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Stir Fry for Year of the Monkey

Simple Stir Fry

February 8 marked the beginning of Chinese New Year which is celebrated through February 22. So Rita’s Basic Stir Fry is just right for this month. You’d think cooking a stir fry would be a snap for me, because I’ve help my mother-in-law chop, stir, sauce and serve many a banquet dish.  But neither she nor I measured while we cooked.

Rita’s formula is perfect: 1 cup water plus 1 tablespoon of each sauce ingredient – so it IS a snap! (What wasn’t a snap was our guests driving and parking in San Francisco Chinatown to attend our wedding banquet 32 years ago ON Chinese New Year parade day — I hope they’ve forgiven us by now!).  And don’t forget the little red Lai See money envelops this month. Traditional etiquette says adults give Lai See to family and friends (usually $1-100, but here are some guidelines) symbolizing auspiciousness, wealth and good fortune. It’s sometimes a funny exchange of pass-the-envelope.
Gung Hay Fat Choy! And Happy Anniversary Bernie 🙂

Basic Stir Fry Recipe
(see printable recipe below)
Vary your stir fry by the vegetables you have on-hand and your choice of chicken, tofu, beef or pork. Or make it completely vegetarian. This time I had a lot of broccoli and leeks from my Riverdog Farm CSA , and some bell pepper leftover from a crudite tray.
Your choice veggies

Chop vegetables into bite-size pieces to make about 4 cups. Chopped stir fry veggies







Stir together 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon each cornstarch, cream sherry, oyster sauce and soy sauce plus 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil.Stir Fry sauce ingredients

Add chopped garlic and fresh ginger to a hot skillet or wok with 1 Tbsp oil. Check Rita’s tips for freezer ready ginger and garlic. I use my Circulon 14-inch Stir Fry pan over medium-high heat, or use your widest skillet.

Garlic and ginger

Brown chicken, or your choice of beef, tofu, pork. Remove meat to a plate.

Brown chicken

Add vegetables; stir fry about 2 minutes. I added the leeks with the vegetables. If using yellow onion, see Rita’s instructions below.Vegetables

Return chicken to pan and add sauce. Cook over high heat stirring constantly until sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately over hot cooked rice. Top with toasted cashews if desired.Chicken Stirfry
Print This Recipe
Rita’s Basic Stir Fry
enough for 2 servings with rice

7-8   oz. boneless chicken, pork or beef, sliced
1+    Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce

1       cup water (3/4 cup for thicker sauce or use a bit more cornstarch)
1       Tbsp. cornstarch
1       Tbsp. soy sauce (low sodium or regular)
1       Tbsp. cream sherry  (Christian Brothers or any inexpensive brand)
1       Tbsp. oyster sauce  (Lee Kum Kee brand or your choice)
1       tsp. toasted sesame oil  (Dynasty 5 oz bottle, or your favorite brand)

1       Tbsp. peanut oil or vegetable oil
1       Tbsp. minced fresh garlic (or freezer ready)
1       Tbsp. minced fresh ginger (or freezer ready)

1/2   cup large-dice yellow or white onion (or 1/2 small onion)
1       large stalk celery, sliced (optional)
3-4   cups cut-up veggies (broccoli, asparagus, green beans, snow peas, carrots)
Cashews (optional garnish)

Place sliced chicken in a small bowl and drizzle with soy sauce. Stir to coat chicken; set aside.

Measure water. Stir in cornstarch and remaining sauce ingredients; set aside.

In a large sauté pan, gently cook garlic and ginger in oil for about 1 minute. Increase heat and add chicken; stir-fry until almost cooked. Transfer to a warm plate.

Add onion to pan; stir-fry 1 minute. Add veggies and continue to stir-fry 1-2 minutes.*

Stir sauce well and pour into pan. Cook 1-2 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in cooked chicken; heat through. Serve immediately with hot steamed rice. Sprinkle with cashews, if desired.

* Rita’s Kitchen Notes:
Do not overcook chicken and veggies. Veggies should be crisp; they will continue to cook in the sauce.

Additional peanut oil may be needed for the vegetables. If the pan gets too dry, simply splash in a bit of water or some of the un-stirred sauce. If the pan browns a bit, that adds flavor to the stir-fry!

*Rosie’s Kitchen Notes:
Adjust the amount of garlic and ginger to your taste. I like lots of ginger and little less garlic.

