Smothered Sweet Potatoes

I grew up in a very religious household and every year as apart of our faith the church we attended encouraged the members to do some form of fasting for the months of January and the first two weeks of February. It was meant to be an exercise in drawing the believer closer to God and encourage gratitude by practicing the self-denial and discipline that comes with fasting. In theory, anyway.

It was kind of like an early form of Lent. Some people would actually fast from food completely for the entire 40 days. Others would fast from things like television. But most people would just opt for a Daniel Fast.

It’s a reference to the prophet Daniel from the Bible who at one point consumed nothing but vegetables for 10 days.In a nutshell, it’s a diet where the participant doesn’t eat meat, alcohol, processed sugar and in some cases, most grains. It’s the fast that we most often participated in. Is it a blast? Not particularly. But there are ways of cooking so that you don’t have to be munching on crudites for 40 days.

My mom would cook a lot of potatoes in a lot of different ways for us. Our favorite way was to fry them up smothered style in a skillet. I shared one recipe a long time ago when I first started the blog. Today I decided to give out another one that’s made with one minor ingredient swap.

I’m actually partial to sweet spuds as opposed to Russets. I’m surprised it took me this long to getting around to sharing this recipe; it’s probably because so far as ‘recipes’ go, there’s not a whole lot of rigid structure or rules to smothered potatoes. I don’t specify how much of the spices to add because after so many years, it’s really become a kind of ‘instinctual’ preference. You season them until they taste right. If you’re really that nervous about it, go easy with the salt and it’ll be fine.

Smothered potatoes made the ritual of Daniel fasting infinitely easier for us to do growing up. Potatoes are still a comfort me for me, and I enjoy these so much that I still like to make them now as a favorite side dish. Try this dish out for yourself and I think you’ll understand why.

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Southern Sweet Potatoes

Recipe from Jess@CookingisMySport

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup liquid bacon grease
  • 4 lbs sweet potatoes, scrubbed, sliced into thin rounds (peeled or not is up to you)
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • Onion Powder to taste
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

 

Directions

Heat a cast iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium high heat.

Drizzle about 2 tbsp of the bacon grease into the pan, swirl about to evenly cover the surface.

Add enough potatoes and onions to pan to fill up. (You will have to do this in multiple batches).Sprinkle a generous coating of the onion powder, garlic powder over the potatoes and onions. Stir to evenly coat, then add a little bit more if necessary.

Add the salt and pepper to the potatoes and onions (be a little less generous with these, I typically do about 1 tsp of each per batch).

Cover the pan and allow to cook until potatoes are brown, tender and slightly crisp at the edges, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking at the bottom of the skillet.

Repeat steps 2-6 in batches with the remaining potatoes and onions and serve.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #271, co-hosted this week by  Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Angie @ Fiesta Friday.

Honey Spice Roasted Potatoes

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Wasting food.

I hate doing it. I can and will eat leftovers for days until the food is gone before I’ll toss it in the trash or garbage disposal out of ‘boredom’. And even when/if it does spoil and I HAVE to throw it out, I still cringe from irritation and guilt.

It could be because I love food. It could also be because I’m cheap/low in $ funds 98% of the time, and don’t want to see what my money paid for being wasted.

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The “inspiration” for this dish was really nothing more than the fact that we had a big bag of russet potatoes in the kitchen that we’d bought as apart of a discount, telling ourselves we’d make baked potatoes.

Naturally, that didn’t happen. They just sat there for a good long while and it finally got to the point where I was concerned that they were going to spoil and go to waste. You guys know how anal retentive I am when it comes to wasting food. I wasn’t throwing out a whole bag of still-usable potatoes. Nuh-uh. So, I decided to just go ahead and use them for something that would cook them all in one go–my taste buds had a craving for wedges, so that’s what I went with.

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My process for coming up with this went as follows: I washed and cut the potatoes, opened my spice cabinet and literally just started taking bottles out and shaking the contents together into a bowl if I thought it sounded like they’d taste good when combined. The ‘wild card’ in the bunch was the turmeric. Turmeric’s got a pungent, gingery, almost spicy orange aftertaste to it. It’s used a lot in curry dishes in Asian and Indian dishes and is actually a pretty healthy spice for your as well.

