Monthly Archives: February 2014

Who Needs Take Out? Homemade Mu Shu Chicken

As much as we all love Chinese takeout, let’s face it – it can get expensive if you eat it too often and there are times that even when you get food from your favorite takeout place that the meal seems less than inspiring when you eat it. With that in mind, why not try to make some of your favorite meals right at home? Very often they are a lot easier to do than you think and even with all of the ingredients may cost less than what it would cost to get it from a takeout place. When I saw this Guy Fieri recipe for Mu Shu chicken, I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off since it involves making your Chinese pancakes, which are basically like crepes. As intimidating as the thought was, the reality seemed much easier and I wanted to give it a try.

Mu Shu Chicken

1/3 cup hoisin sauce, plus more for serving
3 tablespoons  soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 red pepper, seeded, membrane removed, julienned
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 medium head green cabbage, finely shredded
1/2 medium head purple cabbage, finely shredded
1/2 cup julienned carrots
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
1/4 cup shaved bamboo shoots, drained
1/4 cup sliced water chestnuts, drained
4 eggs, beaten
2 recipes Chinese Crepes, recipe follows
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, optional
1 small bunch scallions, finely sliced, optional
Fresh cilantro leaves, for serving, optional
Sriracha, for serving, optional
For the Chinese Crepes:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup rice flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 eggs

For the Mu Shu chicken: Whisk the hoisin, soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, garlic and ginger in a mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add the sliced chicken thighs and toss them  to coat them evenly with the marinade. Marinate the chicken, covered, at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.

Once 5 minutes of marinating time remains, heat a large skillet over high heat and add 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil to heat. Using a slotted spoon, strain the chicken and  add it to the very hot skillet. Cook, allowing the chicken to brown, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Add the red bell pepper and the onion slices, allowing them to soften, and cook for another minute. Next, add the cabbages and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until just browning, about 2 minutes. Push the chicken and vegetables to the side of the skillet and stir in the mushrooms, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts. Remove the skillet from the heat and set it aside, keeping the contents warm.

Place a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add the beaten eggs to the skillet, allowing them to scramble, about 2 to 3 minutes. Once cooked, break up the eggs with a rubber spatula and add them to the chicken. Toss the mixture to combine.

Spread about 1 tablespoon of hoisin sauce on each Chinese Crepes. Top with some mu shu chicken, sesame seeds and scallions. Add the cilantro leaves if desired. Roll up the crepe and serve with Sriracha if desired.

For the Chinese Crepes

In a medium glass mixing bowl, whisk the flours, salt, 1 cup of water, the sesame oil and the eggs; the batter should be smooth and free of lumps.

Heat a 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Very lightly coat the skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Ladle in 1/4 cup of the batter. Gently rotate the skillet for a few seconds, swirling the batter to create a thin, even layer over the bottom. Cook the pancake until the underside is pale and just firmed up, about 1 minute.

Flip the pancake over and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove it from the skillet and transfer it to a plate and cover with a kitchen towel. Continue with the rest of the batter until all the pancakes have been made. Keep the pancakes warm until ready to serve.

This was a very tasty dish that was easy to make. Granted, there are a lot of ingredients involved and you need to leave yourself some time for some prep work to get everything together and ready to go so you can just cook. This is what you should do for every stir fry dish anyway because the actual cooking time is pretty small, usually smaller than the prep time. The taste of the sauce is fantastic and really adds to the chicken and there are tons of great vegetables in this dish. The crunch from the cabbage and the water chestnuts go great with the carrots and mushrooms and the chicken. As for the crepes, they were not hard to make at all. I only tore one in making them, and it was the first one I made. After that, I got the hang of it and make sure you let it cook the full minute before you try to flip it to make sure it flips nicely. Guy actually adds some sliced scallions to his crepes while they cook but I left them out this time since I was just trying to get them cooked successfully. I think they came out well and everyone seemed to enjoy them. I would definitely try making this one again.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another great recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on February 26, 2014 in Cooking, Dinner, One Pot Meals, Poultry, Vegetables


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Eat Your Peas and Carrots (Risotto)!

I have a lot of arborio rice on hand, which is the rice you want to use for risotto, and we all love risotto here, but it can be a bit of a chore to make. You need to commit to the constant stirring and adding of stock and then more stirring to make sure it comes out correctly, so it is not something I make very often. That being said, when I came across this recipe from Kitchen Daily the other day it seemed too good not to try and I liked the idea of it. The original recipe is for a fresh carrot risotto that makes use of carrot juice. Now, I don’t have carrot juice on hand nor do I have juicer. Remember, walk-in closet in my bedroom is as big as my kitchen, and neither is very big. So I decided to make a little bit of a change and call it a peas and carrots risotto. I swapped out the 2 cups of carrot juice for 4 large carrots instead and made it that way. I’ll include both options in the recipe so the choice is yours.

