hoisin chicken with green beans and sticky rice

I’ve been thinking a lot about this guy lately.

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He’s starting at a new school this fall and will experience all kinds of change during this time called adolescence and junior high. It’s brought back all kinds of memories from my own adolescent years – everything from remembering locker combinations to who to sit by at lunch to what to wear. Ugh. I know he’ll do great, but it’s so hard to be a parent and go through all these transitions again with your kids. Especially when the transitions and years seem to be passing at lightning speed. I still think of him as a toddler some days, and long for cuddling with him, reading him bedtime stories, or playing dinosaurs and trains. He has been known on occasion to hover over my shoulder and listen when I’m reading a picture book to my youngest. I love that.

School starts in one day, and I’m about as ready as I’ll ever be. Back-to-school for us means busy evenings with homework and sports. My head is spinning thinking about managing our schedules, as I’m sure many others can relate.

Need a quick dinner recipe? This one’s so very simple and easy to throw together. Great for those nights when you feel like Chinese takeout, but prefer to make it yourself. It’s complete with protein and veggie and is easily customized with your favorite substitutes, i.e. shrimp, peppers, beef, broccoli, etc.

My version, which I sort of tossed together with whatever we had in our refrigerator, turned out to be a keeper. I like to serve this with a sticky rice, which is Jasmine rice, rinsed until the water runs clear and made in a rice cooker. All while you prepare the main event. Everything is ready to serve in less than 30 minutes. Feel free to add additional sides like potstickers, cream cheese wontons or egg rolls, or to keep it healthy – more sauteed veggies. An after-dinner lucky fortune cookie doesn’t hurt either.

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Hoisin Chicken with Green Beans and Sticky Rice

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 lbs. chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fresh green beans, ends trimmed
1 cup fresh mushrooms, cut in half
2-3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
Few dashes of tamari

Heat oil in wok or large skillet over med-high heat. Add chicken and stir fry for 5-7 minutes, until no longer pink. Add garlic and continue to stir fry until fragrant. Add green beans and mushrooms and continue to stir fry until green beans start to wrinkle and vegetables become tender. Add hoisin sauce and a couple dashes of tamari and stir to combine. Serve with sticky rice and soy sauce.


A little fact about me – I’m fascinated by dinosaurs and have been known to name all of them in our collection. Pterodactyls, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Bronchosaurus, Triceratops, etc… Do you know yours? Happy back-to-school, crazy schedules and all!

busy schedules, life and asian chicken

I’m back, after a much necessary break. Life happens, and so does the reality of busy schedules!  In early April, my family visited my sister Whitney, in Austin, Texas! Left Minneapolis at 6 am and drove straight through to Austin. 19+ hours in the car, all 6 of us! We had a blast! Lots of road food and convenience store snacks on the way down, but lots of amazing food in Austin – Shipley’s Donuts (a donut shop way too close to my sister’s place), Kebabalicious (an amazing food truck serving falafel, chicken shawarma, etc.), Chuy’s (a Mexican restaurant), Moonshine (a great night out with my sisters and husband), and many others. The end of April marked the beginning of summer sports, and three colliding schedules. Oh, and a coaching husband. April and May were pretty much a blur.

In June, I visited my sister Kortney in California for a shopping, eating and dining trip. We indulged in amazing foie gras just weeks before a state-wide ban for restaurants. So fortunate to have been one of the last to have this and other amazing dishes at a quaint, French restaurant on Balboa Island in Newport Beach called Basilic. We also visited Palm Springs for a day/evening during Restaurant Week. Amazing place. Must go back with my husband! We had amazing Mexican food and margaritas at a place called Las Casuelas Terraza. Dinner at a place called Zin American Bistro – yum. And, brunch at the Ace Hotel / King’s Highway. Great food and gorgeous drinks. Kortney and her boyfriend visited Minneapolis the following weekend, and we cooked at home and dined at a local place called the Little River Inn and Bar. We also celebrated my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding in June. Busy and fun times!

In late June and early July we traveled back to Bismarck, ND for my husband’s 20 year class reunion and a week’s vacation over the Fourth of July. And, in August, celebrated a family reunion with amazing cousins from California, Kansas, Texas, North Dakota and Minnesota. It’s been a great summer spending time with family and friends, hanging out in the backyard with amazing neighbors, enjoying my patio heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs, and creating wonderful meals at home.