Its bright yellow and can also stain your counter tops and hands yellow for a few days if you’re not careful, but moving on.

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After cutting them up, I combined the turmeric with some oil and other spices into a paste, then tossed that together with the potatoes. After cranking up the oven I spread them out on a pair of sheet pans and roasted them until they were tender on the inside and the oil on the pans made them crispy on the outside edges.

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The cumin gives the potatoes a smoky earthy flavor while the turmeric and honey provides a spicy sweetness that marries the flavors together very nicely. If Russet potatoes aren’t really your thing, then that’s fine: I can see this working VERY well with Yukon Gold or sweet potatoes too. If wedges aren’t your thing then you can also just cut them into large or smaller chunks and adjust your roasting time to be longer or shorter as needed.

There’s a certain occasion coming up on Thursday where a lot of Americans get together and do a lot of eating. If you still need an easy and delicious side dish for that occasion that will still feed a lot of people, then I’d offer up this one for consideration.

Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #146 co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale and Petra @ Food Eat Love.

Honey Spice Roasted Potatoes

Recipe by Jess@CookingIsMySport

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Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. russet/baking potatoes, rinsed and scrubbed
  • About 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil, plus extra if necessary
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit

Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut each half into thirds/wedges, making sure they are more or less the same size and width to make sure they cook evenly.

Place the potatoes in a  plastic re-sealable gallon size bag.

In a small bowl, combine all of the remaining ingredients together and mix together with a fork or whisk. It should resemble a loose kind of paste but still be fluid enough to coat the potatoes. If it’s still to thick, drizzle in additional oil into the dressing by tablespoons until it’s liquid-y enough.

Pour the dressing over the potatoes, seal the bag and toss around for two to three turns until the dressing has evenly coated the potatoes.

Spray two half sheet pans well with non-stick cooking spray. Divide the potatoes between the pans and spread out in one even layer.

Roast for 35-40 minutes, mixing the potatoes and switching the pans around half-way through until they are fork-tender in the middle and crisp at the edges.

Improv Chicken and Biscuits

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I think I should start this post off by being completely honest about something:

This was supposed to be a different dish.

Not a HUGELY different one, but a different one all the same.

It just didn’t happen that way. Because…stupid stuff.

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I originally set out to use my new springform pan to bake a deep dish chicken pot pie that I’ve had my cooking eye on for a while. I had a spare pie crust in my freezer that’s been there since I made my Deep Dish Apple pie a few months back. I thought that since it’d been in the freezer all this time, and since I could still see the chunks of butter in the dough that it would be okay to just thaw in the fridge and use, thus sparing me the necessity of making another pie crust from scratch.

I thought.

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So what had happened was, I rolled out the thawed pie crust and lined it in my springform pan. I thought it felt and looked fine. There waaaaaas a tiny little problem though: I didn’t have parchment paper and/or pie weights or beans to place on top of the crust while it pre-baked in the oven. All I had was aluminum foil.

So I knocked on wood,placed a layer of foil on top of crust and put it in the oven and waited for something to happen.

And turns out, something DID happen…it just wasn’t a very good something.

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About ten minutes into the bake, (just to be on the safe side) I looked in the oven and lifted the foil.

Yeah so….the crust was collapsing in the pan in a gelatinous, greasy pile. It was a hot mess.

No WAY was this gonna work.

To be perfectly honest, I have NO idea what I did wrong, guys.

Maybe I really did need the parchment paper and pie weights. Like, maybe they were the “heart and soul” of the recipe. (Doubt it, but hey, could be.)

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It’s very possible and likely that the fats in the butter of the frozen pie crust over the long period of time had in the freezer, I don’t know….evaporated? Maybe there’s an expiration date on frozen pie crust. I didn’t think so, but maybe there is. If one of you out there happens to be a food scientist, maybe you can explain it to me.

