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Black Pepper Caramel Shrimp

Black Pepper Caramel Shrimp

Black Pepper Caramel Shrimp

Weeknights are all about easy dinners around here.  I am sure most of you are the same.  You have a busy day at work, all you want to do is get dinner on the table for your family.  Something that everyone will like, and something that is healthy, and you can feel good about giving them.  This is where stir-frys come in for me.  You can use whatever you have on hand, and they are ready in minutes!

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Saucy Stir-Fry Pork

Saucy Pork Stir Fry square

I love stir fry.  It is one of my go-to meals, when I am not sure what else to make.  You can use whatever veggies and meat you have, and the sauce is almost always made of staples I have in the fridge. Most of the time I use pork tenderloin or chicken breasts in my stir fries, because I always have those two in my freezer. But beef and shrimp are great, too. Or you could use tofu, or just lots of veggies for a vegetarian version. Quick, easy and versatile are what I need on busy weeknights.

This particular stir fry is one we have been making for years. This time I was lucky enough to have peas growing in my garden. We moved to this house in July and the garden was empty. But as the summer went on things started to grow. Tomatoes and peas showed up, and grew like crazy! I can’t wait until next year when I can plant all sorts of veggies. I have missed not having a real garden these last two years.

The original recipe for this stir fry called for red bell peppers. I don’t like bell peppers, so I always omit them. They would add great color and flavor to this dish; so if you like them, add them in! If you want to make it even better for you, serve it with brown rice instead of white rice. I just can’t get my family on board with the brown rice. My picky 7-year-old will pick around the veggies and eat the meat out of this. Someday I will get him to just eat it all…

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Sweet & Spicy Chicken Stir Fry

Sweet & Spicy Chicken Stir Fry 4

I hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day weekend, and was able to enjoy a day off yesterday.  We had a relaxing weekend at home, probably our first one since we have moved.  We did a little around the house, but that was it.  We did manage to go shopping and buy more stuff for our house though, can’t seem to go a day without that happening :)

The one bad thing about having a holiday on a Monday, means the week is shorter and busier.  Stir fry’s are a great quick dinner to help get your week off right.  In about 20 minutes you can have dinner on the table, and a happy family.  The best thing about a stir fry is you can use whatever you have on hand, and whatever you like.  The original recipe called for red bell peppers, I don’t like them, I left them out.

Cooking Light is one of my go to recipe sources, and this is another recipe that does not disappoint.  It has a little heat, a little sweetness, and is a quick and easy dinner.  I have some peas growing in my garden, so I know I will be making this again soon with fresh snap peas.  To add more depth of flavor add in two teaspoons of sesame oil to your rice before serving.  Makes it just a little extra special.

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Kung Pao Chicken

I am glad to be writing about something that isn’t dessert for once!  Seems like a long time since I posted an actual meal.  I was struggling with what to make for dinner last night.  I took some chicken out of the freezer earlier in the day, but didn’t really know what I was going to do with it.  Then I started craving something Asian in nature.  I found a couple of really yummy looking recipes like this Asian Chicken recipe or this Honey Ginger Chicken, but both needed a long time to marinate.  And since my chicken was still frozen at noon, those didn’t seem like possibilities.  Though, when I am planning ahead more I will try those for sure!  I finally found a Kung Pao Chicken recipe that looked like with a few modifications could be a winner.  It fit what I was looking for…..chicken, Asian flavors, saucy, serve over rice!  

Kung Pao Chicken
Adapated from Allrecipes
Printable recipe

1 pound boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
5 Tbls white wine
5 Tbls soy sauce
2 Tbls sesame oil
1 Tbls cornstarch, dissolved in water
1 Tbls hot chili paste
3 tsp rice vinegar
6 tsp brown sugar
5 green onions, chopped
1 Tbls chopped garlic
1 small can waterchestnuts
2 cups veggies (mushrooms, green peppers, carrots, zucchini etc.)
Chopped peanuts

 First you want to make the marinade.  I like to use a gallon size ziploc bag, because I throw it away when it is done, and there are no dirty dishes (aside from the measuring spoons).  Combine 2 Tbls wine, 2 Tbls soy sauce, 1 Tbls oil, and 1 Tbls cornstarch mixture.  Add in the chicken, that is cut into chunks.  Toss to coat, and marinate in fridge for at least 30 minutes.  I don’t drink white wine, but I do buy those little 4 packs that they sell in the store now.  So when a recipe calls for it, I can open this tiny bottle, and not have a big investment in 1 ingredient. 

While that is marinating you can make the sauce. Combine 3 Tbls wine, 3 Tbls soy sauce, 1 Tbls oil, chili paste, vinegar and sugar.  Set aside.  Next, chop your veggies.  You can really use whatever your family likes.  I had zucchini in the fridge that needed to get used.  So I used that and mushrooms for us.  But you could use broccoli, bell peppers, carrots….really whatever you like!

Now you are ready to cook.  I think the key with making anything Asian is to have everything ready before you turn on the pan.  You want to have the sauce made, the veggies chopped, everything.  Even down to the table set, and drinks ready.  Asian food tends to cook on a high heat and be done quickly, and most of that time is hands on.  So you don’t want to be running around the kitchen trying to do other things at the same time.  
In a large skillet saute the chicken until the meat is cooked through.  Remove it from the pan.  Then add in the veggies, and cook them until tender.  Remove them from the pan.  Finally reduce the heat, and add the garlic, green onions, and water chestnuts.  Saute them for a couple minutes, and pour in the sauce.  Heat sauce slowly until it is aromatic (smells good).  Add the chicken and veggies back into the pan.  Cook for a couple more minutes to heat everything back up.  The sauce should start to thicken slightly.  If you like a thicker sauce you can add in a little more cornstarch that is dissolved in water.  Serve over rice, and top with chopped peanuts for some crunch.  Cashews would be good too, if you don’t have peanuts.