chicken and eggplant stir fry 

I love eggplant.  It’s one of my absolute favorite veggies.  I always order it when I go out because hubs doesn’t really like it and neither do my kids.  I especially like it at Chinese restaurants and have tried to make it at home like the Chinese restaurants…sadly, mine never came out the same. I asked my friend’s mom, who is an amazing cook (and Chinese), how to make Chinese-style eggplant and she straight up told me – you won’t do it at home because to get it the way you like, all soft and delicious, would take so much oil that you’d faint.  I was like,”Oil??? What?!?!” Um, yes… apparently the dish I like needs an insane amount of oil. So, no more Chinese restaurant eggplant! But this dish comes pretty darn close without all the oil.

Let me say something here.  I am a recipe girl, remember?  Also, I started really cooking as an adult.  I’d talk to people early on when I was just learning to cook and they’d say things like, “I never measure…” or “Just add until it tastes right.”  That was like a nightmare for me so I’d actually tune out.  I couldn’t imagine life without the safety and comfort of recipe measurements.  But sure enough, over time and with enough practice, I can now guesstimate ingredient quantities and season to taste without freaking out. This is one of those recipes.  I saw it somewhere but I’ve made it my own just by adding more seasonings to taste.  The trick is this (and it may be obvious but I’ll say it anyways) – start small.  You can always add but it’s so much harder to make things less salty or less sweet!  Be conservative and keep adding in small increments until you are more comfortable.  I will add some basic measurements but this dish is really by taste.  Also, it’s a perfect example of something that tastes amazing but looks so blah.

Another funny tidbit about this dish. When I made this there were leftovers which let me pack enough for me, hubs’ and daughter’s lunch. I made hub’s portion mostly chicken, mine mostly eggplant and daughter’s a balance but with a little more chicken than eggplant. When I picked her up from school, I asked how her lunch was and she said it was good except she wished there was more eggplant.  I said “Oh no! I purposely took all the eggplant because I thought you’d prefer more chicken!” She burst into tears (no joke) and said she LOVES the eggplant and now she has to wait until the next time I make it (which I already shared will probably be in a few months).  So, I guess this dish is tear-worthy!!!  🙂

Chicken and Eggplant Stir-fry

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
Salt and pepper
1 eggplants, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch thick plank like pieces
1 onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1-2 teaspoons sugar

*I added several shakes of gochugaru, korean pepper flakes, because I tend to add it to anything Asian but this is completely optional and I’ve done it many times without!

DIRECTIONS

Cut chicken breasts into 1-2 inch long pieces, however you like your stir fry to look.  I tend to make them long like the sliced onion, bell pepper and eggplant.

Heat wok on high heat.  Add oil to wok.  Then add garlic and ginger and cook about a minute or when the garlic starts to brown but NOT burn!  Add in chicken and cook a few minutes until almost cooked through.  Add in all the veggies.  Cook about 3-5 minutes until everything is cooked through.

Add soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and if using, gochugaru.  Stir and mix until all the flavors are combined.  Serve over or with white rice!

chicken cordon bleu grilled cheese

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This was a huge hit with my son.  As you continue following me along, you’ll notice that he prefers the heavier, junkier foods while my daughter leans towards the veggie-heavy foods.  I swear, that boy was meant to grow up in the Midwest during the 80’s!  There are dishes I make that are huge family-pleasers and then there are those dishes where only one or two of us like the dish.  Unfortunately for my family, when I like a dish and they all hate it, I still catalog it for future use.  And If they all love it and I don’t, I usually end up deleting it.  But every once in a while, I will not like a dish but someone likes it so much that it’s worth keeping around (and perhaps even making it again).  That is the case with this dish.

As we were talking about it while we ate, my son was mmm-mmmm-ing all over the place. I mentioned that I’d probably not make it again and he was so surprised!  He asked if I would please keep the recipe and maybe he’d even pick it for his birthday meal (whoa!).  I guess it really hit a chord with him because he asked me again the following day, to save the recipe.  It has all the makings of a great sandwich – crispy chicken, melty cheese and salty ham. Unfortunately, I think I’m coming to realize that I’m not a huge swiss cheese fan. And while you’re preparing this, don’t make the novice mistake I made – season allllll the components of the breading station! That includes the flour, egg and panko because it really does makes a difference in flavor.  I sometimes skip this part, assuming that the other components will make up the difference in saltiness and flavor but nope- it doesn’t always work that way.