But then, I’m also half convinced that the oven in our new apartment hasn’t been properly calibrated. Despite being an electric range like our last one was,  it takes longer to bake things in this oven than the allotted time for recipes–sometimes much longer. I’m planning on going out and buying an oven thermometer this weekend and testing the temps to confirm my suspicions. I’m hoping I’m wrong about that though.

Regardless, my plans for a deep dish chicken pot pie were screwed.

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The problem was, I couldn’t just walk away. I’d already started making the filling. I’d involved myself. I was committed to this now.

After promptly shoving the misshapen blob of deceased, failed pie crust into the trash can, I took a step back and thought: How was I going to salvage this dish to my satisfaction? Technically, I could’ve just made the filling and served it all on its own. I just didn’t want to do that.

I had started cooking with the expectation that we were going to have chicken pot pie for dinner, not just chicken pot pie filling. I wanted the carbohydrate-stick to your-ribs-chicken pot pie-experience. You can’t get that with filling all on its own: that’s just called a chicken stew.

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As a general habit, I try to always have a box or two of frozen butter in my freezer at all times. That way, I always have butter that’s cold enough to make two things whenever I want: pie crust, and biscuits. After the embarrassing defeat of my other failed pie crust, I wasn’t up for making another one of those just then. Biscuits were an easier and quicker alternative (especially considering I only had a few more hours left until it would too dark outside for me to take pictures.)

I still had quite a bit of fresh rosemary left from making the filling that was meant to go in my pie. So I  called an audible and decided that I was going to make rosemary scented buttermilk biscuits to serve with the chicken filling.

Fortunately, the biscuits came together VERY quickly and easily. I was in a frustrated, frenzied hurry so I actually handled and kneaded at the dough much more than I’m usually comfortable with when I make biscuits, and they STILL came out flaky and tender on the inside. With some chicken filling spooned on top of these babies, you really are in for what I like to think of as the quintessential winter comfort food that makes you want to take a nap as soon as it’s gone. So despite my snafu with the failed pie crust, I still feel pretty good about how I rocked this out. It turned out well.

Y’know, thanks to improvisation and stuff. Thus the name of the recipe.

(I’ll be taking this dish to Fiesta Friday #104, co-hosted this week by Mila @ milkandbun and Hilda @ Along The Grapevine.)

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Improv Chicken and Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Food 52 & Serious Eats

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Ingredients

For the Chicken

  • tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 16 oz. bag of frozen mixed vegetables
  • cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Onion Powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • cups chicken stock
  • bay leaf
  • sprigs rosemary
  • sprigs thyme
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tbsp-1 tbsp. honey mustard (depending on taste preference)
  • cups chopped, cooked chicken (about 1 large rotisserie chicken)

For the Biscuits

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs, 1 whole, 1 beaten
  • 2 1/4 cups (13 ounces) all-purpose or low-protein biscuit flour, such as White Lily or Adluh
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/5 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) frozen unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

Directions

For the Chicken:

In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat until the onions are translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the bag of frozen veggies, cook for further 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute more. Remove the vegetables from the pot.

Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour. Cook until the mixture is just starting to turn golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the vegetables back to the pot, along with the bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme. Season with salt, black pepper, onion powder and the honey mustard. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in the cream, and chicken and return to a simmer. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes more. Remove the mixture from the heat.

For the Biscuits:

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, cream, and whole egg.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and chopped rosemary. Using the large grates on a box grater, grate the butter directly into the flour mixture and toss gently with a spatula until fully coated. Working quickly and using your fingers, rub butter into flour until butter forms marble-sized pieces. Alternatively, add flour mixture and butter to food processor and pulse 2 to 3 times to form marble-sized pieces; transfer to a large bowl.

Add buttermilk mixture and gently mix with a fork until just combined; the dough should look somewhat dry and shaggy. Cover and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Form dough into a rectangle, lightly pressing and folding to bring it together; avoid squeezing or kneading the dough.

