Easy Cheesy Broccoli Rice

White rice has a bad rap because much of the vitamins, minerals and fibers in rice are in the bran and germ, and these are removed in the milling and polishing processes to create white rice.  Although in the USA, white rice is enriched by law so that some of the B vitamins, iron and folate levels are similar to or above that of the whole grain (brown rice).  White rice is also often considered unhealthy because it is both high in carbohydrates and easily digestible which causes spikes in blood sugar, potentially concerning to diabetic individuals.

White Rice is Awesome

Despite those reasons, white rice makes a regular appearance on our kitchen table.  It’s high in complex carbohydrates which we need for energy. The general rule of thumb is that half of our calories should be from complex carbohydrates.  White rice is also a relatively fat-free, sodium-free and cholesterol-free source of protein.

The main reasons why white rice is a staple in this household is because it’s quick and easy to cook, it’s inexpensive, and it’s very versatile.  It’s neutral taste and texture blends well with most foods and white rice can be made into virtually any part of the meal: soups, salads, mains, sides, or desserts.  And it seems that no matter how it’s made, it’s a comfort food too.

It’s a comfort food in particular though when it’s hot and cheesy.  This recipe is my go to cheesy rice recipe because it doesn’t require any butter or cream so it’s light, but still very tasty and fulfilling.

Cheesy Broccoli Rice Recipe

  • 1 lb broccoli florets
  • 3 cups white rice
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 slice ginger
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 3 oz shredded cheese of choice or 4 slices of cheese

When serving rice as a side, the general rule of thumb is 1/3 to 1/2 cup of uncooked rice per person.  When serving this cheesy broccoli rice as a side, that won’t be enough 😉

Cheesy Broccoli Rice Method

  1. Rinse rice (optional if it’s clean or you prefer a stickier rice dish)
  2. Heat oil and fry garlic and ginger and black pepper until fragrant, a few minutes
  3. Add rice to pan and cook until rice is toasted, approximately 5 minutes

fragrant rice4. Remove rice mixture from heat.  Add chicken bouillon to rice mixture and mix well

5. Add broccoli, rice mixture, sugar and chicken broth to pressure cooker and set for 12 minutes (I have a rice setting on my pressure cooker so it’s dummy proof for me).  If using stove top or microwave or rice cooker, chicken broth and cooking time will need to be adjusted to your methods

frozen broccoli

I use frozen broccoli florets (from Costco) and add them to the pressure cooker frozen and they are so soft that they practically disintegrate after 12 minutes.  They are also so sweet that I omit the sugar in the recipe

6. After rice is cooked, mix in cheese while rice is still hot until cheese is melted

cheesy broccoli rice

Can you believe there is a whole pound of broccoli in there?  This can probably be called a sneaky recipe too.

7. Let rest 10 minutes and serve while it’s still warm or reheat if necessary.  Enjoy!

cheesy rice with chicken

Tonight we had cheesy broccoli rice and strawberry chicken, with extra cheese for my daughter.  More cheesy please!

Cheers,

with love charlie

Turkey Sneaky Balls Recipe

There are lots of ‘sneaky’ recipes online for hiding healthy foods in meals kids will eat but I am a visual creature so when I saw the below photo in my Instagram feed a few months ago, I just had to try to make a turkey sneaky ball.  It was a surprisingly huge hit with my family and is now on the regular dinner rotation.

Turkey Sneaky Balls Recipe/ Ingredients

Ever since I learned about vegetable subgroups, I had been trying to increase my family’s intake of red and orange vegetables.  The importance of variety became more apparent to me after learning more about the different vegetable subgroups and their different nutritional benefits.

As a family, we ate plenty of green vegetables, but rarely ate red or orange ones.  Until I figured out why my daughter refused carrots, these turkey sneaky balls looked like a great way to sneak in a little bit of orange vegetables.  And paired with spaghetti and tomato sauce, the simple meal suddenly has both red and orange vegetables covered.  Yes!

