30 June 2011

Sesame chicken

For our wedding, my friends from my undergraduate university carried on a small tradition we have started when one of us gets married- they made us a wedding quilt. It's an old American tradition that women would get together and attend quilting bees to work on a quilt together and I feel that the quilt they made for us brings us all a little bit closer, even though we are apart physically.

Each person made a quilt square from fabric in our wedding colors, many of which also included themes or symbols from our undergraduate college. My friend who presented it to me also gave me a book of recipes that each person sent in with the quilt square and I am so excited to try all of them! I will certainly try to make all the recipes and report here about them. The recipe below is for sesame chicken and it is from my former dance teacher.

After browning chunks of chicken before in a pan, combine 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1/4 scant cup sugar, 1 Tbsp sesame seeds, 1/4 tsp ginger and 1/4 tsp garlic powder and heat until mixed.

Then add 1 Tbsp cornstarch and 1 cup cold water together and dissolve into the pan. Stir this all together until the sauce thickens and then add the chicken back in.

I thought that the dish needed some vegetables and colour, so I added spring onions and broccoli while the sauce was thickening.

When the sauce reaches a thick enough consistency and the vegetables are done, serve over rice.

This was quite a pretty and tasty dish, if a bit salty for my usual taste buds so I will probably cut down on the soy sauce next time. However, I have always wanted to make sesame chicken and I can see this becoming a regular menu item here.

Thank you again to all my wonderful friends for the beautiful quilt. It astounds me every time I look at it how much love went into it and how grateful I am to all of you for the beautiful wedding present.

4 June 2011

Potato Cheese Casserole

Casseroles are definitely American. The idea of putting lots of items together in one dish and cooking in the oven is not new (hello lasagne and macaroni tou fourno), but the presence of certain ingredients, usually canned soup or processed foods, seems to firmly set a dish into the casserole genre. Or at least, that's how it's done in the States.

But there is something warm and fuzzy about a good casserole. They are associated with home cooking and family dinners, potlucks and sharing foods, and dinners family and friends drop by the house when you are having a rough time. There's just so much love in a casserole.

The potato cheese casserole is no exception. It comes from my grandma, the same one that taught me how to make pie crust, and one of my favorite dishes to have at her house. Casseroles have a bad reputation as they can sometimes be pretty dismal and gloopy, and A did not help this casserole by telling everyone that it has cornflakes it in (gasp! shock! horror!), but please trust me when I tell you that this is fantastic comfort food, with potatoes, butter and sour cream, What more could you ask for in a casserole?

As with any casserole, it's pretty easy to make though there are a lot of ingredients, so bear with me- or skip to the end to see the recipe.

First, take some frozen hash browns and pour them into a casserole dish, or a long rectangular pan. I had to search high and low for frozen hash browns, as this is another American dish not really common here, and finally found some with onions, bacon and tomatoes. Luckily, these flavours work with the casserole, so I went ahead with them. If using the plain hash browns, go ahead and add the onion too.

I then added the melted butter...

cream of chicken soup...


and sour cream... I used too much because I thought I could eye what a pint was (note to self- you can't). Mix this all up.

Here's the fun part: pour the cornflakes into a bowl. Now, you may think "Why would I put a breakfast cereal into my dinner dish?" Cornflakes are not sweet and have a nice crunch which ends up being an integral part of this casserole. Don't miss out on the cornflakes!

Especially those covered in butter. If cereal was always covered in butter, I might actually enjoy it.

Sprinkle the cornflakes on top of the casserole and bake for an hour.

This smells divine when cooking. After an hour, the cornflakes should be browned but not burnt and all the flavours will have melded together.

Casseroles are a lovely meeting and snuggling of warm ingredients.

Potato Cheese Casserole

2 pounds frozen hash browns
1/2 cup Oleo (or butter)
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups shredded cheddar
1 pint sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups corn flakes

Melt 1/4 cup oleo and pour over hash browns. Combine remaining wet ingredients and mix well. Melt the remaining 1/4 cup oleo and pour over cornflakes, then sprinkle over top of casserole. Bake at 350 degrees F/180 degrees C for at least one hour. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

PS- Have you seen that there is a new casserole restaurant open in Atlanta, Georgia? Sounds awesome!