Fold dough into thirds like a letter. Using rolling pin, roll out dough and repeat folding once more. Roll out dough to about 1/2-inch thickness. Wrap in plastic and transfer to refrigerator for 10 minutes.

Return dough to work surface, and, using a 3-inch round cookie-cutter and pressing down without a twisting motion, cut out biscuits as closely together as possible. Gather together scraps, pat down, and cut out more biscuits; discard any remaining scraps. Brush the top of each biscuit with egg-wash.

Bake the biscuits in a 400°F oven until risen and golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly, then transfer to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with the smothered chicken.

Summer Pasta Salad

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What do hot, hot, HOT summer days make you think of? For me, it’s a number of things.

Growing up and eating MASSIVE amounts of watermelon with my grandpa.

Being on summer vacation from school and getting to wake up whenever the heck I want. (I’m an ‘adult’ with a regular ‘job’ now, so this doesn’t happen anymore.)

The song “Summer Nights” from Grease.

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The sound of the ice cream truck music playing in my grandmother’s neighborhood.

Spike Lee’s movie, “Do the Right Thing”.

The handful of summer camps/programs that my Mom signed me up for…neither of which I ever liked.

Cedar Point trips.

Beautiful, cool(er) sunsets.

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Now how about food? I know that for me, I have “Summer Memories”, and then apart from that, I have “Summer Food Memories.”

Watermelon. Eating watermelon wedge after watermelon wedge until I start burping- that’s how I know when to stop.

Ice cream. One of the only things that I like about extreme summer heat is that it gives me an excuse to eat ice cream. It’s not like I ever NEED an excuse. I definitely eat ice cream in the dead of winter as well, but…still.

Popsicles. Not the watery kind in the plastic wrappers; REAL popsicles with chunks of fruit that are so thick and creamy, you can chew them.

Barbecue. Nothing replaces  the flavor that a charcoal grill can inject into a piece of meat. Nothing.

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Finally, there’s pasta salad.

Pasta salad has gotta be one of the most quintessential summer foods there is. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like pasta salad.

I don’t know if I even WANT to know anyone who doesn’t like pasta salad.

I’ve tried lots of different kinds of pasta salads in the past that experimented with different flavors, including this VERY delicious Supreme Pizza Pasta Salad. However, this recipe sticks to the ‘basics’ of pasta salad, resulting in a dish that is pretty much guaranteed to please everybody.

I’ve included all of the ingredients that I personally prefer in my pasta salad, but should you try this out, feel free to add or swap out stuff that you or your family prefers, like cheese, olives, or meat.

I think it’ll make for a pretty cool summer memory 😉

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Summer Pasta Salad


Recipe Adapted from Southern Living

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Ingredients

  • 8 oz. Penne pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1 green , yellow or orange bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped and undrained
  • 1 cup yellow canned corn, drained
  • 3 mini salad cucumbers, thinly sliced

Salad Dressing

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced

 

Directions

Combine all of the salad dressing ingredients together in a glass measuring cup with a whisk.. Taste and adjust for seasoning if need be.

In a large bowl, toss all of the salad ingredients together, then drizzle in your desired amount of the dressing.

Refrigerate pasta salad for at least an hour to allow flavors to meld, but preferably overnight. Serve chilled.

Roasted Maple Curry Brussel Sprouts

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My twin sister is getting married soon. Really soon. Like, September soon.

She’s been engaged for over a year now, but I still don’t think it’s really sunk in for me yet. Jas has lived with me every single day of our lives since we were conceived. Literally That’s 25 years, plus change since our birthday also happens to be in September.

There are 9,131 days in twenty five years. Of those 9,131 days, I don’t think more than 10 (and I mean, 10 maximum) have went by that Jas and I have not seen each other.

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But come September, Jas will be moving out and living elsewhere from me. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s not like she’s moving to another state.  Her house is about twenty minutes away from where we live now. She’s already informed me that she plans to visit here often and that I’m more than welcome to come over to her place, and I believe her.

