Chinese Take-Out Chicken Lo Mein With Mushroom & Red Pepper

For years the only type of food that I consistently had to go out to enjoy was Chinese.  No matter how hard I tried, the recipes I tried at home just never seemed to come close to the flavors of take-out or restaurant Chinese food.  Although going out on occasion for dinner or lunch is nice, I still like the option of being able to make at home the same types of dishes we enjoy when eating out.

A few years ago I came across a recipe for Chicken Lo Mein that sounded good.  Lo Mein is not something I have ever ordered out because I didn’t know what was in it.  After reading several recipes, however, I decided that all of the ingredients were ones we liked, and decided to give it a shot.  I made several attempts at this dish, and finally came up with one that everyone loved that quickly became a family favorite. This is the recipe I finally came up with.

Chicken Lo Mein with Mushroom & Red Pepper

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12 oz. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs

1/4 Cup Soy Sauce

1/4 Cup Dry Sherry or Red Wine

3 Tbsp. Corn Starch

16 oz. Dried Linguine

4 Tbsp. Cooking Oil

4 Tbsp. Roasted Sesame Oil

2 Cups Sliced Fresh Mushrooms

1 Large Sweet Onion, cut into slices

1 Red Pepper, cut into thin slices

8 Green Onions, chopped

2 Cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth

  1. Cut chicken into thin strips. For marinade combine soy sauce, sherry or wine, and corn starch in small bowl.  Add chicken to marinade and stir to coat.  Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Cook the pasta according to package directions.
  3. Preheat wok over medium-high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon each cooking and sesame oil.  Add mushrooms and red pepper and let cook for one minute without stirring.  Cook one minute more while stirring constantly.  Remove from pan.
  4. Add another tablespoon of cooking oil and sesame oil to wok.  Repeat above with sliced and green onions. Remove from wok.
  5. Add another tablespoon or two of cooking oil and sesame oil to wok. Drain chicken from marinade, reserving marinade.  Stir fry chicken in wok until no longer pink.
  6. Push chicken from center of wok.  Add reserved marinade and chicken broth to center of wok.  Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.
  7. Add drained pasta and vegetables.  Stir to coat.  Cook about 1 minute more until heated through.  Serve immediately.

This is one of those meals that everyone fights for the leftovers, if there are any. It is hearty, tasty and can be finished in less than an hour and a half (including marinade time).  Although I don’t have many Chinese dishes among recipes I can successfully duplicate here at home, this dish is definitely a keeper, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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Wonton Soup On A Super-Cold Michigan Afternoon

There is nothing I like making more than soup on a bitter-cold, winter afternoon.  It warms the soul.

For me it doesn’t matter what type of soup it is, as long as it’s hot and hearty.  For the kids, though, they like something similar to their favorite — Chicken Noodle.  I too like chicken noodle, but sometimes I like to mix it up a bit and make wonton soup instead.  No complaints from anyone when I do this, that’s for sure.

Wonton Soup

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  • 1/2 lb. Ground Pork
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Dry Sherry
  • Black Pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. Ginger
  • 1 tsp. Finely chopped scallions
  • 1 Tbsp. Cornstarch dissolved in 1/3 Cup Water
  • 2 tsp. Sesame Oil
  • Wonton Wrappers
  • 5 Cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock
  • 1 Tbsp. Chopped Scallions

Combine pork and seasonings and mix until smooth.  Divide into 40 portions and wrap into wontons.

Bring 6 cups of water to boil in large pot.  Add wontons and stir gently.  Cook until water boils.  Add 1 1/2 Cups cold water.  Bring to boil again.  Add water again.  Bring back to boil and continue boiling 3 minutes.  Remove from water with slotted spoon and place in colander.

Put chicken or vegetable stock into stock pot.  Bring to boil.  Drop in wontons and simmer for 2 minutes.  Season to taste.  Add chopped scallions just before serving.

This is especially an easy soup to make when I have the filling for the wontons already made and frozen in the freezer.  I typically double the recipe and then freeze what I don’t use in smaller portions for later use.  When I feel like having some wonton soup, all I have to do is defrost a small bag of filling and fill the wontons.  Typically I keep wontons frozen too.

