A Catch-Up Post: Bourbon Street Chicken

If there were ever another “genre” of ethnic food that comes close to overtaking Tex-Mex in Muffin’s heart or mine, it would be “Chinese.”  Notice that “Chinese” is in quotes.  A lot of what Muffin (and I) adore about Chinese food is more Americanized Chinese.

Yes, I mean that we like it more than Italian (although Josh’s lasagna does challenge it a bit).

It’s one form of cooking where you can virtuously chomp on crunchy veggies and pretend you are eating really unhealthy food.

Think Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce.  Or fried (in our case, not-so-fried) rice.  Or stir-fried veggies.

The combinations of all are endless.

Of course, today’s catch-up post has (cough cough) no veggies, although I did stir fry some frozen broccoli (pretty much the only way to save frozen broccoli from becoming scary, limp, gray mush) with garlic and pepper flakes.

Today, I present you to that quasi-Chinese dish of mall “Chinese restaurants”:  Bourbon Street Chicken.  Our school district serves a version of this dish sometimes, but because they don’t want the students to associate it with alcohol, the district nutritionists have changed the name to “New Orleans Chicken.”

In reading the menus for weeks to my students, it took a VERY long time to figure out that they really meant Bourbon Chicken.

I found this recipe, well, this version, because it seems that many blogs have this recipe somewhere, on Life in the Lofthouse.

Bourbon Street Chicken

Adapted very closely from Life in the Lofthouse

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into small cubes (LitL calls for 4 chicken breasts, which to Albertson’s meat packers way of thinking, equates to 4 pounds instead of the pound I’m sure she intended)

2 tablespoons veg oil

2 minced garlic cloves

1/4 cup apple juice (She says apple or pineapple, but we always seem to have apple in the house and rarely seem to have pineapple)

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup water

1/3 cup soy sauce

pinch red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon cornstarch

In a large skillet containing medium-high heated oil, cook chicken pieces until no longer pink (stir-fry style).  Remove chicken and pour out any juices.  Return skillet to the heat.  Add chicken back to pan.

Mix together remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.  Whisk until cornstarch is completely combined.

When chicken is golden, pour sauce into pan. Stir to coat chicken.  Reduce heat to low and cover with the lid at an angle to allow steam to escape.

Simmer 20 minutes, stirring a few times.

Serve over rice with choice of veg.

Since this was served with “trees” (broccoli), this entire meal was Muffin Approved.

Muffin Approved

Meal Plan Monday: What I’ve Learned

Meal Plan Monday

Good morning, meal planners!

In response to the title of the post, I’m going to share something I’ve learned about meal planning since returning to work and Muffin starting school.  1)  Kindergarten gives homework.  2) After working all day, you really are already tired when you pick up a Muffin and cajole him into completing homework.  3) You are too exhausted to assemble dinner if it involves more than the oven or the microwave.

So, I’m taking a new (well, really, a return to the old) meal approach.  If it isn’t done on the weekend, it ain’t happening.  Seriously.  That means for the three main dishes I’m making this week, the two casseroles have to be prepared in advance, and the Mexican pizzas (which didn’t get made last weekend) has to have everything pretty much ready to go.

This is the wave of the future folks (planning OAMC stuff to fill in on weeks that we go away for the weekend, etc.).

So, here we go:

Saturday:  hot dogs and marshmallows cooked in the fire pit, chips

Sunday:  grilled chicken with grilled mushrooms and onions, grilled sugar snap peas with raspberry chipotle sauce

Monday:  Mexican pizzas from Life in the Lofthouse, chips and salsa

Tuesday:  chicken spaghetti from Six Sisters’ Stuff, bread

Wednesday:  Ranch Chicken Enchiladas from Life in the Lofthouse, chips, beans, salsa

Thursday:  leftovers, baby!

Friday:  Guys are on their own; I will be probably bringing leftovers.  I have to work a football game.

Saturday:  Chili with cheese and crackers

Sunday:  Roast of some kind with veg.

I will post Muffin’s lunches in a special WPW post this week.

A Catch-Up Post: Crockpot Thai Peanut Chicken

I made this recipe in March when we had company.  A friend and former/possibly future coworker of Josh’s was staying with us while his apartment was readied.  This recipe was on the menu already when Josh invited him to stay with us.

Sadly, this was not a dish that anyone (other than Muffin and me) enjoyed.

The funny thing about this is that I grew up not liking peanut butter unless it was mixed with chocolate.  So, to enjoy peanut butter, especially in a savory dish, is nothing short of miraculous.

Muffin really seems to like these pork and chicken shreds over rice dishes.

Josh, who could eat peanut butter sandwiches possibly every day, can’t stand the idea of peanut butter and meat.  He also doesn’t like mole (just imagine the accent is over the e–pronounced mo-lay) because of the chocolate and meat connection.  (That was an early date of ours that was not good eats for Josh.)