Peas and Carrots Risotto

4 cups chicken stock

2 cups fresh carrot juice (if using)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 shallot, finely chopped

4 large carrots, peeled and finely diced (if using)

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

1/2 cups dry white wine

2 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup frozen peas

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the chicken stock and carrot juice, if using, to a simmer. Keep the pan warm.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the shallot and carrots, if using, and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the shallots are softened and the carrots are crisp-tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the arborio rice and cook, stirring the rice, until it turns slightly milky colored, about 1 minute. Add the white wine and 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar and cook, stirring, until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the hot stock mixture, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly and adding more stock once it has been absorbed, about 20 minutes in total; the rice should be al dente and suspended in a thick, creamy sauce. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and 1 tablespoon of the butter, season with salt and pepper to taste and stir until the mixture is creamy.

In a medium skillet, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the peas and season them with salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat until the peas are warmed through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of white wine vinegar to the peas, then fold the peas into the risotto. Serve.

Admittedly the stirring is something of a pain but the end result is very worth it. You get a nice creamy risotto and this one has the great flavors of the peas and carrots. I can imagine that using the carrot juice would add even more flavor to the risotto. Since I didn’t use the carrot juice, I used 2 cups of stock in its place to make sure there was enough liquid to get the texture I wanted and we all really liked the taste with the peas and carrots. This one is definitely worth making again and you could certainly just eat the risotto as a meal on its own, but I served this with the glazed pork tenderloin that I  posted the recipe for yesterday to make a really nice meal.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe as there is plenty still to come. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on February 25, 2014 in Cooking, Dinner, Rice


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Easy Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Pear and Thyme… Sort Of

When I had bought pork tenderloin a couple of weeks I froze one of the tenderloins, as I usually do, so we can make one for another meal on another night. I decided to use it the other night after I had seen this recipe from Williams-Sonoma, but I wanted to make a little change to it. The original recipe is a glazed pork tenderloin with pear and thyme, but since I am the only one who really likes to eat pears in out house (the other two just kind of tolerate them when I cook with them), I decided to change it up just slightly by using some apple instead. Apples go so well with pork anyone that it just seemed like an easy and smooth transition for this recipe. This one is very simple with just a few ingredients and can be done in about 30 minutes total, making it even better.

Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Pear and Thyme

1 pork tenderloin, about 1 pound, trimmed of excess fat

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 red onion, cut into 1/8-inch wedges

4 pears, cored and each cut into 8 wedges

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Leaves from 12 fresh thyme sprigs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Season the pork tenderloin well with salt and the freshly ground black pepper to taste. In a ovenproof saute pan or cast iron pan set over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until it is shimmering. Sear the pork tenderloin, turning it occasionally, until it is well browned, about 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer the pork tenderloin to a plate.

Add the red onion and the pears to the pan and saute them for 1 minute. Return the pork to the pan and drizzle it with the honey and balsamic vinegar. Scatter the thyme leaves in the pan. Transfer the pork to the oven and roast it until the juices run clear when the pork is pierced with a knife, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Transfer the pork to a cutting board, cover it loosely with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Cut the  pork into slices about 1/2 an inch thick. Divide the pork, pears and onion wedges among the individual plates, drizzle with the glaze from the pan and serve immediately.

As I noted early, I substituted 2 golden delicious apples that were cored for the pears and cut the apples into wedges and cooked the pork with them. While I think the dish would be great with pears, I think it turned out just fine with the apples instead. The mix of the honey and the balsamic vinegar made a great glaze for the pork and for the apples and the flavor was fantastic. The best part – it was done in 30 minutes and all I needed to do was add a couple of side dishes and we were good to go. Easy to make and a fast clean up.

That’s all I have for today. Check back tomorrow when I will go over one of the side dishes I made that was fantastic – a peas and carrots risotto. It’s a good one so you will want to check for that one. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!


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Posted by on February 24, 2014 in Cooking, Dinner, Pork


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Another Easy Awesome Side Dish – Whiskey Glazed Carrots

You can never have too many options when it comes to making side dishes. I am always looking for something different to do with vegetables. They can get kind of boring if you just do the same thing over and over again. After awhile you start to feel as if you don’t even want to have certain vegetables because you get tired of having them the same way all the time. I think this happened to me with carrots for a bit and for a time I rarely made them at all unless they were just an added component of another part of the dish. I am trying to get them back into my vegetable rotation now because they are great for you, are inexpensive and actually quite versatile in what you can do with them since you can make them so many ways. Such is the case with this recipe I came across not that long ago for whiskey glazed carrots. I got this one from a cookbook I received for Christmas this year called “The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook.” If you are looking for some new Irish recipes to try, this is the book for you. This choice is a very easy one and simple to make and you could certainly omit the whiskey if you prefer not to have it, but it gives a decidedly Irish touch and flavor to the dish.