Soup is one of those comfort foods that warms everyone from the inside out, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Ever-Growing To Do List

A “To Do List” is something that is supposed to get smaller as the day goes on, not bigger, right? Well, if this is the case, I am doing something terribly wrong.

This morning, I started out with a To Do List with 24 things on it. Throughout the day I proudly marked off six or seven of these tasks, and yet at the end of the day, I now have 28 things still to do. How does this happen?

What I really like to do is add things to my To Do List as the day goes on, that I’ve actually completed that were not already on the list. This really makes me feel like I’m making progress.  Unfortunately, for some reason all those other tasks that were on the list from the start, never seem to earn that ceremonious crossing-off. Yep, I can see all the things I’ve done, but this is overshadowed by all the things I haven’t done.  They sit there, staring up at me,  laughing at me, mocking me, reminding me that there is STILL so much to do.

One task that was not on my To Do List that I did today took up about an hour and a half of my day, and I do have to say it was time well spent. Yesterday I answered an ad on Craig’s List that offered canning jars for $3 and $4 a dozen. I jumped all over it, sending out an email the moment I saw it. This morning I got a response, and by 9:30 I was on the road to pick up 22 dozen quart, pint, half-gallon, 8 oz. and 12 oz. jars. These could not have come at a better time, as I have been steadily depleting the stockpile of jars I collected throughout last winter and spring.

You’d think that 22 dozen was enough, but tomorrow I am heading to a garage sale that boasts “250 jars – Priced to go – Cheap.” What they consider cheap and what I consider cheap might not be the same thing, but after I drop Grace off at work tomorrow, it’s only about a 10 minute drive to the sale. At this point, with my stockpile somewhat replenished, I won’t pay more than $3 a dozen, regardless of size. The only factor that might make me consider $4 a dozen would be if they came with the bands. That is the one thing I am definitely running short of.

I have been removing the bands from all my canned goods and reusing them because I don’t have any to spare. Thankfully I learned this trick a few years ago. As long as the bottle is sealed, the band is not necessary. It’s main purpose is to hold the lid in place while it seals. Once sealed, the band can be removed and the lid should stay secure. I do check my lids every couple of weeks to make sure nothing has come undone, but so far I have not run into any problems (knock on wood!).

Although something not on my “Daily” To Do List, I did complete something on my “Canning” To Do List today as I was making dinner (yes, I wrote “make dinner” on my To Do List after I made it). Finding a recipe for sweet and sour pork or chicken that tasted like carry-out Chinese sweet and sour has been something I have been working on for years. Finally, last fall, after combining several recipes, tweaking the ingredients a bit, and vowing it was my very last time ever trying, I did it. At least I think so and so does hubby and the kids.

With the recipe part done, my next task was to see if there were some way to simplify making this somewhat labor-intensive meal. What did I come up with? Well, canning of course. I’m not much on canning meat, but canning the sweet and sour sauce so I wouldn’t have to spend an additional 35 to 40 minutes mixing, cooking, and reducing over a hot stove, sounded like a great idea. So that’s exactly what I did and here is the recipe.

Sweet & Sour Sauce

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2 1/2 tsp. Soy Sauce
1 1/2 Cups Ketchup
5 Cups Water
1 1/4 tsp. Canning Salt
3 3/4 Cups Sugar
2 Cups Apple Cider Vinegar
4 Cups Pineapple Juice
5 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed in 1/3 Cup Water
5 Onions, cut into wedges
2 Green Peppers, cut into 1“ square pieces
2 Red Peppers, cut into 1“ square pieces
3-4 Tbsp. Peanut Oil

Heat peanut oil in wok or stock pot to medium-high. Add onion and peppers and cook until crisp-tender.

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Remove from heat and wipe out remaining oil.
Combine remaining ingredients in pan and bring to boil. Add onions and peppers.

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Boil hard for one minute.
Ladle sauce into jars, place lids and bands on jars, and process in water bath for 30 minutes.

To use: Prepare pork or chicken to your preference. I like them breaded or not, it depends on how much time I have. Once the meat is cooked through, pour one to two jars of sauce over meat and bring to boil. The longer you cook it, the thicker the sauce becomes. Serve over rice.

