Quick and Easy Chicken Stir Fry

A super easy and quick way to get in a healthy meal is to do a stir fry. This is another non-recipe recipe. Well, it’s sort of a non-recipe; the sauce has measurements, but everything else is completely interchangeable. 

And technically, the sauce can just be a bunch of things thrown together too. That’s how I ended up with this one. Or even store bought.

A little background: Stir frying is a Chinese cooking technique where the ingredients are cooked in a small amount of very hot oil while being stirred in a wok. If you don’t have a wok, that’s fine; you can accomplish the same end result in a skillet. A wok is nice to use because it’s shape lends itself well to high-heat cooking. The smaller area at the bottom produces a hot area to allow the food to sear and then the food can be pushed up the sides to continue cooking at slower rate while more food is added to the hot bottom. The high-heat cooking helps the ingredients to retain their color, texture, and nutritional value. This style of cooking dates back to the Ming dynasty. At the time, wood and charcoal used to fire stoves was expensive, so the stir fry method allowed people to cook quickly without wasting fuel. By the early 1900s, most Chinese kitchens were equipped with wok ranges.

Stir frying was brought to the US by Chinese immigrants around 1820. In 1945, a cookbook called How to Cook and Eat in Chinese was written by Buwei Yang Chao and introduced the term “stir fry” which is a rough translation of the Chinese term for the technique “ch’ao”. By the 1970s, stir frys were widely popular since they were healthy and quick, allowing families with busy schedules to still have a family dinner.

And that leaves us where we are today. I think stir frying is a method that most people use, especially when trying to get a quick meal on the table. And who isn’t trying for that?

You can use any sort of meat you want, or make it vegetarian. You can use any sort of veggie you want. You can use vegetable oil, peanut oil, canola oil. You can add any herbs and spices that your heart desires. You can add a sauce or don’t add a sauce. The possibilities are quite endless.

For this stir fry, I used 1 pound of chicken cutlets because they are thin and cook quickly. I used the veggies I had on hand, which were leeks, purple onions, bell peppers (red, orange, and yellow), carrots, collard greens, and broccoli. I would have added zucchini too, but I completely forgot I had one. I also added a lot of garlic. Just try to make sure everything is roughly the same size.


I started with some oil in the pan and let it get hot. I added my carrots first because those take longer to get soft. After a few minutes, I add the rest of the veggies. When they were almost soft, I added the garlic and some salt. Once all the veggies were pretty much cooked, I pushed them up the side of the wok and added a little more oil and the chicken, which I had cut into small pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper. 


Cook until done and then mix the veggies back in. If you are using a skillet instead of a wok and don’t have the space to move the veggies to the side, you can remove them to a plate and add them back in when the chicken is done.

While the chicken is cooking, mix up your sauce. There are probably hundreds of stir fry sauces available, but this is what I just randomly put together and it was yummy:

¼ cup coconut aminos (you can use reduced sodium soy sauce if you’d rather, but the aminos add another layer of healthy ingredients)

A small splash of fish sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

A splash of lime juice

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon or so of cornstarch

Whisk together and when ready, add to the stir fry. Let it come to a boil and it will start to thicken up.

 

Serve over rice, preferably brown rice.

Start to finish, this is a very fast meal. The cooking part is especially quick, so I highly recommend having all the ingredients cut up before you begin.

 

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Rabanada (Brazilian French Toast)

Good morning!!  Welcome to my first post of this year’s Christmas series. If you remember, last year I shared recipes that went with a Christmas movies theme. (If you don’t remember, you can check it out riiiiggggght here. See the individual recipe posts in the “Ping Back” section at the end.)

This year, I decided to go back to the roots of my blog and explore Christmas Around the World. I did a little research and found some fun Christmas recipes that are considered traditional in other parts of the world. I gotta say, the more I researched for this and decided what to make, the more excited I got! I hope you enjoy this theme as much as I do.

For the first recipe, I chose Rabanada, which is a Brazilian-style French Toast. At first I was thinking it would just be like any other french toast, but I can assure you it is not. This is seriously next level french toast! It is really easy to make and it tastes amazing. This is a breakfast table game changer.