Whiskey Glazed Carrots

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup vegetable or peanut oil

3 tablespoons butter

4 carrots (about 1 pound) diagonally sliced into 1/2-inch circles

3/4-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced into matchstick strips

2 tablespoons Irish whiskey

1/2 cup chicken broth or water

Combine the sugar, pepper and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil and half of the butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the carrots in a single layer and sprinkle them with the sugar mixture. Cook the carrots over medium-high heat for 3 minutes, then start turning the slices with tongs and reduce the heat if necessary to prevent them from burning. When the carrots are slightly browned on both sides and starting to blacken at the edges, transfer the carrots to a plate.

Clean the skillet with paper towels. Add the ginger to the now-empty skillet and cook it over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until it is golden. Remove the ginger from the skillet and add it to the carrots.

Add the remaining butter, the Irish whiskey and the chicken broth or water to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a boil and then allow it to simmer for 3 minutes or until it begins to thicken and turn syrupy. Return the carrots and ginger to the skillet and swirl the carrots with the syrup for 1 minute. Serve.

Very quick and easy to do and they taste great. The syrup really helps to bring out the sweetness of the carrots and adds a really nice glaze to the dish. These are perfect to serve with any type of meat, pork or poultry dish and I think the whiskey adds just a hint of flavor without overpowering the carrots at all. It is a good quick dish to keep in mind for St. Patrick’s Day as well.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for some more recipes. I have plenty of entrees that I have tried lately that are great to try for weeknights or weekends. until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!


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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Cooking, Side Dishes, Vegetables


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An Easy, Awesome Side Dish – Roasted Asparagus with Lemon

One way to know for sure that spring is around the corner besides the facts that the weather might be getting warmer (hopefully) and the daylight hours are longer (for sure) is that you will find asparagus more plentiful and on sale this time of year.It really reaches its peak between March and May, but it has been on sale in my area for that last week or so and it always one of our favorite vegetables to eat with just about any meal. There are several good ways to make asparagus, but one of my favorites and one of my favorites to do any vegetable is by roasting it. This recipe from Williams-Sonoma is a very easy one to make with just a few ingredients that you can enjoy during the weeknight or with a more elegant dinner.

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon

2 pounds asparagus, tough ends trimmed and stems peeled

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

Zest of 1 lemon

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges

Position an oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Arrange the asparagus in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, minced garlic and the lemon zest. Brush the asparagus evenly with the oil mixture, turning the spears to make sure each one gets coated well, and then season the asparagus generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Arrange the lemon wedges around the asparagus on the baking sheet.

Roast the asparagus until it is tender and just starting to turn a golden color, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the asparagus to a warmed serving platter and drizzle it with any pan juices before serving.

Just a couple of things about asparagus in general. When you buy it from the store, you want to be sure that you choose spears that have bright green stalks and just a hint of purple color in the tips. If the tips are already starting to brown or the asparagus feels limp, choose another batch. If you are not planning to cook the asparagus that same day you need to make sure you store it properly so it doesn’t go bad on you. You can simply stand the spears upright in a pan filled with about 1 inch of water and refrigerate them until you are ready to cook them. They need the water to stay fresh and you should see them in water at the grocery store or on ice to keep them fresh. When you trim them, just make sure you cut off far enough to get rid of the woody stem at the bottom. Thicker asparagus does tend to need to be peeled so they cook more evenly, but if you buy thin asparagus you can get away without peeling them. This simple dish gives you great lemon flavor with the hint of garlic that goes so well with asparagus and it takes less than 10 minutes to make so you can do this one any night of the week.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!



Posted by on February 22, 2014 in Cooking, Cooking Tips, Vegetables


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Martha My Dear – Martha Stewart’s Braised Chicken Thighs with Winter Vegetables

When I was looking for something to do recently with some of the chicken thighs that I had purchased, I was searching around for a new recipe and I came across this one from Martha Stewart. I don’t use a lot of her recipes very often but this one fit in perfectly with what I wanted to make and actually made use of the exact ingredients I wanted to use. I had some cabbage on hand along with some apples and I wanted to try to find a way to incorporate it all into my meal. This recipe, for braised chicken thighs with winter vegetables, is the perfect one pot meal to get everything done in one pan for easy clean up while still having great flavor.