Turkey Sneaky Balls

Turkey Sneaky Balls Recipe

Adapted from Fit and Sam’s Instagram Photo below

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp chicken boullion
  • a handful of cilantro leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 cups baby carrots
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup oatmeal

A photo posted by Samantha Helms (@fitandsam) on

 

Turkey Sneaky Balls Method

  1. Placed the baby carrots, garlic, and cilantro in the food processor until the carrots were finely minced
  2. Mix all the ingredients until well incorporated
  3. Sear meatballs and then cook in preferred method (continue to pan fry or simmer in sauce or bake in oven etc.)
  4. Enjoy!

mix up ingredients

Mix it! I know it’s better to mix meatballs with our hands but I just didn’t want to risk my daughter sticking her fingers covered in raw meat anywhere near her face or attempting to wipe her hands clean on her clothes so I gave her a big old metal spoon.

mix up ingredients

I am thinking these sneaky turkey balls would also make a great patty for a hot melted sandwich, or maybe add a little cumin and chipotle to the ingredients and make a sneaky balls taco?  What do you think?

So will you be sneaky any time soon?

Cheers,

with love charlie

Lemongrass Grilled Pork (Thit Nuong)

Lemongrass is a perennial native of India but cultivated worldwide for its oil for medicinal, culinary, or cosmetic applications among a multitude of other uses.  The lemongrass stalk itself, though very tough, is commonly finely crushed or chopped and used in Thai and Vietnamese cooking.  I personally like it because it’s very fragrant with a refreshing lemony taste, but more delicate and subtle than citrus zests as I’m very sensitive to bitter flavors.

It pairs well with seafood, chicken and pork and is good for a variety of curries, soups, marinades, or tea recipes.  But it’s hard to find fresh lemongrass in my neighborhood grocery stores so I’ve long contemplated growing my own.  Is it wrong to fantasize about access to fresh herbs on demand?  I have an okay green thumb for ornamental plants, but a complete black thumb when it comes to gardening for food.  I have never ever succeeded in growing anything edible but since lemongrass is a grass, maybe, just maybe?

Growing lemongrass (among other herbs I frequently use) is fairly high on the list of things I would like to do (when I have the time or energy), but it had been very low on the list of priorities to-dos.  However, lately there has been a lot of news about Zika carrying mosquitoes.  I suppose these news are more scary for pregnant or planning to be pregnant women, but either way, it seems the demand for mosquito repelling plants are up, because I am seeing more and more citronella grass, lemon balm, catmint (catnip), marigolds, lavender, and garlic, just to name a few, for sale with “MOSQUITO PLANT” signs or labels (which I assume means these plants help repel mosquitoes rather than attract them).

So what does this have to do with growing lemongrass?  Lemongrass is also a top mosquito repelling plant.  So maybe growing lemongrass, now with the additional purpose of protecting my dinky-a-roo and family from nasty bites, has very good reason to move up on my priority to-dos list?

Grilled Lemongrass Pork Recipe

Adapted from one of my favorite blogs for Vietnamese cuisine The Ravenous Couple 

Ingredients

Lemongrass Pork ingredients 01

  • 1.5 lb pork butt or shoulder
  • 1/4 cup finely minced lemongrass (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp ground pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp thick soy sauce*
  • 3 tbsp roasted sesame

Lemongrass Pork ingredients 02

*Note thick soy sauce is a different product than regular soy sauce.  It is thick and rich and has molasses.  This was another product I had difficulty finding so there are several jars sitting my pantry.

Directions

The hardest part of this recipe might be finding all the ingredients but otherwise, it’s fairly easy and can be prepared ahead of time and frozen.  The below piece of pork butt was approximately 3 lbs and for our small family, was 6 meals worth of meat.  We ate one fresh and froze 5 for the rest of the month.

Lemongrass Pork Butt 01

Cut meat into 2 to 3 inch pieces of approximately 1/4 inch thickness.  Optional, hand tenderize the pieces.  If you have quality meat, this is totally unnecessary.

Lemongrass Pork Butt 03

Mix all ingredients except for the sesame seeds for marinade.