French toast goes back really far in history, to the 4th and 5th centuries even. It is sometimes referred to as “Poor Man’s Toast” because it is used as a way to not waste stale bread. Many different countries have their own version. Rabanadas are popular in Brazil for special holidays, like Christmas and New Years, although they are typically eaten as a dessert rather than breakfast. These are so good though, I can’t see why they can’t be made all year round anytime of the day! They are fried, so they are perfectly crisp on the outside and nice and soft on the inside from soaking in the custard overnight. It’s almost like a churro!

When searching for recipes, I learned that there is a basic way to make these, and everyone has their own way. I took that as license to run with it! I hope you like it as much as my family did!

Rabanadas (Brazilian French Toast)

1 French Baguette (use the skinnier baguette, not the big one)
2 eggs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1-1/2 cans regular milk (use the empty sweetened condensed milk can)
splash of vanilla
pinch of salt
vegetable oil, for frying
1 cup sugar
a couple tablespoons cinnamon

Slice the bread on a bias (at an angle) into about 1 inch-thick pieces. If the bread is fresh, leave it out to get stale. If it’s already stale, then congratulations. You are one step ahead!


In a 9×13 baking dish, whisk together the eggs, sweetened condensed milk, regular milk, vaniila, and salt. Add the bread and turn over to coat in the custard mixture. Put in the fridge to sit about 4 hours or overnight. It’s easiest to just do it the night before. Who wants to get up that early?


When ready to make the rabanadas, heat enough oil in your skillet to come about halfway up the slice of bread. Let it come to about 325 degrees.

Take the bread out of the custard and let the excess mixture drip off. Add to the hot oil. You’ll probably need to do this in batches to not crowd the pan. I think I was able to do about 5 or 6 in each batch.


Fry on each side for about 4 or 5 minutes, until golden brown. This will give you a nice crunchy outside and soft inside.

While the bread is frying, mix together your cinnamon and sugar in a shallow bowl or pie plate. I eyeballed this and it really all depends on how much cinnamon you like. If you like it really cinnamony, add a lot. If you just want a hint of cinnamon, add a little.

When they are done, remove them to a paper towel-lined plate. Then, while they are still hot, dredge them in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. After this step, they will look an awful lot like a churro. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! :0)


Now, serve them up and watch them disappear fast!

Easiest Meatloaf Ever

When I think of meatloaf, images of a Norman Rockwell-esque, 1950s all-American family come to mind. Little Bobby and Susie run off to play with the neighborhood kids, while dad’s at work and mom’s busy in the kitchen, after playing Bridge with the girls while the kids were at school, of course. It’s comfort food. It may seem dated, but it really is the definition of a tried and true classic dish. 

Clearly, I thought meatloaf was as American as Apple Pie. However, I was slightly wrong. Meatloaf actually has European origins dating back to the 5th century. It is actually a traditional German, Scandinavian, and Belgian dish, and has many global iterations. For example: 

* In Austria, the meatloaf is wrapped in ham before being baked. Denmark also adds ham or bacon to the top of their meatloaf.

* Many countries add hardboiled eggs, such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Germany, Greece, and many others.

* Chilean meatloaf is considered a staple of Chile cuisine in areas having been influenced by German settlers in the 1800s. In addition to beef, they include carrots, sausages, and hardboiled eggs.

* In Cuba, they add ground ham to the beef and cook it on the stove-top instead of baking it in the oven

* In the Czech Republic, they also add hardboiled eggs, but they also sometimes add gherkins, or small pickles.

* In Puerto Rico, they include potatoes and red beans in the meat mixture. 

American meatloaf has it’s origins in something called scrapple, which is very popular in Pennsylvania. Scrapple has been around since Colonial times, but contemporary meatloaf as is common today didn’t appear in cookbooks until the 1800s. Meatloaf gained it’s popularity mainly during the Great Depression because it was a good way to stretch a food budget. 