Add chopped fresh cilantro; top with peanuts or almonds instead of cashews.

Photos taken with IPhone by Rosie 

Posted in Entrees, Rita & Rosie's Kitchens | 4 Responses

Chili — Southwest & Midwest Style

Chipotle Black Bean Chili
Yes, it’s that time of year. Time to try one of these warming winter “stews” —  Chipotle Black Bean Chili (with bitters), or my authentic Cincinnati Chili.  The Cinci chili was inspired by my cousin Anne who lives there. And yes, spaghetti makes the foundation for the south Ohio specialty.  If you have a favorite chili, let us know! Tell us about it in Comments (aka Responses) below this post. If you’d like to add a link to your chili, please do so.   PS: My favorite Sloppy Joes recipe is suitable for this time of year as well. Humm… Now, which to make?!

Chili - Black Bean and Cincinnati

Posted in Entrees, Rita's Kitchen | 8 Responses

Peppermint Ice Cream Truffles

Peppermint Ice Cream Truffles

These ice cream truffles make a stunning holiday or New Years presentation and are simpler to make than they look. The trick is to freeze the scooped ice cream balls before attempting to dip in the chocolate. And work quickly with just a few ‘truffles’ at a time. Another trick is to line a metal baking tray with plastic wrap, chill it in the freezer, then set it on a frozen ice pack to receive the ice cream balls while you’re scooping. I figured that out when I created this recipe for Dreyer’s Ice Cream in the middle of summer when my kitchen was a lot hotter than it is at Christmastime!

Set the dipped truffles in mini muffin papers in a box or tray, then freeze until ready to serve. Pass to guests for a bite-size dessert or nestle a few in individual dessert dishes. Enjoy quickly!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Print This Recipe

Peppermint Ice Cream Truffles

Active Prep Time: about 30 minutes
Plus Chill Time: 30 minutes
Makes about 16 truffles.

2 pints peppermint ice cream or favorite flavor- look for Dreyer’s Limited Edition Peppermint
1 cup (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup (6 ounces) white baking chips
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
Colored sprinkles (optional)

  1. Line a metal baking tray or pan with wax paper or plastic wrap. Make space on freezer shelf and place pan in freezer until cold. Place a covered food storage container in freezer to receive dipped truffles.
  2. Remove ice cream from freezer and soften just enough to scoop easily. Working quickly with a 1–inch diameter scoop or two teaspoons, scoop 16 balls of ice cream and place on prepared pan. Freeze 30 minutes or until ice cream balls are hard. Hint: place pan on a frozen cold pack while scooping to keep ice cream cold.
  3. Place chocolate and white chips in separate small bowls. Add 2 tablespoons oil to each bowl. Heat one bowl at a time in microwave on medium power (50%) for 2-3 minutes, stirring well until melted and smooth, and bowl no longer feels warm. Repeat with the other bowl of chips.
  4. Loosen one frozen ice cream ball from the pan with a small spoon and set in a bowl of chocolate. Using two spoons, quickly spoon chocolate over ice cream until completely coated. Lift ice cream ball out of bowl allowing excess chocolate to drip back into bowl. Return truffle to pan. If using sprinkles, immediately shake sprinkles over top of truffle before chocolate hardens.
  5. Continue to dip ice cream balls one at a time, dipping eight balls into each type of chocolate. For chocolate drizzle, dip a fork or toothpick into the melted semi-sweet or white chocolate and drizzle over the opposite color ice cream truffle. Work in batches if needed, returning ice cream balls to freezer for 5-10 minutes to keep frozen before dipping. Place truffles in food storage container in freezer for up to 1 week.

Top photo by Eskite Photography; Styling by Kim Konecny Kissling

Rosie's peppermint truffles

Rosie’s Kitchen Peppermint Truffles — just as yummy & fun!

Posted in Desserts, Rosie's Kitchen | Leave a comment

Cranberry-Apricot Relish

Cranberry-Apricot RelishWhen there’s a lot to juggle in the kitchen, this sherry-laced relish is a welcome addition to holiday meals. It’s familiar, yet unique, and very easy. Make relish several days ahead. When ready to serve, warm it up just a bit in the microwave. While you’re prepping for Thanksgiving, perhaps try my Pumpkin Pie with orange bitters — dee-lish.

