Sesame Chicken

Hello, everyone! I hope your Thanksgiving was as wonderful as ours was. We spent the weekend visiting family & friends, as well as attending our high school reunion. I can assure you that it was a jam-packed weekend, and while it was a lot of fun, we’re *still* catching up on sleep a week later! As I write I’m sitting in on honors band rehearsal and hearing some of the best high school musicians in northern Michigan rehearsing. The sounds coming from that stage right now are absolutely phenomenal.  It’s also holiday concert week; both of my schools will be performing this coming week. So needless today, I’ve been pretty busy, and continue to be busy. But I’m glad you’re here 🙂

A few weeks ago I made this on a weeknight, when I had an intense taste for some Chinese takeout. It really satisfied the flavors I was looking for, and was also a snap to make.

Sesame Chicken

adapted from Food, Feminism and Life

For the Chicken:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • salt & pepper, to taste

For the Sauce:

  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp gingner
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds plus more for sprinkling
  • green onions, for topping
  1. In a bowl, mix together the eggs, cornstarch, salt & pepper. Add the chicken & toss to coat.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat & add the oil. When the oil is nice and hot, add the chicken. Let cook about 2-3 minutes before turning the pieces over so that each side browns.
  3. While the chicken cooks, mix all of the sauce ingredients together in a bowl until the cornstarch and brown sugar are completely mixed in.
  4. When the chicken has finished cooking, lower the heat  & add the sauce. Immediately start mixing it together, as the sauce will instantly start to thicken. Cook for about a minute more, then remove from heat.
  5. Serve over rice. Sprinkle the dish with some more sesame seeds and the green onions.

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As you can see, I decided to add some peas and carrots to my rice. I also added some sriracha…so good!

I really liked the cornstarch coating technique that was used for recipe – it made coating the chicken so much easier. I plan on doing it again the next time I need a nice breading for stir fry. It was easy to combine, coat, and clean up! This dish has a great umami flavor and it really hit the spot for that ‘chinese takeout’ flavor that I wanted to eat that night.

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Szechuan Pork Stir-Fry

For those nights when I have few vegetables in the refrigerator, and not a lot of time to cook something complicated, a stir-fry is usually the best thing to cook. I love how easy they are to throw together, and how something so incredibly simple can taste delicious and be good for you, too!

This recipe was bookmarked (okay, Post-It noted) in my awesome Cooking Light cookbook for over a year, and I just never got around to making it. I’m glad that I finally did, as we both really enjoyed it. The best part is that it was easy, and was ready very, very quickly – a must when you leave work late, leave the gym late, and get home late!

Szechuan Pork – adapted from Cooking Light

  • 6 oz udon noodles, precooked (we use the ‘Ka-Me’ brand & found it at Meijer)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 lb pork, trimmed & cut into 2-inch strips (we used boneless pork chops)
  • 1 tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tsp freshly ground ginger
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter (can be omitted if needed)
  • 4 green onions, sliced diagonally
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan & swirl to coat.
  2. Add pork and chili garlic sauce, followed by the ginger. Stir fry for two minutes, then add the bell pepper.
  3. After another 2 minutes, add the both, soy sauce, and peanut butter. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the sauce starts to thicken.
  4. Stir in the onions. Add the udon noodles and toss well to combine.
  5. Serve nice and hot!
A quick stir-fry for a busy night!

A quick stir-fry for a busy night!

I’d say that from start to finish, this dinner took 30 minutes, tops! It was quick, easy, and tasted absolutely fantastic. At first I was a tad skeptical about adding peanut butter – of all things?! – to this dish, but it really took it to the next level. Trust me – don’t leave it out if you can help it.

Mike & I recently discovered these precooked udon noodles at one of our grocery stores, and we can’t get enough of them in our stir-fry’s as of late. If you want, you can simply omit and serve with rice instead.

Lemongrass Chicken Stir-Fry

I love stir-fries for two reasons: 1) lots of veggies, and 2) lots of flavors. I can’t seem to successfully make a really AWESOME stir-fry unless I have a recipe to go with it. Throwing veggies in? Not a problem. The sauce? Well…still working on my own concoction.

When I saw this recipe in my Jan ’13 issue of Cooking Light, I was intrigued by the usage of lemongrass (which I have in my cupboard, dried) and green beans in the veggies list. I decided to make this for dinner one evening after work, and it was definitely a hit.