Lemongrass Pork ingredients 03

Marinade for at least an hour up to a day.  If freezing, I just place each meal portion into a plastic bag and then put them directly into the freezer without waiting for it to marinade.  The time it takes to freeze and defrost is sufficient for meat to marinade.

Lemongrass Pork Marinate

Grill until golden and slightly charred.  Alternatively, bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit/ 148.9 degrees Celsius until done, approximately 40 minutes.

Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve hot with vermicelli or rice. I find it best served with mild or sweeter sides as the meat can be on the saltier side.

I was pensive about posting this recipe because the only picture I have of the finished meal was actually of a flopped attempt.  I’m good with finding time to take pictures during the preparation process but always forget the finished product because by then, my attention is on making sure everyone is ready to eat while the food is still the right temperature.

The pieces pictured below were totally overcooked because I was too zealous about the hand tenderizing (there is something therapeutic with pounding with a hammer) and the pieces were thinner than ideal.  And then I did another cooking no-no, I stepped away from the grill and didn’t check on the pork until it was too late.  It still tasted okay, but was not juicy as usual.  But like my putting growing lemongrass off again and again, until news of Zika gave me additional reason to do it, I decided the same for this post, if not now, when?

Lemongrass Pork

In addition to Tom Yum soup, another recently discovered family favorite with fragrant lemongrass is Melissa’s Curry Chicken.  Thank you Melissa for the recipe!

Next time you’re grilling, will you give this recipe a try?  And if you have lemongrass growing in your yard, there might even be less uninvited pests at your BBQ.

Cheers!

with love charlie

 

Easy 30 minute dinner

Here’s a quick and easy 30 minute dinner for you:  Korean style pan-fried fish and stir-fried zucchini.  In any other Korean household, these dishes are considered sides or appetizers, but in this household, they make a perfect mid-week meal.  Being married to a Korean man, we cannot go more than a week without having Korean food so it’s nice to have these simple recipes to fall back on when there isn’t much time for extravagant meals.  Unlike most other Korean dishes, there are only a few ingredients for these dishes and all ingredients should be easy to find.  The only ingredient you might need to make a trip to an Asian supermarket for is fish sauce, which I use instead of the saeujeot (salted and fermented tiny shrimp).  Both dishes are easy to make and should only take 30 minutes or less to make depending how much fish you have to fry up and if you can multitask. 😉  These dishes may not be fancy or very attractive, but if they’re good enough for my in-laws on new year’s day, they’re good enough for me!

DSC_1067

Saengseonjeon (Fish Pan-fried in Egg Batter)

DSC_1068

Hobak Bokkeum (Stir-fried Zucchini)

Enjoy!

Recipes (adapted from Korean Bapsang)

Saengseonjeon (Fish Pan-fried in Egg Batter)

  • 1/2 to 1 pound flounder or cod fillet (or any white fish)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour
  • vegetable or canola oil for pan frying

Sauce (optional):

  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • pinch pepper
  1. Rinse fish and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut the fish fillet into 1/2-inch thick, 2-inch long slices by running the knife diagonally through the fillet. Lightly sprinkle salt and pepper over both sides.
  2. Dredge both sides of the fish in flour, one piece at a time. (Do this step for all the pieces before the next step.)
  3. Heat a large non-stick skillet with a tablespoon oil over medium low heat. Dip each piece one at a time in the beaten egg, and carefully place in the heated skillet. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes each side, adding more oil if needed, until slightly golden. Do NOT brown.
  4. Repeat until all the ingredients are pan fried. Add an additional tablespoon of oil each time.
  5. Serve warm with the sauce.

Notes and Tips:

I used my hands to rub the salt on the fish and also used basa fillets because I couldn’t find flounder or cod.  You can also pan fry zucchini and prawn using the same method (see Korean Bapsang for more instructions on how to do this).