Print This Recipe

Warm Cranberry-Apricot Relish

Makes 1-1/2 cups

1-1/2 cups dried cranberries (about 7 oz.)
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/2 cup Holland House sherry cooking wine*
Zest of 1 orange

Combine ingredients in a 1-1/2 to 2 quart saucepan; stir well. Cook over medium heat until mixture just starts to boil, 2-3 minutes; stir. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool 20 minutes.

Stir in 2-4 tablespoons water if relish becomes too thick as it cools. Do the same for relish made several days ahead. Serve warm with roast beef, chicken, turkey or ham.

* Kitchen Note: If using your own favorite sherry, add 1/4 teaspoon salt to the recipe.

Nutrition information per 2 Tbsp: 290 calories, 0g protein, 22g carb, 0g fat, (0g sat. fat), 0mg chol,, 35mg sodium, 1g fiber

Recipe developed by Rita for Holland House Photo by Suzanne Carreiro

Posted in Rita's Kitchen, Sides and Sauces | Leave a comment

Turkey Stuffing-inside or out?

artichoke stuffing

I’ve never thought twice about stuffing a turkey (or chicken); the juices from the roasted bird add so much flavor. Yet, as Thanksgiving gatherings have come and gone over the years, I’ve become tired of the rather messy work involved — especially considering all the other foods and table settings. So in the interest of cooking simply, I started to experiment with “dressings” — those baked separately outside the turkey. The result? Wow. I will never stuff another bird again. With the right combination of flavors, textures and moistness, turkey dressing can be easy and quite delicious.

For this recipe, I combined aromatic vegetables cooked in wine with mushrooms and artichoke hearts. Along with crunchy toasted pecans, the result is a fantastic flavor combination. And yes, if you prefer, the dressing will stuff a small turkey or two 3 lb. chickens. Print This Recipe

Artichoke Mushroom Dressing

Makes 12 cups

1 lb. (approx.) sliced French bread
1 can (13-14 oz.) artichoke hearts (not marinated artichokes)
4 Tbsp. butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
8 oz. pre-sliced mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 tsp. dried rubbed sage
1 cup Holland House white cooking wine*
1/2 cup toasted pecans, hazelnuts or walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup+ chicken broth

Spread bread slices out on sheet trays for several hours to dry out a bit. Or place in a warm oven for 15 minutes. Tear bread into bite-size pieces. Measure 12 cups and place in a very large bowl.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 3-quart casserole dish or large shallow baking dish. Drain artichokes and cut into smaller pieces.

In a large skillet, combine butter, onion, celery and mushrooms. Cook over high heat 6-7 minutes. Stir in artichokes, poultry seasoning and sage; add cooking wine. Cook 5 minutes more; remove from heat.

Gradually spoon mixture and liquid over bread, tossing gently after each addition. Sprinkle in nuts. Drizzle with chicken broth and toss, using more broth of you prefer moist stuffing.

Spoon stuffing into buttered casserole dish. Cover and bake 45-50 minutes for a casserole dish, or 25-30 minutes for a shallow baking dish (13 x 9).

* In place of cooking wine, use a light, balanced white wine such as Chablis or Riesling. Holland House is my go-to cooking wine — real wine with a splash of salt (in this case a Chablis). What I like about Holland House, is that the flavor remains stable much longer than an open bottle of wine. And importantly, there’s no guess work about the type of wine to use — dry or a bit sweet or … Holland House hits the mark every time. If using table wine, add 1/2 teaspoon salt to it.

Nutrition information per cup (using cooking wine and 1/2 cup chicken broth): 200 calories, 6g protein, 26g carb, 8g fat, (3g sat. fat), 10mg chol,, 570mg sodium, 2g fiber

Recipe by Rita Held Header photo by Suzanne Carreiro
artichoke stuffing up close


Posted in Rita's Kitchen, Sides and Sauces | Leave a comment

Edamame Green Monster Dip

Green Monster Dip

Scare up this hummus with edamame beans and walnuts for your munchkins to dig into before their Halloween treats. A healthy bunch of parsley makes the scary-good green color, boosts Vitamins K and C, adds flavinoids too, which function as antioxidants. And of course loads of good omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fiber from the walnuts and the edamame. But most important, Green Monster Dip simply tastes good. So don’t save it just for Halloween. Serve it any time as a sandwich spread…cracker, chip or veggie dip…in wraps…on toast with tomatoes and fried egg… Let me know how you serve it!