Fun Fact: Meatloaf was voted the seventh-favorite dish in the US by Good Housekeeping. 

There are so many ways to make a meatloaf. You can change the seasoning, you can change the type of meat you use, you can change your add-ins. This recipe here is my go-to. It is super simple and perfect for a weeknight. It bakes in the oven for about an hour, but the prep time is next to nothing, so you just throw it together, put it in the oven, and move on to other things while it bakes. And my kids like it, so that make it a winner in my book! 

2 pounds of ground beef (you can do a mixture of meats if you want)

3/4 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt 

1 egg

Splash of milk (helps keep it moist!)

In a bowl, combine all your ingredients. 

  

You can form the loaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or you can use a loaf pan.

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Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup ketchup with 1/4 cup brown sugar. Pour over the top of the meatloaf and bake another 10-15 minutes.

  

DONE! Serve with potatoes or veggies. This also makes a really yummy meatloaf sandwich the next day.
 

Some fun alterations I’ve made are adding crumbled (cooked) bacon, shredded cheese (different kinds), using BBQ sauce instead of the ketchup mixture, wrapping it in bacon, using turkey instead of beef… I recently saw that you can smoke a meatloaf! I may have to look into that and put my hubby’s smoker to the test! 

What’s your favorite way to eat meatloaf?

Dish #15: Scallion Pancakes (China)

I love good Chinese food. (Secret confession: I like Panda Express too, so I guess I also love bad Chinese food…). On TV, people seem to always get Chinese take out that looks really good. Maybe it’s a New York thing because I haven’t found good Chinese take out here in L.A. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, I’m just saying I haven’t found it.
At home, I make stir frys frequently. Chow Mein and fried rice too. That’s the extent of my Chinese cooking. Those are easy. Most of the Chinese food I like, I can make relatively easily, but I discovered the dishes aren’t as authentic as I’d thought. They are very Americanized. Which is fine, but for the purposes of my little global project, I was going for something more authentic.
I’m going to be honest with you here: I did this entire meal all wrong. I didn’t read the instructions close enough before beginning and I didn’t allow myself enough time. I rushed through the whole recipe for both items I made and I think it made all the difference, but not in a good way.  Part of this blog, though, is sharing my kitchen adventures, good and bad (it wasn’t as bad as my Shish barak experiment, but still, not great).
First, I made Scallion pancakes (using this recipe riiiight here)
These were good. And very easy to make. I think letting the dough rest would have been a good idea, but I didn’t, because, you know, patience.
Scallion pancakes are a Chinese unleavened flatbread folded with sesame oil and minced scallions. They are different than a Western pancake because they are made with dough instead of batter. These are commonly found as a street food or even pre-made in the grocery stores.
I did like these and I would like to try to make them again, but more patiently this time. They are supposed to be really flaky, and I think patience is the key to that. Mine weren’t so flaky.  You know what would also be good? Actually having one from a Chinese restaurant. That way I know exactly what they are supposed to taste like. But, see my lament above: Where is the good Chinese food in L.A.? Anybody?
I also made Char Sui. Well, that was the intent anyway.  There is the restaurant down the street from me called Rutt’s. It’s actually Hawaiian, but there are lots of Asian influences in Hawaiian cuisine.  We always get the Hawaiian breakfast bowl, part of which includes Char Sui, which is basically Chinese roasted pork belly.
I found this recipe here and offer my biggest apologies to the author of this page because I royally messed this up.
1. The patience thing again.  I didn’t let the meat marinade nearly long enough (or at all).
2. I couldn’t find pork belly at my regular grocery store and I didn’t really have the opportunity to go search it out. I used pork tenderloin which really isn’t the same at all. It isn’t even from the same part of the pig!
3. I couldn’t find Chinese 5-spice powder. I figured I could go to Whole Foods or Bristol Farms, but since this is just a fun little project just for me, I didn’t really want to spend the extra money to do so.  I tried to make my own, but I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on Star Anise (which was really expensive). I had the other ingredients, so I just went with that.
I roasted the tenderloin with the sauce.  It was fine. It didn’t taste like much and I was really disappointed in myself. The tenderloin was cooked perfectly, though, which was a first for me. I don’t roast too many pork tenderloins because I tend to overcook them, but the texture of this one was perfect.
I think I will definitely try this again with actual pork belly. And more time.  If I can recreate those Rutt’s breakfast bowls at home, I will have a happy, happy household!