Hobak Bokkeum (Stir-fried Zucchini)

  • 1 medium zucchini (about 10 – 12 ounces) or 2-3 small ones
  • 2 or 3 tsp saeujeot (or fish sauce)
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 tbsp water
  1. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise (I cut mine into quarters because mine was round). Then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices.
  2. You can use saeujeot as is or finely chopped. This is very salty, so use 2 teaspoons first and add more if needed.
  3. Heat a pan with the oil over medium high heat. Add the zucchini and saeujeot (or fish sauce) to the pan. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes, stirring well.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and 2 tablespoons of water. Cook for an additional 1 – 2 minutes, stirring, until the zucchini is softened and turns translucent.

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Creamy Chicken & Green Beans on Rice

This easy creamy chicken and green bean on rice is a new family favorite.  The creamy sauce on rice is super comforting, and the stirfried green beans are a tasty way to eat more vegetables.

DSC00683

While this creamy chicken and green bean on rice wasn’t a one pan meal, I did only use one pan if you don’t count the rice cooker.  Who is counting?  First I stirfried the green beans with some minced garlic.  Then using the same pan, I added more garlic and browned the chicken.  Then using the same pan, with the garlicky chicken juices and all, I added butter and made roux and then cream sauce.  The browned chicken was then returned to the pan of sauce and simmered until done.

Creamy sauces on rice is one of my favorite comfort foods and I usually end up over eating.  So to cut back on calories, I used skinless chicken thighs even though it would be more flavorful and juicy with skin on and bone-in.  All three toddlers finished their plates and two kiddos even got seconds so I say this dish gets to go on the regular dinner rotation 🙂

Recipe:

serves 4 to 6

  • 3 cups rice

Garlic Green Beans

  • 1 lb trimmed green beans
  • 1 tbls minced garlic
  • 1 tbls oil
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon dissolved in 1 tbls chicken broth

Creamy Chicken (Sauce adapted from food.com)

  • 2 lbs chicken (cut of your choice)
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 3 tbls butter
  • 4 tbls flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Wash and cook rice and place in bottom of serving dish.  I cooked two cups of rice with one cup of quinoa instead to add a whole grain to the meal.
  2. Stir fry green beans:  heat pan, add oil and minced garlic.  When oil is hot and garlic is fragrant, add green beans and stir to coat beans in oil.  Let pan fry over medium high heat for 2 minutes then add season chicken broth and cover with lid and steam until pan is almost dry, approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Add garlic green beans on top of rice.
    Garlic Green Beans
  4. Add crushed garlic to pan and brown chicken, approximately 8 minutes per side.Browning chicken in pan
  5. Set aside browned chicken. Lower heat and add butter to pan. After it melts, blend in flour, onion powder, salt and pepper until mixture is smooth and even. Pour in chicken stock, turn up heat and stir until smooth and boiling.
  6. Return chicken to pan, add heavy cream, cover pan and lower heat.  Simmer until chicken is no longer pink inside, approximately 20 minutes for boneless, and longer for bone-in.
    Simmer Chicken in Creamy Sauce
  7. Enjoy!

So what do you think?  Would you give this recipe a try?

Roast Chicken and Potatoes

Remember those 3 whole chickens that I bought on sale a few weeks ago?  I used one to make Vietnamese style chicken curry and the second one to make roast chicken and potatoes.  This roast chicken recipe is so quick and easy to make, with very little prep time.  Just make sure you allot enough time for it to be in the oven.  Other than that, put in the oven and walk away.

DSC_1299

I normally don’t eat chicken skin unless it’s crispy (makes me gag otherwise), but let me tell you, I have no problems eating the skin (or any other parts) on this chicken.  It’s crispy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside.  The potatoes also come out perfectly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  Yummy!
DSC_1300

I paired the chicken with kale stir-fried with a bit of olive oil, garlic, shallots I had leftover from the curry (you can omit or use onion instead) and salt and pepper.  Easy peasy.

DSC_1312

When the everything is done, just put the whole roasting pan on the dining table and carve the chicken as you eat.  No need to be fancy.  Well, you can be a little fancy and add some flowers to the table.  A girl always needs a bit of flowers in her life…

What should I do with the last chicken?