Still. The closer we get to the actual Big Day, I have to confess the idea of her moving out does feel a little…weird.

It’s definitely gonna be different not having her here all the time. It’ll definitely be an adjustment. But I’m sure it won’t take too long for me to get the hang of it.

I hope.

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On the brighter/less sappy side, I’m REALLY happy for my sister and her fiance. They’ve known each other for over ten years, and I could tell even way back when we were in high school when they were in that “just friends” stage that they were really into each other. They’ve always had a really awesome dynamic that at times, I have even felt myself being a little envious of. I think that the best couples are the couples that first of all, have a lot of fun together, and second, complement each other very well. That’s definitely the case with Jas and her guy.

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They’ve been friends just as long as they’ve been together romantically. They have lots of inside jokes. They like’doing things’ together, but they’re also just as cool with being together and ‘doing nothing’. They’re not similar people personality-wise, but the different elements of their personality work together really well.

They just have a great relationship, and as a sister, I’m really proud of the choice that Jas has made for her life partner.

The main ingredients for this dish kinda remind me of the relationship that Jas has with her fiance, as well as the relationship that I’ve seen with other happy couples.

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Maple syrup and curry powder. I know it’s maybe not exactly an union that may seem to be successful at first. On their own, the ingredients are already pretty strong and assertive: maple syrup with it’s prominent sweetness, and curry powder with it’s pungent spiciness. Kinda polar opposites, right?

Still, I gotta insist that you guys trust me on this: once you combine them together, they really really REALLY work well. The assertiveness of both spices, combined with the slight bitterness from the brussel sprouts creates this harmonious marriage of flavors (pun intended) that I was really very impressed with. It made for a delicious side dish that I’m definitely sticking in my bag of tricks to use repeatedly in the future.

I’ll be taking myself and my sprouts over to the Fiesta Friday #76 party by the way. See you guys there 🙂

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Roasted Maple Curry Brussel Sprouts

Recipe Courtesy of Jess@Cooking is My Sport

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Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. fresh Brussel sprouts, washed, trimmed and halved
  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp. yellow curry powder

Directions

400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and coat evenly with cooking spray.

Toss Brussel sprouts with olive oil in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange in a single layer on sheet pan and roast in oven, 35-40 minutes, stirring halfway through until sprouts are tender in the center and crisp on the outside.

Meanwhile, combine maple syrup and curry powder in a glass measuring cup. When sprouts are done roasting, drizzle curry maple syrup over them*. Serve.

*You may not want to use all of the syrup, depending on your personal preference of sweetness and spice. 

Hot Wok Chicken Stir-Fry

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You guys know when you go to a Chinese take-out joint, they’ll serve some dishes with creative names? I’ve always really liked that.

I’m looking at a menu from one of the nearby places here where we’ve gone for years at a list of items that they given those ‘special names’. The funny thing about it is that they don’t really describe what the food is; it’s as if they just expect you to know what it is beforehand. I don’t, but I can always speculate:

1) “Eight Parts Delicious”- I’ve never tried this one before. I’ve always been too scared. Why ‘eight parts’? Why not five, or six, or four? Does eight parts mean eight different spices? Eight different vegetables? Eight different meats? (Wait, that’s really probably not it, I can’t even think of eight meats right now).

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2) “Happy Family”- I’m assuming this is just a big assortment of meats and veggies stir-fried together to make one big “happy family” of a dish. It better be for what they’re charging for it. Sheesh.

3) “Phoenix and Dragon”- well, let me see. I couldn’t swear to what the protein in this would be, but I’m going to make a wild guess that whatever it is, it’s pretty spicy. The ‘phoenix’ part can obviously pass for chicken, but what’s the term used for reptiles? Do people even eat reptiles?

4) “Four Seasons”- This one I’m almost positive had four proteins in it. I mean it’s almost too easy: chicken, beef, pork, fish. The REAL question is which protein stands for which season. I’ll think about it and get back to you guys on that one.

