Hye Thyme Cafe: July 2012

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Don't look now, you're being followed ...


If I'm wandering around online and a recipe or new blog catch my eye, I'll typically add that blog as a subscription in Google Reader and tag the post.  That way, I can go back later to scroll through the rest of that blog's posts and tag anything else of interest and can automatically keep up with them going forward.

If I find myself really drawn to that blog, either because the writer is funny or quirky, or they put out a lot of great recipes or photos that inspire me (whatever the case may be), I'll then make a point to connect with them in other ways - E-Mail, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, etc.  I have apparently gotten waaaaaaaaaaaaaay behind on that score.

While running through Google Reader the other day, I noticed that some of the blogs I had been following hadn't been posting for some time.  In investigating further, I realized that some of you had switched to other platforms when I wasn't looking.  Others just seem to have disappeared.  Being concerned about that, I checked those pages' Facebook and other links to see if they had been posting elsewhere.  A few have been, but a few seem to have vanished.  I hope they're OK!!

Then there is the matter of how I initially connected with any one of you doesn't necessarily reflect your (or my) current "social status."  I may have hooked up with you before Google+ went live, or before I found out about Pinterest.  Maybe you started out with a Facebook page but have since added Twitter, etc.

Sooooo, I decided to take the opportunity to do some cross-checking.  I opened each of the blogs (pretty sure I got them all) in my Google Reader and checked to make sure I was connected with each of you at the various social sites (don't wanna miss any good scoop!).  Then I set up a Blogs I Follow board on Pinterest just to spread the love a little.  

I've gotta say ... I wasn't keeping track as I went along, but there are a bunch of you with broken links, or links that open to a picture rather than to a post or social site.  Sorry, I should have made notes so I could let you know.  Also, I'm guessing there are at least a few of you wondering why you didn't "make the cut" so to speak.  That would either mean that I inadvertently jumped you while scrolling along, or you don't have a pinnable image on your home page.  Whenever that was the case, I shot for one on an About page, but some of you don't have those either.  My intention with this particular board is to point others to your blogs, not specific posts, so please don't feel slighted if this is why you're missing.  :(

And since today is my birthday, my b-day wish is that you jump to that Pinterest Board and scroll through to see if you find someone new and interesting to connect with.  Happy blogging to all ... I smell dinner, so I'm outa here!
 


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mexican Inspired Rice

Mexican Inspired Rice : Hye Thyme Cafe

As much as I love chips and Guacamole, I decided to make a rice side to go along with the Fajitas I made the other night. I love the flavor of the rice you get at Mexican restaurants, but sometimes the texture is odd - either it's very mushy, or it's almost crunchy, like a Mexican version of Fried Rice. This one turned out just right for this Goldilocks.  ;)

INGREDIENTS:
1 c rice (Uncle Ben's)
1 small onion, diced
2 T butter
10 oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies (Ro*tel)
10 oz tomato sauce  (Hunt's)
1 can black beans, well rinsed and drained
1 can corn, drained (or 1.5-2 c frozen)
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 lime, zested and juiced
Fresh chopped cilantro

Sauté the rice and diced onion in the butter over medium heat just until the onion starts to sweat and take on a touch of color.

Add the canned diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and bring it up to a slow boil, stirring every few minutes to prevent scorching, until the liquid starts to absorb.

Turn the heat down to the lowest setting, cover and let cook to until just slightly firm, then stir in the corn, black beans, and diced tomato and continue cooking until the rice is done and the beans and corn are heated through
.


Just before serving, stir in the lime zest and juice, and sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro.

Mexican Inspired Rice : Hye Thyme Cafe

Mexican Inspired Rice : Hye Thyme Cafe

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fajitas (Beef and Chicken)

Fajitas (Beef and Chicken) : Hye Thyme Cafe

I think Tacos are probably one of the first meals a lot of us made growing up. They're easy to make but don't involve a lot of cooking, so you get to experience working with the stove, the oven, and a knife without it being overwhelming. I've made a bazillion Tacos over the years, but for some reason, when it comes to Fajitas, I've always gotten them out, either dine-in or take-out. It really never occurred to me to make them at home, even knowing that I could buy packets of Fajita seasoning if I wanted to.  

I don't know why they came to mind the other day, but I'm glad they did, because they were delicious! We had three boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the fridge to be used, but when I ran to the grocery store to pick up some peppers, I decided to grab a steak too. The Beef Fajitas were so good, I stuffed myself on that and never even tried the chicken the first night. I'm glad there were leftovers - I had the chicken last night.

We decided that one of the things we really liked was the texture, which we attributed to the cornstarch called for in the first recipe I took a peek at. That one was on A Taste of Home. I liked how the cornstarch helped the sauce cling to the chicken when I made orange chicken recently, so I decided to go with it. I looked at that and a few other recipes to see what was in the seasoning mix, then kinda winged it since they were all basically the same (except for the cornstarch, spice ratios, lemon v. lime).

