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Kung Pao Anything!

I finally did it. I finally made a kung pao sauce that has enough heat and gooeyness to make me smile. I apologize for the pretty wonky photo, I had no idea this would work out so I had to get a screenshot of a video! After a few attempts this is it. Kung pao chicken is a staple on American Chinese menus, and it can be made with beef, just veggies, or even tofu. Now that I’ve got this under wraps, I can’t wait to whip it up. The best part is this is SUPER fast, with dinner on the table in about 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Chicken thigh filets, remove skin that easily comes off and cut into one inch pieces – you could also use chicken breast
2 bell peppers, cored and diced
4 garlic cloves, sliced or minced – use as much or as little as you like, I really love garlic
Red pepper flakes
Kung pao sauce – recipe below
Sliced green onions, sesame seeds, pr chopped peanuts for garnish

Kung pao sauce:
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
a good pinch of pepper

I recommend making the sauce first, so all the ingredients mend together. Mix everything together and whisk or use a fork to break up and stir. The cornstarch will settle, so just mix it up occasionally and definitely before you pour it into the pan. Once the sauce is made, set it aside.

You can use a little oil or even just a few sprays of nonstick spray. Chicken thighs have more fat so they don’t need as much oil. If you use too much, the chicken won’t brown and will end up super chewy. Over medium high heat, work in batches flipping chicken to ensure it cooks on all sides. As the chicken cooks, remove it from the pan and let sit on a plate with some paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Add a little more oil or a spray of nonstick and add the bell peppers, garlic, and a few good shakes of the red pepper flakes. Let the peppers soften a bit and when the garlic is fragrant taste for heat. You can always add more pepper flakes, but don’t overdo it if you’re not used to heat. Scrape up the bits of browned chicken for extra flavor. Stir the kung pao sauce one more time before adding to the bell pepper mixture. Mix everything together, and then let it sit a bit. The mixture will bubble a little, you don’t want it to be boiling or popping, but let the heat help it thicken. After a couple of minutes, add the cooked chicken back in. Stir it all together and get ready to serve.

This is where you will add the toppings, you can definitely add the sesame seeds or peanuts while you cook as well. Serve over rice, or even alone.

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Three Cheese & Spinach Risotto

Risotto is something I’ve always been afraid to try. It’s one of those dishes that conjures thoughts of a sore wrist or Gordon Ramsay calling you a donkey. Tonight I bit the bullet and decided to give it a shot. Guess what? It’s easy and worth every stir.

The most important thing to remember when making risotto is to keep stirring, and add your liquid slowly. Don’t rush. Seriously. Is that broth fully absorbed? If it’s not, don’t move on. If you follow these simple rules you will have a decadent side that will win over anyone.

1 tablespoon butter
4 cloves garlic, minced – this is up to you, we really like garlic
2 cups chicken broth, plus some extra broth or water – I’ll explain
1 cup arborio rice – this is important! Don’t use regular long grain rice!
1/2 – 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend, or Parmesan
1 small box or bag of spinach – a few handfuls or as much as you want

Start by melting the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. I used nonstick which made things easy. Once melted ass the garlic and stir until fragrant, about a minute. Add the rice and stir to combine it with the butter and garlic.

Begin adding the chicken broth 3/4 cups at a time. Stir so that all the rice grains are able to absorb the liquid. Keep stirring. You can allow the rice to simmer a bit but watch the heat to be sure it’s not going into a boil. Once the liquid is fully absorbed, add in more broth and repeat the process. Below is a picture of the rice being almost ready for more liquid. It’s not there yet though, since you can see a puddle at the top.

While you’re stirring and adding liquid and stirring some more, you will likely run out of broth. The total cook time will take from 20 – 25 minutes, or more depending on your situation. You want to keep adding liquid until the rice grains are fluffy. Taste as you go to determine when the mouth feel is right for you. I switched to water because I was concerned about the risotto being too salty. I needed probably another cup of water after the broth was gone.

Once your grains are fluffy and the smell is making you want to dive right in, add the shredded cheese and stir. You’ll have a beautiful gooey mess just waiting to be devoured. Serve immediately for best compliments.

As you’ll notice in the pic above, I added spinach to my risotto. I plopped it in before the cheese, just before the grains were fully absorbed. You can add any leafy green, mushrooms, anything that will cook quickly in the risotto. This paired perfectly with a lemon pepper salmon filet, and will become a huge star in my rotation.

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Creamy Spinach & Tomato Tortellini

After a stretch of beautiful, warm weather here in SF, the rains came. It was chilly, blustery, and very wet. I knew I needed something hearty and filling to get through the midweek slump. This came together with frozen tortellini from Costco, fresh veggies, and a light cream sauce. The sauce would go with any pasta, and you could throw in some chicken for extra protein. If I had any I would have also thrown in basil.