Roast chicken and potatoes (Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver)

  • 1 whole chicken
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • potatoes, peeled
  • 1 large, preferably unwaxed, lemon
  • 1 whole bulb of garlic, broken into cloves
  • a handful of fresh thyme or 1 tsp of dried thyme
  • olive oil
  • a handful of fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves picked
  1. Rub the chicken inside and out with a generous amount of salt (I use about 1 tbsp) and freshly ground black pepper (~30 grindings). Do this in the morning if possible, then cover the chicken and leave in the fridge until you’re ready to start cooking it for lunch or dinner.
  2. Preheat your oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas 5.
  3. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.
  4. Cut the potatoes into golf-ball-sized pieces, put them into the water with the whole lemon and the garlic cloves, and cook for 12 minutes.
  5. Drain and allow to steam dry for 1 minute (this will give you crispier potatoes), then remove the lemon and garlic.
  6. Toss the potatoes in the pan while still hot so their outsides get chuffed up and fluffy – this will make them crispy when they roast.
  7. While the lemon is still hot, carefully stab it about 10 times.
  8. Take the chicken out of the fridge, pat it with kitchen paper and rub it all over with olive oil.
  9. Push the garlic cloves, the whole lemon and the thyme into the cavity, then put the chicken into a roasting tray and cook in the preheated oven for around 45 minutes.
  10. Remove the chicken to a plate.
  11. Some fat should have cooked out of it into the roasting tray, so toss the potatoes into this with the rosemary leaves.  You can add carrots at this point if you want.
  12. Shake the tray around, then make a gap in the center of the potatoes and put the chicken back in.
  13. Cook for a further 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the potatoes are golden. (You can tell the chicken is cooked when the thigh meat pulls easily away from the bone and the juices run clear.)
  14. Remove the lemon and garlic from inside the chicken, squeeze all the garlic flesh out of the skin, mush it up and smear it all over the chicken, discard the lemon and rosemary and carve the chicken at the table.

Ribs with Apricot Sauce

These tasty apricot ribs are super easy to make and smell mouth wateringly good.  The meat used were purchased with the intention of making soup and weren’t the best quality but the family still gobbled these up.

ribs

 

Recipe (adapted from Luau Ribs on Food.com):

Apricot Ribs

Serves 1-2

  • 2 lbs pork ribs
  • 8 tbls apricot preserves
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1 tbls soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

IngredientsThe apricot preserve is the secret ingredient in this recipe:

Apricot

 

Directions:

  1. Rinse ribs and dry, remove membrane if necessary.
  2. Mix all ingredients.  Optional: marinade ribs a few hours up to 48 hours in the refrigerator.
    marinate Ribs in large bag
  3. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 to 120 minutes or until done.  Baste with marinade while cooking.
  4. If sauce didn’t caramelize nicely, broil for a few minutes at the end and ta-da:
    ribs
  5. Enjoy!

Since the oven is already on, I like to throw in some vegetables under the ribs for a quick side.

convection oven

Root vegetables like carrots or potatoes are great.  Cauliflower works well too.  Season the vegetables simply with salt and pepper to taste and toss in a little garlic or olive oil and just let the vegetables soak up some of the drippings for extra flavor.

Don’t you just love the dark purple color of these potatoes?  Just picture them with some carrots and corn and it would be a colorful feast for the eyes.

Purple Potatoes

Add a salad for more vegetables and the sauce is also really good on rice or pasta for a complete meal.  My daughter asked to eat these ribs with a piece of cheesy toast.

When I try a recipe for the first time, I resist from adjusting it (too much); I might learn or find something new.  But if it only turned out good and didn’t wow, then I would try to make it my own the next time.  This rib smelled and tasted great but was no where near perfection so I might try this recipe again with a few changes.  Normally, I like making ribs with a rub, so the next time I will start with better meat, use a base rub and cook at a lower temperature for longer so that the meat falls off the bone before basting with the sauce.  What is your personal preference? Sauce? Rub? or Both?

What do you think?  Will you be having ribs any time soon?