INGREDIENTS:
1 T cornstarch
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t black pepper
1 t dried oregano
1 1/2 t cumin
2 t chili powder
1 t paprika (1/2t if you have smoked paprika)
1 t crushed red pepper
1/2 t dry minced onion
1 clove garlic
1 small lime

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 top sirloin steak
2 green bell peppers
1 each red, yellow, and orange bell peppers
1 jalapeno pepper
1 lg onion
EVOO or Canola oil

GARNISH (optional):
Flour tortillas
Sour cream
Salsa
Shredded cheese
Scallions
Cilantro

Since I was making chicken and steak fajitas, I made two batches of the seasoning mix in separate zip-top bags so I could marinate the meat separately. Now, knowing how good it turned out, I'll probably jar a big batch for future use so I don't have to measure it out each time.

Fajitas (Beef and Chicken) : Hye Thyme CafeI sliced the chicken and the beef into thin strips, adding the chicken to one bag and the beef to the other, then poured about 2T of olive oil into each bag, squeezed a small lime into each, then added the garlic, giving everything a quick massage before tucking it away in the fridge.

Next, I sliced the onion and bell peppers into strips. I minced the jalapeno, removing most of the seeds and pith. I added the veggies to the bag with the beef, again massaging it to get everything coated, and set it back in the fridge. I probably only let it marinate for about a half hour, but that was plenty of time.

Fajitas (Beef and Chicken) : Hye Thyme Cafe
Looks delish already and it's not even cooked yet.

When I was ready to get cooking, I took everything out of the fridge so it wouldn't be going in a hot pan cold, then unpackaged the tortillas, wrapping them in foil and popping them in the oven at 200 degrees, just to warm them.

Fajitas (Beef and Chicken) : Hye Thyme CafeHeat about 1T oil in a large pot (so you don't have to worry about spatter) over medium heat, and cook the chicken first. It should take about 6" - 3" on each side. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and tent with foil to keep warm, then return the pan to the heat and cook the veggies until crisp-tender. Add the veggies to the serving platter with the chicken, then add a little fresh oil to the pan, put it back on the heat and cook the steak to desired doneness, adding to the platter with the chicken and veg.

Fajitas (Beef and Chicken) : Hye Thyme Cafe


Fajitas (Beef and Chicken) : Hye Thyme Cafe

Retrieve your warm tortillas from the oven and serve with whatever garnish you like. I offered up salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, and fresh chopped cilantro, but everyone pretty much just wanted it as is. I used a little sour cream and cilantro. I was actually shocked at how tender the steak was, and the spice mix gave off plenty of flavorful heat without fighting you. If anyone in your crew is particularly heat sensitive, you might want to back off a little on the crushed red pepper or skip the jalapeno.

I have already been asked to make these again.  Love that!  :)

Fajitas (Beef and Chicken) : Hye Thyme Cafe

Fajitas (Beef and Chicken) : Hye Thyme Cafe






Friday, July 13, 2012

Sesame Orange Chicken

Sesame Orange Chicken : Hye Thyme Cafe

For the life of me, I could not take a picture of this dish to do it justice!  Between the shine from the glaze and the white rice, I was doomed from the start.  You'll just have to take my word for how fabulous it is!  Orange with a hint of sesame and just the right kick of heat.

SAUCE:
1 T canola oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
5 scallions, sliced (keep tops for garnish)
1 c tomato sauce
1/2 c water
1/4 c honey
2 T chili garlic sauce
1 T soy sauce
juice of one orange

CHICKEN:
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c cornstarch
1/2 t black pepper
1/3 c oil (1T sesame / balance canola or veg)

OPTIONAL GARNISH:
Toasted sesame seeds
Zest from an additional orange




For the sauce, saute the garlic and scallion bottoms in the canola (or vegetable) oil just until the garlic starts to brown, then add the tomato sauce, water, honey, chili garlic sauce, soy sauce and the juice from your already zested orange.  You really don't want to juice the orange and THEN try to zest it.  ;)

Let the sauce come to a boil, then reduce it to a gentle simmer for 5-6 minutes to reduce a bit.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small dry pan, cook a tablespoon or two of sesame seeds (shaking or stirring frequently to prevent scorching), until golden.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Cut the chicken into slightly larger than bite-sized pieces.  You want to allow for a little shrinkage while cooking.  Toss the chicken in a zip-top bag with the pepper and cornstarch.

Pour the 1T sesame oil into a measuring cup, then add enough canola or vegetable oil to make 1/3c.  Heat that over medium heat, then brown the chicken on both sides, transferring to a paper-towel (or brown paper bag) lined plate to drain.  You will want to do this in 2 or 3 batches to avoid over-crowding the pan.  You may find you need to add another splash of oil between batches.  You can use more than 1T of sesame oil if you want, but you really want that flavor to be subtle rather than overpowering.

