Friday, October 30, 2015

Creamy Chicken & Bacon Crescent Blooms

One day I was eager to make something in our muffin tins, so I grabbed some crescent roll dough and made the filling from these yummy pastry pockets.  There are a lot of different ways to arrange the dough, but I decided to drape squares of the dough in each cup & ended up with a very easy & pretty shape that reminded me of flowers. These 'chicken blooms' have quickly become a family favorite!

Chicken & Bacon Crescent Blooms, 1

Creamy Chicken & Bacon Crescent Blooms

1 can crescent rolls
4 oz. Philadelphia cream cheese, Chive & onion flavor
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup cooked crumbled bacon (or Real bacon bits), plus more for garnish

1)Unroll the crescent roll dough and separate into 4 rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half to create two squares. (You may want to press the diagonal seams together a bit.)

Chicken & Bacon Crescent Blooms, 2

2) Drape one square into each cup and press into the bottom and sides.

Chicken & Bacon Crescent Blooms, 3

3) In a microwave safe bowl, warm the cream cheese in the microwave for 1 minute to soften. Stir in the chicken, mozzarella cheese, and crumbled bacon. Fill each cup with 2 Tbsp. of filling (I like to measure 1/4 cup and then divide that between 2 cups to make it even easier!) Sprinkle a few bacon crumbles on the top of the mixture.

Chicken & Bacon Crescent Blooms, 4

4) Bake 350 F for 12-15 minutes until the edges are golden brown. Makes 8 blooms.

Chicken & Bacon Crescent Blooms, 5

Friday, October 23, 2015

Japanese Stuffed Rice Balls (Onigiri), Step by Step

Japanese Stuffed Rice Balls, Step by Step

Sushi rice is not just for making sushi! Another great way to use it is making rice balls (onigiri), either plain or with yummy fillings. I recently tried stuffing them with fillings a few times and was surprised how easily they come together, and my family *loved* them. (Well, ignore the 2 year old. She won't eat anything.)

First you'll need to make a batch of sushi rice ~ Bring 3/4 cups sushi rice and 1 cup water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit covered another 10 minutes. This will make 2 cups of cooked rice, enough for about 7-8 balls. Meanwhile you can prepare your fillings.

Rice balls, 1

When that is ready, lay out a piece of plastic wrap and measure 1/4 cup of rice, packed lightly. Dump it out on the wrap and press down in the center to indent. Fill the indention with 1 tsp. of filling (a rounded tsp. is fine!). You can toss the filling with sauce, or if you'd like to add it separately, spoon in about 1/4 tsp. of sauce. (Or you can skip the fillings entirely and just sprinkle the rice with a little salt.)

Rice balls, 2

Cup the rice in your hand, push the filling down a little, and then close your fingers around it as if you were holding a ball. This nicely wraps the rice around the sides and over the top of the filling!

Rice balls, 3

Gather the plastic wrap around the ball tightly, and use one hand to squeeze it into a ball shape while holding the top closed with the other hand. As the ball is packed tighter you'll probably need to let air out and make the top tighter.

Rice balls, 4

When you feel like you've got a nice, tight ball, fold the wrap back and admire your creation! The spot where you gathered the wrap together will probably be uneven, so press it down smooth with the wrap or a wet finger. I usually consider this the bottom of the ball and flip it over to put on a plate. This may sound complicated, but once you get the hang of it, each ball only takes about 2 minutes.

Rice balls, 5

Now, what can you fill them with? Any small amount of finely chopped meat and/or veggies work well, and it's a great way to use up leftovers! Here is a list of Japan's favorite fillings, but don't be afraid to raid your fridge and get creative. The rice mellows the flavor a lot, so strong flavors work the best.

Japanese Stuffed Rice Balls, Step by Step

The other night we ended up with tons of leftover salmon. That never happens! I knew it would be a great time to make rice balls.

Right side - First I made some teriyaki chicken balls that my son had enjoyed before. I finely chopped/minced some cooked chicken and tossed it with a little store bought teriyaki sauce (Soy Vay brand).

