Kung Pao Chicken

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Kung Pao Chicken! When I promise savory, I deliver. Combine sweet and sour, garlic and spice, with the crunch of peanuts, to pull off this do-it-yourself version of a Chinese restaurant favorite. By making it at home, you may have it faster than takeout. One bite and you’ll love it, but remember to share. Add a few red chili peppers for a dynamic taste experience, if you dare.

KUNG PAO CHICKEN

Ingredients:

2 cups boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks

2 tablespoons sherry cooking wine

2 tablespoons soybean sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons chili paste

1 teaspoon vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

4 green onions, snipped

8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and chopped

1/4 cup peanuts, chopped

Instructions for Marinade:

Mix together 1 tablespoon sherry cooking wine, 1 tablespoon soybean sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon water. Stir until smooth. Place chicken chunks in a glass dish. Pour in marinade. Toss to coat. Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Instructions for Sauce:

Combine in a glass bowl 1 tablespoon sherry cooking wine, 1 tablespoon soybean sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon water. Mix until smooth. Add chili paste, vinegar, honey, brown sugar, and garlic. Stir. Gradually fold in green onions, water chestnuts, and chopped peanuts. Transfer to a medium skillet. Cook on low/medium heat until aromatic, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, remove chicken from marinade. Discard marinade. Sauté chicken chunks in a large skillet until meat is white and juices run clear. As the sauce becomes aromatic, add in sautéed chicken chunks. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. Serve over noodles or rice.

Dirty Breakfast Rice

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Dirty Breakfast Rice! What do you get when you blend Hawaiian culture with Louisiana spice? You get a savory breakfast that will rev your engine all day long. Too often we think a cold breakfast will give us the energy needed until time allows for the next meal. Sometimes that isn’t until after the workday is almost finished. At least with Dirty Breakfast Rice you get a running start on a busy schedule. Its healthy carb is easily digestible and nutty taste is simply satisfying. Be good to yourself.

DIRTY BREAKFAST RICE

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

1 cup instant brown rice

7-ounce vegetable broth

1/2 pound smoked sausage link, cut-up in chunks

4 green onions, chopped

2 eggs, scrambled

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

1/4 cup soybean sauce

Instructions:

Melt butter in a deep skillet. Do not burn. Add brown rice. Coat well. Cook over medium heat 3-5 minutes, turning often until golden brown. Stir in vegetable broth and smoked sausage chunks. Cover. Simmer 15 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Scramble the eggs on the side of the pan. Once the eggs are almost cooked, combine the rice and eggs together. Add chopped green onion with tops, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, Cajun seasoning, and soybean sauce. Mix well and serve immediately.

Mole Sesame Chicken

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Mole Sesame Chicken! One of my longtime friends introduced me to this dish after spending some time in the Dominican Republic. The unique mole sauce contains chili pepper, aromatic spices, and dark Mexican chocolate making it a savory sauce over turkey or chicken. It creates a fabulous meal when you have leftover meat. Simply add plain or Spanish rice along with soft flour tortillas for the perfect pairings. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds for a nutty finish.

MOLE SESAME CHICKEN

Ingredients:

8.25 ounce jar Doña Maria Mole*

28 ounces chicken broth

1-2 pound rotisserie chicken

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Shred rotisserie chicken, removing skin and bones. Transfer chicken to a large bowl. Empty contents of mole paste into a blender. Add half the chicken broth. Blend until smooth. Add remaining broth. Repeat. Pour mole sauce over chicken. Stir to incorporate. Transfer to a covered casserole dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Sauce will thicken. Serve with sticky rice or Spanish rice. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

*I receive no recompense for recommending Doña Maria Mole, Mexican Condiment.

Acorn Squash with Wild Rice

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Acorn Squash with Wild Rice! When you talk about love at first bite, or rather, first sight, acorn squash sets the bar in the gourd family. With its rich jewel tones of Autumn, it looks as majestic on a dinner plate as it tastes. The sweet mellow flavor needs little or no seasoning. The biggest challenge I found was cutting the acorn squash in half. It is not for the weak-hearted. The rind to so hard, it is necessary to use a serrated knife and forcefully cut lengthwise in small slits until you have circled the entire squash. At that point you can connect the cuts to slice the squash until it splits. Go slow and take your time, lest you suffer from impatience with a minor injury. With that being said, go forth and partake in this gorgeous vegetable off-the-vine.

ACORN SQUASH WITH WILD RICE

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

2 acorn squash, halved and seeded

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

2 tablespoons onion, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup wild rice

1/2 cup brown rice

1 3/4 cups water

1/8 teaspoon sage

1/4 teaspoon thyme

2 teaspoons parsley flakes

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2-4 strips smoked bacon, crispy and crumbled

2 green onions, snipped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spread pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer. Toast for 5 minutes until brown. Remove from oven to cool. Carefully cut each squash in half crosswise. Scoop out seeds. Brush flesh sides of squash with olive oil. Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Place flesh side down on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick oil. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Flesh will be soft when pierced with a fork. Meanwhile, sauté onions in olive oil a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir until tender. Add wild rice and brown rice. Cook one minute. Do not burn. Add water, sage, thyme, parsley flakes, and dried cranberries. Cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 40-45 minutes until tender. Add pecans and crumbled bacon. Toss gently. Fill each squash cavity with wild rice mixture. Garnish with green onion snips and serve immediately.

