
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder
2 Tbs Sriracha or hot sauce
2 cups potatoes diced
1 lbs frozen peas
2 cups water
1/2 cup red bell pepper diced

1. In a big dutch oven or heavy pan, brown the ground beef in bacon grease.
2. Once the meat has browned, add the garlic and onions and sautee for 4 minutes.
3. Add the crushed tomatoes, water, star anise, bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon, chinese 5 spice powder and 1/2 Tbs of salt. 
4. Bring to boil and simmer for at least 45 minutes or until the sauce is reduced in half.  The longer you simmer it, the more flavorful it gets.
5. Add the potatoes, peas and bell pepper. 
6. When the potatoes are soft, check if you need to add the remaining 1/2 Tbs of salt. 
7. Stir in the sriracha or hot sauce. 
8. Turn off heat, remove the bay leaf and cinnamon stick. 
9. Serve over steamed rice or cooked rice noodles. 


Note:  This recipe can be made with a slow cooker.  After browning the meat, transfer it to a crockpot, add the remaining ingredients except for sriracha and reduce the water to just 1 cup.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  Stir in the sriracha just before serving. 


Friday, February 15, 2013

Sherry Shrimp Stir Fry

        It's the first Friday of Lent and that means it will be time to go meatless.  Growing up in a strict Catholic household, my grandmother never served meat on Fridays.  Yes, she did it the whole year! 
       As time passed and now that I cook for my own family, the tradition of not having meat on Fridays has become limited to the Lenten Season.  In fact, pre food allergy diagnosis, it slowly evolved into our family's Pizza night that's loaded with all kinds of meat and the works. Since we have already changed our family's menu for months now and I have been reading countless books on healthy living, allergies and weight loss (shhh.... the later is a secret!), I am thinking of restarting the meatless Friday tradition.  After all, non of the children is allergic to fish, shellfish and veggies.  Sounds good?
       Anyway, here's one of my favorite easy to make shrimp dish.  It's so versatile, one can serve it as an appetizer and even as a main dish when paired with rice/noodles and veggies.  Oh, these shrimps are even great with your favorite wine for that Friday night happy hour.      

2 lbs fresh shrimp (easy peel with shells on)
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup sherry wine (vegetable broth if you don't like alcohol)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper (you can use more)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1. Bring a big sautee pan or wok to medium heat. 
2. Once hot, add olive oil and shrimps.
3. Season with salt, black pepper, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. 
4. Pour in the wine or broth and let it reduce to half.  Keep mixing the shrimps so that it will cook evenly on all sides.
5. When the shrimps has turned pink evenly, sprinkle with chili flakes and chopped parsley.  Make sure not to overcook or else the shrimps will be tough.
6. Transfer to a serving plate and serve with a wedge of lemon.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Easy Chocolate Heart Treats

            Today is the first year our family will celebrate Valentine's Day food allergy friendly.  For years, receiving heart or flower shaped chocolates is something my children looks forward to every February 14th. Not wanting to break the tradition, I started looking for local New Jersey bakeries or dessert places that might have gluten, dairy, egg, nut and soy free treats. 
            Guess what?  It was indeed challenging to find one.  Since I don't want to feel defeated,  I decided to bring out that heart lollipop mold (yes, I used to collect those) and melted some Enjoy Life Semi Sweet Chocolates using a homemade double boiler. 

             Well, it's just a fancy way of melting the chocolate on a glass bowl on top of a pot of simmer hot water.  Once the chocolates are liquid, transfer it to plastic molds and let it cool.  I have noticed that the allergy friendly chocolates take longer to set.  I have to put it in the freezer for at least 2 to 3 hours for the treats to unmold with ease. 

            After removing from the molds, let the chocolates reach room temperature before wrapping it in plastic.  Secure with a curling ribbon and you are good to go. 
           This morning, the kids woke up with a nice surprise waiting for them.  Chocolate heart lollipops paired with exploding heart balloons from the dollar store.  It's not a matter of what they can't have.  It's a matter of what they CAN have.
            May your day be filled with love.  Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Waist Friendly Crispy Oven Fried Chicken Wings

      Wow!  It's already the 11th of February and I am just here on my first post for the month.  Did I get tired of cooking and finally gave up sharing gluten, dairy, egg and soy free dishes?  Of course not!  Actually, I was quite busy in the kitchen, experimenting on new recipes to recreate my family's well loved comfort foods. 

      Fried chicken wings is one of our all time favorites.  Though it is easy to drench the wings in sauce and let it bake in the oven, there is something so special about that simple wing with crispy coating.  Since I am also trying to lessen our consumption of fried foods too, (okay I confess losing 20 lbs is on my to do list this year),  I decided to play with my gluten free flour collection and my new non-aerosol oil sprayer. 

      After much thought and some trial runs,  I finally came up with this recipe.  The simple technique of misting the coated wings with oil before baking has brought successful results --- crispy coating, juicy meat and yes, way less calories than its deep fried counterpart.  Warning! This is highly addictive so make sure you have company when you make this. 


24 pcs chicken wings (thawed)
1 cup cornstarch
1 tsp fine ground sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
olive oil or canola oil in a container with spray

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with oil. Set aside.
3. In a shallow bowl, combine cornstarch, sea salt, garlic powder and paprika.  Mix well.
4. Coat the chicken wings with the flour mixture and arrange on the prepared baking sheet.  Make sure each piece is not touching each other and has enough space around. 
5. Lightly mist the coated chicken with oil.
6. Bake for 45 - 55 minutes of until the chicken has a golden brown color and the juices are clear with when pierced.
7. Take out of the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving. 
8. Serve with your favorite sauce.


- Roz

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