20 oz cheese tortellini
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon herbs de provence (you could also use Italian seasoning or just oregano)
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup rough cut grape tomatoes, add more or less to your liking, or chop regular tomatoes
1 1/2 cups spinach, packed
6 tablespoons shredded parmesan or an Italian cheese blend

Cook the tortellini per the package directions. The package I had noted to cook for only two minutes so I set the water to boil and worked on the cream sauce.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and slowly add the flower once fully melted. Keep stirring, I used a whisk. Break up any bits of flour before adding more. Next add in the onion powder and stir out any lumps. Slowly add in the dairy and keep stirring. Once all dairy is added allow the sauce to simmer. Next add the veggies. I put added the tomatoes first to allow them to break down a bit, then the spinach. I just used loose spinach from a bag. I didn’t chop or tear, and I think it came out just great. Allow the veggies and sauce to come to a simmer together, and then add the cheese and stir until melted.

Drain your cooked pasta and mix the sauce in. If not serving right away the sauce may thicken, you can thin it with some milk or pasta water. Top with some more cheese if desired. I served it immediately and it was hard to wait for it to cool.
I loved this so much I’m having it again tonight as leftovers.

Bring on the rain!

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Turkey Leftovers Pad Thai

Turkey turkey turkey. Lots of it. After Thanksgiving dinner my parents sent us home with practically ALL the leftovers. I made an entire recreation of my dinner the next day, but then didn’t really touch anything. I decided to get a little crafty and use the turkey meat for a pad thai experiment. It worked.

While most pad thai has crushed peanuts and bean sprouts, I skipped them this time. Not for any taste reasons, but my little produce bodega didn’t have any sprouts and I was a little lazy to crush peanuts. The next time I make this I’ll spruce it up. You can use any meat with this recipe, which is great for leftovers. If you cook chicken or beef fresh, do it separately and add to the pan once you add in the noodles and sauce.

For the sauce:
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons lemon or lime juice – lime would probably be better, I used lemon and it was great
1 teaspoon Sriracha – or more, to your heat preference
1/3 cup brown sugar

For the noodles:
One box rice noodles – I used a bit more than half of a 14oz box that I had leftover

For the stir fry:
One bunch green onions, chopped with light and dark parts separated
4 garlic cloves, chopped or minced
One handful of sliced carrots – use more or less depending on how much slicing you care to do
1 (or more) eggs – I only used 1 but would likely use 2 or more when I make this again
Chopped cilantro to top
Lime wedges

Bring a pot of water to a boil for the noodles. Use the directions on the package, which should say to remove the pot from heat when you add the noodles. Cook for the time noted.

Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl and whisk until the brown sugar is dissolved. Set aside until stir fry and noodles are ready.

Heat a pan or wok with the oil of your choice over medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, then add the light onion bits and carrots. Stir fry the veggies until they soften, then add the egg and scramble until cooked. At this point add in any cooked meat or tofu you have and toss in the sauce.

Once the noodles are cooked drain them and rinse in cool water. Add them to the pan that has the veggies and sauce, mix everything up to coat. Serve topped with the dark green onion bits, some chopped cilantro, and a couple lime wedges. This is where you’d add in the bean sprouts and peanuts if using them.

This recipe can be edited in many ways. More garlic, more heat, less onion or no meat at all. Play around with it and find your favorite variation. Leftovers get a bad rap, but this is one fun way to make them exciting.

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Slow Cooker Short Ribs

The temps have finally fallen and San Francisco feels like Fall. After a very drawn out late Summer, we’ve enjoyed some decent rain and blustery breezes. I’m excited for jackets and scarves, but even more so for feel-good Fall food. This rich meal pulls a lot of flavor with not a lot of work. Your slow cooker will be your best friend.

2 pounds beef short ribs, for me this was 4 large ribs
1 medium or large onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, sliced or chopped
1 package mushrooms, sliced
1 cup baby carrots
2 beef or chicken stock cubes, or 1/2 cup liquid stock
A few dashes of cinnamon

Season the ribs all over with salt and pepper, then brown in olive oil or vegetable oil. Once browned on all sides put the ribs into the slow cooker. Using the same pan you used to brown, add the onion, garlic, and mushrooms. Cook until the onions are turning translucent and the mushrooms are releasing their liquor. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup water (or red wine). I didn’t think about using wine until after trying this recipe, but you bet I’ll do it next time.

Add the stock cubes and break up, or if using liquid stock mix everything well. Add the carrots and a few dashes of cinnamon. Make sure everything is combined and simmering and get ready for how amazing your house is going to smell. Pour this mixture over the ribs in the slow cooker and settle into place. Cover for 4-6 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low. Slow cookers may cook at different temps so check on your ribs to see how they’re doing.

I served these with green beans. You could serve it over mashed potatoes, rice, or just more vegetables. Bring on the colder temps!

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