Dish #14 Chile Relleno (Mexico)

Oh, it’s been awhile since I’ve done one of my global dishes. Guess I should have known I’d get side-tracked! Anyway…

If you’ve ever been to a Mexican restaurant (and living in Southern California, I’ve definitely been to my fair share!), you’ve probably seen chile relleno on the menu. Chile relleno (“stuffed chile”) is a traditional Mexican dish that originates from the city of Puebla in Eastern-Central Mexico.

Fun fact: In the store, you will find Poblano peppers. This is what you want for this recipe. Sometimes they are mislabeled as “Pasillo” peppers. This is not an accurate name (since they are named for the city of Puebla), but the pepper is the same. Also, these are NOT hot or spicy peppers. They have a really mild flavor.

Initially, they were stuffed with meat and cheese, though current versions are mostly cheese. Although, you can find them stuffed with pork, raisins, and nuts as well. The ones I made, were all cheese, but I could see where adding, say carnitas, would be really delicious. Which, incidentally, is how they can be found in Guatemala.

This seemed to be one of those authentic dishes, where I’m sure every Mexican grandma makes her own version, and since I’d never had chile relleno before, I was left guessing on how to make mine. There were hundreds of recipes to go through! I finally came up with this one.  It was good. I think the batter needed more salt/flavor. That part was pretty bland. But mixed with the tomato sauce and the cheese, then it was so delicious! I will definitely make this again.

If anyone has a tried and true recipe, I’d love to try it! Or if you happen to know Marcela Valladolid and she wants to personally teach me her way, I’d be ok with that too!

First, start with a handful of cherry tomatoes and 1/2 a diced onion. Drizzle with olive oil (I highly recommend this garlic olive oil from Trader Joe’s if you can get it. I use it all the time). Sprinkle with salt and put in the oven at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

After the tomatoes are roasted, add them to a blender or food processor. Add a bit more oil and 1/2 tablespoon oregano, and some garlic. Blend well.

For the batter:
With a whisk, mix together 1-1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup corn meal, 1/2 tablespoon baking powder, 4 eggs, and 1 cup milk. Add a hefty pinch of salt and pepper. It should be pretty thick, like pancake batter. Set aside.

Char the outsides of the peppers. Just put them straight over the flame. They will make a crackling sound, but that’s ok. You want the skins to blister and blacken.

After you blacken the skins, put the hot peppers in a plastic zip lock bag for a few minutes. This will create steam which will make it much easier to peel the peppers.

After about 5 minutes in the steamy bag, you can take the peppers out and just rub the skin off with a paper towel.  It’s OK if you leave some of the skin on; the char will add to the flavor.

Next, take a small knife and cut through the top layer only, down the middle.

Remove the seeds and you will have just the empty pepper vessels, waiting to be filled up!

I think you can put a wide variety of cheese in here. I slathered a nice layer of cream cheese (about a spoonful on each pepper and then spread out) and a mexican cheese mix (preshredded. You can find this at the grocery store).  Fill ’em up!

Now, surgery time. Take some toothpick and seal them back up. DON’T FORGET THESE ARE IN THERE WHEN YOU GO TO EAT IT!!! SERIOUSLY! DANGER AHEAD!! WARN YOUR GUESTS!

Dip the stuffed peppers in the batter and then add to hot vegetable oil to fry up. About 5 minutes on each side. I don’t know if they should be this messy or not, but I’ll chalk it up to being my first time!

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 Serve with the sauce and enjoy! Like I said, I didn’t know what to expect but it was yummy! Maybe I’ll order one at a restaurant so I know what it should taste like and make mine a bit better!

What do you think?