September means back to school month, and a search for quick fix, easy dinner ideas…

Here’s a great healthy, Asian recipe I adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food General Tso’s Chicken. A hit for us and the kids too! Love the light (almost non-existent) batter of the pan-fried chicken, combined with chopped veggies and tossed in a slightly sweet, touch of heat sauce. We added red and green pepper, sugar snap peas and green onions.

Asian Chicken / Healthy General Tso’s Chicken
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food
Serves 4

1 1/4 cups long-grain brown or jasmine rice – (We made our own fried rice.)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
1/4 red pepper, chopped
1/4 green pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated and peeled
3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 large egg whites
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower (we used canola oil)

Cook rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water until smooth. Add vegetables, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine, and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Lift half the chicken from egg-white mixture (shaking off excess), and add to skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining oil and chicken, and set aside (reserve skillet).

Add vegetable mixture to skillet. Cover; cook until snow peas are tender and sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet (with any juices); toss to coat. Serve with rice.


chicken lettuce cups

This one’s in honor of Chinese New Year, and the Year of the Dragon, and “do-it-yourself Chinese take-out”…

We love the lettuce wraps at various restaurants like PF Changs, and this creation could be just as good or better. Fresh, light and healthy.  It was the perfect treat for the red carpet and the Golden Globe awards.  And, bonus… the kids loved them too! Served them with cream cheese wontons, potstickers, steamed edamame and brown rice.  Mmm. Mmm. Good.  Enjoy!

Chicken Lettuce Cups
Adapted from Epicurious
Yield: Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons clear rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1/3 cup minced red onion
1 cup chopped canned button mushrooms  (I used fresh mushrooms)
1/2 cup water chestnuts, minced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, minced (I diced my chicken into small chunks)
8 to 10 inner leaves iceberg lettuce, edges trimmed and chilled
Handful of fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
Scallions, cut diagonally
Optional: 1/4 cup unsalted roasted cashews, coarsely chopped

Combine the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small bowl and mix together until the sugar dissolves.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok over high heat. Stir-fry the garlic and ginger for 10 seconds. Add the onion, mushrooms, and water chestnuts and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Remove the contents of the wok.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok. Swish the oil around, add the chicken, and brown for 1 minute, or until no longer pink. Add the cooked vegetable mixture back to the wok, decrease the heat, and stir in the sauce mixture. Stir for 1 minute, or until the sauce is heated and the chicken is cooked through.

Spoon the filling in equal amounts into the lettuce cups. Top each lettuce cup with cilantro, scallions and sprinkle with chopped cashews, if desired. Serve warm.  (Next time, I may even top with crispy rice sticks for a little added texture.)

vietnamese spring rolls

I saw a recipe for these in the Sunday paper and I decided to try them out.  We were due for an Asian night at our house and most of the ingredients in the recipe were those I was familiar with – garlic, ginger, carrots, shrimp, cucumber, red pepper, lettuce, cilantro.  Spring roll wrappers? 

I found them in the Asian aisle shelf stable section at the grocery store.  Pretty simple – soak them in warm water for 30 seconds or so, and they are ready to roll – literally. They’re a bit tricky to roll or get a tight fit and I’m still trying to master the technique.  They can be filled with whatever you’d like – chicken, beef, shrimp, tofu, rice vermicelli, and any combination of vegetables.

This recipe is a combination of one I found in the Sunday paper and one that was online. Mise en place is necessary for this one, but if you do it ahead of time, all you have to do is assemble the rolls.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Makes about 8 rolls

Spring Rolls

1 lb. cooked shrimp (I cut mine into chunks, but could leave whole)
carrots, shredded (I used the pre-packaged carrot sticks)
cucumbers, diced into thin wedges
red pepper, cut into strips
green onion, diced
romaine lettuce, shredded
fresh cilantro leaves
fresh basil leaves
8 large spring roll wrappers – 8.5 in diameter

4 teaspoons fish sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic chili sauce

I wrapped my sauce in with the spring roll ingredients, but next time, I’ll serve the sauce on the side for dipping. Enjoy!