To me, the peanut butter simply adds an earthy depth of flavor.

And to me…anything with cilantro garnish sprinkled over the top has to be good.

I am trying to expand our culinary repertoire to some of the Asian and African countries.  However, peanuts, though very common in African cuisine, as well, do not belong in a sweet potato salad containing sweet potatoes, green onions, and peanuts.

That was probably the worst thing that I have ever put in my mouth.  Ever.  Wait, no probably to it.  It was.  The.  Absolute.  Worst.  Thing.  Ever.

And I like/love all three of those ingredients by themselves.  Sweet potatoes:  major love, except in savory dishes.  Like kale chips, sweet potato fries are one food application I simply cannot do.  Peanuts I’ve grown to be okay with.  Green onions?  Possibly my favorite relative of that food family.  But together?  That should never happen.  EVER!

But this dish?  True awesomeness, at least to Muffin and me.

Crockpot Thai Peanut Chicken

Adapted from Family Fresh Meals

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 small red bell pepper, sliced

1 small yellow bell pepper, sliced

1 onion, chopped

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

1 tablespoon lime juice (plus wedges for serving)

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons honey

prepared rice or noodles

Garnishes:  lime wedges, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 1/4 cup crushed peanuts (which I forgot every time I served it)

Place vegetation (peppers and onions) in the bottom of the slow cooker to serve as a bed for the chicken to rest upon.  Place chicken on top.

Whisk together peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, chicken broth, and honey in a smallish bowl.  Pour the sauce over the chicken.

Cook on LOW in a smallish slow cooker (I used Red) for six hours.  Shred chicken and return to the crock for fifteen more minutes of cooking.

Serve over rice and noodles with appropriate garnishes.

Muffin Approved

(I don’t know if I’ll be able to repeat it though, unless it’s another week when Josh is on call.)

A Catch-Up Post: Sloppy Joes and Sloppy Joe Squares

This is another recipe made when Josh’s friend Troy stayed with us while waiting for his apartment to be ready.  This one everyone liked much better than the Crockpot Thai Peanut Chicken.

I was already somewhat familiar with at least part of the recipe that I found at Life in the Lofthouse.  I had previously made Sloppy Joes using the filling mentioned in the recipe.  Pretty awesome, as far as Sloppy Joes go.

As a casserole, it’s almost a one-dish meal.  All you need to do is add a veg or two.  You could even easily add peppers or a bit more onion to the meat mixture to make it more healthy.  Just remember that it is a casserole, so it needs to sit for a few minutes after you take it out of the oven for it to “set up.”

When we were first married, Josh wanted me to make Sloppy Joes.   I didn’t have a “go to” recipe, and I refused to pay for a can of Manwich.  Something about that just seemed wrong.  Maybe if the meat were included in the can, it wouldn’t be such a bad price.

So, it wasn’t until I found this recipe that I found a Sloppy Joe recipe that I could live with.

I’ve now made the squares a couple of times and have altered it slightly to make it more manageable for me.

First of all, we don’t always have ground beef.  It’s usually ground turkey or ground pork for us.  Ground pork is easier for us to manage because pork loins often go on sale for under $2/pound.  So, the meat factory bee-sheen gets a workout.

Sloppy Joe Squares

Adapted from Life in the Lofthouse (link above)

*Note:  For Sloppy Joes, omit the crescent roll dough and cheese.  Follow the process for the meat mixture as directed.

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup onion, chopped

1 pound ground meat

1 cup ketchup

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1-2 sheets of crescent roll sheets (found with the other crescent rolls–It saves having to press the seams together)

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the onion, and cook until soft and translucent, but not brown.  Brown the meat with the onion.  Drain any fat.

Add all other ingredients (besides crescent roll sheets and cheese).  Stir to combine.  Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.  (Stop here and serve over buns if you are having Sloppy Joes.)

Roll out the crescent roll sheet and press into the bottom of a 9×13 pan.  Press until the dough comes up half an inch on the sides.  (This one can be omitted if you are trying to be a bit more carb conscious.)

Pour the meat sauce mixture over the dough and spread to make it all even.  Sprinkle with the cheese.

Cover the mixture with the remaining roll of dough.

Bake on a lower rack of the oven for 30 minutes.  If the bottom is still doughy, cover the top with foil and cook a few minutes more.

Let the casserole rest out of the oven for a few minutes before cutting into it–especially if you omit the bottom crust!

Both versions of this recipe are Muffin Approved–but he really likes it as a Sloppy Joe on a bun!