I don't know why, but I love that you can see the oil bubbling in this shot.

Once all of the chicken has been browned, wipe out the pan and return it to medium heat.  Add the orange zest to the pan, and once the oils start to release and you can really smell the orange, add the chicken, cooking them together for about a minute.  Pour the sauce over the chicken and cook until slightly thickened and the chicken has finished cooking through.

To plate, serve over white rice (I cooked mine in chicken broth with a little butter), and sprinkle with the reserved scallion tops and toasted sesame seeds.  If you have another orange handy, you can also zest that over the top for a bright note.

See what I mean about the pics?  Oh well ...   :(

Sesame Orange Chicken : Hye Thyme Cafe


Sesame Orange Chicken : Hye Thyme Cafe
Sesame Orange Chicken : Hye Thyme Cafe 

Sesame Orange Chicken : Hye Thyme Cafe


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Too Hot to Cook Southwest Inspired Chicken Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

Southwest Inspired Chicken Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing : Hye Thyme Cafe

When asked earlier in the day if I had any dinner ideas for tonight, I was a complete blank. I hadn't even thought about dinner yet, and it's been so hot out, who wants to cook?!? I was happy parked in front of a fan doing crosswords on Facebook and wandering around Pinterest at the time. If you haven't discovered Pinterest yet, it's a website where people post images, so it's kind of a virtual tackboard. You can post individual photos, or pin photos from other websites and blogs so the link goes with them. That way, you have a visual reference rather than a list of websites you want to refer back to. It's great for foodies, photographers, crafters, fashionistas, etc.

Pinterest is where I found the inspiration for tonight's dinner in the form of a post for a Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad by Tami at Nutmeg Notebook.

SALAD:
1 can crisp corn
1 can black beans
1/4 t cumin
1 t chili powder
1 thin/firm cucumber
1 small orange bell pepper
1 small red onion
1 pint grape tomatoes
cilantro
cooked chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store)
tortilla strip crisps and/or pumpkin seeds 
whatever lettuce or mixed greens you like

DRESSING:
1 avocado
6 oz container of plain yogurt
1 clove garlic
pinch of salt
cilantro
lime juice to taste (I used 2 small limes)
milk - optional


Drain the corn and rinse the black beans well, tossing both in a large bowl with the cumin and chlii powder so they'll start soaking up that flavor.


 









Dice the cucumber (peeled/seeded or not, up to you), orange bell pepper, and red onion. Toss those with the corn and black beans, then quarter the grape tomatoes and chop a handful of cilantro, adding those to the mix as well.

Southwest Inspired Chicken Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing : Hye Thyme Cafe
Smells good already!


For the dressing, throw everything** in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. I had thought that the yogurt would be enough to thin the mixture once it was blended, but all of the avocados were on the firm side today, so I ended up adding some milk to thin it. As you can see, it's still pretty thick. I debated adding a splash of white balsamic, but I was afraid that would make it too acidic on top of the lime juice. It was very tasty, just thicker than I anticipated. Would be great to scoop with veggies or chips.

** If you have not used avocados before and aren't sure how to handle them, it's super easy. Make a slice all the way around the center, lengthwise, then twist to separate the halves. One half will contain the pit. Hit the pit with the blade of your knife and twist to pop it out, then slide a spoon between the skin and the flesh (that sounds gross) to scoop the avocado out of its shell.

You can toss everything together if you want, but I was in a layering mood today, so I washed and chopped the lettuce, plating that first, then topped it with a scoop of the veggie mixture. I tore the chicken into bite-sized pieces and piled that on top of the veggies, topping the whole thing off with a spoonful of dressing and a sprinkling of tortilla strips.


Southwest Inspired Chicken Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing : Hye Thyme Cafe
Southwest Inspired Chicken Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing : Hye Thyme Cafe

Southwest Inspired Chicken Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing : Hye Thyme Cafe

Thinking it was too hot to stand over a pot of hot oil to make tortilla strips, I intended to use pumpkin seeds for a textural contrast, so I grabbed a bag on my way by. As it turned out, I found a bag of tortilla strips in the crouton section, so I used those, forgetting I had already picked up a bag of pumpkin seeds. (I know what I'll be snacking on later.)

If you want to make your own tortilla strips, it's super easy. Just buy a package of small corn tortillas, cut them into strips about 1/4" wide and an inch or so long. Drop them into hot oil until golden and crisp, then remove them to a paper towel or brown paper bag to drain, tossing them with whatever seasoning you like. Don't worry about having too much - they're great for snacking, so the extras won't last long!  

Also, I had picked up two avocados, intending to use one for the dressing and dicing the other into the salad, but because they were so firm, I changed my mind. If you want to add avocado to yours, go for it! I'm letting the other one sit for a few days.

Thanks Tami and Pinterest for the inspiration!  :)


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