 

 

 

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Vietnamese style chicken curry (Ca Ri Ga)

The other day, we went grocery shopping to buy ingredients to make Vietnamese style chicken curry.  We saw whole chickens on sale – 3 for $20.  That’s pretty cheap in our neck of the woods so we bought them.  I wasn’t completely sure what I would use all that chicken for (I had a few recipes in mind), but I knew I could just freeze it until I figured it out. We normally buy chicken in parts (thighs, breasts, etc), so having to butcher a whole chicken was a bit of a first for me. I tried to follow Martha’s instructions, but our knives were pretty dull so I had to enlist hubby’s help.  It actually wasn’t so difficult to do, just need some muscles or sharper knives.  😉  We used most of the chicken for the curry, except for the back (we saved for making stock) and 2/3 of the breast.  That way, everyone is happy since the hubs likes dark meat and I prefer white.  You can choose to use any parts of the chicken you like.  I prefer skin-on and bone-in for more flavour.

This recipe is relatively easy to make.  You can divide the work into 2 days if you want, just marinate the chicken overnight the day before you want to eat it.  It’s also a one pot recipe….you know how much I love one pot dinner recipes!  Less dishes to clean!

What makes this curry Vietnamese style is the coconut milk and lemongrass, which may be difficult to find depending where you live.  If you want to omit the lemongrasss, I am sure the curry will still taste pretty good.  You can adjust the spiciness with the amount of curry powder and chili paste.  The amounts used here don’t result in an overly spicy curry.  Even our baby can eat it!

I love the smell of this curry, especially when garnished with cilantro.  Mmmm…can you smell it too?  Don’t forget to have it with toasted baguettes.  It’s how Vietnamese people eat their curry and the best way to eat it, in my opinion!

Vietnamese style chicken curry

Vietnamese style chicken curry

Oh and one more thing, this curry is better than my mom’s (according to the hubs). Shhh…..don’t tell her! 😉

Stay tuned for more easy chicken recipes.  In the meantime, try some of our other tasty recipes.

Vietnamese Style Chicken Curry Recipe (adapted from Food.com)

2 tablespoons yellow curry powder
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon sugar
2 small shallots
1 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon chili paste ( such as Sriracha)
peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 lbs chicken (thighs, breasts, whatever you prefer)
1 medium yellow onion, divided into 6 pieces and separated
2 stalks lemongrass, cut into 2 inch lengths
1 bay leaf
2 cups water
2 2/3 cups coconut milk
4 large carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
potatoes and/or yams cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1/4 cup cilantro leaf

Directions

  1. In a food processor, combine curry powder, garlic, sugar, shallots, salt, chili paste, 1 tablespoon of the oil and black pepper. Lightly puree and pulse into a rough paste.
  2. Rub the paste all over the chicken. Place in a bowl , cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat and cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the bay leaf and lemongrass and cook for another few minutes.
  4. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Add the chicken to the stockpot and sear for about 10-15 minutes, or until browned.  Remove chicken from the pot.
  5. Turn the heat to high. Add the water, coconut milk, carrots and potatoes to the pot.  Bring to a rolling boil then reduce to low.  Add back chicken and simmer for about 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked and carrots and potatoes almost soft.
  6. Test the carrots and potatoes for doneness before adding the peas. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes in a light simmer.
  7. Serve hot over rice or with fresh, warm baguettes. Garnish with cilantro.

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Green Pork & Shrimp Dumplings

Green Pork & Shrimp Dumplings

When I discovered that my toddler, who practically sustained on air, was actually enthusiastic about eating unnaturally bright blue or green color foods, I began searching for non-dyed choices to indulge her and to hopefully get her to gain a few pounds or at least a few ounces to get her weight percentiles up from the single digits.  Cue green pork and shrimp dumplings.

She wasn’t interested in naturally blue or green foods like blueberries or broccoli but foods that are not typically blue or green like noodles, rice or dumplings.

As a result, pandan, pesto and spinach became common ingredients in our kitchen.

For St. Patrick’s Day, we decided to celebrate and join in on the festivities with two of my daughter’s current favorites: green dumplings and spinach noodles.