And check out more great Halloween walnut recipes here. I love the spiders — BOO!
Print This Recipe

Green Monster Dip

Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

1 cup shelled edamame (soybeans), fresh or frozen and thawed
3/4 cup California walnuts
1/2 cup parsley, lightly packed
1/4 cup yogurt, plain
1 clove garlic, small, pressed
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place edamame, walnuts, parsley, yogurt, garlic and salt in food processor. Whirl until smooth.

Recipe developed by Rosemary Mark for California Walnuts. Photo by California Walnuts.
Food Styling by www.ifoodstylist.com

Posted in Appetizers & Snacks, Rosie's Kitchen, Sides and Sauces, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Get Pickled!

Refrigerator Pickles

We keep it simple here at GetCookingSimply.  So when I was asked to teach a canning class for Sustainable Contra Costa County, I knew that refrigerator pickles were the answer to simple. My 93 year old dad makes them this way all the time! Traditional water bath canning is not so simple, but the difference is the jars are thoroughly vacuum sealed and can be kept on a pantry shelf. Refrigerator pickles must be kept refrigerated, and for as long as you like, though eventually will loose their crispness  — so just eat them up soon and make some more!

You’ll need pickling cucumbers or Persian cucumbers, which you should find now at farmers markets, or year-round usually at Trader Joe’s. Pickling cucumbers and Persian cucumbers have a thin skin that the brine will penetrate easily, plus they make cute crisp little pickles. The important thing is that the skin not be waxed. For color and interest, add other veggies like green beans, carrots, pearl onions, red onion, garlic, and fresh herbs. My favorite pickling herb is tarragon, especially with green beans.  At the Sustainable Contra Costa class, their garden had beautiful green and red okra. The gardener said pickled okra doesn’t have that typical slickery texture. Well, my results don’t concur, but the okra was crisp and tasty anyway. Give it a try if you like okra!
Print This Recipe

Refrigerator Pickles

Makes about six 1-pint jars.
Canning jars with two-part lids look nifty and traditional, but any food jar with a tight screw-top lid will work.

2-1/2 cups white vinegar
2-1/2 cups water*
3 tablespoons purchased pickling spice*
2 tablespoons sugar, or more to taste for sweeter pickles
1 tablespoon salt – not iodized
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
2 lbs. pickling cucumbers, whole, cut lengthwise, or in chips
8-12 oz. green beans, trimmed
2-3 carrots, cut in thin strips
Pearl onions or garlic cloves, optional

  1. Place jars  in a large pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and use jars while still hot. If using two-piece canning lids, bring to a simmer in a separate pot for a few minutes; its best not boil the flat, rubber lined canning lids.
  2. Bring vinegar, water, pickling spices, salt and sugar to a boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low so brine stays hot.
  3. Remove jars from water and drain. Pack vegetables into jars, alternating a variety of ingredients for a pleasing appearance. Each jar can be a different combination — like green beans, garlic and tarragon; cucumber chips and red onion; or just plain pickled carrots. Have fun with it!
  4. Ladle hot brine with the spices into jars, filling to 1/4-inch from top. Wipe rims with a clean damp cloth then screw tops on. Turn jars upside down for 5 minutes. Turn right side up and let stand undisturbed until cool. Lids probably will seal but should be refrigerated for safest storage. Refrigerate for 2 weeks for flavors to blend and fully pickle the vegetables. Store refrigerated for several months.
Pickling Veggies

Pickling veggies and fresh tarragon. Note the red okra on the right.



Upside down for 5 minutes to start the seal.


IMG_6514 (3)

Cool then refrigerate. Nice and pickled in about a week.

*Kitchen Notes:

Some recipes use distilled water to prevent the brine from turning cloudy. I used tap water and the brine is crystal clear, but it might depend upon your water supply.

Pickling spice is sold in jars in the supermarket spice section or with canning supplies. Or make your own with a variety of whole spices such as mustard seeds, whole peppercorns, coriander seeds, dill seeds, allspice.  The amounts do not need to be specific, but I used roughly equal parts of each.

If you taste the pickles after a few days and they are too vinegary, add a few teaspoons water or sugar to taste. The vegetables will absorb the new brine.


