Food Station: My weekend journey to Thailandia…

I heart rice. I can eat rice three times a day, seven days a week for the next month and be just fine. However, there are days when I know I need to break out of my rice mold and try something new. So, since it was grocery shopping day,  I decided to buy ingredients  to make a Thai Peanut Chicken stir fry. I already had some some chicken and homemade peanut sauce at home (see note below on how to make a quickie peanut sauce), so all I needed were the vegetables. I think it turned out ok, although I must say I have made better. What I like about this stir fry is, I can use the leftovers with other things like rotini pasta or salad.  Oh and the peanut sauce, can also be used as a salad dressing or as a dip for spring rolls or I can just sautee some chicken, add some peanut sauce then add on top of a bed of salad. It tastes absolutely awesome!  I really love when I can use one main ingredient for multiple things. It just makes life easier and reduces my “in the kitchen” time.

Anyway, back to my stir fry…

So, here are some of the highlights of my cooking expedition this past weekend. I am also throwing in some pictures that I took with my Iphone (not the best quality, but I think it serves its purpose).  Fyi,  for those of you that live by measurements, I am not including any. I don’t measure, I gauge. Lol.

The stir fry Ingredients:

    1. Olive Oil
    2. Diced chicken
    3. Onions
    4. garlic
    5. Peanut sauce
    6. Chicken broth
    7. Your choice of vegetables. I used: Broccoli, snow peas, shredded carrots, mushrooms, red, yellow and orange bell peppers.
    8. Salt and pepper to taste.

First, I heated up some olive oil in a pan (the amount of oil depends on the amount of chicken you plan to use).  Once heated, I added the garlic, onions and diced chicken and cooked the chicken until slightly browned

Brown the chicken in olive oil with garlic and onions

Once the chicken was browned, I added about a couple of tablespoons of peanut sauce to the mix. I already had this made previously because I love making my own peanut sauce. I will share that recipe some other time. If you don’t know how to make it, you can easily pick up some peanut sauce from any grocery store.  

Next, I added my snap peas.  This was my first time EVER using snap peas in anything. They looked like they would need more time to cook compared to the other veggies, so they went in first.

Then I added some chicken broth. (Note: the amount used really depends on how saucy you want your stir fry to be. I wanted some saucy stir fry lol.)

Next I added the broccoli and let that cook for about a minute…

add broccoli

 then I added the bell peppers …

 
 
 

add peppersand next, the carrots and let them cook for another minute or so... Last, I added the mushrooms. They went in last, because they don’t need much heat.everything is added...

I also added salt and pepper to taste. In general, you can add any other spice you think would go with this. I was too lazy to be creative with my spicing so I just stuck to the salt and pepper, oh, I did add some cilantro too. On a good day, I think I would have added some ginger as well. I love ginger!

Yum! I overcooked the veggies 😦

Once my veggies were cooked to my liking, I plated it with . . . SURPRISE, SURPRISE – Rice!  Of course, you can also eat this with pasta. Actually today, I added the left over stir fry to rotini pasta and that’s my lunch for tomorrow. Normally I throw a couple spoons of chopped peanuts over this, but I was so hungry that I forgot. So, if you make this, don’t forget the peanuts. The added crunch, is sooo worth it.

I was also feeling super ambitious, so while I was making my stir fry, I made a number of Spring Rolls too. I figured, Hey, I have peanut sauce and I can use the same ingredients in my stir fry to make the spring rolls, so… I did. However I forgot to take pictures of the process, so all I have is a couple of pictures of a sloppily rolled spring roll that sure tasted great! Next time, I will remember to take picturesof the process. But here is the end product –

spring rolls!

Well, hope you are inspired to try out this stir fry or create your own. It is really easy to make and quite healthy too.

 

 

Note on homemade peanut sauce: Wanna make a quickie peanut sauce? Dump – peanut butter, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar and some chicken broth in a blender. Mix and serve. To make is spicy, add some thai chili paste or some red pepper flakes. (I definitely have to give props to my friend Linnea for giving me this wonderful recipe idea.)

Mother Hubbard’s cupboard: Cooking with “five loaves and two fishes.”

This is how I feel sometimes

I love to cook, but more often than not, I find myself driving home from work wondering “hmm… what am I going to cook when I get home?” Then I do a mental scan to determine what ingredients I have to make a nice savory dish and surprise, surprise, there is always at least one ingredient that I am lacking for my perfect recipe!

You know, I honestly wonder if recipes are a blessing or a curse because I have discovered that I feel the most inefficient when I try to plan around one. Here is the deal, when I decide to follow a recipe, then I discover I am missing an ingredient; I eventually come to the conclusion that I have nothing at home to eat and I get frustrated. It doesn’t matter that my cupboard is full of other various ingredients and that my fridge is not empty. What matters is, I don’t have all the required ingredients for my recipe and that translates into I have nothing to eat. Now, I am beginning to realize how big of a lie that is, and I am going back to my roots, back to what my mama taught me. 

Cook with whatever you have

When I was growing up, my mom taught me to cook with “five loaves and two fishes” (i.e. “whatever I had at that moment in time.”) You see, my mom is an amazing cook and I never once saw her open a recipe book when we were growing up. According to her, there was always something to eat and no matter how bare the fridge or cupboards were we always had somewhere in there, our five loaves and two fishes.  My mom’s method was simple. It went like this –  open the fridge, do a quick visual scan, pull out whatever she saw, combine the ingredients together with some seasoning and voila!Dinner was done and OMG! It always tasted absolutely amazing.

Use whatever veggies you have

Nowadays,since it is important to use everything and reduce waste, I really see the value in this method and honestly it has served me quite well and challenged my creativity. So now, although I do love following recipes,( and I still do but I don’t let them limit my creativity),  I still incorporate the “throw it all together” method my mom taught me. So for instance, I look in my fridge, I see red peppers, onions and broccoli, I look in my cupboard and I have half a box of pasta, I sauté the veggies, add some red pepper flakes (I must have my hot spice), add some basil, salt, pepper and the universal spice – garlic, I cook my pasta, toss it with the veggies and add some parmesan cheese and voila! I have a meal fit for a king and I do not need to look at a recipe book to put that together. And if I want to get some sauce in the mix, I just open a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes (those canned products come in handy, but I only use on rare occasions) and add it to the sautéed veggies, then toss with the pasta or rice. 

Spices really do the trick

I almost always have chicken so another option is to season some diced chicken breast with salt, pepper and any vinaigrette salad dressing you have hanging around in your fridge, heat up some olive oil in a pan, add diced onions and garlic, sautee then add the chicken. Once its cooked, eat it with a side of any veggie like sautéed/grilled broccoli or asparagus or a with a baked potato. Or, you can marinade the chicken in the salad dressing vinaigrette with garlic and of course some red pepper flakes (if you don’t like spice then use black pepper), bake it in the oven and eat with a side of veggies or a salad.

Spice up your life a bit. Let the contents of your refrigerator and your cupboard dictate what you will eat at least one day a week. Surprise yourself. Discover what happens when you choose a couple of everyday ingredients and combine them together with some garlic, onions, salt and pepper. The options are unlimited when you finally get the hang of it and life does tend to be a little easier when you don’t have to follow the rules …

You know what? I think I will start sharing more about my impromptu meal concoctions once in a while (I promise to also let you know when they turn out absolutely awful or amazing) and I would also love to hear yours so why don’t you take the time to share what you have in your refrigerator or cupboard? I am sure we can come up with some really cool meal ideas together. And  whenever you feel like Mother Hubbard, remember that the sky is the limit when you have five loaves and two fishes.