Lemongrass Chicken Stir-Fry – adapted from Cooking Light

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sambal oelek
  • 2 tbsp canola oil (divided)
  • 2 tsp dried lemongrass
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 8-oz green beans, trimmed
  • 1 lb boneless&skinless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup unsalted cashews
  • 1 Thai chile, thinly sliced (I had a whole cayenne pepper frozen in my freezer from summer, so I used that).
  1. Combine brown sugar, stock, fish sauce, soy sauce, and sambal oelek in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Heat a large work or skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp of the oil & swirl to coat the pan.
  3. Add lemongrass & garlic; stir-fry for 30 seconds. Turn heat up to high. Add bell pepper, shallots, & green beans to the pan & stir fry for two minutes. Remove all vegetables from pan with a slotted spoon & set aside in a bowl.
  4. Add remaining oil to pan & swirl to coat. Add chicken and cook until browned (2-3 minutes).
  5. Add cashews & chile & cook for about two minutes. Then, add the vegetables back in and the sauce mixture.
  6. Bring to a boil & cook until the sauce thickens. Serve immediately with rice or noodles.
Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

When I was younger, I was not a huge fan of dark-meat chicken, especially chicken thighs. The more I cook, the more I have noticed that they have a very rich flavor and are especially great with Asian cuisine. I do my best to cut off as much fat as possible, but am definitely not as wary about using them as I used to be.

I served our stir-fry with some ready-to-serve udon noodles that I found at my grocery store. Since they were pre-cooked, I threw them into the wok when I added the vegetables back in. They were absolutely fantastic & I highly recommend you try them. I think I like them better than the dried rice noodles I normally buy.

The only thing I did not enjoy about this dish was – believe it or not – the green beans! I would have much rather preferred carrots or zucchini in the stir-fry. They tasted okay, but it just didn’t seem ‘right’ to have them in there. One part of this dish that I suggest you don’t leave out is the cashews – that is, of course, unless you or someone in your home has a nut allergy. They added a really good texture to the dish and I was surprised at how much I enjoy them. I am looking forward to making this dish in the summer, when more vegetables are in season. This stir-fry is definitely in my arsenal for dishes to repeat!

As far as the spiciness is concerned – I personally needed more punch. If you like, you can add more sambal oelek for some more heat. Or, of course, sriracha…

…speaking of which – have any of you out there tried those new Sriracha chips from Lays? 🙂 YUM!

Crispy Honey-Soy Tofu

I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely a fan of firm tofu. It’s an easy, meat-free protein that doesn’t really have a taste; rather, it takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with. My absolute favorite way to eat tofu is in Asian stir-frys. The Thai restaurant a few blocks away makes a killer Pad Thai with tofu (I bet it’s really good with chicken or shrimp too, but i’m a creature of habit when it comes to ordering take-out).

I think the key to making really delicious tofu is crisping it up a bit before you add it to the rest of the dish that you’ll be serving it with. Caitlin at the Healthy Tipping Point has a great way to make crisped-up tofu…thus when I made this recipe, I found the steps to be very similar.

Crispy Honey-Soy Tofu – adapted from Living to Dine

  • 2 tbsp oil (I used the coconut oil I received from a Foodie Penpal swap…it rocked)
  • 1 pkg extra-firm tofu, pressed & cubed
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch

For the Honey-Soy sauce:

  • juice of one lime
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 inch fresh ginger, grated (you can also substitute with a pinch of ground ginger)
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1.5 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • red pepper flakes (if you like)
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients for the sauce. Set aside.
  2. Dredge the tofu cubes in cornstarch & shake off any excess.
  3. In a large pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Place the tofu into the hot oil, browning each side. Once all is nice and crispy, transfer the tofu to a paper towel & set aside.
  4. Lower the heat in the pan. Once the temperature has dropped a bit, add the sauce and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the tofu back in and toss to coat.
  5. Serve atop of rice with some veggies (I recommend sesame carrots or snow peas).
Crispy Honey-Soy Tofu with sesame carrots & brown rice.

Crispy Honey-Soy Tofu with sesame carrots & brown rice.

To be honest, I was tempted to eat all of the tofu, carrots and rice that I had made for dinner. It was honestly that good. However, I needed to be a good wife and same some dinner for my husband 🙂

The flavor of the sauce that you coat the tofu with is amazing. The garlic, ginger & lime are a great combination with the soy, and the honey adds a really nice sweetness to it. As I said before, I browned the tofu in coconut oil – this added a bit more sweetness and depth to the meal and I was very impressed with how it turned out.

The carrots were made with sesame-chili oil, sesame seeds, and the Bangkok Blend seasoning from Penzey’s Spices. Great heat and great flavor. I didn’t even need to add sriracha to my dish – can you believe it?!

I feel as though this is the quintessential Asian stir fry flavor that I have been in search of for a very long time.

If you’re a tofu fan, I think you’ll really like this dish. If you’ve never tried tofu, trust me – try this dish! You won’t be disappointed.

Sambal Oelek

If any of you are fans of Cooking Light magazine, you may come across a unique ingredient in the Asian dishes that they publish – “Sambal Oelek“**. What on earth is that, and where do I find it? It sounded so…exotic…that I didn’t believe I could find it anywhere up here.

Sambal Oelek is a chili paste that packs a lot of heat and flavor, and tastes along the lines of Sriracha sauce (also known as “Rooster Sauce” to many). The main difference between the two is that Sriracha also has garlic & sugar in its ingredients, whereas SO features solely chilies. Sambal Oelek is also thicker, with chili pepper seeds in it; the sauce thins out as you mix it into a hot dish that you’re in the process of cooking.