Muffin Approved

Meal Plan Monday: A Nod to (Hopefully) Cooler Weather

Meal Plan Monday

I am psyching out the weather.  Yes, the mercury has (FINALLY) dipped below 100.  Yes, we are enjoying temperatures in the mid-90s, considering them almost glacial in contrast to the blistering, punishing 103s and 104s.

The other day, Muffin and I left the house to go for a drive.  Muffin noted (keeping in mind the temperature was already hovering in the 70s) that the weather was finally the way he liked it:  COLD!

So, in honor of Muffin, the “cold menu”:

Saturday:  soup and grilled cheese

Sunday:  pork loin, potatoes, onion, and carrots

Monday:  Mexican pizza, broccoli with ranch for dipping

Tuesday:  Chick-Fil-A (use the card night)

Wednesday:  waffles and bacon/sausage (homemade)

Thursday:  leftovers!

Friday:  hot dogs on a campfire!

Saturday:  grill something

Sunday:  chicken nuggets (Guess what’s on Muffin’s lunch menu for the last week of September???)

And now, the Muffin lunches:

Monday:  pizza lunchable (because he didn’t take it last week), clementine, broccoli and dip, Capri Sun, fruit roll-up

Tuesday:  leftover pork loin, veg from the pork loin, fruit squeeze pouch, chocolate milk, candy piece

Wednesday:  slider sandwich with cheese (Muffin loves the slider sandwich buns we got from Kroger!), sweet pickle and tomato on the sandwich, fruit cup, juice box, fruit snack

Thursday:  leftover Mexican pizza, extra tomato slices, apple, Propel water, pudding cup

Friday:  tuna sandwich slider, yogurt, fruit cup, olives and pickles, “tree” cookie, Hi-C box

What’s on your meal plan for this week?

A Catch-Up Post: Fuji Chicken

This is a post that could be subtitled:  when it says use low-sodium soy sauce, they mean it!

I’ve never bought low-sodium soy sauce before.  I prefer to use full-flavored fun.  So, when I used the high-octane stuff in the sauce in this dish, it turned into a salt lick.

Muffin, however, adored it.  It had hand-julienned stir fried carrots and bias-cut snow peas, of course.  It had crunchy chicken.  It had a salty sauce made with apples.  It was over rice and fancy.

He loved it.

I loved every aspect except my massive mess-up on the sauce.

Josh couldn’t get past the sauce.

Lesson learned:  I purchased two bottles of the low-sodium stuff for next time.  And there will be a next time.  (Evil laugh)  There’s always a next time!

Be prepared to use many (if not most) of your stove top cooking vessels on this one.  I would volunteer someone else to do dishes on the night you serve this.

Some components are good enough on their own.  The carrot-and-snow-pea stir-fry would be a great side for any “Chinese” dish.  Or as a side for the chicken with some flavored rice (or even couscous…if you can get back the feeling that you are trying to eat large grains of sand or tiny eyeballs).

That’s pretty awesome that you can extract two components of this dish that would be awesome as their own dish (main or side).

Because of all of the food prep, I wouldn’t consider this a weeknight meal, unless you do all of the prep possible on the weekend and make it on a Monday or Tuesday.

I may have mentioned this in the past, but Muffin loves “Chinese” food, just like Josh and me.  When I asked him on a recent eating-out day (when the meal plan simply was not…going…to…happen…It was too hot to contemplate anything), he promptly said “Chinese.”

Maybe that’s why he likes this dish so much.

Fuji Chicken

(Followed exactly from Mandy’s Recipe Box)

1-1 1/2 pounds-worth of boneless skinless chicken breasts, divided into four pieces if not four individual breasts

1/2 cup flour

2 eggs

2 tsp milk

2 cups panko crumbs (They must be panko to get the crunchy)

1 1/2 cups matchstick carrots (I cut by hand, and it took forever)

2 1/2 cups snap peas, cut in half diagonally

4 cups of rice (You may have extra to make rice pudding or fried rice at a later date)

veg oil or canola oil

1 cup soy sauce (USE LOW-SODIUM)

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon (possibly more) cornstarch

1 medium Fuji or granny smith apple, peeled and cut into matchsticks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Take your aggression out on the chicken:  Place each chicken breast (one at a time) in a quart-sized zippy bag.  Pound with your mallet to thin and even (in thickness).  Repeat with remaining chicken.

Take out three shallow dishes.  Put flour in one.  Whisk together eggs in milk in one.  Place panko in the third.  Using one hand (Seriously, only one hand needs to be club hand…you need one clean hand to turn on the faucet to wash the other off.  Keep your other hand behind your back.  Do it!!!), dredge each breast in flour, dunk in the egg mixture, and roll until coated in panko.

Heat a large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat.  Add in oil (one tablespoon).  Cook each side of each chicken breast 2-3 minutes per side.  Place chicken in preheated oven and continue to cook 15-20 minutes (or until done).