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I love canning jams, jellies, spreads, syrups, concentrates, and pie filling, but there is something to be said for canning something that will make putting dinner on the table quick and easy when time runs out — like it usually does. Sweet and Sour Sauce is now going to be a staple in the pantry, ready to use when my To Do List keeps growing exponentially, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Chinese Pepper Steak

The Chinese Pepper Steak I made for dinner yesterday turned out very good. I can’t say it tastes just like they serve in Chinese restaurants, but it was tasty and the family agreed I could make it again — they’re so good to me. As usual, I didn’t have all the ingredients so I had to improvise a bit, but for the most part the recipe is identical to J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s on Seriouseats.com. Following is the recipe with the improvisations I made in parenthesis:

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CHINESE PEPPER STEAK (STIR-FRIED BEEF WITH ONIONS, PEPPERS, AND BLACK PEPPER SAUCE)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound flank steak, skirt steak, hanger steak, or flap meat, cut into 1/4-inch thick strips (I used round steak sliced very thin)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (divided) (I doubled this)
  • 1/3 cup shaoxing wine or dry sherry (divided) (I doubled this but didn’t have sherry so used red wine)
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch (doubled)
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium homemade or store-bought chicken stock (I used 1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil (doubled)
  • 1 tablespoons sugar (double)
  •  1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper (I used 1.5 tbsp)
  • 2 green bell peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch squares (about 2 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1-inch squares (about 1 cup) (only used green pepper)
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1-inch strips from pole to pole (about 1 1/2 cups) (Used three onions)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, finely minced (about 2 teaspoons) (Used 4 tsp minced garlic)
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger (Used 3 tsp. ground ginger)
  • 3 scallions, whites only, finely minced
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable, peanut, or canola oil
  • Kosher salt to taste

Procedures

  1. Combine beef, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon xiaoshing wine in a bowl and toss to coat. Let marinate for at least 20 minutes at room temperature and up to 3 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, combine remaining soy sauce with corn starch and stir with a fork to form a slurry. Add remaining xiaoshing wine, chicken stock, sesame oil, sugar, and pepper. Set aside. Combine peppers and onions in a bowl and set aside. Combine garlic, ginger, and scallions in a bowl and set aside.To Cook On A Burner: When ready to cook, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok over high heat until smoking. Add half of beef and cook without moving until well seared, about 1 minute. Continue cooking while stirring and tossing until lightly cooked but still pink in spots, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl. Repeat with 1 more tablespoon of oil and remaining beef, adding beef to same bowl. Wipe out wok. Repeat with 1 more tablespoon oil and half of peppers and onions. Transfer to bowl with beef. Repeat with remaining oil and remaining peppers/onions. Return wok to high heat until smoking. Return peppers/onions/beef to wok and add garlic/ginger/scallion mixture. Cook, tossing and stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add sauce and cook, tossing and stirring constantly until lightly thickened, about 45 seconds longer. Carefully transfer to a serving platter and serve (I followed this part exactly and the meat was super tender and the vegetables were perfect).

The original recipe can be found here: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/06/chinese-pepper-steak-stir-fried-beef-with-onions-peppers-and-black-pepper-sauce-recipe.html?ref=search

Making Chinese-style food for dinner is one I have struggled with for years. For some reason I have never been able to duplicate my favorite entrees’. This year it has been one of my goals to remedy this and finally have recipes that I would be proud to serve to guests. Last year I did manage to finally make a sweet and sour pork/chicken recipe that I’m happy with. This year I am working on Almond Boneless Chicken (I’ve almost got it, just need to tweak the sauce so it’s not too mushroomy), Chicken with Broccoli in a white sauce, egg rolls (I’ve made them with ground chicken and ground pork, but am still not satisfied), and pork fried rice.

Trying new recipes is fun, especially when they actually turn out. I just love it when my husband tells me, “Yeah dinner was great — just don’t ever make that again!” That certainly boosts the old confidence. I know he’s kidding, but still, it does plant the seed of doubt. Pretty much the determining factor as to whether a recipe makes it onto the menu again is if I like it. If I’m not satisfied, it’s back to the drawing board. Once I actually like what I’ve made, and the family agrees it’s a keeper, then I can check that dish off my “to learn” list.

Chinese Pepper Steak made it onto the menu board finally after three failed prior attempts. I can now move on to the next challenge in Chinese cookery which is always exciting, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.