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I got one of my mad, notorious cravings for some Asian stir-fry and rather than just pick up the phone and order in, I remembered that I’m a freakin food blogger and went into the kitchen to fire up my wok instead. That’s pretty impressive for me guys, so you should be giving me a pat on the back.

There really was no rhyme or reason for the ingredients I picked out when planning this recipe. I just used what I knew would be easy, and pretty accessible for most people to get. My protein of choice was chicken (which is par for the course for me), but if you’re more partial to using beef or pork, then feel free to swap it out.

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I was really very happy with how this dish turned out. There’s the perfect ratio of meat to the veggies, the sauce (although literally thrown together at the last minute) turned out really good, and what’s more the dish can feed a pretty good sized crowd. The only problem I could find with it was when I finished cooking and taking pictures and needed to come up with a good name for it to post on the blog.

See, I really, really REALLY wanted to give it one of those ‘creative’ names I’ve seen in Chinese take-out menus. Don’t ask why, I just wanted to.

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My ‘other’ hobby is writing, so at first I tried to get REALLY out there with this. My first idea was “Buddha’s Delight”, but I seemed to remember hearing of that somewhere else, so I binned it.  Then I thought maybe “Year of the Snake” would be kinda cool since according to the Chinese Calendar, that’s my animal/sign. But I just couldn’t marry the idea of a snake with a dish where the protein is chicken so that was out too. After looking at the pictures from the photo shoot the name “Rainbow Stir-Fry” occurred to me to illustrate all the pretty veggie colors. Then I said it out loud and realized that it sounded stupid.

As you guys can see, the winner didn’t turn out to be all that impressive or creative. My wok stayed pretty hot while I was cooking the dish, and the stir-fry part would also make it pretty obvious what it was to avoid any confusion.

So there you have it: Hot Wok Chicken Stir-Fry. I can promise you that it MORE than makes up for in taste what it lacks in name originality.

I’ll be bringing this over to the Fiesta Friday #56  party hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by  Tina @Mademoiselle Gourmandeand Juju @cookingwithauntjuju.

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Hot Wok Chicken Stir-Fry

Recipe by Jess@CookingIsMySport

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Ingredients

  • 4-5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced thinly into strips
  • 3 tri-color bell peppers (red, yellow and orange), thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups matchstick carrots
  • 8 oz. white mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced
  • 12 oz. broccoli florets
  • 1-2 tbsp. of your favorite stir-fry seasoning
  • Asian stir fry oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. agave nectar or honey
  • 2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • Dried Chow Mein Noodles, optional
  • Egg or vermicelli rice noodles, optional

Directions

1. Heat 1-2 tsp. of Asian stir-fry oil in the bottom of a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add the peppers and carrots and sautee until softened and slightly limp, 7-10 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

2. Add another 1-2 tsp. of stir-fry oil to pan and sautee mushrooms about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and place with peppers and carrots.

3. Season chicken with stir-fry seasoning in a large bowl, stirring to make sure meat is evenly covered. Add additional stir-fry oil to pan and allow to heat. Add chicken to the pan (you may have to do this in multiple batches, don’t crowd it) and sautee until completely cooked through.

4. Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, agave nectar/honey, hoisin sauce and sesame oil in a measuring cup.

5. When all of the chicken is finished cooking, add the peppers, carrots and mushroom mixture back to the pan. Turn heat up to high. Drizzle the sauce into the mixture and stir to combine. (Note: you may not need to use it all depending on how you like your stir-fry seasoned, so taste and adjust accordingly) Continue to cook until all of the liquid in the pan has been absorbed. During the last minute or so of stir-frying add the broccoli to the pan.

6. When stir-fry is completed, sprinkle chow mein noodles on top and serve atop egg noodles or vermicelli rice noodles if desired. 

Yangzhou Fried Rice

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So, I have this soft spot.

