Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cooking with my Cousin

My cousin Hannah and her family came to California a couple of weeks ago.  Hannah is a great cook and makes dinner for her family every Tuesday and you can read about her adventures here.  When I found out that she brought her awesome recipe binder with her, I knew we had to cook together!  We put together a menu, invited her parents, my parents and our grandma to eat, and had a fun afternoon in my kitchen.  Along with preparing the food, like good bloggers we made sure to take photos of it all.  Well, I think Hannah did better than me - I'm missing a picture of the summer drink we made to serve with the appetizers.


Watermelon Mint Cooler
Cucumber Avocado Spring Rolls with dipping sauce
Kung Pao Chicken
Mocha blondies & peanut butter ice cream

I've never made summer rolls before and they were really easy.  It takes a little bit of time to fill and roll them all but it went quickly with two people.  I thought they needed a little kick and Hannah suggested soaking the carrots in the dipping sauce so that the actual roll has some of the sauce flavor which I'm going to try next time.  I might also make a spicier sauce to go with them.  Sunset magazine last month had some great alternate filling ideas.

The Kung Pao chicken was good but again, I'd probably spice it up if I was just cooking for my husband and I.  We added sriracha at the table which helped.  I also made 2.5 times the recipe and didn't have a pan / pot big enough.  Next time, I'll do batches instead of crowding the pan so that the chicken browns up a little better (and faster).  By using gluten-free soy sauce, the meal (with the exception of dessert) was gluten-free!

Overall, the meal and the company were terrific and it was a memorable evening.  Thanks for cooking with me, Hannah!

Cucumber Avocado Summer Rolls (10 appetizer servings)
from Williams Sonoma website

Mix together the following ingredients for the dipping sauce:
Juice from 1/2 lime
2 T canola oil
1 T rice vinegar
1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. brown sugar

Prepare your vegetables:
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and cut into a 1/2 inch dice
2 carrots, shredded
1/2 english cucumber, cut into thin strips
leaves from one bunch mint
leaves from one bunch basil
10 green lettuce leaves

20 rice paper rounds, 6 or 8 inch diameter

Place a wide, shallow bowl of warm water on a work surface.  Lay a clean kitchen towel next to the bowl.  Dip 1 rice paper round into the water for a few seconds to soften, then lay it flat on the towel.  Dip a second round into the water and lay it directly on top of the first one.  Using another towel, pat the top rice paper dry.  At first, it seemed like the rice papers weren't soft enough but they softened up and got more pliable as they set there and we added the fillings.

Center a lettuce leaf on top of the stacked rice papers.  Starting about one-third in from the edge closest to you, arrange a few basil and mint leaves in a line across the lettuce.  Top with a small row of the carrot, then on top of that, a small row of cucumber, and finally top with a small roll of avocado.  Be careful not to overstuff the roll.

Lift the bottom edge of the rice paper up and over the filling and then roll once to form a tight cylinder. Fold in the sides of the rice paper and content to roll the remaining rice paper and filling ingredients into a tight cylinder.  Set aside with the seam side down.  Repeat with the remaining rice papers and filling ingredients to make 10 rolls.

Cut each roll in half crosswise and arrange, cut die up, on a platter; serve with dipping sauce.  Makes 20 rolls.

Kung Pao Chicken  (4 servings)
from Cooking Light 12/10
2 T dark sesame oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 water
3 T lower-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. bottled minced ginger
1 tsp. crushed red pepper (more or less depending on your taste)
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper (about 1 large)
1 cup snow peas, trimmed
2 T chopped, unsalted, dry roasted peanuts

  1. 1. Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until softened. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add chicken; sauté 3 minutes or until chicken begins to brown.
  2. 2. Combine 3/4 cup water and the next 5 ingredients (through crushed red pepper), stirring with a whisk until sugar dissolves. Add water mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Add bell pepper and snow peas to pan; cook for 2 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender and sauce thickens. Sprinkle with nuts.


  1. Is the taste as good as the fotos?

  2. This night was so much fun! and I didn't get a good pic of the Watermelon Mint Cooler either. but hey, i just bought tickets to come out in October..sooo maybe another cooking with cousin night?