Green Dumplings & Spinach Noodles

No green beer for us 😉
There is no doubt in my mind that my mom is the queen of pork dumplings so I used a modified version of her recipe where all vegetables like chives and leeks are omitted with some store brought green dumpling wrappers.

Green Dumplings

There is a beautiful post here by the Flavor Bender on how to make your own green (spinach) wrappers but I took the easy way out.

Green Pork & Shrimp Dumplings

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs. ground pork
1.5 cups water
1 tsp salt
3 tsp sugar
3 tsp bouillon of choice
3 tbsp. sesame oil
white and black pepper to taste
1 lb. raw deveined shrimp
1/2 tsp salt
Dumpling wrappers

optional: herbs such as chives, leeks, cilantro or vegetables such as cabbage

Garlic Worcestershire Reduction

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
Splash of Balsamic vinegar
Splash of Garlic oil
Sesame oil

Directions:
1. Mix pork, water and salt until “sticky” so that the meat will be moist and not crumbly. My mom used a wooden spoon to manually mix the meat, but I just put it in the kitchen aid for about 3-5 minutes.

Ground Pork
2. Add seasoning (sugar, boullion, pepper and sesame oil) and mix until incorporated.

Mix Pork
3. Smash shrimp with salt to make almost a paste. My mom uses the flat side of a meat cleaver but due to my knife aversion I just crush the shrimps with my thumb and palm. Add shrimp “paste” to pork mixture and blend well.

Shrimp Paste

4. Assemble dumplings. There is a great video on YouTube by Tipsy Waltz showing 7 different ways to wrap a dumpling:

5. Cook dumplings in your preferred method (steam, boil, deep fry or pan fry).

Boiled Green Dumplings with Spinach Noodles

Boiled Green Dumplings with Spinach Noodles and Hoisin Sauce

Pan Fried Green Dumplings

Pan Fried Green Dumplings with Garlic Worcestershire Reduction

6. If using the Garlic Worcestershire Reduction Sauce, boil first three ingredients until reduced and drizzle on sesame oil then pour on dumplings or serve on side as a dipping sauce.
7. Enjoy!!

Tips:
1. So many other sauces work well with these dumplings! My daughter likes dipping her boiled dumplings into plain hoisin sauce. My mom likes her dumplings pan fried and served with a Sriracha and white sugar paste.  I prefer my pan fried dumplings drenched in a sweet and sour raw garlic and vinegar sauce (my breath stinks for days though).  What is your favorite dumpling sauce(s)?
2. My mom taught me this trick when I was still her little helper. To quickly devein shrimps, pierce the back of the shrimp with a toothpick (works better with the shell on) and then gently pull the toothpick up, perpendicular to the shrimp, pulling the entire vein out.  Growing up in a competitive household, it was always fun to see who can devein the most shrimp quickest.  It takes us about 5 seconds to devein a dozen shrimp.

Shrimp

3. Keep wrappers moist during assembly by covering with a moist towel.
4. Assembled dumplings can be kept for hours in the refrigerator if well wrapped and for a month or two if frozen so a great time saver is to go ahead and make a large batch and save some for another day.
5. Any extra meat mixture can be formed into meatballs or patties and frozen for use in other recipes.  This is partly why I omit the herbs and vegetables in the receipe- the meatballs and patties are awesome for a quick last minute meal.

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Easy Yummy One Pan Garlicky Ketchup Chicken

Gralicky Ketchup Chicken with vegetables, rice and quinoa

Garlicky Ketchup Chicken

Doesn’t it seem like some days just get away from you? I thought I was ahead of the dinner game when I managed to pull a bag of chicken out of the freezer to defrost, and cooked a pot of rice and quinoa while my daughter was busy helping stir the pumpkin into the egg mixture for the Libby’s Pumpkin muffins we were baking.

Instead, my daughter won’t take her afternoon nap and at 6 PM, she was fussy and I still haven’t a clue what was for dinner except that there was rice and quinoa, and the boneless and skinless chicken thighs were defrosted.

I’ve been wanting to use the green beans I got earlier in the week from Costco so I Googled ‘chicken green bean recipes’ and thought a green bean and chicken casserole that came up looked tasty.  But it’s getting much too late to be attempting to make cream of chicken soup from scratch since I didn’t have any on hand so I pinned it for another night.