Xinjiang Mini Cukes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Xinjiang Mini Cukes! Has anyone else noticed the adorable mini cucumbers in the produce department of the grocery store? I mean, they’re really cute; the size of an index finger. And they’re seedless! What a great addition to a relish plate. Today’s Chinese version of marinated cucumbers will kick-start any meal. It offers enough heat and spice from chile peppers along with the full-bodied taste of fried garlic to transport you to a country in Southeast Asia. No worries, the rice vinegar and natural honey make it easier on the stomach.

XINJIANG MINI CUKES

Ingredients:

4-6 mini seedless cucumbers

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon fried garlic

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1/2 tablespoon natural honey

1 tablespoon Golden Mountain sauce

1 tablespoon chili paste

Instructions:

Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise; then slice in half to make four quarters. Place cucumbers in a bowl and sprinkle with kosher salt. Set aside for 30 minutes. Drain excess water from cucumbers. Using a mortar and pestle, pumice red pepper flakes and fried garlic. Add rice vinegar, sesame oil, natural honey, Golden Mountain sauce, and chili paste. Mix well. Serve as a dipping sauce for mini cucumber appetizer OR pour over cucumbers; toss to coat and marinate in refrigerator for one hour or overnight.

Krispy ‘Mallow Bars

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Krispy ‘Mallow Bars! Remember when you were a kid and your lunchbox treats made all the other kids envious? Well, this quick and easy dessert bar has the same effect. Chocolate-lovers appreciate the crunch of miniature M&Ms as much as marshmallow-lovers crave the sugary sweetness. Some say it’s the best of both worlds.

KRISPY ‘MALLOW BARS

Ingredients:

3/4 cup M&M miniature chocolate candies

3 tablespoons butter

7-ounce jar of marshmallow creme

6 cups of crispy rice cereal

Instructions:

Spray a 9″x13″ pan with nonstick oil. Set aside. Melt butter, over low heat, in a 2 1/2 quart pan. Do not burn add marshmallow creme. Stir until melted. Remove from heat. Working quickly, add rice cereal. Stir until rice is completely coated. With buttered hands, or wearing disposable gloves, press mixture, gently but firmly, over candy in pan. Cool. Cut into bars. Serve candy side up.

Turmeric Chicken Curry

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Turmeric Chicken Curry! For those who dabble in traditional ethnic dishes, turmeric is a well-known spice that typically gives food a rich golden yellow hue. Although turmeric has a slightly bitter taste, curry powder combines it with cumin and chili powder to catapult the flavor from mild to very spicy. Keep in mind, a little goes a long way when adding flavor and color. I find turmeric mildly aromatic with a slight scent of ginger, which is appealing when added to chicken. Also, it can jazz up boring white rice by making an ordinary dish look a bit fancy.

TURMERIC CHICKEN CURRY

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound boneless skinless chicken

1 onion, chopped

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 cup crushed tomatoes

4 teaspoons turmeric

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add chicken to brown, turning once. Add onions. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Sauté for 5 minutes until onions are soft and fragrant. Add chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, turmeric, cloves, thyme, sea salt, and black pepper. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Jasmine Rice Pilaf

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Jasmine Rice Pilaf! If you can boil water, you can master the art of restaurant-style rice pilaf. It’s that simple. By using your favorite herbs and spices, the air is filled with an aromatic essence that draws everyone to the kitchen. Keep in mind, Patience is key. Follow this step-by-step recipe for a be-all and end-all gourmet fluffy rice pilaf that can be eaten as a main meal or partnered with a meat portion. I served it with Nugget Sesame Chicken, which you’ll be seeing a little later on. Stay tuned.

JASMINE RICE PILAF

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1 cup long-grain jasmine rice

1 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup white wine

1-2 tablespoons butter

4 ounces prosciutto, cubed

1/2 cup sweet baby peas

1 egg, beaten

1-2 tablespoons soy sauce

Fresh chives, snipped

Instructions:

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine olive oil, onion, garlic cloves, seasoned salt, and pepper. Cook until onion is translucent, stirring often, approximately 45 seconds. Sprinkle in cumin powder. Add jasmine rice; stir to coat. Cook 3 minutes until grains turn toasty. This prevents clumping later on. Add low-sodium chicken broth and wine. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer. Cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with fork. Take a cotton tea towel and cover the pan. Place the lid over the towel to absorb the steam; let rice rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat butter on low. Add cubed prosciutto, peas, and beaten egg. Stir while cooking until egg is scrambled. Add soy sauce to taste. Before serving the rice, fold in the prosciutto mixture. To complete the pilaf, garnish with fresh chive snips.

Unstuffed Green Pepper Bake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Unstuffed Green Pepper Bake! If you love the taste of stuffed green peppers, but really hate the extra steps of preparation, look no further. This “unstuffed” version can be served in individual casserole dishes or a family-style pan, thus eliminating the need for hollowed-out green peppers. Still yummy, still Spanish-flavor, still way back generational goodness like your grandma used to make. Be good to yourself when the week gets crazy busy. Make a batch of “unstuffed” green peppers and sit back with a glass of wine while the oven does all the work. You’re worth it.

UNSTUFFED GREEN PEPPER BAKE

Ingredients:

2 green peppers, coarsely chopped

24-ounce jar traditional pasta sauce

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon basil

2 cups rotisserie chicken or turkey, shredded

1 cup cooked brown rice

1 1/2 cups Italian cheese blend, shredded

2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs

1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook chopped green peppers in the microwave-safe dish for 2 minutes on High setting. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine pasta sauce, garlic powder, oregano, and basil. Mix well. Fold in shredded meat, brown rice, and 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Add green peppers. Transfer filling into prepared casserole dish(es). Top with remaining cheese. In a small bowl coat panko crumbs with olive oil. Mix well. Spoon crumbs over cheese. Baked 25 minutes or until heated through.