Posted in Rosie's Kitchen, Vegetarian | 6 Responses

Sofrito Rice & Black Bean Salad

Sofrito Rice SaladDinner was quick and easy the other night with Rita’s Sofrito Rice turned into a salad.  Sofrito rice is flavorful so you just need to add vegetables and a vinaigrette. If using leftover refrigerated rice, briefly microwave to soften because the starch hardens a bit when it’s chilled.  Add the following in amounts to your taste (or what you have on hand!):

  • canned black beans (rinsed and drained)
  • frozen corn kernels, thawed (or fresh corn, raw or lightly grilled)
  • diced red bell pepper
  • quartered cherry tomatoes
  • chopped cilantro, mint or basil — or all three herbs

Drizzle with olive oil, lemon or lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Ready to serve!

Sofrito Rice Salad

Settle down on the patio with a glass of chilled Rioja and cool off! Refrigerate leftovers but this salad is best served fresh.

Posted in Rosie's Kitchen, Salads and Dressings | 2 Responses

Sofrito Rice – Caribbean Trio #3

Sofrito RiceThroughout the Caribbean there are as many versions of sofrito as there are cooks, but it is always a combination of onion, garlic, chiles, thyme, cilantro, and often tomatoes. Sofrito forms the base for many dishes throughout the islands, most notably Arroz con Pollo in Puerto Rico. This Sofrito Rice recipe was tweeked and then authenticated by my neighbor, Antonio, a native of the island. Similar to my jerk seasoning (#2 of my trio), this sofrito rice is the real thing. Try making all three recipes–including the Mango-Papaya Salad–and savor a taste of the Caribbean without leaving your kitchen!    Print This Recipe

Sofrito Rice 

1            tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4       cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/2        cup finely chopped green bell pepper or chiles*  
2            cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1/2        teaspoon salt
1/4        cup natural rice vinegar (unseasoned)
1            cup long grain white rice
1            cup diced fresh tomatoes
2           tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1            teaspoon dried thyme
1           can (14 oz) chicken broth (or 1-3/4 cups)

* Chile is referred to as aji in Puerto Rico.  Poblano or mild green chiles both work well.

Heat oil in a 10 to 12-inch skillet with a lid. Add onion, green pepper (or mild chiles), garlic and salt. Sauté over medium-high heat 4-5 minutes. Stir in rice vinegar. Cook 2-3 minutes more or until vinegar is absorbed. Stir in rice, tomatoes, cilantro and thyme. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Stir and serve. Garnish with additional cilantro, if desired.  Makes 4-6 servings.

Nutrition per serving: 230 calories, 5g protein, 44g carb, 4g fat, (0.5g sat. fat), 5mg chol, 710mg sodium, 2g fiber

Recipe by Rita Held     Photo by Suzanne Carreiro

Posted in Rita's Kitchen, Sides and Sauces | 2 Responses

Jerk Seasoning – Caribbean Trio #2

Caribbean Jerk MarinadeThe second recipe in my Caribbean trio is a jerk marinade — purely and deliciously Jamaican. The herb and spice combination is close to what an island local would put together, minus the hot chiles. If you have ever been curious about making jerk at home, this simple recipe is worth a try. It’s versatile and as easy as twisting off a few caps, so don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients. Cook on the outside grill or kitchen stovetop.  Jerk flavors are delicious with chicken (thighs, breasts, legs); pork (chops, tenderloin, ribs); or fish (tilapia, halibut, salmon). Double the recipe if using more meat or fish than is called for in the recipe. Numero tres in my trio?  Puerto Rican sofrito rice.
Print This Recipe

Caribbean Jerk Marinade

Makes 3/4 cup marinade (enough for 1-1/2 lbs pork, chicken or fish)

1/4     cup seasoned rice vinegar
2         Tbsp. vegetable oil
2         Tbsp. soy sauce
1         Tbsp. packed brown sugar
2         tsp. ground allspice
1         tsp. dried thyme
1         tsp. ground ginger
1/2     tsp. garlic powder
1/2     tsp. cayenne pepper (less if you prefer)
1/4     tsp. black pepper
1/4     tsp. salt
1/4     tsp. ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl or 1-cup measuring cup; stir well to dissolve brown sugar and smooth out lumps. Pour over fish, chicken or pork. Marinate in the refrigerator: Fish 4-8 hours depending on thickness. Pork and Chicken 24 to 48 hours depending on thickness. Turn at least once while marinating. To cook, drain marinade and discard. Grill, broil or pan fry.

Recipe by Rita Held    Photos by Suzanne Carreiro
Caribbean Jerk Marinade

Posted in Entrees, Rita's Kitchen | 2 Responses
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