Sunday, July 15, 2012

General Tso Good!

Ok, so I've had some trouble this week with Pinterest recipes I've made not panning out for me.  I've served up some rather bland fried chicken that was supposed to be amazing, I've made some "man pleasin' chicken" that didn't please any of us, and I tried out a blueberry bar recipe that was flat out weird.

So when I came across a baked General Tso chicken recipe on Pinterest, I knew I had to give it a shot regardless of my recent culinary failures.

Yeah, that's kind of what I had to do through this recipe, continue to tell myself that the many steps were nothing to worry about...and guess what???

They weren't anything to worry about!

This is not a 30-minute meal, and if you don't have the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, chili paste, ginger, garlic, or half a dozen other ingredients, it may run up your grocery bill.

However, if you're looking for a recipe that will allow you to involve your family members, or, if you are simply looking to eat a healthy version of an American-Asian classic, then this is worth trying.

I served this General Tso Chicken with jasmine rice and a cucumber salad.  It was a hit with the fam!

Baked General Tso Chicken

For the chicken:

3 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts; pounded and cut into strips or chunks
2 eggs, 1/4 cup water, whisked together
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour (rice flour or unbleached flour works)
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper
2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. ground ginger (don't skimp here!)

For the sauce:

4 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
4 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp. toasted sesame seed oil
2 tbsp. hot chili paste (not Sriracha)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cornstarch
3 cloves minced garlic (FRESH!)
3 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
(you may need an additional 1 tsp. cornstarch in 1 tbsp. water, so keep handy)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 375.  Line a large cookie sheet with non-stick foil, drizzling a little olive oil onto the foil.  Take chicken pieces and dredge through egg mixture, then flour mixture. Space pieces on foil.  Drizzle a little more oil on top, then bake for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.  

While chicken is cooking, prepare sauce.  Add soy sauce through ginger into a small bowl and whisk well.   

Add the sugar and 1/4 cup water into non-stick saucepan.  Heat on medium until sugar water turns into a caramel-colored sauce. STIR CONTINUOUSLY.

The recipe I followed said to keep stirring until it smells like a caramel sauce.  Yeah, I couldn't smell it, but the bubbles on the edge of the pan were sticky and caramel-like.  When this happens, turn off heat. Whisk your soy sauce/chili mixture one more time to make sure the cornstarch didn't separate, then very slowly, add it to the caramel sauce.  It can foam up and burn you, so please use caution.  Place back on heat, whisking all the while, until it thickens.  If this does not happen within the first two minutes or so, add the 1 tsp. to 1 tbsp. water mixture and it will thicken quickly.

When chicken is done cooking, ladle sauce over the chicken pieces while they are still on the sheet.  Serve over rice and with a side cucumber salad.  

Cucumber Salad

1-2 English cucumbers, washed, and cut as desired
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1 packet Ideal sweetener or 1 tsp. sugar


Slice cucumber as desired.  Whisk salt through sweetener in a serving bowl.  Add cucumbers, tossing them to coat, and then refrigerate until dinner is ready.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dinner Is Done!

Wow, it's been quite a long time since my last post!

So sorry to all my readers!  This gal's back finally gave out - literally!  A little surgery, a little recovery, and now I'm back to work!

But while I was "resting", and I use quotation marks because as adults, do we ever really rest?  As I was resting, however, I used that time to search for recipes and for the dietary/culinary needs of my reader friends.

All I can say is, Pinterest.

Ever logged on to Pinterest?  Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board of sorts, using a virtual push pin as a way of creating a bookmark of whatever you find interesting on the 'net.  Since thousands belong to Pinterest, their pins are available for you to enrich - or in some cases, be horrified by - your own Pinterest bulletin boards.  What I've abundantly used Pinterest for is FOOD!

Recipes, recipes, and more recipes.  All those recipes on Pinterest have inspired me to make more meals that are budget-friendly and quick but healthy.  Sometimes the healthy part isn't so easy with Pinterest recipes.  How many cans of Cream of Chicken soup can one family eat per week without turning into pillars of salt??

And, as I'm still recovering, I have to make meals for my family that don't have me on my feet for an hour or more.  Who wants that?  Especially on a week night.

So to all Pinterest recipe fans - I accept the challenge of not only finding easy meals to make, but increasing the health meter while keeping the budget on a lower scale.  Taste?  Of course, darlings, why would I post anything that didn't taste good??

Let's start with tonight's dinner - Sassy BB Stoup.  It's a black bean "stoup" (stew/soup) that takes 10 minutes to prepare and 20 to simmer.  Serve with anything you want - tortilla chips, avocado, cornbread - but make sure those sides you choose don't cost a fortune and won't clog your arteries.  If you can get Jiffy Brand Corn Muffin Mix, that is a very affordable side, the mix itself only costing around $.75. And, if you can't get a ham steak (thick slice of smoked ham), try using some turkey bacon or very lean bacon.  Just don't pig out on the bacon!  PS - I apologize for the blurry photos.  We had a dark storm roll through while I was cooking and I just couldn't get enough light.  Regardless, I hope you enjoy!!

Sassy BB Stoup

1 ham steak, diced
2 tsp. olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
3 cans black beans, do not rinse
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
Juice of one lime
1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne (optional)
2 handfuls of rinsed and chopped cilantro

Directions -

Dice the ham steak into small cubes.  Heat 2 tsp. olive oil in stock pot.  Cook ham for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add onion and pepper, cover, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring once.  Add garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook for one additional minute.

Add tomatoes and black beans, combining well.  Then add lime juice and cayenne. I really did measure the cilantro in two handfuls.  Add, stir well, and cover.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

Serve with whatever you like, but please try to keep it healthy.  I prefer it as is, with maybe a piece of cornbread or a few whole grain tortilla chips.

I shopped for all the ingredients at a supermarket instead of Walmart, and if I'd shopped at Wally World I know I would have saved a few dollars.  This makes six 1-cup bowls and each bowl cost me $2, rounded up.  That's $12 for this stoup, and you can't buy a fast food dinner for you and your family for that little.  This has veggies, protein, carbs, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.  The veggies are fresh and the flavor is plentiful as well as adjustable.  What will the golden arches give you? Never mind, don't answer, I don't want to know!

Diet Note:   I frequently hear from readers, "I can't eat beans..." for the obvious reason. Try Gas-X Prevention.  It's an enzyme that helps prevent bloating and other gastric upset.  It's better than the other brand.  Of course, this is only a suggestion, and I am not a doctor.  Please consume (or do not consume) responsibly.

Salt Note:   I really do mean not to add salt.  It may seem at first, while the stoup simmers, that it needs salt.  Believe me, in 20 minutes, the lack of those beans being rinsed will come through and it will be salty enough. If you want to reduce the sodium, rinse the beans and add some water from one of the cans.