Yaki Soba

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 package ramen noodles
1 onion, finely sliced
1 1/3 cups bean sprouts
1 red bell pepper, seeded and minced
12 cooked shelled shrimp
1 tbsp oil (I used sesame oil)
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 can baby corn, chopped
8 snow pea pods
1/2 package regular mushrooms

1. Cook the noodles according to the package directions, drain well and tip into a bowl.
2. Mix the onion, bean sprouts, red bell pepper, shrimp, baby corn, and pea pods together in a separate bowl. Stir evenly through the noodles.
3. Preheat a wok over high heat. Add the oil and heat until very hot. Add the noodle mixture and stir-fry for 4 minutes or until golden, then add the soy sauce and toss together.
4. Divide the mixture between 2 bowls and serve at once.

(Recipe altered slightly from Easy Stir-Fry)

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Easy Pasta Salad

Serves 4-5

Note: You can change or add other ingredients to this recipe. I’ve found that small pieces of American cheese and cubed pieces of ham also go quite nicely with this pasta salad. This recipe can be easily adapted to serve more people. I’m one of those people that “eyeball” amounts because I mostly only cook for just me and my husband, it’s up to you how much you make.

Ingredients:

1/2 lb tri-color rotini
sm. can black olives
medium package frozen (or fresh) broccoli florets
sm. jar artichoke hearts
3/4 cup creamy Italian dressing (I used Marie’s brand)

1. Follow package directions for cooking pasta, drain and set aside in a large bowl.
2. Cook broccoli according to package directions, add to pasta.
3. Add black olives, artichoke hearts and creamy dressing. Toss or stir until everything is covered with the dressing.
4. Place in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours to chill and then serve. Enjoy!

Orange Chicken

Orange Chicken.

Serves 2-3

1 lb. chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 jar Asian orange sauce, any brand you prefer
1 cup instant white rice
4 chilies, any kind you prefer (optional, for garnish)
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
2/3 cup warm water

1. Coat chicken pieces in cornstarch (in a bowl or a food storage bag) until covered, heat oil in large non-stick skillet until oil shimmers. Carefully add chicken to hot oil.
2. Cook white rice according to package directions, should be done in about 20 minutes.
3. Cook chicken at medium-high heat until golden brown and there is no more pink. Lower heat to medium once chicken is fully cooked.
4. Carefully pour orange sauce into skillet, stirring to coat the chicken. Add chilies and the water to thin sauce. Heat for 2 minutes on medium heat until warm and chicken is coated.
5. Scoop rice onto plates and pat it down so it’s flat and spread out on the plate. Pour chicken and remaining sauce over the rice, add chilies for garnish or throw away. Enjoy!

The Misadventures of Cake #2

As you may remember from my last post, I had decided that I was going to bake at least 10, if not 12 cakes this year. At first thought, this sounded like an easy task, say, a piece of cake?

By the time this morning came around, the idea began to feel a bit daunting. But I happily arranged all my ingredients and tools on the counter, preheated my oven and began the task of greasing my cake pans. I started spraying them and suddenly I RAN OUT OF COOKING SPRAY barely getting anything in the cake pan! I kind of just stood there for a second, not knowing what do do.

Finally, I called my mom and she told me to use butter. Butter! Why didn’t I think of that? So, for the first time in my life, I greased my two 9-inch pans with butter, and then, also for the first time, I floured my cake pans. I managed to get flour all over the place somehow, especially the floor and as I tilted the pan that had a little cooking spray in it, I also got a little bit of oil onto the floor.

Here are my floured and greased pans. I’d say not bad, for my first time. (When I made my strawberry cake, I forgot to flour the pans so I had some trouble getting the two layers out and nearly managed to break one of them in half! I was not about to let THAT happen again.)

Finally, I got my big mixing bowl, put in the cake mix (yes, I’m using mixes for the time being, I figure if I practice getting them right after awhile I can start making cakes from scratch) and my eggs, butter and water. I started up my mixer and four minutes later, the batter was looking lovely.