I’ve mentioned before that I follow national food holidays and so I made this for cordon bleu day a while back.  Sometimes it actually helps me decide what to make for dinner and it also helps me try new things that I normally would not try!  I remember cordon bleu from my college dining hall – the kind where you cut into it and oil would ooze out onto the whole plate.  Yuck and yum all at the same time.  I was happy to see a version of that dish that is a little lighter and weeknight friendly. So although it’s a strange interest of mine, national food days often bring a little innocent fun into my day!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Grilled Cheese

recipe from i am a food blog

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 chicken breast, pounded thin
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • oil to fry chicken
  • 2 slices bread of choice
  • 1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese
  • 5-6 thin slices ham

Lightly beat the egg in a bowl and set aside. Place the panko in a bowl and set aside. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and then sprinkle on the flour. Toss to coat. Dip into the egg and then the panko making sure it is evenly coated.

Heat up a generous of oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Fry the chicken until golden brown and crispy, about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Wipe down the pan, leaving a bit of oil behind (not too much!). Lay down one slice of bread and top with half of the cheese. Place the chicken on top, then the ham slices, and the remaining cheese and slice of bread. Grill, over medium-low heat until golden brown and cheese start to melt. Flip carefully and grill until golden and everything is melty.

cheesy chicken breadstick tacos

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I’ll be totally honest.  I love eating together with my kids but I don’t necessarily love cooking with them.  Yup, you’ll see them here on this blog, cooking away and looking really happy…and they really are.  What you don’t see is me in the background, trying to be patient with them as I see them taking double (or triple) the time I would take and making all sorts of messes. So no, I don’t love cooking with them but I continue to do it because I know that they love it and because they’re interested in it and it truly does make them more open to trying things they might not love. It gives them a sense of pride and ownership in the meal we end up sharing together at the table and my hope is that maybe they’ll take some of those skills off to college (unlike me!). My entire life I watched my grandmother and mom cook but I had never really cooked a thing until I starting dating my husband. We were together all the time and over time, it just wasn’t practical to eat out every single meal.  It took me a long time to figure things out in the kitchen and of course I eventually did, but if my kids can get more of the basics down early on, I hope they’ll use those skills when they’re eventually off on their own.

It’s funny – my son, who is 9, tends to naturally want to cook and use the knife while my daughter, who is 6, really enjoys baking and has the necessary temperament to be detailed and patient.  I tell them both not to limit themselves but of course they naturally gravitate towards what they like.  This recipe was going to be something that I let my son do from start to finish but then he abandoned me to play outside with friends but the little one wanted to help and jumped right in!  It did take some more time but already, she’s getting so much more proficient doing these things on her own.  My heart literally swells with love and pride when I see her big smile and then, yes… it is all worth it.

Cheesy Chicken Breadstick Tacos

adapted just slightly from Picky Palate

Note: The only change I really  made was to not make the sour cream dipping sauce. My family tends to not like dips so I knew it’d be flavorful enough for them to eat without!  Visit Picky Palate if you’d be interested in the sour cream dipping sauce (link above)!

Prep time: 10 min | Cook time: 20 min | Total time: 30 min

Ingredients

  • 1 cup finely shredded cooked chicken breast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Old El Paso Taco Seasoning, divided
  • 12 ounces prepared pizza dough
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place chicken and 1 teaspoon Old El Paso Taco Seasoning into a medium mixing bowl, stir to combine. Press your pizza dough into a rectangle filling most of the space on your baking sheet. Top half of dough with cheese then evenly place shredded chicken mixture over cheese. Top with additional cheese and fold dough over filled dough, pressing edges firmly to seal. Doesn’t have to be perfect, just mostly sealed. Sprinkle with an additional 1/2 teaspoon taco seasoning and use a pizza cutter to cut 1 inch “breadstick” strips. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes before separating into breadsticks.