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Sambal Oelek is a great addition for stir frys and Asian dishes that need some ‘heat’. I’m a huge fan of spicy food, and this really helps take many of the Asian dishes I cook to the next level, instead of just simply adding sriracha all the time. Sriracha is a great condiment, where sambal oelek is a great background tool, so to speak.

I had difficulty finding SO at first – and ended up ordering it on Amazon for way too much money. Once I stopped looking for it, I found it in many different places that I shop – it’s actually relatively inexpensive on store shelves, too. In my opinion, you shouldn’t need to pay any more than $2.25 for this product – and it should last you a while, too.

If you really enjoy making stir frys and Asian-inspired dishes, I highly recommend adding this sauce to your pantry list – especially if you are a spicy food fan like me! 🙂

** I was NOT contacted nor paid by Huy Fong Foods for this post. I simply wrote it because I had absolutely no idea what this ingredient was, and since it was included in many recipes I want to try, I decided to buy it, and tell you a bit about it – just in case you are in the same boat as I was!

Spicy Shrimp & Bok Choy Noodle Bowl

When I found this recipe in one of my Rachael Ray cookbooks, I felt skeptical that I would like this recipe. Why? Because of one main ingredient. Clam juice!

“Clam Juice” – doesn’t that sound a little gross to you? Well, rest assured that the addition of this ingredient helped make the dish delicious. If you like clams, then the clam juice won’t be a big deal at all. It adds a hint of sea flavoring & saltiness to the dish that really supports the shrimp. It was a little hard to find at the store – I believe I found it around the lemon juices?

I made this dish on a cold, snowy evening and it really hit the spot. It was also quick (it’s one of her famous ’30 minute meals’…I can never get the timing down to exactly 30 minutes but oh well).

Spicy Shrimp & Bok Choy Noodle Bowl – adapted from Rachael Ray 

  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes *if you don’t like spicy food, then simply omit this*
  • 4 cloves chopped garlic
  • 2 in ginger root cut into matchsticks, or grated
  • 8 oz baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 medium head bok choy
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1 cup clam juice
  • 1 lb medium-sized peeled & deveined shrimp (get the raw kind if you can)
  • 1/2 lb rice noodles
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  1. Heat a soup pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add oil, crushed red pepper, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, and bok choy; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add chicken broth and clam juice. Put a lid on the pot and bring soup to a boil.
  4. Add shrimp and noodles and cook until no longer pink.
  5. Add in scallions and cook for a minute.
  6. Turn off the heat & let it sit 2 to 3 minutes more. Adjust your seasonings and serve.
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I added sriracha to this, because it wasn’t spicy enough for me.

I thought it was neat that this dish thickens over time. I expected it to be more like soup; I suppose if you wanted it to remain that way, you could add more chicken broth.

Thanks for being patient with me as my posts have become a little more sporadic. It’s Christmas Concert season and with two jr/sr high schools, I’ve got TWO concerts coming up. Plus, it’s also basketball season, a.k.a. pep band season. Yuck. I’ve been so busy, and I’ve taken pictures to blog, so I’m behind. I assure you – there is more to come!

Rumor has we’ll be blessed with a bunch of snow Sunday night into Monday…which means it’s time to up my arsenal of warm, comfort food meals. Yum. Stay tuned! 🙂

Asian Rice Salad

Last night we decided to finally grill the chicken kabobs that we had marinating in our refrigerator. One of my most favorite meals during the summertime is shish kabobs of some sort; I make them almost weekly. I knew I wanted to serve rice with them, but wanted something different than just plain boring white rice. Mike suggested, “What about a rice salad?” I had no idea what he meant, but it sounded pretty delicious, so over to the computer I went. In about 2 minutes, I found something that could work. Thanks, Internet 😉

Asian Rice Salad – adapted from About.com (written by Jolinda Hackett)

  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (or peanut oil if you have it on hand, which I did not)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame-chili oil
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley (I used dried)
  • any other vegetables that work with Asian cuisine
  1. In a small bowl, combine oils, vinegar, salt & pepper, and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Pour over the rice in a larger bowl. Toss gently to coat, then set aside.
  2. Steam the carrot & peas for one minute. Drain & stir into rice.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Let cool.

Enjoying a summery Sunday evening

This recipe was originally written to be served cold. However, for the sake of time in our house (we were pretty hungry!), I served it warm. The vinaigrette that you mix in with the rice adds a really nice, subtle flavor to the rice, without overpowering whatever you are serving the salad with. You can even add a touch of soy sauce if you wish. The original recipe also calls for a few more vegetables. I omitted those simply because we were making shish kabob and grilling vegetables anyways.

When making this again, I would add sweet peppers, maybe some bok choy, or bean sprouts. The possibilities are endless! With more vegetables and some protein, this could also be a really easy, filling main dish. We do have a significant amount of leftovers, so this will most likely get made into fried rice for lunches.

The salad paired perfectly with our kabobs, and was thoroughly enjoyed as we dined in our backyard. I love summer 🙂