Then, another potential for disaster: as I pulled the beaters out of the batter, I realized that butter cakes are not the same as regular cakes. They are very, very dense. But I didn’t know that at first so again, I called my mother (who is quite used to being called, she’s my Cooking 911.) She said it was okay if it was really thick and explained that butter cakes are kind of like pound cakes, really really dense. I realized that the batter WOULD NOT POUR as the box told me it should and had to scoop blobs of it into each pan with a spatula and then try to smooth it out. I told my mom, it looked like yellow meringue or something with all the peaks. She assured me as long as I tried to smooth them out they would settle once I got them in the oven.

20-something minutes later (I was off the phone by then) I opened the oven to take them out and I was greeted with what was to me a HORRIBLE SIGHT, 2 cake layers that were brown (not yellow as it looks on the box) and cracked with what looked like air bubbles on top. It looked hideous and I was about to just call it quits, wait for them to cook and then throw them in the trash.

I decided to get my act together and go cool down for a bit and look up online what butter cakes are supposed to look like. I realized, after looking at some not made by professionals that the cracks and bubbles are fairly normal and to flip them out of the pans and onto wire racks and see if the bottoms were okay. The looked fine, though one was lighter than the other, possibly because of the cooking spray and butter. I gingerly touched the cake layers and they felt the way cake is supposed to feel so I relaxed and let them finish cooling.

Finally it was time to frost the cake and I used cream cheese frosting, my favorite. This time, unlike with the strawberry cake, I had bought myself a lazy susan and a proper frosting knife so it went on much better than last time. I still have a lot to learn about making it look less sloppy but once I let it harden a bit and started decorating it, it didn’t seem to matter that much. The icing did not go on as neatly as I’d hoped but all was not lost as my husband, without realizing it, gave me a cute idea. Why not decorate the top with a “drawing” of a cat face? (We are always talking about the cat we used to have, a big black kitty named Gilbert who we called Kitty Boy sometimes.)

It’s definitely not professional-looking but it came out at least close to what I’d hoped it would be so I am satisfied. And, I’m not going to make another cake for at least another week. Phew!

Hello!

I’ve decided it’s high time I start a cooking blog of my own. My name is, of course, Jacqui. I mean, it would be kind of weird if I called this Jacqui’s Cooking Adventures and then my name was really Carol or Michelle or something, right?

Quick background: I learned a lot of what I know about cooking and baking from my mother who has a natural cooking talent and is also educated in culinary arts. From the time I was a small baby, my mom would put me on the counter and let me watch her in the kitchen. I learned a lot from her but for much of my life I thought I hated to cook. When I got married, I realized I have a lot of knowledge of cooking techniques but not as much experience doing it myself so I ended up realizing that having experience is HUGE when it comes to whether or not a recipe is a disaster or a masterpiece, or somewhere in between. I need to put my knowledge into practice. The reason I’ve decided to start this cooking blog is because I have gained some experience but I am still quite the beginner at certain things, especially baking, which is what I’ll be focusing on for the beginning of the year, with cooking sprinkled in.

A couple of days ago I made my first strawberry supreme cake, a nice hot pink with lighter pink strawberries and cream frosting. It came out delicious, albeit a bit lumpy, as far as the frosting went but I have decided my goal is to bake at least 10 cakes this year. Or, maybe 12, since it is in fact 2012.

I’ve always felt bad that my baking skills are seriously lacking and I’ve heard from pros that the only way you can get batter, er, I mean BETTER, is to keep doing it and gain experience. Make a mistake? OK, now I now what not to do next time. Did something right? DO IT AGAIN!! You never know what you can do unless you TRY.

I’m going to bake a butter yellow cake tomorrow with cream cheese frosting and black icing for decoration, hopefully that will go well, I think I will try practicing on parchment paper while it’s baking, with the icing first to make sure I can do the design I want. I’m excited!