pasta with cauliflower

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If you ask my kids what their favorite dishes are, they’d both say that this cauliflower pasta is in their top 5.  This particular dish is why they tend to tell people that they LOVE cauliflower and it’s been the gateway to them trying cauliflower soup and other cauliflower dishes (I have yet to try cauliflower rice, though!).  Even the husband, who is sometimes worse about eating his veggies than the kids, loves this dish.  The first time I made it, he had NO idea it was even cauliflower; he was totally confused! He said it tasted nutty and that’s the trick – once you get the cauliflower in the skillet, break it up into smaller pieces so that it really gets to caramelize and turns out having this really nutty, delicious flavor.  I prefer to use Romano cheese but I’ve totally done half Romano/Parmesan if I didn’t have enough Romano because it’s flexible. The cheese just gives it a little more salty goodness.  I sometimes add bacon or pancetta if I have it on hand, although I typically like serving this as a meatless meal.  I’ve made this dish SO many times and that is saying a lot because in my dinner journal (inspired by Dinner: A Love Story) I’ve found that of the few repeat dishes I make at home, I tend to cook them every 6 weeks.  That just ends up happening consistently over the years, even though it’s not planned!  Here are a few more tricks I have when making this dish, perfected over the last 9 years!

*While the cauliflower is cooking, I heat up a separate skillet with the oil in it. When one minute is left to go on the cauliflower, I add the garlic and red pepper to the hot skillet. That way the garlic doesn’t burn (ick) and it’s ready to go when the cauliflower is done!

*I dump the cheese into the dish once it’s all done and mix.  Usually I know how much cheese my family likes (not too much, sadly).  If you have a cheese-loving family, you can bring some more cheese to the table for people to add as they like but I prefer just plating the food with everything else ready to go, if needed!

 That’s basically it! It’s a straightforward recipe.  It takes minimal time and whenever I have a cauliflower sitting in the refrigerator, this is what I usually make.  The family fights over leftovers and because of this dish, I always have Romano cheese in my fridge.  It’s a staple of my family and my hope is that it will be a part of yours, too!

Pasta with Cauliflower

adapted slightly from the Boston Globe

Serves 4

1       large head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets
1/2     cup olive oil
5       large cloves garlic, chopped
Pinch of crushed red pepper, or more to taste
Salt, to taste
1       pound dry rigatoni pasta ( I’ve made it with all kinds of pasta and the picture above is         penne!)
1       handful of parsley, leaves only, chopped
1       cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

2. While the water is heating, place the florets in a large bowl of
cold water to soak. When the water comes to a boil, transfer the
florets to the boiling water and for cook 6 to 7 minutes or until they
are tender when pierced with a sharp knife.

3. Use a strainer or slotted spoon to remove the cauliflower from the
water. Do not discard the cooking water. Keep it at a low boil until
you are ready to cook the pasta.

4. In a large flameproof casserole over medium-high heat, heat the
oil. Add the garlic and the red pepper and cook, stirring, about 1
minute. Do not let the garlic brown. Add the florets with salt. Stir
gently. Lower the heat slightly and continue to cook, still stirring,
for about 10 to 15 minutes longer or until the cauliflower is tender.

5. Meanwhile, bring the cooking water back to a rapid boil. Add salt
and the rigatoni. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes or
until the pasta is tender, but still firm to the bite.

6. Drain the pasta into a colander and add it to the pan with the
cauliflower. Stir well to combine. Add the parsley, taste for
seasoning, and add more salt and red pepper, if you like. Continue
cooking 2 to 3 minutes longer. Serve with Romano cheese.

bbq chicken french bread pizza

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Getting kids involved in the kitchen can be a test of patience mostly for the adult.  Things that take me a few minutes will most likely be doubled or tripled if I have the kids help.   But my kids love helping in the kitchen and like many sources say, kids are more likely to eat what they help prepare.  My weekdays are a bit hectic but on some days, I have just one kid with me at home while the other one is at a practice.  I use that as an opportunity to get some rare one-on-one me with them in the kitchen. This week, my son decided to help me make these bbq chicken french bread pizzas.  He cut the bread, I cooked the chicken and he simply assembled the rest.  My daughter came in right at the tail end, just in time to sprinkle some cheese and all of a sudden it became family cooking time!

My kids started cracking eggs and chopping things with a paring knife at 5 years old.  My son’s been expressing more and more of an interest to cook after watching “Worst Cooks in America”? I’m not familiar with the show but apparently it’s made quite an impression on him! My hope is that we’ll be able to spend a lot more time together in the kitchen this summer.  This was a great weeknight meal!