While waiting for the chicken to finish, make the sauce by combining soy sauce, water, brown sugar, ginger, cornstarch, and apple in a pot on the stove.  Whisk constantly.  Bring to a boil and boil one minute.

Reduce heat and simmer five minutes.  Check the consistency of the sauce.  Add water (too thick) or cornstarch (too thin), as necessary.

In the same pan that held the chicken (so, yes, after the chicken is done), stir-fry the veggies in 2 teaspoons of oil until crisp-tender (stir-fry consistency).

Slice chicken into strips and place the strips together puzzle-style.

On a plate, make a bed of rice.  Add a layer of veg on top of the rice.  Arrange one piece of chicken’s strips artistically with little spaces between over the veggies.  Drizzle sauce artistically yet copiously over all.

Serve with remaining sauce.

Enjoy this completely Muffin Approved dish!

(In fact, I promised him a while back that I would make it again.)

Muffin Approved

A Catch-Up Post: Mexican Pizzas

Trivia question:  What is the most overpriced item on Taco Bell’s menu?

Answer:  Their Mexican Pizza, of course.

It also happens to be, perhaps, my favorite item on their menu (with the Beef Mexi-Melt).  You do remember where I explained that I ate Tex-Mex breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout my third trimester with Muffin, right?

I wasn’t kidding.

It’s not that I was craving it (at least, any more than normal).  It was that I was pregnant, and I wanted to encourage my son’s taste buds to like Tex-Mex in the womb.  And I was having a normal (non-pregnancy) craving that my pregnancy left me free to indulge.

Seriously.

My bouts of pregnancy insomnia were spent (to Josh’s irritation) banging pots and pans around at 2 and 3 in the morning in order to make a nacho bake or enchilada casserole that I just had to get done before morning.

I didn’t need to eat it or anything. (There were probably taco leftovers in the fridge.  I just needed to cook it to ensure that we would be able to have Tex-Mex the next night and for leftovers.)

Yup.

That’s me.

Has anyone noticed how, umm, skimpy the Mexican Pizzas have become in the last few years?  When I found the recipe for them at Life in the Lofthouse, I decided to load them up to make them a meal on their own.

In other words, if I’m going to eat one, let it be worth the calorie splurge.

As you can see from the picture above, I may have gone a bit overboard.  Just a bit.  Possibly.

I had trouble finishing a whole one.  I considered it a successful experiment at that point.

One thing that I would really stress that isn’t mentioned in the original post:  Poke a few holes in your tortillas with a fork in order to keep them from blowing up like balloons.  Trust me.  Balloon tortillas make the process a bit problematic.

This is best completed with an assembly line process, getting the whole family involved.  It becomes way too complicated if you use one person to do it all.

Mexican Pizzas

Adapted from Life in the Lofthouse

1 pound ground meat (I think we used turkey)

1 packet taco seasoning (or homemade)  If you use store-bought, try to find a lower sodium one.

1/2 cup water

8 fajita-size/small flour tortillas

1 (15-16 ounce) can refried beans, warmed (or homemade)  If canned, you may want to loosen the beans with a bit of water. (Think the consistency of Taco Bell’s Pintos and Cheese.)

1 (15-16 ounce) can enchilada sauce (If you have a great homemade one, leave me a line below–which will go to my e-mail–so that I can try it out.)

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese (I would probably use regular Monterey jack for Muffin next time.)

1 tomato, diced

2 green onions, diced

1 small can sliced ripe olives

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  “Dock” the flour tortillas in several places with a fork.  Spray both sides of each tortilla with non-stick spray.  Place four tortillas each on a half sheet pan.

Place in the oven and bake five minutes.  Turn carefully while in the oven and bake another five minutes.  The goal is golden and crispy.

Remove from the oven and stack carefully on a paper towel.

Meanwhile, make the taco meat by browning the ground meat in a large skillet over medium heat.  Stir in taco seasoning and water.  Bring mixture to a boil and then simmer 10 minutes.

The building process:

Place one tortilla on the (hopefully cooled) sheet pan.  Spread a thin layer of refried beans on the tortilla.  Top with 1/4 of the meat mixture.  Place another tortilla on top of the meat.  Spread 3 tablespoons of enchilada sauce on top of the tortilla.  Sprinkle with both of the cheeses.  Add a few slices of green onion, tomato, and olives.

Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Bake ten minutes until cheese and sauce is bubbly.  Let sit a few minutes before cutting and serving.  By the way (I am not receiving any compensation for this), if you have one of those red Xyliss pizza cutters that Alton Brown used to use on Good Eats, use that.  If you don’t, get one.  It makes the cutting process of these pizzas (relatively) mess free.

These were Muffin, Muffin’s Mama, and Muffin’s Dada (Josh) Approved.

Muffin Approved