Braised Chicken Thighs with Winter Vegetables

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

4 skinless chicken thighs (about 2 pounds), patted dry

Salt and ground black pepper

3 slices bacon, diced medium

4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

1 onion, cut into 3/4-inch wedges

1 russet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

4 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 small green cabbage, cored and thick ribs removed, cut into 1/2-inch strips

1 apple, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large ovenproof pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and cook until they are browned on both sides, about 8 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Reduce the heat to medium and add the bacon and garlic. Cook until the bacon fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, potato and carrots and season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and stir in the cabbage, apple, red pepper flakes, chicken broth and Dijon mustard. Add the chicken thighs, nestling them into the vegetables and return the pan to the oven. Bake the chicken and vegetables until the chicken is cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into one of the chicken thighs registers 165 degrees, about 20 to 25 minutes. Stir the vegetables halfway through the cooking time to ensure they cook evenly.

The great thing about this meal, besides that it is all in one dish, is the great flavors that all work together in this one. You get a touch of smokiness from the bacon to go along with the great flavors from all of the vegetables, especially the cabbage. The apple also adds a nice tartness to the meal as well and you get just a hint of heat from the red pepper flakes. Best of all is you do not have to make any other side dishes to go along with the meal and you only have one pan to clean when everything is done. I don’t make enough use of cabbage and it is one of favorite vegetables so I hope to be using more of it in more recipes. In fact I just bought a red cabbage and a green cabbage today and have a plan to try a Mu Shu Chicken meal this weekend, so we’ll see how it goes. Anyway, this one was certainly a winner and you could just as easily do this with chicken drumsticks or breasts if you wanted to, though if you use bone-in breasts you may need to alter your cooking time slightly.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. There’s still lots of good stuff to come. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!



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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Cooking, Dinner, One Pot Meals, Poultry, Vegetables


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Time for Some Pork – Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apricot-Orange Glaze with Black Bean and Corn Relish

I love to make pork tenderloin because they can be made pretty quickly and easily during a weeknight and it feels like you are eating an elegant meal. I try to buy them when they are on sale, take one tenderloin out(they are almost always two to a package) and freeze the other for another night. When I went to make this one recently, I found two recipes I actually liked so I ended up combining their ideas into one singular recipe. I took a recipe idea from America’s Test Kitchen along with one from Every Day Health and came up with this roast pork tenderloin with an apricot-orange glaze and black bean and corn relish.

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Apricot-Orange Glaze with Black Bean and Corn Relish

1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 cup apricot preserves

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup dried apricots, quartered

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups frozen corn kernels

1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup red onion, diced

1 small red, yellow or orange bell pepper, seeded and diced

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Pat the pork tenderloin dry with paper towels, then season it with salt and pepper. Heat the vegetable oil in a large, oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat until it is just smoking. Brown the tenderloin on all sides, reducing the heat if the fat begins to smoke, about 10 minutes. Transfer the tenderloin to a plate and set it aside.

Combine the apricot preserves, orange juice, dried apricots and lemon juice in a bowl. Pour off all the fat from the skillet that held the tenderloin. Add the apricot mixture to the pan. scrape up any browned bits and simmer until the mixture is slightly thickened and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Return the tenderloin to the skillet and coat it well with the glaze on all sides.. Roast the tenderloin in the oven until the center of the pork registers 135 degrees on an instant read thermometer, about 15 to 18 minutes, turning the tenderloin halfway through the cooking time.

While the tenderloin is roasting, in a small saucepan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and heat until shimmering. Add the red onion and the pepper and saute until the vegetables are soft, about 2 to 3 minutes.Add the black beans, frozen corn, garlic and drained tomatoes and bring the mixture to a simmer. Heat just until the corn is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Toss in the  chopped parsley and mix and the refrigerate the relish for 30 minutes to blend the flavors.

Remove the tenderloin from the oven and transfer it to a cutting board. Tent the tenderloin with aluminum foil and let it rest until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 to 150 degrees before slicing, about 10 minutes. Slice the tenderloin and place it on a serving platter and then drizzle it with any remaining glaze that may be in the skillet. Serve the tenderloin with the black bean relish.

This is a very easy dinner that you can make in under an hour and it tastes great and looks like you put a lot of work into it. The glaze on the pork is super with the apricots and orange juice. I even added an apple to the glaze and baked it over the pork for some extra flavor. We all loved the black bean relish as well. It had incredible flavor and would be perfect as a side for a summer barbecue with ribs, hamburgers or even just as a great side for some Mexican food or even sandwiches. We ate the leftovers several times with other meals. You could use fresh corn for this as well and not cook anything in the recipe and simply combine all of the ingredients until they are well mixed if you wanted it that way or even give it a little heat by using hotter peppers in the relish instead of bell peppers. I also made some asparagus and rice to round out the meal.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. As usual there is always plenty more to come. If you ever have any recipes you might like to share, feel free to drop me a note in the comments section, send me an email at or send me a message on Facebook or Twitter. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!






Posted by on February 19, 2014 in Cooking, Dinner, Pork, Sauce, Side Dishes


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