BBQ Chicken French Bread Pizza

recipe from Damn Delicious

Total Time 25 minutes

Yield 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup KRAFT Original Barbecue Sauce, divided
  • 1 (1-pound) French bread loaf, cut in half crosswise
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat.
  • Season chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. Add chicken and 1/4 cup BBQ sauce to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes; set aside.
  • Place bread, cut-sides up, onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread remaining 1/4 cup BBQ sauce evenly over the bread slices; top with chicken, red onion and cheeses.
  • Place into oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cheeses have melted.
  • Serve immediately, garnished with additional BBQ sauce and cilantro, if desired.

zucchini and beef sloppy joes

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I remember having sloppy joes as a kid – like many American foods, I tried it first in a lunchroom and not in my mom/grandma’s Korean kitchen.  My mom cooked almost exclusively Korean food but once in a while she’d surprise me by cooking something like lasagna and to this day, I have no idea when or how she learned to make it but she figured it out and it was pretty good!  My mom’s attempt at sloppy joes involved a Manwich can.  I honestly don’t even know where she learned about Manwich but one day I was telling her I liked sloppy joes and soon after that, I found it on the table.  I think she made it like twice in my whole life but I remembered it!  Now that my kids eat lunch at school, we go through the school menu every month and each kid tells me which days they want to buy lunch at school and which days they want me to pack.  Recently, they both got really excited when I told them sloppy joes were on the March menu.  They seemed so excited that I wanted to make them a version at home!  I saw a recipe that had zucchini in it and then I kinda added bits and pieces from other recipes I’ve liked and tried a new version of it tonight. It went over REALLY well!  Husband wanted it on the record that he didn’t like the clove flavor at ALL but the kids loved my version and said it was way better than the school one (whew!)

 

zucchini and beef sloppy joes

Ingredients:

3 garlic cloves, minced
1 anaheim chile, diced (I would use jalapeno but its too spicy for daughter)
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, shredded
1 lb. ground beef
6 oz can tomato paste
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
salt and pepper
Directions:
In a large saucepan, saute the garlic, pepper, onion and zucchini in oil until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add beef and saute until browned.  Add all the remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes, until thickened.

 

asian style pork

This has been a crazy week!  Actually, this spring season is pretty crazy. My son’s baseball season just started this week and it’s also competition time for my daughter’s dance studio and she’s tacked on softball as well!  Every day of the week the kids have some activity.  Some days they both have activities so we are in a flurry of drop offs and pick ups.  So how do we eat together?  Well, sometimes we need to just eat take out. And some nights, we eat very late (like 7:30pm) but those are the things we do so we can sit around the table together as a family.  After being on the go all week and stressing out about daughter’s first dance competition of the season this coming weekend, I wanted to end the week with a really quick and easy meal.  Every time a new season of sports begins, it takes us a minute to adjust to the pace but we’ll get there.  This week was a trial and it beat us all down, especially me!  So to satisfy the family, I knew they would want rice. White, sticky, Korean style rice.  And I had some pork chops in the fridge that I needed to use up so I threw this all together and it disappeared into happy mouths and stomachs! It’s a 2 step recipe – try it!

Asian style pork

  • 1 lb. pork ( I had pork cutlets)
  • 1 tbsp  oil
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp sriracha  (adjust this to how spicy you like things)
Instructions
  1. Mix together the soy sauce, honey, sugar, garlic, sesame oil, ginger and sriracha. Pour over pork chops and let marinade for about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add pork chops, without marinade, and cook for about 5 minutes on the first side- let it get golden. Flip the pork chops and pour the remaining marinade over them. Cook another 5 min on this side.

Note: See how in the picture there are slices of pork?  Usually I’m in such a hurry that after I cook pork almost through on both sides, I will cut the meat up with kitchen shears in the pan so it will cook faster and I don’t have to cut the meat at the table for the kids.  Do I do this when I cook steak? No! But in a dish like this where the marinade really takes on more of the flavor than the pork, I’m fine with it! It’s a weekday cooking hack for myself!

I usually make the rice first so it has time to cook and set before I start in on the meat. I do this anytime I’m cooking any type of rice!