Middle - Next I mixed up a sweet & savory miso sauce for the salmon. I used 2 Tbsp. miso (awase, a mix of red & white), 2 Tbsp. mirin, 1 Tbsp. sugar, & 1/2 Tbsp. sesame oil. I didn't toss the salmon with the sauce since I wanted to use it two ways, so I just spooned in a little of each. I sprinkled these with black sesame seeds to keep them separate from the first balls.

Left - You can also mix the rice with the ingredients instead of using it as a filling, and it gives the rice lovely specks of color. For the last balls I used some more of the salmon and sprinkled in a little furikake for seasoning.

You can eat the balls right away, or they work well in a lunchbox since you can eat them hot or cold. After forming the ball you can wrap them right in the plastic wrap to store them. They are still tasty the next day, but rice dries out in the fridge after a few days. If you'd like to keep them longer than that, stick them in the freezer and thaw/re-heat before eating. The rice will be nice and fresh!

Japanese Stuffed Rice Balls

By the way, traditionally the Japanese use a triangle shape instead of a ball. You can make a triangle by following the above directions, but instead of packing it into a ball shape, flatten it out a little and press it into a triangle with your hands.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Miso Ramen Shirataki (201 calories)

Here is a diet version of our yummy Japanese Miso Ramen made with no-calorie Shirataki noodles. I cut out the egg and sausage & topped it with chicken and turkey bacon instead. The noodles are also mixed with shredded cabbage and mushrooms so it ends up being a giant bowl of noodley soup for a fraction of the calories.

Miso Ramen Shirataki (201 calories)

(For those of you counting calories, I've added the amount for each ingredient so you can easily make tweaks without having to re-calculate everything. Anything marked with an asterisk* may vary based on what you buy, so you may want to compare your label.)

Miso Ramen Shirataki

2 Tbsp. awase miso (60*, or sub with red/akai miso)
1.5 Tbsp. Hoisin sauce (45*)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic (0)
1 Tbsp. soy sauce (10)
1 tsp. grated ginger (1)
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes (0)

3 cups water (0)
2 tsp. chicken bouillon (10)
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds (52)
4 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced (25)
1 cup shredded savoy cabbage (19)
1 pack shirataki noodles, rinsed several times (0)

2 oz. cooked, chopped chicken (68)
1/4 cup corn kernels (38)
1 green onion, sliced thinly (5)
2 slices diced, cooked turkey bacon (70*)

1) In a large pot, add the miso, Hoisin sauce, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Warm over medium heat until the miso has melted & is well mixed.

2) Add the water, bouillon, sesame seeds, mushrooms, savoy, and shirataki. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium and simmer for 5 minutes.

3) Meanwhile, warm the chicken, corn, or bacon, if necessary. Pour the soup into 2 bowls and garnish with the chicken, corn, green onion, and turkey bacon. Serves 2.

Calories - 201 for 1/2

Friday, October 9, 2015

5:2 Update - Week 38, Month 9

This is the last weight loss update I'm going to leave for a while. I'm still exercising and doing the 5:2 diet (2 days a week), but after losing 30+ pounds, progress is a lot slower. I'm at the point now where I'm only loosing a pound or two every month, so there's no point in giving updates that often! I'll probably wait until the year mark to update again.

As you can guess, I lost about a pound this month and 1/2 inch off my waist. (Which is probably good considering how many festivals & fairs & events we had this month!) Perhaps I'd have better results if I switched things up a bit, trying a different diet or exercise plan, but I'm content as long as the numbers are going down, even if it is super slow! I still want to lose more, but I'm also pretty happy where I am now... I don't even mind wearing a swimsuit, or going clothes shopping anymore! :)

By the way, a couple of our friends recently started the Whole 30 diet, eating more natural & cutting out a lot of sugars & carbs for 30 days, and they lost a *ton* of weight during that month (like 30 lbs. each I think)! I don't think I could give up diet sodas (and all of the other stuff) for that long, but I wanted to mention it in case it sounds like something that would work for you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Recipe Trials

Here are a few more pictures that I've pulled out of the archives of recipes that weren't quite finalized or worthy enough for their own post.