It’s pretty frequent that whenever I’m in a shopping center or a private small business or restaurant and I see that the workers/owners aren’t getting much business, I feel really bad and sympathetic towards them. Yes, even if they’re those people that set up the stands in the mall and try to accost you while you’re walking just to test/buy their product. I know that the retail/food industry business is cutthroat and very competitive. I know that it’s not my fault if they have slow business. I know that I’m not obligated to buy anything- and to be honest, I usually don’t. But it doesn’t keep me from empathizing with them either. They have to make a living like everyone else, and their ability to do so or not depends on whether or not they can convince complete strangers to open their wallets. It’s a real sticky, precarious situation when you think about it.

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Why am I even talking about this? Well, when I was putting together this dish and this post, it made me think of this Asian restaurant that used to be in the food court of the local mall when I was still in grade school, years ago. I won’t say the name of the place, but it was independently owned by this couple that looked like they were in their mid-to upper 50’s. Every time I went to the mall, it just never seemed like anyone was buying anything from this place. The man and his wife would come in and out of the kitchen in the back, filling and emptying the dishes they had available, all the while looking at the passing shoppers as if wishing just a few of them to stop and buy something- anything- from their restaurant. If I can be completely honest, I’ll just go ahead and admit that there was a good reason that this place didn’t get much business. All of the ‘standard fare’ that you’d see in an American Chinese restaurant was on their menu, but the sad reality was that it wasn’t really well seasoned. Like, at all. Their recipes needed serious work.

I can still remember how sorry I felt for them, even as a little girl. And I wished I could’ve been able to tell that I really felt like they would’ve gotten more business if they changed up how they made their fried rice.

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It’s just my personal opinion, but I do think that a good Chinese restaurant starts with how they make their fried rice. In my experience, if they make excellent fried rice, then chances are the rest of the menu is pretty spot on too. Because let me just say up front one thing that I’ve learned: all fried rice is NOT created equal. I’ve had some really good fried rice over the years, and then I’ve had some that was frankly, pretty terrible. It wasn’t until I decided to make some for myself that I realized how easy it is for fried rice to go wrong. And to be perfectly honest, there are a couple of Chinese restaurants I’ve been to that make fried rice that taste even better than this recipe. But nobody’s perfect, and I do have to say that I’m pleased with how it came out for my first time….er, maybe my second. Technically.

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See, technically my first attempt didn’t turn out so well. I maaaaaaay have ruined the first batch of Jasmine rice that I made. The rice is supposed to be one day old, so I made the Jasmine rice the night before I wanted to make the fried rice. It was really late at night and I was in a hurry to get to bed, so long story short, I don’t think I let it cook long enough. There was too much moisture still in the rice by the next day so the grains stuck together. Have you ever tried to ‘stir-fry’ gummy rice? It doesn’t work very well. And turns out, it tastes pretty bad too.

As rotten luck would have it, that was all the fresh Jasmine rice I had. All that was left in my pantry was Minute rice that you steam in water in the microwave. So I was forced to call in the cavalry on this one, folks. It’s still rice, it just didn’t need that long to cook. You won’t hold it against me, will you? I mean, it turned out into a pretty yummy dish. And now, you guys know that this dish can me made with Minute Rice and still turn out pretty awesome. It’s all apart of Cooking is My Sport Quality Control, I swear.

I’ll be bringing this dish to this week’s Fiesta Friday #39, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by Suzanne @apuginthekitchen and Sue @Birgerbird, See you there!

 

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Yangzhou Fried Rice

Recipe Courtesy of Ching-He Hunag

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger
  • 1 medium carrot, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 ounces cooked Chinese pork (char siu) or ham, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 3 cups cooked jasmine rice, a day old
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 to 2 green onions, sliced on a diagonal, for garnish

Directions

1. For the fried rice: Heat a wok over high heat and add 1 tablespoon peanut oil. Add the eggs and scramble, then set aside on a plate.

2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil to the wok. Add the ginger and stir-fry for less than 1 minute. Then add the carrots and stir-fry for 1 minute more.

3. Add the pork, and mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the peas and cooked rice and toss together. Add the cooked egg back into the wok.

4. Season the mixture with the light soy sauce, salt and pepper. At the very end add the sesame oil, if using. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with green onions and serve immediately.