Does Pinterest come with a warning label? It’s a dangerous place for me when it comes to time management.  I’m not sure what happened after I pinned the recipe but I ended up looking at shrimp recipes when I had no shrimp in the house, just defrosted chicken and a picture for sweet and sour shrimp looked really delicious.

While the term sweet & sour often conjures up an image of something fried and drenched in a bright red or orange sauce for some, it really can mean any flavor profile with both a strong sweet and a strong sour component.  The sour notes can be from vinegar, or tart fruits such as tomato, kiwi or pineapple, or sauces such as ketchup for example, and the sweet component can be from different types of sugar, sugar substitutes such as artificial sweeteners, honey, agave nectar, fruit preserves, syrup, etc.

Any of those variations are almost always well received by this family.  The balance of sweet and sour can be adjusted easily to your preference and works well with other spices on meats, seafood and vegetables.  Sweet and sour sauces are probably higher in sugar content so that might be something to consider if it’s important to you or your family.

By now, I think my daughter is hungry enough to eat anything so I just need to get food on the table quick.  I push away my phone and think.  The ketchup shrimp we had a few weeks ago was quick and easy to make and was wildly popular with my kiddo so maybe the sauce would translate well to chicken?

Garlicky (Sweet & Sour) Ketchup Chicken 

Adapted from one of my favorite sites for Cantonese recipes: The Hong Kong Cookery

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken (I used boneless and skinless thighs that were already marinated to taste with a mixture of salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder)
1/2 tbsp oil
1/2 cup chicken stock (I used white grape and peach juice since I know the chicken we have on hand was accidentally over salted when it was marinated)
3 tbsp ketchup
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp Shao Hsing Rice Wine
1 tbsp garlic, crushed
1 tbsp soy sauce

Optional: vegetables of choice

Directions:

  1. Brown chicken on both sides, then add stock, cover, lower heat and cook until juice runs clear and until centers are no longer pink, approximately 20 minutes.  About halfway through, I added approximately three cups of frozen vegetables (organic broccoli, red pepper, mushroom & green bean stir fry mix) and some browned vegetarian sausages as meat substitute for me.
    Browned Chicken, Vegetarian Sausages, and organic vegetables

    Browned Chicken, Vegetarian Sausages, and organic vegetables

    Remove chicken, vegetables and any liquid from pan.

  2. In the same pan, heat oil with crushed garlic at low temperatures until fragrant and garlic is slightly browned but not burnt.
  3. Add remaining ingredients (ketchup, sugar, Shao Hsing Rice Wine, and soy sauce) and liquids from chicken and cook until sauce is thick enough to coat chicken. Ingredients: soy sauce, rice wine, juice and ketchup
  4. Add back chicken, and vegetables if added, to sauce and mix and cook just a few minutes until well mixed

Tips:

To save time, I used frozen vegetables and the chicken was marinated and frozen the day we purchased it a week ago so there was almost no prep time.  I crushed the garlic in one of the serving plates so I won’t have to wash the cutting board.

DSC00195

Also, I didn’t need to add any oil but depending on your pan, add oil ~2 tbsp. to brown chicken.  I am probably super annoying because I rave so much about my Anolon pans, but once I discovered that I did not need to add any oil to brown meats, even skinless chicken, I was in love.  LOVE.  My sister brought me the set from Macy’s as a gift after she fell in love with her pans and now my mom and brother both have sets in their kitchens too.  Look how nicely the skinless chicken browned without any oil added:

Love how nicely the chicken browns with no oil

Love how nicely the skinless chicken browns without adding any oil.  Affiliate link: Anolon Pans

My daughter enjoyed this dish so much that she ate the leftovers for the lunch the next day when normally having the same meal in succession is a big no-no in her books.  Sweet and sour saved dinner (and lunch)!  Maybe give this recipe a try – and let me know if you liked it.

So, does your family like sweet and sour as much as ours?  What is your favorite sweet and sour recipe?