Thai Style Stir Fry

For a while I was trying different Thai style stir-fry combinations. I would always use some chicken, medium rice noodles, a sliced onion, garlic, egg, and some kind of veggie (french cut green beans here). Then the sauce would be a few tablespoons of oyster sauce with a little brown sugar, soy sauce, and fish sauce. They always turned out tasty!

Chicken Mein Fun

I love getting Mein Fun at Chinese restaurants, filled with chicken and shrimp and all kinds of meat. I worked for a while recreating my own Chicken Mein Fun at home. I turned out well, but maybe a little dry (I'd probably need to drown it in oil to taste like the restaurant version!). One day I need to test it out again & get the recipe up here.

Sometime I get overly excited about trying a new ingredient, but can't decide on a recipe, so I decide to make mini batches from a few recipes. It actually works out really well, because then I'm not left with a giant portion if the recipe is a flop! One day I grabbed a Spaghetti Squash and made...

Spaghetti Squash Au Gratin

Spaghetti Squash Au Gratin

Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein

Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein

Spaghetti Squash Bacon Alfredo

Spaghetti Squash with this yummy fake alfredo sauce (from pureed cauliflower) and some bacon.

And then I totally forgot to take pictures of the Spaghetti Squash Hashbrowns before we ate them! All of the recipes turned out pretty good, better than we expected, but they weren't amazing. I'll probably revisit the spaghetti squash for a diet meal one day, but I don't think it will be a regular side dish for us any time soon. (Btw, I love winter squashes, but not summer squashes. This was a lot closer to yellow squash than butternut.)

We've found that there are so many vegetables that you might not like other ways, but they are absolutely delicious roasted. Our kids will devour roasted kale and Brussels sprouts & ignore the cheesy chicken & noodles on their plate. When one of my friends was raving about roasted beets, saying she makes some every week to toss on salads & such, I had to give them a try.

Raw Beets

The color was soooo gorgeous (this is before roasting), but the finished product ended up tasting like dirt. I haven't had beets any other way, but I'm not sure that I want to try them again!

Roasted Purple Yam

I also roasted some purple yams at the same time. The color ranged from purple to a purple & white mix, but it all got a little brown after roasting. I didn't like them as much as a normal sweet potato, but it would be a nice way to mix in a little color.

Speaking of roasting, I often try to make 'chips' out of things, with varying success. One day I tried to make banana chips, because I never know when my kids are going to eat bananas or not & often have to throw out bad ones. Big fail!

Banana Chips Fail

They cooked at a low temperature, and at first I had to pull them out of the oven early to make dinner. They were still chewy, so I put them in for the rest of the time and they came out burn to a crisp! Later I tried another batch and still was never able to get them past the too-chewy point, so now I've got a dehydrator on my Christmas list!

Loco Moco

On to something a little nicer! I made this tasty Japanese-Hawaiian dish called Loco Moco from Just One Cookbook. The recipe turned out well, but the hamburger steak was basically the same as the Japanese style steak we'd cooked before from her site (kind of a Worcestershire sauce instead of a brown gravy). Serving it with the egg on top was a fun addition, but with so many different things to cook for this recipe, it was not really worth it to add another pan & another step. It was nice having rice on the side though!

Hawaiian Breakfast Rice

And another Hawaiian style dish, Hawaiian Fried Breakfast Rice from Our Best Bites.    This one also turned out yummy, but if we make it again we'll change the ratios to have a little less rice & a little more of the fillers.

I've still got quite a few more of these pics stored away, but I think that is enough for now!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Japanese Broth

Sometimes, when I want to make a quick lunch soup, I grab a few frozen potstickers (also called shumai or gyoza), slice up a little savoy cabbage, and boil it for 5-6 minutes in this yummy Japanese-style broth. So good! I can't remember where I got the recipe for this broth originally, but it is similar to some Kitsune Udon we made before. Very savory, with a hint of sweetness.

Japanese Broth

Japanese Broth (one serving)

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp. dashi bouillon granules
1 - 1 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce (to taste)
1 Tbsp. sake
1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 Tbsp. mirin
1/8 tsp. salt

If you've cooked Japanese recipes before there is a good chance you have the dashi, sake, and mirin on hand. Toss in some chopped veggies, meat, noodles, or rice, and you've got a tasty soup in minutes!